It’s been a while since I last posted. Nearly 4 months actually… I kind of forgot about the reason why I started blogging. It felt like I lost my mojo.
There was a bit of a revival last week though, when I attended a family reunion and then also spent a few days in Drakensberg, Alhamdulillah. I actually had some time to reflect, which has been occurring less recently due to being caught up in the rat race.
Back to the point, people started asking me what happened to my blog. That’s when I started asking myself… WHY did I even have a blog? It didn’t take too long for me to realize that it was because I had an urge to share beneficial insights and nuggets of wisdom with the world.
Aspire to Inspire was the motto.
I also started understanding how the blogging had an impact on me, personally. The topics and concepts I’d write about would become more ingrained in my own mind, which helped me practice them more. I basically needed to write these posts to help me become a better person.
So I’m back now and I’m ready to get cracking. I’m not going to take the usual approach and give long, detailed unsolicited advice. I’m just going to share what’s on my mind (which is likely to be unsolicited advice, haha).
There’s a part of me that has been feeling a bit anxious as of late. I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly what it is, but I suspect it has to do with not living up to my own values. There’s a part of me that feels like I need to do more to serve the world around me.
Fulfilment does not come from pursuing selfish needs (for most of us). It’s temporary satisfaction, but there is an underlying emptiness that comes with it. I definitely start to feel a bit out of place in my life when I’m not serving a cause greater than myself. I’ve started to realize more and more that it’s crucial to find a way to give back.
I need to stop being selfish with my time, energy and resources. I can and will do more to help those around me, inshaAllah.
It’s always about being thankful. It’s been ordained onto us by God, and for a specific reason. We are blessed beyond comprehension. The problem? We don’t comprehend enough. If we take 1 minute out of our day to reflect on how much we have, we’ll be impressed. Maybe we’ll even start feeling guilty.
Good. Then it’s time to give more.
I need to stop hoarding, buying, collecting and storing for no real reason. I need to be more thankful, appreciative, and grateful for what I have.
I’ll clear out my wardrobe for clothes that I haven’t worn in the past 6-12 months (even if it’s brand new), give away leftover food more often, and make sure that at the bare minimum, I smile more often!
Our minds are powerful. We have so much potential to grow, develop and contribute. It starts with discipline, having control over our thoughts and impulses. Mindfulness is there in everything we do. In Islam, it’s part of our prayers. It’s been there long before the term itself even existed.
When we pray, we are narrowing our thoughts to the One who created thought itself. To the One who controls everything in existence. Reflecting on God and praying is the ultimate form of being mindful.
I started looking at mindfulness through the wrong lens. It shouldn’t have been about being more efficient or getting more done. It is about understanding and reflecting on purpose. Meditating on life, death and the beauty that encompasses it all. It’s about being alive to the present moment, so I can appreciate the shortness of life, with a focus on the hereafter.
After not blogging for a while, I feel energized writing this post. It’s a way for me to inspire myself, so that I can live in a way that’s more aligned to my true values and purpose. In that, I hope to inspire others to pursue their own journey and live to their full potential.
Resolutions, reflections, goals, motivation, inspiration and so much more. The new year always seems to bring hope for a fresh start. We want to climb higher, earn more, get fitter, chill harder, all whilst feeling more alive. But do we actually end up changing as individuals or not?
At the start of every year, I read back on my journal entries from the previous months leading up to the start of the previous year. I often find trends, as I probably don’t change all that much from the core of who I am. That led me to an astounding new resolution, why don’t I just stay the same person?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sound believer of the growth mindset as you may already know. The point here isn’t to stick to the same bad habits or continue being an a-hole. But it’s not about going to the gym more or eating more carrots either. It’s to look down at my guiding principles and values, and see where that has led me over the past few years.
So where has it all led me? To where I am today.
I’d like to use the first post of the year to look back at how I’ve been the same person over the past couple of years, but just with different habits. Maybe that will help ring something in you too, who knows.
I thought about this after realizing that no matter what it is that I do, I always want to win. I’ve learned to become comfortable with losing, as long as I’ve given it my best shot. Since my pre-school days, I can remember feeling that competitive edge when it came to literally anything.
So when I look into the new year, it’s something that I accept as part of who I am and try to fit in some goals to help me with that attribute. I use my competitive nature to always try to develop new skills and stay up to date with other friends (in similar fields or industries).
Another common theme year-on-year is my eagerness to adventure and try out new activities. This is because I love leaving my comfort zone and experimenting. As part of that, I strive to do something unique every year (if circumstances allow).
It can sometimes be a bad thing because I then itch if I’m sitting still for too long (literally and metaphorically). So even if it’s just trying out a new meal or a new exercise regime, I still include some aspect of novelty in my life.
A little impatient
Despite my constant struggle to be patient, I often find myself rushing people or getting annoyed when plans change too often. It generally results in other people getting annoyed/frustrated at me, which just drives the cycle.
Every year, I try to take it a little easy and stay calm when things don’t go my way. But I just haven’t found the right habits yet to keep me as patient as I’d like to be.
That’s one of the other reasons why I thought of the ‘New year, same me’ concept. Because deep down, we have to put in a lot more effort than we think, to genuinely make progress on ourselves. That brings me to the last point; that I always strive to be driven by values.
Strive to be driven by values
I have some core values in theory and I have some core values in practice. What I’ve noticed over time is that they’re not always aligned. There are parts of me that just take longer to accept the values that I’d like to have.
The one sphere that I particularly want to pay more attention to is that of religion. Being a Muslim comes first and foremost to me, which is where my values come from in the first place. It’s a struggle every year to keep up with the principles and deepen my Islamic knowledge base.
What I’d like to end this post by saying is that a new year factually means that we’re getting closer to our death. This should humble us and inspire us to improve on all facets of our life. We’re here for a specific purpose, and it’s up to us to ensure that we strive towards it.
Be more mindful. Be more present. Have deeper and tougher conversations. Give out more charity. Perform more acts of kindness. Pray more, for yourself and for those you love. Go out on more adventures. Spend less time on your devices and more time connecting with people. Keep up the great work. You got this.
It’s finally time for another book review! I haven’t summarized a book in quite some time, but I finally got some inspiration after starting a book club with my mate Jono. I’ve also been itching to share some useful knowledge that you can read up more on yourself.
The book I’ll be diving into today is called ‘Ego is the Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday. As the title suggests, it’s all about why ego is our greatest opponent and how to fight it. It was actually an eye-opener for me, as I haven’t really realized the way ego can sneak into our worldview and affect almost everything we do.
The book is segmented into 3 main sections; Aspire, Success, and Failure. Each section is comprised of multiple subsections, but I’ll only focus on a couple that resonated quite strongly with me.
The book essentially talks about the different stages that we experience in life and how ego develops in every stage. Ryan Holiday explains the concept by bringing in real-life examples from his personal journey, and by speaking through the stories of other historically famous people.
Let’s understand more about the ego and what we can do to prevent it from crippling us.
This is the phase where we set out to achieve something. We dream big, start chasing goals and begin a new journey. Yet, we oftentimes fall short of our ambition. Ego tends to be the culprit.
Talk, Talk, Talk
How often do we find ourselves talking endlessly about all that we want to achieve in life? Our wishes, our goals, our aspirations seem so much easier when we’re just talking about them. Getting to action or making other people have the spotlight seems less likely.
Silence is a crucial element here, especially when everyone else just seems to be a constant chatterbox. My previous post on The Art of Silence fits well into this section, as it highlights the importance of being comfortable in your own quietness.
The point here is that talking is easy. What’s ultimately always harder is walking the talk. It goes both ways. As one of the partners at the company I currently work at always says: We need to talk the walk and walk the talk. It goes both ways, but the latter is definitely more important.
Become A Student
I think it’s quite clear why this one resonates so much with me. I’ve devoted myself to constantly trying to be a life-long learner. This means approaching life like a sponge. Absorbing as much information and knowledge that I can from people that I encounter and experiences that I face.
It’s crucial not to let ego get in the way of this. We can easily pretend like we know what’s going on or fake our way through certain phases of our life, but it prevents true learning and growth. Having a white-belt mentality at the start will enable us to rapidly develop and gain expertise.
Work, Work, Work
This point links very closely to the one on Talk, Talk, Talk, as it brings in the concept of working hard. What we often underestimate is how challenging it can be to push forward when we face setbacks. Ego often tends to come into the picture here and makes us fall into the planning fallacy. We try as best as we can to avoid doing the actual work, by spending time ‘preparing’ and trying to feel productive about it.
It’s not always going to be easy. We’re going to wish it was a straight and clear path to move forward and achieve that goal. But it’s not going to be that way. There will be challenges, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is embrace it and keep ourselves prepared to overcome the hurdles and become stronger.
“Every time you sit down to do work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this. I am passing the marshmallow test. I am earning what my ambition burns for. I am making an investment in myself instead of my ego.
This is the part where we’re reaping the harvest of the hard work and enjoying success, or where the summit is potentially insight. It’s when our pride, arrogance, and ‘know-it-all’ attitude strike out. It’s where we have to be incredibly careful not to stop learning or undermine the challenges that are yet to come.
Always Stay A Student
“As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”
It’s quite clear why this is so important once we start picking up a few wins. Becoming a student is one thing. Remaining a student is something else altogether. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we’re not ‘there’. There’s no specific end goal to learning. It’s a continuous and life-long process.
When we start to feel like ‘we’ve been there and done that’, we need to keep ourselves in check. There’s always an opportunity to learn from other people, it just depends on the perspective you have.
Beware Of The Disease Of Me
Another crucial humbling point is to remind ourselves that we’re not the centre of the universe. We should not make ourselves feel like we’re the most important person in the room. We need to realize that the privilege of success is not going to continue falling into our lap once we make it.
We have to constantly seek out new challenges and embrace the opportunity to struggle. Give other people credit where it’s due and focus on developing them as well. It’s not all about you. It never will always be about you. Let that sober you up a little bit.
Meditate On the Immensity
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”
Reflect on how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown. How much more there is to grow. Try and see the bigger picture amidst all the distractions. Think of your purpose. Who you are. What you are doing. Your role in this world.
Meaning does not only come from activity, despite how often our ego makes us feel that way. We don’t have to be the centre of attention. We need to look beyond our own success and the rat race, and keep the real objective in mind.
We then hit a roadblock. Things don’t always work out. We might fall short of our achievement. But how do we respond and pick ourselves up? What is the inner dialogue? How do we react?
Alive Time or Dead Time?
We are almost certainly bound to experience failure in some form or the other, at some point in our life. This can be somewhat of a daunting thought, but there are always ‘make or break’ moments that follow those experiences. We either rise above the circumstance and grow, or we let it crush us and stagnate (or even deteriorate).
Alive time or dead time refers to the concept of either utilizing a negative experience to stay alive (to the learnings, the lessons and potential to grow), or to die out (by falling into bad habits, losing hope and giving up).
When faced with any form of fear, we should constantly try to look at how we can learn from it. Almost all our experiences have some form of value to offer. It’s up to us to extract it. Choose alive time.
The Effort is Enough
“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
“Do your work. Do it well. Then let go, and let God.”
To me, this section focused on having a growth mindset. Ryan Holiday brought it up in a slightly different way though. When it comes to missing our targets or not achieving our set out goals, we should focus on the effort we put in. It’s not always about the result, it’s about the dedication.
He brings it up in the context of appreciation and not getting all the praise we deserve for what we set out to do. We should remind ourselves that it’s not our objective to be put on a pedestal. That’s the ego’s goal. Our goal is to try our best and keep pushing, whatever that may mean.
When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to hate. It’s easy to blame other people and not take responsibility for the outcomes. We should keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t get us any closer to our goal. In fact, it may even arrest our development entirely.
What we need to do in moments of difficulty is to choose love. To choose forgiveness. To let go of resentment and arrogance. This is definitely easier said than done, but the outcome will always be better. Maybe not for everyone involved, but definitely for your own well-being.
Choosing love is hard because the ego convinces us that we have every right to hate and stay bitter. Which is probably true. Your anger might be justifiable. But it doesn’t mean that lashing out will help you progress. In moments of failure, always love.
Throughout our life, we’ll always be in one of those three stages. Ego will invariably try to play a role in directing us. It’s up to us to be conscious enough in our decisions, to remain humble and to always remain a student.
How often are you able to sit comfortably in silence with other people? Do you find that you struggle to sit in silence with yourself? Do you constantly need to have some kind of noise to keep you distracted?
We live in an era where there is more noise than ever before. The appropriate term to use would be pollution. It’s excessive, it’s everywhere and it’s addicting. But what exactly do I mean by noise? I mean constantly being occupied with something to do. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube, constantly talking or even just reading the news. We struggle to sit in silence.
In today’s post, I’d like to talk about why silence is so important, why it’s so difficult to do, and how we can learn to become more comfortable sitting in silence. This will not only be valuable for ourselves, but it also allows us to bond more intimately with other people in our life.
Why is silence important?
Some of the immediate benefits that come to my mind include:
Silence can create mental space
It allows you to develop self-awareness and reflect
It can foster creativity and problem-solving
It aids in relaxation
But how come there are so many benefits that we just don’t seem to acknowledge? It’s probably because we don’t sit in silence enough. Silence can create mental space because when we’re sitting by ourselves (or potentially with someone else) and not speaking, we free up some mental bandwidth that can be used for other purposes.
This links directly to the next point on reflection and inducing self-awareness. Naturally, when we have free time and just stare out the window, for example, our minds tend to reflect on where we are currently. This is incredibly useful when we nudge it in the right direction, as it can help us look back at certain experiences and gain wisdom, or look forward at tasks ahead and find effective ways to tackle them.
The next benefit of silence involves creativity and problem-solving. We often do a lot of subconscious processing when we’re not engaged in an activity, which gives our brain the capacity to think freely and outside of the box. This then allows us to develop certain solutions and innovate beyond what we typically can amidst chatter and noise.
The last point I want to make is a little obvious. Silence aids in relaxation. When we sit in a quiet environment and remain quiet ourselves, it often has a calming effect. This might not necessarily be the case when you’re overthinking or are feeling uncomfortable in the first place. But it definitely does help you stay level-headed and make better sense of what’s going on, which can then relax you.
Why is it so difficult to stay quiet?
As I’ve mentioned already, being quiet is actually a lot harder in this day and age. Firstly, when it comes to personality types, we’ve romanticized the concept of being an extrovert. We consider people who are introverted or shy as being less competent or capable for some reason. I’ll dive into that another day, but a great book recommendation is ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cane.
Secondly, we now have more access than ever before to actually raise our voices (especially digitally). We can constantly gossip, chat, share information, tweet, write blogs, make videos, and create short stories. Social media has essentially created a world of constant ‘noise’.
Lastly, it’s because we’re uncomfortable sitting with our own thoughts. We’re not necessarily conscious of it, but we always find a way to get out of our minds. There are many reasons for that, but it’s definitely something we need to get acquainted with. After all, the quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our life. We’re naturally anxious beings and tend to overthink all the time.
So how do we move forward knowing that it’s quite difficult to stay quiet or sit in silence?
How can we become more comfortable with silence?
We first need to re-frame our thinking around silence, quiet and solitude. It’s not a ‘waste of time’ to let your mind occasionally wander, or to sit down in meditation. It all has real implications on your mental health and your ability to think deeply about problems. So we need to really understand the benefits that come about when we do spend time alone or in silence.
The next thing would be to start small and try it out. When you have a free moment or you’re waiting in a queue, don’t just reach out for your phone and numb your brain. Be mindful of the thoughts that pop in and notice what you start thinking about. You can also allocate specific time (maybe in the morning before you start the day or in the evening before bed) to just sit in quiet.
It can also be helpful to try this with another person that you spend a lot of time with (like a roommate, sibling, or spouse). Sit together without unnecessarily trying to fill in the quiet gaps and notice how you both respond. You might find it to be a strange bonding experience.
Lastly, keep track of the thoughts and ideas that come about in a journal. When you start taking note of your thought process, you get an idea of whether or not you’re in a healthy mental space. Obviously, this will depend on what you write down and your mood at that given point, but if you’re honest with yourself and practise consistently, it will allow you to make sense of your mind and could help you be more comfortable with yourself.
The point I’m trying to make in this post is that there’s a lot of benefit to just being quiet. We all have some form of resistance to sitting in silence, which is not necessarily healthy. It keeps us on our toes and itching to find a distraction or ‘noise’. When we practice sitting in solitude and get more comfortable with our thoughts, we’ll ultimately help ourselves get to a healthier mental space. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but you got this.
“All of humanity’s problems come from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I’m sure many of you have come across the quote “ask and you shall receive”. I was thinking about it the other day and realized how true it actually is. For many people I know (myself included), we currently have exactly what we prayed/visualized for a while ago. That being said, why do we tend to limit what we ask for?
In today’s post, I’d like to look into the aspects of asking for more and dreaming without constraint. We’re obviously limited by certain factors, but it doesn’t mean we can’t strive for more than what we can currently comprehend achieving. Let’s look into the concept of dreaming/goals, how we can ask for more, and what to do once we get what we wanted.
We are our own limit. Most of the time, it is our internal self-talk that prevents us from dreaming big. It can also be the people we’re surrounded by who may themselves be limited in their imagination. But ultimately, the ability to dream big and aim for the stars lies within our mind.
If you have to really think your maximum potential, it would probably overwhelm you. Firstly, because you’re not necessarily anywhere near it. Secondly, because you’d probably achieve so much more than you thought was humanely possible.
To dive deeper into that, it basically means that we can be afraid of our own success. Now that’s a trip.
So how do we even dream ‘big’? The best place to start is to by just dreaming at all. Have some form of exciting long-term goals. Think about where you want to be in a few years time. Think about your career, academics, relationships, fitness and spirituality. Jot down the ideas that come up on a piece of paper and just brainstorm.
Once you have those written down, think about how you could stretch them out even further. Sure, there’s a typical timeline for climbing the hierarchy in your organisation. Why don’t you aim to be an anomaly and do it faster than ever before? The best part is, even if you fail at the ambitious goal, you’d still make far more progress than you would have if you decided to stick to the way ‘things are normally done’.
That’s how you can try to dream big. Don’t be limited by your own beliefs or what people tell you. Pray for what you want and work hard (and smart) towards achieving it.
Keep Praying(and working hard)
A reflection that I’d like to share with you all is that of praying and visualizing your goals. Something that I was taught at a very young age was to make ‘Duaa’ for whatever I wanted, which is the Islamic term for praying to God. So growing up, I made Duaa for everything. Good health, a loving family, great friends, a successful career, a beautiful spouse etc.
Obviously there were times when my Duaas did and didn’t get accepted. I ultimately believe that “What’s meant for you will never miss you, and what misses you was never meant for you.”
But the point I’m trying to make is that it was a way for me to ask for things, and not from people. That was incredibly liberating for me, as it reduced my neediness on other people. So when I started praying, it gave me a goal to strive towards. That’s the other crucial point.
What I learned later on in my life is that when you attach praying to the concept of visualizing, it becomes a much more powerful driving force and motivator. So for example when I was in undergrad, I used to pray for pass all my courses with top marks and then visualize myself at the graduation ceremony. This motivated to work hard, to keep praying and to strive towards the goal.
I know there can sometimes be a misconception around visualization. The purpose is not just to create a lucrative scenario in your imagination and daydream about it. The objective to imagine yourself having achieved the goal, and to be fueled by that motivation. That should then drive you to work even harder and to keep pushing forward.
Stay Humble and Grateful
The last thing I want to touch is the concept of staying humble and being grateful. These are two crucial elements of having a strong character. The thing about success (in any form), is that it tends to buff up our egos. We feel like we deserve it. We feel powerful to a certain extent. We feel like we are better than other people (which might contextually be true for a certain period of time).
Those feelings/attitudes are quite natural and it’s okay to feel them. The problem arises when we act on them and start to treat people less worthy because of them. That’s when we can become arrogant, snobby and disdainfully proud. The solution to that is self-awareness and a conscious effort to staying humble.
One of my favourite mottos that I have on a T-shirt says:
“Work Hard, Stay Humble”
Being humble does not mean being weak or thinking low of yourself. It just means that you’re modest in your opinion of yourself and understand the complexity and effort put in by all the people in your life, for you to be where you are today. We can act out humility by constantly thinking well of others, by embracing gratitude and by not showing off all of our success.
In essence, what I want you to take from today’s post is that you shouldn’t be shy to ask for more. Don’t hold back on dreaming far beyond what you’re capable of imagining. Keep track of your ambitions and write down certain objectives that can guide you moving forward. Keep praying and visualizing those goals. Lastly, work hard and stay humble.
How often do you find yourself consciously facing your fears? In this day and age, I’d say probably not much at all. Being confined by fear is an interesting concept, especially when most of it is actually psychological.
I thought about writing on fear because I know how much I subconsciously try to avoid confronting it. There are a number of root causes to our current fears, which could either be biological, physiological, or due to traumatic experiences.
In today’s post, I’d like to dive into your fears. I’ll look at identifying the different causes of those fears, what we can do about them, and how to avoid being shut down by fear. This might be easier for some of you than it is for others, the point is to try and strengthen our psychological resilience to the horrors we often have to face.
What causes of fear?
“A potential for pain, or an unrecognizable event, causes fear. The amygdalae, organs in the limbic system, detect such possibilities and send the signals which generate the fear emotion, which sets off avoidance activities.”
We experience fear out of instinct to avoid pain or undesirable events. Our minds react to external stimuli (or even mental projections) to ensure that we do what is necessary to survive. So if we have to look at the biological aspect of it, the amygdalae are what cause the sensation of fear. But what events trigger the amygdalae to make us feel that way?
As I’ve alluded to before, there are several different causes behind fear. I’ll focus on 3 in this post specifically, just to touch on the topic at a high-level:
Other causes of fear can include insecurity, overthinking, perfectionism, childhood events (linked to past trauma), and worrying about other people’s opinion to name a few.
On the topic of failure, I think that is one of the most common causes of fear. We are afraid of failing. We want to survive. We want to make it through. We want to succeed. We want to make ourselves and other people in our life proud. It would thus make sense that many of our underlying fears are deep-rooted in our intrinsic motive to avoid failure.
Past trauma is another incredibly important and often undetected cause of fear. When we experience a traumatic event (such as being robbed or getting into a car accident), it often leaves a mark on our psyche. We become a lot more careful, vigilant and even suspicious of the world. We try to avoid getting into that same scenario again, as best as we can.
The last cause of fear that I’ll touch on is that of evolution. We were once hunter gatherers and stayed in very close-knitted groups. We needed to survive off the savannah and ensure the tribe was safe from all forms of danger. The issue is, many of the underlying fears that enabled us to cope with the dangers at that time, stay with us up until today. Fearing snakes, the dark, spiders etc., are often rooted in ancestral times.
Tee figure above shows different levels of intensity when it comes to experiencing fear. Apart from just identifying the causes, we should also look at how intense the feeling is. What I’d like to do now is use the mentioned causes of fear to help us figure out what to do about it.
What to do about fear
So what should we do about fear when it does arise? The first answer is the obvious one; accept it. We often try to hide behind this façade of bravery. We like to appear to be fearless and full of courage. It often comes at the expense of being true to ourselves.
Instead of trying to appear to be strong and brave, what’s even more courageous is learning to accept certain fears and working towards overcoming them. True bravery (in my opinion) is about persistence and trying your best to learn from those underlying fears.
After we accept that they’re there, we need to methodically try to overcome them. It won’t just happen overnight. We can’t expect to find an instantaneous answer. Exposure therapy is something that often works really well in this case. Slowly expose yourself to that which makes you afraid (in bearable doses). Then increase the intensity of the exposure as you get more and more used to it.
Those are things that are very situation specific, but are there ways that will allow us to develop a resilience to fear in general? How can we learn to fight that voice in our head and push forward, despite wanting to sit back and stay in our comfort zone?
How to stop letting fear hold you back
From my perspective, it’s about having faith and building up courage. It can surprisingly also boil down to purpose. When we have a strong foundational belief and understand that everything happens for a reason, we tend to be a lot more resilient.
From an Islamic point of view, the following quote resonates a lot with me:
It’s a fundamental belief that God is always with us, irrespective of how dreadful the scenario may be. Keeping that world view in mind allows me to push through many of my fears and setbacks in general.
When it comes to developing resilience to fear in general, what we need to focus on is essentially building a set of habits that allow us to face ‘baby’ fears all the time. A common example of this is cold showers. It’s petrifying and scary as hell. But doing it consistently allows your mind to practice overcoming the mental hurdle.
Next time there’s something that makes you really nervous or that you’re a little scared to do, just go for it and see the difference it can make. You’ll be a lot more ambitious in your goals and you won’t let trivial trials hold you back.
The point I’m trying to make from this post is that you’re capable. The more you put yourself out there and face you fears, the stronger you become. That strength can then diffuse into all other aspects of your life and will enable you to grow exponentially. We don’t realize how much of our potential is blocked purely because of our misconceptions and fears.
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.
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?
No, I’m not going to tell you to go full vegan. But let’s see how close we can get to that.
I received a lot of positive feedback on my previous post on ‘Why do we waste food?’. I figured it would be useful to dive into a relevant topic. The concept of eating more sustainably is something that I strive towards, it’s not something that I fully live out as yet. I attempted it when I lived alone in Cape Town, but struggled once I started staying with my family again.
In today’s post, I’d like to dive into a few aspects of sustainable eating that are worth considering. Let’s first look at why it’s important, how our current habits impact the environment, ways we can try to improve on our eating habits, and how to move forward as a society.
Why is this topic important?
I think many of us underestimate the impact our eating habits have, not only on our body, but our mind, our community and the environment. I personally think it’s important because we typically eat around 3 meals a day (+snacks), every single day of our life. That’s somewhat astonishing, if you think about how much we actually eat in a year (>1000 meals). If we think of the population as a whole, that’s 7 billion people eating at a rate of 1000 meals a year – there’s a lot of mouths to feed.
Now I know that’s a bit of a stretch, since not everyone eats that much or has the privilege to. Trying to also point out why we should be incredibly grateful to fit that category.
That rate of eating means that we need to find ways to efficiently produce enough food for everyone. Efficiency, however, can come at a cost (I realized that from own personal experiences). We’ve started to extract natural resources at an unnatural rate, and the products get distributed unequally. That means that we’re now producing more food than ever before, but are causing significant damage to the environment and not feeding everyone.
Let’s dive deeper into that.
How are our current eating habits affecting the environment?
Here some interesting facts from Our World In Data:
The bar graphs essentially show the contribution of the food and agriculture industry on different aspects of the environment. What we don’t realize is that the type of food we eat, has a direct impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, land-use, fresh water supplies and even biodiversity.
Here’s another interesting figure to see how specific food types affect GHG emissions.
The immediate takeaway is that the top 3 contributors are all meat-related. That is because livestock and cattle are all incredible potent methane producers (cows and sheep fart, A LOT). When you stack up all the farms that use unsustainable techniques, it adds up to tonnes of GHG emissions.
I’ve also talked about the impact of food waste in my previous post, which has its fair share of environmental impact. There’s also the packaging and plastics that are used throughout the value chain, which all accumulates.
It’s not all bleak and sour though, there are clear ways for us to improve on these issues. It’s not as easy for some people and it might be easier in other countries, but it all starts with a single step.
How can we improve?
From my personal experience, it’s somewhat simple. We just need to be more conscious of where we get our food from. The first thing is to try and support local as much as you can. The more you’re able to source from small farms, butchers and reliable sources of free range food, the better.
Try to cut down on buying fast food and eating out at large franchises. Those are typically major contributors to the emission chain and tend to be incredibly unsustainable.
The next thing is to add more vegetables, fruit and plants into your diet. The less we rely on cattle and poultry, the more we are reducing our contribution to the GHG emissions. It can be as simple as setting up a meal plan for the week, and instead of eating meat for like 4 days, cut it down to 1 or 2 days (essentially cut down from your current habit).
The last thing is to grow your own food where possible. This is more applicable to people who live in houses with gardens. The more you can source your own food organically, the healthier it is for you and the environment.
If you’d like to find more tips on how to eat more sustainably, check out the link below:
As a society, we’ve started to romanticize the concept of fast food and take-outs. Some people I know can eat fast food on a daily basis. It’s cheap and convenient. But it comes at an indirect cost.
To move forward as a society, I think we need to start finding ways to encourage and incentivize each other to live more sustainably. We live on a planet with finite resources. The impact of our actions from the last few decades/centuries are starting to take its toll. We can’t keep plowing ahead with the same habits. The population is growing, so that means we’ll only have more mouths to feed.
It’s all about taking a small step in the right direction. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of the minor changes you make in your life. Just try your best, whatever that means to you.
The point I’d like to make here is that we can do better. Most of us choose not to, out of convenience. The choice of eating more sustainably is definitely a privilege, but one that we should utilize as much as we can.
Eat better today, for a healthier planet tomorrow.
I’ve been doing some research into household consumer behaviour and why we waste food. I thought it would be an interesting topic to speak about, given how common food waste is nowadays.
In today’s post, I’d like to dive into several aspects of food waste (which can be extrapolated to any kind of waste). I’ll look at the impact it has on society, the impact it has on our psyche and the impact on our environment.
Impact of food waste on society
When it comes to societal impact, it’s easy to look at it from 2 different extremes; those living in abject poverty and the filthy rich. The majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. For those who live in a state of constant hunger and search for food on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite clear why wasting food makes no sense.
Think about it this way, whenever you intentionally throw food out (bec you let it expire etc.), you deny other people a chance to leverage that same thing. Yes, there should be a threshold or limit to what you can give or can’t give (based on the quality of the food for example). But more often than not, people who don’t have anything to eat will be incredibly grateful for your left overs.
This applies even more when you’re eating out at a restaurant. Time and time again, I see people leave large portions of their food on the table when they leave a restaurant. Those restaurants can’t do anything but throw it away. You, on the other hand, can ask for a takeaway box and give it to someone else (a guard or beggar etc.).
Our decisions always make an impact on other people, whether we see it directly or not. You can change the lives of the people in your community by simply giving away some of your leftovers or excess food. Especially when you know you’re not going to eat something, but keep it in the fridge until it expires/rots and throw it away.
Be mindful of these habits, they also have an effect on your psyche.
Impact on our psyche
As I mentioned already, there are indirect consequences to our wasting habits. The impact actually seeps deep into your subconscious, because you are essentially programming yourself to live a certain lifestyle.
Something as simple as throwing away leftovers? Really?
Yes, because it ingrains a certain level of ingratitude. This may sound like an attack to some of you, but it’s how I personally view the topic. When you’re comfortable with wasting, you are essentially doing the opposite of being grateful. You’re not truly appreciating the value of the blessing.
It happens by mistake and a lot of the time it’s not on purpose, but when it’s habit/lifestyle, then it can be truly problematic. Especially because you’re living out your values. And I don’t think any of us would really like to acknowledge that ingratitude can be a core value.
Apart from that, there’s also a huge concern about the environment. Landfills simply can’t sustainably deal with the type of food waste we produce.
Impact on the environment
Apart from the clear and obvious non-degradable aspects of the waste (like packaging and containers), the food itself causes a significant problem. Considering that most of our food waste typically ends up in landfills (in unsustainable quantities), it ends up being buried for microorganisms to decompose.
The issue is that the process is achieved through anaerobic digestion (without any oxygen), and the by-product is large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2 and methane). This means that food waste directly contributes to climate change.
Another factor to consider is the value chain of the food process. From the time it’s farmed/produced, through to the logistics of transporting it, to the refrigeration/storage, all the way to consumption, there’s a lot of waste created when we throw that food away.
You can find more information on what happens to food waste in the article below.
What can we do about it?
I know that sounds all dark and gloomy, but there is something really simple that we can do about it. Simply waste less.
Start by paying closer attention to your buying and eating habits. If you notice that you always buy an excessive amount of certain items that usually end up expired, then start buying less of it. When you notice things approaching their expiry date and you don’t plan on consuming it, then give it away.
In addition, just give more to those who less fortunate than you. It obviously needs to be edible and in decent condition, but it doesn’t have to be brand new or immaculate. People appreciate the smallest of gestures and acts of kindness. By doing this, you’re acting out the value of gratitude. God has blessed us all with much more than we can count. It’s time to make our actions count.
So if you want to play your part and make a difference to society, to your psyche and to the environment, waste less, be more mindful of what you buy and start giving out more. You got this.
Here’s a topic a lot of people I know may be struggling with (myself included, lmao). In the age of working from home (WFH) and everything being done virtually, we seemed to have lost touch of boundaries that are typically associated with work-life balance (WLB).
Most of us are expected to be online till way past our ‘working hours’, just because we can be. The amount of work that we are required to achieve in a single day has increased for some reason, despite the fact that it’s not necessarily easier being at home.
In today’s post, I’d like to deal with quite a difficult concept: how to improve on our work-life balance. I’ll talk about the boundaries that we need to set, the objectives that we need to have on a daily basis, spending enough time with our family and friends, looking at the spiritual side of things, as well as making time to get adequate sleep.
My experience of this topic comes from the fact that I’m part-time studying and working full-time – mostly from home. So there’s a lot of effort that I need to put in place to ensure that I get enough downtime and rest.
Boundaries and rituals
The reason why I talk about boundaries being blurred is because many of us no longer drive to the office, we don’t pack up our laptops when we’re done and go back home, we don’t feel how late it can get compared to when we’re at the office.
Nowadays, we wake up and the first thing we check is our work emails, we jump straight into meeting (often while we’re still in bed), we stay up till way later to meet deadlines, and we struggle to meet our other obligations – all while we’re at home.
First thing’s first, we need to identify that not having boundaries is a problem. A lot of us get used to the intensity and almost accept it. But if we don’t look at it for what it is, we may not appreciate a healthy balance. Once you understand the need for boundaries, you need to find ways to specify and implement them.
This can be done by understanding your objectives, which I’ll touch on briefly after this. For example, you may want to exercise before/after the work day. Block off an hour in the morning/evening at a specific time and try to let your team know that this is necessary for you to be effective (ensure it doesn’t clash with meetings etc.).
Another way to try and improve your WLB is by setting a cutoff time for you to respond to emails/attend meetings. I know it’s not always possible when projects get intense, but it’s worth a try. The point is to look at what you need to stay efficient, and build rituals around that.
Your daily objectives should basically be aligned to your boundaries. Understanding what you need on a day-to-day basis will enable you to make time for those requirements. We all need to prepare for meals, get administrative tasks done, work on hobbies/side projects, maintain social relationships and get some exercise done.
By setting these objectives down at specific times during the day (with some flexibility), we can then incorporate those boundaries. The aim is to ensure that you sustain a healthy balance and attend to your personal matters too. That’s the whole point of understanding work-life balance.
Family/friends and alone time
This is an incredibly important component to me personally. I find that I need a recovery period with the people I love and cherish. There’s something about quality time that just recharges me. Without it, the balance starts to tip over.
I live away from most of family in Joburg, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. But I still try to video call them often and then make plans with people that I’m close to here.
I also found that I need quite a decent dose of alone time to let my thoughts settle and to make sense of everything that goes on around me. I need time to meditate, to walk in nature, to read, to reflect and to contemplate. It’s a different way for me to clean out my energy and bring more positivity into my work.
Another fundamental part of my life revolves around Islam and my daily prayers. This can mean different things to different people, but having a spiritual grounding is truly something I can’t do without.
It is the essence of my purpose in life and I find that I’m always calmer and more collected after I’ve prayed. What I love about the Islamic approach, is that you’re required to pray 5 times a day. That means you get 5 chances every single day, to reconnect to your spiritual side and stay in check.
Find what works best for you and ensure that you incorporate it on a daily basis; even if it’s just being grateful before you start the day.
Another critical aspect of a healthy WLB is getting enough consistent sleep. This is easily a challenge, especially when there’s so much that needs to get done. Setup a cutoff time for when you go to sleep and for when to wake up. The consistency makes it easier for your mind to settle.
The benefits of getting enough sleep should be really clear by now, I’ve written a post about it already. The takeaway from this post is to make sure you respect your body’s requirement. If you sacrifice a healthy amount of sleep for too long, the harmful effects can last a lifetime.
If you can, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. 6 if you’re pushing it. Anything below that (depending on your sleep cycle) would be detrimental. Calm down on the coffee too, especially past 3/4 pm.
So, we’ve given quite a bit of thought to the concept of WLB. There are a lot of considerations to factor in, especially given how we’re all WFH. Make sure you understand your daily objectives so that you can set boundaries, figure out how much time you need to spend with family/friends or alone to recharge, find time to pray, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
There’s always going to be a lot to do. That’s the nature of life. But just as the birds and animals know when it’s time to rest, so should you. Follow your nature and keep doing your best. You got this.