Self

The best gift your environment could give you

There is a TED talk that discusses the fact that we are a product of the 5 people closest to us. And I believe that there is much truth to that. Because we all live in our own bubble. And the people you interact with the most, determine what comes into your bubble. In hindsight, being aware of this could be the best gift your environment could give you.

Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your life

I’m not convinced that the people closest to you determine who you are but they influence your life and habits. There is a quote that says: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your life”. The question remains: “How much of what we want is determined by our environment?”. Throughout our day we move on auto-pilot. For example, you probably don’t even remember your commute home. And once you become comfortable with the people in your life, you become numb to the situations they bring into your life.

Moving to a different environment

One great way to test how much of what we want is determined by our environment is to travel. When you move to a different city or county by yourself, you are on your own. The people back home won’t see all the decisions you make. As a result, you have to make decisions solely for yourself. And it might turn out that you make different decisions once your environment does not surround you. Also, you get to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. You might have to get to know new people. So you join a club for a sport you already play (or want to learn). You try a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try. When I moved to New York City, I loved that I could create a completely new circle with all my new interests.

Realizing when to let go

Trevor Noah said it best in an interview (see clip below). He said that safety belts on planes are there to protect you on-air. But once you land, it is keeping you from exiting the aircraft. The same holds true for people in your life. After a while, you outgrow people and environments and when you hold on to those things, you are basically holding yourself back. Read more here

Source Image: Unsplash, Ben Stern

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Keep putting in the hard work

In life, it is good to have goals. Because that’s how we get out of our comfort zone and grow. But the downside of it is that it gets really quiet after we reach a goal. You might think that when you have reached a goal, your life is awesome. Well, let me tell you… it’s not. Because to me life is constantly about evolving.

Keep putting in the work

Life is no bus stop where once you get off the bus, you sit on the bench and do nothing all day. Rather, I would say, that life is like a commute where you get off the bus and have to walk a couple of blocks to reach your destination. And after a few hours, you probably have to commute to another location. It is a constant event. And there are two ways to look at this. One perspective is to think: “This whole life thing is tiring because I constantly have to create and reach new goals”. Another perspective is to think: “This whole life thing is great because now I have a chance to make adjustments that align with my view for the future”.

Life can shift your perspective

Suppose you read the previous paragraph and think: “Well my life has been pretty much the same for a couple of years and I’m fine with the way it’s going”. That is great! But I also have to tell you that any big event can flip your whole life upside down and might even change your perspective. For example, you might experience loss or you might get into an accident and as a result, you have a long recovery ahead. This could change your future plans and even make you reconsider your identity. This way you have to reinvent yourself in a way and evolve.

Stop and smell the roses

Now I might not have the most productive way to tackle all those pivots that can occur, but personally, I found that just being mindful of the fact that the work is never done is really helpful. And also, stop and smell the roses. We can get so caught up in improving habits by 1% each day or chasing goals that we forget how great life is. A big part of evolving is rest, so enjoy what you have now and look forward to all the things that are on their way to you.

Source Image: Gaurav Baya

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What is going to be your legacy?

As we wrap up this month’s theme, we have come to the last article regarding Purpose. Now let’s focus on what impact your purpose will have once you’re gone. I know it’s a dark subject and some might not want to look that far ahead. But have you asked yourself what you will leave behind once you pass away? What will be your legacy? Life is fleeting and before you know it, your time is up. In Islam, we have something called Sadaqah Jariyah which loosely translates to ongoing charity. By engaging in this type of charity, you will be encouraged to think about your legacy.

What’s your legacy?

When we consider the day-to-day activities. Earning money, buying products, finding new hobbies, and spending time with family and friends. We think it all means something and it does to some extent because we need that now, but imagine 20 years after you’ve passed away. Will someone really remember all the money you’ve spent? Well, it depends on how you spend it.

Impact of your purpose

The impact of your purpose will be transparent once you talk to someone after a while. Look at people who win awards and their favorite elementary or high school teacher surprises them with a lovely speech. No matter how famous that person is, they end up in tears because that teacher has played a crucial role in their growth. In the end, people will remember how you made them feel.

What will you leave behind?

Now let’s consider helping people you don’t know and having them benefit from it for years to come. The best example of Sadaqah Jariyah is planting a tree. You might not see that tree grow fully in your lifetime. But your children and their children will reap the benefits from that tree, hence produce to survive for years. Another example is gaining and then sharing knowledge. Because if someone has benefited from that knowledge and they go ahead and teach it to someone else, you will also be rewarded.

Source image: Unsplash Eyoel Kahssay

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How to give like a monk

Do you feel stuck in your life? Do you lack direction? Well, today we are focusing on purpose. And what better way to kick off this month’s theme than with Jay Shetty. Jay Shetty is a former monk and is globally known for his work in the (mental) health world. He has a podcast called: “On Purpose” where he interviews celebs as well as scientists.

Jay Shetty discovered his calling during his time as a monk. In his book “Think Like a Monk” he describes the meaning of purpose. In Sanskrit the closest translation is Dharma which is loosely translated to your calling. Jay Shetty describes it as:

Dharma:
when your talent and passions connect with what the universe needs, 
you are living in your dharma (purpose)

How to find your Dharma

If we keep our minds open and curious, our dharmas announce themselves. Jay breaks it down into four categories: passion, skill, compassion and usefulness.

Source: Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty

Moving on to gratitude

I am a deep thinker and sometimes I find it difficult to understand what I am doing here, i.e. on earth. It could be because I have a lot on my mind, or that I see people suffering and ask myself why I worry about all the small things happening in my life. Instead of being grateful for all that I have, I just focus on the negative feelings. As a result, I lack the motivation to do the simple stuff in life. But if you stay in this state too long you can get depressed. The solution is being grateful through acts of service.

Why should we be grateful? Well first of all the practice of gratitude makes you realize all that you have. But also, Jay Shetty said, When you’re present in gratitude you can’t be anywhere else. So you can’t be in your mind with all those (negative thoughts).

Gratitude through service

By doing for others we do for ourselves because charity does as much for the giver as for the receiver. We like to think: I’m doing this selfless thing but in hindsight, we are getting something out of it. Service helps you transform negative emotions.

Acts of service can be anything. As long as you help someone. It could even be doing groceries for your elderly neighbor or helping your sister/brother with their young children. Simultaneously, it could be helping someone who has less.

The benefits of gratitude through service:

  • You feel needed (usefulness).
  • You experience compassion.
  • You become grateful for the life you have.
  • Or you realize which aspects you want to add to your life.
  • You access a broader view of life, and problems, by giving.

Source image: Unsplash, Quinten de Graaf

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Harsh Truth: Life goes on

Time doesn’t stop for anybody. Sometimes we would very much like it to pause for a moment though. In this life, we will all experience loss or a traumatic situation. And as much as we would like to “move on from it”, we would also like to take a minute and process. But the harsh truth is that time doesn’t stop for anybody. For everyone the threshold is different. Also, the situation where loss is being experienced may differ from person to person. Having kids can be challenging. Losing someone you love dearly can be heartbreaking.

Sex and the city

This comparison is for my Sex and the City women. Remember when in Sex and the City 2 Charlotte was so overwhelmed with having two kids and societal expectations on what a nanny should look like? She reached her limits while making cupcakes and went into the pantry to grab something, but in hindsight, she just needed a minute (find the clip below).

Personal loss

However, after a while, you have to get back up. Because in reality life, or rather, time goes on. In business everybody is replaceable. But more importantly if you stay too long in that rut, you will miss out on so many beautiful new memories. This is also very apparent when you have young kids around you. They won’t wait for you to take their first steps or to say their first words. And when you aren’t present you will miss a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Reach your full potential

You are also doing yourself a disservice when you are not getting everything out of this life. I once heard Rob Dial mention the following in his podcast. “When someone dies, all the unused potential dies with them.” We are still here so we owe it to ourselves, and maybe even the person that passed away, to do the best we can to reach our full potential.

Source image: Unsplash, Maico Amorim

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Peace: to be calm at heart

This month’s newsletter is centered around why certain clichés are true. One of them is to protect your peace. And while some might think: this feels too zen for me. It is in fact the very base of attaining happiness or succes. Because you can’t pour from an empty cup but contradictory you also can’t fill a cup that is already full.

Pouring from an empty cup

Oh gosh, another cliché. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Imagine this, we are looking at a movie where someone is constantly doing the same thing. Where the character’s daily routine is very boring. Even the character themselves are not enjoying the activities they are doing. This is very hard to watch and even more difficult to live. Some people are burned out or miserable living their own lives. Their peace is compromised. Now for them, it is time to change things up. To conduct a new activity or maybe a change of scenery.

Filling the cup

On the contrary, you can’t fill a cup that is already full. Which refers to the fact that when you are already overworked, are dealing with too much stress, you can’t really handle much more. For example, you had a busy day at the office and your colleague then asked you to handle another project. You do it anyway because you can show your expertise to more people in management. Then, on your way to your commute, you find out that the train has a 20-minute delay… Which is going to make you arrive late at a friend’s birthday party. You arrive at the party but honestly, you look tired and are not even enjoying the company around you.

Now I’m not saying that you have carte blanche to blame your grumpy behavior on these events. Because at the end of the day, you are responsible for the way you act. But we have to realize that we can’t enjoy the moment when our social battery is running low. Therefore, protect your peace and prevent yourself from becoming too overworked.

Peace is the base of everything

Whether you want to empty your cup or fill it up, you have to prioritize your peace. Now first, let’s establish a definition of peace. To have peace is to be calm at heart. This can be established by setting boundaries on these aspects:

Mind

  • decrease screen time
  • read 1 book a month
  • guided meditation
  • surround yourself with positive people
  • saying “no” more often
  • cleanse your space
  • write things down
  • self-care day

Body

  • strech daily
  • more your body more
  • cut out fast food
  • go for a relaxing massage
  • nourish your body

Soul

Source image: Unsplash, Mahosadha Ong

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It’s exhausting becoming your emotions

Take a step back from your emotions

So the first step seems obvious. You may have been told to count to 10 as a child, to regulate your emotions. When you take time to take a step back from your emotions, you get to self-reflect. Afterward, you feel more conscience and might figure out the best way to process those emotions.

Don’t be consumed by your emotions

Remember that you are not your emotions. Whether it is insecurity, anger, or feelings of hurt. We can make emotions part of our identity. The consequence is that you limit yourself to behaviors that are in line with that emotion. Second, you will let that emotion consume you and as a result, you will stay in the state of that emotion. The fact that we are human beings and can reflect is such a beautiful thing. Because we can process the emotions and eventually let them go.

Exhausting

Also, it takes a lot of energy to become that emotion. Whenever we feel an emotion, we spend a lot of time thinking about it and how it affects us. For example, what someone or something has done to ourselves. Or how stupid you have reacted to someone or something. First of all, that event is in the past and we can’t do anything about that. What we can do is notice the emotions we have and evaluate how to handle them. This will be a lot less exhausting. In the end, we have to actively decide to not be consumed by emotions.

Full range of emotions

Source: Unsplash, Hendrikke Due

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The circle of influence, how to take action

In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey talks about two kinds of circles. The first and the larger circle is called the circle of Concern. Which contains all the things you are concerned about. In other words, all the things that take space in your mind. For example, your loved ones, your health, your job, the weather, the economy, etc. Some of these things we can control, in other words, we influence these things. They reside in the smaller circle: the circle of Influence.

Source: dplearningzone

One way to determine in which circle to categorize things is to distinguish the “Haves” from the “Bes” Examples of the “Haves” are:

I'll be happy when I have ...
If only I had a more patient partner ...
If I could just have more time to myself ...  
I can be more resourceful. 
I can be more understanding.
I can be dedicated. 

Source: Unsplash, Yiran Ding

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Leave the table when it’s no longer serving you

Have you ever heard the phrase that quitting is for losers? Or have you heard someone say, you should finish what you’ve started (almost with an undertone of disappointment)? But why SHOULD we do anything that is no longer serving us? For me, it didn’t click until Steven Bartlett mentioned that quitting in different scenarios is actually the wisest decision.

Quitting framework

In his earlier book, he talks about the quitting framework. In life we glamourize starting, but dread quitting. Let’s dive deeper into why it is frowned upon to quit. Mostly, because your environment or society will look at you as a failure. They will think that you are not good enough or didn’t have enough skills, guts to finish that task. So this fear of finishing what you started is founded on the perception and opinions of others.

Let’s look at a simple example. Let’s say that you bought a book that you thought was gonna be really inspiring. You read the first 50 pages of the book and actually, you have a hard time following the narrative. What do you do? Do you finish reading the book because you started already and you invested money into it? Or do you close your book and maybe donate it to a second-hand shop? The wiser decision here would be to quit reading the book.

To start something new, you have to let go

Whenever you would like to start something new, you need to let go of something else. So quitting something makes sense. I also think that if you truly know yourself and the path you would like to follow, it is bold to quit something. You’re making a statement that says: “This activity/ relationship/ task is no longer in line with who I am and trying to become.

Is it really difficult or is it not serving you?

Now I’m not saying that you should quit something right the second it gets difficult. Through the quitting framework, you should ask yourself a couple of questions. Is the hardship worth the rewards? But if the hardship isn’t worth the reward it’s best to quit because then it becomes hard and meaningless. The other question is: “Do you believe you can make it not suck?” For example, in a relationship. The second question: “Is the effort that it would take, worth the rewards?”

Well, there you have it. A simple framework to decide if things are still serving you.

Image: Unsplash by Tungsten Rising

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Where do you want to be?

Only four months until the end of the year. Still, enough time to do fun things and also (re)build habits. The question is: “Where do you want to be in life on December 31st” The following questions can help you form this person. write down:

one thing you’re excited for

one new thing you like to try

one person you want to catch up with

one area you want to grow in

the way you want to feel

The second step is to implement the answers to these questions daily, weekly, and at tops on a monthly basis. Set realistic deadlines that are easy to write off as accomplished or not yet accomplished.

How fun would it be if you answered these honestly, really stuck with them for the next months, and actually saw results at the end of the year?

Source: Unsplash, by Jorgen Hendriksen

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