Have your priorities in life changed since COVID-19? We ask six opinion leaders
As Singapore gets accustomed to a new normal way of life, six business leaders and society personalities think back to how the two-month isolation has altered their worldviews.
If there is one good reason for cheer in the coming days and weeks, it is that we are gradually returning to a semblance of normality in our lives. After a long period of circuit breaker-induced isolation, many in Singapore are cheering the start of Phase 2, where restaurants, spas, gyms and shops may resume operations.
This means that we will at least be able to resume more aspects of daily and social life, even as we continue to remain vigilant by practicing safe distancing and good personal hygiene.
Still, the past two months of staying home have undoubtedly offered many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on a serious, uninterrupted bout of soul searching. Here, six society personalities and business leaders in Singapore reflect on how their priorities have changed during this time.
ANNA VANESSA HAOTANTO
“I value self-sufficiency, health, and minimalism more than ever before. I have stopped shopping for unnecessary things, especially… fast fashion. During the circuit breaker, I first cleaned out my closets, which then spilled over into decluttering my social media and inbox where I unsubscribed to lots of updates and newsletters as seeing so many emails every day created anxiety.
It is even more important now to be grateful for what I have and for service workers everywhere. I am more empathetic and truly appreciative of others. I try hard not to judge others as there is no way of knowing what other people are experiencing.
I am also more conscious of how I spend my time. When I review my spending [habits] and [social] calendar, I now ask myself, ‘Does it align with the things that are important to me? How do I ensure that I am focusing on the right priorities?’ I look at my finances even more today – not in terms of what I can buy or do with it but value it more as a security.
The circuit breaker also made me more connected to my female entrepreneur friends. We have weekly catch-ups and this is really heartwarming as we are really trying to ‘cheerlead’ each other and ensure that our businesses not only survive but flourish.”
“I am more empathetic and truly appreciative of others. I try hard not to judge others as there is no way of knowing what other people are experiencing.”
Ashish is the founder and managing director, 8M Real Estate
“My priorities have shifted towards spending time on family activities and more emphasis on wellbeing and mindfulness, which includes meditation, yoga, early morning walks, frequent runs. I also picked up cycling. The current environment has created many challenges in my business and whilst they are important, I have come to realise that the simple things in life are equally as important and require my time each day.
I have been gifting food to families, neighbours and friends. It is rewarding to see them happy to receive unexpected gifts and also a great way to support tenants in my portfolio, while helping the local F&B community. I am also working more efficiently – starting my days with walking the dog with my kids, to ending the days with meditation and exercise. I will continue trying to work smarter, too, by doing more tasks digitally than I did before.”
“My priorities have shifted towards spending time on family activities and more emphasis on wellbeing and mindfulness.”
Benjamin is an aviation professional
“Prior to the pandemic, I had unknowingly taken several things for granted, namely health and family, both of which I had assumed would always be fine. I have since become acutely aware of the need to stay healthy, eat well and exercise.
While I have never been terribly unhealthy, this episode has driven home the need to be continually conscious and deliberate in maintaining a good physical regime.
On [the subject of] family, I have had more time to bond with my wife and this has brought us closer together. Amidst the hustle and bustle of pre-COVID-19 Singapore, we never really took the time to sit back and just spend time together. What an epiphany! So while I eagerly look forward to a post-COVID-19 Singapore and hope that it bears at least a 75 per cent semblance to pre-COVID-19 Singapore, I will strive to ensure these pillars remain the bedrock of my life.”
DR BERNARD CHEONG
Bernard is the founder of Lifeline Medical Group
“I have gone from spending money to spending quality time with loved ones and learnt to listen instead of talking. Wow, I did not realise how incredibly bad at conversation I was but I quickly got the message from my wife and kids that I was a very poor listener.
I unconsciously leveraged for wins, rather than reflecting and listening. Once we all get back to talking to each other in groups, I am going to listen, consider and digest. Plus, I must realise that others need to speak or wish to have a say.
Also, I realised that never in thirty-plus years have I spent time without resorting to the spending of money, at least with my own kids.
Eating out, holidays, even going out with friends – we almost always ‘do’ something, and that means spending. But time – to many in my daughters’ generation – means talking about relevant current topics and relationships which are free of expenditure.
Sure, I will still be spending in the new normal but I would be more aware of avoiding issues by using gifts, dining, small talk and shopping.”
“I have gone from spending money to spending quality time with loved ones and learnt to listen instead of talking.”
Nikki is the founder of Design Intervention
“As the realisation sinks in that there is no going back to normal, I find myself going back to basics. Day-to-day trials seem insignificant, fashionable consumer items utterly superfluous. All over the world, people are longing for the simple joys of life. All the rest, well, it’s just noise.
Before I would have described myself as a real foodie but what I have missed far more is seeing loved ones. What am I dreaming of? I am longing to sit on a park bench with a good cup of coffee and my best friend, have a hug and a long overdue chat.
As a residential designer, I have spent the last 15 years pondering the concept of home and the circuit breaker has elevated its significance to a whole new level. There is so much in the world that is beyond our control, so it has become more important than ever, to focus on what we can do to improve our lives.
And for me, change begins at home. Like all mammals, our habitat affects our wellbeing. Bedrooms that foster good sleep habits will boost our immunity, spa bathrooms that help us relax can help alleviate stress and dining spaces that encourage families to interact will bring us closer to our loved ones.”
“There is so much in the world that is beyond our control, so it has become more important than ever, to focus on what we can do to improve our lives.”
Su-Lyn is the chief executive officer of The Ate Group
“In a time where person-to-person interactions beyond our immediate households have been limited, I find myself more conscious of the need to express care for my inner circle. It is higher on my list of priorities to strengthen relationships by staying in touch, whether it is by checking in with a direct message on Instagram, or sending food, drinks or a child’s activity kit to someone I know will appreciate the gesture.
In terms of work relationships, it has become pivotal to pick up the phone and speak to colleagues daily or jump onto a video call with a client so that we can look one another in the eye.
Our work has necessarily changed. Internally, we activated our contingency plans to help keep our team employed despite business grinding to a near halt. At the same time, we activated the communications protocols we’d been developing for our clients to address various pandemic scenarios.
During the circuit breaker, I forwent global brands in favour of supporting local businesses because they are part of our community and economy. I am also conscious that the challenges of making ends meet is an even greater concern among the less fortunate in our community so it is important to be mindful of this and do what we can in little ways, wherever we can.”
“It is higher on my list of priorities to strengthen relationships by staying in touch… or sending food, drinks or a child’s activity kit to someone I know will appreciate the gesture.”