The 5 Ways Vulnerability Changed My Behaviour And Improved My Life

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‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’-

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I was giving a seminar on the power of the mind. In the end, I was asked if I was able to change my behaviour with the knowledge I had just imparted upon my students. I paused and gave a weak reply. The truth was I hadn’t changed much. This happened almost six years ago.

However, all that changed when I watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk The Power Of Vulnerability and when I read her book The Gifts of Imperfections. I instinctively knew that this was the missing piece in the puzzle.

Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is the core, the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experiences.” She continues to say that “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: it’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience.”

At age eleven, my innocence was shattered due to a Coup d’état in Ghana. I had to leave my comfortable, sheltered life, my friends, my school, and my environment. I found myself in a new country, England, with few people like me, and few who liked me.

I quickly learned that, to fit into my new environment meant not to share any dark emotions like fear, shame, grief or disappointment. I had to show that I was tough, cool and almost perfect.

Simply put, I could not be vulnerable and I had to close my heart to protect myself. In doing so, I not only closed myself to the dark emotions but also to the lighter ones and I carried this way of being subconsciously well into my forties.

Until we break down those hardened walls that have been built inside our hearts for so long then we are not capable of being vulnerable enough to be able to change.

These are the five ways that becoming vulnerable transformed my life:

1. Emotions add a charge to thoughts resulting in Action

A thought without emotion is like a bird without its wings. It’s not going to get very far.

As I began to understand the power of vulnerability, I started delving deep into my core using journaling as a tool to dig deeper and deeper into my heart. I learned to access the full range of my emotions so that I could process both pain and joy.

I faced my deepest fears revisiting my past, questioning my beliefs. I got so emotionally fired up that I would regularly cry during my early morning runs. I didn’t know then that I was slowly breaking the impenetrable walls that I had built since my school days teardrop by teardrop.

I recognised that the power of the mind and willpower were sometimes not enough to effect lasting change. The emotions are the “why” of an action; they charge a thought, magnifying its impact substantially. Guilt and disgust at knowing what I needed to and yet not doing so triggered me into action.

2. I am capable of Love

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.”- Brené Brown

The more I faced my fears and shed the layers of emotions that were weighing heavily on my heart, the more I loved myself. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves, and so only in loving myself was I capable of receiving and giving love.

My relationships improved and I started trusting people much more. It was like a new world had opened up to me, one that was shut off for a long time. I understood that love is something that we nurture like everything else in life and it doesn’t just magically appear and disappear with a flick of the fingers.

3. I recognise Compassion

 “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity.”– Pema Chodron

I started to understand what compassion meant and to put myself in the shoes of others for the first time in my life. I was always so self-involved that it was difficult for me to fathom people’s actions and accept them for who they are. But with vulnerability, I accepted myself more and I now see people in a different light as if they were my brothers and sisters.

Three years ago, I started a foundation, Born to be free, where we look after fifty impoverished kids. We take care of their schooling, train them in soccer and teach them basic life lessons. We are giving them options that poverty has taken away from them. Their stories are heartbreaking and relating to them keeps me grounded and keeps me human.

4. I am much more Connected

“The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”- Brené Brown

In his book Social Intelligence: Daniel Goleman explores how the latest findings in biology and neuroscience confirm that we are hardwired for connection and that our relationships shape our biology as well as our experiences.

How can we connect to each other when we have erected barriers inside our hearts?

I now share and give much more of myself and my thoughts, through my talks, writings and most of all my actions.

Also I now accept from others, something, which proved difficult at first, as I wanted to do everything alone, and to feel superior about it. I wanted to feel like I didn’t need anyone.

However, energy has to travel both ways before we can call it true connection.

5. I now understand Shame

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable—it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy.”- Brené Brown

The feeling of shame is universal and if not identified can lurk within us and control our actions and non-actions. Shame makes us feel unworthy and convinces us that we are incapable of doing anything. It grows in silence, secrecy and judgement often leading us to deception, lies and other destructive behaviours.

There is a difference between shame and guilt. Shame is about who we are. E.g., I am bad. Guilt is about our behaviour. E.g., My behaviour is bad.

Though guilt is a dark emotion, it could be used as a catalyst to initiate change in our behaviour. Shame is much more dangerous as it says we can do little but accept how bad we are and it pushes us into withdrawing, hiding, or instead trying to appease someone when we shouldn’t or worst of all by attacking others to hide our shame.

My art teacher scolded and embarrassed me in front of my classmates when I was thirteen years old and as a result of that I shut the door to my creativity for almost thirty years, ashamed of ever bring up the subject or even daring to enter into the realm of creativity, while convincing myself I was more of a science person. However I’ve now found my creativity through writing and it’s exactly the goodness that has been missing from my life for so long.

Vulnerability is not weakness but rather a path to opening our hearts. When we start to trust our hearts, all fears dissipate and we start accepting that we are imperfect beings living in a not so perfect world.

To live with our hearts open, carrying our wounds and scars with us is very scary but the alternative of not doing so is much scarier.

Vulnerability is the only way to live a full, courageous and authentic life. This is what being human is all about.

 

 

 

 

6 Lessons I’ve Learned About Life Through Writing.

 

 

Photo credit: Cathryn lavery

Photo credit: Cathryn lavery

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin Franklin

I am a born-again writer, and it’s been nearly three years since I started to write. Writing was a passion that had lain dormant; it was hidden deep in the crevasses of my heart, waiting to explode like a wild volcanic eruption.

This love affair with writing has taken me from depressing lows that I can’t wish on anyone to ecstatic new heights. It’s a love story that can rival that of Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

My journey started with writing my “Morning Pages” as heralded by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. I would decipher my dreams and go on to analyze my previous day’s actions and take a deeper look into the fears that were holding me back. It also allowed me to celebrate my wins and constantly reminded me of why I loved myself.

Writing has transformed me and released me from the shackles that have held me back since childhood. It has led to many of my spiritual trysts where I meet my true self and feel the power of grace within me. It has penetrated deep into my soul, always asking and forever searching for the best way for me to be authentic.

I am still in my toddler years as a writer, but already writing has taught me many lessons that I can apply in my life. It has stripped me of my arrogant egoic ways and taken me out the closed-box mentality that was me for so many years.

These are the lessons that I’ve learned from writing:

1. Pain is part of life and nothing to fear.

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” —Kurt Vonnegut

Writing is often painful, gut-wrenching, energy sapping and can ruin self-esteem. I hate it when I don’t write as the thought of not doing so hangs over me like a shadow, judging me, labelling me as a loser. I hate it when my mind compares the normalcy of day to day things like doing errands, earning a living, and socializing with the power and allure of doing something I love.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”- Ernest Hemingway.

Writing is simple but not easy. I hate it when it’s so hard that words get stuck in my throat, chest and heart and their flow from mind to fingers typing away become restricted.

However, the rewards and personal growth I do get from writing makes up for all the pain. It has shown me that pain is often the doorway to awareness and change in our lives. It’s something that’s more powerful than happiness.

How can we grow without pain? What kind of life is living without heartache, tears and blood?

2. Vulnerability is power

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” -Virginia Woolf

Writing has allowed me to understand why being vulnerable makes me a better man. I am eager to share my thoughts, travails, and success. I want to be heard, and show my true self to the world.

I’ve let down the heavy armour I’ve worn since my adolescence and unveiled my emotional fragility. I now recognise that vulnerability is not weakness but rather, a great power that makes us more connected to others and more engaged in life. I want to feel my way into life, rather than sit behind a mask watching life pass me by.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The thought that there is no perfection in life has liberated me as I now appreciate that life is about being present and being ourselves.

Vulnerability allows us to dig deep into ourselves leading us to our core where all uncertainty, excitement, and meaningful experiences exist. We have a better chance of unravelling the gems that hide beneath the many layers of our ego.

3) Self-Discipline and Grit protects our passion.

“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”—Annie Dillard

We need a strong will and discipline in life to be able to achieve our goals. People assume that just because someone enjoys whatever they are doing means fewer hours of hard work. On the contrary, the people who enjoy what they do and are good at it, whether that’s writing, singing or starting a new business have the steely determination to put in the hard hours.

They realise that the sense of joy will follow when they remain disciplined and committed to that practice. And that the muse will only appear when we prove our diligence and focus deeply on the practice at hand.

The discipline instilled within allows us to turn failures into stepping stones and rejection becomes a detour to bigger and better opportunities.

I’ve had to sacrifice certain things in my life, like social activities but I’ve optimized my life so that I can focus more on my writing. Now, things that don’t mean much to me are slowly losing their value and fading away from my life.

4) Joy is a state of being

“It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”—William Faulkner

Writing has led me to several experiences that I call spiritual ones. I find myself in “flow” where time just passes and I can feel my heart is singing. The joy I get from completing my job is something I can hardly put into words.

This kind of joy is not like fleeting moments of happiness but something more, an overlying feeling that encapsulates my being, arming me with a deep knowing that I matter in this world, that I belong and most importantly that I am loved.

Listening to some soft classical music and writing early in the morning when I’m all alone before most people are awake remains one of the most joyful experiences that I achieve.

5) The universe is mysterious and on our side

“Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”—Henry Miller

I often get a thought, an idea on what to write about. It’s usually a question that I want some answers for in my own life. I set an intention to write, for example, about Emotional Intelligence.

Suddenly my mind is flooded with new and different ideas. Also links, books and emails arrive serendipitously to aid me in writing my piece. It’s like the Universe has been invoked to come to my help.

I often start writing about a topic and find myself writing something completely different to what I had intended. I read it again and again and it’s like someone else was writing and it’s a new insight that I never thought about before I started typing away.

6) Serving Humanity makes us grow

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writing has taught me that we all have something to say, something to give and a role to play in life. We are all somehow, connected and as such the more we do give back, the more we grow as human beings.

We often look at the famous writers, billionaires, and social entrepreneurs and think that they are the ones whose duty is to give. We shun our responsibility to give back and more importantly lose the opportunity to grow as human beings.

Writing an article that inspires one person to pursue change and become a better person is as necessary as Bill Gates pledging billions to help eradicate Malaria in Africa within a generation.

The lessons I’ve learned in writing apply to whatever we choose to do in life, whether that’s setting up a business, singing or working at a job we love.

Life is all about finding the platform where we become our authentic selves, which allows us to explore our potential, get us out of our comfort zones so that we can grow in serving humanity.

5 Attributes We Need to Get to Become Emotionally Intelligent

 

Photocredit:Aaron Ang

Photocredit:Aaron Ang

Published by Elephant Journal

“Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way”
― Mavis Mazhura

I was sitting in a school board meeting. Things were getting heated; Voices were being raised and heads were shaking as egos battled it out and there was no agreement on the proposed motion. I was agitated and felt wronged as my opinion was being ignored. I was ready to scream at the next person who would speak out.

Suddenly, Tim, who was usually quiet, spoke up. His voice was soft, calm and yet assertive. We all kept quiet and listened as he continued to moderate our arguments and followed up by explaining each viewpoint. Within thirty minutes, we all came to a consensus.

Tim was “Emotionally Intelligent” and I was not.

This concept of emotional intelligence was championed by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., a well-known writer and researcher on leadership who wrote the best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

He went on to confirm why many people with a high IQ were outperformed by many with good social intelligence in the workplace, schools and homes. Emotional intelligence is something that is intangible and difficult to measure. It is a road map to achieving the results we want in our life and can lead us to live a fulfilling life.

What exactly is Emotional Intelligence? Psychology Today says it’s:

  1. The ability to accurately identify your own emotions, as well as those of others.
  2. The ability to utilise emotions and apply them to tasks, like thinking and problem-solving.
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including controlling your own, as well as the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

However, for us to understand Emotional Intelligence then we need to embrace the five components below:

  1. Self-Awareness

People who are self-aware understand their emotions and as such don’t allow themselves to let their feelings get out of control. They reflect on themselves regularly, recognising what they are good at and what they aren’t.

They know when to maximise their strengths and how to manage their weaknesses so it doesn’t hold them back. They appreciate that there is nothing called perfection and admit their vulnerability, and take responsibility of their mistakes as much as their successes.

In Brené Brown’s  TED Talk, the Power of Vulnerability, she explains how  embracing our imperfections raises our self-awareness.

2.Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is where we manage and control our emotions, moods and reactions. These people take a few deep breaths to think before reacting and as such respond much better to challenging situations.

They don’t allow anger, jealousy or some other form of fear to affect their decisions and are conscious of their reactions knowing why they reacted in a certain manner. They are comfortable saying no, and lead well-balanced lives. They usually eat well, get plenty of sleep and have many interests outside their work or relationships.

In the above example at the school board meeting, Tim displayed his self-regulatory way of thinking by not only controlling his emotions but being able to direct all of us to an agreement.

3.Motivation

This is the ability to push ourselves towards our goals, harnessing our emotions to take action, commit and follow through with them.

Self-discipline and willpower are important attributes of their character as they are willing to forgo instant gratification for long-term results.They are highly productive, effective and positive about life and don’t allow people or situations to bring them down. They are very much results-oriented.

Tony Robbins is a world renowned motivational speaker and author. He has authored many self-help books, inckuding Awaken the Giant Within. I’ve been to one of his events,Unleash the power from within, and I can confidently say he’s one who lives by what he preaches. His ability to push his fans to achieve goals is matched only by what he’s done in motivating himself.

4.Empathy

This is the ability of people to not only listen to others but also to discern and understand people’s feelings to such an extent, that they put themselves in the other’s shoes. They don’t stereotype and judge but rather are willing to accept all kinds of opinions and viewpoints. They are open, honest and have a great ability to manage relationships.

Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and Dalai Lama are great symbols for empathy, but there are many around us, who often surprise us with how genuine and empathetic they are. They make us feel safe, heard and that we do matter in this life.

5.Social Skills

These are the team players, who park their egos aside and focus on developing others instead. They are great communicators, manage disputes and are great at building and maintaining relationships. They adapt quickly to situations and aren’t afraid of change and are curious about life and what it has to offer.

My colleague Allison displays this kind of leadership; a smile is always on her face, making it easy for anyone to approach her. She continually asks of the well being of her staff and is the first to praise them for doing a good job yet she knows how and when to criticize them.

Emotional intelligence is something we can learn and cultivate in our lives. We are usually stronger with one aspect than the other but we can develop all five so that we become better leaders of our lives, whether at our workplace, our home or our environment.

It can also help guide us in any circumstances we find ourselves, whether we are bankers, business owners, mothers, friends, artists or people living simple lives traversing the joys and vicissitudes of life.

It’s not something that is easy to accomplish within a few months but rather it’s a journey over many years. It’s a roadmap of “How” to live our lives, rather than the “Why” or “What” of life.

 

 

7 Questions that help us delve deep into “Knowing Thyself”

 

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Published by Elephant Journal

A journey of self-discovery is also one of self-enquiry, so the more information we gather on ourselves, the clearer we become. When we are looking for a partner, we ask everything about them: from their likes to their dislikes.

We want to know every little detail; what excites them, what puts a smile on their face, what makes them tick.We become curious about the books they read and the movies they watch; we crave to become aquainted with everything that makes them who they are.

However, when it comes to ourselves, we presume we know it all, without dedicating enough time and effort to research ourselves. We allow the world to judge us, give us titles and names that don’t apply to our true selves. We end up being tagged and put into a compartment that isolates us for many years and stops us from finding what our true aspirations are.

What were we like when we were growing up?

What interests or practices do we completely lose ourselves in?

What are our strengths and weaknesses? And most importantly what are our aspirations—How do we imagine our lives to be?

Often, the quickest way to get to know ourselves is when we face a traumatic situation, or when our backs are against the wall, or when we are thrown in at the deep end at a new job. Our ego is cast aside as we need to learn quickly about ourselves and handle the emergency on hand.

However, most of the time that’s not the case, and we need to be proactive and stir the pot to start discovering who we truly are by simply asking meaningful questions about ourselves.

“Know Thyself” was inscribed in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, almost three thousand years ago. The wisdom of those two words still speaks loudly today.

I’ve found that when we take some time off, preferably for a few days to sit alone and analyse ourselves as we would on any other subject, we get to know a lot about ourselves and kick-start an adventure of self-discovery that lasts a lifetime.

These are some tests and questions to start the process:

1) Do a Personality test.

The Myers-Brigg test is not the only way to analyse our personality, but it’s been used extensively in the corporate world for almost fifty years now and gives us a fair idea of who we truly are.

There are many variations and sites, but I’ve found the 16personalites.com to be a good one.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I did the Myers-Brigg personality test and found out I was an INTJ–an introverted thinker who needs a lot of time alone to be able to recharge my batteries.

That was in complete contrast to how I was living, and it banished the thought that I was weird and different to others, and I finally understood why I craved solitude, even though I could be quite extroverted in small doses.

2) What are our strengths?

Positive Psychology has dominated our lives for the last few decades, and it’s simply the study of what makes us happy and the activities that we can do more off to infuse that spark in our lives.

Martin Seligman is the founding father of Positive Psychology and his insistence on finding our strengths and maximizing them has supported the self-help field that is so prevalent today.We need to discover our strengths and try to find ways to activate them in our lives and contrastingly not to focus on our weaknesses but just manage them.We need not glorify our weaknesses.

His now famous VIA signature strengths test has been completed by millions.

My top strength turned out to be my love of learning, and it explains why I’m happy to be continually learning even in my mid-forties. My second strength was the curiosity I have for the world which validates my longing to travel and to understand everything the world has to offer. My third strength is wisdom, which comes as no surprise since my first existential questions started when I was ten.

3) What are our core values?

Values are core beliefs that we have developed over the years. They are the ethics that we feel so strongly about and the points of view that we find ourselves arguing for in conversations. They are what drive us from the minute we open our eyes, till the moment we sleep.

Our beliefs are often complicated by our upbringing, society, and the effect that the media has on us, and as such we need to dig deep and find what truly are our values. We should avoid the ones that would make us fit in with our peer group and rather choose what is authentic to us.

I’ve found the short E-book, Aligning with your core values by Tim Brownson to be very useful in identifying my values.

I’m very clear on mine after years of defining them by learning and looking out for what I feel strongly about. My values include self- control, growth, freedom, wisdom, inner peace, creativity and authenticity.

4) Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors? Who inspires you?

I appreciate social entrepreneurship and what it offers to the world because it covers most of my values. And as such I’m always inspired by people who create ingenious ideas to give back to our society.

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank also won the 2006 Nobel Prize for his efforts in providing microcredit loans to those in need to help them develop financial self-sufficiency in poor developing countries like his home country Bangladesh.

I also admire my late grandfather who would act like a modern day Robin Hood by asking for money from the wealthy and then buying essential foods, and personally delivering to all the poor and homeless in Tyre, Lebanon. He wore the same clothes, drove a very old car and continued doing what he did well into his eighties.

5).   What makes you happiest in your life? What excites you? What do you do that makes you feel invincible?

When I’m sitting alone, and I’m writing a poem or prose, it comes naturally and deep from my heart, and I know my words will touch many hearts, that is when I’m at my happiest.

I believe in the power of words and the effect they can have on inspiring people and when I see people inspired to change and to claim their authenticity then that makes me feel invincible.

6) What careers do you find yourself dreaming of?

I dream of impacting the world with my writing the way Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, and Ernest Hemingway have. Their words touch people’s hearts and are immortal, affecting generation after generation. Their writings and words are a pathway to reach our souls, and that’s the path I want to be in all my life.

7) If you were able to be a member of the audience at your own funeral (in 100 years or so) what would you want to hear people say?

I want people to say that I’ve inspired many to find their rightful paths—their long road back to their hidden inner beings. I want to be remembered for leading the authenticity revolution amidst the clamor and noise for living other people’s lives and values.

I want to be known for waking people up to the simple fact that it’s not always about the money, the success and accumulations of possessions and achievements. Rather in the words of Abraham Maslow, I want everyone to “become who they must be.”

6 Ways to Change Our Programmed Subconscious Behaviours

 

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“Every man is what he is because of the dominating thoughts which he permits to occupy his mind.”-Napoleon Hill

She was late for dinner. Immediately, my thoughts spiralled out of control and my “thinking mind” was playing havoc with me from calling her irresponsible to downright untrustworthy. She then arrived, all smiles, kissed me and gave me a big hug. Suddenly she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. All my negative thoughts faded and were replaced with pleasing thoughts.

What makes our thoughts so sharply bipolar? How can she go from being untrustworthy to the love of my life in mere seconds?

Thoughts are neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that are released by the brain to allow it to communicate with parts of itself and the nervous system. Thoughts control all our body’s functions and our emotions which in turn affect our behaviour and results.

Scientific research has confirmed the power of thoughts and how they affect our behaviour. However, the most telling thing about how our mind works is that almost 90% of those electrical signals being formed are done so without our conscious consent or to be exact, they occur at the sub-conscious level.

We have two separate minds:

The Conscious mind which represents 5% of our mind is the thinking mind, where we think freely and can accept or reject any idea. It gets information from our five senses and is rooted in the present. E.g. When crossing the road, we hear a car approaching, and we immediately stop.

The Subconscious mind is like a super computer stored with a database of programmed behaviours, most of which we acquired between birth and the age of six. Almost 95% of our thoughts, decisions, emotions, and actions are influenced from the programming in our subconscious mind.

In the example above, my thoughts went astray as our relationship was still new and I was insecure. The programming in my subconscious from a previous relationship which broke down on the grounds of mistrust came into play.

The subconscious is basically running our lives and most of the time we are unaware of our behaviour, and if not addressed quickly enough, our thoughts crystallize into core beliefs which become almost impossible to shift.

However, science has shown that though it’s difficult, we can reprogram the subconscious mind by using some of the techniques below.

1.Stillness of the conscious mind

Our conscious mind is often so noisy that we can’t hear the whispers and murmurs that emanate from the subconscious. Meditation and mindfulness give us the calm and inner peace we often need so that our mind becomes clear enough to open communication between the two minds.

2. Notice Our Environment

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”-Jim Rohn.

Often we find that there are certain people around us, who are well-intentioned but create so much noise around our being that we can’t have the peace and quiet we need.

We can’t leave our conscious minds open to toxic people and negative situations. It’s not easy trying to quit smoking when all our friends smoke. Conversely, it’s much easier to develop a good eating habit when those around you eat well.

I often escape to the beach alone or sit in a quiet place surrounded by birds, trees and the wind where I can purify my conscious mind and so that it can be clear and efficient in affecting the subconscious.

3) Reflection and observation

We need to look at our behaviours so that we are aware of the results in our lives. In this way, we can start catching ourselves when we are in the midst of a tantrum, or during an eating binge that opposes the actions we want. The more we reflect on our results, the more we know where we are headed.

As soon as I find myself getting frustrated or angry, I stop immediately, retreat and take three deep breaths. This action alone has saved me countless moments of rage, anger and going the wrong way.

4) Creating Habits

“In every area of life — from your education to your work to your health — it is your amount of grit, mental toughness, and perseverance predicts your level of success more than any other factor we can find.”-James Clear

Repetition is key to reprogramming the subconscious mind, and so it’s important that we persist in whatever we are trying to impress onto the subconscious mind.

Whether it’s creating new positive behaviours or replacing old negative ones, then the best way to do so is by incorporating habits into our lives.

It’s smarter to split habits into smaller wins so that we make sure we can remain consistent with our actions.

For example, I have created a habit of writing for 30 minutes each day, something that is not so difficult but after six consecutive months, I’ve started reaping the benefits as my writing has improved tremendously, and I’m getting published regularly.

5) Visualisation

The mind doesn’t know if we are doing something or not and the more we visualize or imagine the desired outcome than the more neural pathways in our brain that we altar and as such we are rewiring our brains.

Michael Phelps, American swimmer and the most decorated Olympian of all time visualized his races in detail, and usually many times a day.  He would “play the movie” over and over so that all of the little things could be done as perfectly as possible, and with as little conscious thought as possible.

6) Taking action

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

If visualization has been proved by science, to rewire our brains, then taking action is likely to have an even larger impact. There is nothing like taking the plunge and getting out of our comfort zone for us to yield the best results in change.

I committed to run four times a week and for four weeks and after a month I had cultivated the habit of running.

We have the power to change our behaviours only when we recognize that we need to address the subconscious, emotional mind through our conscious thinking mind.

We can’t control our past programming, but we can from this moment on, start to create new behaviours by consistently marking the subconscious mind with the actions and results that we want in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Lessons That Zorba Taught Me About Living Life.

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“I should learn to run, to wrestle, to swim, to ride horses, to row, to drive a car, to fire a rifle. I should fill my soul with flesh. I should fill my flesh with soul. In fact, I should reconcile at last within me the two internal antagonists.”

― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Published by Elephant Journal

I closed the latest self-help book I was reading, and it gave me great joy in understanding the central message, but there was a lingering voice in me that kept saying burn those books. Burn all your books. Go out and live life instead!

I’ve based my life on learning and reading, and I know how central they have been to my growth. Deep in my core, I crave to experience much more of life. There is a balance to be had in our lives, a time to read the books and a time to burn the books.

There is cowardice and comfort in reading and learning without daring greatly, and there is shallowness in living a completely sensual experiential life. Hemingway in his earlier years was my hero because he was a man of action who wrote about his experiences in life and not on hearsay or imagination.

“…there is only one life for all men…there is no other…all that can be enjoyed must be enjoyed here.”

In Nikos Kazantzakis’s Zorba the Greek, Zorba was this larger-than-life character who was passionate, fearless and always lived in the moment. He was illiterate and yet ingenious and profoundly more philosophical in his daily teachings than any book or self-help guru could be.

These are the 7 lessons I’ve learned from Zorba:

1) Life is the ultimate teacher

“What a miracle life is and how alike are all souls when they send their roots down deep and meet and are one!”

Living life to its fullest with passion and free of expectations will ultimately teach us more than anything or anyone can. When we start living authentically without the obstacles that teachers and books often unknowingly put before us, then we start moving towards that aliveness our inner core craves so much–that feeling of awe that we were born to experience.

Zorba was free of social conventions and embodied living a life with a deep feeling of awe, gratitude, and wonder. For him, life was for living and for experiencing the sensual joys of life, he was the antithesis to the learned and the scholarly and railed against the “pen pushers”.

He stripped himself of his inhibitions and allowed his heart to lead him to the mysteries of life. He recognized that he would not live life through his mind but rather allow life to live through him.

2) Be foolish

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all, in my view, is not to have one.”

How many times do we overthink ideas, procrastinate on doing things we love because reason had outweighed intuition? It’s often acting spontaneously and being foolish that gives us our greatest memories and most pleasurable experiences.

Zorba was foolish in approaching “the boss” and asking him for a job while they were sitting with other passengers in the waiting room till the rain stopped and then explaining that the reason he lost his last job was for hitting his last boss. His honesty and resourcefulness endeared him to “the boss” and he was hired to go with him to Crete.

3) Death is one certainty of life, so embrace it

“Act as if death did not exist, and act with death in mind at every moment…” and “…I look on death every moment and I’m not afraid; yet I never say I like it. No, I don’t like it at all! Am I not free? I refuse to sign up!”

When we live as if death is perched on our shoulders, we start embracing all the fullness of life. We wake up every day and marvel at life with eyes that have been blind for so long and are grateful for everything that is in our life, whether they are big or small.

We don’t take for granted the daily feeling of awe that is so abundant in our lives- the majestic trees that are before us, the flight of large birds above in the sky, the sunsets that colour our lives, and the laugh of a child that makes our hearts sing.

4) Adversity leads to Growth

“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”

Adversity is our greatest teacher. Only when our backs are against the wall, do we start discovering our core strength. We need life’s challenges and obstacles to help push us out of our comforts and dig deep into our inner selves and learn the lessons that temper our soul.

They say that stormy seas make skilful sailors, and it’s the same with those who go through hardships as they become stronger at navigating life.

Zorba had fought in many wars for his country–Greece. He watched and was involved in many atrocities. He left the army and spent years travelling and meeting many people all over Europe, which made him stronger and his life richer.

5) Be here now, live in the present

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.”

Life happens now. The present moment is where our true essence lies and where eternal brilliance prevails. Zorba’s day would start afresh without holding onto what happened yesterday. He would hold onto memories as treasures hoping to share with friends and talked about his dreams as if they were inspiring him rather than holding him back.

He cried when he was sad, laughed when happy and worked hard when he had to put food on the table. He played the santuri and sang when his heart so desired. He lived entirely in the present.

 6) Embrace Simplicity

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”

As Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Inner peace resides in simplicity and joy in doing the simple things of life.

If we listen closely to our hearts, there is an inherent urge in us to simplify our lives. Fewer decisions mean less energy spent. And so instead of more, we should choose less. It would help us focus, engage and enjoy those valuable things much more.

Zorba embodied the simple life by working in the mines when he needed money and didn’t work when he had money. He enjoyed the simple things of life; food, wine, and music. He would turn his food to “work and good humor” rather than most people who would turn their food into “fat and manure.”

7) Freedom is man’s natural state.

“No, you’re not free…The string you’re tied to is perhaps no longer than other people’s. That’s all. You’re on a long piece of string, boss; you come and go, and think you’re free, but you never cut the string in two. And when people don’t cut that string . . .”

Our ultimate goal as human beings is to be free and yet we allow ourselves to cling to every form of enslavement possible. Can we remove the shackles that we have put on?

Our greatest triumph would be to free ourselves completely and go back to those days when we were free of guilt, fear, and worry. We were born free, and it’s to that state we must return.

Zorba epitomised freedom, especially when dancing. He would communicate in a language that didn’t include words, and yet his message was beautiful, simple and more diverse than words could offer.

True joy doesn’t come from things but from the realisation that we are here to experience every moment of life–The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. That is the only way that we can be in touch with our true selves and say that we’ve lived a meaningful life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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