So I’ve realised that if I wanted to make any lasting changes in my life I need to sort out all the little things that need to be done and need to be stopped on a day to day basis.
So I got this app on iOS called “Productive”, so far the results have been amazing. I’m really happy I’m getting off to a good start. I’ve got the basic habits I wanted to track… getting all my prayers done, Reading, Being Thankful, Making sure I keep in contact with family… The app makes it easy by making things time-bound, reminding you when you need it and also it feels really good to tick things off as you do them… as I said, it works.
So how does habit tracking work? Here’s the benefits…
It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
It motivates you to see your progress. You don’t want to break your streak.
Very satisfying to click that button in the moment knowing you accomplished something no matter how small.
All in all I recommend starting… I’ve already over the course of a couple of days added a few other habits to the list either daily or weekly that I need to accomplish that I otherwise would never “find time” to do. Life will continue to get better a little by little insha’Allah.
There’s only one thing people that need to let go hate to hear – “Just let it go.” As if its so freakin’ easy. Everybody spouts these words, but nobody explains how and nobody can give you a practical answer as to “How the hell do I do that, exactly?”
“Let Go? What the Hell do you even mean?”
So I’m going to take a stab at giving you practical advice at getting this done. Well, I’ll attempt it and I would appreciate feedback if it makes sense or resonates with you.
First, let’s understand what exactly is happening. This is a battle happening in your head. It’s not an active, physical thing where you are literally holding on to something and can easily do something like, let go.
It’s a matter of FOCUS.
When we talk about holding on to something, we mean that we are either focusing on a past event, like an argument or fight we had with someone, some traumatic event we’ve lived through or whatever. On the other hand, we could also be holding onto the future by having some set of expectations that we want to happen before we can move on with our lives i.e. “If only I had this amount of money, this job, whatever… things would be okay and I’ll be happy.” or it could be a worry of some event about to take place.
Note, in both of these instances you’re focusing either on the past or the future.
So, a practical step you can take is to be present and focus on the here and now. Use meditation, be mindful of your surroundings, of yourself, your current situation. Focus on what you can do at this exact moment. By switching your focus away from the trauma of the past or the worries of the future you will automatically let go, because right here and now there is nothing to hold on to. You are in control.
TV Series… man. Customised Hype. Tailored Distractions.
After spending so much time, even now, watching, watching and looking forward to the next episode of whatever. I’ve been forced to face the ever higher mountain of things I should be doing. Stories are great, but I think they should be uplifting you in some way because of the high cost of the investment, your time. You should be learning something new, it should be inspiring you to change some behaviour which does not serve you. It should definitely go beyond entertainment.
But, maybe that is all it is and what it is meant to be and will always be. Distraction. We’ve always sought out distraction because, I don’t know, life is hard and we’d rather not face it. Other have also exploited this to their benefit. They’ve delivered this bread and circus tailored to keep us hooked and coming back for more so that we have far less time to ponder, to reflect our own existence, to reflect our place in society, in the world… and far less time to do anything about the growing discontent as those who hoard wealth, hoard more wealth, consolidate more power and leave us to pick up scraps when we finally turn our eyes away from the TV, phone, computer we’re stuck to.
This tailored content, wrapped in the ideology of its creators and lobbyists, warps your perspective as well. Little by little, subconsciously, making you see the world as they want you to. Adopt the perspectives and opinions of the many protagonists they parade in front of you, that you identify with. When you finally face the world, you end up not seeing the world as it is, but as they want you to see it.
So, which TV series defines you as a person? How much sex, violence, comedy and drama is it going to take to fill that void inside you?
More importantly, what will it take for you to finally get off your ass and make your life better? Because make no mistake, at best… you’re stagnating unless you get your ass up and away from whatever series you’re watching.
At least take time to reflect that what I’ve written above, is it true or bullshit for you in particular? What could you be doing? At least write it down. Be aware, you’re either fulfilling the purpose of the creators of the show, or yours… depending on how much time you spend with it.
I think we all fall victim to the type of thinking that we’re invincible. That whatever happens, we can always handle whatever needs to be done by ourselves and make our own very insightful and wise decisions on what’s happening and what to do next.
But we can’t. Not a single one of us can do it without help in some form. Friends, family, even acquaintances… we need someone to have our back, someone we can verbalise our thoughts and feelings to, to get them either validated or to just check that we’re not fucking crazy.
The point is that we have blind spots, everybody has blind spots, especially when it comes to themselves. We either think too much, too well, or too ill of ourselves. The only way to see ourselves for what we are is to first be open that we don’t actually know everything about ourselves and then talk it through with some one you trust. If that other person doesn’t exist or you’re just not comfortable talking about it with anyone you know… GET OUTSIDE HELP.
If it’s professional, get a coach. Emotional, see a psychologist. Having marital problems, get marriage counseling. No, it’s not a deep personal fault that you’re going to see someone for help and there is nothing particularly wrong with you. You’re human. And, by doing this, you’ll already be miles ahead everyone else who’ll might judge you while trying to deal with their own immense load of baggage, by themselves. Anyway, it’s not about them.
Everybody is fighting a battle of some sort. Struggling with something at any given point in their lives. Nothing good lasts for ever and nothing bad either. Focus on what you need right now and go get it.
Subsequently, looking at this from the other side… never fail to ask someone close to you, sincerely, “How are you, really?”, offer whatever help you can, and if there’s something you can do that’s obvious and would help, do it without asking them. Everybody needs help.
So, I was going through my daily podcast listening routine and one in particular had a fantastic thought to begin with…
“Darkness has no identity of its own, all it is… is a name we give to the absence of light.”
Thinking about it… you can create light, through lighting a match, flipping a switch, whatever. But, you can’t create darkness, if you want that you need to extinguish light. Where there’s light there can be no darkness.
The metaphors around this are amazing too. Truth is often associated with the light, Falsehood with darkness. In Islam, one of the Quranic injunctions is that Falsehood, inevitably, will perish. Lies can not last because the Truth inevitably comes out and will come out.
When we think about light and dark in terms of truth and falsehood, they seem like very abstract concepts but make it more personal. What falsehoods do we tell ourselves in order to sleep better at night or to just deny the “truth” about ourselves becasue it’s a bit too difficult to face? One of my greatest learning moments was finally seeing things for what they are instead of what I wanted them to be. This was doubly hard because it happened in front of others, people I had to convince of an argument but the case I made didn’t match the conclusion I ended up with. Come to think of it, that particular learning moment had the Truth hit me straight in the face. A major moment of clarity.
This little line from a podcast made me contemplate how important knowledge of self is, as well as getting to the point of seeing things as they are, and accepting them for what they are. We need to constantly shine a light inside of ourselves to find the Truth and accept ourselves for what we are, warts and all, before we can begin to look outward and see the world for what it is.
Looking at the world today, man… Darkness everywhere. I want to do my bit by spreading a little bit of light, some truth, into that void. And, I believe, it has to begin with me, with us, understanding ourselves better and constantly striving to make ourselves better than we are in whatever little ways we can, day by day. But, we won’t be able to do that if we’re not seeing ourselves clearly, if we haven’t shone that light inside and accepted ourselves for who we are.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Drama. Everywhere. You know where it starts and ends? With people.
People discussing other people, judging other people, comparing themselves to other people, etc. etc.
I’m sure you must’ve come across this quote…
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s been doing the rounds so much it’s become a cliché and, ironically, the quote itself is about people. Anyway, it’s not just about “great minds”, it’s about living a life that’s yours alone and free of worry. People are the root of the problem, or more specifically, your obsession and focus on other people.
Leave other people alone.
Focus on yourself.
Everything you will face in life will have less meaning and be far more difficult to overcome without knowledge of self, first and foremost.
Getting knowledge of self is the hard part. It involves self-reflection, understanding everything about yourself from the small things like your favourite colour and favourite food, to what you believe about why you are alive and what your purpose is on Earth. Why are you here? Why were you born? You need to sit down alone, ask yourself these questions and answer them for yourself and be convinced by it. This won’t be sorted out in a single sitting, it will take time… but in order to get the rest of your life sorted out you have to do it.
Next, you need to get into reading, watching and listening everything that will help you answer the questions you need to. This is where we tie in the title… Your life is made up of events and, more importantly, your reaction to events. Pay attention to the things that happen to you and around you… how are you reacting to them? why are you reacting in that way? Is it the right way to react (is it better for you in the long-term)? Start a Journal. Write this stuff down. Re-read it later.
Finally, ideas. This is the goldmine. The bigger the better. But, keep the focus on yourself, what’s important for you to understand and answer. Philosophy, Religion, etc. may seem boring in the face of TV series and endless memes. But go after everything be ruthless asking yourself the bigger questions, seeing what questions were asked and explored before you…
Why should you do this, exactly? What will you get out of it? First, you will know yourself in such a way that no event, or person can affect your state of being. You will be able to stand on your own, hold yourself to a higher standard. Second, you’ll start to see reality for what it is rather than what you’d like it to be. You will start to understand how things really work underneath it all. How the world runs, with you in it… and how you can really affect change, for yourself, within your circle of influence and the world.
Little by little, piece by piece, one step at a time.
Just a final note: Once you start this journey, it doesn’t end… but you wouldn’t want it to. I guarantee it.
The recent action by the women at the Golden Globes and the resurgence of #MeToo reminded me of what I wrote back in October last year when this topic started gaining ground, people started coming out and raising awareness about what a shit show it is to be a women in today’s world. I did have my head in the sand and was complicit in all the small jokes, the little comments, the conversations I brushed over and all of the above that I ignored and let slide.
It started with this post…
“Going through my feed. Shocked at the amount of #MeToo posts. It makes me sad and very angry. As a male I’ve just had my head in the sand about the extent to which sexual assault and harassment happens to women. This is eye opening and I feel really helpless. Short of castrating any fucker who would blatantly attempt this kind of thing in my presence… What can I do to help? I want to do something.”
After which I had spoken to a good number of women who made me realise that apart from being ignorant, I was complicit. I didn’t see it, because it’s everywhere. We’re steeped in the culture and so we don’t notice it. We see it as normal when it’s anything but.
The follow-up post was this one, and I need to live up to it. It’s a commitment I still stand by.
“Following on from yesterday’s post on #MeToo. The loop needs to be closed with a commitment and an action list which I hope you will hold me accountable for, in person and online. So here goes, #HowIWillChange.
1. Recognise that I can be the bad guy without being the perpetrator, letting things slide when there is harassment is as bad as the act itself.
2. I will listen more closely to the women around me, especially those close to me, seek to understand first and then, if necessary, act.
3. Never enable any misogynistic behaviour, no matter how passive, and to not accept any excuses or diversion tactics of abusers. In private and in public.
4. Acknowledging my own capacity for this harmful behaviours and taking responsibility for it as well as my own “unlearning” of these behaviours.
5. Proactively learning more about women’s issues instead of expecting them to explain it to me in order to understand how they are impacted.
6. Call out mansplaining, and expect to be called out for mansplaining. Seriously, it must be fucking irritating and so demeaning.
7. Same with hepeating, acknowledge women more for any contribution no matter how small, and let any hepeaters know that they can’t get away with stealing ideas and expecting to be credited.
8. To not stand by quiet when women are forced to spend tons of energy to fight for or protect their own dignity or rights.
9. Acknowledge Male Privilege. The socialisation of ALL MEN, including myself, into vicisounsness andentitlement whether we act on it or not.
10. I will never blame a victim or stand by while it happens.
11. To actively switch all discussion about women from being victims where events “happen” to them and actively show the responsibility of the perpetrators.
10. Teach my daughter that she does not need to put up with any of the shit that goes on to demean and put her down. To recognise her worth and to recognise all of the above bullshit that goes on for what it is.
And finally… do all of the above without expecting praise or congratulations.
Shoutout to all the women who commented on the previous post to help me understand this and make this commitment… and, most importantly, to the women in my family who are so awesome, I have no words. I love you all.”
“It’s not what you look at that matters, what matters is what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
This is one of my favourite quotes, if only because it addresses so much of how we experience life. Every problem, every success, every experience no matter how mundane has the ability to affect you in profound ways.
The underlying philosophy is that what you experience does not matter. How you respond to whatever you experience does matter. One of the biggest lessons I have had to learn in life is how to respond to situations instead of merely reacting to them. You need to put a gap between whatever happens to you and your response to that stimulus, you need to give yourself time to weigh the options and choose the path that’s better.
Then we have to ask “better for whom?” Ideally, you should be attempting to get win-win situations. Assholes think only of themselves. Don’t be an asshole.
How do you actually make it work this time? Make some little changes which have some real positive effects…
Easier said than done, I know, but you can do it. The hardest part with these is that it’s only hard the for like the first week, but once the habit starts to set in, the routine, it just becomes life. Think of it like this, if you’ve watched WestWorld, everybody is on a loop (habits)… the question is, is the loop you’re on serving you, helping you become better? What this is is basically you reprogramming your life according to what you want ot make happen and not just idly floating by and letting life kick your ass. So, here’s a list of my 3 most important habits… you can add, subtract, append your own if you want.
By the way, it’s okay to fail, just pick yourself up after and try again. Know that you’re only a failure if you stop trying.
1.Sleep Earlier and Wake Up Earlier
Why would you want to do this?
Because very few people actually do make it happen… and those few are generally the more stable, happy and materially successful crowd. Look it up, waking up early is magic.
How do you do it? In order to begin, don’t try first sleeping earlier. That shit doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. What you need to do is set your alarm earlier, even if you’re getting less than your recommended 8 hours (let’s face it, at this point, that doesn’t happen anyway), however little sleep you are getting, set your wake up time at least 2 hours before you have to head to work. You need an alarm clock and you need to force yourself to get your ass out of bed no matter what (this is easier to start in summer, winter just makes it that much harder.)
The reason for starting with getting up earlier is that the going to bed earlier will sort itself out. Logically, you will be tired earlier. Now the main question… what do you do with 2 extra hours? You can follow the online advice of what the world’s greatest CEO’s do, but basically it can be the next two things. Just don’t end up having a 2 hour breakfast, scrolling Facebook and wasting your damn time. Focus.
2.Read More Books / Learn Something New
Why would you want to do this?
I’m not going to even justify this. You know it’s a good idea.
How do you do it? Again, you have to force yourself to do this, at least exercise some will power… but this will make it easier…
a. Pick the right book/course – start with fiction and something entertaining that you’re interested in. Something academic or hard to read and this will all die quicker than your dreams.
b. When do you read? – try the morning, or, what actually did work for me with a great book was when I had the urge to watch another episode of a series and instead ended up finishing a quarter of the book. Woohoo! Find what works for you, trial and error.
3.Start a Small Physical Activity at Least 3 Times a Week. (you knew this one coming.)
Why would you want to do this?
So you can look good naked and not have a minor heart attack everytime you climb a flight of stairs.
How do you do it? Start small. I started with one of the 7 minute exercise apps. Just once a day, 7 minutes… easy right? Naah, it knocks the shit out of you in that 7 minutes… and I swear the 7 minutes lasts like 30 minutes while you’re actually going through it. But, it is just 7 minutes.
If you’re really serious and plan on going to the gym (and don’t want to waste the membership fee)…
a. Wake up Early (see Number 1)
b. Prepare, so you don’t have any time to stop yourself in the morning. – sleep in your gym clothes, have your gym bag packed with everything you need the next day ready to go next to the front door.
c. Have a glass of water, or two
d. Get out of the door (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING) – being at the gym and working out is the easiest thing in the world… the hardest thing is getting your ass out the damn door. Get that done and the rest will follow.