What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?


So I’m on the edge of forty. It’s a few months away but still, in the blink of an eye I’ll be catapulted into a whole new decade.  But wasn’t it just yesterday I was putting on my best acid wash jeans and waistcoat, glazing my perm in industrial strength hairspray and heading to Transformers (cool Brisbane 80s nightclub) to Wang-Chung the night away?   Seriously for a period of time there in the early 90s my hair was so rock hard from hairspray it doubled as a bike helmet.

Still. Here I am. Staring at 40. You know, I may be perm-free in 2011 but am I really any wiser?

Here’s the thing. Twenty years ago I seemed to have more joy in my life. Possibly because I was wagging uni lectures and hanging out at the Rec Club to see the Riptides (very cool 80s band). But there was certainly a bigger focus on joy.

I heard something recently that made me stop and think. It was from Elizabeth Gilbert – the author of that mega-seller Eat Pray Love. Stop rolling your eyes. I know her book divided people into two camps. The couldn’t-put-it-down camp and the this-is-self-indulgent-drivel camp. Personally I liked it. And I like Gilbert. Any woman who decides she’s going to hang out in Rome for three months and just eat is my kinda gal. Anyway. So I’m watching an old TV interview with Gilbert and she’s talking about how crazy her life has been post-Eat Pray Love. And then she said, “I’ve worked out I’m my best person when I have less on my plate.”

And for whatever reason that quote resonated with me.  Cause you know what? I’m regularly drowning. I just can’t seem to get through my daily to do-list.  And I don’t know about you but the requests just keep coming.  Will I just read this primary school student’s 33,000-word novel? (Huh?) Will I organise this present? Will I volunteer on Friday? Will I?  Will I? Will I? My immediate response is, “I’d love to but I really just can’t”. Weirdly, it comes out of my mouth as, “Of course I can.”

But when I’m stressed and my life is crazy busy, I’m not a great person to live with.  And I think Gilbert is right – for me anyway – I am my best person when I have less on my plate. I’m less stressed. And I’m happier.  Which in turn means I can give more. And instead of doing a half-assed job on a dozen things, I can give proper attention and care to say six. Okay, three.

Jo Bassett is the creator of Living Savvy, a lifestyle website that helps women achieve that work/life balance. I asked Jo for her thoughts.

“In our world there is still kudos gained from being ‘busy’.  There is a misbelief that busy people are important people or doing important things. In my quest to live a savvy life I endeavour to live a life that is full and filling not busy, juggled and stressed.”

Full and filling not busy, juggled and stress. I can’t think of a better mantra to take with me into my fortieth year. Along with an emptier plate.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve heard or been given?