New Year, Same Me

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?

Sitting under a waterfall, December 2021

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.

Competitive

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).

Taekwon-Do competition, Feb 2020

Adventurous

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.

Geckoing, Jan 2022

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.

The Wilds in Killarney, Aug 2021

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.

Makkah, Dec 2019

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.

Don’t Be Shy, Ask For More

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.

Dream Big

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.

Dream it. Believe it. Achieve it - QuotesBook

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.

W. Clement Stone Quote: “Aim for the moon. If you miss ...

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?

Implementing Change

So we’re approaching a new year yet again. I’m genuinely surprised that we managed to survive up until now. I have no idea what 2021 has in store for us, but we’ve already endured enough to take on whatever challenges it brings.

I’ve discussed the concept of reflecting, habits and preparing for a new year before. You can click on any of the hyperlinks to read those posts in more detail. Considering that December is around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling.

Prepare in advance

This philosophy has carried me a long way in terms of getting things done. Whenever we take on a new task, project or habit, it initially seems like a mountain to climb. There’s just way too much to do and it can be very daunting.

The solution? Start before you’re meant to start.

It works like a charm. If you’re writing an essay or a report for example, start with setting up your template before you even get your assignment brief. Maybe even get the introduction in while you’re at it. If you’re planning to start exercising, keep your outfit ready the night before. If you want to get into reading, keep the book by your bedside and read 1 page before you sleep.

“You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.”

It’s more or less about mentally preparing. You’re telling yourself: ‘Ha, I’ve already started… Let’s just continue and make a little more progress.’

Starting is more often than not where the most friction is. If you can find a way to lubricate the beginning, it’ll make your life a lot simpler. Prepare in advance for any of your endeavors.

Write down your goals

It’s as simple as that. Write. Down. Your. Goals. If you don’t know what to write, that’s enough of an indication that you need to start working on yourself. You’re essentially creating a map to direct your energy, perhaps we could call it a compass.

There’s an infinite number of directions that we can take in our lives. We need to figure out which ones are the most worthwhile and aligned with our values. You need to carefully start thinking about this, well before the new year comes.

*FYI, I’m just using the new year as a reference point. It psychologically helps with making abrupt changes in our lives. We should be doing these practices throughout the year at any given point.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

http://www.wikihow.com/images/1/13/Achieve-Short-Term-Goals-Step-9.jpg

Visualize

Everything we use today is a result of someone’s imagination. It’s been thought of or visualized before. We all operate in a similar way. We’re guided by our thoughts.

Energy follows focus

Keep in mind that the more we contemplate our goals and visualize ourselves achieving them, the more likely we are to relentlessly chase them. You’re constantly reminding your subconscious of what you want. It’s essentially what we do when we pray for things that we want.

Yes, a lot of it is out of our control and somethings are destined for us, while other things are not. That doesn’t mean we should try our best to get what it is we do want. This also works best as soon as you wake up or before you go to bed. Your mind is still hazy and you absorb information a lot quicker into your psyche.

When you do visualize, really put effort into it. Feel the emotions. Feel the celebration. Feel the contentment of working hard and achieving your objectives.

Reflect

We are all just a bunch of mistakes. Each and every day, we make several terrible choices. We also occasionally make a few great ones. The best way to filter those decisions and differentiate between what worked and what didn’t, is to reflect on them regularly. It’s how we make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes again.

Before you go to bed, take stock of how the day went. What were the range of emotions? Did you achieve what you set out to do? What worked really well for you? What was a complete waste of time? What did you learn today?

These are some really great questions that we should keep in mind as often as possible. Don’t ever stop learning, especially from your own life. The treasure is there and it’s infinite, we just need to be willing to dig in.

Change

Now we’re getting to the crux of things. The post today was essentially meant to encourage you take action. To embrace change. To keep striving to improve yourself.

It’s always easier said than done. Something we’ve evolved to do is take the past of least resistance. What does that mean exactly? Well, it basically means that we’ll keep doing the same easy thing over and over again, if it give us average results. But even when we do keep at it, things just pop up and force us to adapt.

“Change is inevitable, resistance is futile.”

Ultimately, what we need to do is become more adaptable. If we start making changes in our own life and gain a new perspective, it’ll mean that we are becoming more comfortable with change. Become comfortable being uncomfortable.

“The only constant in life is change.”

And there you have it; a growth mindset. Which a central theme yet again. Because we are only capable of much more than we think we are. Our greatest limitation is our own thoughts. Remove the sentence ‘I can’t’ from your vocabulary. Whatever you’re overcoming, whatever you’re struggling to achieve, whatever you’ve been praying for, just remember: Not yet.

The Essence Of Teamwork

We hear it over and over again, how important it is to work in a team. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes annoying, sometimes incredibly rewarding. So what differentiates a team that produces outstanding work, compared to those who just wish it was all over?

Let’s dive a little more into effective communication, empathy, trust and feedback. I’ve touched on these topics before, but it’s important to see how they connect to each other.

Communication

Why is this so critical? Because being able to clearly articulate your thoughts, feelings and expectations is paramount to successfully working in a team. Here are a few tips to practice when working in a team:

  1. Start with why – have a set intention for the project.
  2. Have consistent meetings and keep each other updated.
  3. Make sure the goals are clear for each responsible party.
  4. Have metrics in place to ensure that people are held accountable.
  5. Be honest when you’re stuck or confused.
  6. Give constructive feedback regularly.

It’s always valuable to have your intentions aligned at the very beginning of a project. This ensures that all members understand the purpose of working together and have a common objective.

The second point talks about having consistent meetings. This has been tremendously beneficial for me, especially working from home. Having a set routine for meetings, where the minutes are being taken, allows people to constantly stay up to date with what’s going on. It also means you can regularly discuss any ideas or setbacks that you’re facing.

Ensure that once you’ve delegated certain roles, the goals for each member are accurate. They know exactly what to prepare before the internal deadline. This doesn’t necessarily mean they know what to do from the get-go, but they need to know what they’re working towards.

Have metrics in place to ensure that those goals are being met. Whether it’s a page of the report, a programming code, a section of the simulation, anything really. When the metrics are known, they can be held accountable.

Getting frustrated or stuck is an evitable aspect of project work. What’s important here is to make sure you’re speaking to other people about what’s going on. Perhaps they could help you or refer you to someone who could. When all group members understand where the other person is (in terms of progress), it makes it easier for them to feel comfortable and confident in the work being done (or not). This requires a great deal of trust and empathy.

I’ll discuss feedback in a little more detail further below, but it’s an important part of communication too. You need to criticize well on a regular basis, to improve the quality of the overall work.

Empathy and listening

Ahh, emotional intelligence strikes again. Being empathetic is crucial to any important relationship you have in your life. When you can make the other person feel heard and understood, it opens up the door to vulnerability and honesty.

When you see that people aren’t delivering or struggling to meet internal deadlines, try and understand things from their perspective. Are there any problems going on behind the scenes? Are they feeling unusually stressed or anxious? Maybe they’re having issues at home?

Being a good listener plays a critical role here. You need to remain mindful, curious and nonjudgmental when holding the space for other people. I think this is a great leadership quality; allowing people to ask silly questions and truly speak to you about what’s on their mind.

Trust

This essentially builds on the previous topic. Trust is formed through active listening and being reliable. You need to commit to your word and show up when you promise to. Things are never going to be perfect, but you need to show other people that you are capable of delivering up to the expected quality.

Trust also involves a certain level of integrity. When you respect the team boundaries, when you don’t unnecessarily expose other people’s flaws, when people feel comfortable being vulnerable.

I need to trust you to deliver. I need to trust you not to share everything I bring up to you. I need to trust you to be there for me when I’m struggling. I need to trust you to give this your very best.

Feedback

I’ve also spoken about this before on my post ‘The Psychology of Motivation‘. Delivering feedback and constructive criticism is an extremely important part of the development loop. You have to show people what’s working and what isn’t. You need to constantly update the expectations and ensure everyone is learning from their mistakes.

This is a really difficult process. For both, the person giving the feedback and for the person receiving it. However, if you’ve managed to successfully build trust, empathy and effective communication, it makes it a little more bearable.

Remember why feedback is important. It’s to help the other person develop and improve the quality of their work. When giving feedback, always bring up what’s working well first. Remind them of their strong points. Make the other person understand that you’re doing this to help them. Be as objective as possible. Offer support where you can to help them out too.

When you’re on the receiving end, keep an open mind. Watch out for your ego. Don’t see it as an attack or a source of demotivation. You can’t expect to be perfect every time. Absorb the wisdom given by your peers, they see things that might be in your blind spot.

Don’t take things personally.

To put it all together, you’re going to work in a team whether you like it or not. No one can do it on their own. Despite how independent or solo your work may seem, there are always people you will need help from. Integrating certain tools can help you work more effectively with people, especially if you’re striving to be a great leader.

Ensure that constant communication is in place. Hold the space for people to speak to you about what’s truly bothering them. Build the relationships on a foundation of trust and integrity. Give constant feedback so that everyone can improve.

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

Keep trying your best. If it’s challenging and difficult, it means you’re on the path to growth. You got this.

The Psychology of Motivation

How do we get people to stay on track with their goals and objectives? How do you even keep yourself motivated to keep going? What do you do when people mess? Do you also struggle with delivering feedback?

Okay, so this is going to be quite an interesting post about positive reinforcement and how you can use that to motivate yourself and other people. We’ll also dive into deadlines and the fear of failure, constructive criticism and why it’s difficult to give/receive any feedback.

Why is motivation so difficult to sustain?

Motivation can often seem like a mood. It changes all the time. One moment you have a burst of energy and after a few minutes you just feel like taking a nap.

What we don’t understand about motivation is that it’s more of a mindset. We need to constantly gear ourselves up and keep the momentum going. It requires discipline and effort, and tons of consistency. Motivation will get you started, but you’ll need to put in the hard work to keep it up.

Deadlines and fear of failure

How often have you procrastinated and left a task until the very last day? You probably had a few weeks to finish the essay but you kept telling yourself ‘later’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘I still have enough time’.

Why then, do we all of a sudden give up on that lazy mindset the day before the actual submission? It’s rooted down in fear. Fear can be an incredibly motivating force. We don’t want to feel humiliated, ashamed, or embarrassed. So we make sure we get enough done for a pass.

If you think about logically though, you’re far more likely to avoid failure and pass well if you submit well in advance. That makes sense and seems quite obvious, but goes against our instinctive ‘path of least resistance’. That’s why you need to find ways to keep yourself motivated on a regular basis. This can be done using methods like positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement

So how does positive reinforcement work? It is essentially rewarding and giving people positive feedback on what they’re doing right. This is obviously not applicable when they’re never doing anything the correct way, but I’m sure there are certain things that can be further encouraged.

What you’re doing here is avoiding defensiveness popping up to block the feedback. I’m sure there are several times people have approached you to help you do something in a better way, but it came in one ear and straight out the other.

The ego plays a big role here. We think we’re fine. We don’t need to hear all this garbage about how we’re not good enough. That’s why telling people that they’re doing something right and making them feel good about it, will further motivate them to keep at that behaviour.

Constructive criticism

This is one of the most important aspects of working on a team. Learning to criticize someone else’s work so that everyone can benefit. There are 3 ways that this usually turns out:

  1. You don’t say anything at all and accept their imperfect work.
  2. You comment too harshly on what they’ve done and make them feel inferior.
  3. You approach them with just the right amount of advice and praise.

Constructive criticism is difficult because you have to surpass the defensiveness appropriately. Option 1 is ineffective. You and your team are settling for sub-standard work, in which no one benefits. Option 2 is demotivating. It makes the other person despise working with you and they’ won’t be too eager to hear what you have to say.

Option 3 is the sweet middle spot. You have to come in with the right amount of praise and advice for them to hear you out. It’s a combination of positive reinforcement and criticism. You’re able to make them feel good about what they’re doing right and encourage them to work on where they’re falling short.

https://brooksandkirk.co.uk/constructive-criticism/

Reward and punishment

The figure below shows the differences between positive and negative reinforcement, as well as punishment (this is more for the psych kids to remember). You want to stick to the top left quadrant as often as possible, as it’s the most effective method of encouraging positive behaviours. The other methods are definitely also valuable, so try and understand them well.

Reward yourself for achieving your targets. Celebrate milestones. Take the weekend off after an intense submission.

Don’t allow yourself to become complacent when you’re not getting things done. Figure out why motivation is low and what you can do about it. Keep a system in check to make sure you don’t constantly fall off track without any consequences. Use reinforcement and punishment appropriately.

https://medium.com/@SquarePegMind/lessons-from-dog-training-and-parenting-for-pandemic-behaviour-change-fafc89a056db

Support system

This is often one of the best ways to stay on track of things, by having friends or family members who are there to support you. When you feel overwhelmed and just want to give up, having someone there to encourage can really help with the final push.

It also helps to have someone on a similar path or trying to achieve the same goal. This way when they’re able to move forward and make progress, it could help you stay motivated and keep going.

There’s obviously a lot more to the psychology of motivation. This is just a few thoughts that I had in mind, especially given how critical teamwork is and how we always need to stay on top of things.

You can use these concepts on yourself too. Remember, you don’t know yourself as well as you think. Take the time to actually get to know what works for you and what doesn’t.

As always, stay present. You will get through this. You are capable. If something is difficult, it means you’re going to grow and learn. Don’t stick to your comfort zone, it’s boring there.

“What’s meant for you will never miss you, what misses you was never meant for you.”

A Toolbox For Studying Online

How does working from home make you feel? Perhaps you thought it would be over by now. Maybe you were trying to form some kind of schedule but thought you wouldn’t be spending the entire year studying virtually.

For those of us at UCT, we’ve recently received the news that the second semester will be completed virtually. This is not really a surprise, given that we’re in the peak of the pandemic and that RSA has secured a top 5 spot for Covid cases. How can we move forward with this, given how overwhelming it truly is?

Today I’d like to share some of my life lessons and what has been working for me through this turbulent period. I’ll talk a little about scheduling and time management, how to make stress your friend, being supportive to others, understanding mental health, keeping your goals in check and remaining mindful.

Since I’ve spoken in depth about most of these topics before, I’ll provide links to the full posts under each heading.

Time Management

In order to successfully manage our time, we need to keep 3 things in check:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

This is forming a skeleton of your ideal day. Think of it as the foundation of your empire. How do we form structure? By setting out goals and objectives, each and every day.

When you’re consistent with the structure you’ve formed, it opens up time for you to do more. You gain confidence from consistency because you know what to expect from yourself.

Your structure should include time for you to rest, recover and reload. Make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night. Make sure that you’re putting in exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Make sure that you’re spending some time in nature too. Important here is to also monitor your social media usage and the amount of time you spend online.

Time management

I’ve been requested to talk a little about time management, so let’s give it a go. I’d like to first try and define time, or at least come to an understanding of what it is. Then we can dive into how to maneuver through the time we have. I aim to make you feel more … Continue reading Time management

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first … Continue reading Make Stress Your Friend #2

Make stress your friend

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

Keep in mind that stress is a beneficial part of your nature, it’s meant to help you adapt and react swiftly to changes in your environment. Manage stress by focusing on your breath and finding cues to the present moment.

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Support structures and mental health

This is especially important now that we’re unable to physically meet each other on a regular basis. It’s really helpful to try and form a support structure with your peers, even if it’s just on group chat. Knowing that there are others who are going through a similar experience will make you feel a lot better.

This adds to the issue of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health is something that you need to take care of regularly. You can’t wait for things to go south and feel overwhelmed before you put in any effort.

Regularly taking care of your mental health can be as simple as journalling, meditating, praying, going for a walk or speaking to a friend. When it gets a little more hectic, speaking to a therapist or seeking professional help may be a better option.

Many universities offer virtual therapy sessions to their students for free. Be sure to utilize those resources if you need to.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health? We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are. … Continue reading Mental health

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment? I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought … Continue reading Mindful Monday #1

Mindfulness

This has been a recurring topic in my blog since I started. I’ve done a presentation on mindfulness a few weeks ago on 20 Life Learners that I’d like to share here.

It’s essentially about finding cues to stay in the present moment. Using grounding techniques such as focusing on your breath, you can control your physiology to condition your mind. There’s quite a bit of neuroscience behind it, you can read more in my Mindful Monday posts.

Goals

I’m not sure about you, but this year has forced me to reevaluate many of my goals. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it means that we need to be realistic and adapt.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool to help you move forward in life and to reach peaks you never could’ve imagined climbing. Find a place to write down some of your objectives for the rest of the year and review them constantly. It will make a difference in how motivated you feel.

Don’t give up when things don’t go according to plan. Find ways to improvise and keep looking at the bigger picture. You’re worthy. You’re capable. You will achieve greatness.

You can do it!

Toddlers don’t give up on walking no matter how many times they fall. Would it make sense for them to say: I can’t do it? Not at all. They just can’t do it YET. They don’t give up, regardless of all the failures. There’s a lot that we can learn from children, especially resilience.

Before the world influenced our thought patterns and self-doubt, we were creatures of adventure, experimentation and playfulness. We kept messing up until we got things right. We weren’t afraid of what people thought. We only realized how disgusting sand tasted after we gobbled down a handful.

I want to talk a little about how we can learn to overcome failure. About how that influences the way we tackle problems and chase our ambitions. About the way we thrive in discomfort. And how a little change in mindset alongside some consistency, will help us flourish.

I’ve spoken about the concept of growth mindset in my previous blog post; The Journey IV. I thought it would be important to bring it up again because of how we’re constantly faced with difficult tasks and exhaustive schedules.

Challenge accepted

How often have you faced a challenge and thought: “This isn’t for me, I can’t do it”. Well that’s okay, you can’t always overcome obstacles when you encounter them immediately. Don’t ever give up on yourself though and say that you can’t do it. You just have to keep trying until you get it right.

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

Henry Ford

That it one of my favourite quotes. When you realize that there’s always going to be challenges, your approach to them can start to change. You don’t always have to resist and try to run away. You can develop the ability to embrace challenges and learn to accept them.

Life can oftentimes feel quite paradoxical. In the book “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts, he mentions a concept called the ‘Backwards law’. It talks about how we always end up getting what we’re running away from. And what we chase just gets further away from us.

“What you resist, will persist.”

This obviously doesn’t speak about pursuing goals and passions, but rather attaching yourself desperately onto certain emotions. Chasing what feels good as ‘pleasure’. Avoiding what feels bad as ‘pain’. We don’t realize that we can’t enjoy one without the other. The Yin and Yang of life. We should try be more accepting of the fact that life is meant to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it.

Seek Discomfort

The only way to grow? Out of your comfort zone. What does that imply? Seeking frightening and uncomfortable experiences!

This isn’t masochistic per say. It means training your mind to embrace discomfort. Re-wiring your neurons to effectively deal with all the struggle. That’s why cold showers and waking up early in the morning are such holistic habits. They help your brain adapt to the inevitable sufferings of life.

I’m just trying to help you understand the concept of acceptance. When you’re truly able to accept your feelings, they no longer hold you down. Which is why it’s so important to learn to accept pain. It’s an inevitable aspect of life.

Look at all the major events that have shaped who you are today. You were most likely ‘going through the most’ or have had to struggle intensely. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and scared. It’s okay to fail and make mistakes. Just accept that and learn from it. Seek to be better each and every day.

Mindset

The previous sections essentially fosters a growth mindset. When you start seeing setbacks as opportunities to learn, the world becomes your school. You need to watch the self-talk and the negative thought patterns. You need to tell yourself ‘not yet’ for the skills you don’t have or the goals you haven’t achieved.

The pathway to success is filled with failure. Sometimes major, sometimes minor, oftentimes both. But that’s the quickest way to grow. To just keep trying and to avoid repeating the mistakes that have held you down.

How many times does life have to teach you the same lesson before you actually learn?

The more time you spend gaining experience, the better you get at tackling the problem. That brings me to another crucial concept; consistency.

Consistency

I bring this up again and again and again. Because it truly is the most important skill-set to obtain. You need to be consistent to grow in any aspect of your life.

Whether it’s love, friendship, work, academics or business, the key lies in being consistent. You don’t even have to take it from me, look around you at everyone who you consider ‘successful’. They had to show up and do the work repeatedly, not only when they felt like it.

What differentiates the ordinary from extraordinary isn’t just talent. It’s the hard work, dedication, seizing of opportunities and deliberate practice. That means always trying. No matter how many times you screw up, no matter how many times you fall, no matter how many times you get hurt; don’t stop.

You can do it. You are capable. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are worthy. You will achieve greatness. You will make an impact. You will get through this; faster, stronger and better than ever. YOU CAN DO IT. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, especially not your own voice.

DON’T EVER GIVE UP!

“He who sweats more in training, bleeds less at war.”

Spartans