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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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


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.”


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.


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.


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


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