Happiness Is Not Sustainable - Accept It.

Now, what do I mean by that?

Well, the things is we treat happiness as a destination. Something to arrive to. Something to work towards. Something to struggle towards. 
‘When I get this new job and I will be happy’ .. actually, that is only half the sentence, the complete sentence is ‘When I get this new job, I will be happy, for a short period of time.’ 
Because that will become the new normal. The same principle applies to everything else.

“When I get this bigger house/car/salary/‘fill in the blank’ I will be happy”

Part of the human condition is that we adjust to any situation (negative or positive) fairly quickly and make that our base condition, our new normal, to base all comparison against. This is in essence what a hedonic treadmill is.

You essentially have a set level of happiness where you consistently remain. When good things happen (winning a lottery, getting a new job, a new house etc), that level of happiness can spike up and similarly when bad things happen, that level of happiness can dip down. After good and bad events in your life, you eventually return to your set level of happiness over a period of time — the amount of time is different for everyone and relevant to the event itself but everyone almost always returns to their base level sooner or later.

Think of alcohol or substance addiction, over time the body gets used to it and you need more and more to get the same hit or high. Same is the case with happiness — you require more and more over time to feel ‘happy’. However, understanding how the hedonic treadmill operates in your life can make you experience the world more positively.

We can’t always keep on increasing our levels of happiness, so, what do you do about it?

Do not strive for happiness.

As Jordan Peterson has pointed out over and over — Do not strive for happiness.

Happiness is usually a consequence or an unintended outcome of certain events. In some of the best moments of your life, you were not actively pursuing happiness but rather a goal, target, or an intention. Happiness was a (positive) side effect of completing the said goal. 
Happiness is not something to chase or something out there to find. It is instead, a state of mind and a state of being. 
Ultimately, happiness is a choice.

More often than not, we don’t know what will make us happy in the long run and what we think will give us lasting happiness usually doesn’t. Needless to say, that is pretty ironic for us to not know what will make us happy while happiness is the one thing we claim to pursue. We are very bad at predicting our own future happiness. Therefore, bad at making decisions based on such predictions in pursuit of that happiness.

I will give you a minute (or two) to re-read that paragraph.

Why do we constantly want more?

There is, almost always, a base layer of emotion and need underneath all the surface level, ‘superficial’ desires; a bigger house, bigger salary, fame, status etc. This is in part the reason why the hedonic treadmill works because we don’t actually know what we truly want as we are not always in tune with our true desires and nature. Often the base desire is a need for security or wanting to grasp at permanence or creating certainty in our lives. 
Yes, we indeed need a base layer of security and comfort, but the root cause for this insatiable desire of wanting more and more is nothing more than insecurity and uncertainty. (Read my post on letting go of stuff for better insight into this)

So, it is important to understand the base layer emotions and then understand what will actually make you happy — not the things culture and society says will make you happy eg: a bigger house, faster car, bigger salary etc.

  1. So, the first step is to get in touch with your true nature and desires so you can know what will truly make you happy. Happiness is personalised and not one size fits all.
  2. And, in order to get in touch with your true nature and desires, you need to spend time with yourself, introspect and find what your own core values and priority.
  3. Once you know what it is that promises to make you happy — chase it. If you don’t go after what you want — it will not come to you. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Go out and make it happen.
  4. Repeat this process as often as needed. Remember, with time your priority and your needs change and so does your personality. So, whatever it is that is making you happy today might not do so in three years from now.

Getting off the hedonic treadmill

Some of the best ways to get off the hedonic treadmill and stoping the obsessive, insatiable need for more:

Ground yourself in the present

We plan for the future and often regret or reminisce the past. The present, however, is the only real moment that we ever have — Naimat Ahmed

(quoting myself in my own post — how meta)

This seems meaningful on a theoretical level, however, if you manage to internalise this and make it practical — it is life-altering. Learn to ground yourself in the present moment by training your awareness via meditation and spending time with yourself in solitude. The strategy to help ground you in the present moment involves the following:

  • Notice when you are getting caught up in thoughts about the future or the past
  • Stop what you’re doing and in your head name 3 things you can hear.
  • Take a look at the space around you and name 3 things you can see.
  • Name 3 things you can feel or touch. It might be your feet on the floor or the clothing against your skin, etc.

Be grateful for what you have

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Need I say more? 
The more grateful you are for the things you already have in your life, over time, the less you will need. Gratitude is one of the best practices you can build for yourself. I advise you get a gratitude journal and start writing in it every day/night.

Make time for high-quality leisure

As Cal Newport has pointed out in his book Digital Minimalism– Make time for high-quality leisure. Intentional hobbies

Intentional activities like writing, playing music, creating art, or practising a sport have been known to prolong feelings of emotional satisfaction. Many people also derive satisfaction from endeavours like volunteering and charity work.

Find meaning & purpose in your life

If there is one thing that I would classify as the most important thing to identify and know in life is — the purpose or meaning of your life (Read my detailed post about this subject here). Again, there is no one size fit all and this is a highly personalised thing.

And again I echo Jordan Peterson’s words, don’t strive for happiness. Strive to be of value by finding a purpose and a meaning in your life. Create value not only for others but also for yourself.

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Pull Vs Push – The Two Main Forces of Life

I have always wanted to do many things in life. I have had lots of goals, dream and aspirations (I should probably take my own advice and let some of them go). In all my years of adulting, I have tried many things and pursued many of these goals. Some worked, some worked temporarily and some were flat out failures (lessons).

Now what I have come to realise from these experiences is that there are two types of forces in life that compel us to do things. A pull force and a push force.

This is not a new idea, push and pull strategy is quite common in marketing and the idea is that push marketing is a promotional strategy where businesses attempt to take their products to the customers — push the product to the customer. Whereas pull marketing takes the opposite approach. The goal of pull marketing is to get the customers to come to you.

Numerous writers and self-help coaches have talked about the push and pull forces including the infamous Tony Robbins and one of my favourite podcasters Jonathan Fields
Here is my (simpler) version.

Pull

Think of Pull as the force that pulls you towards a task, project or a goal. It is the attraction an endeavour has to pull you towards it. Or, you are the type of person who pulls certain ideas and projects towards yourself. Ever get that feeling that something just landed right in your lap?

This pull or attraction exists because the idea resonates with you. It challenges you, intrigues you, makes you curious. Perhaps it is a problem that you think you can solve or you like the idea of taking it on and completing this endeavour. Whatever the case may be, the pull force gives you the motivation and sometimes even the impulse to take action and pursue a purpose.

Think of all your dreams, goals and desires driven by this pull force. You get pulled by them to take action. To keep going. To improve yourself. To solve the puzzle. To challenge yourself.

Can you think of an idea, project or a goal that you got pulled towards? That attracted you?

Push

Push is the force that is, quite literally, pushing you in a direction (mostly to take action), with or without your desire and intention. Think of being pushed by circumstances and ‘life’ to do things that you wish you didn’t need to or didn’t want to do.

Push is all the ‘shoulds’, ‘musts’, ‘have to’ and ‘need to’. This is something you are pushed to do irrespective of how you feel about it. Example; waking up at 02.30 am to feed your hungry, crying baby. Studying (not for the sheer idea of learning) but to sit and pass an exam.

Another example is that you are pushed to go to a job that you, perhaps, don’t like very much in order to pay your bills. However, at the same time, you are pulled to a different calling (being a sportsperson, musician, dancer etc).

Can you think of a push situation in your life?

Which force is better?

Everyone is different and has different styles of working, disciplining and motivating themselves. Push force and push experiences have a tendency to get the task done as they feel urgent and important (although they might not always be important), and often times can have serious consequences (for example losing your job, failing the exam or starving your baby — morbid!) but everyone performs differently under pressure. I can remain calm under pressure (thank you, meditation!) and get the task done but I know friends and colleagues who shut down and perform very poorly under the pressure of this Push force.

So, there is no one right answer and needless to say you need both the pull and the push in life for the various situations you face. Some goals/tasks are performed better with push and some with pull and sometimes you may experience both these forces working together. 
Some people, for example, make great employees and generate tremendous profits for the organisation they work for but are terrible bosses and business owners. They need that structure, hierarchy and someone to guide and tell them what to work on next. They suck at it themselves — in a self-employed situation for example. For such people, the Push force works better. Sometimes feeling like you have no other choice (there is always a choice — read my post on how everything in life is a choice) works great for such people in getting the job done.

Conversely, some people are great at motivating themselves and staying focused. They like the freedom of doing their own thing, on their own terms without having the constraints of hierarchy and often tend not to work well in corporate structures. The Pull force gets them going as they not only just see the possibilities of what can be but also take action in making it a reality. But it might not work in all areas of life. For example, I am very good at disciplining myself when it comes to going to the gym, eating healthy and fasting but when it comes to productivity and working on my own personal projects, I often procrastinate, lose focus and easily get distracted. I need Pull and Push simultaneously.

Know Thyself

First, you need to know what type of a person you are. 
Do you like structure? Hierarchy? A clear and defined goal and a way to get there? Maybe someone to tell you and show you how to do it? 
Or do you like ‘chaos & freedom’ (everyone thinks they like freedom — but not everyone can handle it)? Do you like forging your own path?
How well do you perform under pressure? Do you like a routine and structured way of working? Or do you like to rely on the moment and work based on motivation/mood? 
Do you often start something with a lot of motivation only to realise that the steam has fizzled out over time?

Once you are able to answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of what will work better for you in different situations.

A perfect balance of both of the Pull and the Push force creates the best results.

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Clearing Out The Old - Letting Go Of Opinions

This is the last post in the series; Clearing Out The Old. I promise. 
So, in continuing the theme, this week I want to talk about letting go of opinions and everything associated with it; ideas, thoughts and notions.

Letting go of thoughts and opinions

Thoughts, ideas, opinions and notions. Everyone has them, in fact too many of them. 
An average human has about 60,000–80,000 thoughts per day. Yes, per day. A monkey mind indeed. 
Studies have found that of those thousands of thoughts, 80% are negative, and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. 
Taking 70,000 thoughts per day as an average, we have 1.12 thoughts per waking second. 67.2 per minute and 4,032 per hour — of which 3,225.6 are negative. 
With that thought (no pun intended), Mind = Blown.

With so many thoughts, ideas, opinions and notions, if we start writing them all down, perhaps we could write a book every week.

Now the real question is, do all of them serve you? 
Do they all have a purpose? 
Do all of them help you become a better version of yourself? 
Maybe it is time we reflect upon them and let some go.

What is an opinion anyway?

According to the dictionary; a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. 
Not necessarily based on fact or knowledge — let that sink in for a moment.

In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, whether its the US election, COVID vaccines, the world economy or even just the weather. Our beliefs, notions and identities get reinforced by the things we choose to consume (or the algorithms show us) and form stronger and stronger opinions on a given subject.

‘Strong opinions, weakly held’ — Paul Saffo

If you are going to have an opinion about something then have conviction behind it. Do your research and firmly stand by that viewpoint or position. Defend it — with facts, knowledge, information and reason. However, this does not mean to hold bad opinions strongly. In light of new information and research, be willing and flexible to change your opinion if required. Don’t be the fool who doesn’t admit that they were/are wrong and is unwilling to change.

The other thing to remember too is that you may feel that your opinions are your own but often they are not. There are so many influences in life; people, advertising, news, social media etc. that it is hard to form our own, completely individual and independent opinions. Yet, extremely important. The best thing you can do for yourself is to think for yourself and not easily get influenced by others opinions.

Evolution of opinions and ideas

With time you gain new knowledge, and with this knowledge, you gain a new perspective on old ideas and opinions — at least in theory. 
When you evolve as a person (I talked about in the last post and the video) so too should your ideas, opinions and thinking processes. If they are not, then you are not growing. 
Some opinions and ideas are tied to your identity and are the foundation of your personality and these are the hardest ones to questions and assess but are the most important ones — religion, patriotism and faith are examples of such ideas. They may even be preventing you from becoming a better, improved person as you are so intertwined with these ideas and beliefs.

Assess your opinions

One of the best things you can do to assess your opinions and check them is to read. As much as possible. On a wide array of subjects. 
Pick and define one of your ideas, find a book that talks about exactly the opposite things and read it. Or find a person who believes in exactly the opposite and genuinely try to understand their point of view. Have your opinions challenged and questioned. Spend time with people who can help do that. Read and watch things that contradict your opinions — this will either reinforce and renew your beliefs in your original idea or give you a reason to reassess it and change sides. And doing so reflects growth more than anything else. It’s not about ego.

I suggest having a regular reflection practice to assess what is not serving you any more including your opinions, ideas, notions and thoughts and to let them go. 
As we near the end of a very challenging and unusual year. It is a good time to have a reflective practice and consider letting go of some of the things I have mentioned over the last few weeks. 
I have my list of questions to conduct my end of year review and reflection and I am currently in the process of doing just that. You can find my template here.

Read these posts (if you have not already) to help build your own self-reflection practice and to let things go.

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Clearing Out The Old - Letting Go Of People

In continuing the theme of clearing out the old, this week I want to talk about letting go of people. Yes, it unusual advice but allow me to explain.

Letting go of people

We meet so many people throughout our lives; colleagues, classmates, life mates, friends, in-laws and everyone else in between. It is said the average person ‘knows’ about 200 people (not on Facebook or Instagram but in real life).

Every relationship serves a purpose and when the purpose is served, relationships come to a natural end. The problem starts when we feel the need to drag that relationship beyond its natural lifecycle and this applies to almost all kinds of relations including marriages. I know I am making it sound very transactional — but ultimately it is.

Relationships are transactional

You have a relationship or spend time with someone either because you are gaining a benefit from them or they from you. It is that simple. That is the fundamental reality — we can coat it however we like and fluff it up but at the base layer we spend time with and like people who either make us feel good or reinforce our identities and beliefs or give some sort of a benefit. Now the benefit could be entertainment, knowledge, sex, monetary or social. Very seldom do we spend time with and look forward to meeting people who don’t hold the same beliefs and values as us and don’t make us feel superior, validated or benefit us in any way, shape or form. 
There are also the relationships that involve power where we can influence/manipulate or try to control someone’s behaviour and it gives us an inflated sense of power — again a benefit.

Everyone Grows, Everyone Changes

Believe it or not, as you grow and age you evolve (I mentioned this in my last video).
Your likes, dislike, priorities, dreams, goals, aspirations change as you have new experiences, read new things, watch new things and meet new people. With time, you transform and become a new person. 
As that happens, your relationships also start to change and transform. Someone that once added value to your life, doesn’t any longer. As you may not have shared interests any more. 
And of course, this doesn’t happen overnight it is a gradual process and happens over a period of time. But remember, as you change and evolve so do other people (at different speeds and rates). If they are changing with you and in the same direction then the relation will also evolve but if they don’t change, or change in a different direction — that’s when the relationship will start to diverge.

That is why we need to regularly reflect upon our relationships and the time we spend with the people in our lives. The people who do not add value to your life or complement your lifestyle any more need to go — the maturity of a person is reflected in the realisation that a relationship has served its purpose and has come to its natural end — accept it, and move on — don’t drag it unnecessarily just because you feel compelled — or are afraid to hurt someone else’s feelings.

You enjoyed each others company in the past because you had shared interests or you could learn from each other but not any longer. You have each grown as a person and now have different goals, priority, lifestyle, ideas and opinions. 
Just because you were friends once, doesn’t mean you need to be friends always. Just because you got along once doesn’t guarantee you will continue to do so forever and ever (BFF?). 
There is no obligation. You need to be loyal to yourself first and foremost. You need to look after your own best interest and that of your future self — everyone else is secondary. You need to be selfish and look after your own happiness and add value to your own life first. If you are not happy and adding value to your own life, you will not be able to do so for anyone else. (Airline Crew: Put your own mask first).

Now some of you might shade this line of thinking a bit selfish and rude — maybe, but the alternative is doing things you don’t enjoy with people you don’t like — a textbook example of wasting your time, potential and life — all for what? Being nice? Saving face? Saving a relationship? To what end? 
I will let you choose and define your priority.

Relationship Reflection

We often have different circles (colleagues, friends, family, community etc). Some circles we choose (friends, community, book clubs etc) and some we don’t (family, colleagues). But for every type of circle you have, ask yourself if you meet them and spend time with them by choice or by compulsion.

Have a reflection practice every 6 months where you ask yourself:

  • Who am I?
  • Who do I want to be?
  • In order to become that, who do I need to spend more time with?
  • Who do I need to spend less time with?
  • Whose company do I enjoy?
  • Whose do I not enjoy?
  • Whose life can I add value to?
  • Who can add value to my life?
  • Who drains my energy?
  • Who makes me feel alive and energised?
  • Who challenges my thoughts, beliefs and opinions?
  • Who can I learn something from every-time?
  • Who can I teach things to?
  • Who encourages, helps and pushes me to become a better person every day?
  • Who pulls me back to my past?

The ultimate question that you can ask yourself .. and please, ponder on this for a little while
“Can I share my true opinions and thoughts (on a subject — religion, politics, life etc) with this person?”

Surround yourself with people who challenge you and your thinking, and help you grow and become a better person and a better version of yourself.

Your time and efforts are limited; don’t just keep adding more and more stuff, goals and people to your life — replace them. Instead of the constant additions, have a process of elimination and reduction too.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. — Jim Rohn

Choose your five carefully.

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Clearing Out The Old - Letting Go of Dreams

Last week I wrote and spoke about letting go of things and in continuing the theme of clearing out the old, this week I want to talk about letting go of something, that perhaps weighs us down even more than just mere physical stuff. It is one of those things that, again much like tangible stuff, we keep on adding to our lives without regularly reflecting upon and letting go of and I am certainly guilty of this.

Letting go of dreams

Yes, this is not your usual advice and runs contrary to what you hear pretty much everywhere else, ‘Follow your dreams” or “Your dreams will one day come true” and other similar maxims. I say; Let go of the dreams that don’t serve you any more. Allow me to explain.

If you had a dream of starting your own business or becoming a world-class swimmer, cricketer or a concert pianist at age 6/8/15 or at any time really, yet at age 30/40/50 if you haven’t actually done much about it — it is time to seriously assess this dream. The key criteria here being — inaction.

  • Is it just a dream, or is it an actual actionable, achievable goal?
  • Have you given yourself a timeline?
  • What steps do you need to take in order to make it a reality?
  • Have you equipped with the right tools, training, skills and surrounded yourself with the right people?
  • Why have you been carrying the said dream for ‘X’ years and not taken action?
  • What is holding you back?
  • Are you actually going to do anything about it? Or just bask in the proverbial sunshine of ‘one day’ achieving this dream?
  • Maybe you just like the idea of it and not actually working on it or achieving it? Yes, that’s a thing.

Time to ask yourself these hard questions — and only you have the answer. Don’t let the wrong dreams become your anchors and prevent you from sailing.

Contrary to popular belief, life is not about constant additions. As you age you will realise that simplification, removal and elimination leads to a far simpler, easier and happier life and this applies to every aspect of life — not just physical stuff.

As you accumulate more and more tangible stuff you will realise that it starts to weigh you down — mentally and physically, similarly, accumulation of dreams, goals hope and aspirations, that you don’t act upon, will also weigh you down. 
Either take action and bring them to fruition or get rid of them. Don’t let them fester and turn sour. They will make you bitter and resentful. They will hinder you from being happy for others and most importantly, obsessing over a wrong dream will prevent you from taking action and grabbing an actual opportunity that presents itself because you will not be in the right mindset and will not be looking in the right direction. 
Check out Denzel Washington’s Fences and you will you know exactly what I mean.

As I suggested with physical stuff, have a regular reflection practice and assess all your dreams and goals and ditch the ones that are not serving you any more (Read my post on regular reflection)
No point carrying around the burden of lost opportunities and failed endeavours where you could be focusing your energy on something better. Similarly, no point expanding your energy in a multitude of directions when you could be focusing on a narrow few and making great progress.

Try the famous 5/25 strategy by Warren Buffet

Step 1 
List down 25 goals that you would like to accomplish in your life/career. Nothing is off the table. Take your time and be thoughtful.

Step 2 
Review your list and circle your top 5. 
Yes, just 5 out of the 25. These are your most urgent goals and highest priorities to focus on. This may require even more time and thoughtfulness than listing the 25 goals, so again, take your time.

If you are following along, please complete steps 1 and 2 before moving forward.

Step 3 
You will essentially have 2 lists at this point. 
List A with 5 goals and List B with 20 goals.

And you might be thinking: “Well, the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”

To this Buffett would reply, “No. You’ve got it wrong. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”

This was the actual exercise Buffet ran and the exact words he used with his pilot of 10 years Mike Flint. Read the full story here and here.

Building upon the maxim of Letting Go of Dream, this teaches us the power of focus and elimination. Your time and efforts are limited; don’t just keep adding more and more — learn to eliminate, learn to replace and learn to have laser focus.

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Clearing Out The Old - Letting Go of Things

There is spring cleaning, autumn deep cleaning, essential winter cleaning and quick summer cleaning. It seems every season has a cleaning theme and a lot of emphasis on cleaning and clearing out the things we don’t need. When we move houses we clean and get rid of stuff. When we buy something new, we often get rid of stuff to make room for the newly acquired object(s).

However, this clearing out of the old should not be limited to just tangible things but also to the intangibles like ideas, notions, opinions and even to dreams, goals, aspirations and people. Anything that doesn’t serve you and your higher self any longer, needs to go. As Marie Kondo would say “Does it spark joy?” If the answer is; umm maybe, not really, I don’t know — then it probably doesn’t — so why keep it? Why hold onto it? What purpose does it serve? 
But first — let’s talk about the obvious one; things.

We have so much stuff!!!

Believe it or not but an average household has about 300K items. Yes, you read it correctly, three hundred thousand. 300,000. Maybe even more. 
Count all your utensils, kitchenware, pens, photos, clothing items, linens, books etc and it will quickly add up. That is a lot of clutter and this not only clogs your physical spaces but also your mind. It weighs you down physically and mentally. 
Do you wanna know what’s even worse? Amongst all that clutter and the 300K+ items, an average person spends about 12 days per year looking for things, they can’t find. 
First world problems? Perhaps, but I find this to be a hilariously ridiculous problem we as a culture are creating and I am sure you are as guilty of it as I am. 
We recently moved houses and seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes of stuff made me realise; we hold onto so many things either because we have some emotional attachment to them (unresolved or otherwise) or we think that one day we will use them, one day they will come handy.
Much like ‘tomorrow’ the magical land where all our dreams and potentials get realised, ‘one day’ is where all the items in our cupboards and drawers get used. 
I also realised that most of the things, including clothes in my wardrobe, were not used for months if not years. 
So why the heck do we buy and then store all these things? What level of thinking would compel someone to spend money on things they didn’t actually need in the first place?

Asking this question can be difficult as it forces us to admit weakness and insecurities in our lives as buying and owning of more and more things is linked to many physiological factors such as; thinking things will make us happy, trying to impress and in turn getting them to like us, trying to compensate for our deficiencies but ultimately wanting more, having more and owning more gives us (often a false) sense of security. 
Having and owning some basic necessities in life does in fact provide a sense of safety, security and ownership so we think that having more and more things will increase that sense of security. It obviously doesn’t work like that. And often, more than the actual thing in itself, we buy the feeling it provides; comfort, security, warmth etc.

What to do about it?

For the last year or so, we (my wife and I) have started a practice of periodically going through our possessions and getting rid of/giving away things that we no longer need or use. This includes books, utensils, clothes, gadgets and so on. 
We have also become mindful when buying things and don’t usually give in to impulses and are able to accurately assess (to a certain degree) the need and usability of any given object before buying it. 
I am not trying to make a case for frugal living or minimalism (although they have their own places and merits) but a case for just being conscious and mindful before buying anything by asking yourself; do I really need to buy this? Is it actually going to add value to my life? (obviously doesn’t apply to food and other basic necessities of life).

I also try and follow a simple rule of One in, One Out; I buy a new pair of jeans, I get rid of one. New trainers? One of the old ones needs to go. Simple. I do not add things — I replace them. I have now reached an optimum number of things (which, in all honesty, I think is still high) and I try to maintain or reduce it. Not increase.

Build a practice of regular reflection of going through your possessions and assessing them. If you are not already familiar with Marie Kondo and her book, I encourage you to look her up and give her method a go. 
I also suggest reading up (and watching some videos) on the topic of Minimalism and Minimalist living — this isn’t about living like a monk and giving up all your belongings — but about living more intentionally with what you own and plan to own.

Ultimately, get rid of things that you don’t need or use any more. They are bogging you down and clogging your mind. Even if your clutter is not out front and visible, and hidden behind closed cupboards doors, it’s there at the back of your mind. Getting rid of it will lighten your mind and your life.

In the coming weeks I will talk about a few other areas where we need some reflection to reduce or eliminate, including;

  • Dreams, goals and aspirations
  • Opinions, ideas and thoughts
  • People
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Change this one thing to be happier

As humans, we have a tendency to try and shape the outcome of events. We try to influence people’s opinions and behaviours in our favour. We have been trying to do this for centuries.
In reality, though, It’s improbable that we have any real power to influence or direct people’s behaviours and we certainly don’t have any power to control the outcome of events.
The keyword here is control.

We think control leads to certainty. And certainty, we think, leads to happiness. Therefore, we think there is a direct correlation between having control and being happy.

This is the great myth of our time.

The Myth: Control More Stuff and Be Happier

We think having more or total control of our lives will make us happier.
Let me give you a real-world example of my 3-year-old daughter.

She has virtually no control over her life and decision making. Yes she can choose whether to have a strawberry or chocolate ice cream but having or not having the said ice cream is totally dictated by us — the grownups, the parents.

Let me explain:
She, like all other 3-year-olds, pretty much does what the grown-ups tell her to do. Like; what to eat, when to eat, when to have a bath, what to watch, when to sleep, where to sleep (as much as she wants to sleep in our bed, she must sleep in her own).
She does what we tell her to (most of the time) and does it happily (mostly). She actually has very little choice and sovereignty in her day to day life.

So considering the statement “We think having more or total control of our lives will make us happier”, with that logic my daughter must be a very miserable person? Actually, quite the contrary, she is, like most 3-year-olds, with a total lack of control on her own life, the most delightful, happy and energetic being — Ask anyone who has been around an average toddler — they are a joy to be around (again, mostly) and are full of life and energy. They make the best of every situation.

Yet at the same time, I see people (grown-ups) who have their entire lives to their own makings (or so they think); they work in jobs they picked, eat what they want, wear what they want, meet who they want, watch what they want, sleep when, where and who with they want yet they are unhappy with their lives. With almost a total control of their lives and total sovereignty, they are miserable beings.

So what is the disconnect here? Does having control not bring us more happiness? (loud gasp). If not control then what does bring happiness?
Well, control can bring about happiness but we have been focusing on the wrong kind of control.

The Two Types of Control: Internal and External

Going back to my daughter’s example, when she wants to do something that we do not let her, she isn’t always understanding and cheerful about it and says; “Yes sure daddy, you know best” (Wouldnt that be nice though).
But no, she has all the emotions of a grown person but hers aren’t tamed, they are raw and easily expressable. Sometimes she rebels, cries, throws a tantrum or two but eventually, she accepts. Not in defeat but in understanding and compromise — by controlling herself and her feelings.

Being a toddler, she cannot always regulate her emotions, although she is getting really good at it, but after expressing them in an age-appropriate fashion and with the vocabulary of a toddler she accepts what we are suggesting and brings control to her herself, her feelings and emotions. And when she does, she makes the best of the offered opportunity being her cheerful self again. She is happy again — sometimes in a matter of seconds.

As much as we want to teach children the ways of this world, something we should all learn from them is to make the best of every situation. Happiness is not attained by external control yet people try so hard because they don’t understand this simple fact; literally, the only thing we have control over in life and perhaps the universe is our own self. We may not always have control over our bodies due to disease and old age but we almost always have control over our feelings, emotions, thoughts and responses.

External control is an illusion and does not lead to happiness. Internal control, on the other hand, is the only form of control that can improve our life and wellbeing. This is the one control we must try and expand at all times.

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  • We cannot control the environment around us but we can control ourselves.
  • We cannot control people but we can control how we relate to them.
  • We cannot control situations and events but we can control how we internalise and respond to them.
  • We cannot control outcomes but we can control our efforts.
  • We cannot control what the other persons hears and understands but we can control our words.
  • We cannot control calamity and pain but we can control how much we let ourselves suffer over it

All efforts must be made to expand and grow control of ourselves, our emotions, feelings and efforts. Shift your focus from external control to internal. Instead of trying to control the outcomes of events and the behaviours of others, try to control your own emotions, feelings, reactions and relations.
Nothing will bring you greater joy, confidence, stillness and ease in life than being in control of your own self.

“If you conquer yourself, then you conquer the world” ― Paulo Coelho, Alep

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8 Simple Steps To A Healthy Lifestyle

What does good health mean to you? 
Is it important? Is it a priority for you?

Almost every single person I have asked these questions, says a big ‘Yes’ without even thinking twice. On an intellectual and theoretical level, it’s a no-brainer; of course, my health is important to me and is my priority. Why wouldn’t it be?

However, for most people, on a practical level, their actions are directly in contradiction to this astounding answer of ‘YES’.

Is health limited to looking good? Being able to fit in your clothes?
The culture I grew up in, going to the gym or exercising is generally for people who are overweight and otherwise out of shape. Exercise has nothing to do with overall fitness, physical and mental well-being. Can you relate?

Actions speak louder than words

I personally know people, and I am sure you do too, who will spend hundreds of dollars a week on alcohol, junk food, entertainment, bags, shoes, clothes etc. but will not spend $25 a week for a gym membership. Why? because “It’s expensive”.

Another very common excuse by (usually the same) people is that they don’t have time for gym and exercise. Their lives are too busy and chaotic. They have more important things to do like work, spending time with family and house chores etc. All very valid and important things, no doubt.
Yet when you see their Instagram, they will be out almost every single day, socialising. Going to every community event. When you talk to them, they will be up to date on every Netflix show and have all the latest news and gossips. Something doesn’t add up, and do you know what it is?

It is not about time, it is about priority. We find the time for things that are important to us (family, friends, Netflix, going out etc). And there is no judgment here but please do not misunderstand and misrepresent that your life is busy and you don’t have the time to look after your body and health. It is not your priority. It is not as important to you as you may think, Your actions would dictate it if it were. They do speak louder than words.

So how do you make health a priority?

I will be the first to admit, it is not easy — at least in the beginning. Building a habit of regular exercise and changing your eating patterns is a mammoth task. It takes time, lots of effort, motivation, good systems and routines and perhaps in some cases lots of money too. But where do you begin?

1. Understand your ‘why’

First and foremost, you need to be clear about your why. Why do you want to do it? Why do you want to be healthy? 
To look good? To fit in your clothes? To feel good? To be stronger? To be around longer for loved ones? 
Whatever your ‘why’, you need to have one and be clear about it — no judgement.
For me, it started shortly after my daughter was born — I wanted to be around for her, enjoy with her but most importantly — being the first man in her life, set a very good example and a high benchmark for her, and not just in health but in all aspects of life. That is my ‘why’.

2. You are in it for the long-run

Be very clear that health and fitness cannot and should not be a short term, goal-oriented objective. 
“I just need to lose 5 kilos and then life will be good” 
“I just need to fit in size X pants — that’s my goal” 
These are short term goals. You may achieve them but you are bound to fail in the long run and you (and your body) will rebound. Those last few kilos and inches will come back with a vengeance when you go back to your ‘normal’ lifestyle. 
The word ‘diet’ for many has a negative connotation and when they use it, they are already setting themselves up for failure.

3. Change your identity.

If you think and believe you are lazy, then you are. 
If you think and believe you cannot eat healthily, then you can’t. 
If you think you are not motivated or organised enough to build a consistent gym routine, then you can’t.
At least not with that attitude and that level of thinking.
We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our thinking.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

Change, first and foremost, needs to happen on the inside. You need to change your script, identity and how you related to yourself. You need to believe something is possible, only then you will make any meaningful and earnest effort towards it.
Health and fitness need to be a lifestyle change. An identity change. Not just a short term, diet change. You need to change your beliefs and identity around health and well-being. You need to become and embrace all the qualities of a healthy person. From eating healthy to exercising, moving more and looking after your mind and body in a holistic way.

4. Change your environment

Can you quit smoking if you all your friends smoke around you? Or can you quit eating sugars and carbs if at every meal your friends/family eat them around you? Perhaps you can, but it certainly is going to be very hard.
Design your environment that will encourage good habits. If you struggle with eating sugar then stop buying and having sugary stuff your house. Stop going to dessert bars and cafes. If you know you will power is not that strong (and in the beginning, it may not be) then avoid putting yourself in ‘dangerous’ situations.

5. Start small

Don’t over commit. Don’t try to quit carbs, start gym, meditation, journaling and 10K running all in the same week. Stick with one habit change at a time. When that becomes your new normal and a part of your lifestyle then introduce another. Take it easy and don’t overwhelm yourself. Change is hard as it is, too many changes will demotivate and discourage you.

6. Consistency is the key

As this is a lifestyle change, this needs to be a regular, on-going thing. Not just on Mondays and then you miss a few days. You will small wins along the way but it’s about continuous improvements so be consistent and focus on building momentum in the beginning.

7. Seek help

Professional help. Get a trainer. Get a nutritionist. Join a program. Join like-minded people. Start your own group if you can’t find one. Don’t try to do this alone if you struggle. Seek help, offer help. Find a partner, find a coach, find a mentor.

8. Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Will will not be able to change your habits and lifestyle overnight. It takes time. You need to be patient with yourself. Progress demands persistence which comes with time
In this culture of instant everything (same-day delivery, instant messaging, on-demand video etc.) we have forgotten the value of time and progress. You didn’t build/acquire these ‘bad’ habits in a week — it has been an accumulation of years, perhaps a lifetime — so it will not go away in a week. Be patient.


I am not listing diet and fitness advice and specifics, there is probably an unlimited amount of advice available on fitness and healthy eating. Do your research, try a few different things and stick to what works best for you. 
If you are keen on learning about habit change and consistency I recommend this book:

**Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear**

In the end

All your dreams, goals, desire, aspirations and life plans are dependent on your body and mind being able to achieve and enjoy these outcomes. Whether your goal is a bigger house, a faster car or world peace if you are physically or mentally unable to realise that outcome, what is the point?

Your body and mind are your greatest asset. All you are working for is reliant on this body and mind functioning properly to enjoy it. 
So please look after it and prioritise your health.

“A healthy person has a million dreams. A sick person has only one.”

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Why everyone needs a self-reflection practice

I recently went away for a few days for a silent meditation retreat. The idea was deep, uninterrupted meditation for a few days, but in addition to the meditation, another motivation for me was introspection or self-reflection.
During this period of uninterrupted silence, my goal was to ask myself a series of questions (that I went prepared with) and try to get honest answers without varying forms of inputs and distractions (social media, family, friends, works etc.), and to reflect upon my various processes, systems, thoughts and emotions to improve upon them.

What is self-reflection?

We often operate on auto-pilot mode without giving much thought to our everyday life and the things we are doing. Self-reflection is taking some time out to reflect upon our motivations and methods to examine; what is important, what is working, what can be improved etc. It is like looking in a mirror to observe and note what we see or better yet, taking a birds-eye view of our life.

Self-reflection is giving ourself the opportunity to pause in the midst of the chaos of life and ask ourselves, why are we doing something, why is it important and could it be done a better way? 
However, this practice can only happen in a quiet, undistracted environment and for some people sitting by themselves to look inwards can be challenging or an uncomfortable experience. Yet it is one of the most important things that need to happen for growth and learning. 
Think of it as a (regular) practice of checking into our lives’ progress and goals to see where we are, and where we are aspiring to go.

Why is self-reflection important?

Other than the above-mentioned benefits, one of the best outcomes of self-reflection is that we get in touch with ourselves. We get the opportunity to know ourself better. Get to know and understand our own morals, values, dreams, hopes, goals, aspirations, desires and motivations.

We spend the most amount of time with ourselves (in thoughts and in our physical bodies) wouldn’t it be helpful if we knew ourselves better?

Once we have a foundational understanding of our priority and our values, our decision making improves as a result of that. We know what we want and can judge what will hinder or encourage growth towards that goal. So we start making wiser choices inline with the greater goal and our higher self.

On a more day to day and practice level, self-reflection helps us to review our methods and routines and check their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as we have always done them.

How is it done?

Self-reflection can take many forms and there are many techniques and different people may be receptive to different forms.

Some people like to journal their thoughts in a notebook. Some like to take long walks and ponder over questions (like I did). Some like to talk to a trusted friend or a professional to help them get the clarity and answers they seek.

Select a reflection process that matches your preferences and lifestyle and there may be some trial and error involved in the process. 
The key is to set time aside for it. Schedule it. This cannot happen while you watch TV or play with your dog or while you do the laundry. It needs its own dedicated time (and space) and in the beginning, don’t try to start too big by committing 1–2 hours to it — perhaps start with 15 minutes and see how you go. 
The act of actually doing it, is, however, the most important aspect, whether it is 15 minutes or 1 hour. Start with a list of questions (examples listed below) and give yourself the time to think and consider them from multiple viewpoints and consider also how the answers have the potential to impact your life and the lives of those around you. 
You don’t have to agree, disagree or judge any of your thoughts. Non-judgment is crucial to successful introspection. If you start judging your own thoughts and emotions in this process, they will get suppressed. So let everything come to the surface — almost like a brainstorming process.

For me personally, self-reflection is a timely thing and I do it in a few different ways and at regular intervals.

End of year reflection and review

This is one practice I follow which is an extensive account of the year. I tend to do this towards the end of December (in the last week or so) and it takes about a week with an hour or two of dedicated time every day.

I have a set of questions (split into various categories) that I like to get answers for. And the goal is not just to fill in the blanks and get it done, but the goal, as you would have guessed by now, is to get an accurate picture of truly how the year went and most importantly, what can be improved.

Here is my list of questions (feel free to use them and add/delete as you see fit).

Once I have this list completed, I then use this to map out my goals, focus and plans for the coming year (more on that later).

Quarterly reflection and review 

This is a practice I am still building but this is similar to the yearly reflection but done every quarter as a check-in over a (long) weekend. Instead of waiting for a whole year to review how things have been progressing and what can be improved, the idea here is to do this on a 12-week basis to assess and realign priorities and practises if needed.

As opposed to the yearly practice where the questions remain the same, the questions here can be a bit more fluid and perhaps relate more directly to the projects I am working on and go into the granularity of things.

Here are examples of some of the questions I used in my recent practice.

Now, this practice, although shorter than the yearly practice, is more intensive for me. As my preference is to go away for a weekend where I have the opportunity to disconnect from the world and stop receiving inputs and stimulus.

I prefer to have my phone switched off or on DND for the duration of the time, and be reachable only in case of an emergency. I don’t take any books, laptops or gadgets with me. Just a notebook and a pen (with lots of ink). The goal is minimal input and distractions, and a maximum output of thoughts, concerns and ideas.

Weekly reflection and review

I also have a weekly practice of reviewing the week on a Sunday night.

This is a short quick session of perhaps 15 minutes where I go through the some of the questions listed below. At the same time, I also look at all the goals, tasks and commitments for the coming week and plan the calendar accordingly.

Here are my questions for the weekly review.

Conclusion

No matter the practice or format you choose, make regular reflection a part of your life. It is only by reflecting on our thoughts, goals, dreams, systems and processes that we can objectively look at and assess them and to improve upon them. In order to learn anything in life, grow and develop, we need good reflection practises. You can use my examples and questions above but make the practice work for you and add value to your life, make it your own.


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Everything in life is a choice

In every moment of our lives, we have a choice. Yes, every moment.
We may not always realise this but it is true. Everything in life is a choice.

Yes, I can hear the argument that we don’t always have control over a situation so how can we have a choice? And, what about the people in war zones and hospitals, surely they didn’t choose this for themselves or their families?
Yes, very true. No one deliberately chooses misery for themselves and their loved ones.

Let us break this down.
There are 3 types of situations in life:

  • Situations where we have total control
  • Situations where we have some but not total control
  • Situations where we have absolutely no control.

There is one thing that runs common in all these situations; No matter the situation and our level of control, in every situation we have complete and total control of how we relate and respond to the situation.
There is a simple, yet beautiful concept popularised by Jack Canfield, that situations and events alone do not determine the outcome, it is how we respond to events that determines the outcomes.

Event + Response = Outcome

How we respond to anything in life, is our choice. Yes, the situation/event/circumstances may not be in our control but our response is. That is always a choice and is always up to us.

Example: If someone insults you, you can choose to respond with humour, with sarcasm, with an insult of your own, or you can choose not to respond at all. Choices.
Now that is surface level, let us go one level deeper on this. If someone insults you; you can choose how you wish to feel about it and how to internalise it. It is absolutely your choice if you wish to be upset about it, be angry about it, laugh at it, agree with the insulter or completely ignore it.
It stems from your own ability to know yourself and your own level of self-confidence and self-esteem.

In tough situations and rough times too, we have a choice. Our efforts and sufferings are in our control. We can choose how much effort to put into something and how much we wish to suffer over something.

Life doesn’t just happen to us. Our lives are defined by the choices we make. Big and small. We choose how to internalise, handle or respond to a situation.
Our lives are a collection of choice and decisions. Our past choices have brought us this present. And the choices we make today will shape our future.
Choose wisely, and remember… There is always a choice.
It may not be an obvious one, a popular one, or the one accepted by our families, peers and cultures… but there is always a choice.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl

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Why And How To Build Good Routines

What comes to mind when you think of routines?
Boring? Mundane? Regular? Non-spontaneous? Repetitive?
This is exactly how I used to think of routines.

This is how I think about routines now; Discipline. Productive. Efficient. Predictable. Repeatable. The formula for success.
So what changed?
I actually made a workable routine and stuck with it and then I saw transformation happen in and around me.

And in this current climate of uncertainty, working from home, schooling from home, it is even more important to create some certainty in the day by building good routines.

What happens when there is no routine?

Here is a list of some of the things I suffered when I didn’t have a good routine in place:

  • Stress / Anxiety – Having no routine meant that I was constantly thinking about all the things I needed to get done yet had no systems in place to actually getting them done.
  • Poor sleep – I have suffered from bad sleep for the longest time. Waking up tired, not having enough energy during the day. Albeit a lack of routine was not the only cause, there were other factors like a lack of exercise, poor diet etc. but a lack of fixed sleep and wakeup time was a major contributor.
    (For anyone wanting to understand and improve their sleep I highly recommend; Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker)
  • Poor diet – Without having a system to plan meals, buy groceries and plan ahead the easiest option (i.e: Junk food) becomes the next best option.
  • Poor physical condition – Working out usually requires some advance planning and a good routine. In the absence of both, I was in a poor physical condition.
  • Poor time management – No routine means I used to simply run out of time, leaving things undone and not making the most of my time. Feeling unproductive.

It is a vicious cycle. Going to sleep feeling unproductive, unhealthy and worthless and waking up the next morning feeling tired and void of energy to do it all over again.

Benefits of having a routine

Having a good routine can be the formula for success.

It can be applied to any kind of work by any kind of a person. Building and maintaining a good routine is the most important thing you can do for yourself.

After studying some of the greatest artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians through the ages including Frederic Chopin, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, and Ernest Hemingway. Mason Currey reached this conclusion:

“In the right hands, [a routine] can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Here are some benefits of building and maintaining a good routine:

  • Routine makes us efficient – A daily routine reduces the need to make repeated decisions every day. We know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and what to move onto next without thinking every time.
  • Routine creates structure – Once we know all the things that need to be done in a day/week/month, we can create a logical sequence of tasks to derive a structure for our days and for our lives.
  • Routine changes habits – We are what we repeat. So, anything done repeatedly becomes a habit; good or bad. Having a good routine with repeated tasks like exercise, meditation, eating healthy will lead to good habits and at the same time breaking the bad habits of unhealthy eating, not moving enough and so on.
    “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.” — Brian Tracy
  • Routine sets priority – When we identify our daily and weekly tasks based on our goals and aspirations, we know what is most important to us and what isn’t. For me, exercise and meditation is a priority, I schedule it early in the day and have no excuse for missing it.
  • Routine reduces decision fatigue – I don’t need to decide every morning whether I should go to the gym or what time I should go to the gym. It is predetermined by me as a high priority task that needs to be done at a specific time every day – no negotiations, no questions. So I save my decision making every day as that one decision has already been made.
  • Routine reduces emotional decisions – With defined tasks and routines the tendency of overriding those decisions with emotional ones, in the moment, is very low. For example, eating a doughnut for a snack instead of carrots and hummus or sleeping an extra hour instead of going to the gym because we feel hungry/tired/sleepy/emotional.
  • Routine reduces procrastination – When we have specific tasks that need to be done at certain times throughout the day, there isn’t much time to procrastinate. A lack of planning is one of the primary forces that lead to procrastination.
  • Routine builds momentum – When you do the same things repeatedly, it becomes muscle memory, so to speak. It builds momentum, making it easier to continue.

How to build a good routine

So what exactly is a routine?
According to Merriam Webster “A habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure”
The keyword here is established. So how do you establish a routine?

  • Make a list – Write down everything you need to get done daily for a week. Think of this as a brain dump at this point. All your recurring tasks.
  • Look at patterns & repetitions – Are there things you are doing regularly over the week? Can they be done together at the beginning/middle/end of the week? Example; Cooking, Ironing, Grocery shopping etc.
  • Structure Your Day – Think about when you work best, and group your tasks into the time of day that makes the most sense for when you and have a logical sequence of tasks that can be done together in a batch.
  • Be realistic – Don’t over commit. In the beginning, you do not want to end up with tasks leftover from a day as they will carry over to the next day, and the next and the next… and soon everything will fall apart. This will hurt your self-confidence in the beginning. Start slow, start small.
  • Allow room for flexibility – Don’t be too rigid. Things don’t always go to plan. Some things have a tendency to run over. Allow room for this. Leave time between tasks and meeting in case something runs longer than planned.
  • Try it out – Now you are ready to try your new routine for a period of four weeks. Stick with it and give it a fair chance.

If something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working for you, try not to force it.
Don’t follow a routine just because Tony Robbins or Elon Musk does it or Steve Jobs used to do it. Do it because it works for you, enhances your lifestyle and feels natural.
If after four weeks you feel something doesn’t feel right, iterate, move things around, it might take some time to get things right and might involve a fair bit of trial and error.
There is no one magical routine that will work for everyone.
Everyone is different and needs a routine to complement their own lifestyle.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —  Aristotle

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What Is Decision Fatigue and How to Reduce It

Decision Fatigue. Yes, it is a real thing. Every day we make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. What to eat, what to wear, what to work on, when to read, when to send a text and on and on and on … It is estimated that in a full day an average person makes around 35,000 decisions. It seems like an unusually high number but this is what researchers have found in various studies.

Researchers at Cornell University estimate we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone. And as your level of responsibility increases, so does the multitude of choices you have to make. It’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.

Each decision requires time, energy and willpower – and contrary to popular belief, willpower is a finite resource and depletes over the course of the day. That is why it is recommended to make big and important decisions early in the day when we have more (mental) energy and willpower. This is also why Mark Twain suggests to ‘Eat The Frog’ first thing in the morning.

In her book, The Art of Choosing, writer and researcher Sheena Iyengar suggests that limiting our options can help us make better decisions. The more choices we have, the harder our brain works in comparing and deciding between the said options. So, start with a small set to choose from to simplify things and remove some of the decision fatigue.

So what are the ways to overcome decision fatigue and make better decisions?

I prefer to develop systems and routines where I can put less-important and recurring tasks and decisions on auto-pilot in what I call Future Decision Making.

Enter – Future Decision Making (making decisions for your future self)

I don’t want to spend time and energy every day to make the same decisions.
What to eat, when to eat, when to go to the gym, what to wear, what to watch, what to read etc.
I put in the time and thought up front to bulk these decisions and make them for my future self.

Some areas where I apply this methodology is:

Eating – Meal Planning

I have a four-week meal plan based on my macro requirements which list 3 main meals for any day in the coming weeks along with 2-3 snacks (I don’t always consume everything but it is pre-decided if needed). So I know what I need to eat and when so I don’t spend time deciding every day. Which by the way, also makes weekly/monthly grocery shopping a breeze as I know exactly what I need in the coming week.

Exercise – Gym Planning

I have an exercise plan that is prepared and updated by a professional trainer every four weeks based on my progress and goals at the time. I know exactly what I need to do when it needs to be done and I keep tracking my progress through the process. Another point on the limited willpower – I go to the gym early in the morning soon after waking up. I get the big tasks done early when I have the energy.

Media Consumption

I make a list of all the books, podcasts, movies and TV shows I wish to consume for a month and then add them to a queue.

Clothing

There was a time when most of the world used to go to this place called ‘An Office’ to work. Work from home was not a usual occurrence. In that time, I used to prepare my wardrobe on Sunday for the next 5 days. I knew exactly what I was going to wear on what day based on who I was meeting and when.
And for those who know me personally know that outside of work I almost always wear a black T-shirt with blue jeans. I don’t need to decide every time. I have made the one (blanket) decision that eliminates the 1000 decisions in the future.

Personal Projects & Holidays

At the beginning of the year I decide what personal projects I am going to work on; photography, music, blog etc. I then plan my year, goals and tasks around that. Marking important milestones and allowing time for breaks and holidays. Yes, the calendar is my best friend 🙂.

All of the above allow me to simplify my decision making and frees up my daily time to focus on more important things and creative pursuits. However, I am human after all. Things do not always go to plan and there is always that week when something comes up; impromptu catchup with a friend, a movie/book/podcast comes highly recommended by a trusted source, work runs late, or me/family member falls ill.
As much I plan things in advance, I allow room for flexibility and when things don’t go to plan – I don’t beat myself over it. There are things I can control and then there are things I can’t.
Most importantly – I plan to a point to ensure I leave room for spontaneity and serendipity.

A Note On Emotional Decision Making

Another very important aspect of future decision making is it eliminates the emotional decision making. As humans, we often make decisions based on feelings and emotions where our rational and logic self is overpowered. We make decisions in the moment based on how we feel and call it spontaneity.

For example, eating a doughnut for a snack instead of carrots and hummus or sleeping an extra hour instead of going to the gym because we feel hungry/tired/sleepy/emotional. When we organise our lives with your meal plans, gym plans or any other plan for that matter, it discourages this type of behaviours and helps in stick to the plans and the decision made previously (by our rational/logical self).

Some other ways to reduce decision fatigues.

  • Outsource / delegate decisions
  • Eliminate less-important tasks and decision
  • Simplify and just make fewer decisions
  • Once a decision has been made (with due diligence), sticking with it.
  • Establishing daily/weekly/monthly routines and rituals.
  • Using a decision matrix – If THIS, then THAT approach.
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Become Worthy Of Success

We want too many things in life. We have too many desires, prayers, dreams and hopes.
Of jobs, houses, clothes, money, businesses, health, romantic partners, children, social acceptance, and on and on …

Whatever you find yourself praying for or wanting right now, ask yourself:
Am I worthy of this?
Do my actions, beliefs and skills align with someone who would be worthy or successful at this? The answer should either be a HELL YES or a NO.
Not maybes, sorta, kinda. No grey areas.

Unfortunately though, more often than not the answer is a no.
And if the answer is no and you feel you are not worthy of something, then ask yourself; how do I become worthy of this?
Is there something I need to change in myself (physical or mental), my environment, my knowledge or skills in order to become worthy?

There is this misleading notion that no matter what it is, if we truly desire it, visualise it, pray for it, we can have it. I don’t entirely believe in this premise which has been sensationalised by books and movies like The Secret.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to having desires and wanting the universe/gods fulfilling those desire but where is your part in that? Where is your action? Where is your effort? Your effort to become worthy of that desire?
Intentions alone do not yield results, actions do.

The first step, albeit, is to have a desire, a burning need for something.
The second, not so obvious, step is to become worthy of that desired outcome. In your actions, thoughts, beliefs, skills, experiences and so on.

  • Do you want a promotion? Become worthy of that promotion. Acquire the knowledge, skill, network and experiences required to perform at that level. Put in the work. Don’t just desire it.
  • You want your spouse/partner to love you, show affection? Are you worthy of that love and affection? Are your actions, beliefs and outlook of someone who is worthy of such love? Become worthy of such love by first giving that love.
  • You want your children/colleagues/friends to respect you? Are you worthy of such respect? Do you have the patience, wisdom, aptitude to earn such respect? Become worthy of that respect by improving yourself.
  • Do you want to be a successful entrepreneur/athlete/writer/painter? You know what needs to be done. Put in the effort and do it.

Don’t expect success to show to up when you do not deserve it and have not earned it. It doesn’t work that way. Success doesn’t show up unless you do.
Don’t just desire things and expect them to come knocking on your door. Put in the effort in your actions, thoughts and beliefs to become worthy of success.

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Building Consistency In Life

Build consistency in your life.
In your personal and work life.
In your exercise, your sleep routine, your eating, your relationships, your education.
Build consistency in life if you want to see any meaningful results in any area of life, be consistent with your actions. Be deliberate. Be intentional.

The act of showing up every day is more important than any talent you can ever be born with.
The act of showing up IS your talent.
Consistently taking action. Not giving up. That is your superpower. Harness it.
It is the difference between good and great performance.

Practice makes perfect. It is a great expression and the reason is that it is true.
There is this misconception that you need to be born with certain talents to be able to do certain things in life. Whether painting, playing the piano, speaking different languages, playing sports or any other skill for that matter.
Talent is a lazy man’s way of saying; I can’t be bothered to put in the time and effort to learn and master this thing. So I am just going to blame it on a lack of talent.

Yes, having a certain genetic disposition is great. Some people are naturally better at somethings and if you are short, you probably don’t have a very good shot at the NBA but any skill can be developed. Any.
I am not saying its easy, I am saying it is possible.
So don’t hide behind the excuse of ‘talent’ to not pursue your dreams.
Anything worthwhile takes times, effort, intention and deliberate practice.

We expect consistency from the businesses and people we interact with, whether it’s your favourite restaurant, coffee shop, your accountant or a work colleague.
Great businesses thrive because of consistency and so can you.

Show up every day and do what needs to be done. Some days it will be easy and some days you will absolutely hate it. Do it nevertheless. Keep your goal front and centre.
Build consistency and watch how it will transform your life.

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson

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What To Think Vs How To Think

From a very young age, we are taught what to think.
Whether that is line with culture, tradition or religion.
What to think about a certain country, race or political affiliation.
What to think about a certain sexual orientation.
What to think about a certain problem or issue (social, moral, economical etc).

We are influenced by our communities and peers on what to think (hence we all have similar thinking and problem-solving skills).
We are told what to do and what not to do by pretty much everyone, mostly grounded in religious morality and the accepted norms of a group.
We learn it from our elders and then pass that onto our children. Monkey, after all, does what the monkey sees.

This behaviour, unfortunately, needs to be untrained. This needs to be unlearnt. Although, it can create desirable short term results but it is detrimental in the long run.
I see this in my own home where we, unconsciously (having noble intentions), tell our 3 years old what to do, what not to do, how to act and how not to act.

The important thing to teach ourselves and our children is HOW to think. That is the key to success in life and of communities.

We must encourage people (big or small) to become problem solvers by not solving their problems for them but instead asking them how they think is the best way to solve a problem and then letting their imagination run wild. By asking the right questions that encourage analytical and critical thinking – at whatever level that might be for them. Questions that make them reconsider their course of action. Questions that can help them engage in a meaningful conversation.
Don’t just tell people what to do but show them how to do it and most importantly, explain to them why to do it.

We often just look for the answer, the solution, the punch line. We want to get ahead and not deal with the method of arriving at that answer. It is this kind of thinking that produces shallow results and mediocre futures.
It is the ‘what to think vs how to think’ approach to life.
You cannot appreciate the solution in any meaningful way if you don’t journey through the method of finding it out and achieving it.


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12 Things To Accept To Live A Good Life

Acceptance comes in many shapes and flavours. Acceptance can create a sense of peace, balance and harmony in your life.

  1. Accept yourself
    With all your limitations, flaws, imperfections and vulnerabilities. This is what it means to be human. This is the first step. Nobody is perfect. Accept yourself for who you are and move on.
  2. Accept your past
    You can not change it however you can change your relationship with it. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly. Doesn’t matter. Just accept it. It was who you were. Your past doesn’t have to define your future nor your present.
  3. Accept your mistakes
    Regrets don’t add any value to your present or future state. Let your mistakes serve as a reflection and learning point. Accept them. Mistakes are important in shaping the person you become.
    (Read my post on Making Mistakes)
  4. Accept others as who they are
    Not an easy one to do, however, one of the key elements of fostering sustainable relationships. Acceptance of others is also a way to understand what you can/cannot control. You can influence people, try to convince them but how they act is, ultimately, out of your control which is to say, you cannot control others but only yourself. So it is important to accept others, for everyone wants to be recognised for who they are.
  5. Accept you have limited control
    Not many things in life are in your control. The sooner you realise and accept this the better you can be at spending your time, effort and energy on things that are in your control.
  6. Accept that your time is limited
    Whatever you need to do, do it now and stop wasting your time procrastinating. Stop putting things off to tomorrow as one day there will be no tomorrow. Sooner or later you will die and leave everything behind. Let that encourage you to get your shit in order and start taking massive action.
    (Read my post What Death Can Teach Us About Living for a bit of perspective on this)
  7. Accept that you will fail
    Failure is the first step to success. Those that have not failed at anything have hardly ever tried anything new. If you are putting something off for fear of failure, DONT. Sooner or later you will fail at something in life, accept it. The ultimate goal is not success but the ultimate goal is to become a better version of yourself and failure is vital for that because success hardly teaches us much. There is no reflection and dissection after success. After failure, however, you assess, reflect, learn and try to do a better job the next time.
    “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently” ― Henry Ford
  8. Accept that you control your future
    Everything in life is a choice. Yes, everything. How you react to a certain situation (which you may have no control over) is also a choice. Your life and your future is determined by the choices you make. Not just the big choices like which job to accept or whom to marry or where to live but the small choice too. Your life is an aggregate of your choices to date. Poor choices reflect a poor life. So, your future is determined by the choices you are going to make from this moment on. Not fate or destiny or whatchamacallit.
  9. Accept change
    This is perhaps the most elementary yet the most difficult one to do. Not only is change the only constant in life, it is inevitable. Everything is constantly changing, from big to small. The sooner you realise and work with it the better. Stop resisting change and start accepting it.
    (Read my post on Embracing Change, and while you are at it also read Why We Resist Change in the first place)
  10. Accept your need for social approval
    We are social beings. We have an evolutionary need to belong to groups and gain the approval of our peers (whether we like them or not). Somewhere, somehow everything we do, on some level, is for social acceptance, no matter how ‘cool’ you think you are. We need the herd and their acceptance. Learn to work with people.
  11. Accept that there will be suffering in life
    According to Gautama the Buddha, there are four universal sufferings in life; birth, aging, sickness, and death.
    Suffering, ultimately, is inevitable and is part of the human condition. You cannot avoid suffering no matter how healthy/rich you are. You can, however, be prepared for suffering to cushion the impact. You can train yourself psychology to respond better. At some point in life, you will suffer (old age, disease, death of a loved one, your own death), so don’t try to resist it. Accept it and be prepared for it.
  12. Accept things as they are
    “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ― Blaise Pascal.
    We are always trying to influence and change things. Always trying to control and manipulate things, situations and even people. Whether it’s a personal state or that of a culture or a nation. In the name of progress, improvement, religion or just a change of the old ways. We hardly ever accept things as they are, and don’t misunderstand, it is important to change things for making progress but sometimes it is the exact opposite that we need to do – Accept things as they are. It creates harmony, it creates peace and calm. It is the surrender of control and acceptance of our role in the grand scheme of things. It’s easy to debate and often feels good to talk about how things should be but takes toughness, humility and openness to accept them as they are.
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What Death Can Teach Us About Living

Pretend you’re going to die in exactly 6 months from today. What would you do differently? Not much? Or perhaps everything?

  • Would you still go to that job that is stressing you out and you despise?
  • Attend that wedding/party/dinner with people you don’t choose? Merely because you ‘have to’ due to some self-imposed obligation to be a part of a community/social order?
  • Would you continue doing all the things you currently do to be socially accepted?
  • Would you still be afraid to express your true feelings to someone?
  • Would you still worry about embarrassment? Failure? Loosing ‘face’?

Yes, it is not a comfortable subject for many to talk about or even think about, it is rather gloomy, as death provokes many unknowns. No one actually knows what happens after death. Yes, there are numerous scriptures and theories but no one has actually gone through it and verified any of those. However, thinking and talking about death is one of the most important practices you can do to give your life any sense of real meaning and purpose.

As Steve Jobs very eloquently said in his Stanford commencement speech:

All external expectations, all pride, all fears and embarrassment of failure fall away in the face of death. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to loose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

You can watch the full speech here


Keeping this in mind, let us go back to my opening question.
Pretend you’re going to die in exactly 6 months from today.
What would you do differently? Not much? Or perhaps everything?
My bet is; you would probably want to do everything differently.

Remembering Death

From the ancient Stoic philosophers to Buddhist monks and Sufi mystics, various cultures throughout time have meditated and contemplated death in their own ways.
The purpose? Simple; Remembering death and keeping it at the forefront of your mind makes you live. Really live, and ask the big questions and reexamine your priority.

We waltz through life as though it is never going to end. There is always that magical land of ‘tomorrow’ where we will achieve all our goals, have the perfect relationships, build a six-pack and become billionaires. Until then, we are comfortable and don’t want to bother.
Remembering that everything is impermanent including yourself, your thoughts and your words gives you perspective.

Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows. ― Michael Landon

We are very far removed from the concept of death and the ending of this very short life. It is going to end, for some, a lot sooner and suddenly than others. True story. Accept it.
Can you do anything to stop it? No. What you can do though, is start thinking about how you live. Reexamine your goals, motivations, dreams, hopes and actions.

Learning From Death

You see, death is the most fundamental conditions of existence and the single most important aspect of life. It is the only reason there are any thrills, excitements, motivations, the will to do something and build something.
Without death, without an end, there is no sense of urgency, achievement, legacy and personal motivation. Everything is mundane. Everything just is. Time is endless and therefore the will to finish anything simply does not exist. Death gives life it’s container. The impending sense of urgency. It’s meaning and purpose.
Knowing that you are going to die one day soon and leave everything behind, makes this life worth truly living for.
(Read my post on Knowing What You Want In Life)

No one gets out of life alive. Death is inevitable. We have all heard the sage advice and sayings, we all know this stuff but we don’t act as we know it. The true tragedy of life is not that everyone dies, the true tragedy is that not everyone really lives.
Living and merely existing is not the same thing.

“Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime.” —  Dalai Lama

According to David Eagleman, there are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.
Let this sink in for a moment.

So I ask you; If today was the last day of your life, would you do what you are about to do today?

Remember you are mortal. Your time is limited. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and everything is small stuff in the grand scheme of things). What would you like to leave behind?
How do you want to live the rest of your life?
What will be your legacy?
Are you truly living this life or merely existing?

Make some time to ask yourself these hard questions. Make some time to reflect and reexamine your priority. After all, we all just have this one life – that we know of. Make it worth living and make it stand for something.

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Thoughts on Expectations

We all have expectations and we have all been let down on our expectations either by ourselves or someone else. We have also let someone else down on their expectation at some point or the other. Yet we continue to have expectations, of ourselves and others and continue to be let down. Why?
In this information age of instant access to curated highlights into people’s lives, do we expect too much from ourselves and people around us?

Expectations ultimately lead to disappointments more often than not. Most of the heartache in life is caused due to unfulfilled expectations yet most of our expectations are internal and quite often not accurately communicated either with ourselves or someone else.

These unsaid expectations are the worst. They unreasonably assume that we have the same understanding and viewpoint as another person (friend, child, spouse, colleague) and they will act or respond in ways which will be aligned with our interpretation of the world. Is that a fair assumption? Is that a fair responsibility we impose on someone without actually consulting them and having their consent?

And then we have the audacity to be upset and feel let down when that expectation is not met. When the other person’s behaviour is not in line with how we expected it to be. It is somehow their fault – almost exclusively?
Without realisation and a moment of reflection, we move on to have yet another expectation from yet another person or, even worse, the same person.

So let me ask you this, do you meet all of your own expectations of yourself?

  • Did you stick to that diet you promised yourself you would?
  • Did you wake up early and go to the gym like you decided you would?
  • Did you remain calm when your friend/child/spouse upset you?
  • Did you refrain from gossip at that gathering like you decide you would?

Now is it fair to say that if you, after making any of these commitments to yourself and internally discussing them, failed to see them to fruition – why must you be upset when others don’t meet your expectations?
Put another way, if you cannot meet your own expectations, why do you hold expectations from others? And do you have any right to be upset if they don’t meet those expectations?

We feel so bad when someone doesn’t act on our expectations yet we let ourselves down all the time. Once we fulfil all of our own expectations only then we can have the basis to expect something from others.

Here is a remedy to this notorious little issue that I have learnt from Steve Chandler.

The first and the most obvious (yet not always actioned) thing to do is to communicate your expectations, whether they are to yourself or to another person. You say it out loud and have a clear understanding of what it actually is that you expect to happen/to be done.
Assuming the other person (or yourself) accepts and agrees, this turns an expectation into an agreement. It is an actionable item that you have agreed upon either internally or externally.
Agreements:

  • Absolves the ambiguity.
  • Gets rid of unsaid expectations.
  • Gets rid of blame and resentment.
  • Removes self-judgment, misunderstanding, frustration and anger.

You’ll never be able to live up to the endless stream of expectations you have for yourself, but if you want to stay out of the land of judgment, you can create specific agreements with yourself: to show up, to take the small actions, to be present, to make that phone call, to shut off your phone at dinner.

Agreements have the potential to change the way you operate and transform your life. Take the time to reflect and create meaningful agreements with yourself and others. Be patient and don’t expect things to change overnight.

In life, have agreements NOT expectations.


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What Is The Meaning of Life?

We search, we find. We read, we hear, we speak. We compare, we laugh, we cry and then we do it all over again.

Throughout the ages, people have been searching for the meaning of life. From the ancient Aztecs, Egyptians and the Incans to the modern apes with smartphones and satellites. Everyone has been looking for the purpose of life. The WHY. With questions like:
Why are we here?
Why do we exist?
What is the purpose of our lives?
What is the meaning of life?
These burning questions are as ancient as human consciousness itself.

According to science, the purpose of life is to just exist. Yes, just that simple. To just exist, hence we have millions of different life forms on Earth whose singular purpose is to just exist and make copies of themselves.
However of all the known lifeforms, humans have developed consciousness and we don’t just want to exist and make copies of ourselves, we want to know WHY we exist and what is the meaning/purpose/goal of this life?

Would you believe me if I told you I have the answer? Humour me … Read on

The secret is not in the meaning of life is but the definition of life. The purpose is not going to be revealed to you by scriptures, sermons, books, angels or prophets. The meaning and the true purpose of YOUR life is what you define it to be. You give meaning to your own life. It’s not a fixed, absolute value. There is no universal definition. Everyone’s meaning and purpose of life will be different:

  • For some, it may be raising a family and providing them with the best possible opportunities.
  • For some, it might be helping the vulnerable members of the community.
  • For some, it may be building the biggest businesses in the world.
  • For some, it may be entertaining others.

Whatever you choose to do though, don’t settle for mediocrity and don’t settle for average. In whatever you do in life, do your best and endeavour to be the best at it.

That is the true meaning of life. Living your life to its fullest potential. Too many people are more afraid of success than they are of failure (and there is no shortage of that either). Unfulfilled desires turn into pain and manifests in your physical bodies and world.

Learn to listen to your body and to your intuition. Define the meaning of your life by finding what work you are here to do and what contribution you can make to this universe.

“Whatever we are, whatever we make of ourselves, is all we will ever have—and that, in its profound simplicity, is the meaning of life.” ―Philip Appleman

Before your life beings, your soul/consciousness makes a plan for your life. If you keep returning to the same idea, theme or endeavour – you are being nudged back into the lane.

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34 Most Important Things I Have Learnt In Life

This month I turned 34. Here are 34 things I have learnt in the last year:

  1. Follow your intuition (gut feeling/hunch/6th sense – whatever you want to call it). It’s there for a reason.
  2. If you are not giving your all in this life, what are you saving it for? No one is getting out alive.
  3. Make mistakes early in life. Plenty of them and then learn from them. (Read my post on making mistakes)
  4. Hold strong opinions but loosely. You should be willing to change them in light new information. Don’t be the fool who is never willing to change his/her mind.
  5. Everyone wants recognition, acceptance and be seen for who they are. No matter how ‘cool’ they are or act. Be accepting of yourself and be accepting of others.
  6. Make a deal with yourself to learn something new every day, week, month and year. Commit to growth.
  7. Writing makes you a critical thinker. It helps to clarify your thoughts. Write every day – Even if it’s a few lines (you don’t have to put it out for the world to read – I was writing for 6 months before I decided to post it).
  8. Compliance can be achieved by education and compassion or by enforcement. More often than not we try to achieve it by enforcement due to some asshole that games the system. Don’t be that asshole that ruins it for everyone.
  9. Don’t apologise if you don’t mean it. Don’t try to be polite by saying sorry when you’re not. Be honest. Saying sorry is usually easy. Being honest is not.
  10. Don’t be afraid to talk about and seek help in relation to mental health issues.
  11. Use your food as medicine so it doesn’t get replaced by medicine as you age.
  12. Have a daily meditation practice. It will change your life in more ways than you can imagine.
  13. There is merit in analysing things but don’t get paralysed by overthinking. Take action.
  14. If you want the approval of your peers, then do what everyone else is doing. For any meaningful success in life, do what no one else would dare.
  15. Have high self-esteem. If you don’t love yourself no one else will.
  16. Easy decisions, hard life. Hard decisions, easy life. Choose wisely.
  17. Sleep is one of the most important and underrated markers of good health. Invest in your sleep. Get good pillows, mattress sheets etc. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep opportunity every night. It doesn’t make you lazy, it makes you healthy. There is tons of research on this. Educate yourself on sleep. (I highly recommend this book – it changed the way I think of sleep)
  18. Your body is your greatest asset. All your dreams, goals, aspirations and desires are dependent on your physical ability to achieve and enjoy them. Look after your body. Eat well, exercise and make healthy choices every day. A healthy person has a million dreams, but a sick person only has one.
  19. Habits are important. Invest the time, energy and money to build good habits and track your progress.
  20. Learn about the viewpoints of others (religion, politics, cultures etc). It will give you a window into your own biases.
  21. Learn about history. Understand why the world operates the way it does.
  22. You can never please everyone in your circle. So you must always endeavour to please and make yourself happy. Make your life to your own liking.
  23. When making a decision, always ask yourself; is this decision based on love or fear?
  24. Avoid religious debates and arguments. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong at the same time. It is all a matter of perspective and belief. You have yours and they have theirs. Let’s just leave it at that.
  25. As you age you will realise, life is about simplification and subtraction. Not about constant additions. Ask yourself; what can I subtract or remove from my life to make it simpler?
  26. Plan high-quality leisure actives (learning an instrument, a new language, reading a book, creating something, exercise). Don’t just spend your time watching TV and scrolling sideways and downwards on social media.
  27. Have goals. SMART goals. Give yourself a goal every day and track your progress.
  28. As much as we want to teach our children the ways of life. There is so much we can learn from them; Living in the moment, sense of curiosity, wonder and awe. Learn from children.
  29. Don’t just make a to-do list. Make a done list as well. List all the things you get done every day. Look back at the end of the day, week, month and year you will be amazed how much you can get done. Let it propel you to do more.
  30. Don’t just save money for the sake of saving money. Make a plan to invest and utilise that money. If you save just for a rainy day, you are going to get a rainy day.
  31. Learn to articulate and express your emotions, feelings and ideas effectively. It is a superpower in personal and professional life.
  32. Build emotional intelligence. Understand why you feel the way you do and how to change it (if you assess it to be negative).
  33. Go for a walk every day. Not only is it good for your physical well-being, but it can also do wonders for your mental health and clarity.
  34. Life is a series of problems that need to be solved. We move from one problem to another. Some problems are good (where to buy a house, where to go for the next holiday) and some problems are not so good (dealing with job-loss, dealing with a failed marriage). Money does not solve life’s problem. People with lots of money have different kinds of problems but problems nevertheless.

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4 Ways To Embrace Change

In the last post, I discussed what change is and why we resist it. In this post, I want to provide an antidote to it and talk about ways in which we can embrace change.

Embracing Change

As much as change can be difficult, we must embrace change if we are to grow and develop – as a person, family, race, nation or a species. We must embrace change if we are to transcend and raise. The seed doesn’t become a fruit by remaining the same neither does the caterpillar become a butterfly without change. It happens with metamorphosis. It happens with change.
Now more than ever, embracing change is vital. Everything is changing, from the way we work to the way we connect, shop, bank and even socialise. If we do not step up to embrace these changes now, we will resist and we will struggle. It can be painful, yes, but most things worth our time, effort and attention are.

Here are a few ways you can embrace change:

Prepare yourself for change

Can you foresee this change coming (moving to a new country/ city/ job)? Do your research. Find out everything you possibly can about this upcoming move/change/transition. Find out all the ways in which you can minimise a shock to your system. Be prepared mentally and physically (climate/distance etc). Alas, there will always be something that takes you by surprise (isn’t that the fun of life?) but have this realisation in your mind too so it doesn’t take you completely off guard.

  • Identify the problems early so you can be prepared.
  • List your fears of change – what is it that you are actually afraid of? Write it down and make a list if necessary. You will realise that often times its worse in your head than it is on paper and in reality.
  • Break it down into smaller action – If you break the change down into smaller, more manageable elements it becomes far easier to deal with. ‘One step at a time’ analogy.

Focus on things you can control.

There are things you have control over and then there are those you don’t. We only have a limited amount of time and energy, pick your battles carefully. Change can not always be in your control. If you cannot control it, why are you stressing about it? It’s going to happen one way or another, nothing you can do. However, if you can control it, do everything in your power to make it a favourable outcome. Read my post on Transformation and Transcendence for a bit more context.

Focus on growth

We grow by changing our current state. By either transforming or transcending. By becoming something new or accepting something as it is. Change always brings an opportunity for growth, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong and the negative aspects of change, think of the ways in which you can grow and become a better person in the process. Remember your values, believes and principles. No matter the scale of change, if you remain true to yourself, you can weather the storm and come out on top.
Ask yourself:

  • Can you learn something new due to this change (language, skill, art, about the world, about your self)?
  • Will this change push you out of your comfort zone?
  • Will it force you to confront an inner fear?
  • Will it make you step into your greatness?
  • Will it make you do something new? Something different?
    These are all opportunities for growth. Accept them. Embrace them

Let Go

Letting go is often viewed as surrender, as defeat. It is not. The act of letting go can be a powerful ally. Change can help you let go and if you embrace this mentality, change can be a powerful catalyst in transforming and improving your life.

  • Let go of strong emotions (anger/sorrow/saddness/hate etc)
  • Let go of expectations (have agreements instead)
  • Let go of ego
  • Let go of old ideas and notions (that do not serve you anymore)
  • Let go of your world view to see things in a new light.
  • Let go of people that don’t add value to your life – no point having ‘friends’ that do not challenge you to become better.

Facing the Change

Once you have equipped yourself with the correct perspective, a growth mindset, the precise amount of preparation and have let go of the right things, you are ready to face and embrace change, no matter its nature and scale.
Nothing in the universe is permanent so embrace the changes that come your way and find opportunities in them. Change is inevitable and as Heraclitus put it:

“The only constant in life is change”-Heraclitus

Further Reading

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4 Reasons Why We Resist Change

“Things are changing. But nothing changes. And still, there are changes” ― Michael Cretu

Change is happening all the time. Within you and outside of you. It is the one constant in this life. Sometimes it happens very fast yet other times very slow, over the course of millions of years. It also varies in scale, from the microscopic to a grand scale. It is happening with people, powers, nations, nature and the universe as a whole.

It is the most natural state of being in the universe. All things, animate and inanimate, go through and adapt to change as everything in this universe is constantly in a state of flux yet it is the one thing that we humans resist the most!

So why are we so opposed to change? Why do we resist it? Change of weather, governments, traffic conditions, change of management at work or change within our bodies (wrinkles and grey hair). Irrespective of the scale, why do we resist the most natural state of our being?


Our Grasp Of Permanence

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” ― W. Somerset Maugham

Everything in this universe is impermanent, including, perhaps the universe itself. Nothing lasts forever; trees, rivers, mountains, emotions, relations, nations, families, physical bodies and even our sorrows and struggles. This is the one indisputable fact of life – Nothing lasts forever.

Impermanence is, in fact, “the singular existential problem that the whole edifice of Buddhist practice is meant to address”. (Read more about impermanence here and here).
Our resistance to change is our vain attempt of holding onto things (that will eventually change). A way of creating a perceived sense of ‘stability’ in our lives. We feel as though we are always going to be young and full of energy. Our parents are going to live forever. Our children will always be ‘cute’ and love us forever. Our marriages and friendships are going to last forever. Maybe not, things will eventually change, for better or for worse. Yet we treat change as a threat to our current state of being – whether it be happy or otherwise. Are we so far removed from our natural states that we don’t recognise change as an essential agent of the universe and a catalyst for growth.


Change Creates Uncertainty And Doubt

Change = Different.
With change comes uncertainty, as change enforces a new, and more importantly, a different way of thinking and doing things. We don’t like different – We prefer familiarity. We relish the known. Change forces us to be conscious, to become aware and re-examine our motivations, aspirations, methods and processes.
We are creatures of habit, we like our routines, comfort zones and our ‘old and trusted’ ways of doing things. Change pushes us to think in new ways and inhibits us to operate on autopilot any further, without putting much thought into our life. It pushes us to adjust our expectations, habits and reality accordingly. It is not always easy, in fact, more often than not, we find it hard.


Change Creates The Fear Of Unknown

With change also comes the fear, the fear of unknown. Not only does change compels us to think and do things in a new way, but it also forces us to contemplate if the new way will, or will not work.

  • Will I like this new country/city/neighbourhood/suburb I am moving to?
  • Will I fit-in to this new workplace and its culture?
  • Will this new car be as reliable as my old one?
  • Will this new [fill in the blank] make me feel better or worse than the existing one?

We like knowing things, we like predictability and reliability. Change, however, pushes us in the realm of the unknown. The one thing humans have disliked, feared and struggled with the most throughout history is the unknown. We have, in fact, created intricate and elaborate stories of gods, creation, heavens and the mechanisms of the earth to deal with the unknown, most of which we now refer to as mythology (take a moment to let that sink in).


Loss Of Control

Loss of control is one of the most important and overlooked reasons for resisting change. More than anything, humans like to be in control, to have a sense of autonomy, authority, dominance or power. Whether in a relationship, workplace or in the case of nations – We like control, we desire to feel important and we wish to have a say. If we are forced to do things in a new way and contemplate its viability, fearing the unknown along the way, it is safe to say we lose our sense of control and autonomy.
We succumb to new ways of doing things and finding our way again, like a rookie. Trial and error. We are afraid to ask the ‘dumb’ questions and to look like a fool. We are afraid of embarrassment and social isolation. All this because change forces us out of our comfort zones and compels us to adapt and survive.


Before we talk about why and how to embrace change, it is vital to understand our reasons for resisting it. These make up some of the fundamental causes of resisting change. I highly encourage you to get an understanding of the concept of impermanence, to begin with, and reflect upon your own personal reasons for not accepting change. Next week I will highlight some of the ways you can accept and embrace change.

Further Reading

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Finding Your Inner Peace

You seek peace in the world, outside of you.
In various places, situations, circumstances and perhaps even in people.

Your peace can only exist within yourself, not outside.

Your ability to recognise this truth and then finding peace within yourself is the one true secret to happiness in life.
Whatever the outside situation may be, you can find peace within yourself even in the midst of a storm.

Your peace lives inside you and not with another person. Not tied to a specific place and certainly not in shiny new objects (phones, jewellery, cars, houses etc).

Some places, people, objects and even materials (drugs, alcohol) can have the effect of bringing you ‘peace’. This is not peace. It is a transitory emotion. It is not manifested from within but exists due to a catalyst. It will fade away as soon as that person, material, objects, place fades away. It is not lasting but fleeting.
On the other hand, we blame certain people and places for disturbing our peace. None can disturb your peace but you. The beauty of creating your own peace – No one can take it away from you.

When you can live at peace with yourself you also develop the ability to live at peace with others, no matter who they are and what they do.

So how do you go about creating this peace of yours?

“The soul that moves in the world of the senses and yet keeps the senses in harmony, free from attraction and aversion, finds rest in quietness. In this quietness falls down the burden of all her sorrows, for when the heart has found quietness, wisdom has also found peace.” — The Bhagavad Gita

According to this timeless text, peace comes from finding your quietness. From finding your equanimity between attraction and aversion.
Here are a few other ways to find your peace:

  • Focus your attention on things you can control
  • Spend time in nature
  • Accept yourself as who you are
  • Be true to yourself (Stop pretending and conforming to believes that are not yours)
  • Meditate
  • Slow Down
  • Learn to accept and let go
  • Avoid trying to change others
  • Avoid trying to change things that you cannot control

Practice these things in your daily life and you will feel the transformation.
Learn to be at peace with yourself in whatever situation you are, you will automatically be at peace with everything else. It is ourselves that we resist the most hence it is ourselves we need to accept first.

“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress, is the easiest type of existence.” —Norman Vincent Peale

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We Are All Different Yet Alike

You know that ‘friend’ whose house is bigger than yours, who makes more money than you, whose kids go to a private school and who (according to you) is better looking than you.
Guess what … She/he faces the same anxieties, fears, issues and is vulnerable exactly the same way as you.
How do I know that? Because we are more alike than different.

We all have this learned behaviour of feeling different from each other, not feeling part of the whole. We need to unlearn this and realise that we are more alike than we think we are.
That person whom you envy, dislike, admire, fancy, hate, is more like you than you realise.

Everyone wants to be liked.
To be accepted.
To feel important.
Humans are social animals and we all want connection and recognition. We all want to be part of a group/culture/social order. Groups have been important for our survival for thousands of years throughout history. This is part of our evolution.
But as much as we try to feel and portray we are different from each other, we are but as unique as the next person.

We all have the same fears (judgement, rejection, failure, death), anxieties, worries, stresses and annoyances.
Ageing parents, difficult children, money worries, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, physical suffering/illness, grey hair, being unfit/overweight, not performing well at work, having trouble in a marriage … You name it, we all go through it at some point in life.

Instead, we cover up all our fears and anxieties and carry around this persona that says ‘my life is all good, my choices are good, my judgement is good and perhaps better than yours’

“Enter people’s minds, and you’ll find the judges you’re so afraid of — and how judiciously they judge themselves.” – Marcus Aurelius (ix.18)

You and I are not so different after all. So let’s stop pretending.

Instead, if we had an actual and honest conversation with each other and genuinely understand that we all face the same problems in life then we wouldn’t need to pretend anymore.
We can truly uplift and encourage each other to be better if we let go of this facade.

So leave your ego at the door and make this the week where you have a genuine and honest conversation about your fears and anxieties with someone. Share something that you have never told anyone before.

It will be a life-changing experience.
It will teach you compassion and humility.
It will teach you to connect.
It will teach you to let go.
It will be a new way of life.
Try it. I dare you.

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Rushing to Get Things Done and Why Its Very Bad For You

Do you think you can get more done by rushing?
By always being a state of perpetual hurriedness?
What’s the goal, trying to get things done? Scratch them off your to-do list?

The goal is not to do more, but to get more done by doing less. I will give you a moment to read that sentence again and let it actually sink in.

Do you cramp too much in your lives?
Do you say YES to too many things, friends, colleagues, invites because you simply don’t know how to say no? Because you need to reciprocate? Because you don’t want to be rude?
And then you end up rushing to get everything done?
Trying to stay sane and in the process inducing stress and anxiety and possibly a multitude of life long illnesses?

For those with kids, sadly enough, not only are you always rushing yourself but you are also rushing you kids. Creating a sense of low-level anxiety in their little bodies from a very early age. (Yes, it is an actual thing)

Ask yourself, if your child wants to stop on the way to school, perhaps for 30 seconds, to look at a flower or an ant, is it so bad? Are you really going to get late? And even if you do, does it really matter?
Foster yours and your child’s curiosity and sense of wonder by slowing down and helping them to slow down.

Isn’t this what life is all about anyway… fun, curiosity, amazement and wonder?
Or is your life absolutely about getting more done and ticking an X number of boxes before you die?

Are you continually going to rush through life until there is no more life to live?
Did you really live a good life if you rushed through most of it and didn’t actually stop to enjoy, admire and appreciate the little things?

If this was done to you as a child by your parents, perhaps out of a lack of knowledge, don’t do it to your kids. And if you are doing this to yourself, due to a lack of self-awareness, please stop. Now

Enjoy the little things and stress less.

As Henry David Thoreau famously said “It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

There is a breadth of literature written on the topic and if this has intrigued your thinking, I leave you with this short list of further reading.

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