In my next series, I aim to share life experiences, the latest tools, and practices to develop a positive attitude and cultivate constructive thought habits.
A positive mindset is to use your intelligence and knowledge to set goals, manage pressures, and change the negative script to a promising one. The message is to recognize that positive thinking manifests ecstasy in our lives, boosts our health and well-being and shapes a valuable self-narrative.
In that spirit, knowing well that no one can keep upbeat all the time, here are positive mottos to live by in 100 words:
Self-acceptance. Live courageously.Express your thoughts clearly.Explore your ego. Break the habit of instant gratification with fulfilment. Have gratitude in your daily life. Step out of comfort zone and aim for growth.Cultivate resilience which is a formula for happiness.Work with your strengths to experience the state of flow.Give meaning to your life by helping others.Focus by being mindful.Choose to reflect and not to agonize.Smile and laugh and hug. Expect good sensibly. Be kind.Forgive.Move away from blame game & take responsibility.Emotions are data, use them wisely.Embrace the uncontrollable.Live purposefully.
What separates us from other animals is the use of language. Animals do communicate in many different ways, through smell, dancing, or touching. What sets us apart is our verbal expression and, importantly, our ability to communicate clearly.
It is not always easy to communicate your thoughts, the use of words might be misunderstood, and our bodily gestures might be misread. We tend to say nothing and expect others to understand what we are thinking telepathically. We don’t get off our chest our concerns and blame or accuse others of indifference. We get annoyed, feel defensive, and respond in anger because we tend to ignore or hold on to things that we have not been able to voice with clarity, and the list goes on. Well, until we all evolve and become Professor X, it is to our best advantage to learn and hone our communication skills instead of reacting to our unvalidated assumptions.
Regardless of the concept and whether the conversation is personal, professional, or addressing an audience, the pillars to an intelligent and useful talk are based on:
Know your purpose
Know your intention
Know the meaning
Once you have wiped out the haziness through the process of exploration of your intention and how it all relates to you and your audience, make sure that you practice non-judgment. This attitude will reinforce your efforts to express your thoughts with common sense and gives you the wisdom that a broad spectrum of opinions exists. Be mindful that rational explanations or points of view will probably be presented and that they might be totally in contrast with what you believe.
Last but not least, cut through the noise, the unambiguity, and always ask yourself why you are engaging in a conversation. The magic of questioning your intention unconsciously appeals to your character’s smart, intelligent, and thoughtful part.
“I want it, and I want it now,” sounds familiar? Needless to say that it is tough to resist the badly behaving inner voice, which demands an instant reward. Like that piece of magnetic chocolate in the cupboard that somehow telepathically stimulates your tastes buds or browsing aimlessly the social media to get an update on your imaginary friends. Of course, not being able to resist comes with a bold headline, featured as “the lack of purpose and meaning.”
While the previous statement is a significant blockage, brain chemistry is enormously responsible for reinforcing the unproductive feeling, such as instant gratification. Once you experience joy, your brain is exposed to dopamine, and deliberately the brain encourages you to continue doing what made you feel good. This is called the dopamine reward circuit, which involves several parts of the brain and fortifies good feelings. Hence, unaware of the joy’s source, anything that triggers the gratification releases the chemicals, and the brain perceives it as a pleasure source.
Now that you know the brain’s basic physiology’s reward system, the next step is to consciously bridge the way for your present self to reach your future self by taking advantage of the feel-good chemicals ferrying in your neural pathways. Having said that, your goals and your future self need not only a vision board but, most notably, a philosophical vision to overcome procrastination or curb instant gratification. That vision, or you may call it inspiration, must be ingrained deep into your values and aligned with your temperament.
Make a list of your goals, your resources, your talents, your shortcomings, and your inadequacies. Don’t be shy jot down all the self-descriptive adjectives to see what you need to improve on and what you could solidly leverage to reach your aspirations.
Once you have the list in front of you, start an inner-dialogue and try to convince your present self why your goals are important.
Attach meaning to your goals by re-examining your intentions. At this stage, the philosophical vision becomes crystal clear.
Choose the most challenging goal. Why? Since you have to work super hard to reach it. As Pluto said: “Do one thing and do it well.”
In full awareness, accept that life is full of agony, traumas, sufferings, and delays.
Tap into your higher intelligence to embrace the benefits of delayed gratification. As humans, we can exert self-control. Make use of it, consider your promise to your future self, know your “why,” and avoid temptations.
Every day remind yourself of your intended goal so that you stay on course.
Be consistent, even if you feel miserable, put as much effort as possible since a fraction of the required work is better than none.
Staying motivated is not an easy task, so don’t wallow on it if you slip up. It happens, we all struggle, rather than giving in to your impulses again and falling into a vicious cycle, the best way out is to know that new habits take time. With patience, you can put your abilities to work to reach your goals.
No matter who we are, who we meet, or what we do, the truth is that a well-lived life is walking the path of service—a direction where kindness and helpful behavior becomes the most valuable part of our identity. No matter the struggles between our messy traits or our peculiarities, once we discover the benefits of practicing pro-social behavior, our path blossoms, become colorful and lively. Our inner-distortions becomes manageable and regulated. Equally, no matter which way our emotions whirl, they will eventually be guided by our inner compass, nurtured by generosity, pointing to empathy and helping others. No matter our distressful past experiences, no matter how difficult our situation, no matter how fragile our health might be, helping others can help us relieve stress, anxieties, and bitterness.
The next time you are resentful, you feel helpless, scared, or angry—practice altruism. Whatever the altruistic activity you choose to engage in, you will experience a state of flow, an emotional state that brings harmony to our conscious. A pleasurable experience that, at its core, embodies a goal and feedback.
Typically, this state of flow is achieved when you accomplish a rewarding and challenging task. “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).Csikszentmihalyi further elaborates: “In the state of flow, we are so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof.”
There are many opportunities in life to expand our strengths and experience the concept of flow. No matter which path you take, your energy and attention in reaching a clear goal based on charitable intentions will enhance the experience that brings about this optimal state. Since the result encapsulates concrete feedback and inspiring reward. In other words, by helping others, we help ourselves since the effect of our concentration and fulfilling feedback lead us in a trance-like state. Naturally, we become a more level-headed individual. Also, helping others does not always translate into financial contributions. It is to develop a mindset that truly understands that our raison d’ être is for a higher purpose, to be of service in whatever capacity or contribute.
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
How can you focus on being mindful of the external activities around you while the busy buddies in your head are jumping on different time machines traveling from the past to the future and mostly making long stops at unpleasant stations along the way? At times, your head’s turmoil becomes worrisome that you need to ship magic bullets in the form of sugar cravings or any other substance abuse to quiet them. It is a challenge to be present and mindful, but it will be amazingly rewarding if meshed into our daily life. Remember when you were a child, delighted to look at an object with your eyes wide open without expecting anything from it. You were absorbed in the experience without any preconceived idea. Just a “beginner’s mind,” no clutter, no concept, no meaning, no assumptions, no color, or shape. You were just fascinated. As Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion said, “being mindful is like taking photos; we learn to see without memory or desire.”
Precisely, a photograph captures a moment in time, and you will see things as they are, and mostly you see something that you usually ignore. This is to be mindful. You are being immersed in the experience without any distortion by your perceptions. By being mindful, you become receptive and see endless possibilities that exist within the world. As Monet said, “to see, we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.”
Focusing to be mindful is to learn how not to rush and wait, which involves letting go. “Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy.” Chuang-Tzu
So how to focus on being mindful? Imagine you are a photographer exploring and embracing every opportunity. You want to seize the moment and see things around you. Don’t bother about the techniques, the light, or the subject; you adopt a “yes” attitude pushing away the blocking emotions. You just let go! You let go of expectations, perfectionism, comparing yourself to others, and be open! By letting go, you don’t rush into judgment. As in photography, you accept the scenery without labeling or categorizing.
With practice and dedication, you will find harmony between your concentration and being mindful. A process that allows you to be highly sensitive to your surroundings, interested, approachable, and open. Your field of view is expanded, and you become aware of something new. Something that you can zoom in, investigate, record it, and zoom out.
Here’s the shocking truth: very straightforward behaviors such as a smile, hug, and laughter are the fastest way to boost positive emotions, although, there is this huge BUT: if you don’t feel the sensation do not force it.
Nothing is worse than a hypocritical and soul scratching forced laughter that stems from bitterness, resentment, and sheer Janus-faced intention. It is healthier to be expressive of your true emotions than masking your low spirits by a pretense that “I am a happy jolly person.” Obviously, at times, treating yourself to a necessary smile, laughter or a hug to inspire and encourage yourself or others to keep going is sensible and productive.
Nobody argues that hugging and laughing calm the nervous system, lowers your blood pressure, your stress hormone and positively increases your social connections. However, you should push yourself to aim high by taking conscious decisions to feel good inside. Sometimes, we are confronted with situations where something or someone has made us uncomfortable or annoyed. A fake smile is not the remedy but as Rene Descartes remarked: “Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.”
Elevating your soul is not an easy task. How can you control your agitation? The way forward is to align your soul with gratitude, understanding and questioning your motive as well as others. No matter the intentions, being thick skin is not to put up with rude and unkind criticism. Of course, mastering such an outlook in life takes courage, as a very good friend of mine advised, either let it go and smile or confront it by keeping your tone light. Like a feather, the feeling takes you to cloud nine, where you feel at ease, where your boundaries are outlined and expect good sensibly with a smile.
Naturally, not every day you can be forgiving, understanding, or want to hug or laugh, the road to self-growth is difficult but remember it is worth every step of the way. As long as you are present in your own life and manage difficult emotions like frustration, anger, and disappointment appropriately, you are on the right path. Occasionally, you feel enraged or sad, do not stifle it and let go of self-judgment. You should accept that being vulnerable is part of being human and maybe along the way, you have tied your self-esteem on things and other people to the extent that might bring the worse in you. It is healthy to pull back, replenish and learn to smile, laugh and hug so that next time they will spare your anxiety.
There is another rule when you are at odds and lack the capacity to express with civility, the ideal is to refuel by tapping into your empathy reserve and re-align your behavior in ways that reinforces your generous, gracious and thoughtful intentions. And what better ways to swell kindness and your noble motives but with a smile, a hug, laughter, and kindness.
Forgiveness happens when you no longer feel angry, resentful towards someone or wish to punish them. Forgiveness does not happen overnight. It feels like stepping into a dark empty space, leaving behind the nyctophobia mind at the door. Overwhelmed with anxiety, you move hesitantly, feeling powerless over your fear of the unknown. Your racing heart warns you of the prominent threats. The risk of being humiliated, taken for a sucker, and asking yourself thousands of times over, why you let those rotten-minded people off the hook?
The simple answer is: You want peace and growth. You do not want inflammation in your body. You do not want to suffer anxiety or depression. “If hope gives you wings, forgiveness will often be what you will need to get off the ground.” The lingering idea of revenge is tasty but just like wasabi, it gets you an endorphin rush from the pain and after a second, oops! it dissolves. Yes, sometimes things do not make sense, you try to teach the wrongdoers a lesson by mirroring back or calling out someone for acting shockingly bad towards you, albeit their lack of intelligence, they eclipse their misery and at times bitterness with innocence!
You want to release the negativity, but keep in mind the progression is slow, you want to blow away the anger but it cannot pass through the first line of defense meshed around you by your ego. You will go two steps forward and then five steps back. Reluctantly you pick yourself up knowing well that the only way is to stand on your feet and continue on the path of self-care with humility.
Recall – The first step is to objectively recall the misdeed. Do not scrutinize with negativity light nor allow victimhood behavior to take over your entire existence. In fact, wallowing in self-pity makes you perceive the world and people around you through a paranoid mental lens. While it is important to acknowledge that you have suffered but you won’t be able to forgive and go forward in life unless you step out of the victim role. Instead of assigning blame, take responsibility. Stop obsessing about what-ifs and rise above the primitive ego.
Empathize – Next, make the effort to put aside your biases and try to understand the other person’s way of thinking and reasoning. Make sure that you do not underplay the wrong but only grasp their inner-struggles, their intentions or mindset.
Altruism – Subsequently, consider forgiveness as an altruistic gift. Look back on a time that you transgressed and you were forgiven.
Commit – Kindly, commit yourself to forgive. Work on your commitment. Write your wounds in a journal or make the effort to practicing small acts of forgiveness. For instance when someone cuts you off in traffic, do not take it personally, just let it slide.
Hold on – Finally, hold on to your forgiveness. This stage is difficult since something can trigger the memory and you are back to square one. Yes, you have been hurt, you have accepted what has transpired, analyzed yourself, learning from your mistakes, recognizing your faults and at this point see yourself as a survivor. It is not about pressing on the delete button but changing your reactions towards its memory.
Throughout the process, remove yourself from despicable situations. Surround yourself with good people. Well-intentioned individuals that take your hand and lift you up. People who will be happy if you succeed and empathize with your sadness. Immerse in laughter, positive activities and hone your social conscious to be useful. Re-connect with your inspired self. The one that seeks knowledge, the one that is creative, the one that hates stagnation. The one that blows out its anger to get as close to indifference towards the offenders, the one that is reluctant to live in regret of dwelling in the past and letting the present and future slip away. The one that is determined and the one that opens its heart to travel the arch from the bruised ego to feeling neutral and ultimately forgiveness.
Lastly, bear in mind that at times the perpetrators are ignorant and will never realize that your forgiveness was self-purification pilgrimage. As a matter of fact, once you reach this state of mind you will be oblivious to their interpretation.
Yes it is hard to accept change, yes you have been wounded, yes you have been ridiculed, yes you have cried your heart out from unjust, yes you have been let down, and yes you have been taken for granted.
Now, it is time to sanitize your thoughts, yes it is time to stop blaming yourself or others.
It is time to change perspective and elevate your thinking to a place where the field is clear and no-one’s shadow or actions loom out of your whining and complaining mind. A place where you take responsibility to learn and move forward. This new outlook is like stepping into a hot shower after a long torturous physical labour. Tension is relieved, the aches are gone and you feel refreshed.
Be aware that you cannot avoid getting emotionally hurt, wronged or exposed to natural disasters and by building high fences you would not be protected from future unwarranted or unforeseen circumstances instigated by outside forces.
On top of that, bear in mind that your commitment to growing in life means tossing away the self-evaluation infested with blame. The emotion is so debilitating to a point that you may even not see the quicksand that is pulling you brutally downward where you will cease to exist.
Being a captain in your life’s command center needs a gigantic shift of mindset. An intelligent mind snaps out of victimhood, realizing that it needs to adjust the sails when the direction of the wind cannot be changed.
Even when the world seems to be against you, instead of getting stuck and hanging on to validation, move away from self-pity, sit back, take personal responsibility, observe, learn and find solutions. Taking responsibility is not to orbit in the realm of self-blame, but to take the following steps:
Do not set the destructive standard for yourself – In a difficult situation, do not personalize the issue by self-disparagement since many things that happened to you is not completely your lapse or shortcomings.
Do not freeze up, make sense of the circumstance by asking fact-finding questions.
Develop resilience – the capability to learn and recover is dynamic and not a personality trait.
The benefits of shifting perspectives are boundless. Even if a nasty outcome unfolds from your decision, you will no longer confront it with blaming games. Rather, you choose to improve your own behaviour, reactions and your decision making progress so that next time you lessen the chances of it happening again.
Learning from the past should positively transform your mindset. You start de-cluttering and evolving to be strong and dynamic. Still, unfortunate events bound to happen, anger, and resentment will slither and cloud your judgment steering your emotions towards victimhood and blame.
Nevertheless, if you have done your homework and every day took the time to self-reflect and practice, particularly learning to let go of what you cannot control and cultivating a non-judgmental attitude, next time in face of adversity, you decide, react and re-define the situation, then and only then you can progress. Remember keeping your zest for life upbeat is to have self-compassion and courage to trade helplessness with self-growth.
Lastly, every time fear, worry or challenging situations lurk for your darkest moments, recognize that mistakes are natural so instead of stifling your potential just get back on the horse.
“Being a strong man includes being kind. There’s nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There’s nothing weak about looking out for others…You’re not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
When you beat yourself up every time you fall short, when you are tired to the point that you don’t want to get out of bed, when you are scared to fail, when you worry and start overthinking, when you strive for perfection knowing well that it’s actually holding you back, take a deep breath, calm your nerves and know that you are doing great. It is not a weakness to feel helpless or frustrated in demanding situations and challenging moments. Live with it, accept it but do not let it define you. Take the time to rest, recharge, heal and continue your purpose in life which is to refine the best version of yourself.