Haven’t We Been Here Before?

Life has an interesting way of functioning. As much as we make progress and move forward, there’s also a sense that we’re just going in loops. I love the concept of things being cyclic. Going back to the starting point. Isn’t that the purpose? To go back to where we came from.

The reason I’m emphasizing the circular aspect of life is because it requires intentional consistency. The only way to make rapid progress and to evolve is to try something, make mistakes, learn, repeat. The most important part is repeating and doing it again.

Moving into the new year, things feel strangely similar. We’ve been here before. We’ve had this experience of trying to make new goals, to stop new habits, to let go of toxic relationships, to work more on ourselves, to exercise more regularly and to eat more healthily. What keeps messing up? Or rather, why is it always the same cycle?

Life is a loop

Spend time in nature and you’ll notice how everything is created for the other. The food chain is a remarkable example of that interconnectedness.

We should then come to understand that we too are here for a very specific reason. We affect each other at a very subconscious level. Energy is contagious. Surround yourself with people who make you feel alive. Who make you feel worthy of your ambitions.

“Aim for the moon, if you miss you might hit a star.”

When we set incredible goals, we’re likely to fail at some point. The purpose is to maximize learning from those mistakes, make improvements and set even greater goals.

How do we utilize that loop and ensure we make the most of that interconnectedness? Through being intentional in our daily lives.

Intentions

As I’ve mentioned several times before, intentions are the driving force behind behaviours. Start and end your day by being intentional.

The reason we fall into bad loops or end up failing a positive loop is because we lose track of our intentions. That’s the key component to every action.

Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviour

As you align your intentions with your values, you’ll start noticing that your thoughts, feelings and behaviour all influence each other. They’re non-mutually exclusive. This is another example of how everything is looped.

The quality of your life experience is dictated by the quality of your thoughts.

Your thoughts then have an impact on your feelings and behaviour. Your feelings can also affect your thoughts and your behaviour, and vice versa. I’m repeating this statement because I want you to start removing negative self-talk and to stop waiting for motivation.

Keep optimistic. Look at the bigger picture. Think outside the box. Just keep trying. Don’t wait to feel in the mood. Put yourself in the mood. Take the necessary action to ignite the stored energy. Unleash your full potential. Don’t wait for later. Act now.

Consistency

And now to discuss the most important skill needed in life (in my opinion), consistency. Can you imagine how complicated everything would be if there was no consistency? The world would be chaos. You’d spend every ounce of energy trying to make your next move; even trying to decide when to brush your teeth.

Consistency is the key to mastery.

I know you know how important consistency is, but it also seems to slip away. Even after all the new year resolutions and making promises and what not. But now it’s time to truly make a difference. Just open your eyes and focus a little more on how crucial the concept of consistency is; especially from a natural POV. All you need to do is find the loops that you want to implement to make a positive change, and be consistent.

It’s as simple and as complicated as that. Start small. Do it every day. Make baby progress. Don’t feel bad for failing. Learn from your mistakes. Keep at it. Grow.

Don’t Stop, Believing

The thing about having a growth mindset is that you just don’t ever give up on yourself (realistically speaking). You keep trying. You believe that the more effort and deliberate pratice you put in, the more you’ll achieve the results.

As we reflect over the ups and down of the past few months, we’ll notice that we were extremely resilient. We’ve overcome circumstances and situations that we never thought were possible.

You only grow in a state of discomfort.

The more uncomfortable it is, the more it will catalyze your ability to progress and grow. You have a chance to restart each and every day.

Believe in yourself. Now, tomorrow and always. You are beautiful. You are capable. You are worthy. You are strong enough to overcome your trials. You are smart enough to figure it out. You are going to get better, faster and stronger. Don’t ever stop believing in yourself.

You got this.

Learning How To Learn

One of my favourite subjects in high-school was Math. I can definitely give some credit to our incredible math teacher at the time; Mr. Williams. He was always light-hearted and made the process of learning rather enjoyable.

Considering I grew up in Saudi Arabia as an expat, he was one of the few South Africans that I could relate to at the time. I also ended up becoming great friends with his sons, when I moved to Cape Town to study after high-school.

The reason why I’m starting with that flashback, is because there’s a phrase Mr. Williams used to always scream at us:

“You have to learn how to learn!”

Please keep in mind that this was conveyed in a thick Capetonian accent, which we all found absolutely hilarious at the time. As I started growing up and learning more, I realized that this man was well ahead of the game. We learn everything there is to know in school, except, the most important skill; which is learning how to learn.

I want to dive into the concept of being a life-long learner, something that I always gained tremendous insight into after being part of the 20 Life Learners group. A lot of the topics that I cover here will be from the book ‘Limitless’ by Jim Kwik. It’s absolutely remarkable and I highly recommend you give it a read for yourself.

Why is learning so important?

It comes down to why. The purpose. The reason why we learn in the first place. As always, it usually has something to do with service. With leaving the world (or even just your environment) in a slightly better condition compared to when you found it.

This question is rather difficult to answer. It’s specific to each individual really. Reflect on the concept of learning in general, and why you think it’s important to you. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.

For me, learning is about continuously improving. It’s about becoming better at a certain skill, subject or experience. It makes life a little easier and more fulfilling. It’s also about sharing the knowledge with other people. With the intention to help them improve and make their own life easier.

“Aspire to Inspire”

That motto came about in a phase of my life when I felt kind of clueless. I didn’t really know what to do with my time. I decided to divert my energy into something a little more useful than just playing games or spending time with friends. I realized that by increasing my own knowledge (through learning), I was able to help others more.

Reading is the ultimate form of learning. Just reminding you of why it’s so important to build that habit as soon as you can. I’ve written a post previously on how to read faster and more effectively.

The system

I’m not sure about you, but most of the people I know study to pass. Educational institutes are run more like businesses now than anything else. It’s about making as much profit as you can from every student. Through all the chaos (and capitalism I suppose), we lost the essence of what learning is all about.

We no longer worry about whether we’re maximizing our potential or chasing our passions. It’s about passing the exam. Cramming the night before for your assignment. Submitting when you know you’ve put it enough to pass. In that process, what are we really learning?

Study to learn and to create deep knowledge, not just to pass an exam or assignment.

I’ll tell you why I really dislike the concept of cramming the night before, you don’t actually retain any of the information. It doesn’t get the chance to enter your long-term memory because your intention was not to learn, but rather to just pass.

Being intentional with your learning

An important consideration moving forward is to be intentional with your actions, especially when it comes to learning. Our intentions are the driving force behind our behaviours.

Next time you’re studying for anything at all, keep in mind how the knowledge you’re gaining is actually going to benefit those around you. Realize that you’re going to make an impact, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s something positive.

It can be tempting to fall prey to the way our assignments are marked and just try to cram. But that’s not the point. Even if you don’t enjoy what you’re currently studying, find something else in your free time that you can learn with passion. That you can learn intentionally. That you can learn to be of service.

Mark Twain said it wonderfully, as I’ve previously quoted:

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

Don’t ever limit yourself. You’re not born ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’. It’s all about the processes you use and the way you train yourself. You have the capacity to grow. To expand beyond your limiting beliefs. To learn faster and more efficiently than ever before. You’re capable of being a superhero.

Just use your brain more. It’s like a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. You have so much potential within you. Keep trying. Keep pushing. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Embrace your growth mindset and flourish in discomfort. It’s the only way to grow. You got this.

Why Exercise Is Important

I’ve started going to the gym again after taking a pretty long break. Over the past few months, I was still keeping a little active – surfing, jogging and playing soccer – but it wasn’t enough. Due to the prolonged period of inactivity, I became a lot more prone to injuries. Today, I want to speak to you about the benefits that I’ve personally experienced from working out.

As with all habits, always remember to start with why. Keep your intentions clear and aligned with your values. The more the benefits of what you’re trying to do are clear, the more likely you are to stay consistent.

I’ll dive into the mental health benefits, the physical health benefits, developing consistency, a growth mindset and mental sharpness.

Mental Health and Self-esteem

You’ve probably heard this before but I’m here to reiterate the point, your physical health and mental health are interlinked. The better you take care of your physical needs (i.e. Exercise regularly, sleep well, eat healthy), the better your mental health will be.

The interesting thing about exercise is that it’s an incredible distraction. All you focus on when you’re working out is the next rep, the next mile or the next stretch. You narrow down your concentration and form some kind of tunnel vision, allowing you to de-stress.

When you feel good about your body, your self-esteem naturally boosts. This has tremendous benefits to your psyche, because your inner self-talk plays a critical role in your day-to-day activities.

Next time you’re feeling lazy to work out or go for a jog, think of how much better you’ll feel when those muscles are burning. Not only will you have more mental clarity, but you’ll also have more confidence in yourself.

Physical Health and Longevity

This is a bit more obvious. Exercising improves your physical health (Duh). To ensure that your body functions effectively, you need to constantly keep it active. A simple way to think about it is like a car. If you keep it static and stagnant for a long period of time, things can go in many different ways.

The circulation in your body also helps deliver blood more efficiently to the different organs, as well as your brain. This relationship helps cells recover faster and keeps you healthier, for longer. In essence, keeping fit helps you survive for longer (keeping in mind that the time you pass on has already been written and is inevitable).

Consistency

An invaluable skillset. I talk about this quite a lot, but this habit emphasizes it perfectly. You only get better, fitter and stronger when you exercise consistently. It’s also quite incredible how you can transfer this mindset into other areas of your life.

How you are in one part of your life is how you are in all parts of your life. You can’t separate who you are. The way you carry yourself at work, at home, at the gym, on the field, whilst studying, inevitably leaks into all other areas. Focus on giving everything your best shot.

“What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Keep at it. Don’t stop after a week or 2. Don’t even stop after a month or 2. Just keep at it for a few months and make improvements on your weak spots. This brings me to my next point, having a growth mindset.

Growth Mindset

I absolutely love talking about this concept because it’s such an important part of life. You have to believe in overcoming the discomfort. You have to believe that the struggle is making you stronger. You have to believe that pushing yourself past your limits will lead to growth.

This is easily proven when you’re doing any kind of exercise. Whether it’s lifting weights, running a half marathon, working on difficult yoga poses or just stretching. You need to continuously exert yourself and see how that allows you to reach your goals.

You’ve got to learn to love the burn. This will then allow you to build on your resilience; which as you should know, works exactly like a muscle.

Energy and Mental Sharpness

I’ve already mentioned how the blood circulates to your brain better when you exercise. This in turn gives you energy and an ability to focus. You’re training yourself mentally as much as you are physically, and the benefits are holistic.

The point of this blog post was to motivate you to get up and get going. There’s always a million and one excuses why we can’t exercise. I’ve hopefully given you a million and one reasons to make it a priority. Start small and keep consistent, even if it’s just a 15 minute walk everyday.

If you say ‘I don’t have the time’, you need to carefully re-arrange your priorities. Taking out the time to exercise will not only help you stay fit, but it will also give you more energy, help with your mental health, and allows you to develop consistency, resilience and a growth mindset.

The Skills You Gain From Experiencing Hardship

I haven’t been able to post in the past 2 weeks because Uni got the better of me. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced tremendous discomfort or stress at some point in the past few months. In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the skills that I’ve developed because of that.

This will relate to my previous post on breathing, where I tried to encourage a mindfulness technique for maintaining calm. This time, it’s more about approaching difficulties with a growth mindset. Here are 5 key points that I’ve taken away from experiencing discomfort.

  1. Faith
  2. Resilience
  3. Patience
  4. Compromise
  5. Gratitude

Faith

Let’s start with Faith. Your fundamental beliefs and your values define the way you view the world. You need to have a sense of purpose, a why, otherwise you won’t understand the reason behind the suffering.

I’m grateful to be a Muslim, as Islam has shaped the way I engage with difficulties and finding a sense of purpose. The mindset and outlook I have towards my life experiences are largely shaped by my faith.

You’ve got to trust in the process. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Keep this beautiful quote in mind:

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

When you start accepting how much is out of your control, it brings a sense of calmness. Focus on what you can do. Focus on your perception. This brings me to the next point, resilience.

Resilience

I absolutely love the concept of resilience because it resonates with everything that I do. It’s about constantly trying your best, regardless of the setbacks and hardship you face.

It’s also important to understand that our failures are ultimately our greatest teachers. When we decide to face those fears and tackle the problems head on, we start to develop resilience.

It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to complain. It’s easy to blame others. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. It’s easy to throw a pity party. But that’s not what leads to growth. That’s not what helps you succeed. That’s not what will benefit you in the long run.

Next time you experience something profoundly difficult or painful, remember how much it’s going to help you grow. Every day is just a set of new problems. It’s doesn’t get any easier, you just get better at solving it.

Patience

Being patient is another crucial skill you’ll need throughout your life. It’s something you will encounter in every single task you experience. Being patient is about training your mind to accept the inevitable. To slow down. To stay calm. To remain level-headed.

You need to be patient with the process. You can’t rush through and expect everything to work out. Life is more of a marathon than a sprint. You need to pace yourself and focus on your breath work.

Don’t get worked up on things that are out of your control. Focus on what you can do. Take it easy dude, you got this. Let’s see how adaptation plays a role in all this.

Compromise

Things almost always never go according to plan. You’ll realize that sooner or later. Compromising isn’t about lowering your standards. It’s about accepting that you have to change your plan when things hits the fan.

This is generally a combination of the previous points. With faith, resilience and patience, you can learn to rapidly adapt to unexpected challenges. Think about how many times things took longer than they should’ve? If you account for contingencies and plan for the worst-case scenario, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed.

Gratitude

Easily the most important skill (or value) to gain. If you view things from a lens of gratitude, everything is there to help you grow. You start appreciating the little things in life a lot more too. You realize how much you take for granted on a daily basis; be it your time, energy, wealth or health.

When you experience difficulty of any sort, focus on what’s going well in your life. I know this can be particularly challenging, especially when sprawling into negativity is so much easier. But really think about how blessed you truly are. Think about all that you’ve managed to gain or retain during the challenging time.

You’re gaining life skills. You’re more resilient. You’re more patient. You’re learning to work hard. You’re still breathing. You still have food to eat. You have access to the internet (and therefore, to education). You have access to electricity. To shelter. To warmth. To clean water.

Don’t ever forget about everything that you do have when things start getting tough.

It’s critical to establish honest communication with yourself (and those who are important to you). If you’re clear about what’s going well and what isn’t, you’ll have a better idea of how to prepare. You’ll also be able to articulate how you’re feeling to those around you; allowing them to assist you where possible.

This post just covers a few simple points to think about next time you experience something difficult. As I already said, life is just a process of solving problems; every day there’s going to be a new challenge.

Trust the process and have faith. Understand how this all builds up your resilience. You’ve got to remain patient and stay level-headed. You need to learn to adapt and overcome. You need to focus on what you have and be thankful. Failure is just a stepping stone to success. You got this!

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Despite what the title says, this post has nothing to do with mirrors. Or walls for that matter. It does, however, have everything to do with reflection.

It’s been a while since I’ve just shared random thoughts. The recent posts have been somewhat structured and have had some kind of life lesson. Today I’ll be thinking out loud. I’ll be sure to include some philosophy and wisdom.

Routine and schedule

I tend to talk about routine and how important it is to have a schedule on a regular basis. But where did this all come from? Was I always like this? Why am I always trying to motivate people?

Asking myself these questions was a great way to gain insight into how my brain works.

I was never like this at all. In fact, during high school, I was more or less the complete opposite. I wouldn’t dare touch a book. I had no sense of routine. I would just play video games at any given opportunity, watch series, or play soccer.

A very clear memory I have of my upbringing is the way my dad used to yell at me to wake up in the morning for school. I was notorious for constantly getting back into bad after he’d wake me up several times. This genuinely carried on until I left for university. God really tested that man’s patience with me.

Somehow, after all those years of resisting waking up early and forming a routine, I started seeing why it was so important. I became a ‘morning person’, despite always believing that I never was.

I kind of started realizing how most things in life depend on some form of structure and consistency. Without those 2 key components, we just end up stagnating. It took some thinking and looking back at the ways things were, to figure that out.

Throwback

What I really want to focus on here is how I got to where I am, by reflecting over my daily disciplines and practice. Throwbacks have become a way for us to reminisce the past and think of the good old days.

The only problem is that we tend to focus on all the good and what went well. That’s great and can definitely put you in a good mood, but it’s not where most of the learning occurs.

Life teaches us lessons from our painful experiences. We’ve also evolved to find ways to numb the pain and to hide it within deep layers of our psyche. This results in subconscious behaviours that can be toxic or that hold us back.

So what do we do about that?

Reflect!

The short story I wrote about my simple experience of waking up early was greatly affected by my experiences growing up. Through reflection and trying to understand where the rebelliousness was actually coming from, I managed to become a ‘morning person’.

This also works for situations that are much deeper and more important than just waking up early. I just want you to utilize the tool of reflection more often.

Looking into a mirror is quite a trip. You’re looking into the person you’ve become after all the years of experience on planet Earth. Here are some things to think about:

  • What have you learned up until now?
  • What important lessons would teach yourself from 5 years ago?
  • How much have you changed since last year?
  • In what ways are you mad?
  • What is holding you back?
  • Why are you so annoying?

Don’t be offended by these questions, they’re meant to help you reflect. Use them as prompt questions in your journal, if you have one. Or just think about them next time you’re staring out the window or going for a walk. You’ll be amazed at the insights you gain.

We’re all idiots

Deep down, we’re all deeply flawed. Some of us just tend to cover it up better than others. I’ve taken this concept from The School Of Life. You can find the link to a very interesting article below.

In essence, realizing how we’re all a bunch of idiots can make us a little more confident. Don’t try too hard to appear ‘normal’. No one is perfect. People who seem to have it all together are just people we don’t really know well enough. That’s also where the whole concept of a crush comes from.

Be yourself and learn from your mistakes. There’s nothing wrong being flawed or being an idiot. It’s part of the human experience.

https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-thinking-youre-an-idiot-lends-confidence/

By looking back at all the ways you’ve previously messed up, you can learn how to improve. It’s not about avoiding making mistakes, it’s about learning as much as we can from them.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”

We’re hyper-adaptive beings. We have impeccable feedback loops. Understand how they work and take care of yourself. You will push through. You will make it out. You will get through this; stronger, faster and better than ever before. Keep trying your best.

Look forward, but take a moment to look back and appreciate how far you’ve come. You’re absolutely incredible.

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 Journey V

Equilibrium. Before my science nerds start geeking out, I’m going to be talking about a different kind of equilibrium here. A balance between Mind, Body & Soul. Maybe more of a triangle, considering how stable of a shape that is.

Mind

I’ve discussed the mind a LOT in this series, and the most relevant topic to this sub-section will be from The Journey IV, where I spoke about the growth mindset. The reason for this is because I want to emphasize how important your mindset is, on perceiving the events that occur to you, and what you can do to develop that.

Taking care of your mind comes in many forms, but a large portion of it comes from seeking discomfort and confronting new challenges. This includes doing things like brain exercises; solving puzzles,playing chess, reading, learning new languages or any form of active engagement which requires thinking. Why? Because of something called neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to physically change throughout your life. Whereby new neural networks and connections are formed in response to new information, sensory information, and learned behaviour.

Let’s simplify this a little, think of riding a bicycle for example. The first time you ever did it, may have seemed quite tough. You struggled a little, couldn’t really balance and maybe even fell off. But the more you practiced, the better you got. This is because the neurons in your brain (neurotransmitters), kept firing in response to the active learning, strengthening the muscle memory. That’s how you get better at things. When you push yourself and try to leave your comfort zone, through consistent practice and dedication, you physically strengthen the neural connections in your body. This allows the process to get easier and easier.

http://blog.myneurogym.com/neuroplasticity-train-your-brain-for-success

How does this now relate to the growth mindset? Well, if you believe that the more consistent and deliberate you are in your practice, the better you get, the more dedicated you can allow yourself to be. So your beliefs inherently allow you to physically change the synaptic connections, and thus allowing you to further grow. It’s the mindset, which leads to behaviour, which in turn produces better results.

Another point to add to this, as part of the triangle, is that you need to take care of your mind by facing your fears. This is again to create newer and stronger synaptic connections. The more you train yourself to deal with what makes you scared, the stronger your mind becomes at overcoming it. I’ll give you a great place to start: have a cold shower every day! It doesn’t have to be the entirety of your shower, but just the first 20 seconds or so. Where you know your mind is anticipating something dreadful, but you dive into it anyway and realize that you’ll survive. Doing these kind of activities on a regular basis allows you to physically develop a healthier brain. I could go on about the benefits of a cold shower, but I’ll leave that research for you. Let’s move on to the second aspect of the equilibrium; taking care of your body.

Body

Ahh, this is where all the fun starts for me; being active! Through rigorous physical exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins.
Endorphins are your body’s natural antidepressant, as they reduce your perception of pain by interacting with receptors in the brain. This occurs through neurotransmitters as previously mentioned, and the neuron receptors which endorphin binds to, are similar to that of pain medication.

Exercise also gets the blood pumping in your body, which increases the oxygen levels, helps promote nutrient absorption and even eliminates toxins from the body. This in turn, strengthens your heart, increases your energy, lowers blood pressure and also helps reduce body fat. If that wasn’t good enough, it also has other psychological benefits; boosting your self-esteem, reducing your anxiety, and helps you sleep better.


“A healthy mind lies in a healthy body.”

The picture above depicts one of my favourite Arabic quotes. And that couldn’t be any more true; the better care you take of your body, the better state you allow your mind to be in. We can now slowly start to see how important the balancing aspect is. But, taking care of your body doesn’t just end with exercise, you need to properly fuel yourself too. I’ll start with something I myself, dreaded to hear as a kid:

  • Eat your fruits and vegetables!
  • Drink lots and lots of water, your brain needs it. (2L per day)
  • Avoid processed (junk) food as much as you can.
  • Reduce sugar consumption.

Essentially, focus on foods that will support your equilibrium. Do some research on brain foods, which include things like: Almonds, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, salmon, walnuts & plenty other ingredients. Once you start adding fresher and more natural produce into your diet, you’ll immediately feel the difference. Not only in your physical health, but your mental health too. I’ll now move onto the final aspect of the triangle, your soul (or spirituality).

Soul

Spiritual practices give our lives meaning, by bringing serenity and peace to the heart. It’s very personal and unique to every individual, and comes to each of us in different ways. Islam is what truly keeps me grounded, through constant praying and strengthening my relationship with God (Allah). That’s where true contentment really comes from, when you can understand and appreciate your blessings more, by thanking & worshipping God.

(This is my own opinion and beliefs, so I understand that it’ll differ from person to person) But like I mentioned in previous posts, we’re here for a greater purpose. It’s not a coincidence or an arbitrary existence.
Spirituality in turn, creates discipline. It allows us to understand that we shouldn’t act on every impulse or desire, and that our actions have consequences. This keeps us in check and brings about a different kind of balance.

Something especially lacking nowadays from my observations, are people consistently following a spiritual practice. This leaves a certain gap or hollowness, which ultimately disrupts the balance and can mess with the mind and body. This directly relates to the post about death, because when we’re spiritually lost (or without direction), it creates fear around what comes next. This fear is very subliminal and manifests itself in different aspects, but will definitely affect the way we live our lives. So what I’m suggesting is that if you don’t already have a belief system or foundation, take some time out for yourself to figure it out. We’re here for more than our university degrees, job statuses, bank accounts and social media followers. (I’m not saying don’t strive to achieve your goals, but don’t make that the only objective in your life.) The only thing we truly take with us when we pass on, is the state of our soul.

Any form of meditation in essence, allows you to ultimately find a balance between all 3. When you’re able to better control your mind, through your body, using your spirit; you develop equilibrium. Naturally, happiness is the result of achieving this.

To bring this triad of information into a pyramid, we need to understand that as multi-dimensional beings, the mind, body and soul are deeply connected. Each plays a vital role in supporting the other, as this forms your whole self. By understanding how your mind works, through its physiology and neuroplasticity, we can develop a growth mindset and work on being better each and every day. By taking care of your body through exercise and a healthy diet, we holistically strengthen our health. Finally, by forming a deeper connection with ourselves and the world, through spirituality, we can find contentment in our lives.

The Journey IV

Growth Mindset 

Today’s topic shall be about mindset, particularly what it means to have a growth mindset and how to think about stress. I’ve been asked about how I deal with stress & anxiety, considering how strenuous the degree I’m undertaking is. (I’m studying chemical engineering at the University of Cape Town). So I’ll also discuss certain techniques that could be useful when feeling overwhelmed by life’s adventures. 

Let’s first differentiate between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes that our intelligence, abilities & characteristics are static givens. Meaning they’re biologically fixed and that our innate skills can’t be changed. Contrary to that, a growth mindset emphasizes the ways in which we can constantly change and adapt when faced with challenges, and has a completely different outlook on success and failure. The diagram below clearly illustrates the 2 different mindsets.

A mental technique that I’ve learned this year is  “Not yet”. Whenever you encounter a new challenge or something that you’re currently unable to do, tell yourself not yet. It’s the best way to keep optimistic whilst embracing the challenge. When you can convince yourself that no matter what it is you’re trying to achieve, you’re just not there yet, the hope stays alive and the dream lives on. I’ve tried this several times and it’s been extremely powerful, especially when pushing for things that seem impossible. Basically don’t ever tell yourself that you can’t. Just not yet :). 

Adding on to the topic of growth mindset, complimenting people for their effort and dedication instead of the results or outcomes.  Part of having a growth mindset includes realizing that it’s about the journey not the destination. That is especially true when it comes to academics. Parents & teachers need to realize that the effort and dedication students put in, matters just as much or even more than the results produced. The skill of pushing yourself and working hard is something to be admired and can help you in every aspect of your life. 

Stress and anxiety often occur as a result of uncontrolled thought patterns. Essentially overthinking. From my own experience of dealing with intense project weeks and exams, I’ve learnt a few tricks that helped me get through them. The most important in my opinion, is staying present. When you have a deeper understanding of the Now, you’ll learn to accept that overthinking is just thinking about things that don’t really exist. When you have a certain amount of time to get something done, give it your best within the present moment. There’s no use worrying about how little time you have left or how much work there is to do. All you have is right now, so use that to your advantage. Cultivate a belief system and program your mind to make the most of the time you currently have. When you can filter your energy and time into that, instead of overthinking, you’ll be able to achieve all that you need. There’s also no use in stressing over things out of your control, so whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, always start with recognition. Once you learn to acknowledge the feeling, accept it, write it down and let it go. Clear your thoughts and get back on the grind. Watch a motivational video or do something that’ll help distract you in a positive way, such as exercising or reading. 

Another trick I learnt, was changing my mindset towards stress. I like to think of stress as my body’s way of getting me ready to take action, gearing up. Whenever you realize you’re stressed, think of it as a reminder to get things done. When you form a healthier relationship with stress, it definitely helps you deal with it better. 

I’ve discussed the difference between a growth and fixed mindset, where the former allows you to constantly seek challenges to grow & the latter makes you feel threatened by obstacles and difficulties. How we should change the way we compliment people and focus more on the effort, rather than the results. How stress can be your friend and just a simple change in perspective can go a long way in dealing with the infamous feeling. I’ll end off with another brilliant quote that I love:

“We suffer not from the events that occur to us, but rather our perception of them.”