What does it mean to value your time?

Time

We have all heard the saying that ‘time is precious’, but what does it look like when the ideology is manifested in one’s reality? The majority of people know the obvious forms of time management. Going to bed at a reasonable hour so that they can wake up early for work; planning their days in their diaries or their heads so that it is extra productive, and planning activities and events in advance for memorable and stress-free experiences.

Following the basic principles is great, as they will determine, to a certain extent, a successful and joyful life.

However, can you imagine the control and command you would have over your life if you, near literally, did not let a minute go to waste? Of course, you have to be realistic and allow for a certain degree of spontaneity. Nevertheless, with more effective time management than is standard, you can ensure that each area of your life is nurtured, and, you will allow yourself to get within better reach of true fulfilment and balance.

Valuing your time in the workplace could look like keeping your phone switched off, so that you can fully focus. It looks like listening to, and fully taking on board, feedback, rather than letting your mind wander. Looking at what appears to be setbacks or failures, from an outside eye, as a learning experience, a moment that facilitated growth. It can look like using your reflections to propel you into making more informed, aware, steps, instead of moping and dwelling on the negatives.

In relationships it could mean not staying in, nor tolerating, situations in which you are being disrespected, unappreciated or that do not help you to grow. If you are single, valuing your time could mean being thoughtful in your approach to finding a partner. Having enough self-awareness to assess if another person would be a good fit for your values, personality and lifestyle. As many people know, early signs of incompatibility could lead to conflict later down the line.

In terms of your health, it could mean maintaining discipline in your fitness and your diet. Making it a priority to go running, dancing or maybe spinning, week-in and week-out. Dedication to packing a healthy lunch the night before, time and time again.

And what is the end product of sustaining awareness towards each area of your life? The equivalent in success, surely. While you do not need to plan your life down to the T, it is good to know that, usually, in making conscientious choices, you can truly steer, take the reigns, of your life. 

Taking ownership of, and making the most of, your time, then, seems to be what it means to value it.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Why you need to be an optimist regardless of your life situation.

Happy woman

Perhaps this seems like quite an oversubscribed piece of advice.

We’re all told by friends and family to “be positive” when the pessimism sets in when times get tough. It’s not as simple as that, we think to ourselves. Adopting a new mind-set is not going to remove me from these physical circumstances. Because it’s true, in certain ways.

We can change the way we perceive a situation. Maybe a better attitude will even help us to become more motivated to identify more solutions to change our situation. But it can’t be denied that, in life, we can find ourselves in a position that renders us powerless.

Say, for instance, you lose your job, have to move out of your flat, and move back in with your parents. Or you find out that you have an illness that’s incurable.

You can wake up at 7 am every morning, write dozens of job applications each day and reach out to hundreds of hiring managers, but does that mean you’re guaranteed to land the sort of role you want within a couple of months? Not at all. And maybe you can take a certain medication that will subdue the illness’ side effects, pursue activities and goals that will distract you from the illness, or surround yourself with people that will uplift and support you, but do any of those things actually make the illness disappear? Nope.

Positivity will help you to take actions that’ll place you in better stead for improving or changing your circumstances, but it can’t promise to deliver.

But in spite of this, in spite of the fact that it does not always have the capacity to immediately transform your physical situation, you need to realise the trans-formative spiritual and psychological role that optimism can play in your life.

On a spiritual level, the determination, joy and peace that will emanate from you in the midst of your endeavours will have more of an influential capacity than you’d expect. Your decision to keep going regardless of the challenges and obstacles that you’re facing will not only strengthen your faith, but inspire others to adopt a similar outlook. Have you heard the bible verse, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”? In the biblical context, it means to trust in God and the plans that he has for us, to trust the process, and not be disheartened by any temporal, physical, life situation.

It takes a great deal of spiritual strength to sustain a blinkered perspective that disregards the physical reality, and looks to the light. And it’s always refreshing to meet others that view the world this way. They tend to be the kind of person that lights up a room. That dances in the rain. In a sea of negativity and gloom, they form a raft of hope.

In a psychological sense, the feeling of empowerment that you’ll receive as a result of your continual optimism, your intrinsic decision to never give up, will strengthen the faith you have in yourself, your self-confidence, and your self-esteem. Moreover, you’ll develop mental grit, mental toughness. Invaluable in a world that just loves to throw us hurdles to clear and mountains to climb in every direction.

So, before resorting to throwing in the towel, taking your head out of the game, or refusing to join in with the rat race, know that your choice to be optimistic is a choice that you’re making regardless of the end destination. A positive outcome, as a consequence of your positive thinking, is obviously desirable, but, in the meantime, you’re doing it for the sense of morale it will bring to others, as well as yourself. Never forget that.

Do you remember a time when your optimism got you through a situation, or, uplifted and encouraged others along the way? Tell me about your experience by commenting below!

What does it mean to practice self-love?

Love

From the very first day that each of us came into this world, we’ve been repeatedly fed the message, through bedtime stories, books, movies, music and the wisdom of our loved ones, that love is a powerful thing.

So cliché, right? Because it’s obvious. It goes without saying. We’ve all felt the impact that love can have, the difference it can make in our lives, and we’ve seen what it’s done throughout history.

Look at the Chinese couple, Liu Guojiang and the Xu Chaoquing that chose to live in a cave because the world didn’t want them to be together. Or the Prince, Shah Jahan, that spent 22 years building one of the most stunning pieces of architecture, the Taj Mahal, in memory and out of love for his dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

These are beautiful stories, though have you ever contemplated why individual stories of self-love are so readily swept under the carpet? Of course, self-love in its concentrated form, narcissism, is far from a desirable quality. But what about the kind of devotion that enables someone to knuckle down in the privacy of their bedroom to push themselves through Medical school? Or the kind that fuels a girl to practice their arabesques day-after-day to give themselves the best chances of passing their ballet exams? These forms are equally as powerful and important, and yet scarcely given acknowledgement.

Investing time, energy and attention in yourself is integral if you want to make personal progress and move further in the world. It’s a way of showing the world that you value who you are and the person you’re becoming.

Unsure about what approaches you can take to take better care of your mind, body and spirit? Perhaps you can start by practising the following.

Saying no.

Whether that no is directed towards the thought of eating the cheesecake in the freezer that you know won’t do you any favours, or to spending time outside of work with colleagues you don’t even like, put your health and your happiness first by only saying yes to the things that you know will be good for you. Don’t let serving your immediate desires or becoming a slave to guilt, throw you into an unhealthy and miserable rut. It’s not worth it.                                                         

Accepting your flaws.

We all have those little things about ourselves, whether it’s concerning our weaknesses or appearance, that we wish we could tweak or change. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with striving to be your best self, which may involve aiming to reduce your weaknesses or enhance your appearance. I’m saying that, in the midst of striving for self-improvement, you should love who you are and where you are now. Simultaneously, appreciate yourself as you are, as well as the process of yourself moving towards the person you want to be.

Ending friendships that prevent you from growing.

Especially if you’re a loyal person, parting ways with old friends can be a hurtful prospect. You’ve invested so much time, energy, love and attention into this person, it’s hardly an appealing thought to swiftly cut your ties. In spite of the high regard it’s given, sometimes loyalty can be problematic as a trait. It can cause us to blindly cling to a deteriorating relationship that’s steadily beginning to poison us. It’ll be hard at first, but walking away from those that are stunting your growth in some way, whether that’s in the form of negativity or failing to provide the encouragement that you need in a support system, will force you to find friends that don’t.

Recognising your gifts, and using them.

Do you have a special talent that you wish you’d nurtured more? Maybe when you were younger everyone used to compliment your knack for words, your ability to draw impressive portraits or the way you could act out a movie scenario so accurately. Whatever it is, stop neglecting it. You know that, later down the line, you’ll be thinking of the progress you could’ve made and the paths you could have pursued, if you’d only just given them a little dedication.

Not deriving your self-worth from your work.

This is one that I’ve particularly struggled with from a young age. Whenever I got a 10/10 on a spelling test, or an A on a piece of coursework that I’d worked really hard on, I couldn’t help but feel myself glow a little on the inside. Continuing through the school system, and as a competitive individual, it’s hardly surprising that I came to value myself and my abilities accordingly with the grades I saw on my transcript. It’s great to aspire for top marks and performance, but don’t beat yourself on the occasions when you fall short. You are more than the force of your daily grind and productivity. Don’t forget that.

Educating yourself.

Finally, what field do you want to excel in? Journalism? Teaching? Law? Go out of your way to gain additional subject knowledge, meet people in, and participate in related activities, your field, to give yourself an edge that’ll make you stand out from other candidates. Educating yourself goes far beyond doing so in the blatant subject sense. It also means pushing yourself, training yourself, to be the best you can be, whether that’s in a physical or intellectual sense. A desire to strengthen your abilities is a loving investment, in that it will benefit your career and your health further down the line.

 

How to stay motivated in any circumstances.

Focus

Many of you will know that your motivation levels can, if you let them, fluctuate with the changing circumstances in your life. Maybe the people you’re living with have little aspiration, you’ve had to move back home after living independently at university, and feel like you’re taking a few steps back, or your friends aren’t as supportive as you’d like them to be. It’s so easy for us to look ever closely at our own disadvantages in life, that we begin slipping into the victim mind-set.

But this only takes us on a downward spiral.

With the defeatist mind-set it cultivates, it makes us question: Why even begin if I’m already so far behind?

Hundreds of life coaches, authors and inspirational speakers will have their own tips on how to stay motivated, though, if you could narrow these down to several, here’s the pieces of advice I’m set on absorbing for 2019.

Chunking.

Divide your goal into short stretches and create in-between targets (and rewards!). Giving yourself little incentives along the journey will help you with sustaining your will-power. Possibly one of the greatest personal development coaches and motivational speakers, Tony Robbins, stated that: “A major source of stress in our lives comes from the feeling that we have an impossible number of things to do. If you take on a project and try to do the whole thing all at once, you’re going to be overwhelmed.” Why overload yourself? It’s not efficient. Tackle your mountains one mole-hill at a time.

This, yes you guessed it, is called “chunking”.

Chip away at your project in a series of achievable steps. Have you ever wondered why ticking boxes on our to-do list bring us so much joy? Well, Neuroscience explains that each little victory triggers the reward centre in the brain, flooding it with the feel-good chemical, dopamine. Unsurprisingly, this makes us more inclined to repeatedly focus our attention on set activities. Try this technique perhaps, when working on a passion project, or organising your folders.

Get clear on why you want to reach this goal.

With so many distractions, much busyness and plenty of noise, it can be incredibly difficult to stay focused on a goal. Think about what meaning achieving a certain goal will bring into your life. Will sticking at your passion project enable you to eventually work solely in a sector that you love? Will doing those 100 press-ups every night, no more, no less, help you reach your end goal of feeling healthy and happy? If you have a deeper reason for pursuing a goal, it’s more likely you’ll persevere in seeing it through – even when your motivation levels begin to flag.

Visualization.

See it, smell it, feel it. Some of the greatest athletes and most successful business people swear by this technique. If you can imagine the process, complete with all of it’s nitty-gritty details, the more likely it’ll be that you take the challenges in your stride. The screwed-up concentration face you’ll adopt as you knuckle down to complete a record several job applications in one sitting; the way your breathing will sound as you conquer that hill near your house, or the sensation of sweat dripping from your face as you cross the finish line. If you can envision yourself going through a trial – avoiding the knocks and blows – you’re more likely to make it a reality.

So, dreamers, keep dreaming.

Have a plan, but be open to adaptation.

So what if your strategy doesn’t seem to be working straight away? Maybe there’s a few little tweaks you can make on it to make it more efficient, more effective. If you can sense that your plan isn’t working out quite the way you hoped it would, don’t throw in the towel. It’s all about trial and error. As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.

Take a look at the grand scheme of things.

Why should you keep doing what you’re doing? Let’s take a moment to absorb the words of the renowned Jew, Mr Rabbi Hillel: “If not you, then who? If not now, when?” You’ll find it tougher to slacken up the treadmill, when you recognise that you’ll only have to put in more work further down the line, if you want to be effective, that is.

Figure out how you’re going to cope with flagging motivation.

Accept it. At some point down the line you’re going to get fed-up, tired or plain bored of pursuing that goal of yours. You’ll need to get your spirits lifted somehow. One way you can do this is by thinking of all those that have had to endure so much more than you to reach their target. Take the suffragettes, the people in Auschwitz, or African-Americans before the banning of slavery. God forbid, you ever go through suffering as profound. Nevertheless, it might be worth glancing back as these experiences to put your journey into perspective. Step away from self-pity. Realising that your struggles are not as bad as you may think, will help you keep moving forward with an extra spring in your step.

Don’t be afraid of seeking support.

It’s a powerful thing, announcing your plans to the world. It’s the reason why people get married in the public-eye. The inherent value that resides in sharing your plan, resides in the fact that openly expressing your intentions can help you to stay accountable to the goal you set for yourself. Though make sure you’re ultra-picky about who you share this with. You’ll need a crowd that you know will cheer you on when your voice begins to waver, not drag you down.

Keep reminding yourself of all the reasons for carrying on.

Steve Jobs, the American business magnate and interviewer, encapsulates this excellently. On one occasion he expressed to an interviewer: “I think most people that are able to make a sustained contribution over time — rather than just a peak — are very internally driven. You have to be. Because, in the ebb and tide of people’s opinions and of fads, there are going to be times when you are criticised, and criticism’s very difficult. And so when you’re criticised, you learn to pull back a little and listen to your own drummer. And to some extent, that isolates you from the praise, if you eventually get it, too. The praise becomes a little less important to you and the criticism becomes a little less important to you, in the same measure. And you become more internally driven.”

Anyone disagree with these as being top tips? What are your top tricks for staying motivated? Feel free to comment below!

A unique take on Becoming by Michelle Obama

 

1michh.jpg

Read on for my unique take on Becoming by Michelle Obama. When I was reading this book, I felt as though I was talking to a friend. There’s so many moments in her recollections that strike a nerve. So many comments that aptly tap into the way I, and, I’m sure, many others among you, view the world. Perhaps one of my favourite recurring themes throughout the book, is her continual desire to grow herself, to push her limits, to keep getting better.

Self-Growth

Making revelations about her self-growth mind-set from her youth to date, in ‘Becoming Me’, Michelle poignantly questions her own past perceptions that she would, quite finitely, become a lawyer after her Ivy League education.

As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you becoming something and then that’s the end.”

It’s common knowledge that Michelle had practised as a lawyer in her early adult life. Only that now she has disclosed her true perceptions towards the esteemed profession. Her determination to move forward in the world, to be held, socially, in high regard, maintained her loyalty to a career that she was beginning to resent for it’s indirect approach to instigating mass change.

This, most certainly, comes as a breath of fresh air, to individuals tired of hearing idealisations of institutional, by-the-book success.

Her message rings clear. The established path, the traditional routes to success, will not necessarily lead to personal fulfilment. An important reminder for us all.
Of course, leaving behind her piled desk at the law firm, Michelle went on to pursue a career in community work and politics.

It’s helped me, and it should help you, take away the sense that, whilst a certain path might appear attractively clear-cut, there’s no guarantee that it will lead you to the ideal destination. Life, so to speak, is a journey wherein, sometimes, you have to venture down a path just to know that it’s the wrong way.

Friendships and early influences

I found myself inwardly smiling at the description of Michelle’s friendships and early influences, in particularly, her best friend in College, Suzanne. A track runner and avid dance class attendee, Suzanne, according to Michelle, was the kind of girl that based the majority of her decisions on how fun they were likely to be, and swiftly changed direction when they “messed with her joy“. This is something that I have tended, and still tend to do.

Barack’s apparent contradictory nature, “serious without being self-serious” and “breezy in his manner but powerful in his mind“, brought to mind certain fond friends of mine that have this lethal trait combination. A laid-back manner and steely focus. Demonstrative of her genuine character, is Michelle’s exposure of her cravings for authenticity in her friendships. It’s a terrible feeling, suspecting that someone in your inner circle is only there to gain something, rather than out of genuine affection for you.

Michelle touches on this issue of fake friends that were beginning to plague her life as first lady. Down-to-earth, “thirsty” is the word she and Barack uses to describe the people blatantly attempting to claw their way into her inner circle as an effort to boost their own status.

Growing real friendships, it would seem, and by Michelle’s standards, resides in identifying those that truly care about you and holding them close.

Barack

1michelle

In ‘Becoming Us’, the picture Michelle paints of Barack unearths the deep-seated respect underpinning their relationship. Barack is illustrated as having always been aspirational, envisioning the world as what it could become, what it should be. One story she reminisces of Barack near-preaching to a group of elderly women, raising spirits and instilling hope, in the basement of a church is intimate and heart-warming. A recollection that disintegrates the stereo-typically distant, impersonal image of a politician on a far off platform, to an accessible, close-to-home, community spirit.

A man that never aspired to fame, or to fortune, but, rather, just wanted to make a difference. Sounds almost like a fantasy, right?

Depth of character and honesty, qualities that Michelle admires in Barack, are juxtaposed with the shallow qualities that some of her friends looked for in a partner. Assets like financial prospects and looks being placed higher on the scale than intangible wholesomeness.

Money never drove us, yet look where we are, Michelle seems to be whispering.

Education

Before reading her biography, I never really knew too much about the education initiatives Michelle introduced whilst in the White house. I was surprised to learn that Arts & Culture is something that she wanted to give more ground in education.
In the UK at least, for as long as I can remember, creative subjects including music, art, dance and drama have always been overshadowed by the academic subjects.

Of course, the incredible value of academia cannot be denied. The intellectual skills that academia cultivates will always be essential for the functioning of society. Nevertheless, it’s an unhealthy approach to place it entirely in the spotlight and leave the arts to cower in the shadows. The cultural enrichment that the arts has to offer should not be overlooked.

Remarking on how she’d been raised on Jazz, piano recitals, Operatta Workshops and museum trips, she expresses the importance of arts and culture in developing children:

it’s not a luxury but a necessity to their overall educational experience.

I relished the sight of high schoolers mingling with contemporary artists like John Legend, Justin Timberlake, and Alison Krauss as well as legends like Smokey Robinson and Patti LaBelle.

Honesty

Finally, other than Michelle’s perpetual praise of optimism, ambition and growth throughout the entirety of this book, what really hooked me from the very first page was Michelle’s commitment to honesty and integrity. How can anyone not admire someone with an innate purpose of telling “the truth“, using their voice to “lift up the voiceless” when they can and not disappear “on people in need“?

For a long time, I’m sure, these closing words in her story will resonate with me,

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”

They’ve given me a sense of empowerment. To be unafraid in taking ownership of even the grittier, imperfect fragments of my life. Indeed, every life can be used to inspire and raise up others.

How to bounce back

smile

At some point you will need to know how to bounce back if you’ve been/are going through a period in your life when everything seemed or seems to be going pear-shaped? If you’re a pretty sensitive person especially, the little knocks, bumps and shoves you receive as you walk through daily life can seem more like heavy blows. Blows that can take their toll on you emotionally, physically and psychologically, and leaving you feeling as though you’ve entered an inescapable black pit. A dramatic analogy, perhaps, but it’s undeniable that when you repetitively take your mind to a place of fear, self-doubt and hopelessness, it’s toxicity feeds into your daily behaviour. You feel tired, unmotivated and dissatisfied, amounting simply to a downward spiral.

If life isn’t being too kind to you right now and you’re on the verge of reaching to binge on the custard creams you said you wouldn’t touch and skip the spinning class you know you should go to.

Listen to this.

Live intentionally

You need to live intentionally if you want to build positive momentum in your life. Maybe you recently suffered a family loss; received a bad exam result that you weren’t expecting or broke up with a partner. You need to focus on lifting your spirits and bringing your sparkle back. Loving life again. If you work an intensive job, then give yourself an hour in the evening to pursue an interest, spend time with a close family member or friend, or to practice self-care.

The goal is to bring as much passion into your life as possible.

A big mistake that people can make is plodding on through life as if their misery is no big deal – and yet – their unhappiness has a detrimental effect on the lives of the people around them, as well as their own.

Joy is infectious, as is sadness.

Choosing to be happy, or at least to trying to be, is a gift to others, as well as yourself. Every time I feel myself slipping into stress or despair, I quickly and mindfully tell myself to snap right out of it. Indeed, if I’m going to live my best life, bad vibes and bad feelings are a no-go. As ever, I’m going to keep forcefully pushing them out of the picture.

You have one life. So, live the movie reel you want to see.

Failing forward

motivation

Ever heard of the concept of failing forward? Maybe you once messed up on a test you worked really hard towards in school? Or lost a race on sports day in high school you thought you would win? Though we find it so hard to admit it, failure happens to all of us, and in our culture we can’t help but allow it to make us feel crushed and ashamed, even if no one knows about it but ourselves. With “failure”, or, not meeting a goal or standard in something, being so frequently associated with inadequacy, stupidity and inferiority, is it so surprising that we choose to keep it bottled up inside of us and suffer in silence? Hardly.

Society, Schools, have got it all wrong.

We need competition. We need to be pushed, to be encouraged to be our best selves and live our “best lives”. But if this competitive environment gets entangled with sympathetic nods at parents’ evenings, friendships turning toxic with crushing comparison, and us reducing our self-worth to the score we get on a test, it’s damaging. It isn’t pushing us to do better, it’s pushing us to our limits, and then pushing us over the edge.

Fail fast

If you fail fast, this can set you on the best path for success. So, we need to change the way we look at failure.

OED defines failure as a ‘lack of success’. A lack. Not an absence. Here is where we introduce the idea of growth and of moving onwards, of moving upwards.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”. Thanks Google. He has a point. If you never bother to try hard at anything then you will neither fail or succeed (which, in my opinion, is far worse). The thing with making mistakes is that, yes, it can be upsetting and, yes, it can even be gut-wrenching. But you learnt something from it, didn’t you? And learning is all a part of making progress. Apart of success.

Setbacks

So whatever setbacks it is you’re dealing with right now, brush yourself off, get up off the ground and stride forward as confidently as you did before.

Want to fail forward?

So, do you want to fail forward? To end with Miss Susan Gale, “As long as you feel pain, you’re still alive. As long as you make mistakes, you’re still human. And as long as you keep trying, there’s still hope.”

You’ve got this.