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!

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Why you shouldn’t be afraid of vulnerability.

Vulnerability

All of us have faced disappointment at some point in our lives.

And this disappointment has arisen in multiple forms.

Some of us got picked on in the playground. Some of us didn’t get our expected grades in that exam that we worked so hard towards. And some of us got pushed away after confessing our affections for someone.

What do these accumulated experiences add up to? You know it. A series of memories that transport us back to that feeling of raw, emotional pain. We try our best to move past them. We tell ourselves that this hurt is history, until a similar situation arises, and that scar becomes an open-wound.

A lot of us are really good at guarding ourselves in scenarios that resemble a past, painful memory. We stop trying to make new friends because, what’s the point? It’s really hard to meet people that you can truly connect and click with. So-and-so probably already has a load of friends, why would they want to be friends with me. We stay in that we job that we hate because it pays pretty well and we don’t believe we’ll finding anything better. We’ve done so many applications in the past, for no, or few, interviews and very little success. We’re just not good enough, we tell ourselves. And we don’t ask out that guy/girl we like because, let’s be honest, they’re probably not going to be interested in us.

So we can go about life this way, with our armour strapped on and our shields at the ready, and we’ll probably do okay. We’ll probably be just fine.

But that’s all you’ll ever be. Just fine.

You’ll settle for just texting and calling up your old friend, Sue, from college, who never seems to genuinely care about what you have to say. You’ll resort to spending your weekends with Jenny from work, who you can never have a stimulating conversation with. But it’s fine, at least you have company.

You’ll do the safe thing. You’ll stay in that job and maintain that steady income. You’ll have stability, the thing that, as humans, we so naturally crave. For months or years of your life, you’ll spend most days feeling bored, stuck or, even, miserable. But it’s alright, that’s why we have fun on the weekends right?

You won’t get to pick, you’ll be picked by someone that was brave enough to go after what they wanted, and you’ll stay with someone that’s not right for you, because, hey, they could be worse, and it’s better than ending up alone.

It’s terrifying to put yourself in a position of vulnerability.

It can make you feel anxious, stressed and nauseous, even.

But the paradox here is that, it is only when you are no longer afraid of vulnerability, that you can make truly empowered decisions. Whilst you may be plagued with feelings of insecurity, of weakness, the move will be one of inner-strength, self-belief.

These are decisions, leaps of faith, that could result in social, career, economic and romantic disappointment, and yet you make them because you know deep down that you can’t settle with fine.

Don’t expect to lead a passionate life by constantly playing in defence, you’ll have very few victories. Lower your guard and go for it. You have to fight for what you want, which means facing short-term discomfort for the sake of long-term happiness.

You may get bruised, cut and beaten along the way but, in spite of it all, you’ll be on the cusp of a wholesome and fulfilling life.

So, that leap that you’ve been thinking of making? Make it.

Take the most integrous route for you, not the most established, and you’ll lead a life that’s truly whole-hearted.

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 Black Panther has changed Hollywood.

Black Panther

With a record-breaking gross of $192 million, smashing “Deadpool’s” 2016 box office mark of $152 million, there’s no doubt how Black Panther has changed Hollywood.

The film has been willing to investigate some of the world’s biggest moral, political and social questions. These include questions that are, more often than not, abandoned on the sidelines in fast-paced action movies. The multi-million Marvel production has made quite the mark.

Black identity in Black Panther

For those that need to re-familiarise, the persistent notes undercutting the screenplay is the suggestion that “Blackness”,  “Africanness” and everything these terms signify, are attributes that have yet to reveal their glory.

There is exploration of black identity in Black Panther, when, usually, it is lacking in Hollywood productions.

Black stereotypes in Black Panther

The underlying message behind the films external context rings pretty clear. Wakanda, Africa is no “third-world country – textiles, shepherds, cool outfits.” Instead, it’s a country built upon vibranium—the strongest metal in the world. In spite of having surpassed other continents’ technology, Wakanda’s expanse of forestry deceive outsiders. Society should not undermine this race.

There is a clear subversion of black stereotypes in Black Panther. A subversion of the stereotypes that, unfortunately, still undercut our society today. This is why it is unsurprising to see Black Panther receive ‘Top Film Award’ at the 2019 SAG Awards.

Black Producers

In his speech, Boseman touches on how the production has instigated change for black producers in the industry. From the mere aesthetic level of a cast that gives representation to “young, gifted and black” individuals, Black Panther embodies a subverted reality wherein there isa space”, “a screen” and “a stage” for this demographic. A universe wherein this demographic can be the head and not the tale, above and not below, to reiterate Boseman.

Black Panther is not the first movie to have inserted black leadership from the ground level of production.

 

Look at Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013)Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight (2016) and Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). Each film harnesses a flurry of black talent, both on and behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, notice how this recent movie history forms as a critique on societal oppression and therefore, quite ironically, recreates them.

Although making positive progress in giving African-Americans bigger platforms as protagonists, the depiction of black vulnerability speaks to the fact that, as Boseman suggests,

our task historically, has not been the same because, you know,  we been relegated to playing the side-kick [the inferior], or the side-show, or back-stage, or not here altogether

While many films effectively exposing past and present wounds, of being subject to debasement,  many do not attempt to relinquish the pain. Removing the offence through depicting new and empowered realities.

Black representation in film

There’s intelligence in the making of Black Panther.

It doesn’t call for conceited “Black Power”, that’d endorse the idea of racial supremacy.

It challenges the normality for black representation in film. With one wherein going to a movie theatre and seeing all black casts in Hollywood productions is not surprising.

Black Panther made this reality accessible, more tangible, by providing a vessel in which “we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing”, in which “we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see”, as Boseman said.

A world wherein “equal, if not more talent” in BAME communities, translates to “the same opportunities […] the same doors open to you”. A world wherein Black aspirations are not “outside the realm of what the world would see you doing”.

Black heritage in Black Panther

The movie has also gotten Hollywood to acknowledge black heritage.

It’s the equivalent of somebody doing a period piece where you talk about the wardrobe in this movie.”

Although known as a superhero and black movie, elements of black cultural heritage are brought to light.

It plays a part in communicating the tale and brings greater significance to it’s message.

Black Panther not only subverts our perception of the black dynamic on the Hollywood screen, but, if you look a little closer, also our understanding of black history.

It’s clear how Black Panther has changed Hollywood.

Why we need to stop glorifying “busy”.

Busyness.jpeg

You can’t deny that when you finish a day in which you feel like you’ve made the most of every minute, you get a great sense of satisfaction.

And, why wouldn’t you?

With the amount of distractions we encounter on a day-to-day basis, to end the day in the knowledge that our focus has been sustained enough to smash our to-do list can feel like quite an accomplishment. Strong productivity will always play an integral role in helping you to take bigger strides towards your target destination.

Nevertheless, becoming too insistent in acquiring these daily “wins” can result in a loss of perspective. If you’re not careful, becoming addicted to being “busy”, so to speak, can lead you to neglecting and overlooking the most important aspects of life, like building meaningful relationships and finding ways to give back to the wider community.

It’s essential that, in order to live with integrity and be truly fulfilled, you critique the destination before you begin the journey. Is the end goal aligned with your core values? Will the journey facilitate your ideal lifestyle, or, at least, take you to a circumstance that will place you within reach of your innermost desires?

If the answer is no to all of these, then your busyness is not productivity, and your completed to-do list has done little to support you in making any real progress. Are you in a job that you feel has very little impact? That isn’t helping you to grow? This might be okay temporarily, if you recognise it as a means to an end. But if that job, say, doesn’t even pay enough to put you in an economic position that’ll serve as a launch-pad for your future endeavours, it’s probably a waste of your time.

You need to value the process as well as the end result.

Perhaps you’re investing your time in working on a business that you believe will have optimal financial prospects? While this is not a terrible idea, ask yourself: Besides monetary gain, will this project, in it’s process, help me to get what I want out of life? It sounds bleak, but with business success-rate statistics revealing that 20% of businesses fail in their first year, 30% after two, and 70% after 10, you’ve got to want to be in it for the long-haul, regardless of whether or not you end up ballin’.

To put it simply, a passion project is very rarely a mistake.

When the thing you’re investing yourself in is meaningful to you on a deeper level, the end result is of little importance, because you care greatly about what you’re doing in the present. If, as with most businesses, it’s a side-hustle in its early days, it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and energy because it could count as being a past-time. If you’re getting pleasure and fulfilment from the doing, then you’re never going to see it as a waste of time.

Rather than perceiving it as a risk, a loss of resources, you’ll simply deem it as a necessary distraction from the mundane day-to-day tasks. It’s the equivalent of, say, someone buying art materials or paying for dance classes, to bring more joy into their life.

Make it a rule for yourself to make your work a labour of love, at every possible opportunity, and you’ll have very few regrets. “Busy” will finally be serving to fulfil a greater, more meaningful, purpose to your life.  And realise deeply that, to be still, to not be preoccupied, does not necessarily equate to laziness or to being idle.

We need stillness to gain greater perspective, greater awareness about ourselves, our values, and what we want in life.

Are you guilty of placing “busy” on a pedestal, irregardless of the content of that busyness? If you are, or have been in the past, then share your experience below, and what you’re doing, or have done, to remove the habit from your life.

What does Meghan’s new patronage mean for The National Theatre?

Meghan Markle

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the term “patronage”, a royal patronage can be useful in helping to promote and strengthen the image of great causes.

Kensington suggested that the four organisations – the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, The Mayhew and Smart Works, which had been selected for Meghan to be a patron of, had been chosen as “causes and issues with which [Meghan] has long been associated”.

If you’re following Kensington Palace on Instagram, then it’s likely that you’ve already seen that, so far, Meghan Markle’s use of her new responsibilities are well under-way. And she’s probably having the time of her life, since the selected charities depict the Duchess’ passion for access to education, support for women, animal welfare and the arts.

Her enthusiastic embrace of her new role is hardly surprising, considering her background in the non-profit sector. Since the beginning of January, Meghan has become proactive in getting involved in community discussions, with long-term unemployed and vulnerable women, which forms an integral approach of Smart Works Charity.

And, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited for how she’s planning on using her new influence in the arts, The National Theatre (NT).

With a background in not only the arts, as an actress and blogger, but as a campaigner, prior to marrying Prince Harry in May 2018, it’s quite possible that The National Theatre may be getting a few things switched-up. Already having developed some great goals, including aiming to create a world-class theatre for everyone, and implementing a learning and participation programme that supports young people’s creativity across the UK, the NT is barking along the lines of equality and inclusiveness that Meghan so loves to see.

But you know, I think we’re going to see these goals being taken to the max, with Meghan on the scene.

By now, most people have heard the story of how, at just 11, Meghan wrote to the US first lady at the time, Hillary Clinton, to make complaints about the sexism being perpetuated in TV advertisements, and successfully got the ads’ transcript changed as a result.

Judging by her past behaviour, then, it doesn’t seem like Meghan will be tolerating any ignorance on the NT landscape.

A “strong believer in using the arts to bring people from different backgrounds and communities together”, according to Kensington Palace, it would seem that Meghan will be harnessing the NT as a tool for strengthening cultural diversity.

With the National Theatre artistic director, Rufus Norris, sharing her aspirations, Meghan’s influence in British theatre may have few limits. As a response to the announcement of Meghan’s patronage, Norris said,

‘The Duchess shares our deeply-held conviction that theatre has the power to bring people together from all communities and walks of life. I very much look forward to working closely with Her Royal Highness in the years to come’.

I think we can expect Meghan to use her increasingly influential platform to, fervently and shrewdly, advocate for inclusiveness and diversity in the arts.

Do any of you have any thoughts about what’s on Meghan’s agenda? Comment below on what changes you’re expecting/hoping Meghan to make in British Theatre!

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!