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.
Get up and show oomph! Be bold, be confident, thread your way through what people think of you, the obstacles, and everything that stirs up a weakness. Gird up your loins and get rid of your doubts and uncertainties.
Sounds familiar? Well, often, the voices in our head are loud enough to nudge us to take action. Still, we turn the volume down and list all the things that could go wrong and all the possible sufferings that can happen because we are afraid.
Aristotle (philosopher 384-322 B.C.) defines “fear as pain or disturbance due to a mental picture of some destructive or painful evil in the future.” Even though he indicates that wickedness and stupidity are evils, but they do not frighten us. Or we are not troubled by things that are a very long way off, such as death. What makes us anxious and fearful is when things have the power to harm and cause significant pain.
Fear is seen as an evolutionary necessity that can help notify a person whether they should proceed in their current direction or find another course to increase the likelihood of survival (Cannon, 1914; Ohman & Mineka, 2001). With this in mind, living a braver life is not to act naively, but to break down those potential problems and build a ladder to face the fears.
For instance, feeling anxious about air turbulence when flying is normal but refusing to travel is a debilitating and irrational fear. What constitutes courage is that you voluntarily take action to accomplish your goals when you have identified the potential problems. Being alert and being fully conscious that things might go wrong is to build the capacity to become braver in the face of challenges and setbacks.
In contrast to existing ideas that tell us to keep away from stress, you can leverage your anxiety and stress by rehearsing the tension and fear. Physical challenging experiences, contests, adventure activities are all character-forming pursuits that develop courage. Taking cold showers in the morning, a ritual that activates stress hormones which makes you think clearly, to engage in high-intensity workouts such as cycling, rock climbing, or running that help with your general health or intermittent fasting, are techniques based on the Stoic philosophy of self-denial that builds resilience against everyday stressors.
Now, in highly uncertain situations, evidently, you have no real control. By adopting a mindset that the only thing you have control over is your response, which is fostered by your values and attitudes towards life, you can transform the uncontrollable to manageable.
As Epictetus said: A Stoic “sage” never finds life intolerable, but sees in every challenge as an opportunity to test and improve oneself:
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.
It would be helpful if every time you act upon your impulsive ego, a holographic screen appears in front of your eyes, which would shed light on “why” and outlines the motive! Or, perhaps, you go through an out of body experience to watch how you are entrapped in heedless and primitive impulses, which impel you to be helpless and act irrationally. Possibly, in the future, with the help of technology, you will be able to materialize such visual awareness. Till then, you might as well resort to certain practices that will push you to another level of existence, far beyond hopeless confusion.
First of all, let’s reflect on the sense of ego; whether delving into Eastern philosophy or psychoanalysis, both recognize that uncontrolled and impulsive ego will lead to suffering.
Moving through different stages of ego to become the best version of yourself is not an easy path. The truth is that if you are lucky, life will sweep you through nasty havoc that will wound your self-identity and crush your image. A breakdown that can lead to a breakthrough by feeding the ideal self. Now, rising from the ashes is to take responsibility for your wellbeing. It starts with realizing that your thoughts are tainted by subjectivity and emotions since your mind has found security in the sense of belonging to the wrong structures, misinterpreted values, and egocentric pursuits.
While you are climbing up the spiral staircase of your spiritual evolution, I suggest you observe and question your motives, your triggers, contradictions, and practice the following transformational self-help:
Gain clarity by self-reflection and self-criticism – question your goal; if you feel uneasy about your reactions, cross-examine yourself to align your intent to your essence. Self-analysis is not about beating up oneself or agonizing but to understand the triggers, your role in the event, and blowing away the pollution so that the image of your intentions becomes sharp and transparent. The focus should be on you and not others.
See yourself from another perspective – use abstract thinking to match your motives to your best possible self. That entails imagining your future “Self” in unpleasant circumstances only when channeling your energy to shield your best version. By setting unwavering rules to be of service to all, however, is possible and live as a human, your future “Self” releases toxic struggles and replace the void with contentment.
Question the expectations – step back and reassess your approach and your expectations and how they connect to the problem. By re-evaluating the expectations, you will recognize the difference whether they are conventional & reactionary or wise and tolerant.
Remember, you cannot fill the bowl with water if it is turned upside down. To be fully alive is to be well-disposed to “Self” and others. The key is to question your motives every time the destructive “Self”/ “ego” appears. Taking a volunteering leap to an inspired “Self” means using your knowledge, patiently, and for good.Have grit, as the journey is bumpy, and evidently, the spiral staircase will not get more comfortable. You will fall back a few steps, and you will be aware of your limitations. However, regardless of the hardships, this time, with conviction and a humbled “ego,” you know how to get up quickly and how to wipe up the dust. Finally, as you go further, you realize that gratitude and generosity are your mental tools to serve and use your power to benefit others so that you act like an intelligent being.
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.
You can be isolated, knocked down, lose your reputation or your business, your lover may call it a day, well many things can go wrong, and consequently, you want to crawl under a rock and stay there forever! The truth is that heartbreaks, sufferings, and pain are real and part of life. By acknowledging this fact, you realize that quitting or withdrawing to a dark abyss is not an option unless you want to be part of the extinction club’s honorary member.
Human history proves that positive adaptation, better known as resilience, is part of our survival regardless of our different predispositions or vulnerabilities. We dare to learn and face dire circumstances, pick up the pieces, and triumph. While traumatic experiences shape our resilience, the good news is that this quality can be cultivated.
“Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even being withstood if they have been trained for in advance.” – Seneca
What Seneca refers to is your ability to intervene and forge your resilience by conforming to Stoic philosophy. The school of thought encourages thoughtful analysis into the dark web of your fears and agonies by distinguishing between what you can control and what you don’t have control over, even more between the reality and our perception of the situation.
All this considered, whether you are currently experiencing difficult times or have undergone one, whether you are fearful of what the future has in store, employing a stoic strategy helps you cope with the challenges. Begin with picturing the worst that can happen and trust that you are capable of bouncing back from the unthinkable. The idea is preparing yourself to face the unknown and what could go wrong, and the goal is not about being less fearful but building courage. Tapping into your inner strength and to you emplace systems to build up your resilience.
Initially, reflect on your life vision, the kind of life you want to lead, where you want to be in 3 or 5 years, what is the purpose of your existence. Next, write down the significant past experiences that have shaped your emotions to understand where you are in life. For both exercises, go to self-authoring.com and use their online writing programs to explore your past, present, future by gaining a deep understanding of yourself.
Subsequently, consider exerting the following practical efforts recommended by experts in your life strategy and increase your capacity to recover from difficulties:
Develop healthy eating habits and regular exercise to strengthen your overall health and increase the chances of better and faster recovery from injuries or sickness.
Practice forgiveness – Nelson Mandela said: “When I walked out of the gate, I knew that I was still in prison if I continued to hate these people.” Forgiveness is a necessary attitude to build resilience and not an alternative.
Know that there is no guarantee in life (the only guarantee is that we are mortals).
Invest in people and relationships that are supportive and encourage you to get through hard times.
Commit to routines – establish priorities and stay with it even when things are out of control. For instance, mapping your day, being aware of the cost of the wasted time, performing tasks that are integral to your goals will weed out the act of procrastination. As your actions become your habits, you can restrain impulses and become less reliant on motivation and take responsibility to move forward. “Foolish are those who…have no aim to which they can direct every impulse and, indeed, every thought.” – Marcus Aurelius.
Have back up plans
Refrain from putting all your eggs in one basket
Transform your resentment to energy and channel it towards your goals
At times we should carefully analyze our thoughts. At times we should peel all the layers of our irrational behaviour. At times we should dig deep to gain insight into how we feel. At times we need the courage to examine the nasty bits of ourselves. At times we need encouragement to carry on. At times we need to find solace. At times we need to forgive ourselves for our imperfections. At times we need to reassess our ways of life. At times we need to break the self-imposed rules and replaced them with principles. At times we need to self-reflect.
We explore other planets, learn about physics, philosophy, learn to speak other languages, yet, at times we are vague about our reactions, responses or mental process even tough we inhabit ourselves. At times, something hammers somewhere within us that makes us sad, irritated, confused, anxious or mean when difficult situation emerges. Well, there is an evolutionary explanation that is in large part intrinsic to our brain. Over Millenials, we have navigated and took action in the world through quick and instinctive decision-making rather than introspection.However, in spite of this theory, we can learn to investigate different chambers of our minds to find clarity and be in control.
What am I presently anxious about? Life is full of uncertainties, alarming situations or minor issues and only by laying them out you can truly understand the source of the chaos in your mind and how you can diffuse them. The writing exercise helps with questions such as “what would happen if the lightning strikes?” First, you unpack the emotions and then weed out your anxieties by imaging that they can happen and in what way you can survive.
What am I presently upset about? Strangely enough, we can get upset with anything. From eating sound to unkind behaviors, at times it feels like everyone is throwing stones at us. It does not matter if it is trivial or serious, the point is to write them down. Pour your heart out, be enraged, sad,… Then act as a friend to yourself. How would you advise your friend in times of fury? What are your suggestions? Amazingly, behaving like a friend, we become generous and kind to ourselves.
What am I presently excited about? List things that made you excited. Choose two and describe your feeling by further questioning what would it be if you were to change your life to feel the excitement. What is missing? What you need to change?
The philosophical meditation is rooted in self-love. The exercise clarifies your intentions and aligns them with your values and principles in life that allows you to be less vulnerable and composed. It might not erase all your agony but it can guide you to be calmer and less bitter. As Socrates summed up: “Know yourself.”
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.
Maybe all you need right now is to help yourself. Perhaps you need to work on quieting the noise in your head, listen to the voice of your unconscious, and connect with your dreams and desires. Maybe the gap is so wide, and you are hanging on the edges of two cliffs while gravity pulls you down. You look up, scared to death, not knowing which edge to let go. The dreams, the desires, or the shadows? Maybe while you were expanding your horizons, striving to be the image of myths and protagonists in novels, you lost your voice. And now, you have no idea how to calm the chaos, how to heal your wounds, or how to re-connect with your true aspirations. Maybe you need to learn about your meta-narratives. Perhaps you need someone that cares, makes you comfortable, takes your hand, and sheds light on the gap so that you can rationally see where you are and what you need to know about your life purpose. Maybe it is time to reshape and “discover your dreams.”
Maybe you need a coach to find clarity. A coach that motivates you to move forward. A coach that guides you to a place that echoes “live up to your potential and never give up.”
R.A.: I think of myself more as a lifestyle architect. Someone to reflect back to the client the answers they already have deep within and then help them design, shape, build and structure a life that defines who they truly are.
I started out quite simply and organically by doing workshops for children on believing in their dreams, which led to having healthy self-esteem. Then I went through a divorce and people began asking me to help them with their relationships and careers.
Jupilings: What are the most common challenges people face-
R.A.: People are challenged by love because oftentimes they have been raised with contradictory messages of what love is and is not from their caregivers. Often the romantic relationship is not necessarily love but a form of attachment and painful dysfunction. The other challenge they face is being happy in a career choice. The two themes are often linked to similar emotions and triggers. People struggle with both, often simultaneously.
Jupilings: When things get chaotic and complexity swirls in your life, how can you take back control of your life-
R.A.: The first step is to notice what is causing chaos. Typically it is a slow-building up of past choices. Then insulate yourself for a period of a few days. A long weekend away or even a few personal days away from work. Slowing yourself down is a short cut to resolutions. It always good to reflect on your life so you can see where the chaos has stemmed from and how to halt it. Turn off technology and sit with yourself in meditation. Make a list of what is not working in your life and see if you can ask yourself “why” and what you can do about it. Reach out to a good friend or your coach.
Jupilings: How to overcome the feeling of “I m not good enough or I don’t know enough” when you want to embark on a venture-
R.A.: To overcome the feeling of “I am not good enough, or I don’t know enough” it is best not to compare yourself with others. Realize that there really is no competition when you are original because you have your own unique way of self-expression. Your passion is your own and so are your dreams. They might look like the ideas and dreams of others but you are the only one who can express your vision of who you are and what you want to accomplish.
Sometimes we don’t know enough for a field we are interested in and we can always learn more. However, the experience is a wonderful teacher and provides us with knowledge so we can start from the point of experience and just know that we can always learn more about any given topic. It is “ok” to not know things sometimes. If we have stories to tell and life experiences to share—our insight into those experiences will carry us through any feelings of “not being good enough or not knowing enough.” Sometimes we just don’t need more information. (You are here because you are here you are already more than enough.)
Jupilings: Practical tips on how to switch off the negative thoughts-
R.A: This is not easy, but to be aware of the thought is the first tip. Then don’t give the negative thoughts energy and feeling. Dismiss it. Catch yourself when a negative thought comes and don’t invite them to loop into a cycle of more negative thoughts. Move on to a better feeling thought. This takes practice but it works!
Jupilings: Finding meaning versus happiness, what are your thoughts-
R.A.: When our lives have meaning it becomes a life of happiness. A life of happiness is a feeling of internal joy despite circumstances and outside influences and events. Meaning brings joy, does it not? Often times people associate happiness with externals, labels, images, and things, but that is not true happiness. When we look closely at meaning—it lasts. It is the kind of happiness that is mature. It is not ephemeral. There is deep joy in meaning. Definitely worth the quest.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
R.A.: It depends on what the setback is. Sometimes we just need to pause, accept what we are presented with, in each moment and allow the setback to be there. It will pass with the right action and in time. Setbacks will teach us something about ourselves and others and then we need to do whatever we can to keep a positive, forward momentum going so we can continue to move in the right direction. Setbacks are a part of life. As we mature we understand that setbacks do not have to paralyze us. They are invitations that ask us important questions about where we are in our lives; what we are doing and why and how we will respond to challenges and crisis.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
R.A.: My life motto? I have a few. One of my favorite ones is: be prepared. We may not get that opportunity of a lifetime but it is still better to be prepared just in case we do. Every day is an opportunity to succeed, to accomplish a goal, to begin something. Finish what you begin or don’t start it. My favorite motto is: Time is irrelevant but timing is everything. (I believe this is true.)
Trust me when I say nothing stays the same forever. Life has a way of untangling the mess and showing you the remedy. All the painful episodes, the wrong, the unexpected hurt and the loss are being made up for. You just need to believe that things will get better. You need to step out of the darkness. Of course, every so often, it is difficult to get out of the shambles single-handedly. Eventually, you will recognize wise and well-intentioned people that will pull you out of the abyss. The emptiness you feel inside will be filled with hope, joy, and purpose. And things will start improving.
Because you always have a choice to transform for better. You go through hell and let the bitterness melt, you take the dirt and polish it, you take the punch and you learn to fight for yourself with dignity. The key is to accept that everything can go wrong but eventually, it will resolve. You need to take the pieces, sharpen your good sense, quiet your inner-demons, perfect your virtues to shape your best version. The version that is stronger, kinder and forgiving. It takes time, but gradually, the traumas will become pale, you will heal, and you’ll bounce back guided by empathy and generosity. You’ll start with nothing and end up with everything.
“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.