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.

Social media

Do you also feel like we’re all turning into cyber-zombies? Does it seem like everyone spends more time on their phones than with the people around them? Why do we find so much comfort in our devices?

This is one of the most important topics that I want to discuss, especially entering a new decade. How social media is absorbing us all, causing some form of digital dementia. You’ve heard the famous saying: We’re more connected than ever before, yet we all feel lonelier than ever before.

So what is it about social media that grabs our attention? And what can we do in light of this hyper-normalization?

I’m going to start by talking about my own experiences, the psychology behind social media and how to move forward.

My experiences

I spent 2018 on a social media sabbatical: deleting Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat & Facebook. I returned in 2019, with a lot more awareness and discipline.

It’s often really hard to imagine giving social media up. Our first defensive instinct: It’s how I stay in touch with my friends/family! Can you imagine your life without all the cyber distractions?

You’d have way more free time than you’d be willing to believe. Not only that, you’ll be left with your thoughts for several moments at a time; how daunting. This is not me trying to convince you to get rid of all your social media, but just to share the lessons I’ve learnt on how we can use it more effectively.

The reason I decided to leave social media for a year was because of my break-up. In December 2017, I went through a very turbulent emotional phase. I was trying to deal with ‘heartbreak’.

I realized that what made it so difficult for me to get over my ex, was how easy it was to see her online presence. It left me in a strange mode. Constantly stalking, comparing, judging and feeling unworthy.

When I first got off social media, it felt alien. I had no idea what to do. No more worrying about my feed, posting on my story, tweeting random thoughts or taking unnecessary selfies on snap chat.

A few days in, I realized how much free time I had. This tempted me to re-download some of the apps out of boredom. Luckily, I came across this insightful quote that helped me: “Habits cannot be erased, they can only be replaced.” Understanding that led me to start reading & meditating.

A week into the sabbatical, I realized that my attention span started rapidly improving. My brain was getting out of the “swipe swipe swipe, like, comment, swipe swipe swipe” thought process. I began focusing a lot better.

One of the most important aspects that changed: My relationships started to flourish. I started being more present with people I cared about and spent time with. I spent less time showing off snippets of my life to impress people I barely know.

That fundamentally changed the wiring in my brain, because I was becoming less dependent on the dopamine rush from getting likes and comments. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

A massive illusion of social media is that you’re staying in touch with people. But liking, commenting and occasionally reacting to a story is not staying in touch.

It’s an artificial connection. We keep faking the same idea to ourselves until we’re convinced it’s the only way to live. But it’s not.

The psychology behind it

To ease the tension a little bit, I want you to understand a fundamental aspect of social media; the current intention behind its creation. It’s designed by scientists/psychologists/programmers who have dedicated their lives to ensure you spend as much time on the app as possible. Why?

Your attention (or time) = profit.

If you pay attention to the amount of data that’s being sold from all your searches, likes, swipes and posts, you’d be rather frightened. I’m saying this because you need to understand that your addiction is not entirely your fault.

It was created to be as absorbing and as charming as possible. Much like this world in the eye of a believer. Temporary, deceptive and full of temptations.

When you understand the way ads affect your subconscious and the way it’s abusing your mental power, you’d be more inclined to make better decisions. Remember: Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results.

How do we move forward? 

Learn more and stay conscious of the time you spend online. We’re entering an age where it’s more comfortable to stare at your screen when you’re bored than stare out of the window. (The latter provides the mind with impeccable subconscious insight).

We feel awkward, almost alien, when we’re waiting and not constantly checking our phones. Use the time limits on the apps and respect them. Encourage those around you to minimize their social media usage and try to have technology-free gatherings.

This will contribute to your mental health and hopefully improve the loneliness epidemic that we’re currently experiencing. You don’t necessarily realize it, but you’re always comparing yourself to other people online.

Whether you choose to accept that or not is up to you, your unconscious does 95% of the work for you anyway.

I know some of this may have been a little intense and that I could’ve covered a lot more ground. But this is as brief as I could make it.

I’m not trying to force anyone to change or to get you all to abandon social media and start living in a forest (although I wish I was). But for the sake of your happiness and mental clarity, spend a little more time being present with your weird thoughts and feelings, instead of scrolling aimlessly.

Let’s try to be a little less zombie-like, a little more present, and a lot more loving. Stop worrying about taking a picture of every moment, and start living in it.

Nothing contributes to a healthy relationship as much as active listening and honest communication. That just isn’t as effective when your phone is in your hand.

We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.

Erik Qualman

(A little ironic how I took pics to post on my blog, then talking about living in the moment haha).

Thinking out loud ~1

So I’ll take a different kind of approach here. Not any sort of book review, rather just a post where I’ll blab out some thoughts. “Writing is closer to thinking than speaking”. That’s a quote ingrained on one of my journals. Quite true I’d say, things are much clearer when you get to write it out.

If you think about it, every time you write something, you’re just narrating a story of some sort. When I read back over previous journal entries, it made me realize how much of a time-machine it is. The story is always remembered in some vivid way.

Speaking of memory, whenever we think of past experiences, the version of the story slightly alters. That’s purely because, the less you think about a certain experience or event, the less likely it is to stay in your mind. Kind of like an old trail, if it isn’t used enough, it’ll get covered up. Just realizing how easy it is for us to re-wire our own neurons. However, certain experiences do trigger a longer-lasting memory, especially if they’re unpleasant. We could go on for quite a while about this, but let’s move on.

Getting back to narrating a story. I recently joined something called the Student Leadership Program at UCT, which is essentially a weekly course on becoming a better leader in your community. The first session I attended was about thinking through your own story (and leadership). A few of my peers from the program went up to speak about their story, which I found incredibly inspiring and motivational.

We all have a story, whatever that means to us. What I realized while I was trying to articulate my own story and listening to others, was how important it is to have some sort of self-awareness.

Being self-aware enables us to see the patterns within our self, that may or may not be serving us. Identifying with our own journey is something vital, because we need to have some sort of driving force. If we don’t know where we’re going, we’re never going to reach the destination.

I believe that if we can start asking ourselves the right questions, it’ll automatically allow us to reflect on what matters most to us. Let me just jot down a few:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my key values?
  • What is my purpose?
  • Where am I going in this current direction?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What do I believe in?
  • What is the impact I want to have on the world?
  • How can I be of service to others?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • Why do I care about certain people?
  • Am I surrounding myself with people who encourage and motivate me?
  • What is the greatest ideal of myself that I can be today?
  • Why am I here?
  • How can I learn from this?
  • How can I do this better?

Some of these questions might be a little foreign or even ‘too deep’, but they’re critical to having an idea of our own story. When we spend time thinking about these things, we’ll start getting answers we didn’t even realize we needed. This will be probably be through the change of habits and behaviours; unconsciously.

These are also questions that aren’t static, they’re dynamic and continuously evolving. We’ll never have the same answer to those questions everyday, because our story changes each and everyday.

The more experiences we have, the more we’re exposed to, the more interactions we engage in, the more we’ll inevitably change. Don’t forget that we’re just a bunch of neurons firing different pathways. Those pathways are re-constructed with every single thought!

“Reasons reap benefits.”

I didn’t intend on making this a long post, just wanted it to be something quick and meaningful. I hope I’ve managed to offer you a different perspective.

Ask yourself the right questions, and the answers will become clearer and clearer. When we have a better sense of where we’re going, we’ll find more effective ways to get there. So think about your story more often, and allow yourself to be. We’re all here momentarily, so let’s make it legendary.