Decide What You Want And Pursue It Relentlessly

I recently re-read one of my favourite psychology books called ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth. It’s essentially about why passion and perseverance are the keys to success. In other words, talent isn’t everything, it’s about the work and deliberate practice you put in.

When I think of a lot of people in my life, I notice a trend around complacency. Many people have ambitious goals and really want to succeed, but often fall short when push comes to shove. I’d like to use this post as somewhat of a ‘motivational’ speech.

Firstly, for myself. To remind myself of why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing. Secondly, because I want you to understand how important it is to be driven by something deeper than motivation. I think motivation is unreliable, but habits can last. Lastly, so that we can stop making excuses and avoid hiding behind the comfort of our complacency.

Growth Mindset - The McManus Project

Why?

We come back to the concept of purpose. It always starts with your reason, your intention, your why. We’ve heard about this everywhere and keep seeing it all the time. But I want you to understand that you don’t necessarily just wake up one day and figure out your purpose. In fact, you may never figure it out. You keep striving towards something meaningful and enjoyable, then determine your why from there.

That’s the first misconception that I want to uncover. Purpose is not easy to find. You often have to chase things that are in your self-interest and don’t necessarily contribute to other people. Once you start developing a certain level of expertise in that domain, you can then try and look beyond yourself, and figure out how to make an impact.

Let’s use my blogging as an example. Originally, I started it off as a way for me to vent. I just wanted a space to share my thoughts with other people. Not for their sake, but for mine. I was never a reader or a writer, but a few years down the line, I started getting better at it. I started enjoying it. It became a habit.

I started writing more about life lessons, book, mindfulness and little tricks that I found really helpful for me. A few of my friends and family members then started telling me how helpful my posts were to them. That they were inspired in some way. That’s when I realized the potential impact I could make by writing more meaningful posts.

“Aspire to Inspire” became the motto, to try and help people reach their full potential by sharing the little nuggets of wisdom that I have. What started off as a venting mechanism, turned into something purposeful. That brings me to my next point, why motivation is not reliable.

Motivation is unreliable

Some days we wake up feeling incredibly energetic and ready to conquer the world. Other days we dread the thought of getting out of bed. That’s essentially the issue with seeking motivation, it’s temporary and subjective. What can we look for instead, to stay inspired?

This may sound annoying, but my answer is to form habits/routine/rituals! Remember this quote:

“First you create your habits, then your habits create you.”

It’s all about consistency and making things somewhat predictable. If you have a routine going, you try to stick to it irrespective of your moods. You don’t only brush your teeth when you feel like it, you brush your teeth because it’s a habit, and you know that it’s important for your hygiene. You don’t only go to the gym when you feel like it. You go to the gym because it’s part of who you are. You are someone who is dedicated to your physical wellbeing.

So think of it in terms of who you are as an individual, not just as an activity that you perform. Initially, it will take some motivation and some push, but once you have the ritual and discipline going for you, you flow into it.

That brings me to another really important point, stop making excuses!

Stop making excuses

The thing about motivation is that it can be used as an excuse. ‘I just don’t feel motivated today’.

What does that even mean? Can you pinpoint exactly what’s causing you to slack off? Is it mood-dependent? If there are genuine reasons why you cannot go after what you want, then so be it. But if the reasons are fluffy and intangible, it’s not worth it.

I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to force you to be more productive or to do more. I want you to help you identify the flaws in your own argument when you convince yourself that you’re incapable of achieving something. The quote that immediately comes to mind is:

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

So if you need to take a break and if you really just need some time off, then do exactly that! It’s not about about toxic productivity and pushing yourself to the point of burnout. It’s about being realistic, ambitious and efficient. That’s my approach to life. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

Decide what you want, and pursue it relentlessly

The point that I’m trying to make in this post is that you should figure out what you want, then go after it. Relentlessly pursue your goals and ambitions. Why? Because tomorrow is not guaranteed. You don’t know if you’ll be here in another week, month, year or decade.

Given that fact, you should embrace the present moment but remembering the shortness of your life. Memento Mori. Your problems and challenges are there to fuel your journey moving forward.

Start deliberately practicing. Understand that the effort you put in is worth more than just talent. If you want to get better at something, put in the hours. Don’t wait for motivation, look at the habits you need to have in place. Stop making excuses and find ways to inspire yourself. Consistency is the key to mastery.

Who do you need to be, to achieve what you want to get done?

Why Do We Waste Food?

I’ve been doing some research into household consumer behaviour and why we waste food. I thought it would be an interesting topic to speak about, given how common food waste is nowadays.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into several aspects of food waste (which can be extrapolated to any kind of waste). I’ll look at the impact it has on society, the impact it has on our psyche and the impact on our environment.

Impact of food waste on society

When it comes to societal impact, it’s easy to look at it from 2 different extremes; those living in abject poverty and the filthy rich. The majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. For those who live in a state of constant hunger and search for food on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite clear why wasting food makes no sense.

Think about it this way, whenever you intentionally throw food out (bec you let it expire etc.), you deny other people a chance to leverage that same thing. Yes, there should be a threshold or limit to what you can give or can’t give (based on the quality of the food for example). But more often than not, people who don’t have anything to eat will be incredibly grateful for your left overs.

Food waste comic. | Food Waste Facts & Stats | Pinterest ...

This applies even more when you’re eating out at a restaurant. Time and time again, I see people leave large portions of their food on the table when they leave a restaurant. Those restaurants can’t do anything but throw it away. You, on the other hand, can ask for a takeaway box and give it to someone else (a guard or beggar etc.).

Our decisions always make an impact on other people, whether we see it directly or not. You can change the lives of the people in your community by simply giving away some of your leftovers or excess food. Especially when you know you’re not going to eat something, but keep it in the fridge until it expires/rots and throw it away.

Be mindful of these habits, they also have an effect on your psyche.

Will.i.am Quote: “Waste is only waste if we waste it.” (7 ...

Impact on our psyche

As I mentioned already, there are indirect consequences to our wasting habits. The impact actually seeps deep into your subconscious, because you are essentially programming yourself to live a certain lifestyle.

Something as simple as throwing away leftovers? Really?

Yes, because it ingrains a certain level of ingratitude. This may sound like an attack to some of you, but it’s how I personally view the topic. When you’re comfortable with wasting, you are essentially doing the opposite of being grateful. You’re not truly appreciating the value of the blessing.

It happens by mistake and a lot of the time it’s not on purpose, but when it’s habit/lifestyle, then it can be truly problematic. Especially because you’re living out your values. And I don’t think any of us would really like to acknowledge that ingratitude can be a core value.

Apart from that, there’s also a huge concern about the environment. Landfills simply can’t sustainably deal with the type of food waste we produce.

Food Waste | ECOEducationService

Impact on the environment

Apart from the clear and obvious non-degradable aspects of the waste (like packaging and containers), the food itself causes a significant problem. Considering that most of our food waste typically ends up in landfills (in unsustainable quantities), it ends up being buried for microorganisms to decompose.

The issue is that the process is achieved through anaerobic digestion (without any oxygen), and the by-product is large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2 and methane). This means that food waste directly contributes to climate change.

Another factor to consider is the value chain of the food process. From the time it’s farmed/produced, through to the logistics of transporting it, to the refrigeration/storage, all the way to consumption, there’s a lot of waste created when we throw that food away.

You can find more information on what happens to food waste in the article below.

What can we do about it?

I know that sounds all dark and gloomy, but there is something really simple that we can do about it. Simply waste less.

Start by paying closer attention to your buying and eating habits. If you notice that you always buy an excessive amount of certain items that usually end up expired, then start buying less of it. When you notice things approaching their expiry date and you don’t plan on consuming it, then give it away.

In addition, just give more to those who less fortunate than you. It obviously needs to be edible and in decent condition, but it doesn’t have to be brand new or immaculate. People appreciate the smallest of gestures and acts of kindness. By doing this, you’re acting out the value of gratitude. God has blessed us all with much more than we can count. It’s time to make our actions count.

So if you want to play your part and make a difference to society, to your psyche and to the environment, waste less, be more mindful of what you buy and start giving out more. You got this.

Work-Life Balance

Here’s a topic a lot of people I know may be struggling with (myself included, lmao). In the age of working from home (WFH) and everything being done virtually, we seemed to have lost touch of boundaries that are typically associated with work-life balance (WLB).

Most of us are expected to be online till way past our ‘working hours’, just because we can be. The amount of work that we are required to achieve in a single day has increased for some reason, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily easier being at home.

In today’s post, I’d like to deal with quite a difficult concept: how to improve on our work-life balance. I’ll talk about the boundaries that we need to set, the objectives that we need to have on a daily basis, spending enough time with our family and friends, looking at the spiritual side of things, as well as making time to get adequate sleep.

My experience of this topic comes from the fact that I’m part-time studying and working full-time – mostly from home. So there’s a lot of effort that I need to put in place to ensure that I get enough downtime and rest.

Boundaries and rituals

The reason why I talk about boundaries being blurred is because many of us no longer drive to the office, we don’t pack up our laptops when we’re done and go back home, we don’t feel how late it can get compared to when we’re at the office.

Nowadays, we wake up and the first thing we check is our work emails, we jump straight into meeting (often while we’re still in bed), we stay up till way later to meet deadlines, and we struggle to meet our other obligations – all while we’re at home.

First thing’s first, we need to identify that not having boundaries is a problem. A lot of us get used to the intensity and almost accept it. But if we don’t look at it for what it is, we may not appreciate a healthy balance. Once you understand the need for boundaries, you need to find ways to specify and implement them.

This can be done by understanding your objectives, which I’ll touch on briefly after this. For example, you may want to exercise before/after the work day. Block off an hour in the morning/evening at a specific time and try to let your team know that this is necessary for you to be effective (ensure it doesn’t clash with meetings etc.).

Another way to try and improve your WLB is by setting a cutoff time for you to respond to emails/attend meetings. I know it’s not always possible when projects get intense, but it’s worth a try. The point is to look at what you need to stay efficient, and build rituals around that.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Quote: “Your personal boundaries ...

Daily objectives

Your daily objectives should basically be aligned to your boundaries. Understanding what you need on a day-to-day basis will enable you to make time for those requirements. We all need to prepare for meals, get administrative tasks done, work on hobbies/side projects, maintain social relationships and get some exercise done.

By setting these objectives down at specific times during the day (with some flexibility), we can then incorporate those boundaries. The aim is to ensure that you sustain a healthy balance and attend to your personal matters too. That’s the whole point of understanding work-life balance.

Family/friends and alone time

This is an incredibly important component to me personally. I find that I need a recovery period with the people I love and cherish. There’s something about quality time that just recharges me. Without it, the balance starts to tip over.

I live away from most of family in Joburg, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. But I still try to video call them often and then make plans with people that I’m close to here.

I also found that I need quite a decent dose of alone time to let my thoughts settle and to make sense of everything that goes on around me. I need time to meditate, to walk in nature, to read, to reflect and to contemplate. It’s a different way for me to clean out my energy and bring more positivity into my work.

Spiritual Aspect

Another fundamental part of my life revolves around Islam and my daily prayers. This can mean different things to different people, but having a spiritual grounding is truly something I can’t do without.

It is the essence of my purpose in life and I find that I’m always calmer and more collected after I’ve prayed. What I love about the Islamic approach, is that you’re required to pray 5 times a day. That means you get 5 chances every single day, to reconnect to your spiritual side and stay in check.

Find what works best for you and ensure that you incorporate it on a daily basis; even if it’s just being grateful before you start the day.

Sleeping beauty

Another critical aspect of a healthy WLB is getting enough consistent sleep. This is easily a challenge, especially when there’s so much that needs to get done. Setup a cutoff time for when you go to sleep and for when to wake up. The consistency makes it easier for your mind to settle.

The benefits of getting enough sleep should be really clear by now, I’ve written a post about it already. The takeaway from this post is to make sure you respect your body’s requirement. If you sacrifice a healthy amount of sleep for too long, the harmful effects can last a lifetime.

If you can, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. 6 if you’re pushing it. Anything below that (depending on your sleep cycle) would be detrimental. Calm down on the coffee too, especially past 3/4 pm.

The Awkward Yeti » Comics

So, we’ve given quite a bit of thought to the concept of WLB. There are a lot of considerations to factor in, especially given how we’re all WFH. Make sure you understand your daily objectives so that you can set boundaries, figure out how much time you need to spend with family/friends or alone to recharge, find time to pray, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

There’s always going to be a lot to do. That’s the nature of life. But just as the birds and animals know when it’s time to rest, so should you. Follow your nature and keep doing your best. You got this.

It’s so cold!

As many of you may know, I moved to Johannesburg (Joburg) at the start of the year. It was quite warm at the time, given we were edging towards autumn. We’re now peaking into winter, and it’s rather cold. Cold enough for us to dread even sitting on the toilet seat (like North America/Europe kind of cold).

I thought it would be interesting to write about how we adapt to changes in the weather as human beings. Or to even look at how we’re psychologically affected by it. Let’s talk about how we can learn to brace the cold, developing resilience, the effect the sun has on our psyche, and being grateful.

Bracing the cold

It’s a mindset thing really. Almost every conversation I’ve had with anyone living in Joburg has involved complaining about how cold the weather is (I’m guilty for contributing to that). That’s obviously what got me thinking… How can we actually learn to embrace the cold without just unnecessarily complaining?

I think it has a lot to do with mindset, exposure and breathing. Mindset is a bit of an obvious one, but important to bring up nonetheless. The more you tell yourself you’re feeling cold and are suffering, the less likely you are to effectively adapt mentally. The more you layer up, keep the heater on and stay inside, the less likely you are to physically adapt.

To juxtapose the mental and physical adaptation to cold, we should learn to focus on our breath. It’s interesting because if you think about it carefully, your breathing gets all shallow and rapid when you’re shivering. Learning to control your breath when you’re feeling cold will definitely facilitate some kind of resilience.

There’s definitely a limit to this and it can’t go on infinitely, as you have to avoid getting sick. It really is a fine balance, but you have to start somewhere.

Developing resilience

As I already mentioned, it’s about taking baby steps to avoid completely shocking the system and getting sick. So where do we start with developing some kind of resilience to cold? I think more than 90% of you will hate my answer to this: cold showers and less layers.

Before you panic and decide to completely ignore what I have to say, please know that I’m asking you to start small. You gain a lot of mental strength when you can put yourself through that little bit of discomfort, which enables you to actually deal with constantly feeling cold. Some of you may have biological or health issues that make it tougher, but the principle is the same.

When it comes to cold showers, I’m just suggesting that you try it out for 10 seconds or so while you wait for the water to get warm. This not only helps you save water, but it helps you adapt to the cold a little more! Essentially, you want to get your body used to that little shock. To overcome that mental fear. To learn how to focus on your breath while your body starts panicking.

Cold Garfield Quotes. QuotesGram
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The same logic can be applied when you’re deciding to layer up and leave the house. Instead of wearing 3 jackets and 2 socks, try and wear just enough for you to feel relatively warm. You can use your breathing technique to help you deal when it starts getting really cold. Again, I’m not asking you to suffer (well I kind of am), but I want you to strengthen your mental and physical capacity to deal with the weather.

Here comes the sun

The weather impacts our mood. If you don’t believe me, just go outside on a sunny day vs a cloudy / rainy day. You’ll immediately notice a difference. When it comes to getting enough sunlight though, we should really stop undermining the benefits (both from a mental and physical health point of view).

The most obvious benefit is vitamin D. Everyone knows that they need to get enough sunlight to sustain a healthy dose of vitamin D… But how many of us consciously put in those hours? I’m guilty of this myself, especially since I started working from home (also bec it’s freezing outside). But we should try to get in at least 15 min a day, to refresh our psyche and strengthen our bones.

The sun also gives us a serotonin boost. This means that it directly affects our mood, as I alluded to earlier on. There’s an added bonus to this though… Serotonin and Melatonin work together, so getting exposure from sunlight may even help you sleep better.

If you want to read more on the benefits of sunlight, check out the article below.

The point I’m trying to make is that the weather and season play a role in our overall attitude, our mood, and even our energy levels. We can use that understanding to ensure that we make the most of the situation we’re in and optimize our health.

Gratitude

As always, the most important lesson to take from all this is a little bit of gratitude. When it comes to extreme weather conditions, we should always be grateful to have some kind of luxury in place to help us deal with it.

Whether it’s the electricity that powers our heaters, the thick blankets we have to sleep in, the roof above our heads, the jackets and socks that we have. We should be thankful to God for all that he has blessed us with.

It’s crucial that we don’t forget about how many other people are less fortunate and don’t have a fraction of what we have. In order to truly live out the value of gratitude, I suggest you try and give out some of your old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while to people who would desperately make better use of it. Put yourself in their position and imagine how much tougher it would be to adapt when you have so little.

Gratitude Quotes - 23 Islamic Quotes About Being Grateful

It always comes back to the fact that God has given us all different circumstances and different tools to deal with those circumstances. You are truly blessed and you should never forget that. #LiftAsYouRise

Thinking about mental health

There’s been a rapid increase in talking about mental health these days. It’s always been such an important topic to me, especially to try and remove the stigma around mental health problems and assisting those who experience them.

The personal aspect about this is that I’ve never really struggled with severe mental health issues myself. It’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. The issue with that is because I had no real awareness of the topic, I found it difficult to empathize with people who did struggle with mental health in my early adolescence.

Since then, I’ve had several friends and family members who battled with it on a regular basis, and who were kind enough to educate me on the topic. That’s not to say that it wasn’t my responsibility to go out there and learn about it for myself; it was just an advantage that I received.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at ways to understand mental health from an emotional intelligence lens, how to try and look after your own mental health, how we can support those in our life who do struggle with mental health (by removing stigma), and why to stop spitting out solutions (a problem I struggle quite a lot with as an engineer/consultant).

Understanding mental health

The difficult thing about understanding mental health is that we each have our own version of ‘normal’. What we’ve experienced internally from the time we were kids up until now forms the basis of our reality. A lot of the time, it takes quite a lot of experience or reflection to start noticing/understanding your own mental health.

A great place to start is by being a little more conscious of your thoughts and moods. Are they sometimes erratic? Uncomfortable? Inconsistent? Unbearable? Bizarre? Wild? Scary?

One of the best ways to structure your thoughts and understand yourself better is by journalling. A lot of people tell me that what they write down can sometimes feel uncomfortable. This is already an indicator of your mental processes and overall mental health (you obviously develop the skill of writing down your thoughts, I’m talking more about the nature of the thoughts themselves).

Once you have better awareness of what goes on in the processor, you can start working towards maintaining a healthy performance. Find habits and routines that allow you to feel challenged and fulfilled.

If you really struggle here to identify and act on what you can do to improve your mental health, it might be a good option to seek out therapy. It’s just a great way for you to make sense of the chaos and find a comfortable space to unravel your mysteries (speaking from experience).

Looking after our own mental health

This is the tough part. This is the part that requires effort, discipline and consistency. If we don’t look after our own mental health and keep in check on a regular basis, we could then start struggling to perform optimally.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying we should do this purely for performance. I’m just using that word to help us understand how it inevitably affects our performance, which affects our overall ambitions, mood and aspirations.

When it comes to looking after our own mental health, we need to start with awareness as I’ve discussed in the previous section. That awareness and acceptance then allows us to formulate an action plan to keep ourselves in check.

A few habits that tend to work well (for me personally) include staying active (even if it’s just a 15 min walk), getting sunlight on a regular basis (kill 2 birds with 1 stone by going on that walk), spending time in nature (now the walk is proving to be remarkable), eating fruits and veggies as often as possible, taking time off from work/studies to recover, socializing with people who genuinely care about me, reading an entertaining book and writing in a journal.

It sounds obvious and possibly boring, but don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of consistently doing these little habits on a daily basis. You’ll be astonished at the impact it’ll have on your life. Find what works best for you and keep at it. Once you’ve managed to keep yourself in check, you’ll be able to support those around you.

Supporting those who suffer with mental disorders

The main thing about awareness campaigns is that it aims to educate people as well as ensure that stigma is dealt with. We’ve seen incredible progress over the past decade in terms of a global acceptance of mental health disorders. This is important because it allows for diversity, equity and inclusion.

When it comes to supporting people who may suffer from certain mental health issues, it’s important that we come from a nonjudgemental standpoint. Additionally, we need to avoid having a superiority complex if we considered ourselves to be mentally healthy.

What I’ve noticed from my own limited experience is that people appreciate being heard and acknowledged. It can oftentimes be difficult to emphasize, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it feels like. But just being there, showing that you care, putting in the effort to comfort them and accepting that they’re more than just their struggle, can go a long way.

Artist Creates Heartwarming Comics To Raise Mental Health ...

What I’ve also learned is that you don’t want to jump into finding solutions (which can sometimes go against my instincts, so I have to be very conscious of this).

Stop looking for solutions

This applies to helping people deal with their mental health issues as much as it does to helping people with their problems in general. Giving unsolicited advice and pointing out solutions to other people’s problems is something many of us struggle with. The reason why we do this is obviously subconscious. It’s easier than sitting in the discomfort of empathy or listening attentively.

As much as we think we’re helping other people by throwing out suggestions to their seemingly simple problems, it can actually distance them and make them less comfortable opening up to us. It makes the them feel unworthy of being able to solve it themselves.

Author & Illustrator of Mental Health Comics Holly ...

People love autonomy. We love to feel like we’re in control. Like we’re capable. Like we got this. The minute someone else comes and tells you how to do it (even if it’s a perfectly viable solution that can make your life a 100x better), you’re likely to resist it and try to ignore it.

The same logic applies when you’re trying to help someone who is feeling anxious or depressed. Instead of jumping to a solution and telling them to go drink water/ meditate / sleep / exercise, try and engage more meaningfully in discussion and allow them to do more of the talking.

I’m still trying to find the right balance here myself, but what I’ve noticed about giving advice is that you should either wait for it to be asked, or prompt them first and check whether they’re in a receptive space to hear you out.

It’s always going to be complicated to try and understand mental health, even your own. The point is to try your best each and every day, whatever that means to you. Your best may differ from time to time and that’s okay. You’re going to get through this. You’re strong and capable enough. Don’t ever give up. You got this.

#LiftAsYouRise

Wave After Wave

It almost felt like things were starting to get normal again. A few months ago, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But just as we started getting comfortable and complacent, the fear of another wave started creeping in.

Life is like the ocean. The tide oscillates between high and low. Waves come crashing in at different speeds, heights and strengths. We have no control over that. What we can do is learn how to surf through the challenges.

Today’s post won’t be focused on Covid or the beach. I’m sure you read enough about that already. I’d like to talk about how things generally get worse before they get better, expecting the unexpected, noticing our behaviours and reflecting on the shortness of life.

Things get worse before they get better

In hindsight, we always tend to appreciate the struggle. Amidst the chaos, however, there is a very different feel to the pressure. What I’ve noticed in most of the challenging experiences that I’ve encountered, is that it generally gets worse before it starts getting better. This is not always true and I am speaking from limited experience, but it’s just an observed trend.

The insights I gained from this is that when things start hitting the fan and you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose hope and want to give up. What we don’t realize though is that our growth and greatest strengths tend to arise soon after overcoming the struggle.

If things were always easy and we behaved complacently, we wouldn’t need to push past our limiting beliefs. So, when things start looking gloomy and difficult again, embrace it! It firstly means that there will be a moment of relief eventually. Secondly, it means that we will be forced to grow and push past our comfort zone.

This is how we can equip ourselves with a rigorous growth mindset and an impeccable ability to be resilient.

Expect the unexpected

This should be standard procedure by now. We should no longer expect a smooth sailing the whole way through. It’s about looking at all that is unpredictable and almost expecting it. Sure, you cannot expect everything. But if you start thinking about the worst-case scenario and how you would potentially overcome that, it makes it less shocking when things do get pretty bad.

You’d need to be in a fairly healthy state of mind to be able to do this exercise. It’s not about being pessimistic and holding onto negative thoughts. It’s about finding ways to be proactive. Here are some examples of questions you can ponder over:

  • If you lost your job, how would you react?
  • If you became terminally ill, what would you do differently?
  • If you lost certain loved ones, how would that affect you?
  • If Covid only gets worse, what do you need to do from now to adapt?
Thomas Jefferson Quote: “If you want something you have ...

The flipside to this is to also give thought to optimistic ‘what ifs’. Don’t limit yourself and don’t hold yourself back. I won’t write down bullet points on that, but it’s essentially thinking along the lines of ‘What if I achieved that goal?’, ‘What if I won that prize?’, ‘What if I could start that business?’ etc.

Your mind is a supercomputer. Don’t undermine it. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. The more data you feed it, the better it become at analysing. Let’s look at what drives our behaviour then.

What drives our behaviours?

Intentions, intentions, intentions. Why do I keep coming back to intentions? Because what I’m realizing more and more, is that when you have the right intentions (and behave accordingly), it makes a difference. We don’t necessarily have to get it perfectly right or think like angels, but at least just think about your intentions before you do anything.

It substantially changes your ability to make sound decisions. The thing about waves is that your intention is what helps you push forward. It’s what keeps you dedicated to the purpose. The intention to do good in the world. To try your best. To keep learning. To help other people. To be as kind as you possibly can. To make an impact.

Remember your intentions, assumptions, beliefs and values. It will all affect your behaviour and how you show up in the world.

What drives our behaviour at work?
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The shortness of life

Again and again and again, we need to ponder over our death. If we look at the world around us, it’s just absolutely chaos sometimes. That’s the cycle of life. We will pass on in order for others to carry on living. Nature has a remarkable way of operating, thanks to God.

I’d like to leave you again with the concept of how short-lived we are. The reason I constantly emphasize this is because it can also drive our behaviours. We should strive to be more grateful, more appreciative, kinder to those around us, and shower people with love and compassion.

We should try to give everything we do our best shot. Why? Because why not? When you reach the end of your life, you’re more likely to regret the chances you never took (definitely can’t say that I’m speaking from experience, haha). Stop trying so hard to satisfy your ego and live in a little bubble. It’s not going to burn the fire inside of you.

The Shortness of Life quote by Seneca

Try out something new. Go on an epic adventure. Speak to strangers more often. Plan that party or event. Live more fully and in alignment with your values. It’s not about being reckless or out of boundaries, it’s about making the most of the time you have left.

Wave after wave, we get better at surfing.

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Money Makes The World Go Round

Incredibly grateful to have recently started earning my own money for the first time. Financial independence is such a common goal among us all (understandably so). I’ve also started learning a lot about investing, budgeting, and economics in general (the course I’m doing has micro and macro economics).

A trend I’ve noticed when I speak to people about finance is that everyone is desperately trying to make more money (not everyone, but quite a substantial amount). It almost doesn’t matter how much you have at the moment, our brains are just wired to try and make more. I’m not saying that it’s a good or bad thing, it’s just an observation.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at the psychology of economics, why we never seem to have enough, how I personally budget my income, on the shortness of life and why we should strive to be more generous.

Benjamin Franklin Quote: “Time is money.” (12 wallpapers ...

The psychology of economics

Economic theories base their models off the assumption that people and organisations are rational. As a person myself, I can attest to the fact that we’re mostly impulsive, short-sighted and incredibly irrational.

Behavioural economics is a fascinating field of study relating to how people make decisions, based on economic, sociologic and psychological factors. What we need to understand here are a few main points (which all go against rationality):

  • We are mostly risk averse / neutral (we fear losing more than our desire want to win)
  • We are prone to psychological pricing (we think expensive things are of better quality)
  • Nudge theory can easily be used to influence our decision making (where items are placed makes a difference)
  • Our preferences are determined based on the options present – the framing effect (we buy things based on all the options available, not just what we need)

I’ve extracted the points above from the Crash Course video. Feel free to watch it for more information on behavioural economics. Let’s look at why we never seem to have enough money.

Never enough

Another principle of economic theory is that we’re always competing within scarcity. There just isn’t an infinite amount of resources. We have to continuously make decisions that require trade-offs and opportunity costs. Sometimes though, it feels like there’s a lot more than we behave there is.

Linking the concept of scarcity back to human psychology, we are always trying to ensure that we have some kind of safety net. In economics, this is probably having financial wellness and independence. The problem with the human is psyche is that we always think of the worst-case scenario. We save money planning for disasters (rightfully so, given what Covid has taught us).

But does it reach a point where our safety net starts becoming a little suffocating? Where we start planning for the future like we’ll live forever? Why does it seem like we never have enough money? Why do always crave more money? What’s the point of having all this ‘stuff’?

I’m not answering those questions, but I just thought it would be some useful reflection points. Let’s talk a little more about effectively budgeting (as a young adult).

Budgeting 101

Living away from your parents/family teaches you a lot about how to be financially independent (given you’re not just dumped with a large allowance every month). What I’ve learned over the past few years is a way to balance my fixed expenses, operating costs and savings (speaking from a point of privilege).

The key here is to use percentages, as everyone has an incredibly unique financial model. We have similar types of expenses, but the values differ significantly based on our lifestyle and status.

First thing’s first, I’d recommend you download an app. I’m not trying to promote anything specific here, but you can find a number of really useful ones on your app store. Just search ‘Budgeting app’. Start tracking your income and expenses a little more carefully, not to become obsessive over it, but to get an understanding of what’s going on.

  1. Download a money budgeting app
  2. Put in your income and expenses (fixed and general) over the month
  3. Set out a specific % to save / invest
  4. Set out a specific % to donate
  5. Use the remainder to enjoy yourself / treat others

When you have that awareness of the trends you generally follow, set a certain % every month for savings, investments or just in case of emergencies. This should obviously be done after your core expenses have been paid out.

A neat budgeting template as per Dave Ramsey

After that, carve out a % to spend on charity. This is where your ROI will be immeasurable. It’s how you bring blessings and true wealth into your life. You’ll genuinely start noticing an increase in abundance. The more you give, the more you get.

The last aspect is to use the remainder to enjoy yourself or to treat others. You don’t have to blast it, but you shouldn’t be miserly or stingy either. Be kinder. Give out more tips. Buy more gifts. Indulge a little more in quality, instead of always opting for the cheapest option (within your circumstances).

I’m not trying to tell you how to use your money. I’m merely indicating what has been working for me (in my incredibly short period of earning, haha). If you do have any other suggestions or disagree with anything mentioned, feel free to leave a comment. Let’s look at the last aspect that I’d like to discuss, Memento Mori.

Death

My ethical compass constantly fluctuates between saving money for my future and spending money because I’m not guaranteed a future. I think the key aspect here is to find a right balance. Save enough to have a safety net and spend enough to live your best life.

The overarching theme though is that we’re not taking any of our possessions with us when we pass on. It’s a sobering thought, but one that we need to constantly be reminded of. We behave as if we’re 100% going to make to the next day, yet we are unsure of the next hour, minute and even second.

The lesson that I’m trying to incorporate for myself is that we should not be attached to our possessions. Let go more often. Give out things that you don’t use more often. We need to get out of this hording mentality. Where it’s just about more and more and more. Sometimes though, more is less.

Memento Mori: Remember that you too shall pass on someday. Don’t forget that fact. It’s the only thing in life that’s truly guaranteed.

Why Do We Never Seem To Have Time?

Always. So. Busy. I’ve been hearing that way too often lately. Maybe it’s the rat race in Joburg. Maybe it’s the type of people I surround myself with. Maybe it’s a way for people to make themselves feel important.

When I tell people about my general habits and goals for the week/month/year, they’re always astonished and ask ‘Where do you find the time?!’. My answer generally tends to be that I prioritize efficiently. I thought this would be quite a useful topic to dive into, especially given how ‘busy’ we all are.

In today’s post, I’ll talk about how loving yourself is proportional to your self-discipline, how to stop making excuses for yourself, why you should stop complaining (or bragging) about how busy you are and learning to prioritize your to-do list.

Before You Say ‘I’m Too Busy’ Again, Listen to This Rant

Self-love = self-discipline

Self-love can be a tricky topic for certain people to navigate. It’s not necessarily something we’ve been taught or instinctively know how to do. There are several components to loving yourself, including discipline, vulnerability, compassion and connection.

I’d like to focus only on the concept of self-discipline here and why I think it’s the main ingredient to truly loving yourself. Before we get into that though, let me show you a quote as to why I think this is relevant in the first place:

“We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”

When it comes to being disciplined, the most important element is to keep the promises you make to yourself. You need to respect your own commitments. You need to follow through on your goals and habits. You need to be consistent and dedicated. You need to be focused and free from distraction. Not necessarily all the time, but most of the time, and especially when you need to.

This leads back to the quote. When we’re able to do that for ourselves, it allows us to do it better for other people. When people tell me that they’re too busy to incorporate certain habits (that will help them) into their lifestyle, it indicates that they don’t respect or love themselves enough.

Clint Eastwood Quote: “Self-respect leads to self ...

Using the ‘I don’t have enough time’ comment is genuinely a pathetic excuse to me. Unless you’re obviously responsible for a lot more than the average person.

Excuses, excuses

So what is it about that excuse that makes us turn to it so quickly? It’s simply the easiest option. It’s almost a no-brainer because it diminishes the guilt that arises when we’re not living out to our full potential.

The incredible thing is, we actually all are really busy these days. Being busy is not necessarily an invalid excuse. Some people are just more efficient at being busy than others. So, before you start complaining about how busy you are and how you don’t have time to breathe, analyse how you spend your time on average every week.

If you’re going to come up with excuses, just make sure they’re valid and backed up with evidence. I’m not asking you to prove anything to me or anyone else, I’m asking you to prove it to yourself. Look at how much time you actually spend at work (or doing work at home), look at how much sleep you’re getting, look at your screen time and how many hours you waste scrolling social media, look at how many hours you invest into Netflix and how many hours you spend on chores / errands.

You can then use that information to support your valid excuses and to get rid of your invalid ones. You’ll be able to use those insights to take actionable steps to free up some time in your ‘incredibly busy schedule’. Slot in some time to read everyday, to work out a little everyday, to spend time with your family / friends, to pray, and to meditate or journal or anything to look after your mental health.

Being busy without evidence is a terrible excuse and we just use it to inflate our egos.

I’m such a busy person, look at how important I am!

The other issue with us trying to be busy all the time? It makes us feel important. It can reach the point where even when we don’t have anything pressing to do, it diminishes the way we feel about ourselves. The solution to that is quite simple. Find an excuse to be busy.

This becomes problematic when we’re trying to put on a show for other people. Acting like we’re always pre-occupied gives us a sense of entitlement and makes use feel significant. When we’re not being authentic to ourselves, we tend to do the same with other people.

Just be conscious of the way the ego plays a role in wanting to put up this front, especially when you find yourself being ‘busy’ with unnecessary activities. So how can we be more efficient in all that busyness?

Efficiently doing your list

When it comes to freeing up time or doing multiple important things in a single day, the key lies in prioritisation. Personally, I like to build up momentum as early as possible. So, I focus first on the simple tasks and what takes up a short amount of time. This allows me to tick off a number of items off my to-do list early on in the day, which frees up more time for the bigger tasks throughout the rest of the day.

Basically, what you want to do is find an ordering system for your to-do list in terms of when to get things done. This will not only help you structure your list better, but it will also help you think of how much time each task will take. Then you can fit in additional hobbies and things you want to do in between.

Momentum here is key. Small consistent wins play a critical role in your mindset. When you start the day off with wins, you tend to flow through with that kind of energy. This is what works specifically for me. See what works best for you and incorporate that into your own system.

I want to leave you with a better understanding of how useless the concept of ‘being busy’ is. We all have the same amount of time, but different amounts of responsibility. Based on your own capacity and schedule, find a way to make it as efficient as possible. Don’t use excuses to invalidate your own growth, unless you’ve genuinely put in the time and effort to think about it.

Life is short. You have enough time. The world is already trying to hold you back, so don’t hold yourself back too. You can do this. You are capable. Keep pushing. Don’t give up.

Why Do We Complain So Much?

I’m so tired. I’m so busy. This is so unfair. I hate it here. It’s so hard. Why do I have to work so much? Why can’t I just sleep all day? It’s not as nice as I expected. This sucks.

We seem to be surrounded by people who flourish on complaining. It’s almost romanticized in a way, given how common it is on social media. In today’s post, I’d like to emphasize the difference between letting out things that are bothering you (venting) and focusing on the negative aspects of your life (complaining).

There’s a very interesting thing that happens to our mindset when we stop focusing on what’s going well in our lives. We become complacent and accustomed to a certain level on ingratitude. Let’s unpack how to properly vent, what to do when you feel like complaining, the power of gratitude and how to help other people.

How to properly vent

It’s often incredibly helpful for us to let out our thoughts and troubles. When we engage in dialogue, it allows us to make sense of the chaos in our minds, in order for us to structure it for other people to understand.

Venting is a common way for us to do just that. To comprehend our own problems and articulate it well enough for others to give valuable input. It does however, require a few criteria to be in place. This includes trust, psychological safety and a willingness for us to be vulnerable.

When we start talking to other people about our issues, we need to make sure we’re not just playing victim and complaining about everything. This might make us feel better temporarily, but it can also burden the other party by making them deal with the consequence of our negative energy.

What we should do instead is clearly express how the situation made us feel, instead of bashing the situation itself. Being objective here can be quite useful, to specify the aspects that are actually bothering us. When we’re with people we trust and have a sense of psychological safety around, it typically induces us to be vulnerable.

That’s the main difference between venting and complaining; our willingness to be vulnerable and express our emotions, compared to just focusing on the negative aspects of the situation.

Vents Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock

What to do when you feel like complaining

For many of us, it becomes a habit to just start complaining. It’s the first thing we do when things don’t go according to plan (which happens more often than we’d like). So what can we do when we have the urge to start complaining?

The answer lies in a bit of self-awareness. We need to first start understanding the underlying emotions that we’re feeling. This could be feeling frustrated, upset, annoyed, angry, fed up, lonely or just stressed. Once you’re able to identify the feeling itself, learn to accept it.

Acceptance is a key ingredient here yet again. Understand that first and foremost, the feeling is temporary. It will pass. You will get through it. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. We tend to overlook that fact when we’re in the crux of things.

Just try and take a step back and look at things from the bigger picture. You’re learning. You’re growing. The experience will help you evolve. What you should do instead, is find actionable steps to overcome the issue.

Complaining doesn’t bring you any closer to the solution. Focus on finding ways to deal with the problem or to even just understanding it better, you’ll be amazed by how much easier life can be.

The power of gratitude

Remember, energy follows focus. Which means that our power lies in our ability to focus. When we’re able to channel our focus onto our blessings and what’s working well in our lives, we start directing energy into our potential and abundance.

Instead of complaining (or focusing on what isn’t going well), try and re-direct your thoughts into what is going well. This will have a profound impact on your mood, energy levels, motivation and ability to get things done.

Gratitude is the appreciation we experience in the present moment for something we’re blessed with. We’re all blessed immeasurably. You can never count all your blessings, but I suggest you try it out and write down a few things. Do this every morning before you start your day and you’ll immediately start experiencing life a little differently.

After a while, you’ll start appreciating the struggle. You’ll be able to handle the challenges life throws out you more readily. More than just that, you’ll be a lot more joyful and full of energy.

Helping other people

If all else fails when you’re trying to resist complaining, try helping out other people instead. More often than not, this will give you perspective into the problems other people are dealing with, which could help you empathise with them and see your own issues in a new light.

I don’t like to say ‘look at how much better off you are than other people’, because the point isn’t to undermine your own issues. The point is to understand that everyone has issues. Everyone is dealing with certain struggles.

If you can make life easier for just 1 other person, you’ve contributed significantly. This will build momentum and you might even try and make your own life easier (we tend to complicate things for ourselves a lot more than we need to).

Oprah Winfrey Quote: “Helping others is the way we help ...

What I want to leave you with is this: Focus more on solutions, what you can control, understanding the problem itself, being grateful for what you have and helping out other people as often as possible. Complaining is not the same thing as venting. Be very cautious of that. You don’t want to unnecessarily burden other people, and you don’t want to waste your own energy either. We need all the energy that we can get.

Stop complaining and start focusing on what truly matters.

A Pandemic of Loneliness

How do you deal with being lonely? Perhaps you’re addicted to something, like I discussed a couple of weeks ago. It’s definitely easier to find distractions than it is to sit with our thoughts. The social distancing certainly seems to be causing emotional distancing.

I recently read a headline that said we’re experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. I figured it would be quite important to bring the topic up, considering how difficult this can often be to navigate. Why is human connection so important and why are we struggling with it?

We have more people on the planet than ever before, yet we feel more disconnected (despite how virtually connected we are) than ever as well. Let’s unwrap what causes us to feel lonely, how social media affects our ability to connect, the power of vulnerability and ways to move forward.

PS: Being comfortable alone and feeling lonely are completely different things.

What causes loneliness?

The definition of loneliness is essentially the emotional state when we feel or perceive ourselves to be isolated from other people. It can be painful, stressful and induce symptoms of depression.

Here are some possible causes of loneliness that I found incredibly insightful:

  • Emotional isolation (EQ)
  • Intellectual isolation (IQ)
  • Affluence (how wealthy you are)
  • Living situation
  • Social anxiety

I’ve obtained the list above from the link below. Feel free to refer to it for more information.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25481/unexpected-causes-of-loneliness-what-to-do-about-them.html

So the interesting thing that I’ve gathered is that there are certain aspects of our nature that incline us towards being on our own. Our emotional intelligence enables us to gain awareness, but it also means we are likely to stop surrounding ourselves with people who we’ve connected to through a common brokenness. The quote below describes it incredibly well.

“The more you heal, the less you’ll connect with people with whom you once shared a common level of woundedness.”

People who are incredibly intelligent in a specific way (a high IQ for example), may find it difficult to spend time with less intelligent people. There is often a demand for stimulating conversations and that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Another interesting factor is your affluence / how much wealth you have. It can be intimidating and there can be misconceptions that people think you’re arrogant or better than them. This is also an isolating factor. Your living situation and neighbourhood can also play a role in your inability to connect with people and socialize. Lastly, a prominent factor can be social anxiety or fearing rejection. These cause us to overthink and can discourage us from seeking genuine human connection. Let’s see how social media plays a role in all this.

The impact of social media

I’ve already debated how social media affects our daily lives; both from a positive and negative lens. This time, I’d like to relate it back to how it impacts our loneliness. The problem with being able to zoom into people’s lives so regularly, is that it creates a sense of FOMO.

The feeling occurs subconsciously. You see other people enjoying themselves, going out, seemingly having the time of their life; while you’re at home, alone, bored, staring at your phone in your underwear. This obviously creates a certain yearning. We also crave to be out and about, having coffee with mates or going on adventures.

When we’re alone with our thoughts and don’t have specific Friday night plans, we often distract ourselves on social media. We just need to be aware of the impact that has on our psyche and the way it may negatively affect us; inducing a certain sense of loneliness.

The solution (in my opinion) is to reach out to people instead of watching what they’re doing. Send messages to those you haven’t spoken to in a while. Start conversations with people you find interesting. Make a plan to group video call your friends.

It’s okay to feel a little needy sometimes. It’s okay to want to connect. It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to be vulnerable.

The power of vulnerability

The concept of vulnerability ties into our inherent fear of rejection. We often think that showing our true colours to people will result in them rejecting us for who we really are. This may in fact have been proved to us when we were younger.

The truth of the matter is, when we’re willing to share our feelings, emotions and thoughts with people, despite how outrageous they may seem, it can result in a more genuine form of connection.

We tend to think that we’re all extremely different. However, we ultimately share a similar array of emotions. We’ve all been hurt, lonely, excited, nervous, stressed, shy, scared and joyful. If we focus more on how similar we truly are, it allows us to share those experiences with others.

Do you want to know why vulnerability is effective? Because it allows us to establish trust. The expectation is that you’ll be speaking to me about aspects of your life that you wouldn’t want me to take advantage of, mock, share with others, or disregard. Once I see how much you can trust me with your thoughts, it allows me to feel comfortable enough to share my experiences with you. This enhances empathy, genuine human connection and makes us feel less isolated. The more we can relate to others and be vulnerable, the less likely we are to feel lonely.

How to deal with the feeling of loneliness

What should we do about feelings lonely then? It’s easy to start watching TV, scroll social media or just read something to keep our minds occupied. But that’s not dealing with the actual feeling, it’s just pushing it further back in the closet. What we need is acceptance.

Arguably the most difficult aspect of all; learning how to accept our feelings for what they truly are. When we accept how we feel, it’s a way of making peace with our mind and the world around us. Acceptance means that we don’t resist what comes up. We don’t force away what’s yearning to be heard. We don’t distract ourselves from the truth. Only once we accept, can we then take action and move forward. It also means that we don’t judge ourselves. We are only short-lived human beings after all.

After acceptance, we can start to work on improving that internal condition. We can write about it, reach out to people, speak our minds, lean into our hearts and share vulnerabilities. We can find activities that fulfil us. Serve others more. Be kinder. Be more caring, patient and loving to the world.

The more you give, the more you get. Start demanding less, and start giving more. And when it comes to receiving, don’t deny yourself that either.

Rumi Quote: “You have to keep breaking your heart until it ...

Don’t allow social distancing to create emotional distancing. If you’re reading this rn, please know that you’re not alone. You are loved. You are cared for. You are worth it. Reach out to me if you need to. Reach out to other people you haven’t to in a while. It’s going to be okay. You got this.