Last year, I did my bravest move yet: launch a premium freelance VA (Virtual Assistance) business. (Yup, that’s where hitting the road led me to)
What’s so brave about that?
I had to put myself out there to find clients. It started with Upwork, sending proposals and getting interviewed. And then I moved on to LinkedIn prospecting – even when I didn’t think I was ready yet!
I needed to resist the temptation to take on work from clients who didn’t see the real value that I bring just so I could start earning again.
I turned my back on the possibility of having a more predictable 6-figure monthly income with HMO benefits and 13th-month pay, by not applying for a job at another BPO company.
It wasn’t easy, and it was a tad scary. I wasn’t sure if I could make it happen. I really think this is my bravest move, thus far. There were so many $3-$5/hour jobs out there for VAs but I refused to take them. I chose to stand my ground and wait for my ideal client even as I watched my bank account balance get smaller each month.
Of course, I had a cushion. My old company gave me a going-away gift for 9 years of service; I have a husband who was employed and has HMO benefits that extended to me. So maybe that meant I could afford to be brave, and maybe I wasn’t being brave after all?
But being brave is not just about doing things without a safety net. At least for me, being brave means intending to and actually leaving your comfort zone, seeking growth, and stepping into a vulnerable space – so you can emerge and realize your wildest dreams.
Down the road, I may have to do something that requires even more bravery – I will look back at this time, as well as other times in my life, to get me through it.
Thanks to a group coaching program that I joined this year, I have developed a daily gratitude practice that has me listing ten things I am happy and grateful for. Out of those ten things, three have to specifically be about me.
Although I’m pretty sure I have mentioned some things more than once already, really, I feel like there is still a lot more to be thankful for. I have been doing this now for over a hundred days and it sure is getting more and more challenging to come up with three things I particularly love about myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me! And I think I have great qualities. I guess we’re just not wired to sing ourselves praises, no? And we should. But if it’s uncomfortable to call it self-praise, let’s put it this way: I just have to love me.
We’re not being called to be boastful, only to be grateful for oneself.
What does it mean to be grateful for oneself?
It means appreciating something about you, acknowledging something about you that makes you happy (or has made you happy).
And we do it along with being generally grateful for everything else. For what’s around us, our circumstances, etcetera, etcetera.
A daily gratitude practice worked wonders for me.
I no longer feel anxious about tomorrow. And I feel a lot more positive about life in general. Now, I never was a negative type, but I also didn’t think I can be even more optimistic. And, in a way, I am.
It reminds me to not take anything for granted. To be thankful for the big things, and the small things. For the good, and the bad. It has helped me feel less envious or resentful, and to not look at others and regard them less fortunate, but understand the difference in our circumstances and yet feel genuine empathy and a yearning to reach out and find out how I can help.
This gratitude practice is teaching me to not waste time, energy, and opportunity. It has taught me to see how much abundance is out there, and how we are already living in abundance, no matter the balance in our bank accounts.
On the outside, I know it seems like it is taking me so long to get my butt moving and do something already. After all, I am 6 months into my mini-retirement (and I’m pretty sure my husband feels that way) but to me, it doesn’t feel like a waste of time or opportunity.
It was a gathering of energy and love. A (long) moment of rest and enjoyment of freedom. Of making space in my life for more. And now that I know how it feels to have so much time to do just the things I want to do (and I haven’t even done everything), I now know the importance of protecting that freedom and not be tied down to living life in somebody else’s terms.
But this post isn’t about my mini-retirement. It’s about having an attitude of gratitude.
A quick Google search for “effects of gratitude” will lead you to a lot of research on this topic. Feel free to check those out if you need to be convinced that you should develop the practice. But all I want to tell you is this,
Just start with one thing.
Find time in your day to sit down and express gratitude for one thing in or about your life.
Write it down with a pen and a notebook. Or type it on a notepad on your phone:
“I am happy and grateful _____________________________________________.”
Do it again the next day. Do it for the whole week.
Do it for another week. And another. Even if you miss a day, that’s okay. No need to double up the next day (though you’re free to do so).
When you feel like you have nothing more to say thank you for, go back and review your list. And then try again. Give thanks for just one thing.
After some time has passed, reflect on what has changed for you, or in you. Ask yourself if you want to keep going. If the answer is no, ask why not?
As for me, and for today, here is my list of ten things:
I am happy and grateful for Martine De Luna and her Be Captivating program, for many reasons, one of which is helping me cultivate this gratitude practice.
I am happy and grateful for the SATS Community that I grew up in. Today is Fiesta at SATS (feast of St. Andrew the Apostle).
I am happy and grateful that I have complete control of my life right now. That is both scary and exciting.
I am happy and grateful that I have choices to make. That can be a disadvantage sometimes, but it is definitely a good thing for me, right now.
I am happy and grateful for my Auntie Leesah, who died this day, 15 years ago. She always had my back. She was very supportive of my side hustles back then. Especially of my baking.
I am happy and grateful for the TV series His Dark Materials. I love having to look forward to a new episode every week. I haven’t read all three books in the series yet but I’ve pulled them from my shelves, ready to be cracked open. Still deciding if I’ll be re-reading The Golden Compass.
I am happy and grateful for people who leave product reviews on E-Commerce platforms, and also for those who blog and vlog about them. Real and honest product reviews are helpful when you’re deciding to buy something.
I am happy and grateful for being able to find the right words to say at certain times and situations.
I am happy and grateful for trusting people.
I am happy and grateful that I have set healthy boundaries in terms of what I expect from others and my perceived role in their lives (or what I think others may expect of me). I just really don’t assume that I or my opinions are that important to anyone else.
For the past two Novembers, I’ve played along with Cathy Zielske for 30 Days of Thankful: I made a 6×8 album for 2017 and wrote a series of blog posts for 2018. This year, I intend to make another album. I know, it’s already the end of November, and I haven’t started, and that’s okay. It’s the practice that matters.
Do you still remember how you answered this question when you were younger? I do.
Those were the jobs that I aspired for from grade school to high school. Pero ang totoo, kahit I never said it out loud as a dream job, I really wanted to be a performer. To act onstage or be on TV (hello, Ang TV!). I loved doing theater (also interpretative dance)!
I still remember the moment I switched from one dream to another.
It was a visit to an exhibition of Interior Design students that I got the inspiration to become a designer myself. I was very young then, 7 years old maybe? Parang ang saya kasi, seemed like such a joy to decorate rooms and spaces that would be appreciated by others.
Then I remember my Dad taking me to the still-under-construction building that would be their new office, and then having lunch with the Architect (or maybe he just told me about the Architect?). Hmm, I want to design homes and structures instead!
But after awhile, I realized that my drawing skills were very rudimentary. And I had a feeling I wasn’t creative that way – not creative enough to design spaces and structures.
But I could write.
A college Journalism professor told me so when I was 10 years old. She mentored us young writers aspiring to be part of the school paper. The school ran a great program while I was there: every start of the year, they would run a 1-day (or was it 3 days?) workshop led by her. She told us stories about her experiences, and also gave us an overview of what it means to write for a newspaper. By the end of the event, we would all have written something. Through our work, she and the school paper adviser would decide who qualifies and for what post.
I loved being part of the school paper and how we ran it. Those three years went by quickly. Sometimes I still wonder what would have happened if I kept on writing and cultivated the skill. I remember my Adviser (not the Professor who only worked with us during the workshops) believing in me so much that she came to our house one summer day to get my application for a creative writing workshop at the CCP. She also strongly encouraged me to stay in the paper for my last year (sixth grade, though she left the country that year), when I said I was switching to a different club. I wish we had stayed in touch.
Years later, when it was time to figure out what university to apply to, syempre I had to first decide what course I wanted to take. At the time, influenced by my involvement in the child rights movement, I thought I wanted to become a lawyer. A classmate told me that BA Psychology would be a good pre-law course. So I ticked that off as my first choice for UP Diliman. My next choice was Journalism.
Sometime in my first year at the University, I realized how much I didn’t enjoy going to school. Of course I loved learning, and I loved UP, I just didn’t like havingto go to school. I never did. Or maybe it was traditional classes I didn’t like? And the idea of extending my years of having to be in school just didn’t appeal to me. I decided I did not have to become a lawyer to help others.
I am not designing, not writing for a living, not advocating for someone before a court of law.
Monday, June the 3rd, marked the end of my 14-year career in the customer service/outsourcing industry.
I wish I could say I had done so on my own terms. That I had made the decision of my own free will, because I was finally ready to move on to bigger and greater things.
But the truth is, no matter how long I have been telling myself that I wanted OUT of this job (mainly because of the hours), I hadn’t so much as drafted a resignation letter in the last nine years. I didn’t even setup a LinkedIn profile until a few days ago!
There were so many excuses to stay. Even after losing my own team two years ago, I had found reasons to convince me I wasn’t meant to be anywhere else but there.
I don’t have enough of a cushion to explore what I’d rather do for a living. How would we live on a single income while I figured out what I wanted to do? (Technically, we could. There’s just the two of us after all, plus 4 dogs (and two little puppies)).
I can’t imagine working for someone else.
I’d wait until I’ve built a substantial side hustle before I quit my day job.
Moving to another BPO would just be more of the same – same shit, different office.
My friends wouldn’t be there (wherever there is. Although I mostly worked alone the past two years anyway)
Late last year, I did some exploring into the freelancing world. I researched possible online side hustles I could do while employed which I could eventually scale to a high-paying gig. But because I didn’t give myself a deadline, I had one opportunity that was barely started (an online course), and another that I hadn’t yet truly pursued. Which means when the news of my letting go was delivered to me – I had no backup plan that was already waiting for me.
But, not surprisingly, I took the news quite well. Of course, it didn’t hurt at all that I was getting a decent send-off package for all the years I had been with the company (9). But it wasn’t just that. I felt relieved that the decision had been made for me. The decision that I had been putting off for quite a while.
And it could have been worse – a lot worse. I could have lost my job due to poor performance or loss of confidence, in which case I would have left empty handed. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case.
I do not envy the position of my bosses who had to tell me the news face to face – I believe it was a tough decision, and that they would have prevented it if they could. After all, I wasn’t the only one they had to let go.
If only they knew, that all along, they were setting me free.
What they had given me was the kick in the butt I needed to finally start on a new and exciting adventure. All that’s left for me to do is to take stock of all that I have learned, maximize my strengths, and hope for the very best. Oh, and to take action.
I am hitting the road, and I am excited to find out where it takes me.
I started my year with a shopping detox, and I survived!
What is a NO-SPEND month?
A no-spend challenge is an undertaking to spend only on necessities, or to refrain from spending on specific categories, for a specified amount of time. The intention is generally to cut-back on specific types of expenses, but it could also be a means to evaluate and reframe spending habits, or taken as an opportunity to look at one’s attitude towards shopping.
In my case, I decided the whole month of January 2019 to be my no-spend month. In part, I feel like it may not have been the best time to do it because so many brands go on Clearance Sale after the holidays. On the other hand, it could also have been the ideal season to do it, because I saved a 100% on the stuff I didn’t buy – and we most likely didn’t really need them.
Having said that, perhaps it was all the sales happening online and in-stores that made me think for a second that I wasn’t going to be able to pull through. But I did!
How I Survived A Whole Month Without Shopping
To say I didn’t spend anything in the month of January 2019 would be a lie. But I can definitely state for the record that any spending I did were for our day-to-day necessities or were pre-planned expenses (like me pairs of flip-flops). For someone who does a lot of online shopping (me!) that is really tough. If you would like to do a similar challenge, here are my tips for success:
Set your WHY
This has to be the most important step – set your intentions for taking on a no-spend challenge. You must be very clear of your goals, and why you want to do it. Without the Y, you are likely going to fail.
Why I did No-Spend January – My husband and I earn a decent income. It definitely affords us a comfortable (for us) lifestyle, and funds our hobbies and interests. But believe it or not, we don’t have a lot saved up. I was not hoping to “save money” through this exercise (I had already decided to reduce my shopping budget for the year) but I did want to stand back and re-evaluate my spending habits. I want to do all the things, but I also want to be more intentional with what I spend money on, and what I make space for in my life. Staying away from any unnecessary spending for a whole month was a way for me to reflect on that.
Identify Triggers, and Stay Away
It is important to dig deep (okay, maybe not even) and find out your triggers for unnecessary, and/or impulsive shopping. For me, it’s Instagram. And I don’t mean those influencers with curated feeds, but actual online sellers with IG as their platform.
Thanks to my favorite Plus-Size seller on Instagram, I have quite a lot of clothes that fit, and that spark joy. 🙂 I ordered a lot from her last year, even when I had no plans to. My shopping style was this:
Seller posts new clothes up for sale
Is it my size? Yes. Mine!
Is it in my size? Yes. Mine!
And I follow more than one plus-size seller – so that could happen multiple times a month! And I also have a favorite book seller, a few local bag-makers, and then those lovely accessories too. If I surrounded myself with those triggers, it would be a little more difficult to say no to spending. I didn’t unfollow them but I did turn off notifications. I also stopped myself from visiting their profiles when they start popping-up on my feed with new stuff on sale.
It’s also a good idea to stay away from the mall. Out of sight, out of mind.
The hubby was due to get some new clothes and we decided to hit SM North’s 3-day sale last month and take advantage of the discounts. I didn’t think I could walk away without a personal purchase, but we made it happen. We had also done a few trips to Greenhills (his errands), and I am proud to say that I was satisfied with just looking, and not buying.
Make A List, Check It Twice
It is not uncommon to suddenly realize or remember that there is actually something that you just absolutely must have. I’d say, make a list and sleep on it. Check your list and evaluate if it’s a need or a want. Ask yourself why you need it. Sleep on it some more.
If you still feel that you neeed it after checking it twice, go ahead and buy it. No-spend month or not, if you need it, then you must have it. But be honest with yourself here.
Let The World Know
Okay, maybe the whole world doesn’t need to know, but at least let significant people in your circle know about your challenge. I didn’t tell anyone right away that I was doing this, but it helps to let people know so you could have help to keep yourself accountable.
If I didn’t tell my husband I was doing a no-spend month, he would have enabled my shopping. For sure.
Just Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Should
Shopping definitely makes me happy. And we tend to do more of the stuff that fills us with joy.
I have always been plus-sized and, unfortunately, there hasn’t always been a good source of nice and affordable clothes that fit me. So when I find pieces I like in my size – I grab them and take them to the counter! I end up buying so much because I fear of missing out. Sayang naman kasi. But now there’s a lot of options out there! I can shop online, and at the mall.
But just because they’re available, and I can afford to buy stuff, it doesn’t mean that I should. Specially not when I don’t need them.
As much joy buying stuff gives me, I have to remind myself that there are also other things that do – like having an emergency fund, getting to use up my stash of scrapbooking supplies, seeing our space cleaned up and organised (no matter how brief it stays that way), traveling, hanging out with family and friends. I must keep in mind that seeing stuff pile up and not being used does not make me feel good at all.
I’ve done a bit of destashing prior to January, so I have a good idea of what’s in my closet. This also gave me an idea of what else I really need, like a really good pair of jeans. That goes on my running shopping list. This is a hand-written list of things I have on the back pages of my Passion Planner, and these are stuff I will allow myself to shop for, for the rest of the year. Not everything on that list will necessarily be purchased. See tip #3 above. I will check that list more than twice, and evaluate the need for each item, and set aside funds for it.
This is true also for any gadgets and items for hobbies, or for the home. It’s easy to succumb to impulse buying but if I tell myself I’d put it on the list for later consideration, it helps avoid the wasteful spending.
We already know the value of having a shopping list helps when doing groceries, there’s no reason why it won’t be a good idea for everything else.
Stop the FOMO
When you don’t hit the weekend markets, the bazaars, the sales, and even the latest zero-waste or sustainable fair, you’re not missing out.
I skipped The Good Trade fair last month despite looking forward to it for weeks, because I realized that I don’t want to turn my zero-waste efforts into just another reason to go shopping. After all, to keep amassing stuff you don’t need completely contradicts the concept of zero-waste living.
Prompted by a reminder from the good folks of The Good Trade, I looked at my list of things I thought I needed to get at the Fair and realized I didn’t really have to go.
If course, if I were going there with friends and we can make a day of it, why not! It would have been a great way to encourage others in my circle to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But it wasn’t the case for that weekend. So I missed it, and I was okay.
Be More Intentional
Perhaps my biggest takeaway is this: being intentional in every way, including spending money, is key to a fuller life. Splurging on a few priced things every once in a while, may be a better reward than buying a few little things too often.
Of course I have done some shopping since the month ended (we’re almost through February now) but I have no guilt feelings about those purchases. I know there will be a lot less shopping in the next two to three months, at least. The best feeling though, is knowing you say no to buying something not out of budgetary considerations (that’s good too, though) but more because you know you don’t really need or want it.
Thanks for reading!
Would you consider doing a no-spend month? Or is there a specific expense category you’d like to cut-back on? I would love to hear about it!