Hey there! My name is Abdulla, I'm a UCT chemical engineering graduate.
I aspire to inspire. To help each of us better ourselves, so that little by little, we can each make a difference. I absolutely love reading and speaking about self-development & mindfulness. I'm a bit of an extroverted introvert and still trying to find myself in every situation I encounter.
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I was showering one day, and a bunch of ideas about the benefits of reading popped into my mind, which I thought would be useful to share. I’ve been a little neglectful in my reading this year (comparatively speaking), and as usual, I was starting to wonder what was the point of reading. Again, I was reflecting on the WHY.
Turns out there’s a lot more to reading than just telling people how much you’ve read. Your mental prowess is strengthened through the acquisition of knowledge (you get to learn sophisticated new words), your creativity expands profusely, and your ability to empathize is augmented.
Sounds cool right? Let’s get into it.
Acquisition of knowledge
This is arguably the most straightforward benefit and reason why people read. To acquire knowledge. Whether you’re reading from a textbook to prepare for an exam, reading an article on the Top 3 Benefits of Reading, reading an interesting post on Instagram, reading religious text for your spirituality or reading an ordinary non-fiction book, at the heart of it lies the acquisition of knowledge.
Whatever you read, whether you’re conscious of it or not, has an impact on your knowledge. Your mental prowess is arguably your greatest asset as well. You need to continuously invest in it so that it can continue to grow.
The remarkable thing is that the first Qur’anic verse or word revelated to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) was “Read!”.
As I’m starting to remember that, the more motivated I’m becoming to continue reading. It can become less of a burden, and more of a priority.
Expansion of creativity
In addition to the knowledge that you gain, reading enhances your ability to think beyond your current mental limitations. The more you’re exposed to and engage with newer, abstract and unique concepts, the more creative you can become.
I always find it invigorating when I’m able to push my own boundaries because of something I read in a non-fiction book. When I read about self-development, what has been done by others or theories about the future, it enables me to also push beyond what I currently believe is possible within myself.
Additionally, unlike in a movies, fictional books also force you to use your imagination to picture the story you’re reading. I currently don’t put too much effort in being imaginative, but it’s definitely something I’m working on. The more you mentally engage with the stories, the more creative you can become in other aspects of your life as well.
Augmentation of empathy
The last aspect that I thought about was how it can develop your empathy. This is also more relevant to fictional books, as you have to take perspectives from different characters.
As with creativity, the more you read about stories from other people’s point of views, the more you’re able to feel what they’re feeling. As the characters develop, the deeper your understanding becomes of their own personality, how they relate to others, and what they want to accomplish.
The practice in this becomes how you put yourself in their shoes to make sense of the story. This can directly translate to your interpersonal relationships, as empathy is also a skill that can be worked on.
So when it comes to reading, my personal preference is to take a mix of fictional and non-fictional books. This gives me the right balance in acquiring new knowledge, expanding my creativity and augmenting my empathy.
The benefits of reading are definitely not limited to what I mentioned in this post. If you have any other important insights from your own reading experience, feel free to share it in the comments below! I’m also happy to engage more on this topic privately.
It’s been a while since I last posted. Nearly 4 months actually… I kind of forgot about the reason why I started blogging. It felt like I lost my mojo.
There was a bit of a revival last week though, when I attended a family reunion and then also spent a few days in Drakensberg, Alhamdulillah. I actually had some time to reflect, which has been occurring less recently due to being caught up in the rat race.
Back to the point, people started asking me what happened to my blog. That’s when I started asking myself… WHY did I even have a blog? It didn’t take too long for me to realize that it was because I had an urge to share beneficial insights and nuggets of wisdom with the world.
Aspire to Inspire was the motto.
I also started understanding how the blogging had an impact on me, personally. The topics and concepts I’d write about would become more ingrained in my own mind, which helped me practice them more. I basically needed to write these posts to help me become a better person.
So I’m back now and I’m ready to get cracking. I’m not going to take the usual approach and give long, detailed unsolicited advice. I’m just going to share what’s on my mind (which is likely to be unsolicited advice, haha).
There’s a part of me that has been feeling a bit anxious as of late. I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly what it is, but I suspect it has to do with not living up to my own values. There’s a part of me that feels like I need to do more to serve the world around me.
Fulfilment does not come from pursuing selfish needs (for most of us). It’s temporary satisfaction, but there is an underlying emptiness that comes with it. I definitely start to feel a bit out of place in my life when I’m not serving a cause greater than myself. I’ve started to realize more and more that it’s crucial to find a way to give back.
I need to stop being selfish with my time, energy and resources. I can and will do more to help those around me, inshaAllah.
It’s always about being thankful. It’s been ordained onto us by God, and for a specific reason. We are blessed beyond comprehension. The problem? We don’t comprehend enough. If we take 1 minute out of our day to reflect on how much we have, we’ll be impressed. Maybe we’ll even start feeling guilty.
Good. Then it’s time to give more.
I need to stop hoarding, buying, collecting and storing for no real reason. I need to be more thankful, appreciative, and grateful for what I have.
I’ll clear out my wardrobe for clothes that I haven’t worn in the past 6-12 months (even if it’s brand new), give away leftover food more often, and make sure that at the bare minimum, I smile more often!
Our minds are powerful. We have so much potential to grow, develop and contribute. It starts with discipline, having control over our thoughts and impulses. Mindfulness is there in everything we do. In Islam, it’s part of our prayers. It’s been there long before the term itself even existed.
When we pray, we are narrowing our thoughts to the One who created thought itself. To the One who controls everything in existence. Reflecting on God and praying is the ultimate form of being mindful.
I started looking at mindfulness through the wrong lens. It shouldn’t have been about being more efficient or getting more done. It is about understanding and reflecting on purpose. Meditating on life, death and the beauty that encompasses it all. It’s about being alive to the present moment, so I can appreciate the shortness of life, with a focus on the hereafter.
After not blogging for a while, I feel energized writing this post. It’s a way for me to inspire myself, so that I can live in a way that’s more aligned to my true values and purpose. In that, I hope to inspire others to pursue their own journey and live to their full potential.
It’s always been amazing to me how adults often behave quite a lot like children. We’re always told to ‘grow up’, to be more mature, to start acting our age… But what does that actually even mean?
As human beings, we follow by example, not by what we’re told. We’ll replicate the behaviours of others, not just what they tell us to do. This is something a lot of us know already, but don’t internalize enough.
Today’s topic will be linked to a specific aspect of childishness, but more so to do with forgiveness and moving on. I’ve come to realize that adults have a lot to learn from children in this regard, especially when it comes to putting your ego aside and letting go.
Let’s talk about what forgiveness actually means, why it only harms us to hold onto resentment/grudges, an Islamic perspective, and what children have to teach us about letting go.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is about letting go of resentment. It’s the process of voluntarily changing your attitude towards someone or something that has done you harm (in any form). It’s not about forgetting the wrong that has been done unto you, but it’s about understanding that we’re all flawed and make mistakes.
“To err is human and to forgive is divine.”
This is an important concept to grasp, because we’ll only be able to forgive if we actually know what it means to forgive. So all that is great in theory, but what does it mean in practice? Do we just allow people to step over us and endlessly forgive them?
The obvious answer is no. Practically speaking, there are two aspects of forgiveness to consider; internal and external healing.
Internally, it involves letting go of your ill feelings towards the other person. Externally, it’s about confronting them, setting new boundaries, and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. It’s a tough process that requires you to put your ego aside, to create the space for justification, and to make a logical decision about the relationship when you’re not overwhelmed.
You have to be aware of the underlying assumptions that you created in your mind and how they shape your current view of the situation. Give people the benefit of the doubt and always think of reasons around why they could have made that mistake.
Why does it harm us to hold onto grudges?
It harms us to hold onto grudges because we are the ones who sit with that negative energy. We end up using up a lot of time and energy trying to deal with those thoughts. We end up feeling resentment towards other people. It may affect our relationship with other people as well.
In essence, there’s a lot more to gain from the process of letting go, than holding on. Even if we don’t get the other person to apologize or justify their actions, we still need that inner peace and contentment. Kids do this quite well. They sulk for a bit but find it easy to let go rather quickly.
Islamic perspective on forgiveness
Islam emphasizes forgiveness on a daily basis. When it comes to our own sins and mistakes, we are obligated to seek forgiveness from God and repent. When it comes to other people, we are also obligated to have mercy on them and be forgiving.
One of the core teachings of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is that we should forgive others as well. We should live out the values of patience, mercy and compassion, as this is what would ultimately lead us to be closer to God.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Do not harbour a grudge against one another, nor jealousy, nor enmity, and do not show your backs to one another and become as fellow brothers and slaves of Allah. It is not lawful for a Muslim to avoid speaking with his brother beyond three days.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
What can children teach us about this?
Children are quick to move on. Yes, they get upset and make a fuss about trivial matters, but it doesn’t tend to last very long. They forgive as quickly as they get upset, which helps them maintain their relationships in a strange way.
Children also don’t have a very future-oriented way of seeing things. They’re incredibly present and perceive time in shorter intervals than we do. The advantage of that? They don’t think about the future as objectively as us, allowing them to make amends for mistakes sooner rather than later.
The point I’m trying to make with all this is that we’re all human at the end of the day. We all make mistakes, we all mess up, we all falter and hurt each other (knowingly or unknowingly). When we incorporate forgiveness as a core value and act upon it, we live with a lot more ease.
We forge stronger relationships. We don’t allow trivial matters to ruminate in our minds and cause us to have ill feelings. We get closer to God in the process as well.
The next time someone messes up (even if it’s you!) forgive them. Not just for them, but for yourself.
It’s definitely not simple, nor will it take just 3 straightforward steps. The concept of overthinking occurs in almost every individual I know (myself included). Some people experience it a lot more often than others. Some people experience it more intensely. Some people just can’t stop it.
It feels like an ingrained part of our adaptation, how we sometimes escape the present moment. Maybe we started doing it as little kids because we had frantic parents who constantly made us worried. Maybe we trusted people who betrayed us, which then caused us to start doubting ourselves. Maybe it’s a biological/hormonal imbalance, and we’re just naturally unable to sit still and let our minds relax.
Whatever the cause may be, overthinking is stressful, tiring, and emotionally taxing. It also affects our relationships, our ability to trust, and our self-esteem. We often brush it off and tell people to ‘just stop overthinking’. But as with many other psychological dynamics, we should treat it more like a physical behaviour/injury.
So, what can we do to stop overthinking or at least make it a little more bearable? Let’s find out.
Do not sit still
Speak about it instead of suppressing it
Utilize mechanisms to make sense of your thoughts
Do not sit still
From my own experience of overthinking, I found that the best solution is to move. Whether I’m thinking about my self-worth, whether I’m good enough, whether something terrible might happen, whether my trust will be betrayed, whether I’ll end up being embarrassed, or whether my loved ones are okay, sitting still just doesn’t help.
When I would stay in place and let my thoughts run rampant, I found that I would go deeper and deeper into my own rabbit hole. This would then impact more than just myself, as my mood would change and it would affect other people around me as well.
I found that if I moved around physically by going for a walk, changing my location in the house, picking up something to do, focusing on my breath, or deciding to focus deeply on a different thought, it would make a difference. Focusing on my breath is also especially helpful because it’s simple and you can do it anywhere.
Additionally, slowing down my breath and focusing on the sensation of air coming in and out of my lungs, shifts my thought to the present moment and calms me down. This is because when you start getting anxious, you feel a tightness in your chest and your breath becomes shallow; making it worse.
Speak about it instead of suppressing it
Do you know what my favourite thing about praying is? Is that it’s a conversation between me and God. Speaking about your thoughts and what’s on your mind can be incredibly helpful. It can boost your relationship with your Creator, help you connect more deeply with friends, and it allows you to feel less alone with the weight of those thoughts.
When it comes to speaking about it to other people, there’s certainly a limit. You don’t want to feel like you’re burdening them with your worries or make them start stressing about you. You want to be vulnerable enough to show them that you trust them, and give them the space to hear you out and help.
When it comes to praying, there’s practically no limit. You don’t have to worry about overreacting, over-sharing or TMI (too much info). You can vent knowing that you’re being heard. Knowing that there’s a plan in place. Knowing that everything happens for a reason and that:
“What’s meant for you will never miss you. What misses you was never meant for you.”
Make sense of your thoughts
This is arguably the toughest part. You’re always in battle with the emotional side of your brain and the logical side of your brain. So who tends to win the tug of war?
Making sense of your thoughts requires effort. Firstly, you have to actually be conscious of the thought and understand the root cause. A simple way to dissect it is by asking yourself ‘why?’ several times. It’s actually a framework used in businesses to understand the root cause of a problem. Here’s an example of how you can use it in your personal life though:
It can also be tiring doing this in your mind. I find it quite helpful to write in a journal. This helps me for a variety of reasons, including:
I have to structure my thoughts more clearly when I write
It allows me to see things from a different perspective
It clears some of my mental bandwidth, as I’m letting it out
I can notice trends in my thoughts or habits, which increases my self-awareness
I can use that self-awareness to make better decisions, which will lead to better results
Lastly, what also helps with making sense of your thoughts is to spend time in nature. We can always be inspired by the natural world around us, especially when it comes to adapting and being resilient. Trees continue to push up to reach for the sunlight. Bees will never give up on their search for nectar. Birds always fly purposefully.
We too, can learn from nature and realize that everything happens for a reason. It’s going to be challenging at times, but that’s part of the journey. We can only go when we’re uncomfortable. Next time you feel like your thoughts are running a bit rampant, remember that it’s helping you understand something about yourself. Use it as fuel for growth. You got this.
Resolutions, reflections, goals, motivation, inspiration and so much more. The new year always seems to bring hope for a fresh start. We want to climb higher, earn more, get fitter, chill harder, all whilst feeling more alive. But do we actually end up changing as individuals or not?
At the start of every year, I read back on my journal entries from the previous months leading up to the start of the previous year. I often find trends, as I probably don’t change all that much from the core of who I am. That led me to an astounding new resolution, why don’t I just stay the same person?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sound believer of the growth mindset as you may already know. The point here isn’t to stick to the same bad habits or continue being an a-hole. But it’s not about going to the gym more or eating more carrots either. It’s to look down at my guiding principles and values, and see where that has led me over the past few years.
So where has it all led me? To where I am today.
I’d like to use the first post of the year to look back at how I’ve been the same person over the past couple of years, but just with different habits. Maybe that will help ring something in you too, who knows.
I thought about this after realizing that no matter what it is that I do, I always want to win. I’ve learned to become comfortable with losing, as long as I’ve given it my best shot. Since my pre-school days, I can remember feeling that competitive edge when it came to literally anything.
So when I look into the new year, it’s something that I accept as part of who I am and try to fit in some goals to help me with that attribute. I use my competitive nature to always try to develop new skills and stay up to date with other friends (in similar fields or industries).
Another common theme year-on-year is my eagerness to adventure and try out new activities. This is because I love leaving my comfort zone and experimenting. As part of that, I strive to do something unique every year (if circumstances allow).
It can sometimes be a bad thing because I then itch if I’m sitting still for too long (literally and metaphorically). So even if it’s just trying out a new meal or a new exercise regime, I still include some aspect of novelty in my life.
A little impatient
Despite my constant struggle to be patient, I often find myself rushing people or getting annoyed when plans change too often. It generally results in other people getting annoyed/frustrated at me, which just drives the cycle.
Every year, I try to take it a little easy and stay calm when things don’t go my way. But I just haven’t found the right habits yet to keep me as patient as I’d like to be.
That’s one of the other reasons why I thought of the ‘New year, same me’ concept. Because deep down, we have to put in a lot more effort than we think, to genuinely make progress on ourselves. That brings me to the last point; that I always strive to be driven by values.
Strive to be driven by values
I have some core values in theory and I have some core values in practice. What I’ve noticed over time is that they’re not always aligned. There are parts of me that just take longer to accept the values that I’d like to have.
The one sphere that I particularly want to pay more attention to is that of religion. Being a Muslim comes first and foremost to me, which is where my values come from in the first place. It’s a struggle every year to keep up with the principles and deepen my Islamic knowledge base.
What I’d like to end this post by saying is that a new year factually means that we’re getting closer to our death. This should humble us and inspire us to improve on all facets of our life. We’re here for a specific purpose, and it’s up to us to ensure that we strive towards it.
Be more mindful. Be more present. Have deeper and tougher conversations. Give out more charity. Perform more acts of kindness. Pray more, for yourself and for those you love. Go out on more adventures. Spend less time on your devices and more time connecting with people. Keep up the great work. You got this.
Welcome back to another episode of Memento Mori. Today we’re going to be talking about You vs You. What I want to focus on specifically, is how you can stop holding yourself back from moving forward in life.
I’ve been doing something interesting recently with one of my best friends, where I ask them to give me feedback on what I’m like as an individual. They were obviously quite hesitant and friendly at first, but once the ice was broken, I was surprised by what they had to say.
They identified common behaviours that I did quite often which I thought were okay, but actually made me come across as having a superiority complex. I dived deeper into it and found out that it had to do with how I always mansplain things, talk in a dominant tone, and act like a ‘know-it-all’.
Despite how difficult it was to digest initially, it made me a lot more aware of certain intellectual blindspots and helped me grow considerably. That being said, in today’s post, I’d like to talk about why we should constantly seek feedback from our friends/family members, how to digest their comments, and how to strive to continuously improve.
Constantly seek out feedback
The most obvious solution yet one of the most difficult things to do. In fact, it may even come across as being annoying sometimes. Once you get into the habit of asking for feedback, it becomes addictive. You constantly want to know where you’re falling short and how to improve. You also want to be told what you’re doing well, as the ego also needs a little petting.
The point here is that you should strive to ask people to point out areas of improvement. We’re all biased towards ourselves. We think we’re smarter, more competent, kinder, more caring, and more empathetic than we actually are. It’s easy to be blinded to our own fallibility.
Asking close friends or family members for constructive feedback can help you become a better person and also a better friend/family member. It’s a double win. Here are some probing questions that you can ask:
In what ways am I annoying?
How can I be of better help to you?
What is a behaviour that you would like me to change?
What behaviours from me do you like?
In what ways have I been helpful?
NB: If you’re the person giving feedback, please be kind and compassionate! Don’t just point out all the other person’s flaws. Make it clear that they’re also great in certain ways as well.
Accepting your flaws
This is even harder than the previous step. It’s one thing to ask for feedback, it’s another ball game to actually accept the criticism. As I mentioned already, we don’t usually notice where we’re falling short. Once that’s pointed out, it can be quite painful to realize that we’re not as perfect as we perceive ourselves to be.
Acceptance is a humbling solution to that problem. It’s going to hurt a lot of the time, but it’s the best way to move forward. When we acknowledge and accept that we have certain limitations, we already take a step in the right direction.
Acceptance, however, doesn’t mean much if we don’t take action to improve. That being said, when we incorporate a growth mindset into the exercise, we’re able to continuously improve.
After receiving feedback and accepting your shortcomings, the next step is to take action and make progress. We can do this by clearly articulating goals to strive for.
For example, if we tend to be impatient and always rush through things, an improvement goal can be to start slowing and be more present. The next time we feel like rushing someone, we should take a deep breath and acknowledge that it’s okay to sometimes wait.
That was just a high-level example. Another way of improving is to update your values according to the type of person you want to be. The same concept can apply to the previous example. We can try to incorporate ‘patience’ as one of our core values and continuously work on being calm and present when we feel the urge to rush.
The goal would be to identify the areas where we fall short and put a plan in action to develop. With the right mindset, we can continuously improve on all aspects of our life.
The point of this post was to show how we can move away from repeating annoying behaviours and stop holding ourselves back. We don’t often realize how our actions affect other people or even ourselves. It’s important to make a conscious effort into identifying them and move forward with those insights.
It might be tough at first and a little heartsore. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you become with yourself. Don’t be your own enemy. Keep pushing ahead. You got this.
I hope the clickbait caught your attention! There’s obviously no straightforward route to happiness. In fact, I doubt we even have a common understanding of what happiness even means. It’s incredibly subjective and we often mix it with joy, pleasure, or excitement.
In today’s post, I’d like to look at my personal way of attaining happiness. The 3 simple steps that I would suggest are:
Develop meaningful relationships
Focus on what you have
Make an effort to help others
But before I dive into that, let me at least tell you what my definition of happiness is. Happiness to me is closely linked to fulfillment. It’s the feeling of being at ease with what I have, where I am, or who I’m with. It’s when I’m present, grateful, and energized. It’s when I know I’m contributing, making a difference, or living out my purpose.
Develop meaningful relationships
The concept of meaningful relationships goes above and beyond just the people in our life. For me personally, it also includes having a deep relationship with God. This is a subjective topic, so each person may have a different opinion on the matter. But what I’ve noticed in general is that my happiness is inextricably linked to the relationship I have with my Creator.
The concept of praying multiple times a day, asking for help and guidance with all my issues, being grateful, being kind, and being appreciative of all that I’ve been blessed with, makes me happy. Something that I always keep in mind is the following:
Moving on to physical relationships, in the Ted talk below, Robert Waldinger discusses what constitutes a good life, based on research on happiness. The lessons are as follows:
Social connections are imperative, loneliness is dangerous
The quality of your close relationships matter
Good relationships have a positive impact on our health
We should, therefore, strive to continuously improve on the relationships that we have, and try to further develop weaker ones with other people.
There is also another beautiful hadith that emphasizes the concept of strengthening family ties and being close to your loved ones:
Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whosever desires to have expansion in his sustenance and a prolonged life, should treat his relatives with kindness.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
For more details on kinship in Islam, you can follow the link below:
Focus on what you have
The next concept is potentially a little obvious. Focusing on what you have and being grateful will make you happy. This is especially true when it comes to celebrating your achievements and finding fulfillment in the work that you’ve done.
I often find myself feeling incredibly joyful and happy when I reach certain milestones. Whether it’s something simple like managing to exercise 5 times or week, or something as important as completing a project at work or for the postgrad. It’s not just about the outcome. It’s about the effort that I have put in, the opportunities that I have, and the dedication to finishing it off.
Focusing on what you have is an incredibly easy way to cheer up your mood. This can also extend to realizing how blessed you are to have a healthy body, a sharp intellect, and a roof above your head. As I always say, it’s not about undermining your problems. It’s about re-framing those issues and keeping your feet on the ground, but your head in the clouds.
Make an effort to help others
Service, service, service. Ultimately, the most fulfilling part of life (for me personally), is to make a difference in other people’s lives. This can mean different things to different people, but you should strive to do something that is enjoyable and beneficial.
When you see how you have helped another person grow, it leaves you with a feeling of joy and contentment. This is irrespective of whether they appreciate it or not, whether you get the credit for it or not, whether you’re acknowledged for it or not. It’s about the effort you put in to help others.
At the end of the day, we’re social creatures and we are in need of other people for our psychological well-being (to a certain extent). The more we’re able to support other people, the more we’ll be supported ourselves. So make a conscious effort to help other people, for both them and for your own happiness.
So to summarize the 3 simple steps that lead to happiness. Start with developing meaningful relationships in your life, be it with God, with your friends or with family members. Celebrate your hard work and accomplishments by focusing on what you have. And lastly, make an effort to make a difference in other people’s lives. You got this.
It’s finally time for another book review! I haven’t summarized a book in quite some time, but I finally got some inspiration after starting a book club with my mate Jono. I’ve also been itching to share some useful knowledge that you can read up more on yourself.
The book I’ll be diving into today is called ‘Ego is the Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday. As the title suggests, it’s all about why ego is our greatest opponent and how to fight it. It was actually an eye-opener for me, as I haven’t really realized the way ego can sneak into our worldview and affect almost everything we do.
The book is segmented into 3 main sections; Aspire, Success, and Failure. Each section is comprised of multiple subsections, but I’ll only focus on a couple that resonated quite strongly with me.
The book essentially talks about the different stages that we experience in life and how ego develops in every stage. Ryan Holiday explains the concept by bringing in real-life examples from his personal journey, and by speaking through the stories of other historically famous people.
Let’s understand more about the ego and what we can do to prevent it from crippling us.
This is the phase where we set out to achieve something. We dream big, start chasing goals and begin a new journey. Yet, we oftentimes fall short of our ambition. Ego tends to be the culprit.
Talk, Talk, Talk
How often do we find ourselves talking endlessly about all that we want to achieve in life? Our wishes, our goals, our aspirations seem so much easier when we’re just talking about them. Getting to action or making other people have the spotlight seems less likely.
Silence is a crucial element here, especially when everyone else just seems to be a constant chatterbox. My previous post on The Art of Silence fits well into this section, as it highlights the importance of being comfortable in your own quietness.
The point here is that talking is easy. What’s ultimately always harder is walking the talk. It goes both ways. As one of the partners at the company I currently work at always says: We need to talk the walk and walk the talk. It goes both ways, but the latter is definitely more important.
Become A Student
I think it’s quite clear why this one resonates so much with me. I’ve devoted myself to constantly trying to be a life-long learner. This means approaching life like a sponge. Absorbing as much information and knowledge that I can from people that I encounter and experiences that I face.
It’s crucial not to let ego get in the way of this. We can easily pretend like we know what’s going on or fake our way through certain phases of our life, but it prevents true learning and growth. Having a white-belt mentality at the start will enable us to rapidly develop and gain expertise.
Work, Work, Work
This point links very closely to the one on Talk, Talk, Talk, as it brings in the concept of working hard. What we often underestimate is how challenging it can be to push forward when we face setbacks. Ego often tends to come into the picture here and makes us fall into the planning fallacy. We try as best as we can to avoid doing the actual work, by spending time ‘preparing’ and trying to feel productive about it.
It’s not always going to be easy. We’re going to wish it was a straight and clear path to move forward and achieve that goal. But it’s not going to be that way. There will be challenges, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is embrace it and keep ourselves prepared to overcome the hurdles and become stronger.
“Every time you sit down to do work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this. I am passing the marshmallow test. I am earning what my ambition burns for. I am making an investment in myself instead of my ego.
This is the part where we’re reaping the harvest of the hard work and enjoying success, or where the summit is potentially insight. It’s when our pride, arrogance, and ‘know-it-all’ attitude strike out. It’s where we have to be incredibly careful not to stop learning or undermine the challenges that are yet to come.
Always Stay A Student
“As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”
It’s quite clear why this is so important once we start picking up a few wins. Becoming a student is one thing. Remaining a student is something else altogether. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we’re not ‘there’. There’s no specific end goal to learning. It’s a continuous and life-long process.
When we start to feel like ‘we’ve been there and done that’, we need to keep ourselves in check. There’s always an opportunity to learn from other people, it just depends on the perspective you have.
Beware Of The Disease Of Me
Another crucial humbling point is to remind ourselves that we’re not the centre of the universe. We should not make ourselves feel like we’re the most important person in the room. We need to realize that the privilege of success is not going to continue falling into our lap once we make it.
We have to constantly seek out new challenges and embrace the opportunity to struggle. Give other people credit where it’s due and focus on developing them as well. It’s not all about you. It never will always be about you. Let that sober you up a little bit.
Meditate On the Immensity
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”
Reflect on how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown. How much more there is to grow. Try and see the bigger picture amidst all the distractions. Think of your purpose. Who you are. What you are doing. Your role in this world.
Meaning does not only come from activity, despite how often our ego makes us feel that way. We don’t have to be the centre of attention. We need to look beyond our own success and the rat race, and keep the real objective in mind.
We then hit a roadblock. Things don’t always work out. We might fall short of our achievement. But how do we respond and pick ourselves up? What is the inner dialogue? How do we react?
Alive Time or Dead Time?
We are almost certainly bound to experience failure in some form or the other, at some point in our life. This can be somewhat of a daunting thought, but there are always ‘make or break’ moments that follow those experiences. We either rise above the circumstance and grow, or we let it crush us and stagnate (or even deteriorate).
Alive time or dead time refers to the concept of either utilizing a negative experience to stay alive (to the learnings, the lessons and potential to grow), or to die out (by falling into bad habits, losing hope and giving up).
When faced with any form of fear, we should constantly try to look at how we can learn from it. Almost all our experiences have some form of value to offer. It’s up to us to extract it. Choose alive time.
The Effort is Enough
“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
“Do your work. Do it well. Then let go, and let God.”
To me, this section focused on having a growth mindset. Ryan Holiday brought it up in a slightly different way though. When it comes to missing our targets or not achieving our set out goals, we should focus on the effort we put in. It’s not always about the result, it’s about the dedication.
He brings it up in the context of appreciation and not getting all the praise we deserve for what we set out to do. We should remind ourselves that it’s not our objective to be put on a pedestal. That’s the ego’s goal. Our goal is to try our best and keep pushing, whatever that may mean.
When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to hate. It’s easy to blame other people and not take responsibility for the outcomes. We should keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t get us any closer to our goal. In fact, it may even arrest our development entirely.
What we need to do in moments of difficulty is to choose love. To choose forgiveness. To let go of resentment and arrogance. This is definitely easier said than done, but the outcome will always be better. Maybe not for everyone involved, but definitely for your own well-being.
Choosing love is hard because the ego convinces us that we have every right to hate and stay bitter. Which is probably true. Your anger might be justifiable. But it doesn’t mean that lashing out will help you progress. In moments of failure, always love.
Throughout our life, we’ll always be in one of those three stages. Ego will invariably try to play a role in directing us. It’s up to us to be conscious enough in our decisions, to remain humble and to always remain a student.
How often are you able to sit comfortably in silence with other people? Do you find that you struggle to sit in silence with yourself? Do you constantly need to have some kind of noise to keep you distracted?
We live in an era where there is more noise than ever before. The appropriate term to use would be pollution. It’s excessive, it’s everywhere and it’s addicting. But what exactly do I mean by noise? I mean constantly being occupied with something to do. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube, constantly talking or even just reading the news. We struggle to sit in silence.
In today’s post, I’d like to talk about why silence is so important, why it’s so difficult to do, and how we can learn to become more comfortable sitting in silence. This will not only be valuable for ourselves, but it also allows us to bond more intimately with other people in our life.
Why is silence important?
Some of the immediate benefits that come to my mind include:
Silence can create mental space
It allows you to develop self-awareness and reflect
It can foster creativity and problem-solving
It aids in relaxation
But how come there are so many benefits that we just don’t seem to acknowledge? It’s probably because we don’t sit in silence enough. Silence can create mental space because when we’re sitting by ourselves (or potentially with someone else) and not speaking, we free up some mental bandwidth that can be used for other purposes.
This links directly to the next point on reflection and inducing self-awareness. Naturally, when we have free time and just stare out the window, for example, our minds tend to reflect on where we are currently. This is incredibly useful when we nudge it in the right direction, as it can help us look back at certain experiences and gain wisdom, or look forward at tasks ahead and find effective ways to tackle them.
The next benefit of silence involves creativity and problem-solving. We often do a lot of subconscious processing when we’re not engaged in an activity, which gives our brain the capacity to think freely and outside of the box. This then allows us to develop certain solutions and innovate beyond what we typically can amidst chatter and noise.
The last point I want to make is a little obvious. Silence aids in relaxation. When we sit in a quiet environment and remain quiet ourselves, it often has a calming effect. This might not necessarily be the case when you’re overthinking or are feeling uncomfortable in the first place. But it definitely does help you stay level-headed and make better sense of what’s going on, which can then relax you.
Why is it so difficult to stay quiet?
As I’ve mentioned already, being quiet is actually a lot harder in this day and age. Firstly, when it comes to personality types, we’ve romanticized the concept of being an extrovert. We consider people who are introverted or shy as being less competent or capable for some reason. I’ll dive into that another day, but a great book recommendation is ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cane.
Secondly, we now have more access than ever before to actually raise our voices (especially digitally). We can constantly gossip, chat, share information, tweet, write blogs, make videos, and create short stories. Social media has essentially created a world of constant ‘noise’.
Lastly, it’s because we’re uncomfortable sitting with our own thoughts. We’re not necessarily conscious of it, but we always find a way to get out of our minds. There are many reasons for that, but it’s definitely something we need to get acquainted with. After all, the quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our life. We’re naturally anxious beings and tend to overthink all the time.
So how do we move forward knowing that it’s quite difficult to stay quiet or sit in silence?
How can we become more comfortable with silence?
We first need to re-frame our thinking around silence, quiet and solitude. It’s not a ‘waste of time’ to let your mind occasionally wander, or to sit down in meditation. It all has real implications on your mental health and your ability to think deeply about problems. So we need to really understand the benefits that come about when we do spend time alone or in silence.
The next thing would be to start small and try it out. When you have a free moment or you’re waiting in a queue, don’t just reach out for your phone and numb your brain. Be mindful of the thoughts that pop in and notice what you start thinking about. You can also allocate specific time (maybe in the morning before you start the day or in the evening before bed) to just sit in quiet.
It can also be helpful to try this with another person that you spend a lot of time with (like a roommate, sibling, or spouse). Sit together without unnecessarily trying to fill in the quiet gaps and notice how you both respond. You might find it to be a strange bonding experience.
Lastly, keep track of the thoughts and ideas that come about in a journal. When you start taking note of your thought process, you get an idea of whether or not you’re in a healthy mental space. Obviously, this will depend on what you write down and your mood at that given point, but if you’re honest with yourself and practise consistently, it will allow you to make sense of your mind and could help you be more comfortable with yourself.
The point I’m trying to make in this post is that there’s a lot of benefit to just being quiet. We all have some form of resistance to sitting in silence, which is not necessarily healthy. It keeps us on our toes and itching to find a distraction or ‘noise’. When we practice sitting in solitude and get more comfortable with our thoughts, we’ll ultimately help ourselves get to a healthier mental space. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but you got this.
“All of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I’m sure many of you have come across the quote “ask and you shall receive”. I was thinking about it the other day and realized how true it actually is. For many people I know (myself included), we currently have exactly what we prayed/visualized for a while ago. That being said, why do we tend to limit what we ask for?
In today’s post, I’d like to look into the aspects of asking for more and dreaming without constraint. We’re obviously limited by certain factors, but it doesn’t mean we can’t strive for more than what we can currently comprehend achieving. Let’s look into the concept of dreaming/goals, how we can ask for more, and what to do once we get what we wanted.
We are our own limit. Most of the time, it is our internal self-talk that prevents us from dreaming big. It can also be the people we’re surrounded by who may themselves be limited in their imagination. But ultimately, the ability to dream big and aim for the stars lies within our mind.
If you have to really think your maximum potential, it would probably overwhelm you. Firstly, because you’re not necessarily anywhere near it. Secondly, because you’d probably achieve so much more than you thought was humanely possible.
To dive deeper into that, it basically means that we can be afraid of our own success. Now that’s a trip.
So how do we even dream ‘big’? The best place to start is to by just dreaming at all. Have some form of exciting long-term goals. Think about where you want to be in a few years time. Think about your career, academics, relationships, fitness and spirituality. Jot down the ideas that come up on a piece of paper and just brainstorm.
Once you have those written down, think about how you could stretch them out even further. Sure, there’s a typical timeline for climbing the hierarchy in your organisation. Why don’t you aim to be an anomaly and do it faster than ever before? The best part is, even if you fail at the ambitious goal, you’d still make far more progress than you would have if you decided to stick to the way ‘things are normally done’.
That’s how you can try to dream big. Don’t be limited by your own beliefs or what people tell you. Pray for what you want and work hard (and smart) towards achieving it.
Keep Praying(and working hard)
A reflection that I’d like to share with you all is that of praying and visualizing your goals. Something that I was taught at a very young age was to make ‘Duaa’ for whatever I wanted, which is the Islamic term for praying to God. So growing up, I made Duaa for everything. Good health, a loving family, great friends, a successful career, a beautiful spouse etc.
Obviously there were times when my Duaas did and didn’t get accepted. I ultimately believe that “What’s meant for you will never miss you, and what misses you was never meant for you.”
But the point I’m trying to make is that it was a way for me to ask for things, and not from people. That was incredibly liberating for me, as it reduced my neediness on other people. So when I started praying, it gave me a goal to strive towards. That’s the other crucial point.
What I learned later on in my life is that when you attach praying to the concept of visualizing, it becomes a much more powerful driving force and motivator. So for example when I was in undergrad, I used to pray for pass all my courses with top marks and then visualize myself at the graduation ceremony. This motivated to work hard, to keep praying and to strive towards the goal.
I know there can sometimes be a misconception around visualization. The purpose is not just to create a lucrative scenario in your imagination and daydream about it. The objective to imagine yourself having achieved the goal, and to be fueled by that motivation. That should then drive you to work even harder and to keep pushing forward.
Stay Humble and Grateful
The last thing I want to touch is the concept of staying humble and being grateful. These are two crucial elements of having a strong character. The thing about success (in any form), is that it tends to buff up our egos. We feel like we deserve it. We feel powerful to a certain extent. We feel like we are better than other people (which might contextually be true for a certain period of time).
Those feelings/attitudes are quite natural and it’s okay to feel them. The problem arises when we act on them and start to treat people less worthy because of them. That’s when we can become arrogant, snobby and disdainfully proud. The solution to that is self-awareness and a conscious effort to staying humble.
One of my favourite mottos that I have on a T-shirt says:
“Work Hard, Stay Humble”
Being humble does not mean being weak or thinking low of yourself. It just means that you’re modest in your opinion of yourself and understand the complexity and effort put in by all the people in your life, for you to be where you are today. We can act out humility by constantly thinking well of others, by embracing gratitude and by not showing off all of our success.
In essence, what I want you to take from today’s post is that you shouldn’t be shy to ask for more. Don’t hold back on dreaming far beyond what you’re capable of imagining. Keep track of your ambitions and write down certain objectives that can guide you moving forward. Keep praying and visualizing those goals. Lastly, work hard and stay humble.