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.”

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.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

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

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

Routine and schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback

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

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

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

So what do we do about that?

Reflect!

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

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

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

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

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

We’re all idiots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Positivity

‘Don’t worry!’

‘Just stay positive…’

‘Everything will work out.’

‘Imagine how much worse things could be?’

I’ve recently come across a very interesting term called ‘toxic positivity’. This is very similar to the concept of toxic productivity that I’ve discussed before, whereby we push certain mindsets past a healthy threshold.

Today, I’ll speak about what I think toxic positivity is, how positivity can become toxic, why we experience it, emotional intelligence and vulnerability.

I enjoy discussing things that I often find myself guilty of following, because it’s how I grow and learn. The IG post below is where I found out about the concept and is a great place to learn more about it.

What is toxic positivity?

It is essentially portraying yourself as being happy all the time, regardless of what life throws at you. It’s rejecting the negative emotions that come up and living in an illusion that everything is perfectly okay. This meme perfectly sums it up for me:

How can positivity be toxic?

The term toxic refers to something being affected by poison. This is often the case when you’re obsessed to the degree that it no longer serves its original intent.

Positivity in and of itself is wonderful. It’s what keeps people going. It helps you see the best in situations. But don’t confuse positivity with optimism and don’t let positivity hinder your ability to feel negative emotions.

Our ability to feel a wide range of emotions is what inherently makes us human beings. Take a look at the diagram below. Can you imagine denying yourself more than 2/3 of that range? It’s all there for a reason, we’re meant to feel things.

When your sole focus becomes trying to always be ‘happy’, you’re falling into the toxic trap.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/ea/9d/46/ea9d468243a408df546ed2946e8bc86e.jpg

Why do we do it?

Because feeling sad sucks. It’s that simple really. We don’t enjoy the feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment or fear etc. However, that doesn’t mean that we should try and escape from experiencing them.

Always being cheerful is something embedded deep into our psyche from a very young age. Whereas being upset or frustrated is something frowned upon / ‘annoying’. This is why I believe that emotional intelligence is so important, because it allows us to understand that there’s a plethora of emotions that we need to understand and appreciate.

Just to be clear here, I’m in no way trying to tell you not to feel ecstatic, hopeful or optimistic. I’m merely trying to get you to understand how complicated we are as beings. Allow your self to experience the full range of emotions more regularly and accept them.

https://www.facebook.com/YFSWellness/photos/pcb.2755390471246386/2755390157913084/?type=3&theater

Self-awareness and acceptance

Self-awareness is arguably the most important skill to learn for emotional intelligence. This should definitely be followed by acceptance. When we’re able to identify and become aware of specific emotions, it enables us to accept them.

This process is extremely liberating because it teaches us not to hold onto or force away any feelings. When we’re able to be deeply present with ourselves, we are no longer slaves to our impulses.

“Better awareness >> Better choices >> Better results”

Vulnerability and empathy

Learning how to be appropriately vulnerable will catalyze meaningful connections in your life. You’ll not only amplify your ability to be kind to yourself, but you’ll be able to do the same for others.

This involves being open and honest about how you feel. Talking about what’s bothering you or what’s not going well for you. It’s about being realistic and showing that. Being empathetic will also play an important role in vulnerability, because you would need to relate to how other people are feeling by reflecting on similar experiences.

Toxic positivity encourages the suppression of emotions and faking the fact that things are okay. Being vulnerable encourages you to accept it and then allow it to pass.


It’s okay to not be okay.

Next time you do feel a storm whirring up inside of you, take a deep breath. Allow yourself to sit through the motion and gain an understanding of how your body reacts.

Things will be really shitty at times, but things will also be really great at times and that’s part of the journey. Understand that failure is part of growth and that it’s okay to want to give up. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Just keep trying your best to learn.

Don’t take your health for granted

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

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

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

What can you control?

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

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

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

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

Why should you be grateful?

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

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

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

Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him)

What could be the benefits of falling ill?

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

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

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

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

5 tips to help you with tough decisions

When was the last time you were stuck making a difficult choice? Do you feel like there’s a decision that will change the rest of your life? There’s always going to be a point in our lives when we’re going to have to make a sacrifice between several options, to move forward.

This post will deal with how to approach difficult decisions. Not in the sense where you’ll figure out exactly what to do, but rather a guiding tool to help you understand your situation better.

Better awareness, leads to better choices which ultimately leads to better result. So let’s try and enhance our self-awareness skill-set. I’ll dive into asking the right questions, starting with why, walking, then finding time to sit with your thoughts, praying & writing.

It’s like another collage of all my favourite topics. But again, reminders are extremely important, especially when you can use the concepts in every aspect of your life.

1-Ask the right questions

Questions are the answer. Every thought you have is a result of some question you’ve asked yourself. Once you realize the impact that has on you, you’ll be able to start asking yourself better questions.

I’ll give a few examples of what you can ask yourself in face of difficult decisions, but you should try and find what works best for you. Use them according to your own needs & circumstances.

  • Will this be in line with my values?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Will this help me serve others?
  • What do I feel passionate about?
  • If I were to die tomorrow, will this really matter?
  • What impact do I want to have on the world?

Ask those questions relative to the options you have & use the most relevant answers to guide you.

I know some of these questions are rather vague, but you shouldn’t be expecting an immediate answer either way. It’s about giving yourself something to ponder over, and assisting your intuition to serve you.

2-Start with why

Another key aspect that directly relates to questions, ask yourself why you’re doing this. Find out the root cause of your indecision. Remember that the Golden Circle has 3 components, as introduced by Simon Sinek.

If both decisions are in line with your WHY, then you’ll have to do a lot more work. This would require some introspection and self-awareness. This comes in the form of meditation (or sitting in stillness) and journalling.

3-Go for a walk then sit in stillness

Walking as many of you may already know, is one of the healthiest habits to have. Not only does it serve as a mild form of exercise -which in itself has tremendous benefits- but it also does wonders for the brain.

Walking specifically helps you digest thoughts, get more creative, and deeply reflect. These mental benefits can’t be attributed to other forms of intense exercise (such as gyming or running), as those will distract your mind.

After giving yourself a topic to ponder over, go on a 15-20 minute walk (preferably in nature). When you’re back, find a safe space to sit in stillness. This would also be a lot better if you’re surrounded by nature.

Allow thoughts to come and go, without judgment or force. Focus on your breath initially, to immerse yourself in the present moment. Then allow yourself to reflect over the decisions you need to make.

You can also use your previous experiences to help you with the thought process. We’re feedback machines. We’re constantly learning from our mistake (hopefully), and using that knowledge to make better decisions in the future. So think of aspects in your life where you needed to make tough decisions and reflect on how it turned out.

4-Identify pros, cons and alternatives

Part of your introspection can include identifying the pros and cons in your decisions. Don’t dive too deeply into this, but use it to see if a certain decision would be far better than the others.

We often hold onto a tunnel vision and see things from one point of view. Look for alternatives (if possible) and try to identify other perspectives.

Asking people for advice can also work, but don’t rely too much on their opinion. Remember that it’s you who’ll have to live with the decision for the rest of your life (no pressure).

5-Pray, write & choose what feels right

Pray for guidance and constantly remember your purpose in life. We haven’t been created randomly. We’re here to each serve a cause greater than ourselves.

Time and time again, I bring up the notion of death. That’s because this life isn’t going to last forever. Don’t give decisions too much weight over you. There’s always room for learning and forgiveness.

Keep a tab of your thoughts by writing in a journal. This will allow you to easily notice patterns and aspects of your life that you wouldn’t otherwise see. It also gives you a bird’s eye point of view, seeing yourself from a completely different perspective.

At the end of the day, choose what feels right. The aforementioned tips will only serve as guide to help your intuition.

There’s no right or wrong. Life is full of lessons. Whatever you end up choosing, embrace it fully and live your best life. We can’t determine the outcome, but we can always choose our response. So choose optimism. Choose growth. Choose to learn.

Now is all we have, so let’s be thankful for that and strive to contribute to our best ability.

Thinking out loud ~3

Let’s talk a little about seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, love and kindness. Relationships, roots and a bit of mother nature. I’m attempting a more poetic approach with the thinking out loud series, also allowing the pictures I take to speak with me.

It’s our own idea of good and bad, that truly carries meaning with us. If we can dissociate from those ideas, we’ll have much more freedom. That is: seeking pleasure makes us feel good, whereas enduring pain makes us feel bad.

Life is meant to be both pleasing and painful, for without silence there can be no sound. Without darkness, there can be no light.

The nature of the flower is to give, the nature of the bug is to receive. Follow your nature. Give and receive in abundance.

The ultimate value of personal growth work is not to feel better about ourselves but to contribute to how those around us feel about themselves.

In unity there is strength, like the roots of trees. There’s a fascinating podcast that I listened to the other day, which spoke on the reasons why certain trees and forests survive extreme conditions. From snowy storms to hurricanes and tornadoes, how do forests still make it?

It turns out, there’s an entire network beyond our vision, allowing this to be possible. The roots of trees are known to dig deep into the earth and find multiples sources of nutrition. These roots also connect with neighbouring trees and plants, forming immaculate networks.

These networks allow trees to ‘communicate’ and to assist each other whenever needed. I found this absolutely inspiring, considering how important it is for us to stay and work together.

In unity there is strength.

The support and love we can provide to each other, will also allow us to withstand all conditions. As social beings, we’ve evolved to rely on each other. Not just for our basic needs, but for intuitive, emotional and intellectual stimulation.

Fostering healthy relationships however, is not just something you can do by liking pictures or retweeting posts. It’s an investment. You have to put in time and energy, in order for it to grow into something profitable. Profitable in the sense where you find meaning and service, within something greater than yourself.

Take time to check on your friends, your family members, all those you care about. Love is about action, consistency, and how we make others feel. It’s the amount of attention we’re willing to pay.

Spend time to reflect on the people you spend time with. The way you treat the people you love. The way you treat yourself. Your actions, behaviours and intentions. We need to spend more time consciously living. Being present with the world around us.

Spending time in nature is good for your mental health. It’s science, I kid you not. Going for walks also allows your thoughts and values to incubate. You need to make time to let your mind wander and truly internalize your purpose.

To love, also means to let go. For if we constantly keep others under our shade, that could also lead to stunting their growth. People enter and leave our lives, like the leaves flowing down a stream. Nothing to be judgmental about, it’s part of nature’s flow.

Here are few quotes about love from a book I’ve recently read called ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran.

“Even as love ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.”

“Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed. For love is sufficient unto love.”

Considering the shortness of our life span, the chaos of this world, and the lack of our true empathy; we should all strive to love more. Start from within, learn to love yourself more, form a healthy relationship with yourself. Then watch your relationships start to flourish.

For when you’ve sufficiently filled your cup, you can receive and give without worrying about that cup ever emptying out.

The grass is always greener on the other side, but if you look closely enough, your grass is just as green as it’s meant to be. Focus on what you have; be grateful, be content, be adaptable. As with the changing of the seasons, our leaves may have to fall to allow the tree to prosper; only for them to re-grow in due time. Everything is cyclic, so are we.

We were crafted from this earth & to it we shall return.

Those with a giving mindset take some comfort knowing that even though they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, they helped someone else get exactly what they wanted.

[All pics were taken on adventure missions]

Dare to lead?

Just want to start by reminding myself and those of you who don’t know, why I started this blog. My aim with these posts is ‘Aspire to Inspire’. To gain a better understanding of the knowledge I’ve acquired, put it into use, and share it with as many people as possible.

If you find this useful, please subscribe using your email to get the posts regularly, like and share it with those who may also find it helpful.

The philosophy I’m trying to adhere to is that ‘The teacher learns the most’. So even if you just try and explain what you learn to other people, you’ll make so much more sense of it. I appreciate each and every one of you who have read and supported me through this; thank you for your time.

I was thinking of the best way to describe this topic, especially since it’s a domain I’m trying to work on quite rigorously. I’ll be going through quite a few aspects of leadership, the most important factor here being communication.

As usual, I’ll be reminding you of things I’ve mentioned in a previous post, namely the one about communication (I recommend you go over it considering how relevant it is to this topic, if you have the time to). The source of inspiration for this topic is from: Dare to lead, by Brene Brown.

We’ll start with why, and unravel the various reasons behind leadership, and how you first need to take ownership of yourself. We can then start seeing how communication plays a role in being an effective leader, through vulnerability, courage & empathy. Finally, we’ll dive into some tips on being a more effective leader and how the best way to lead, is by example.

“Daring leadership is ultimately about serving others, not ourselves. That’s why we choose courage.”

Start with why

Let’s start with a little curiosity, why should we even try to become better leaders? A lot of us (myself included) tend to have a misconception regarding who leaders are. We see leaders as those who take responsibility, run projects, captain sport teams, lead organizations or rule countries. But the truth is, we’re all leaders in some way, each and everyday. To our families, friends, colleagues, roommates and community. Whether or not we take ownership of it is up to us.

Being a better leader is therefore beneficial for every day interactions, forming more meaningful relationships, and serving those around you to your best ability.

When it comes to taking ownership, the first person we should think about is ourselves. Once we’re able to lead ourselves; by allowing ourselves to feel, make nonjudgmental decisions, and strive towards our goals in the face of hardship, can we then consider being leaders to others. That’s not to say that we always need to have our shit together to be great leaders. But better awareness, leads to better choices, which leads to better results.

So another pivotal point here, is having some sort of self-awareness. By forming a healthier relationship with yourself, you can ultimately form a healthier relationship with other people (I’ve emphasized that quite a lot by now). So first understand your own goals, reasons, values, and emotions. Understand what works best for you and what doesn’t, then build up your emotional confidence.

Once that’s established, ensure that you surround yourself with people who share your values, visions, and goals. I’m not saying that we should stick to our comfort zone and those we’ve always been acquainted with, but rather find those who are ambitious, hard working, and determined in the same direction. Once we have a solid reason, a why, we can move onto communicating that with other people.

Communication

Okay this is something I purposely chose to speak about again, because it serves as a reminder to myself and those of you who are reading. The biggest problem I notice whenever people are in a disagreement or have issues between each other, is lack of open communication. In the words of Brene Brown:
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.

Being clear is something that sounds so simple, yet we struggle so much with it. The issue with being clear, is that we need to lead into our vulnerability and courage. It’s so much easier to beat around the bush and just kind expect the other person to understand what we’re trying to say. But that’s why being vulnerable is so vital, it allows you to dive into how you truly feel and discuss that with another person.

Also important to note: You can’t give what you don’t have. So you can’t give other people love and compassion, if you don’t have it for yourself first (without it taking a toll on you).

I’m trying to bridge the understanding gap between myself and other people, through uncovering uncertainties and assumptions that I make with them. This can be done by figuring out where I leave others in a blind spot by assuming they know specific things about how I feel, what I’m going through or even about them.

Also, looking into where I lack clarity in truly conveying my feelings and how those affect my relationship with them. A critical aspect of communication therefore, requires more than just speaking; it requires us to be open listeners.

Listen! This is probably something we struggle even more with, if speaking wasn’t so hard already. But just listening to what people have to say will go such a long way in fostering a healthier relationship with them. Don’t formulate your response while they’re speaking.

Immerse yourself in the experience and fully understand where the other person is coming from. Stay present. This leads to the next point that I absolutely love speaking about; empathy.

Empathy

Empathy is more than just connecting to an experience (putting yourself in another person’s shoes), it’s about connecting to the emotions underlying that experience. This means that it requires vulnerability, because you have to be willing to tap into your emotional reservoir and think about how you would feel in that particular situation.

Although certain people have challenges or experiences that we’ll never face, we can still find a situation that we’ve been through, that allowed us to feel a similar emotion. Herein are a few ways to help develop your empathy skills:

  • Perspective taking
  • To be nonjudgmental
  • To understand other people’s feelings
  • To communicate your understanding of their feelings (and your own)
  • Mindfulness

The most common skill that people understand when talking about empathy is the perspective taking. This requires us to be the learner, not the knower. Curiosity is a key factor here, and if you don’t understand where someone is coming from, be brave enough to ask.

“Only when diverse perspectives are included, respected and valued can we start to get a full picture of the world.”

To be nonjudgmental is absolutely critical when trying to deal with other people. This means that we need to be aware of where we are most vulnerable to our own struggles. We judge the most, when people are susceptible to shame and when they’re doing worse than us.

Emotional literacy or intelligence is necessary when trying to understand and communicate other people’s feelings, as well as your own. It’s an uncomfortable process that most of us seem to struggle with, and proves to be damaging in the majority of relationships. If we can’t articulate the emotion, we won’t be able to move through it. That’s why I think we need to actually spend time trying to learn the different emotions that we do experience, so that we can communicate it better with other people.

We also need to be able to show people that we do understand what they’re feeling, as that forms the basis of a connection. Albeit risky, we need to have the courage to ask them about their feelings if we don’t properly understand it.

To be mindful with emotions means that we don’t attach ourselves to them. As with life, everything we feel is temporary. This too shall pass. By paying attention to what’s happening in the conversation, what you and the other person are feeling, as well as the body language, we’ll be able to formulate a more empathetic approach to our responses.

Just a quick reminder that there’s a critical difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy drives connection. Sympathy fuels disconnection.

Leadership tips

I just wanted to discuss a few skills that I’m trying to implement, in being a better leader, through the form of questions and phrases that I can keep in mind. When dealing with issues within a group, bringing up and discussing the issue may sometimes be a roadblock. Here are a few points to follow to help overcome that:

  • Name the issue.
  • Prioritize being a curious leader.
  • Acknowledge and reward great questions.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the issue and talk about the problem. Remember: better awareness leads to better choices, which leads to better results. Stay curious and try to understand the source of the problem and how it can be overcome, together.

Use your empathy skills to further connect with the other group members and gain an understanding of why this might be an issue for them. The aim is to ‘get it right’, not ‘be right’. Another factor can be to encourage questions, which are sometimes even more important than just searching for answers. Don’t let your ego get in the way of asking for help, or admitting your faults. Being nonjudgmental with yourself is critical to being the same way with other people.

Reasons reap results, so don’t shy from asking.

A concept that I found incredibly helpful was to ask the question: “What does done look like?” This allows the person in charge to identify and clearly paint an image of what they expect to be done, and the objectives required to get there. Clear communication allows for more effective management. Here are a few more questions to ask as some rumble starters:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What are the assumptions you’ve made to get to your understanding?
  • What do you see as the goal of this meeting?

Engage in tough conversations, it’s the only way you and your team will grow.

Be motivated. Observe mindfully. Stay present.

Another important tip is to maintain boundaries. Show your level of self-respect through abiding with your values and don’t just let other people step over you. The same works for you, understand people’s boundaries better and learn to respect them. This works wonder for building up better trust and connecting more healthily.

The best way to lead?

By example. Practice what you preach. Walk the talk. I can’t emphasize this enough, people learn exceptionally through observation. I’ll use the example of parenting to further clarify this point.

When parents are found speaking contradictory to their actions, they wonder why their kids don’t listen to them. It’s simple, children learn the most through observational learning. The psychology behind that is absolutely phenomenal (to me at least), but that learning ranges from emotional reactivity, behavioral responses and habits. Not everyone follows that trend, but it’s a general concept we can mostly agree on.

You can’t just tell someone not to do something, when you’ve been doing it the whole time. I know we want the best for others, and for them to learn from our mistakes. But proving that requires action, determination, vulnerability and courage in the face of our short-comings.

When we can lead through vulnerability and being receptive to having braver conversations, we’ll find it a lot easier to create more meaningful interactions in our lives. It’ll open room for more honesty, creativity, productivity and even love.

So next time you ask someone: “How’s it going”? Don’t just wait for them to say: ‘good and you’?, with your response being “I’m good thanks.” Let’s leave the robotic cycle and aim to have deeper interactions on a more regular basis. Next time someone asks you how you’re doing, give yourself a second to actually think: “How am I actually feelings right now?” and then respond within the relevant boundaries. And when you’re asking them that question, listen attentively, notice their tone and the words their using. Show them that you care, and your relationships should start to flourish.

I’ve hopefully inspired you to take more initiative in your daily interactions and to strive to become a better leader, in whatever way you need to be. We should always start with why and have a clear sense of our objectives, as well as intentions and assumptions.

When we’re able to clearly communicate that with others, it’ll be easier for us to form a structured team. Being empathetic is a no-brainer for forming healthier and more trustworthy relationships, so it’s important to keep the different skills in mind: Perspective taking, being nonjudgmental, understanding and communicating people’s feelings, and being mindful. Some of the leadership tools include naming the issue, staying curious and rewarding good questions. Finally, leading by example through your actions, will always prove to be the most effective way to get those around you to improve.

“Strive always to excel in virtue and truth.” 

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Death!

Ahh, the topics seem to be getting more and more interesting hey? Trigger warning in advance for people who might find this topic a sensitive issue. I do not intend on writing in a dreadful or pernicious manner but rather in an eye opening or inspirational way.

For those of you that spend enough time with me, you’ll know that I often use death as motivation. It’s also been a recurring theme in the past few posts, considering how often I mention memento mori. In this post, I’m going to dive into my personal view on how we can use the realization of death to our advantage, not only to live life to its fullest, but to also help gain a deeper psychological understanding of our own behaviours.

Just as with change, death is inevitable; resistance is futile. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is an incredible book which emphasizes the importance of the present moment. Again and again, I can’t tell you how vital it is to implement that form of mindfulness in your life. Keeping death in mind healthily, is probably the ultimate form of being present. When we understand that now is all we have, and that we could die at any moment, we open ourselves to living more meaningfully. Considering the only guarantee we have in life, is that we’re going to die. The point isn’t to get anxious or worried about it, but rather to appreciate everything and everyone much more.

Have you ever realized how we create problems and situations for ourselves, even when everything seems to be going okay? On a subconscious level, think of how often we try to escape our own thoughts and ideas, from the fact that we’re so temporary. We tend to complicate things for ourselves all the time and find different ways to keep our minds occupied. If you’re into philosophy, you’ll often notice that many of the discussions revolve around our deep and hidden anxiety regarding death. This is something that we don’t truly understand, yet it has such a profound impact on our day to day interactions. So when faced with unforeseen emotional turbulence, ponder on why it’s affecting you as much as it is. I just mean that there’s a lot of unnecessary distraction that we create for ourselves, and being aware and more thoughtful of where it’s arising from could help deal with it.

So, how can we use this thought process to motivate or inspire us?
More than anything, when you’re in difficult situation: overwhelmed, stressed, panicked or depressed, embrace that it will be temporary. Remind yourself that this too shall pass!
Prioritize what’s important to you by following your dreams, leaving your comfort zone & keeping in mind that we only have one shot at this! So
how could you not give it your all? Picture yourself on your death bed from time to time, and think: How would I want to feel at that moment? Remember that we regret the chances we didn’t take, not the ones we took and failed at. So don’t let fear stop you from chasing your goals. Don’t let fear keep you in your unhappiness, we seriously don’t have time to waste on that.

From an Islamic point of view (my religious practice), this world is meant to be a temporary transition. The hereafter is what ultimately matters; what we’re meant to be striving for. Our prayers include: not making this world / life our biggest priority. When we dig into the essence of this, it makes sense… Everyone that has ever preceded us, everyone that will ever follow, is so temporary and so unimportant in the greater scheme of things. How does it then make sense for us, to think that we’re the centre of the universe and that we won’t be accountable for all that we do on this planet? Does being rich and famous really matter? Can you take anything materialistic with you when you’re gone? We need to focus more on leaving a positive impact on the world. To give people something to remember, not to merely be remembered.

The beauty of Islam is that it emphasizes peace and forgiveness as much as possible. Especially because we don’t know how long we’re going to be here for. Being kind to your neighbours, giving charity, assisting those in need, gaining knowledge, smiling to strangers, taking care of yourself. These are all actions which are highly valued and rewarded; where it’s accounted for in the afterlife. It brings me back to the main point, if we don’t know how long we’re going to live for, why not be the best possible person you can be, to everyone around you? So we need to try and understand and just think about how there’s a lot more to life than just existing, we need to strive to live.

This is where I’m trying to aim the posts in this blog, to difficult conversations and topics that many of us are uncomfortable with thinking and speaking about. So keep these questions in mind, especially when you’re afraid, upset, confused or just unsure. We can all find so much more meaning if we understand how valuable our time is. Keep pushing yourself, do more for others, and picture yourself on your deathbed more often. I have a lot to discuss regarding balance; mind, body & soul. That will be the topic for the next post.

Loneliness

I’d like to speak about a topic that everyone has inevitably experienced at some point. Loneliness. Now, the premise of this post will be more than just being comfortable in your own company, but rather that empty chest feeling that creeps up on you without you ever realizing it. No one goes through life unscathed, that’s why I believe it’s important to speak about things that may be uncomfortable or even daunting. Because if we’re all going through similar experiences, why not help each other deal with it?

Enjoying some quality alone time by yourself is without a doubt an extremely healthy habit. When we give ourselves a safe space to ponder and let thoughts flow, it provides with insightful reflection and wisdom in return. An example of this would be, going on a walk somewhere in nature and enjoying your own presence within the present. Some of the greatest minds of our time such as Beethoven, Darwin, Dickens & even Steve Jobs have taken daily strolls to enhance their creativity and let ideas flow. (This doesn’t necessarily mean you enjoy quality time alone, it’s just an example of how you could) However, even if we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, it’s too often we find a hollowing pain within, yearning for connection.

I generally refer to a term called the empty chest feeling (ECF). A little bit of loneliness that creeps up on you out of nowhere, regardless of how well everything seems to be going. Sometimes it could be out of boredom, our minds’ way of dealing with the fact that we’re all going to die some day. Just think about how much we do to distract ourselves, from the very idea of death. There’s a reason I love the quote “Memento Mori” so much, it translates to “The art of dying”. Ironically, what we’re willing to die for, is ultimately what we should strive to live for.

The ECF is part of our nature I believe, from an evolutionary perspective. To drive social interaction and bonding, as it was more effective for us to work together & build pacts. From hunting and protecting, to building and expanding. The instinctive feeling to connect, drove us to stick together and do better. But at this point in time, when we’re the most connected to everyone around us, why do we find ourselves still struggling with meaningful connection? I think it’s to do with the very nature of being connected with yourself. Remember that no one else can completely fill in the void within you, unless you learn to fill it up yourself.

So what can we do when that empty chest feeling appears, even when we’re comfortable being alone?

Accept it, write it down & let it go! That may sound way too simple, but honestly if you’ve read my post about journalling , you’ll realize how important I think writing down is. But what’s vital here is the first aspect, acceptance. When we consciously accept how we feel, we’ve automatically allowed ourselves to deal with it. Always remember that as humans, we’re not meant to be feeling ecstatic and over the moon at all times. Things do fall apart, we mess up and sometimes life sucks. But that’s okay! If you didn’t have to struggle or experience crappy emotions, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy and appreciate life either. So when a bit of loneliness creeps up, tell yourself: “I love you and I’m listening”. I know there’ll be mixed reactions around this, but it’s something that personally works for me and I can honestly tell you that it makes you feel some type of way.

Having purpose and serving others, is another way of healthily using that feeling to your advantage. When you find something that drives you, something that gives you a reason to wake up everyday, something that has a positive impact on your community, you start feeling a sense of purpose. Start measuring your own success based on the effort you put in & based on the impact you’ve had on others, instead of results or material success.

This post included a lot of what I’ve written about previously, but these are important and relevant points that should always be reiterated. Forming a healthy relationship with yourself sometimes just won’t cut it, which is why we need to look at our species more holistically and be driven by our contributions to society. So taking that together with healthy strolls, learning to accept your own emotions and being there for yourself, would therefore be a better game plan. I’ll leave with a quote as usual:

“You find yourself, when you lose yourself in the service of others.”

-Ghandi