As a Singaporean, most of us have had the “hustle hard and hustle always” mindset deeply ingrained in us since young. Students and adults alike are no strangers to burning out from the constant rush to meet deadlines and the never-ending tasks to complete.
But across the world, other societies have different sets of lifestyles that are worth learning from. Sometimes it takes slowing down a little to get more things done and to avoid burning out. Here are six alternative lifestyles to consider if you’re tired of yours:
1. Japanese: Ikigai
Ikigai can be understood as the factor that motivates you to get out of bed every morning. As explained by Francesc Miralles in his book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, it’s the intersect between passion, mission, vocation and profession.
This way of life encourages one to find an ikigai for all your actions. For instance, finding a job which involves putting your skills to use, whose company mission is beneficial to society and aligns with your beliefs. In turn, you won’t dread work nor find your life monotonous.
Also, the term originated from Okinawa, which is home to a significant number of centenarians. Take a leaf out of their book and perhaps you’ll find your health and lifespan improving.
Essentially, Ikigai promotes a lifestyle of less stress and anxiety and more purpose and productivity.
2. Japanese: Wabi Sabi
Here’s something else we can learn from the Japanese – Wabi Sabi refers to embracing the beauty in imperfections. It’s about striving for excellence but never perfection because the latter is transient.
This value is visible in the work of craftsmen and artisans, who imbue authenticity into their products. Its antithesis is a mass-produced, machine-made uniformity.
Wabi Sabi means making peace with flaws and seeing them as natural rather than problematic. But of course, this is no excuse for sloppiness.
A way to practice wabi sabi is appreciating that broken-in and slightly worn sofa. It’s not old, it’s well-loved. Or, the mug with a little chip – it’s functional and also one-of-a-kind now.
Body positivity is another way of embracing wabi sabi. For instance, regard your stretch marks as paint strokes on a canvas, not as rips and tears. Also, chase after being fit and healthy rather than yearning for a model’s picture-perfect physique.
3. Swedish: Lagom
Lagom is the art of “not too little and not too much”. It encourages everything to be done in moderation and to achieve a balanced life.
To practice lagom, be reasonable and find a balance. For instance, keep a realistic schedule instead of overloading your to-do list and having tasks constantly spilling over to the next day.
Incorporating a little fika into their work hours is one way in which the Swedish practice lagom.
Fika refers to taking a short break – be it for a cup of coffee or for some socialising with colleagues. Rather than invoking raised eyebrows or scowls, it’s embraced as a healthy and necessary measure that increases productivity.
Achieving lagom is about sustainability and consistency rather than pushing oneself to a breaking point and then slowly bouncing back. If only Singapore would encourage this to subvert the culture of stress and overworking.
4. Danish: Hygge
Of course, Hygge should be a term that everyone is familiar with. It has gained popularity in recent years and loosely translates to a state of cosiness. The picture that often comes to mind when hygge is mentioned would be that of a winter night indoors, with a mug of hot chocolate and a book.
While hygge sounds like a rather introspective activity, there’s also a social side to hygge as well. Picnics, dinner parties, lazing at the beach and movie nights in all count as hygge. Meanwhile, being constantly plugged in and on social media is definitely not hygge-like.
5. Scottish: Cosgach
A Scottish counterpart for the Danish philosophy of hygge is cosgach. While this lifestyle is not as widely-known, this is a gaelic term that encompasses the same sensation of being snug and cosy.
Ways to enjoy cosgach include long walks in the park with your dog, or popping by comforting restaurants that excel in both food and hospitality. For the Scottish, cosgach tends to mean snuggling up by warm firesides but in Singapore… perhaps switch that with cooling air-conditioned spaces?
6. Finnish: Kalsarikännit
The most hedonistic lifestyle of all, Kalsarikännit is about being alright with a little self-indulgence. In fact, Urban Dictionary defines it as “Drinking by yourself at your house in your underwear with no intention of going out.”
You don’t need to literally strip down to practice Kalsarikännit. Instead, it’s about not feeling guilty and succumbing to social pressure where you feel like you have to constantly be out and about. You’re really not missing out by spending time alone.
Practicing Kalsarikännit promotes a form of self-empowerment and learning to love yourself before you can then be there for others.
These six lifestyles all encourage taking life more slowly than we’re used to in Singapore’s hectic culture; sometimes, switching gears may be a strategic move in the long term.
While it’s simply not feasible to pick up a whole new lifestyle, you can always start small by implementing some of these mindsets into your life. For one, I’m starting with wabi sabi and learning to make peace with little imperfections!
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