Lying Is Good For You: Building Habits

Starting a habit isn’t always easy. The proof is in the number of people who say they want to start a new habit who don’t actually end up doing so. Or maybe they’ll start but stop before it’s really become a habit.

Habit – a regular tendency that is hard to give up.

Lally’s study claims that it takes anywhere between 18 days to 254 days to form a new habit.

How can one actually achieve such a feat that requires an incredible amount of discipline? First of all we have to acknowledge that it is difficult to maintain something just because we see the benefit of it in the future. If you are one of those people that can do it by just intentionally making the decision, kudos to you! If you are like me then you have to use a different way. The good news is it works just as well. Here it is… it’s time to lie again!

There’s this story about a mouse that’s put in a cage. Scientists would ring a bell at a certain time and then put cheese in the cage. Over time the mouse associated the sound of the shrill bell with cheese and would come out of its little house when the bell was rung and wait, even if the cheese wasn’t forthcoming. The bell didn’t sound attractive but the cheese was attractive. Over time the mouse would come out for the bell because to it the bell = cheese. We’re not mice though so what can we do? We use the horse and carrot stick method.

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Looks ridiculous right? The carrot is the reward after you’ve done the hard work of doing whatever the new habit requires you to do. This way we associate the reward with the work. For example, I love movies! When we got back from a service on Sunday that’s the first thing that I wanted to do. Unfortunately for me, I lived with very wise, orderly parents who would have me do the dishes first (after we’d made and eaten breakfast) before watching any film. Doing the dishes was work. Watching the movie was the carrot. My love for movies was so strong that I would speed through the dishes to have my carrot – ahem – I mean watch my movie. You couldn’t motivate me to do the dishes because it wasn’t something I looked forward to, but because I looked forward to watching movies, the labour of doing the dishes was no longer as hard as it seemed initially. Over time I stopped doing it as an inconvenience and started viewing it as a sort of key, a key to me watching the movies that I wanted to watch on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve used this same trick to exercise daily, write more consistently and to drink enough water each day – all things I never used to do.

So what are the practical bits you can use for you. The only thing you need to do is to make a list of the things you love. Lie to yourself until you believe that you can’t do one of those things until you’ve actioned out the habit you’re trying to build, then reward yourself with the thing you love at the end – and repeat. Make sense?

A short real-life illustration of the effectiveness of this technique:

Mom: Where are you?

Me: I’m in the kitchen. I’ve just started doing the dishes.

Mom: We’ve started watching a movie, come watch with us – you can do the dishes after.

Me: I don’t like doing dishes well after we’ve eaten. I’ll finish up fast then come watch when I’m done.

True story.

I’m a dish dog now!

See you tomorrow for Lying Is Good For You: Trumping Fear.

 

 

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Lying Is Good For You

Lying is good for you! Yup you heard that right. So what does that even mean? I’m not telling you to practise perjury if you’re a lawyer or to hide evidence if you’re a cop. I’m not advising you to commit fraud or not pay taxes. I am saying you have got to lie, every single day of your life. That’s going to set you free from mental prisons, transforming you from the chicken you’ve been told you are to the eagle you were always meant to be.

Let me elaborate on what I mean. The world has given us a series of truths that have already seeped into the recesses of our minds and in most cases have shaped our view of self. You may have been branded as unintelligent, unwise, ugly, terrible at communicating and relegated to a place or position you think (or formerly thought) you don’t belong to. Allow these words to build up and be the only thing you listen to then you’ll believe them to be truth. Do you know why the words hurt you so? It’s because you’ve believed them to be the truth. If you know you are intelligent even your professor can’t make you think otherwise. If you know you are a success you won’t entertain being told you are a disappointment. If you know you are beautiful even Ms. Universe can’t put you down. But how do you know something when it isn’t ‘the truth’ based on what you hear? Simple. You lie… everyday. Tell a lie enough times – you’ll eventually believe it.

Unfortunately your way of thinking is an ensemble of the information you receive. You are bound to hear negative things daily – social media is the bullhorn of negativity. I know not everyone can extricate themselves from it like I’ve done. But you need to come up with a way to hear the ‘lie’ you want more than you hear ‘the truth’ of the world. Enter affirmations and confessions.

Daily speak the things you want. ‘Lie’ and affirm yourself with the traits you desire that you are told you don’t have. Say these things often enough to overshadow ‘the truth’ of this world.

If you can’t switch off or drown out the outside noise, pump up the volume of what you say to yourself within.

If you don’t think you can do that, find a good friend of yours to do it on your behalf. If you can’t even ask them to do that for you maybe check your friendships. I’ll talk about how to pinpoint the right friends on Friday in ‘We Are Not In This Together’.

Below are some confessions you can try out that may change your life:

I am intelligent, wise, focussed, driven, patient, creative, organised and a solution provider – I am mentally strong.

I am confident, outspoken, friendly, honest, great at listening and open-minded – I am a great communicator.

I am beautiful, handsome, kind, healthy, composed, courageous, humble, loving and loved – I am enough.

I am strong, enthusiastic, charismatic, patient, trustworthy, a role model, authentic, a visionary – I am a leader.

Add whatever you need to that list and ‘lie’ till that’s all you know!

I challenge you to test the contents of this post to see if they work or not.

See you tomorrow for part 2 of Lying Is Good For You:  Building Habits.

Singleness Is Underrated

Am I going to be endorsing debauchery in this post? Not one bit. However if you are looking for encouragement and advice in the single phase of your life, carry on, you are most welcome.

Before I enter into why the phase of singleness can be a crucially beneficial time of your life I would like to quash some world notions on the ‘benefits’ of being single. Yes I’m going to sound like a preacher when I denounce couldn’t-care-less relationships, casual sex and nights spent bent over ceramic chambers, but if you are honest with yourself you’ll realise that the aforementioned activities don’t do your physical wellbeing or mental health any favours. Are all these activities fun? They wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t… but they are bad for you and most likely you don’t need to look deep down to know it. The good news is I’m not here to condemn you but to affirm you! We all have the gift of free will. You aren’t bound to certain actions or habits forever. Today I would like to introduce two terms that will help and will pop up a lot in this ‘Individuality’ series:

  1. Intentionality – living a life of deliberation, without constantly stumbling into things
  2. Plasticine brain – the ability of the brain to change throughout life

Life has prime stages for explosive growth. Singleness is one of them. Another stage is called ‘the Pit’ which I’ll refer to later this week.

When you’re single and intentional in your singleness, you’re in the best time to learn about yourself, the best time to figure out what you enjoy and what you are good at. Often in this chapter of your life you have one major responsibility, yourself, meaning you have more time as you have less people to be responsible over. What can you use this time for? More learning and setting yourself up for whatever your metric of success is. This is achieved first of all by coming up with a metric of success. This is vital. How can you hit the target when you don’t know what you are supposed to be aiming for? In this period explore by reading books, learning languages, travelling, building healthy habits, working to delete bad habits, learning organisation, studying people and coming up with the traits of the person you would want to be with once the phase is over.

I’d like to challenge a fallacy that we let ourselves be deceived by far too often. How many people have you heard say these words, “I wish I had known this when I was younger?” Or “I wish I had known this before I got into the relationship?”. We lie and say we’ll pick up the behaviours we need when we need them. Learning all the above once this singleness phase has passed is possible; it’s much more difficult but it’s possible, it’s why we have plasticine brains – but why would you want to grow a plant in the dry season when you can do so in the rainy season? The friction of embarking on a discovery of self when you have several more responsibilities is incredibly grating.

Lastly we have plasticine brains, which means the old ways of thinking don’t need to be the ways of thinking forever. It means we can learn new things. However it takes significantly more effort to unlearn things than it does to build new habits. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’ll do these things now then stop when I’m in a serious relationship or when I reach 30, 40 or 50. You’re setting yourself up to fail and to eventually drown in depression.

Conflict rises when expectations and reality don’t align. Internal conflict leads to stress and prolonged stress may lead to depression. So I’ll help you out a bit and be a bit harsh when I say:

Don’t expect the bad habits you’re cultivating now to instantly disappear when you want them to. Instead be intentional today about what habits you want to build in this crucial period of your time.

Cherish your singleness and grow baby, grow! It may be hard, that’s cool, I’ve got tips to help you do just that starting with tomorrow’s post: ‘Lying Is Good For You’.

P.S. Thank you all for helping this blog reach 100 followers! Onwards and upwards. Be blessed.

 

The Power Of Being Grateful

Well, if you’ve been keeping up with recent posts you’ll now know that comparison can lead to depression. It’s pretty simple really, we have access to the lives of many people now thanks to social media. Say one person is incredible at singing and you compare yourself (it’s only natural, no?) only to find that you aren’t as good. You are presented with a dilemma often leading to three pathways: acceptance (which for some reason we overcomplicate), ridicule (diminishing the person’s gift or hard work) and competition. The first, acceptance is perhaps the healthiest of the three. Now if you exhibit the other two what happens if you come into contact with more than one such person? What if you encounter a hundred people with a gift you don’t have? There is no way you can be the master of all trades, no one in the world has enough time for that. So the end result of trying on multiple hats that don’t fit you or ridiculing everyone you come into contact with? I’ll take a guess and use the B-word here – bitterness. However if you can accept that you can’t be as good as everybody else at everything else and hone your own craft, measuring up only to yourself – joy won’t be far away. Still there is another level even superior to acceptance – gratitude. Seeing the gifts of others and being grateful for them is some next level zen… stuff. It’s healthy for you on so many levels. If you can see the greatness in others and appreciate them for it, it is far easier for you to identify the things to appreciate in your own life. Also it has the potential to open doors for you since you develop the eyes to see talent. Once you adopt the mentality of:

‘I love what I see in you, I also love what I see in myself’

What can put you down? I challenge you to make an intentional decision to be grateful for the gifts of others, as well as for what has been deposited in you and see how it changes your life.

Perfection

Perfection. That’s the concept that’s prevented me from doing what I want even more than procrastination. Let me explain.

There are some things I’ve always wanted to do that I wouldn’t do because I wanted them to be perfect immediately. When you think about it, that’s beyond idiotic. Imagine never picking up a guitar because you can’t stand not being able to play a song – you want to be instantly perfect.

I’ve now discovered that the best things – the actions that fulfil more than most take time and effort, trial and error. Because of this simple revelation I’ve started doing things I’ve wanted to do for ages. One of those ‘targets’ will be ready in a couple of days.

Those in the know, know. As for the rest… you best be ready.

Education

Education is a key component in life – education is all important.

My parents managed to hammer this point home from before I could run. “Ayanda Joe Munikwa,” they would say, “you are a wise and intelligent young boy and if you apply your mind you will make it in life.” They haven’t ever stopped repeating those words… I haven’t stopped believing them.

Why do I consider education to be all important? Other than having been brought up with this ideology being drilled into me at school and at home nearly every waking hour – why would it matter? My hero, Nelson Mandela, considered education to be of prime importance and it is easy to see why. All of the things we do and hope to achieve require some form of education and life-threatening situations may have education called upon as well. For example: During the December (2014) holidays I had an encounter that I believe I will never forget. A young boy had been swimming in a hotel pool and his parents allowed themselves to become distracted by other things, after all, the young boy had floaters attached to him and the pool was nearly full of children. A few minutes later shouts erupted from the pool area and they found that the boy had been upended in the water and had silently drowned amidst all of those people. That was not where education came in. No one at the scene knew CPR. No one. The lifeguard, as his post was usually boring and he was only very rarely called upon, was drunk in some obscure corner of the hotel. That young boy died that night, had I known how to administer CPR at that time he would be living today, instead I left his life in the hands of a lifeguard who was not in complete command of all of his senses. I see that boy’s numb, lifeless face every time I near a pool.

-Excerpt from my Personal Statement (2015)

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People Help the People

Birdy’s song is not as iconic as many songs past, but the chorus sticks like young Joe did to a video game controller.

‘People Help the People…’

I think human pride can be a good thing in that it can be a motivator to achieve goals beyond the norm. Unfortunately it often goes hand-in-hand with the idea that, “I can go it alone”. As social creatures we were never designed to live that way and if we did (in the not so distant past) it would normally mean death.

I’ve been doing some reflection. I’ve met a myriad of people in these last couple of years. Some have formed strong bonds with me and others came into my life just to leave it. I’m sure the same can be said of myself at times, I’ve mastered the art of going MIA, I’m working on it. However, I strongly believe that in each and every one of these individuals was something I could have – should have picked up to better myself. (Even removing that selfish aspect, it allows you to look at people with respect and reduces contempt.) Upon reflection it’s so easy to see what I may have missed in the moment.

In a short space of time I’ve met characters with such trememdous self belief and honesty, organisation and vision, creativity and drive, humility and confidence, intelligence and wisdom that if I were to start naming names you’d call it flattery… But it would all be true. Certainly the opportunity was there to glean into their character and see what produced such awesome traits, then develop them for myself. In hindsight, simply asking some of them would have sufficed.

Luckily for me, memory and attention to detail (regarding people stalking :D) allows me to reflect and learn regardless, but the next time I’m in a room with someone I’ll do my best to learn something from them to better myself.

I challenge you to do the same. You never know how much that one thing you pick up may impact your life positively. Let the chorus ring out. Let ‘People Help the People’.

Thank you for your time:)

Talent Working Hard

D! That was my average in Art. I eventually got better to the point my teacher mistook one of my drawings, of a robot – for a lion. I was so terrible I had to label my art, else-wise it wouldn’t be understood. I drew cars in high school the same way I’d drawn them when I was 6… the upgrades arrived 12 years too late 😀 To say I was bad at drawing or painting is an understatement. I had no talent whatsoever.

If you didn’t know me then you’re about to find out; I was an incredibly sore loser! Joe wasn’t comfortable with his fluctuating D grade (normally trending closer to E than C). It was embarrassing to the point I disowned myself (as seen by the temporary switch to 3rd person). Sure I’d often act like I didn’t give a tosh in front of the boys but deep down it really hurt. That awful grade would have an adverse effect on my class position come end of term and even if it didn’t – it just doesn’t feel nice to fail. It never does.

So, I worked! One day we were given an assignment to do over the weekend. That day I told myself, “This time I won’t fail!”

The assignment was to draw a hanging cloth using pencil. I was incredibly stoked about it having made my decision to (finally) succeed in the Art department. Art had given me way too many Ls. I got myself one of the kitchen cloths and hung it from a nail in the wall (fitting for it was designed to hang art upon). I duly informed everyone in the household of the importance of this piece of work and that the cloth should not be moved under any circumstances. I guess there was a steeliness to me at the time for no one questioned me or even so much as sneezed in the direction of that cloth.

Two whole days! Half of Friday, all of Saturday and part of Sunday I spent honing my image of the cloth. Carefully caressing the edges and smoothly shading in the shadows. At the end of it I don’t think I’d never been prouder of anything in my life up to that point. My young sister was impressed by something I’d produced for the first (and perhaps last) time. Coincidentally (or is it?) she’s now the artist of the family and a bloody fantastic one at that I must add.

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(This isn’t it by the way. It’s the first thing I was drawn to when I searched ‘hanging cloth pencil’)

Monday arrived and it was nearly time to hand in our bodies of work. A friend, Felix was his name (I guess still is unless he’s changed it), was mid-conversation during break time, some 20 minutes before the Art lesson, when someone mentioned the homework that was due. “Oh no,” he said. He hadn’t done it. I was feeling real smug as he went about scrambling for a sheet of white paper to use, eager to show off my masterpiece.

Long story short – I got 89%. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a masterpiece. I’d worked my socks off, paying immense attention to detail. I can’t recall a time prior where I’d put as much effort into anything that wasn’t leisure than I had during that period. The people that knew me were shocked. Phrases like: “You didn’t draw this, did you?” and “Wow. Must have been a fluke.” were bandied about. I had the highest mark in the class IN ART! Me! Unbelievable right? That was the case, especially because that was factually incorrect. I had the highest mark of everyone whose assignment I’d compared my work to. To my astonishment Felix had received the highest mark. 90%… The man had natural talent I instantly concluded. “Impossible!” I exclaimed internally, heart being sliced apart with a metaphorical weed hacker and whatever was left behind put through a figurative shredder. Maybe I do him a disservice and there were an untold number of hours behind the scenes that led to him having such obvious skill, but he had bested all of us – me especially I felt – in 15 min without a point of reference. The man’s cloth hung on a nail inside his head. It’s not like Art is a subject about competing but I was a sore loser remember. I therefore became incensed. I was so angry I wasn’t even mad.

This event got me thinking for a long time. What if he had actually tried, like I had? Wouldn’t he have gotten an even higher mark? I was speechless. The saying goes “Hard Work Beats Talent, When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard”. That didn’t turn out to be the case in this story. But what if talent DOES work hard? What happens then?

I guess this is just a reminder of a previous post , only this time in story form. Find your talent then work hard at it. I don’t know what he does now but if he’s anything like the talented individuals that worked their socks off in the past – we’ll soon find out because he’ll be well-known all around the world.

Thank you for your time:)

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(I guess this is a good representation of what I saw Felix’s assignment as through my filter of envy 😀 gg Felix!)

This Is Me

“I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.”

There’s a reason ‘This Is Me’ won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. I believe that as humans there’s an innate desire to find our purpose. That identity is one of the fundamentals in this pursuit. In this universe, with 7.2 billion others, we seek something, some point for our existence – to set us apart. But it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of that goal.

Distractions can come in any form. By definition a distraction “is something that prevents you from concentrating on a goal”. And concentration is “the ability or power to focus all one’s energy and attention”.

Unfortunately something as grand as finding, let alone achieving your purpose can’t be done if you allow yourself to be distracted. A sin I’ve definitely been committing myself.

If you want to sing this beautiful song with as much gusto as I do, it’s about time you shed the distractions and focus. Then you’ll stand out from the rubble like you were always meant to, singing: “This Is Me!

Thank you for your time:)

No

No. Such a short and simple word yet for some reason I find it very hard to say lately.

“But I say no all the time,” you say. “Why can’t you?”

Well I can. I like to think I’m very good at saying no, maybe even among the best.

Q: “Wanna go…?”

A: “No thanks.”

Q: “Wanna try?”

A: “I’m good.”

Q: “Would you like…?”

A: “I’m perfectly fine but thanks for asking.”

This is how it would go on many an occasion as I relentlessly pursued independence – individuality. Yet I eventually felt shortchanged. I’d been closing doors to opportunities, gifts and friendships because of my affinity to the word ‘no’. My friends and family felt the barrier I was putting up. I was essentially isolating myself. I had to learn to do otherwise. I had to learn to say yes, and like most things I put effort into I learned it really, really well… in this case too well.

Now we’re at the other end of the spectrum. My incessantly saying ‘yes’ has had a detrimental effect recently. It’s taken away my time and has slowly leeches part of my joy. I guess it’s time to take that back by saying what I used to say all the time when asked to do something beyond my means.

No.