Thinking about mental health

There’s been a rapid increase in talking about mental health these days. It’s always been such an important topic to me, especially to try and remove the stigma around mental health problems and assisting those who experience them.

The personal aspect about this is that I’ve never really struggled with severe mental health issues myself. It’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. The issue with that is because I had no real awareness of the topic, I found it difficult to empathize with people who did struggle with mental health in my early adolescence.

Since then, I’ve had several friends and family members who battled with it on a regular basis, and who were kind enough to educate me on the topic. That’s not to say that it wasn’t my responsibility to go out there and learn about it for myself; it was just an advantage that I received.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at ways to understand mental health from an emotional intelligence lens, how to try and look after your own mental health, how we can support those in our life who do struggle with mental health (by removing stigma), and why to stop spitting out solutions (a problem I struggle quite a lot with as an engineer/consultant).

Understanding mental health

The difficult thing about understanding mental health is that we each have our own version of ‘normal’. What we’ve experienced internally from the time we were kids up until now forms the basis of our reality. A lot of the time, it takes quite a lot of experience or reflection to start noticing/understanding your own mental health.

A great place to start is by being a little more conscious of your thoughts and moods. Are they sometimes erratic? Uncomfortable? Inconsistent? Unbearable? Bizarre? Wild? Scary?

One of the best ways to structure your thoughts and understand yourself better is by journalling. A lot of people tell me that what they write down can sometimes feel uncomfortable. This is already an indicator of your mental processes and overall mental health (you obviously develop the skill of writing down your thoughts, I’m talking more about the nature of the thoughts themselves).

Once you have better awareness of what goes on in the processor, you can start working towards maintaining a healthy performance. Find habits and routines that allow you to feel challenged and fulfilled.

If you really struggle here to identify and act on what you can do to improve your mental health, it might be a good option to seek out therapy. It’s just a great way for you to make sense of the chaos and find a comfortable space to unravel your mysteries (speaking from experience).

Looking after our own mental health

This is the tough part. This is the part that requires effort, discipline and consistency. If we don’t look after our own mental health and keep in check on a regular basis, we could then start struggling to perform optimally.

I just want to make it clear that I’m not saying we should do this purely for performance. I’m just using that word to help us understand how it inevitably affects our performance, which affects our overall ambitions, mood and aspirations.

When it comes to looking after our own mental health, we need to start with awareness as I’ve discussed in the previous section. That awareness and acceptance then allows us to formulate an action plan to keep ourselves in check.

A few habits that tend to work well (for me personally) include staying active (even if it’s just a 15 min walk), getting sunlight on a regular basis (kill 2 birds with 1 stone by going on that walk), spending time in nature (now the walk is proving to be remarkable), eating fruits and veggies as often as possible, taking time off from work/studies to recover, socializing with people who genuinely care about me, reading an entertaining book and writing in a journal.

It sounds obvious and possibly boring, but don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of consistently doing these little habits on a daily basis. You’ll be astonished at the impact it’ll have on your life. Find what works best for you and keep at it. Once you’ve managed to keep yourself in check, you’ll be able to support those around you.

Supporting those who suffer with mental disorders

The main thing about awareness campaigns is that it aims to educate people as well as ensure that stigma is dealt with. We’ve seen incredible progress over the past decade in terms of a global acceptance of mental health disorders. This is important because it allows for diversity, equity and inclusion.

When it comes to supporting people who may suffer from certain mental health issues, it’s important that we come from a nonjudgemental standpoint. Additionally, we need to avoid having a superiority complex if we considered ourselves to be mentally healthy.

What I’ve noticed from my own limited experience is that people appreciate being heard and acknowledged. It can oftentimes be difficult to emphasize, especially if you’re not entirely sure what it feels like. But just being there, showing that you care, putting in the effort to comfort them and accepting that they’re more than just their struggle, can go a long way.

Artist Creates Heartwarming Comics To Raise Mental Health ...

What I’ve also learned is that you don’t want to jump into finding solutions (which can sometimes go against my instincts, so I have to be very conscious of this).

Stop looking for solutions

This applies to helping people deal with their mental health issues as much as it does to helping people with their problems in general. Giving unsolicited advice and pointing out solutions to other people’s problems is something many of us struggle with. The reason why we do this is obviously subconscious. It’s easier than sitting in the discomfort of empathy or listening attentively.

As much as we think we’re helping other people by throwing out suggestions to their seemingly simple problems, it can actually distance them and make them less comfortable opening up to us. It makes the them feel unworthy of being able to solve it themselves.

Author & Illustrator of Mental Health Comics Holly ...

People love autonomy. We love to feel like we’re in control. Like we’re capable. Like we got this. The minute someone else comes and tells you how to do it (even if it’s a perfectly viable solution that can make your life a 100x better), you’re likely to resist it and try to ignore it.

The same logic applies when you’re trying to help someone who is feeling anxious or depressed. Instead of jumping to a solution and telling them to go drink water/ meditate / sleep / exercise, try and engage more meaningfully in discussion and allow them to do more of the talking.

I’m still trying to find the right balance here myself, but what I’ve noticed about giving advice is that you should either wait for it to be asked, or prompt them first and check whether they’re in a receptive space to hear you out.

It’s always going to be complicated to try and understand mental health, even your own. The point is to try your best each and every day, whatever that means to you. Your best may differ from time to time and that’s okay. You’re going to get through this. You’re strong and capable enough. Don’t ever give up. You got this.

#LiftAsYouRise

Automation or Mindfulness?

We’re bringing back another episode of Mindful Monday! The reason I thought about this topic was because I’ve been personally been feeling a little disconnected lately. Sure, my habits are still in check. Still waking up before dawn, meditating, praying and journalling. But there’s an aspect of being robotic that I’m still struggling with, specifically when I’m eating, driving or speaking to someone.

I’d like to use today’s post to discuss aspects of our nature that we need to be a little more mindful of, striking a balance between automation and conscious thinking, breathing more deeply and ways of working from home.

https://jaltranslation.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/comics-invisible-bread-home-work-625699.png

When we should focus being mindful of
Things are that are closest to nature.

When we’re praying, when we’re cooking food, when we’re eating the food, when we’re watching the sunrise, when we’re in the shower, when we’re brushing our teeth, when we’re working out, when we’re spending time with family, when we’re out with friends, when we’re about to fall asleep or just after we wake up.

It’s incredible how often we tend to be on our devices when we’re doing any of those things. It seems like we are starting to lose the essence of our senses. We no longer pay attention to what we look at with our eyes, what we listen to through our ears, what we eat in order to taste, the way we look after our body, and what we talk about with other people.

When we aren’t being mindful of those aspects of our nature, we stop living in the present moment. We forget to be grateful. We forget to be thoughtful or appreciative.

What we need to do is be stricter with ourselves when it comes to our focus. We should start making the most of the time we have right now. We need a balance between doing things on auto-pilot and consciously living.

The balance between manual thinking and automation

It’s something I’ve thought about and discussed here before… How do we find the right balance between doing things on auto-pilot vs. using conscious energy. There’s definitely an efficiency trade-off to think about, specifically looking at what actions are worth putting in genuine effort.

We’re lazy beings. We always try to find the shortest way to get something done, which typically makes sense. That’s why our brains do the same when it comes to consistently repeated habits. We eventually end up training our subconscious to ignore being present.

We should probably look for what we find valuable and spend more of our energy being attentive to it. The last thing we want to do is allow ourselves to get complacent.

How Robotic Process Automation Can Help Businesses Success ...
https://images.tmcnet.com/tmc/misc/articles/image/2020-apr/AdobeStock_284023634-rpa-robotic-process-automation-supersize.jpg

Breathing deeply

I know I know, I talk a lot about breathing. But you need to understand how fundamentally important it is. It affects every aspect of your life. From your ability to deal with anxiety, stress, fear, joy, happiness, to when you’re preparing for an interview, working out, walking up the stairs, and even having a cold shower.

All these activities require us to have a consistent influx and outflux of air. Well tbh, you need it all the time. But your ability to manage your breathing in those situations will allow you to perform much better than uncontrolled breath. It’s interesting how we often ‘run out of breath’ not because we need to inhale oxygen, but because we need to exhale carbon dioxide.

That’s besides the point. My point is, focus on your breathing more often. It’s easy to forget this little habit, because the body does it automatically. But it will truly make an impact on your health and ability to deal with challenges. I’m not saying that you should consciously breathe every second of the day, but when it’s necessary and when you can remember to.

Another consideration is how to stay mindful when we’re (working) chilling at home all day.

Working mindfully from home

Whether it’s studying, working or anything else that relates to being at home for most of the day, we tend to lose our touch with the present moment. In a way, we are less exposed to usual array of stimuli from being outside. That being said, we can often ‘forget’ to be as mindful when we’re working from home. Not that being in an office/classroom all day is any better, but the moving around is what makes all the difference.

When go outside for a quick walk, stare out the window for a bit or just decide to chill in the garden, it allows us to get some exposure to the natural world. I repeatedly talk about the benefits of spending time in nature, and it’s because of the way it forces you to be mindful. Even if you can’t go outside, find ways to focus on nature within your home (this could even include being more attentive when you eat or speak to friends).

Authors share their mindfulness tips for working from home
https://www.penguin.co.uk/content/dam/prh/articles/adults/2020/march/WFH-Mindfulness-inline-image.jpg

What we should try and do if we can leave the house, is focus more on the leaves of trees and how their colours change, the clouds and the way they dance across the sky, the birds and how they sing to each other, the lil insects and bugs that are always flying around, or even the way the earth feels on our feet.

Giving our senses that stimulation will snap us back into the present moment; which will make us feel grounded, grateful and more energetic. If we take short 10 min breaks from our work and do this regularly, it will have such a significant impact on our ability to push forward. Go outside right now and try it out if you can. The world is yours for the taking.

Money Makes The World Go Round

Incredibly grateful to have recently started earning my own money for the first time. Financial independence is such a common goal among us all (understandably so). I’ve also started learning a lot about investing, budgeting, and economics in general (the course I’m doing has micro and macro economics).

A trend I’ve noticed when I speak to people about finance is that everyone is desperately trying to make more money (not everyone, but quite a substantial amount). It almost doesn’t matter how much you have at the moment, our brains are just wired to try and make more. I’m not saying that it’s a good or bad thing, it’s just an observation.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at the psychology of economics, why we never seem to have enough, how I personally budget my income, on the shortness of life and why we should strive to be more generous.

Benjamin Franklin Quote: “Time is money.” (12 wallpapers ...

The psychology of economics

Economic theories base their models off the assumption that people and organisations are rational. As a person myself, I can attest to the fact that we’re mostly impulsive, short-sighted and incredibly irrational.

Behavioural economics is a fascinating field of study relating to how people make decisions, based on economic, sociologic and psychological factors. What we need to understand here are a few main points (which all go against rationality):

  • We are mostly risk averse / neutral (we fear losing more than our desire want to win)
  • We are prone to psychological pricing (we think expensive things are of better quality)
  • Nudge theory can easily be used to influence our decision making (where items are placed makes a difference)
  • Our preferences are determined based on the options present – the framing effect (we buy things based on all the options available, not just what we need)

I’ve extracted the points above from the Crash Course video. Feel free to watch it for more information on behavioural economics. Let’s look at why we never seem to have enough money.

Never enough

Another principle of economic theory is that we’re always competing within scarcity. There just isn’t an infinite amount of resources. We have to continuously make decisions that require trade-offs and opportunity costs. Sometimes though, it feels like there’s a lot more than we behave there is.

Linking the concept of scarcity back to human psychology, we are always trying to ensure that we have some kind of safety net. In economics, this is probably having financial wellness and independence. The problem with the human is psyche is that we always think of the worst-case scenario. We save money planning for disasters (rightfully so, given what Covid has taught us).

But does it reach a point where our safety net starts becoming a little suffocating? Where we start planning for the future like we’ll live forever? Why does it seem like we never have enough money? Why do always crave more money? What’s the point of having all this ‘stuff’?

I’m not answering those questions, but I just thought it would be some useful reflection points. Let’s talk a little more about effectively budgeting (as a young adult).

Budgeting 101

Living away from your parents/family teaches you a lot about how to be financially independent (given you’re not just dumped with a large allowance every month). What I’ve learned over the past few years is a way to balance my fixed expenses, operating costs and savings (speaking from a point of privilege).

The key here is to use percentages, as everyone has an incredibly unique financial model. We have similar types of expenses, but the values differ significantly based on our lifestyle and status.

First thing’s first, I’d recommend you download an app. I’m not trying to promote anything specific here, but you can find a number of really useful ones on your app store. Just search ‘Budgeting app’. Start tracking your income and expenses a little more carefully, not to become obsessive over it, but to get an understanding of what’s going on.

  1. Download a money budgeting app
  2. Put in your income and expenses (fixed and general) over the month
  3. Set out a specific % to save / invest
  4. Set out a specific % to donate
  5. Use the remainder to enjoy yourself / treat others

When you have that awareness of the trends you generally follow, set a certain % every month for savings, investments or just in case of emergencies. This should obviously be done after your core expenses have been paid out.

A neat budgeting template as per Dave Ramsey

After that, carve out a % to spend on charity. This is where your ROI will be immeasurable. It’s how you bring blessings and true wealth into your life. You’ll genuinely start noticing an increase in abundance. The more you give, the more you get.

The last aspect is to use the remainder to enjoy yourself or to treat others. You don’t have to blast it, but you shouldn’t be miserly or stingy either. Be kinder. Give out more tips. Buy more gifts. Indulge a little more in quality, instead of always opting for the cheapest option (within your circumstances).

I’m not trying to tell you how to use your money. I’m merely indicating what has been working for me (in my incredibly short period of earning, haha). If you do have any other suggestions or disagree with anything mentioned, feel free to leave a comment. Let’s look at the last aspect that I’d like to discuss, Memento Mori.

Death

My ethical compass constantly fluctuates between saving money for my future and spending money because I’m not guaranteed a future. I think the key aspect here is to find a right balance. Save enough to have a safety net and spend enough to live your best life.

The overarching theme though is that we’re not taking any of our possessions with us when we pass on. It’s a sobering thought, but one that we need to constantly be reminded of. We behave as if we’re 100% going to make to the next day, yet we are unsure of the next hour, minute and even second.

The lesson that I’m trying to incorporate for myself is that we should not be attached to our possessions. Let go more often. Give out things that you don’t use more often. We need to get out of this hording mentality. Where it’s just about more and more and more. Sometimes though, more is less.

Memento Mori: Remember that you too shall pass on someday. Don’t forget that fact. It’s the only thing in life that’s truly guaranteed.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Why is it so difficult to deal with change and uncertainty? What’s up with the world and wanting to move our cheese? Wait, why is there an emphasis on cheese here?

Today’s post is another book summary! A lot of you may already be familiar with it: ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr. Spencer Johnson. It’s a tale about 4 mice in a maze who have different approaches to the inevitable changes that they experience. I won’t dive too much into the story itself, but rather the nuggets of wisdom that I gained from it.

We experience change on a continuous basis. Most recently, the era of Covid-19 has disrupted the way we do everything. From social distancing, to wearing masks, constantly spraying our hands with vinegar smelling sanitizers, having curfews and working from home.

It certainly has been a struggle for almost everyone. But it is less of a struggle for people who manage to adapt rapidly and expect change. Let’s talk about the nature of change, its consistency in life, how we can learn to expect change and embracing a growth mindset (yet again).

Benjamin Franklin Quote: “Change is the only constant in ...

The nature of change

What exactly is the nature of change? This is such an interesting way of thinking about things. It’s essentially what evolution is all about; the ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances. As human beings, we love predictability (I suppose all living things do). When we experience situations that disrupt those predictions, we feel uneasy. Yet the essence of life is continuous change.

In the story, the 4 mice experience a radical shift in their living situation. They no longer find cheese in the same little station within the maze. Two of the mice decide to move on and search in new places to potentially find cheese. The other two get stuck in their old ways and start complaining. They become furious and agitated because their cheese is no longer there. They feel like they deserved and earned it. It’s unfair that this is happening to them.

The cheese can mean different things to each of us, but it essentially represents something in our lives that we hold onto. Something that we deserve. Something that we’ve earned. Something that should permanently stay ours. Something that makes us happy. This could be a job, a relationship, freedom, recognition or even an activity.

The problem with that mindset is that it makes us clingy. We stop seeing the world for what it truly is. We become egotistical in a sense. It causes us stress, it drains our energy, and it makes us unpleasant to be around. So what can we do instead?

Expecting change

We should be more like the mice who decided to move on and look for new cheese, immediately after the calamity struck. What’s interesting thing about expecting change is that we basically have to ‘expect the unexpected’. You never know when something could show up and re-direct the course of our life. It just happens. We don’t necessarily get a choice in that specific event, but we always get to choose how we respond to it.

When it comes to anticipating change, the key is to stop holding onto things. We need to learn acceptance. I’ve spoken about that several times before, but it’s always so relevant. Acceptance is what enables us to become more adaptive.

Another way to expect change is by actually imagining the worst-case scenario. This kind of exercise isn’t always easy, but it allows to consciously think of how we would overcome terrible scenarios. It’s actually quite a common practice in stoicism. Again, the point here is to embrace the unknown. Start leaving your comfort zone more often. You’ll be surprised at how resilient you are.

15 Calvin and Hobbes Quotes Everyone Can Relate To - Nerdy ...
https://nerdybookgirl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/thrive-on-change.jpg

Growth mindset

The last point I want to make about change is that being adaptive is fueled by having a growth mindset. Everything that I mentioned before is primarily driven by our mindset and approach towards things. If we believe that our experiences will help us develop new skills, make us stronger and allow us to grow, change becomes a necessity.

Constantly think of the impact your struggles have on the neural connections in your mind. Being adaptive can actually become physically ingrained into who you are. The next time you face an unexpected change, embrace it. Accept it. Think about it this way:

“What have you come to teach me?”

You’ll realize soon enough that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be, to become who you’re destined to be. It’s okay that you find it tough. It’s okay that you enjoy planning for things. It’s okay if you’re comfortable in your routines. Just anticipate that it won’t always be that way. You’re better off when you stretch yourself past the discomfort. You got this.

“Be like water, my friend”

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.

Find Reasons To Say Thank You

Today’s post is going to be a gentle reminder to be grateful. To focus on all your blessings. To give more. To find reasons to say thank you.

I’ll speak about some mindfulness, focusing on what you have, giving more and why we should stop complaining.

Mindfulness

How do we always end up back here? It’s quite incredible really, mindfulness plays an integral role in every aspect of your life. When you’re focusing on the smell of your coffee in the morning, you’re appreciating it more. When you stare out at the sky and enjoy the way the clouds slither, you appreciate it more.

When you live consciously, you’re in the present moment. When you’re in the present, you appreciate life more. When you’re able to appreciate life, you can find reasons to say thank you.

Focus on what you have

Energy follows focus. Think deeply about that. The quality of your thoughts and what you pay attention to, ultimately guide your objectives. When you focus on what you have and all that you’re blessed with, you live in a state of contentment.

Being content is a mindset more than anything. It’s accepting the present moment for what it truly is, instead of wishing to be somewhere else.

The more you give, the more you get

I’ve mentioned this philosophy before. It’s quite an evident aspect of life. When you’re a giver, you receive more in return. I learned this from my parents at a very young age, which I’m very grateful for.

Giving is the ultimate form of being thankful. Whether it’s your time, energy or money. It’s ultimately about service, sacrificing a piece of who you are to uplift those around you.

It’s an integral part of Islam too. It reminds me of this famous quote from the Quran:

Alhamdulillah

The opposite of complaining

When you complain, you’re essentially devaluing what you’ve been blessed with. There’s a big difference between criticism and complaining. One is a form of feedback to make improvements, the other just attracts negative energy.

It’s definitely difficult and requires a lot of conscious effort. It’s something I struggle with quite a lot. Complaining at every inconvenience is a form of ingratitude and it’s important for us to try and avoid it as much as possible.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s always a reason to say thank you. When you look at your body and the marvelous ways it functions, when you notice the roof above your head, the food on your table, the loving people in your life.

It’s noticing these little things each and every single day that makes life truly worth it. It’s not easy, it was never meant to be. It’s part of the journey. But let’s make this journey one hell of a joy ride.

My request to you now, is to get a piece of paper (or open the notepad on your phone) and write down 3 things you’re grateful for. Do this on a regular basis and notice how your life will change.

The Psychology of Motivation

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

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

Why is motivation so difficult to sustain?

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

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

Deadlines and fear of failure

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

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

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

Positive reinforcement

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

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

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

Constructive criticism

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

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

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

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

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

Reward and punishment

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

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

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

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

Support system

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Rules For Life

An Antidote to Chaos.

I haven’t written a book summary in quite sometime. I’m excited to share the incredible wisdom and life lessons that I’ve gained from Jordan Peterson.

Today’s post will be a summary of the book ’12 Rules For Life’. I’ll try not to make this too long, but it was just such an exciting read that I have a lot to share. Each of these rules dive into a lot more topics than I cover here, so I’d recommend you give the book a read yourself if you find this interesting.

Here’s a summary of those 12 rules:

Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back

The core lesson from this rule is to understand that life is dangerous. Chaos is always around the corner. We have a choice each and everyday in how we respond to the emerging chaos. It’s about building the habits that are required to make progress on a constant basis.

“It is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.”

Pay attention to your posture, quit hunching and acting defeated. Don’t beat around the bush. Speak your mind and put your desires forward. Dare to be dangerous. Accept the burden of existence with courage and use it to find joy and meaning in your life.

Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

This is something that I often find myself thinking about. Why do we not treat ourselves as well as we treat other people we care about? Some of us even treat our pets better than we do for ourselves.

You deserve respect. You are important to other people just as much as you are to yourself. Keep the promises you make to yourself. Determine where you are going. Discipline yourself carefully. Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. Consider what is truly good for you. Not just what you want or what would make you happy.

The main concept here is that your Being is intrinsically connected to others. If you mistreat yourself, it may have negative consequences for other people. Take care of yourself as if you were a child.

Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you

This is connected to the previous rule, in the sense that you’d want to surround yourself with people who care for you and help you grow.

There are people we keep in our lives because we want to help them. We want to be heroes and rescuers. But there’s a limit to that. You need to distinguish between people who genuinely want help and those who are exploiting a willing helper.

“If you have a friend you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, father or son, why would you keep such a friend for yourself?”

Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today

When we have standards, we’re undoubtedly going to experience failure. That’s the consequence of striving above mediocrity. It’s important to value and appreciate what you currently have in your life and the progress you’ve made thus far.

The point here is that you should see yourself as a stranger. Get to know yourself better. You need to pinpoint your mistakes and failures, because you can’t fix something unless you know it’s broken. Be very cautious when you compare yourself to others. We’re all at a different stage in our personal development.

Pay attention. Focus on your environment. Notice the things that bother you and figure out how to fix them. Ask yourself whether you even want to fix them. Ask yourself how your life will be improved if they end up being fixed.

“What could I do, that I would do, to make Life a little better?”

Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

The lesson here is about disciplining your children or people under you care to become better members of society. To allow them to experience failure, to learn from it, to gain independence from it. To say ‘No’ when it needs to be said and stick to it.

Limit the rules and then figure out how to deal with a situation where it’s broken. Use the least necessary force to enforce those rules. Never let things degenerate to the point where hatred is formed. Parents should understand their own capacity and limits just as well.

“Parents are the arbiters of society. It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child.”

Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

We’re all incredibly flawed, this should come as no surprise by now. The point is to clean up our lives as best as we can. Ask yourself a few important questions before criticizing others:

  • Do things fall apart because we have not paid sufficient attention?
  • Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you?
  • Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities?

Stop doing what you know to be wrong. That’s something that will profoundly change the quality of your life. Say and do things that will make you strong and honourable.

Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

A central theme in the book is sacrifice and delaying gratification. This is extremely important, because sacrifice and work are pretty much the same thing. We’re giving up something valuable in the present for something even more valuable in the future.

Expedience is avoiding responsibility, hiding from your problems and lying to yourself about what’s not working out for you. It transfers the curse on your head to someone else or to your future self. Expedience is impulsive and limited.

Meaning is the balance between order and chaos. When you’re at the right place, at the right time and where everything lines up as best as it can. Meaning is aligning your life with purpose.

“Practice sacrifice and sharing, until you become expert it, and things will go well for you.”

Rule 8: Tell the truth -or, at least don’t lie

What should you do when you don’t know what to do? Tell the truth.

Being truthful is imperative to having good character. If you’re not truthful and honest to yourself, how can you do the same for others? Being truthful includes avoiding willful blindness; that is when you refuse to know something that could be known.

If your life isn’t as good as it should be, try being truthful. Stop deceiving yourself.

“A man’s worth can be determined by how much truth he can tolerate.”

Rule 9: Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

Listening is a form of paying attention. It’s not thinking or doing, it’s being present to the information you’re receiving. Don’t judge or formulate a response, just pay attention. Restate the ideas and feeling of the person you’re listening to as accurately as you can, before speaking.

The point is that you can always learn by listening to other people. What you know will never be enough.

Thinking is a form of listening to yourself. That’s why true thinking is so rare, because it’s difficult and most of us don’t have the patience for it. You have to try and be two people at the same time.

“You can be pretty smart if you can just shut up.”

Rule 10: Be precise in your speech

Having arguments are necessary to solve problems, which requires us to confront our chaos. Linking this back to the concept of ‘willful blindness’; we need to realize that not thinking or speaking about something doesn’t make it go away.

Specifying the problem will enable us to find a solution. This can only be done when we admit that the problem exists in the first place. You need to determine where you’re going in your life, because you won’t get there unless you move in that direction.

Note your errors. Articulate them and strive to correct them. Don’t be afraid of conflict or suffering, they’re inevitable and can help you grow. Specify your destination and take sail. Admit to what it is you truly want and let those around you know who you are.

“Everything is intricate beyond imagining. Everything is affected by everything else.”

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

We often think we’re doing people a favour when we protect them excessively. This is especially true with regards to children. What we need to realize is that we’re all constantly seeking some form of danger. It invigorates us and makes us feel alive. We need to push ourselves past certain limits to grow. We need to push ourselves to even understand what our limits are.

Being overprotective can be hindering to development. We need the freedom and ability to make mistakes, in order for us to learn from them.

“Too much protection devastates the developing soul.”

Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

What I took from this rule is that we need to be mindful to the little blessings in our life. There is so much that we take for granted on a regular basis, that it makes us bitter and resentful.

If we can focus more on our blessings and truly incorporate gratitude, our perspective and experience of life will significantly change. We’re imperfect, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to fall, but we’ll learn, we’ll grow and we’ll adapt.

“When you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations, it’s because of their limitations.”

I hope you managed to gain some wisdom from all these rules. They’re definitely applicable to our every day lives, especially because they have to do with our perception.

Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep pushing. You got this.

What Is Learning All About?

Are you someone who is thirsty to learn and improve on a regular basis? What does learning even mean? In what aspects of our lives are we actually ‘learning’? Are some people naturally better at it than others?

Today’s post will be about knowledge, wisdom, intelligence and personal growth. I’d like to dive into the different areas of learning and how we can maintain a holistic growth mindset.

Knowledge

This is a little bit tricky to dive into because it encompasses so much. Knowledge is essentially your level of understanding of any topic or skill. It’s your awareness based on what you’ve learned or been exposed to.

When we gain knowledge, we’re essentially equipping ourselves to better deal with future problems. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying: “Knowledge is power”. But that’s not true unless you consciously apply that knowledge.

I’d like to divide learning into 3 categories:

  • Theoretical
  • Practical
  • Observational

Each type of learning works more effectively for different people, based on their nature and nurture. Knowledge can be acquired through any of those learning types. We can learn the theory behind complex concepts, apply that theory practically, or observe other people performing the practice.

Understanding what type works best for you will assist you in your journey to becoming a life-long learner. It may even be a combination of all 3.

Wisdom

“Wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.”

That quote speaks accurately about how to understand what wisdom is all about. My personal understanding of wisdom is learning from mistakes (it can be your mistakes or just observing others) and walking the talk.

How can we learn to be wiser? Simple really, just reflect more often. I spoke thoroughly about that in my previous post. Look back at how far you’ve come. Write down the important lessons you’ve gained. Read more books and write down more quotes.

Another fantastic way to gain wisdom is by speaking to people who are older than you or have more experience than you. Nothing is more efficient than learning life lessons from people who’ve been through similar experiences to you. It’ll also make your conversations more interesting.

Intelligence

Learning about intelligence has profoundly changed my life. The simple idea that we’re not ‘fixed’ means that we have so much potential for growth. There are also several types of intelligence and it’s quite unfair to judge people based on one metric.

This infographic shows the 9 potential types of intelligence:

I won’t go into too much detail here, I just want you to appreciate how incredibly diverse intelligence can be. The schooling system and academics barely make up 11% of what’s out there.

If you feel like you’re not intelligent, maybe you just haven’t explored them all. We’re all incredibly gifted and have so much to offer the world.

Keep a growth mindset and deeply appreciate how malleable we truly are. The more effort and energy we put in, the better we become.

Who you are today is a result of your previous efforts. Who you will become tomorrow, is a result of the effort you put in today.

Personal Growth

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to personal growth and self-development. I view it as being a fundamental aspect of human growth. By learning about yourself, how you need to improve, what’s working for you and what isn’t, you’ll be better equipped to serve the world around you.

Personal growth is also a commitment to learning in general. It’s integrating your knowledge, wisdom and intelligence, and striving to continuously learn from your mistakes.

The most important relationship you have is with yourself (after God of course). Taking care of yourself can be a means of you contributing to the world.

The key point I want you to take from this post is that we’re all wired differently. There are so many different ways and things for us to learn in life. Don’t compare yourself to other people who have spent more time in a certain category of intelligence. Focus on your objectives as best as you can and lift up other people with you along the way.

Life is a journey of learning. Keep trying your best, especially when it gets tough. You’re so much more capable than you give yourself credit. You got this. I believe in you.

A Toolbox For Studying Online

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

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

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

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

Time Management

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

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

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

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

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

Time management

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

Make Stress Your Friend #2

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

Make stress your friend

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

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

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

Advertisements

Support structures and mental health

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

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

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

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

Mental health

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

Mindful Monday #1

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

Mindfulness

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

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

Goals

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

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

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