10 minimalist travel essentials – vegan friendly and money saving

I stopped counting, but I was probably asked this question over 100 times, mostly by my female friends.

The short answer is: you need to prioritise and say goodbye to a lot of your things. I practised a lot of Marie Kondo (say thank you to the item for the value it provided/the lesson it taught you) before I donated most of my belongings to charity.

Without using any kind of magic, everyone could make this work for them. The trick is to choose items of necessity instead of items of attachment. Personally, I would have loved to bring my good black designer stilettos with me for the travel, but realistically I would only need those shoes for 2 or 3 nights during the next year – so that is a “no”. It is truly helpful to go through your belongings with a friend, a partner, or a person that knows you – I found it too difficult to do by myself and much easier once Nico was in the room with me.

Whether you are going traveling to start your own business or you need a spring cleaning of your closet, this process can be helpful for you. It was for me, and these are the 10 items that we prioritised as items of neccesity:

1. Coffee Bean grinder. We can grind our own coffee and enjoy the local beans wherever we travel. We prefer the Japanese brand Hario manual coffee bean grinder. It requires no electricity outlet and can be dissembled easily so it fits into our suitcase easily.

2. Bodum French press. our go-to model is the Danish Bodum French press (4 cup size). It fits seamlessly into our 20kg suitcase limit and require no wasteful coffee filters. Our coffee gear do require coffee beans, and we get these locally and organically grown depending on our location.

3. Oats. If you pair oats with a bowl, some hot water, and stir with a spoon you can make porridge. We do this every morning, and it is the best start to a busy day with its slimming, fulfilling and diverse styling-opportunities (nutrition-facts, 2018). Style your oatmeal with local in-season fruits and nuts (typically, these are the cheapest ones in the local supermarket). In Thailand, we prefer ripe mango cubes, watermelon and cashew nuts.

4. Wooden bowls and spoons. Our porridge, rice, veggie and ice cream go into our wooden bowls when we eat, style and mix food. It might seem strange to travel with bowls, but as we do not have a home this is such a comforting and recognisable item that provides us with a little homey vibe. Our bowls are from MUJI “Acacia” and comes in four different sizes.

5. Sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda). Not for baking, but we use it as a deodorant. It is actually the most efficient remedy against odour and bacteria. You can also use it to wash vegetables and soak beans to make them more digestible – talk about multi-purpose products! Available in most supermarkets and on Amazon.

6. Multi-purpose soap bar. We use an organic soap bar from Dr. Brommer for our daily shower which helps us decrease harmful ingredients that exist in most shower soaps like parabens, phtalates, formaldehyde etc (nontoxicliving, 2018). We also like LUSH as their soaps are vegan and cruelty-free, and they all look like candy.

7. Dry shampoo. A must-have for Louise (and potentially everyone else with longer hair). Since we go to the gym, or do yoga daily – and I do not wash my hair daily, I use the dry shampoo to maintain a fresh feel and voluminous hair styling. My favourites are Maria Nila Dry Shampoo and Yarok Dry Shampoo Styling Powder.

8. Electric shaver. Since Nico cuts his own hair, the electric shaving remedy saves him approximately 1000$ per year by doing this. We love Philips shavers that can be found on Amazon in various sizes and for different budgets.

9. White t-shirts. A must-have for Nico – he wears only white ones due to the hot weather, and he prefers “Muji” with their seamless and minimal design. Muji only produces t-shirts from organic cotton and they do 3 different fabrics for their round-neck t-shirt model.

10. Camera backpacks. For camera gear, ad hoc food shopping and all-purpose bags. We both use Peak Design as our daily backpack choice – Nico has the black 30L version and I have the grey 20L size. Because of the numerous pockets, the waterproof mechanism and ultra comfortable fit this bag comes with us EVERYWHERE.




I never hit the “SNOOZE” button. This is why.

Short on time? Read the four pillars of health that changed our lives [INFOGRAPHIC]

I am good at waking up early.

I am one of those obnoxious people who is always in the office earlier than you. One of those type A-personalities who yells an emphasised “GOOD MORNING!” at a higher frequency sound than what should be allowed before 8AM. If you love to hate these kind of people, but secretly wanna be like them – this blog post is for you.

The No-Snooze-Rules For the past 10 years, I remember hitting the snooze button twice; once when I was getting up at 04.15 AM for a flight from Bangkok back to Europe symbolising the end of my 2-week holiday. The second one was getting up at 06.00 AM to prepare for a mandatory product pitch entailing product features that I did not believe would benefit the client. Both of these examples include unwillingness and lack of motivation; two major barriers that need to be broken down before going snoozefree. I have split my “no-snooze-rules” into two sections – the short term list and the long-term list. You can easily implement the “short-term” rules for some fast results, but the most remarkable changes will happen when you focus on the “long-term” rules as complementary guidelines.

My 5 “no-snooze-rules”:

Short-term list

  • I sleep with ear-plugs designed for construction work (my favourites are “3M”). No birds, screaming babies or traffic wake me up and disturb my sleep. This makes me incredibly well-rested and ready to jump out of bed in the morning.
  • I plan what I am having for breakfast before I go to bed so I have a delicious meal to wake up to. This one really works – think overnight oats, blueberry-coconut porridge or homemade bread with peanut butter.
  • Before I fall asleep I think through the upcoming day and highlight 3 things that I am excited about. Be very concrete about the activities! Usually, I end up with something like: “1. I am going to do salsa in Kreuzberg with Nico (my boyfriend), 2. I am going for a walk by myself around Mauerpark while I can listen to the newest podcast from Marie Forleo, 3. I am recording the next video for our plant-based YouTube channel about “how to save money on a vegan diet

Long-term list

  • IKIGAI – the Japanese word for “purpose”. Here, you have to ask yourself if there are things (besides from exercise, food, your pay-check) that make you wanna wake up in the morning. Are you doing meaningful things with your life? Are you doing something good for other people? Are the people closest to you people that you look up to? And are you building something with your life that you are proud of? If you answered no to 2+ of these questions, you need to revisit your priorities and change the way you spend your time and who you spend it with. Do not start a list of excuses. Do not waste your life in front of the TV or feeling paralysed. Instead, start doing – it will bring you so much joy. You are the only one responsible for your own happiness, and NO ONE else can create that life for you. If you do not know where to start, the “Bluezones” books were an amazing kick of inspiration for me.
  • Clean up your diet and drinking habits. Studies show that a whole foods plant-based diet will help a more seamless and more qualitative sleep (Nutritionfacts.org). Essentially, eating a diet of less processed and less animal based foods will help you reach a healthy weight and assist your bodily functions to perform their best (and sleep well). If you are not sure about where to start, you can check out this amazing blog post from Forks over knives. I would also encourage you to watch the documentaries “Forks over Knives”: 2011 (can be found on Netflix) and “H.O.P.E. what you eat matters”: 2018 (can be found online for free.

If you are trying out the no-snooze-rules, please leave a comment below. I am wishing you joyful and qualitative sleep!

Why we quit our jobs and turned plant-based

I hit 30 and reality hit me. I was losing my fitness. My lifestyle was making me FAT.

Just like everyone else around me I started to gain a small belly and experienced a heavy breath when taking the stairs to my third floor office desk.

How is that possible I thought.

I was regularly going to the gym, taking my protein supplements and avoiding most carbs.

Yet, I couldn’t get rid of excess fat. And I was always f*****g hungry.

On the contrary.

I was gaining weight.

By the winter of 2018, for the first time in my life, I was approaching 90Kg. That is 10Kg over my optimal weight.

I was scared, pissed off, and confused. I needed to do something.

When I asked around, everyone seemed to have a different opinion. Some people were keto, others paleo, some low carbs, others high carbs, some were fasting, others were drinking meal replacements, some were crossfitters, others were training for triathlons. In the previous five years I had tried all these things. I even tried putting butter in my coffee.

But nothing worked.

What I noticed among all of my peers was a common thread.

Despite all the effort:

None of us had our weight under control.
None of us had our energy levels under control.
None of us had our cravings under control.
None of us had our health under control.

All of us were confused, and were trying hard to get a grip on our health.

We were all slaves of food. It was constantly on our minds.

My girlfriend felt the same.

Being an athlete for most of her childhood she had always been active, full of energy and, well, fit. Yet, in the past few years she was also experiencing excessive pain around some old sport injuries, bloating, and unusual puffiness.

She tried being on a diet of very low carb intake, zero fats, and little pleasure. She only ate salads, lean protein and skimmed icelanding yogurts. Yet, the symptoms were still there.

Some months passed, things were not improving, and despite our greatest efforts we were still struggling with the same problems:

Weight management
Energy dips and lack of focus
General tiredness

It can’t be that hard, can it? We thought.

But we didn’t know what to do. We were lost. And our biggest fear was for our future.

We wanted to start a family, potentially have kids, but we couldn’t bear the thought of raising another human being without being able to take good care of ourselves first.

And so, that’s when we decided to quit our jobs.

We needed some time away from the bad habits of corporate life to reboot.

We needed free mental space from the 9 to 5 to read and learn about human health.

And that’s what we did.

For the following 6 months, we spent every waking moment of our lives digging deep into the science of food, nutrition, and general human health.

What we discovered shocked us, and is the reason we started theplantbasedschool.com.

How I became a Minimalist in 5 simple steps

There is an ancient story that changed my perspective on life and living.

It took me some time to grasp the morale of the story. In fact, I had to read it four times, quit my corporate job and donate most of my belongings to charity before I understood its various meanings.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to go through the same challenges as I did if you just have a Iittle patience. (Insert Gary Barlow’s voice with the angelic unity of the Take That-choir)

The story is an ancient saying about a zen master, a wise man and a very important cup of tea.

You know it already? Ok, read it again.

I’ve found five different takeaways from it, and I bet that you can find even more.

A wise man once went to visit a Zen teacher to inquire about Zen.

As the Zen teacher talked, the wise man frequently interrupted to express his own opinion about this or that.

Finally, the Zen teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea to the wise man. He poured the cup full, then kept pouring until the cup overflowed. “Stop!,” said the wise man. “The cup is full, no more can be poured in.”

“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” replied the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

[Excerpt from the book “Bruce Lee: Striking thoughts”]

The author of the Chinese saying is unknown and the people in the story vary dependent on who tells the story (I’ve seen the wise man described as a university professor, a learned man and as a student).

The beauty of the saying is that no one can claim to have the correct conclusion to its morale, but everyone can learn from it. The story has served as a vital conversation starter for me, and it opened a window of willingness to grow and to re-evaluate my habits.

Essentially, that’s how my journey with minimalism started.

5 steps to minimalism

There are five “empty-cup”principles I apply every day to make space for valuable and authentic inputs:

1. Silence virtual noise

Social media. Emails. Apps. Notifications.

Eight months ago, my morning routine was very different from my current one.

I would start my day by checking Instagram, Gmail and Facebook as soon as I opened my eyes. I remember that my phone would often have white, round stains on the screen due to the combined activities of Instagram-scrolling and toothbrushing.

Naturally, I began my day with a restless mindset as the heavily colorgraded pictures on Instagram would haunt me. I realised I was addicted to these apps when I tried to exclude them from my morning routine and I felt particularly anxious and jittery. It was a shocking realisation to find out that I was not in control of technology, but instead technology was controlling me.

And so, my digital de-cluttering began. Solely using technology that worked for me and supporting the things that I valued. I use technology when it’s necessary for our business or for connecting with my family and friends (one of my core values).

  • I’ve disabled all notifications from my phone
  • I’ve uninstalled Facebook, Instagram, email and Youtube from my phone. They exist on my desktop, but I don’t open them during working hours (8am-6pm)
  • I’ve introduced Instagram “office hour”from 4-5pm where I check our business Instagram account, and I reply to comments
  • I’ve created a technology mantra: use it, don’t be abused by it.

After I made these changes, I have found more time to produce deep work, have real-life experiences with my loved ones and read fantastic books.

“For nothing brings happiness unless it also brings calm; it is a bad sort of existence that is spent in apprehension”

Seneca, letter 74

2. Decluttering
In the winter of 2019, Nico and I quit our jobs in sales.

We were planning the greatest adventure of our lives; exchanging our corporate/rental-apartment existence with a nomadic lifestyle and South East Asia as our new playground. One rainy evening, as we were counting down the final months before our departure, Nico introduced the topic I’d dreaded to hear: cleaning out our belongings.

I rejected his statement firmly with a: “but what if I need this [insert clothing piece] for a picnic in the forest!”. The question that followed my outburst was one of the most profound and uncomfortable questions I’ve ever gotten:

“Well, what if the things that we hold onto weigh us down so we cannot be free?”

Touché. K.O. End of conversation.

Thus, the decluttering began. We faced each and every piece of clothing with three questions:

  1. Did I make use of you in the last 30 days?
  2. (If not) why am I keeping you?
  3. (For furniture) which purpose do you serve?

If question 1 was replied with a “no”, we proceeded to question 2.

In order to stay with us, the item would to have a valid and useful reason for its being. For example, Nico had one suit that was helpful to keep for various festive events such as summer-weddings, round family-birthdays etc. I had one bikini that I felt very comfortable in and I knew it could serve me for another summer.

We practice the three-step model every six months to ensure that we don’t accumulate clutter and surround ourselves with things that don’t serve a purpose. I’ve found I need fewer things that I thought, as long as I have a few items that I love.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little


3. Time should be spent on the people I love

I’ve made many excuses to myself as to why I did not have time for my friends and family.

Deadlines. Sales targets. Client calls.

Most of my excuses would start and end with work. Simply because I loved working towards a goal, and I still savour the feeling of winning, once I hit a goal.

But the goal always moves. Deadlines multiply, targets change, client calls triple.

During a workday, I would often look at my calendar and feel a drumming heartbeat when I was trying to squeeze in “family time” with Nico or calling my Mom. One day, while planning my seventh sales call for the forthcoming workday, a curious thought hit me:

“Wow, there is so much time we’re not spending together”

Naturally, I was thinking about my boyfriend (he made a joke that morning saying that we were slowly transitioning into becoming roommates).

The following evening, we decided to quit our jobs and start planning our travels.

Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time

Seneca, letter 4

4. Hear other people out, listen to yourself

I’ve made slightly wild decisions in the last five years; I moved to New York City to study, I’ve quit my dream job, I’ve started a business with my boyfriend.

In moments of despair (which I’ve experienced hundreds of times during all three scenarios) I’ve sought advice from blogs, self-help books, experts, yogis etc.

But despite extensive research to find out “the truth” I’ve always found the answer to my questions and challenges in myself. Not in the light bulb-kind-of-way, but more likely during a brisk walk in nature or while maintaining a strenuous yoga pose. Indeed, these scenarios are my most creative moments.

Learning 1: I always listen to myself first before asking others

I’ve found it tempting and unbelievably easy to start following 200 different experts on different mediums but I always end up more confused than before I sought out the information. My process of looking for the right answer reminds me of a dog chasing its own tale – I think that I’m chasing a goal but I keep running in circles.

So I’ve stopped tail-chasing.

I’ve chosen 5 experts, all of whom are well-educated and they share my set of beliefs. These are people I look up to, and I would love to have these people as life-mentors.

Learning 2: I choose max 5 people as life-mentors

I can strongly recommend cleaning out your “expert-closet”. It’s such a relief to not having to listen to everyone but instead advancing your knowledge by focusing on a selected few.

There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe

Elif Shafak, 40 rules of Love

5. Deep focus

We live in a society with companies and people that ask “howmuch?” and “howfast?”.

We value multi-tasking, quick execution and quantity-focused objectives so we can measure and compare what we do.

As a corporate employee these are crucial practices to learn. But when we leave the office and leave our co-workers behind for an evening with our loved ones, do we leave our ability to focus behind?

I’ve found 4 questions that helped me clarify that I could improve my ability focus:

  1. Can you keep your concentration for the full length of a movie? (1.5 hours)
  2. Can you sit still for a 5-minute meditation session?
  3. Do you have deep, honest, (long) conversations with your loved ones?
  4. Do you have meaningful relationships with your friends and with your partner?

Perhaps as a balance to the quantitative questions we pose during business hours, we should start focusing on qualitative measure in our spare time, such as: “howwell can I do this?” and “why I am doing this?”.

We’re human.

We’re wired to build meaningful relationships.

Sometimes, a long walk in the forest is the best way to connect with someone you love and care for. That’s where I started to regain my stillness and focus.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

Marcus Aurelius

My “empty-cup” principles can easily be distilled.

I’ve found that the two currencies I value most are mytime and myattention.

These two cannot grow or be manipulated with, but they can be used for your advantage if you map out your values and focus your priorities accordingly.

Less is better because it allows for more space to think, more love in your life and more memories to treasure.

Thank you for reading.


8 morning habits that changed my life (and my productivity)

Do you know the feeling of having your morning hijacked?

Related reading: INFOGRAPHIC with evidence based lifestyle tips

You thought you planned your morning with care and intention. You even scribbled down a couple of notes on a post-it before you fell asleep eager to remain in control of the day that was to come.

But as the next day unfolds invisible forces claim your attention and your time. Instead of spending quality time with your family, you are semi-aware of their physical presence while manically texting your colleagues about a deadline. Instead of going for a much needed run, you decide to answer the five most recent, seemingly urgent emails in your cluttered inbox.

When you leave the house, and think back on your morning, you don’t remember doing anything productive. But you forgot your house keys. And your laptop is still on the kitchen marble island.


– Excerpt from my morning, 2 years ago.
Related reading: My journey to Minimalism

Technology is a beast
When you’re a victim of morninghijacking it feels like the Tasmanian devil from Looney Tunes pays a swift visit to your brain. He speeds through your mind in a destructive tornado leaving only chaos and demolished brain ventricles behind. You basically forget your plans for the day because the Tasmanian brown beast has left a battlefield that calls for immediate action and reparation.

The morning-hijacking can manifest in various ways; it can be a colleague texting you outside of working hours to ask for a favor, it might be a notification on your phone about a newly published article on “Medium”or it could be two innocent Whatsapp messages from friends asking you about your weekend plans.

The problem with these seemingly innocent asks? They all require your immediate action.

The common denominator for morning-hijacks is that the “damage” originates from the digital world and, in 98% of cases, from notifications on your phone. (Physical world-incidents such as crying babies or slightly demanding spouses should not be classified as devils as they are vital for our thriving and happiness in the long-term).

My 8 morning habits – no hijacking allowed

  1. Preparation. My morning begins in the evening. Workout clothing is prepared on the dresser before I go to sleep. Phone is on call-block mode* from 8pm, I’m in bed by 9.30pm (on weekdays), I sleep by 10.30pm. Every. Damn. Night.
  2. Rest. I wake up with alarm after 8 hours of sleep. Phone stays on call-block mode.
  3. Hydrate. I drink a big glass of water.
  4. Gratitude. Change into my workout clothes. Starting to wake up physically while I practise gratitude for my ability to move.
  5. Intimacy. I wake up Nico. He brews black coffee for us. Every morning we sit down, look into each others eyes and talk. Even if we have just three minutes to go through our plans for the day, we make time for connecting.
  6. Movement. 5-minute meditation followed by 30-45 minute yoga and strength workout.
  7. Eat. Porridge at home. Find my healthy porridge recipe [here]
  8. Clean. I shower. I wash my hair two times a week –> use dry spray the other days. Let my hair dry without hair dryer. It takes me app. 5 minutes minutes to do my makeup, I’ve tested several times with a stopwatch.

Effects and productivity
After 2-3 hours of me-time I turn my phone off from call-block mode*. I welcome emails, texts, and notifications into my life by visiting the platforms and apps I’ve intentionally chosen to use.

Don’t let your phone or other shiny toys of technology dominate your mornings. Mornings are yours and need to be savoured in solitude – and with your loved ones.
It took me six months and a considerable portion of goodwill to grow into this 8-step routine.

Learning #1 I’ve found that transparent communication to friends and slightly astonished colleagues helped smooth most misunderstandings and wonderings about my lack of response in the early hours. Let them know why you are prioritising differently, and they will inevitably respect you for your ability to prioritise.

My 8-step routine has also allowed me to be fully present in the activities I do and to connect deeper with the wonderful people, I have in my life.

Learning #2 If you are drawn to changing your morning habits, start with one or two steps at a time. If you decide to make a change, then stick to it, and smile graciously back at people who try to convince you that sleep is underrated (hello – didn’t you read “why we sleep”?)

The one who wins the morning wins the day.
Thank you for reading.

*Call-block mode: During call block mode I’m able to receive calls from my boyfriend, my parents and my brother due to the configurations I’ve set (allowed numbers). All notifications are muted 24 hours a day. No other number and notification-system are able to seize my attention outside of my phone hours.

References:Emotional Intelligence (1995): Daniel GolemanDigital Minimalism (2018): Cal NewportWhy we sleep (2017): Matthew Walker

Staying healthy and happy: 7 crucial practices

Only have 2 mins? See our evidence-based living guide (INFOGRAPHIC)

1. Sleep at least 7.5 hours every night

You are not lazy because you get sufficient sleep – you are smart. If you are sleep deprived, you eat app. 385 calories extra in a day (with 6-7 hours of sleep). Reduce bedroom light, remove all technology from the room, go to bed at the same time every day, try to have your bedroom temperature slightly colder than the rest of your home (Walker, 2017).

2. Eat more fruit and vegetables We are what we eat, and if you eat crap you will feel…crap. Your plate should be a canvas for a rainbow of various colors. Think black and beige from rye bread, pasta and rice. Purple, orange, green and red from vegetables, fruits and hummus. White and brown from seeds, nuts and legumes. As a rule of thumb, the more intense a colour of the vegetable and fruit, the greater amount of antioxidants (Greger, 2015).

3. Move your body You are a mammal, you are designed to move. Instead of focusing of 1 hour of strenuous exercise every day, replace with 10,000 steps throughout the day. We are biologically wired to move throughout the day and our brains will reward us with a dose of dopamine – “the happiness-feeling” – when we move sufficiently.

4. Find your tribe You are the sum of the 5 people closest to you. Do you look up to your friends, and do the conversations you have spark creativity, happiness and fulfillment for you? If not, you need to find people that share your values and belief system. Look outside your office environment, think about things you love spending time on, and search for communities that nurture your interests.

5. Play every day A 4-year old laughs app. 300 times every day. Adults laugh 15-18 times per day. Enjoy life and feed your inner child. Dance to your favourite 80’s playlist, sing in the shower, swim in the ocean.
What makes you smile is an effortless and life-affirming activity to you.

6. Get up 20 mins earlier every day Begin your mornings with an activity you choose, it will change your perspective on life. Set an alarm 20 mins earlier than usual and choose how you wanna spend those precious 20 mins on yourself. A brief meditation? A brisk walk outside? A cup of coffee while looking out your window? Beginning your day with you is a practice and a catalyser for growth. It will turn into a self-fulfilling cycle and help you prioritise your own needs and aspirations.

7. Do things that make you happy, and do more of them If you are too busy to do the things you love, you need to restructure. Don’t know what you love? Start doing practice no 6 and you will find out. You are the captain of your life, and you have the power to set the direction and speed for your life.


The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (2008), National Geographic Books, Dan Buettner
The China study (2016): The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health, revised and expanded edition, Benbella books, T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell
How not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease (2015), Flatironbooks, Dr. Michael Greger
Why we Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017), Scribner, Matthew Walker
The Inner Spirit of Laughter: 5 Secrets from The Laughing Guru (2013), Ebury Press India, Madan Kataria

The question I ask myself to find motivation

I’m breaking up with “should”.

You see, I carry a small shoulder-devil with blonde hair and a pink fleecy bodysuit who whispers into my ear with a dry, rusty voice: “let’s spice it up with should“.

She tempts me with rosy illusions of what my life will look like if I follow “should“, and she makes my palms sweaty when she paints pictures of failure in my head if I deviate from should.

I never ask her for advice, yet she wakes up several times a day and every time I’m about to make a decision, such as:

  • Before I set my alarm (“You should really get up at 05.30 – that’s what ALL successful people do“)
  • When I look in the mirror while considering which clothes I’m wearing (“Hmm, you shouldn’t wear these pants. They make you look chunky and sloppy”)
  • After I finish a blog post, even when I finished this article (“How come you never write about interesting things? You should be more creative, like Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, etc. etc”)

Scary stuff.

The ironic thing about this energy-sucking devil is that if any person in the real life-world would speak to me like she does, I would’ve confronted them. I would’ve asked them why they behave like this. I would feel verbally abused, and I would have taken action accordingly.

But since she’s not a physical human being I’ve had a tendency to just accept her misleading “guidance”. Basically, I’ve been accepting her as a rather annoying part of myself.

Until I realised something very important.

A wake-up call
Two weeks ago, before going to bed, I was brushing my teeth while looking at myself in the mirror. I studied my forehead, the blemishes on my cheeks and my pierced earlobes.

While meticulously studying the state of my skin, there was a sudden inner monologue in my head with a familiar voice assuring me:”You should do more yoga, it would make you look prettier”.

I started laughing since this statement was one of the most ridiculous remarks I’ve ever heard. For the first time in my life I felt that the pink devil was detached from me and that she lost grasp about what I valued and what I strived for. I kept on laughing because every rhythmic contraction of my laughter made me realise the senseless things that she had tried to convince me about for as long as I could remember.

And then it hit me.

The tormenting pink fleece-wearing devil is nothing but a result of expectations.
She tells me that a life of “should’s” is a better life because it’s safe and it follows a path of predefined goals and aspirations. She compares me to others and makes me feel guilt and shame for not measuring up to other people.

But those measures are no longer valid for me, they don’t make me feel jealous or attract me any longer. The set of conditioned thoughts that she represents are no longer part of me. And thus it happened, after that crucial tooth-brushing session, I broke up with my shoulder-devil.

How to distance yourself from “should”
Now, let’s not trash should altogether, sometimes the use of should can be useful.
In fact, I believe that there are two types of should we can apply in our daily lives:

  1. The absolute-vital-for-existing-in-society-and-preventing-total-zombie-apocalypse-mass-destruction-should (includes paying your bills and brushing your teeth)
  2. The pointless and deficient should that only tells you what you ought to do and what others expect from you. This should has nothing to do with you and you developing your own framework and reaching your full potential

Sometimes should is necessary. If you are in a should -situation of hanging laundry, changing the diaper of your baby, you should probably take action, because the result will benefit you or someone else positively.

But if you’re currently walking around with a disturbing background noise on your shoulder – even a tiny voice that keeps reminding you about should – then confront it. Start with identifying it, what it says and what it wants you to do. Then ask yourself: is that what YOU actually want to do?

I’m breaking up with my pink-dressed shoulder devil and I’m creating greater distance to her. I might not ever be able to get fully rid of her (after all we shared accommodation for as long as I can remember), but creating a space between what I want and what she wants is greatly helpful. My best tip for taming the shoulder-devil is to think about Harry Potter.

Seriously, try to consider should as a creature that takes the form of your biggest fear. Basically, it’s a “boggart” from Harry Potter, and it is to be identified, faced and then “fought” with laughter so it cannot thrive. It’s highly effective, but takes a bit of practice.

Start with choose
Once should is identified and we’re starting to work with our actual dreams and aspirations, we can think about fun stuff.

We can start thinking about choose.

I’m trying to choose choose. It’s not easy as should has been such an integral part of my vocabulary up until now, but it’s the only way forward for me.
I choose intentionality, curiosity, dreams and creativity.
In fact, I’m practicing a life of choosing my activities by brainwashing myself (does not include the things I have to do such as rent and toothbrushing, mind you).

It’s a simple exercise to explain but difficult to adopt: every time I’m inclined to say should, I replace it with choose – and I’m forced to ask myself: is this really something choose to do?
Here’s where I’ve changed my vocabulary (or realised that my belief was wrong):

  • I should eat more plants → I choose a plant based diet (because it makes me feel better and I maintain my weight without effort)
  • I should get up at 05.30 in the morning → no, I shouldn’t, I refuse to follow this. I choose eight hours of sleep as it enables me to function at my best so I get up at 07.00 instead
  • I should do yoga on daily basis → yes, I choose to do yoga on a daily basis because it does wonders for my mental clarity and mood

Choose isn’t always romantic, creative and rosy. I’ve found that choose often brings some level of insecurity (you chose to do it so you’ve no one else to blame but yourself). But isn’t that the ultimate gift that we can give and nurture ourselves with (not the blame) but ownership of our lives and intentionality?

Now I better go, I have a pile of laundry that I should hang.

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