The Journey VI

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. I had no idea that I’d be reaching 50 posts so soon. I started off back in 2014, just before I finished high-school. Let’s talk a little about how we got to this point, 6 years later.

As with everything in life, it started off as an experiment. There’s no better way to learn than from actually trying, so I attempted to use this space as a virtual journal. In this post, I’ll run you through the timeline of how things developed.

2014-2015

In 2014-2015, I was a little obsessed with my online presence. I took a lot of pride in the follower-following ratio, the aesthetic of my IG feed, twitter cliques and getting enough likes.

I was showcasing the best moments of my life, as social media often lures us to do. I’d say that I wasn’t mature enough to understand how to virtually socialize. I started this blog for the sake of starting a blog, coming from an egotistical place. My intentions were not aligned with my goals.

I carried on blogging every other month, about the most random aspects of my life. In 2016, it kind of all just stopped. When you’re inconsistent and your why isn’t clear, the motivation tends to dissipate.

2016-2017

Throughout 2016-2017, I went through quite a bit of emotional turbulence. I didn’t really know how to deal with my own insecurities or how to love myself. Those were key ingredients for low self-esteem. I’ve mentioned this before, but at the end of 2017, I took a social media sabbatical. (You can read more about it by clicking on the hyper-link)

That’s when things really started to change.

You don’t truly realize how toxic social media can be, until you step out of it. I had way more time than I could’ve previously imagined. I also had a lot of emotional energy that I needed to utilize.

2018

At the beginning of 2018, I started journalling, meditating and reading! It started off in that specific order. Having a journal completely changed the way I took charge of my life. My thoughts and habits became a lot clearer to me. And as I’ve said before:
Better awareness – Better choices – Better results.

That’s exactly what started to happen. With my self-awareness slowly increasing, I started making much better choices that were aligned with my values. This ultimately led to better results.

I started off being a little skeptical with regards to meditation, especially from an Islamic point of view. But through constantly being grateful and remembering God, I opened the space for myself to sit in presence every morning. It’s all about intention, don’t forget that.

At the beginning, I was barely able to focus on my breath for 2 minutes at a time. So I had to use guided meditations for a while, until that increased to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. After that, I was able to sit with my own thoughts and just focus on my breath without needing a ‘guide’.

I used to read a lot when I was a child, thanks to my mother. Growing up in Saudi Arabia however, changed that quite a bit. Throughout middle school and high school, my focus shifted entirely to sports and gaming. I had no interest in reading anything, be that academic or even fiction.

After my mindfulness practice and journalling routine, I realized that I had a lot more to learn. Not only about those particular habits, but about the world in general. That led me to reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.

It took me a few months to read that book, but once I actually completed it, my identity started to change. I was now a reader. Someone who could actually commit to finishing books.

As with every other habit, the more you deliberately practice, the better you get. I started reading books a little bit faster and started learning more about how to retain the information I was learning.

2019

From finishing 3-4 books in 2018, I started finishing 1 book every month in the beginning of 2019. I had to make a conscious effort to achieve that goal. It got even better towards the end of the year, where I started finishing around 2 books a month. A few months after that and I now objectively read at least 4 books a month.

To bring us back to how I started blogging more seriously, I had an urge to share the knowledge I was gaining from all those books and the few habits I was forming. I tried blogging again, with consistency and intention. It started with the The Journey. I (Click the hyper-link to read my first post in 2018)

“The teacher learns the most.”

2019 was the year a lot of my habits fell into place. Everything that I had attempted to do over the previous year was now becoming part of my identity. My intentions were finally aligned with my goals and values.

2020

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

I became passionate about helping other people and serving the world around me. Aspire To Inspire became the motto. To help each and every one of us unleash our full potential and spread the knowledge we gain.

The objective now is to publish at least 2 blog posts per month. I’m also trying to get more people involved in the journey with me, to expand and grow.

Life is temporary. We’re all going to die eventually. Keep that fact in mind and allow it to vitalize your every day. Starting small and staying consistent will always help you sustain your habits. This will then help you become the person you wish to be.

Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying. Don’t only focus on what you need to get done, focus more on who you need to be.

A friend of mine recently told me something really inspiring: “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

I’d love to know more about the aspects that have helped you develop into the person you are today. Please feel free to share your story or comment your views on mine in the section below.

Mindful Monday #2

There seems to be a lot going on in the world right now. In light of all the uncertainty, let’s remember to be mindful. In this session of Mindful Monday, I’ll talk about emotional awareness, your responsibility, exposure to information and gratitude.

I’d like to share an intriguing thought I had over the weekend. The planet is healing. Yes, the situation we’re currently in is daunting and frightening. However, there are always blessings hiding within the curses. Greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and waste dumping have all been significantly reduced.

Hmm, also randomly started thinking about The Great Depression and the 1918 flu. Quite a circular process.

We should take some time to reflect, to learn, to grow and to empathize with the world around us. Be wary of toxic productivity, understand your boundaries and focus on your blessings. Let’s relate this to Covid-19.

Emotional awareness

There’s a lot of panic, anxiety and stress amidst the chaos that’s unfolding. We need to be aware of how our emotions are unfolding. It’s critical to stay level-headed and find ‘healthy’ coping mechanisms with our circumstances.

Don’t fall prey to other people panicking. Don’t spread misinformation or be a reason for other people to panic. Watch out for fake news. Don’t be guided by fear. Stay aware of your emotional state and accept it.

It’s okay to feel worried. It’s okay to feel nervous. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Try to be nonjudgmental towards yourself and those around you. The more you’re able to understand what you’re going through, the better equipped you’ll be to help others.

Your responsibility

As it stands, there is no cure for the pandemic. All we can do is try to reduce its impact. That means we need to take responsibility for our hygiene, social distancing and reducing stigma.

Social distancing is one of the most effective ways of containing a pandemic. By reducing the amount of people you’re exposed to, you decrease your chances of being affected or affecting others. It’s critical to maintain high levels of sanitation and hygiene at this point, to ensure you eliminate any sources of contamination.

Stigma always seems to be the elephant in the room. We all know it exists, yet we tend to ignore it. It’s absolutely crucial that we remain supportive and kind to everyone, especially to those who are infected or prone to being sick.

Start taking this seriously and act now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Here’s a link to an incredible article interpreting the data and talking about your role in helping to deal with the covid-19 outbreak: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-people-will-die-f4d3d9cd99ca

Exposure to information

We’re living in a hyper-connected age where we’re exposed to more information in 24 hours, than people did in their entire lives around 25 years ago.

Keeping that in mind, we need to be conscious of the news we expose ourselves to. We might not immediately realize it, but after scrolling and reading a few articles our entire mood can change.

Ask yourself how much information you really need to move forward with this. We need to constantly stay up-to date, but within reasonable boundaries. Stay mindful of what your subconscious is absorbing, there’s always a lot to be thankful for.

Gratitude

The best way to deal with negativity is to focus on what is going well. It’s not always easy to shift into that frame of mind, but once you do, nothing can pull you down.

Most of us still have eyes to see, a mind to comprehend with, an eagerness to learn, a loving family, wonderful friends, food to eat and a place to stay.

Think about that more. Show your love and affection to your friends and family. (Virtually of course) Be thankful and be a source of positivity to the world around you.

It’s not easy, I know. We’ll get through this. We’ll look back at how insane things were and smile, knowing we were tough enough to survive. We’ll talk about this to our children and grandchildren one day.

Don’t lose hope. Stay mindful of what’s going on within you. Take in deep breaths and smile. Now is all you have, make the most of it.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Have you ever wanted to learn how to be more charismatic? Trying to foster healthier and more meaningful relationships? Want to become a better communicator and get comfortable with people?

This book review will explain exactly that. ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. There are 4 main chapters in the book, each explaining a few key principals.

Just a reminder that this is my way of getting the most out of books. Taking notes and trying to teach what I’ve learnt to other people.

*The bullet points are principles directly extracted from the book.

1- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Let’s try and put these points into perspective. Whenever you criticize or complain about other people, you automatically put them on the defense. This makes it difficult for them to absorb what you have to say, since they’ll tend to find a reason to criticize you back.

Countering that, we should focus on what people are doing right. When we’re honest and lavish in our appraise, we soften people and provide a comfortable space. This makes it easier for you to get your point across.

Remember: the objective isn’t manipulation. You’re not trying to get people to go against their own will. You’re trying to minimize misunderstanding and adequately get your point across. The final point essentially talks about building up your ideas, by getting the other person interested in what you have to say.

2- Six ways to make people like you

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Remember the person’s name.
  • Be an active listener. Encourage others to speak about themselves.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – do it sincerely.

All these points are essentially a summary of the final point. Trying to make the other person feel genuinely important. By trying these points, you’d improve your social skills and become comfortable getting to know strangers.

3- How to win people to your way of thinking

A lot of the principles in this chapter are quite self-explanatory. The key concept repeated throughout the book is that we each have ‘a desire to be important’.

“How you get your feeling of importance, determines your character.”

Ultimately, whether we are conscious of it or not, there’s a part of us that craves feeling important. Which is why so many of us enjoy sports, board games and just challenges in general. We feel a tad bit special when we ‘win’ or find a solution.

When you understand that the principle is universal, you can use it to aid people in feeling important. The following points are paramount in communicating effectively, whilst allowing the person to get the sense that they’re important to you.

  • The only way to get the best out of an argument is to avoid it.
  • Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never start with ‘you’re wrong’.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way
  • Get the other person saying ‘yes’ immediately.
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.

All these principles foster your skill to empathize. You may or may not have noticed, but these are also key-points in developing emotional intelligence. “Judge people by their own values – not your own.”

  • Let the other person feel like the idea is his or hers.
  • Try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  • Appeal to nobler motives.
  • Dramatize your ideas.
  • Throw down a challenge.

We need to cooperate with other people by showing them that their ideas and feelings are as important as our own. Start the conversation with purpose and say what you’d want to hear as the listener.

We always make assumptions when speaking to others. So we should aim to assume that people are being honest and sincere. This will allow them to be more readily corrected.

Throwing down a challenge is essentially stimulating competition. Bring about the desire to excel & to win. After all, we love feeling important.

4- Being a leader

  • Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  • Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  • Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  • Let the other person save face.

A few things here discuss how to deal with people making mistakes. We should first always start with praise. Nothing fake or insincere, but pay them genuine compliments before diving into the confrontation.

Another tactic is to mention how often you make mistakes too. We’re not infallible, we too make mistakes all the time. This helps them empathize with us, making it a much smoother interaction.

  • Praise every improvement – even the slightest ones.
  • Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Use encouragement and make the fault seem easy to correct.
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

We’re essentially trying to foster a growth mindset here. Constantly use encouragement and praise all that is working, instead of focusing on what isn’t. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to help them improve, but by making clear how well they’re doing, it motivates them to keep doing more.

So we’ve covered fundamental techniques in handling people, different ways to make people like you, how to win people to your way of thinking and being a leader. I’m sure there are several aspects that you’ve already mastered and some of which you can work on.

Let me know which of these principles resonated with you the most (or the least). Feel free to share any ideas or thoughts relating to effective communication too. Thank you all as always and happy reading!

Anniversary with the womb

What is the best time to start contemplating everything that has ever happened in your life? On your birthday!

I’m going to think out loud again. This time, I’ll be sharing the insights I’ve gained over my birthday. I tend to use the space to reflect and ponder over what truly matters in life.

Death

Let’s start with some classic Memento Mori. I often realize how much closer I am to dying. It’s a combination of fear and liberty. The question that comes to my mind:

What would you do if you were to pass on tomorrow?

I sometimes wonder why I take my time for granted. It’s a weird roller-coaster of emotions. I either stress myself out and take on too many responsibilities, or I keep my schedule empty and just chill.

When I contemplate my own death, I’m often absorbed into the present moment. Regardless of all the worries, anxieties and stress, remembering the fact that I’m temporary definitely calms me down. The best way to spend my time, is to accept the present.

What time is it? Now… What else is there? 🙂

Gratitude

I also find myself contemplating my blessings. This process is genuinely endless, you can’t truly comprehend how blessed you are. There’s always something that you can be thankful for.

Take a few minutes every single day to just appreciate the wonderful people in your life. Your beautiful family and friends. Your senses, your body, your mind, your intellect, your eagerness to learn, your house, your food, your transport, your safety.

We should also appreciate our mothers more! It’s strange that I get all the attention, when she was the one who struggled for 9 months to get me here. Our anniversary with the womb should certainly focus on our moms.

I also realized that being grateful is a lot more than just words, it’s also based on action. How much you’re willing to do for other people, is a form of gratitude.

Service

The reason I bring up service so often, is because I think it’s combining the realization of death and gratitude; forming a legacy.

How else are we to find fulfillment on this chaotic little blue planet?

When we’re able to serve a cause greater than ourselves. When we’re able to serve those around us out of pure love. When we’re trying our best to be better people. When we’re trying our best to facilitate the growth of other people.

How do you want to be remembered?

That question brings about the notion of legacy. Not from an egotistical POV, but from a rather humbling aspect. What are the values and causes that you want to be remembered for? People won’t always remember what you say or do, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Use your birthday to reflect over your relationship with yourself, with others, with the present moment and most importantly with God.

I use posts like these to serve as reminders. We’re naturally forgetful beings, it’s what helps us stay sane (or insane). Remember that you will die. Remember that now is all you have. Remember to help others. Remember to be thankful.

Don’t take your health for granted

When was the last time you were sick? Isn’t it usually a rather stressful or depressing feeling? Why do we only start appreciating our health when it’s under threat?

This will be a post as part of the Thinking Out Loud series. I fell ill over my trip to Turkey and I just want to share some of the insights I’ve gained from it.

By now, you may be familiar with one of my core values: Gratitude. This will definitely be a gentle reminder to help us appreciate one of the greatest assets we have; our health.

What can you control?

Think about the last time you were sick. How quickly did you fall into prayer, kindness and hope of recovery? Something to always keep in mind is that we can control our perception, not our circumstances.

Physical illness is largely a mental battle. You have to fight off the constant stress, the constant negative thoughts and the constant regret. We’re often extremely unproductive when we’re ill, which definitely has its advantages.

Our body uses up most of its energy to fight off the bad guys (usually viruses & harmful bacteria) and for healing. This is what generally tends to make us feel despondent (apart from the actual feeling of being sick). We feel bad for being stuck in bed & not carrying on with our lives as usual.

But this is where I started appreciating something. We don’t often realize it, but when our body forces us to slow down, its for our own good. We have a lot more time to contemplate & be grateful. It’s vital to stay optimistic and still see the world through adventurous eyes.

Why should you be grateful?

For the perspective that being sick has to offer. For the skills that it teaches you. For the values you acquire; patience, perseverance, humility. No amount of wealth will ever compensate for losing your health. That’s something to be extremely aware of.

If you start imagining what life is like for those who have chronic illnesses, you’d have a lot to be thankful for. The fact that you can see, the fact that you can hear, the fact that you can walk, taste, smell, feel. I could go on and on and on. These are invaluable blessings that we oversee.

The point I’m trying to make is that we need to spend a little more time each day contemplating how fortunate we really are. For if any of these blessings were to disappear, our life would be completely different.

Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

What could be the benefits of falling ill?

It brings you closer to God. It brings you closer to your family and friends. It helps you stay humble and understand how temporary life truly is. It also helps your body reset and strengthens part of your immune system.

Memento Mori: Remember that you will die. Falling sick is probably the greatest reminder of death. So it makes sense for us to be terribly afraid of it.

This was just a short post that I wanted to use as a reminder. We need to be more loving, more kind, more gentle, more patient & more grateful. For what truly matters when we pass on isn’t our status, wealth or success. But rather the impact we make on the world and those around us.

Let’s strive to live each day with utmost contentment & full of life. Don’t make decisions that don’t align with your values. Focus on your blessings and remember: You Only Die Once.

Warming up for 2020

How would you like to start your new year? Any new year resolutions? Are there aspects of your life that you’re excited to change?

Surely you have plans to start chasing your goals and build in healthier routines. I’d like to use this post to discuss how we can start the new year with a bang.

I’m not at all an advocate for waiting till new years to start making progress. Which is why I think this is such an important topic, to see how we can utilize the time we have NOW, to work towards our aspirations.

By starting small, dreaming big, loads of reflection and gratitude, I’d like to help you successfully transition into the new year.

There is a psychological advantage in starting the new year on a clean slate, as it builds momentum. So let’s dive into how we can use these tricks and utilize our brains most effectively.

Start now

It takes around 2 months of consistent dedication to a create a habit. If you start thinking now of what you’d like to implement in 2020, you’ll already have an advantage.

Remember that time is a relative concept, we each experience it differently; although it passes at the same rate. So don’t add too much pressure on yourself to perfect new routines at the very start of the year.

By using December to warm up to your goals, you’ll enter the new year ready to rumble.

Start small

Here’s something that I’ve mentioned before: Start small. It’s such a recurring pattern that I keep witnessing; diving into large goals and getting overwhelmed.

A mental trick is to start small and make the first step as easy as possible.

You’re trying to build up towards massive goals and become the best version of yourself. Move from conscious incompetence, to unconscious competence. Once it becomes comfortable doing the easy task, make it a little more challenging.

Remember: Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.

Stay consistent

The key to all mastery? Consistency. This is something else that I often find when people fail to achieve their new year resolutions; they stop being consistent.

Self-love is essentially keeping at your craft and taking care of yourself. It’s pushing one more rep at the gym. It’s refusing to go out when you haven’t exercised or read for the day. It’s refusing to order pizza when it isn’t your cheat day. It’s journalling consistently and working on your emotional intelligence.

Be like the sun. It rises and sets everyday without fail.

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Yes that quote is a little overused, but it’s very true. First we form our habits, then our habits form us.

Don’t stop believing in yourself. Especially when it gets difficult. That’s where it counts the most. Everyone can make progress when it’s easy or when it’s a good day. It’s about making progress when it’s difficult or when you dread it.

Read, reflect, plan and grow

If you have been journalling throughout the year, now is the time to look back on those entries and see the changes you’ve endured. You’ve survived all the tough times and achieved so many goals. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Embrace the progress and reflect on your life in general. See what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you. There’s so much to learn from our own life, if we just give it a little more attention.

All the L’s that I’ve received this year are just Lessons.

“I never fail or lose, I always learn.” Keep that mentality and nothing can crush your momentum. Foster a growth mindset and your blessings will be so much clearer.

As for planning and growing, my post on time management sums it up pretty well. If you can form structure in your life, your days will become exponentially more productive. Don’t forget to write down your goals and visualize yourself achieving them. Consistently.

Stay mindful, give thanks & forgive

Stay mindful of your thoughts and behaviours. Notice the aspects of your mentality that are holding you back. Remove the self-doubt and negative self-talk. Once you become aware of a thought or emotion, it no longer holds any weight over you.

Don’t be afraid to feel. Don’t be afraid to fall or fail. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Life is a set of trials and errors. If you’re not willing to make mistakes, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Focus on your blessings. Think of all you have to be grateful for every single day. Think of how blessed you are to live through another year. Remember that death is the only guarantee we have in life, so live each day as if it’s your last.

This Kurzgesagt video perfectly explains gratitude! One of the best YouTube videos I’ve come across.

Do yourself another massive favour and learn to forgive. Holding onto grudges only causes more suffering for you. Does it make sense to start a new year with resentment of the past? Make peace with your demons and those who’ve done you wrong.

Not for them. For you. Forgiveness is another form of self-love. It’s a reflection of your character and the type of person you are. The more you’re able to forgive, the more peace and clarity you’ll witness in your life.

This post was meant to be a quick summary of my favourite topics. I want us all to try our best, each and every single day. Don’t wait for the new year to start. Now is all you have. You don’t know if you’ll have another day to live. Spread love, joy and peace to your best ability, each and everyday.

Smile more. Laugh more. Be grateful. Be merciful. And most importantly, don’t be crippled by fear. Life favours the bold and courageous. You are fully capable of achieving your wildest goals and ambitions, don’t let anyone (especially you!) stop you.

Thinking out loud ~ 2

Appreciation. Nature. Stillness. Presence.

Something that I find incredibly valuable, is noticing how unique the sky looks; Every. Single. Day. Just take a moment every morning to notice the patterns and formations taken by the clouds. It’ll never be the same.

I think being present amplifies your ability to learn. When we’re fully engaged in a single activity and give it our undivided attention, we’ll notice and take into account the most minute of details. This allows us to build on our muscle memory a lot quicker.

So how do we stay present? My first suggestion would be to acknowledge what a chatter box our ‘monkey mind’ is. We’re constantly evaluating ourselves and other people, which pulls us out of the now. By sifting through all these different perspectives in our minds, it leads to distraction. Do you want to know what works as jet fuel for distraction?

Social media.

This might be obvious and I’m certain there’ll be varying opinions on this. But you can’t deny the fact that, spending excessive amount of time on platforms that have infinite scroll feeds, will damage your concentration and capacity to learn rapidly. There’s no learning without remembering. Remembering also requires us to pay proper attention, for efficient storage of memories.

Your mind is one of your most valuable assets. There’s definitely a reason why there are systems in place, trying hard to take control over it. The more time you spend unconsciously scrolling through posts or binge-watching, the more you’re allowing others to influence your mindset.

All I’m saying is, make sure you use social media consciously. You can get trapped very swiftly. Moving onto something that positively affects your mind.

Sunsets. Trees. Butterflies.

I talk about plants and my love for trees a lot to my friends, because I feel like I gain wisdom when walking through forests. Because of their resilience and ability to adapt, it’s inspiring to be around that kind of energy. Following your nature and doing what’s required of you each and everyday. No randomness, no distraction. Everything in moderation.

Sunsets bring joy to my soul. There’s no other way to describe it. Sitting in sea point watching the waves crash over the rocks, with the pastel colours of the departing sun across the horizon. I try and learn from those experiences too. No matter what happens, the sun still sets and rises at the same place. It shows up. It follows its nature.

The waves of the ocean? Exactly the same thing. Resilience, consistency, perseverance. It brings serenity and calmness to the mind and body too. I have a hypothesis as to why. When we’re observing nature, the energy is pure and cyclic. The world follows a certain path, we just need to understand the inevitable temporariness of it all.

That leaves us with mindfulness and gratitude. What better way to live, than in the moment with utmost contentment?

Just wanted this to be another quick reminder, on how valuable it is to protect your mind & values. Take in deeper breaths, open your eyes a little wider and always remember to smile a lot brighter. Notice the small details and be grateful to have yet another day.

[Took all these pics on different nature-appreciation missions :)]

The 5 AM Club

The way you start your day, powerfully shapes how productively you’ll live it.

This post will be very closely linked to The Journey II. I’ll speak about the importance of waking up early and how a powerful morning routine can help you make everyday, legendary! As previously mentioned, this will discuss a lot of The 5 AM Club (5AC) by Robin Sharma, so it’ll be similar to a book review.

Essentially I’ll discuss the values I’ve found most useful and how it has truly helped me amplify my days. Through asking questions about why we should wake up early, then answering them by discussing the benefits, I’ll hopefully convince you to wake up earlier. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a ‘morning person’, you are what you do repeatedly.

Before I dive into the routine on how we can make the most of our day, I’ll talk about some of the wisdom I’ve learnt from the story in the 5AC.

Give more, take less. There’s just something profound about being generous or charitable, whereby the more you give the more you get. I’ve genuinely become a firm believer of that (a key pillar of Islam is to be charitable), and it’s emphasized quite a lot here. From my own experience, giving to those who are less fortunate or just being generous to those around you, instills gratitude.

When you’re grateful and content, you’re no longer chasing accumulation or greed. This is something I’m extremely thankful to my parents for, they’re genuinely the kindest people in my life. I know gratitude is repeated a lot in my posts, but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most important values to me.

Another piece of wisdom is being relentless in your dedication. The moment you feel like giving up and calling it quits, is the moment you should try your best to stay put and push forward. This teaches something called grit; that the ability to persevere and work hard outweighs talent. [Grit by Angela Duckworth is an incredible read for those interested in resilience and passion]

“The soreness of growth is so much less expensive, than the devastating costs of regret.”

The final point, is to just acknowledge that there’s more than just mindset to focus on. There are 4 interior empires to balance for success and fulfillment, which sort of relates to The Journey V. They are:

  • Mindset
  • Heartset
  • Healthset
  • Soulset

I won’t go into too much detail since I’ve already discussed it previously, but keep in mind that, starting your day by working on each of those components is key to having a legendary day, everyday.

Mindset would revolve around your self-talk and pyschology. Heartset is having the ability to be forgiving and compassionate to the world around you, as well as dealing with the traumas and heartbreaks of your past.

Healthset is ensuring you exercise sufficiently and stay in optimum health. Finally, soulset is about your ability to cultivate your character. Your authenticity, bravery and courage, what you stand for. So these are the four interior empires that we need to focus on each and everyday for longevity and fulfillment.

Let’s start with why? Why should we wake up at 5 am everyday?

1- Okay I’ll first start with something simple; it enhances the state of ‘flow‘. This can be considered the peak mental state where our perceptions become heightened, our originality increases and we’re able to access new levels of processing power. For me, this state is most easily accessed when I play soccer for example. It’s when you enjoy doing something so much (albeit challenging), that you forget about everything else, lose track of time and find an optimal way to focus.

2- Another simple reason would be to obtain a Gargantuan Competitive Advantage (GCA). Just think about all that you can achieve if you’re up before everyone else. I’ve been feeling like I’ve lived multiple days in one since waking up at 5 am. How does this give me a GCA? Well because I have time to focus on finding clarity within myself, before rushing and diving into the chaos & compulsion of daily life. Waking up at such an early point of the day, allows you to sit in stillness with yourself, plan for the day, focus on your core values and overall prepare before everyone else.

3- In case you still need another reason, it develops your willpower. We need to truly understand that willpower can be developed, like a skill, through relentless practice. Which is why I believe there’s no such thing as a morning person. The more you fight the urge to stay in bed, and get up at 5, the more you stretch the willpower muscle. This in turn, makes it easier for you to increase your self-control, and once the habit is formed, it becomes second nature. (Remember how I keep talking about cold showers? This is another reason why.)

“Consistency is the DNA of all mastery.”

General theory of self-discipline: To regularly do what is hard but important, when it feels most uncomfortable, is how warriors are born.

These are just some of the reasons why I think it’s absolutely critical to wake up at 5 am, let’s dive into how we can actually structure the morning to make the most of those early hours.

The 20/20/20 formula

  • Move (Intense exercise)
  • Reflect (Pray/journal/meditate)
  • Grow (Read/listen to audio-books)

This technique is essentially the way to kick-start your day, by structuring the glory hour (first hour of your day) into 3 x 20 minute slots. For the first 20 minute slot, build up a sweat. Exercising releases brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), which is a protein responsible for growing neural connections. It essentially helps build the brain circuits, which allow hormones such as dopamine and serotonin to travel. Basically, the more BDNF in the brain, the better.

The hormone cortisol (which is responsible for stress), is also highest after you wake up. Therefore, starting your day off with exercise not only helps strengthen your neural connections, but also aids in releasing endorphins and other feel-good chemicals which help reduce cortisol.

The second slot should be used to reflect. Reflection in the sense of identifying your values, your core characteristics & your WHY. It’s also a great time to be thankful and to pray, as this develops contentment and happiness throughout the day. Meditating can also be done, focusing on the present moment and clearing your thoughts out early off in the morning.

Another thing to do would be to plan the day and visualize how you’d like the day to go. Journalling as I love to recommend, is perfect for this slot too, and you can check out the post I’ve already written on how to journal.

There a lot of things we can do during this period of reflection and I often spend more than 20 minutes on it. The point is to take this formula and maneuver around it, however you seem fit. It also doesn’t have to specifically start at 5 am, start slow at the hour you usually wake up and then work your way down.

Slow consistent steps, yield staggering results.

The final slot of the glory hour should be used to grow. The point here is to learn and gain knowledge. This time can be spent reading a book, listening to podcasts / motivational audios, or even reviewing your goals. This adds another aspect to the GCA, considering you’ll be progressing in some form each and everyday.

It’s also imperative to stay away from your phone during the first hour of your day, to avoid unnecessary distraction and stress. The next point will be discussing how to actually implement this habit.

The benefits of the glory hour are as follows can be seen the info-graphic below.

The habit installation protocol

The diagram below illustrates how the automaticity point of habits are formed. The first 22 days is called the destruction phase. This is essentially the phase in which an old habit must be destroyed to allow space for the new habit.

Remember: habits can’t be erased they can only be replaced.

The second 22 days is called the installation (or confusion) stage, this is where the habit is starting to settle in. This phase is also quite confusing because it’s still difficult to keep up with the habit and the urge to quite becomes stronger than ever. It’s critical to push past the mental challenge and keep going forward, as this builds on grit.

The final stage is called the integration phase. This is when things slowly start to make sense and the routine approaches automaticity. After 66 days (of continuous discomfort and resilience), the habit would’ve become second nature and comfortable.

It’s highly recommended, to keep at any habit you truly wish to incorporate into your life, for at least 66 days before calling it quits. This at least gives you the opportunity to truly see whether you’re capable of the change or not.

“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”

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

Once a habit is established, what next? Start with the next habit and keep growing! I’ll move onto the Islamic perspective for this habit.

Islamic Perspective

Once again, there’s always an Islamic benefit to the habits I try to install. Waking up at predawn to pray Tahajjud before Fajr (the compulsory morning prayer), is an absolute game changer. Starting your day off with remembering God and being thankful, allows for you to experience a fulfilling and gratifying day.

It has been stated in many aHadith, that the rewards of praying at the earliest hours of the morning (or final third of the night) is especially significant. Specifically because you need to be in a state of Wudhoo (ablution), therefore it requires you to cleanse yourself. You would also need to pick yourself out of bed at a very difficult time, which is very rewarding. This results in piety and God-consciousness (Taqwa), which also leads to more discipline.

“Be vigilant in standing up [in prayer] at night, for it was the practice of the pious before you. It is a means of gaining proximity to Allah Ta’ala, expiation for transgressions and a barrier from sins.” (Tirmidhi)

I’ve hopefully managed to convince you after this lengthy discussion & the previous post, to take your sleeping and waking patterns more seriously. Some of the key takings from this post are: To give more and take less. Remember that joining the 5AC gives you a GCA, allows you to enter the state of flow more readily and teaches you grit.

The four interior empires need to be worked on each and everyday; your mindset, heartset, healthset & soulset. The 20/20/20 formula includes moving, reflecting and growing. That the habit installation protocol requires at least 66 days before automaticity. And finally, to understand that there’s an islamic benefit for waking up early to pray and remembering God, which has incredible rewards.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the book:

Own your morning, Elevate your life!

Travelling

2018 was by far the most eventful year of my life. I was lucky enough to explore different parts of the world, experience cultures I never imagined I would & just overall learn to appreciate everything I have. In today’s blog post, I’m going to speak about the benefits of travelling and how it can help shape you as a person.

You leave your comfort zone.

When you find yourself in a foreign city, almost everything you experience will be unfamiliar in a way. The streets you walk in, the people you see, the food you eat, the culture you immerse yourself in & even the language you try to speak. It’s a constant journey of learning and adapting, which is incredible for you as a person. Your mind sort of changes when you’re constantly in a state of adapting: you improvise faster, you accept the discomfort, embrace the language barriers & indulge in the weird food delicacies. This teaches you a lot more than just how to live in other cultures, it teaches you life lessons. Skills that you can cultivate in other aspects of your life and develop you as a person. You also meet the coolest people from different places and become life-long friends with them.

Opens your mind.

You notice how different life is for other people in different parts of the world. It also helps you realize that you aren’t the centre of the world. So often we get caught up in our own bubble with mundane issues, that we don’t realize we’re here for a greater purpose. There’s so much to discover out there and we should never limit ourselves to what’s in front of us. Travelling allows you to see how different yet similar we all are, and that people struggle with the same issues more than you would’ve ever imagined.
Remember: Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.

Makes you grateful.

Honestly one of the most important aspects of travelling is how grateful it makes you. When struggling to find food that we’re used to or people that we can easily speak to, you sometimes start to miss home. You become grateful for how comfortable your life is and how easy things are. You see how much better off you are in comparison, and learn not to take everything for granted. Contrary to that tho, you also become grateful for how incredible life is in other places. You stare in awe at how magnificent the snow-capped mountains look, or how calm and majestic the lakes running through the country-side are. When you stop for a moment to actually take in how beautiful this planet is, it makes you think for a second about the way we’re treating it and how we can do better.

Enhances creativity.

Another wonderful aspect about constantly observing foreign features, is that it allows you to see things you usually wouldn’t. I’ve mentioned that before but this is seeing things in a different perspective. From the artworks & architecture to the food and culture. From an artistic point of view, the more you expose yourself to, the larger your database is. So without realizing it, you’re inclined to becoming more creative and more diverse with the way you express yourself. When studying the works of great artists, you learn more about yourself through them and it changes you.

Self-discovery.

The final point I’ll speak about is how travelling allows you to discover yourself. It’s paradoxical in the sense where, when you learn about the world around you, in turn you learn more about yourself. When dealing with yourself in all these different situations, you kind of figure out more about you! There’s always so much to learn and the entire process aids in forming a better relationship with yourself. Here’s a remarkable quotes to summarize it all:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Honestly so grateful to my parents for allowing me to constantly travel and experience the world. It’s one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It allows you to leave your comfort zone, opens your mind, makes you more appreciative of life, enhances your creativity and gives you insight on yourself. My advice to you is to just travel! Material gain and accumulation is amazing yes, but nothing will compare to the experiences and memories you form from exploring the world.

One life. One shot. #NoRegrets