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.

The Journey VI

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

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

2014-2015

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

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

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

2016-2017

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

That’s when things really started to change.

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

2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019

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

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

“The teacher learns the most.”

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

2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Win Friends and Influence People

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

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

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

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

1- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

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

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

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

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

2- Six ways to make people like you

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

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

3- How to win people to your way of thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4- Being a leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passion ~

Disclaimer: I just want to acknowledge that a lot of the content I produce is based off my personal experiences. This happens to be from a privileged background (which I’m extremely grateful for), and I understand that it may not be as easy for other people to follow. Just want to share what I’ve learnt and hopefully you can all gain something in one way or the other.

So in today’s topic, I’m going to discuss a few things which I’ve read about and that have helped gain a better understanding of passion. This is not to say that I’ve realized my life-long passion or anything, but writing about it just helps me better digest the concepts at hand. I’ll start with a wonderful concept called Ikigai, which originates from Japanese tradition. Then I’ll delve into comfort zone (once again), consistency, mindset, and how we can make practice perfect.

Ikigai

Let me first introduce a Japanese concept called Ikigai, which roughly translates to “reason for being”. I read the book last year by Ken Mogi and it definitely changed the way I viewed passion. It essentially boils down to 4 concepts:

  • What you love doing
  • What you’re good at
  • What the world needs
  • What you can get paid for

If you can find an intersection between all four points, you’ll ultimately find your ikigai. This makes sense, considering first and foremost, you need to identify what you love doing. This helps you get started, because you’ll obviously have an urge to do what you love. Then figure out what you’re good at, which you’ll probably already enjoy doing. The second 2 points are where things get a little trickier, and that’s because there’s a difference between hobbies and a passion. Hobbies are activities out of your general occupation, which are meant to be relaxing. Contrary to that, passions are meant to drive you and keep you going, no matter how exhaustive or overwhelming.

The diagram below illustrates just what I mean by that. What the world needs and what you can get paid for, are the final factors which would truly give you a reason to live. It isn’t going to be straightforward identifying an intersection, but having an idea of what you’re aiming for, definitely contributes to the journey.


Do more! Leave your comfort zone

There’s no way you’re going to figure out what you love doing, if you keep doing the same things over and over again. This relates to what I spoke about in The Journey V, whereby it’s a vital component to add some form of discomfort in your daily routine. For example, by taking cold showers regularly. This conditions you to leave your comfort zone, which is a holistic process. I say holistic because this helps you in every aspect of your life, it allows you to brave through your fears. Once you’re able to condition your mind in one aspect of your life, why not use that same theory in other aspects? Find more ways to regularly leave your comfort zone, and stay consistent with it, to strengthen those neural connections.

“How you do one thing, is how you do everything.”

Don’t be guided by fear! Explore that hobby you’ve been yearning to try, whether it be surfing, running, martial arts, drawing, writing or acting. Approach the person you’ve always wanted to speak to. Try out cooking using a new recipe for something you’ve always craved. Visit a new city or somewhere you’ve never been to before. If you can’t do that, just read about new places and things you’re unfamiliar with. The point is to keep trying new things out, because you’ll start to better identify what it is you enjoy and what you don’t. Here’s a great phrase a friend of mine recently told me: You Only Die Once. This obviously originates from the YOLO trend, but it’s a rather fantastic way to think about it. You truly don’t know how long you’re going to be here for. Don’t wait until tomorrow, you may not get the chance.

Consistency compounds

I know some of these topics are repetitive, but again, it serves as a reminder to myself and to everyone of you reading. Consistency requires you to remind yourself on a daily basis, of what matters to you. When you do little things over and over, it becomes a lot. The thing about consistency, is that you need to realize that you (probably) won’t become an overnight success. You need to work towards your goals everyday, regardless of your mood. Whether you’re tired, uninspired, bored or “just not in the mood”, you have to make sure you get a little done. This ensures that you’re always making progress, and after a few weeks, you would’ve achieved a lot more than you realized you could. The cool thing about this is, once the ball is rolling, you’ll feel inspired and have the urge to continue anyway.

Let me give you a classic example, for those who fail to finish books. If you dedicate a certain amount of time each and everyday to read, you’ll actually make a lot of easy progress. Instead of reading when you have ‘free’ time or you’re in the mood to get ‘woke’. This in turn builds discipline and allows you to make time for what’s important to you. The same works for any other activity you enjoy doing or want to get good at. The more you keep at it, the better you get. I’ll build onto that further below.

For those of us who are fasting this month , here’s another wonderful reminder which emphasizes consistency:


“عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ الْعَمَلِ مَا تُطِيقُونَ فَوَاللَّهِ لَا يَمَلُّ اللَّهُ حَتَّى تَمَلُّوا وَكَانَ أَحَبَّ الدِّينِ إِلَيْهِ مَا دَاوَمَ عَلَيْهِ صَاحِبُهُ”

“You must only perform deeds you are capable of doing. By Allah, Allah will not withhold from you until you give up. The most beloved religious deeds to Allah are those performed regularly.”

and in another narration:


“The most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant, even if it were little.”

Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

Mindset / Intention

This links back to what I’ve spoken about again and again, your mindset. You need to believe in your ability to grow and find what you love doing. Work on your negative self-talk and on preventing saying things like ‘I’ll never be good at this’ ,’Some people are just born better / smarter’, ‘I’m not creative’ or ‘I’m just not talented enough’. This keeps you in a fixed mindset, which prevents you from further achieving your goals or exploring different activities. Always tell you self: ‘Not yet’! This keeps the space open for you to realize that you just need to put in more time and practice, in order to develop that specific skill-set. More importantly, you need to find your real intention behind what you’re doing, start with why.

We know in Islam, that actions are based on their intention. But that ultimately means, that what you do on the surface will never be as important as your reason for doing so. What was your intention for trying to do it? This brings me to another point of Ikigai; what the world needs more of. Having pure and authentic intentions, being honest and doing the uncomfortable work. Remember why you started, keep your intentions in mind, and always try and add value to the world around you! This can sometimes be overwhelming, because we know how large and diverse the world around us is, how could we try and make it better? By being the consistent change you want to see in the world. There’s one more point I want to add, to further make the most of that consistency; deliberate practice.

-Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

Deliberate practice makes perfect

This is where quality > quantity comes into play. You may have heard of the 10 000 hour rule, whereby the more you practice something, the better you get at it. As much as that is true, a vital element in those hours, needs to be “deliberate” practice. In essence, you need to focus on your weak points and find out where you can improve on a constant basis. This directly links to comfort zone yet again (which is why I mention it so often).

Regular practice involves doing something you enjoy, essentially staying within your comfort zone. Deliberate practice on the other hand, is constantly trying to leave your comfort zone; working on what you’re terrible at and accepting criticism from those who are better than you. Because if you only practice your strengths, how will your weaknesses ever improve? So as much as you enjoy practicing whatever it is you love, push yourself a little more each time, and work on what’s difficult. This allows for holistic growth, and can eventually make the practice perfect.

I know I’ve covered a bit of ground in this post, but I hope you can appreciate how it all links together. I’ve also repeated a few topics again, just to iterate how profound these concepts can be in your life. Once you start working on a certain aspect, it can ripple into every part of your life. It’s important not to try implementing several changes at once, and end up giving them all up. Start small and stay consistent with it. Then you can build on that once you feel comfortable with the habit. Keep in mind, that the more you’re able to condition yourself to leave your comfort zone, the faster you can grow and learn. Your intention also plays a big role, so don’t do things for the wrong reasons either. Be true and honest with yourself, as well as those around you. Ikigai may not be the easiest practice to achieve, but once you start identifying a few intersections, you’ll hopefully find something you can truly be passionate about!