Building Relationships – Doing More With Less

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Have you ever mustered up the courage to tell someone something you thought they needed to hear? Something that you thought would shock them into changing?

If you were there in the year 2000, it was the fourth year of our university course. Our course consisted of projects after projects and even in the male dominated engineering department, I usually assumed the lead role. I took my responsibilities very seriously and I assumed everyone else did too. I dished out the roles and expected everyone to meet all deadlines. One day Tang, one of my good friends came up to me and told me this,

“Serene, you’re a slave driver! ”

I just smiled.

I realized … that my actions affect my friends and family

I didn’t understand it then but he was trying to tell me I was alienating all my classmates. Back then, I thought it was a compliment, a confirmation of all the good work I had been doing.

Into my first job and still that responsible perfectionist, I was working late into the night. I was supposed to meet JL, my then boyfriend (now husband) for dinner.

“Give me a little more time.“ I kept saying every time he called. A half hour became 2 and before I know it, it was past midnight. The poor man had been waiting for close to 5 hours. I ran out to meet him and seeing that hurt look in his eyes, it finally hit me! I was causing so much pain to everyone around me.

WAS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?

I’ll like to say that I changed overnight, became suddenly family oriented well balanced but old habits die hard.

Even into my second job and after getting married, it was still a constant battle. Up till now, I still have that urge to put work above everything else. However I realized though that my actions affect my friends and family and I’m determined to create a better balance.

After many years of reflections and constant support, I’m getting better. My relationships with friends and families are much better and that internal balance has made me happier and surprisingly more productive. Now I do more with much less.

Serene Goh,
LEARNING DESIGN & Development
nanyang technology university

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