Easing Back In

Boom! I’m back, baby!

Yes I had a brief hiatus. Largely because things started getting rather hectic, but in all honesty colouring everything in was becoming a bit of a chore.

So I’ve figured I’ll start easing myself back into it by keeping it simple and not pressuring myself too much. No point going all perfectionist on it. Not like anybody looks at this stuff, right?

Just a reminder if you’re ever bummed out from doing something or about to give up, don’t worry about it. It’s perfectly normal. Just give yourself time and ease back into it.

Or just give up and find something new. I don’t know – I ain’t some guru, bro.

Never Forget Your Power

To all my fellow artists out there, whether you create cartoons, canvases, chicken tandoori or catchy tunes, remember your true power. You have the power to create something from nothing, from 0 to 1, from the void of nothingness to the beautiful palette before you.

It doesn’t matter if others see it not, if they shun or spit at your offerings. Keep creating, stay strong, and never stop.

Society may label artists and designers and musicians as a lacklustre bunch of misfits, but you and I know that we have the power to impact the hearts and minds of people, to inspire and motivate, to change the world.

Conscious Effort

It starts with a conscious effort

Whether you’re trying to learn to ride a bike, improve your memory, or be a better listener to those around you, it all starts with a conscious effort.

It doesn’t have to be a big one.

At first you will have to purposefully instruct your brain to perform the task, and mentally remind yourself to repeat this task the next time, and the next time after that.

Sounds like a lot of work, I know.

I was trying to teach someone to swim the other day, and it made me realise just how many things a new swimmer would have to consciously try to perform at the same time in order for them to stay afloat and stay alive.

  1. Paddle with right hand
  2. Kick with left leg
  3. Paddle with left hand
  4. Kick with right leg
  5. Push air out of lungs
  6. Move head to breathe
  7. Take in fresh air
  8. Move head back underwater
  9. Paddle with right hand
  10. Rinse and repeat

Looks like a lot of work, I know.

And as anyone who has attempted to swim can attest to, there are a million other tiny details involved that our brain magically deals with at once.

Now for your seasoned swimmers out there, I imagine you don’t have to go through these motions each and every time in your head when you swim, right?

Why is that?

Because your conscious effort has paid off!

That’s the good news: it won’t always be a conscious effort. 

It gets easier

The first few times will be a struggle.

Depending on the task at hand, it may be a big struggle, or a slightly easier struggle, but it will still be a struggle for you on some level. That is your brain and body coping with learning (or relearning) something new.

Let’s go back to our swimming example.

Those first few times in the pool will suck – you’ll be thrashing around and feeling uncomfortable and end up drinking waaay too much of that pool water. Not much fun.

But if you can get past that, if you can concentrate your efforts to putting your body and mind through the motions, then gradually you’ll find it gets easier.

As you consciously divert energy and thought into this new thing, you pick it up and get better at it.

Gradually your efforts will pay off. You will begin to see results!

You can kind of swim!

Conscious Effort Results

Obviously, the more effort we put into something, the more results we would wish to see.

Same goes with our conscious effort!

If you spend days thrashing around in the pool, but don’t see results, of course you’ll become discouraged and give up on the whole ordeal. Simply getting in and out of the swimming pool is a chore in itself!

However, if you are persistent and put in enough conscious effort to training your body and mind to do the strokes, then at some point you’ll be able to move in the water. Maybe even sort of swim!

And if you keep at it, it will become second nature. You won’t even have to think about it anymore!

At that point, you will have put in sufficient effort to get the results you desire!

This is also true for learning new things. You can learn to get better at learning!

The key is practice

Unfortunately, as much as we all hate to hear this: you gotta practice.

Unfortunately, we are wired that way.

Habits and skills all start with a conscious effort. Infants have to spend time learning to breathe and control their bowels and walk, and I imagine this is no small effort on their part. We just don’t remember it because our brain was too busy freaking out.

Homer Simpson Freak Out

Some people just make it look easier. Or harder.

In most ways, conscious effort directly translates to practice. You just have to get your brain or your body used to thinking or doing something a certain way. Do it over and over again consciously until you get used to it.

Then it will stop being conscious and come naturally.

That’s how habits are formed. 

That’s how skills are learned. 

That’s how people succeed. 

It’s all well and good thinking to yourself: “I should really learn to swim”, but until you take that first step and make a real effort to getting down to it, it’s only going to keep happening in your dreams.

This works with mental activities as well. If you want to “be wittier” or “be able to remember people’s names better”, you can. Do not shortchange your powerful mind – you can do it!

It’s all a matter of training your brain to respond faster and more cleverly, or consciously thinking of ways to tie a person’s face or traits with their name.

There is this quote I read:

Death comes whether we think about it or not.

Life, however, is a conscious effort. Be conscious of living.

I’m not sure who said it. I may or may not have made it up, but that doesn’t make the ring of truth any less jarring.

Getting through life is about consciously putting in effort to adapt and improve in whatever way we choose (or sometimes our environment chooses for us).

We either improve and succeed, or stay the same and continue life with the status quo, which is fine for a lot of people. But is it fine for you?


It all starts with a conscious effort.

You’re worth the effort.

Motivating The Unmotivated

Hi guys! It’s been a while. How is everybody…?

So as you may have noticed, lately times have been rough and people are being battered by bad economy, sluggish growth and scorching heat. No one seems to be particularly motivated. Perhaps that’s a bit of a pessimistic outlook, but fear not – I am here to solve that!

The question: how do you motivate people who are set in their ways and are only doing the bare minimum to keep their job so they can go home and do not very much?

I’m sure they have exciting hobbies that are totally different from yours and all, which is nice. But when they come to work, no matter how you try to egg them on or engage them in extracurricular activities, the response is lukewarm at best. I’m sure you’ve encountered people like that.

I’m not interested in what their excuse is – be it they’re introverts by nature or their pet hamster passed on and they can’t come to terms with fragility of this cruel, cruel life. I want to know how to bring these people to life!

Let’s see, what are our options?

  • Get to know them better and engage them on a personal level
    • That’s nice and all, but clearly the snail’s path to morale-boosting. I am being frivolous about the importance of treating people as people, but if you have a hundred people working with you, you’re going to be at it for a long time
  • Throw money at them. Everyone loves money! 
    • If only money grew on trees. It is an effective form of positive reinforcement, but is it suitable for all departments and industries?
  • Host lots of team-building exercises and company activities
    • As nice as it sounds, it’s not as simple to break apart the existing cliques, and the less motivated staff tend to find ways not to participate in anything that isn’t absolutely mandatory
  • Set lots of elaborate goals and have wonderful acronyms like KPI’s coming out of their ears
    • Smart goals are effective at driving people, if they are well implemented and there is a suitably clear reward at the end. Otherwise they’re just more words that people soon forget
  • Provide special benefits like dental and free candy!
    • Helps to bring people in the door, but does it really motivate them? It’s a nice thing to have, but people soon take it for granted
  • Laugh, and the world laughs with you
    • Laughter is the best medicine! If you’re a comedian or doctor, that is. I wish motivation was as infectious as laughter
  • Spare no rods and reap the spoils
    • Become the bad guy and “encourage” people through fear and threats and workplace drama. Everyone loves drama!
  • Be a good leader and lead by example
    • Huh? Where do you come up with this stuff?
    • If you show up every day all giddy with motivation, do other people follow suit?

There is an interesting theory about how to lead a new movement or get people to adopt something totally new. The first person to start something unheard of is often viewed as wacky and eccentric and regarded with skepticism. However, once a second person comes into the picture and follows the leader, public opinion begins to sway.

So perhaps the key to getting people motivated is to:

  1. Express your own overwhelming motivation
  2. Convince another person to join your team and share your motivation
  3. Success!

Yeah, actually the key is to just start your own multi-level marketing motivational loving mummy scheme and get people to cheer and clap whenever you say a catchphrase. That ought to get plenty of people motivated!

Or just run for the Presidency of the United States. That seems like good fun.

I don’t know. What motivates people in this life? Money? Sex? Fame? A combination of the three? Or is there more…? Cute puppies, maybe? They are certainly cuddly. Cuddly wuddly.

A Culture of Fear

Fear is the best form of control. Cultivating a culture of fear ensures everyone tows the line.

Have you ever been to a live animal show? The circus or somewhere you can ride the animals? What happens to the stronger or the smarter ones? The monkeys and the elephants? The lions and the tigers? You’ll notice they are either chained up or beaten into submission. Bent to the will of man.

And they take it. Even though they could easily overpower their captors, break free and run for it. They obediently do as they are told, following the leash wherever it drags them, diligently doing what they have been trained to do.

That’s what we do, right? We train our young, train our people in the ways of the world. Train them to look both ways before crossing the street; train them to stay away from strangers; train them to wash their hands and stay indoors; train them not to climb trees or jump in the mud.

And of course that’s all very well and good and pragmatic. No nasty germs or jihadists getting to your precious younglings. They live to see prom and puberty.

But what happens when they are old enough to think for themselves? How do you control them then? Can’t very well spank them or send them to their rooms anymore (well, I suppose you still can but good luck with that). How do you ensure your children grow up imbued with the values and virtues that you wish to instill in them?

Why, you tell them stories of course. Preferably ones with morals and lessons in them.

Remember all those fairy tales and folk stories? Neither do I, there’s so many of them. Well, how about the latest news updates? Family accosted by unruly gentleman! Fire hydrant explodes, spilling gallons of water onto the streets! I imagine they’re actually a lot worse than that.

Those places are far, far away, you say. We’ll be fine. No volcanoes or earthquakes or Tyrannosaurus Rexes where we live. We are the people that are never in the news. We are the folk that exist in between the lines, in the blank gaps where no ink or blood flows.

But what happens when it strikes close to home? When a neighbour’s house gets broken into? When a friend contracts an unpleasant disease? When a crazy dog bites someone?

We do what most sane people would do: we lock up our houses, avoid human contact, and stay the hell away from anything that isn’t human while we’re at it. Good strategy. Stay indoors, away from people, zero petting. Win.

This way, even if nothing of the sort ever happens to us personally, we’re prepared. Constant vigilance! Don’t go near the water because there might be jellyfish! Bring that mosquito repellant so you don’t die of dengue fever! Lather in that sunscreen so the black holes of melanoma don’t consume your soul! In fact, just don’t go out at all. It’s too dangerous.

Isn’t it ironic that we laugh at people who are afraid of little creatures many times smaller than their own body size, but a lot of us fear the tiniest most minuscule of adversaries: micro-organisms. Dropping an acronym like SARS or MERS will easily strike fear into an entire population. Superbugs are going to bite you in your sleep! Take more drugs, people!

I’m not saying doing any of those things is wrong or foolish. I’m merely pointing out that such things are part of the risk averse culture that is driven by fear. Part of the smothering web that slowly eats away at your sense of adventure. Chips away at your resolve to do things you’ve never done before. Keeps you safe and proper and “civilised”.

And so you stay in your safe zone, your comfort zone, where everything is neat and tidy and clean as a whistle. Where you can surf the web on your phone in peace and quiet, with zero lag.

Even if you do travel, it’s to areas deemed safe with no natural disasters or epidemics or crime or crazy psychopaths. And you book everything doubly in advance so you don’t miss out on anything ever. Check the weather to make sure the prophets have decreed that it will be just the right temperature to hazard a stroll outside for that day tour.

When was the last time you tried something new? Travelled someplace that none of your friends had been before? When was the last time you felt alive?

Do you want to break free of this culture of fear? Someone has been holding you back all these years, filling your head with notions of bad guys and fearsome creatures and failure. And now someone can set you free: it begins with you.

Get out there and do something no one else has thought of before. Try that drink you’ve always wanted to try. Jump for joy when you feel like it. Whistle even if you can’t. Who cares what other people think? Judgment never brought anyone any real joy anyway.

One of our biggest fears is the fear of the unknown. We fear what we don’t understand, like weird viruses and prions and algebra. Well, it’s no longer an unknown if you’ve done it or had it before. If all else fails, adapt! You can either conquer your fear, or let it conquer you. Which one sounds better to you? Which one will help you look back without regret?

Yes, fear is healthy and pertinent for survival. But someone said you should never have too much of a good thing. Because then you get fat. Fat with fear.

So take control of your life today. Don’t let someone or something else control you, especially fear. Because once you let fear seep in, it will spread to more and more facets of your life.

We all feel fear in our lives; it is about accepting your fear and assessing realistically just how worthy this fear is of your attention. Whether or not you’re willing to let it force you into submission, or cast off the shackles of unnecessary fear and have more control over your own actions.

I leave you with this litany from a famous author, whose identity I shall leave you to guess (or Google).

Litany Against Fear

I will not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

In The Halls Of Youth

Today I made a trip down memory lane, to a place teeming with life, to an institute geared on staying modern and relevant. Back to the halls of youth.

Ah, the joys of tertiary education! Oh, college days. And what a vibrant, lively place it was! Did I mention this place was teeming with youthful spirit? The place was crowded with people going about their business, each person moving with a purpose. There was the familiar din of chatter and movement; the halls resounded with the cacophony of laughter and artificial sound effects.

But let’s go back to the start, shall we? I swung by on my bike (as I do) to the back entrance of the institute, since I tend to prefer the quieter, residential roads. Well, this entrance was anything but quiet! This doorway was about to transport me from the serene lull of suburbia into the Narnia of learning.

People were pouring through the gate, but no hands! It was an automatic steel gate, which may seem like child’s play to you in your fancy first-world castle, but in this part of the world I marvel at any consistently working mechanical object. Let’s just say there isn’t a big emphasis on maintenance around here.

Perhaps I needed an access card, but in I hopped with my bike, looking like I kind of belonged in my casual attire. And what was the first thing to greet me? Not a suspicious security officer or a heaping pile of garbage. No, a neat, organised bike rack!

College bike rack
A real life dedicated bike rack! And all those bikes too.

And the sight of all those fancy two-wheeled gadgets parked there nearly brought a tear to my eye. Nearly. To be fair it’s most likely not entirely by choice; I guess I have finances to thank for that. But I’m happy all the same.

So there I was taking a jaunt through familiar territory, blending in with the crowd, taking in the sights and smells and sounds (I took a shortcut through the cafeteria). It was a little after lunch hour, but I guess college students eat late, because the whole floor was packed to the brim!

Then I round the corner and come upon a big open expanse chock full of young students and some curious adults, all gathered to witness a tournament of epic proportions – a live DotA match. I kid you not this place had more going on than most shopping malls on the weekends.

College gathering
Why is everyone just sitting there…oh.

Yes, young people and computer games. That said, it is a great, competitive game enjoyed by millions around the world. But the fact that the school lets students host tournaments like this on such a grand scale is definitely something new, because something like this was unheard of when I was in school. Computer games were frowned upon and certainly not encouraged by teachers back in the day, and I suspect that hasn’t really changed.

I’m not endorsing competitive gaming, I’m merely pointing out that an institute that lets people unwind in the fashion that they see fit is clearly a very open-minded and progressive place.

And then I came across this little gem on the wall behind me.

Desire to achieve
This quote certainly beats the competition.

I’d never heard of Ayn Rand before this, but it turns out she (yeah, apparently Ayn is a girl’s name) was a famous writer and even had her own philosophical movement, called Objectivism. You can find out more about her here. Frankly I found her picture a little creepy, but don’t tell anyone.

A noble saying and a rightful thing to be hanging up in a college that seeks to teach and inspire. Not that they are the first ones to concoct the idea of dangling motivational mantras in public places, but they do it well and they do it tastefully. And it adds a little colour to the place too. Beats some commercial advertisement or self-serving sentimental spiel.

And I believe the saying can be expanded to go beyond the creative:

A wise man is motivated by the desire to achieve and to create; not by the desire to beat others but by the desire to outdo himself.

Take that, Ms. Rand! Wait, what was that thing about beating others and self-serving sentimental spiels…oh that’s right.

I also realise that picture kind of gives it away. If you already recognised it from the first photo, then good job Sherlock! Yes, it is KDU in Penang.

I made my inquiries and found the staff to be most accepting and helpful! Even after they found out I wasn’t a student. Or perhaps it was because of that. Heh. The personnel there seem to practice a real open-door policy, and are keen to work together with people of varying backgrounds and professions. I definitely recommend paying KDU a visit, whether you’re a student or someone who wants to work together with a progressive institute that is nurturing the young minds of tomorrow.

This little visit definitely made me miss university life, and to say a little nostalgic would be an understatement. And no nostalgic entry would be complete without some food! Nothing fancy, but very tasty.

Fish bee hoon
Options are soup or fried. This be the souped up version!

The Fight Against Entropy

Here is an intriguing thought: for some umpteen number of millennia, our world and the many worlds around us have been happily going with the flow of this popular and somewhat morbid idea of entropy. The very laws that govern our universe are all aiming for that one singular goal: maximum entropy. No one really objects; it’s a pretty great system. Things get cooler and less cluttered and you end up with a tidy bit of nothingness for the least amount of effort. Sounds perfect, right?

Enter life. The very notion of life itself seems to be a sign of scorn and a mark of mockery in the face of this pervasive and inevitable entropy beast. Life is shaking its little fist at entropy, chanting:

“Not if I can help it!”

But certainly this little speck of life cannot hope to overcome something as ubiquitous and omnipotent as entropy, as much as a perky bit of zooplankton could not hope to overcome a fully grown blue whale.

Blue whale of entropy
The blue whale of entropy. See those specks? Lots of plankton in each one!

But what about an entire horde of zooplankton? An indomitable net of unified micro-individuals, as numerous as the stars in the sky, so thick even light cannot penetrate.

Let’s get to breeding, people!

That’s what life has to say, in its barely audible, squeaky voice. Those tiny, brave little zooplankton are going to multiply and organise themselves into a mighty phalanx, a great wall of microscopic proportions. And then they’re going to face down the giant.

Will they win? Probably not. Can they turn back the tide, repel the gargantuan onslaught? Probably not, but they might be able to slow it down, get all up in that big face and make some noise. Make some chaos. That’s what life is good at!

So why do we fight? Because maybe pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo makes us feel alive. That’s why we’re rebellious to the core, always eager to mess up the equilibrium, create ripples on the water, build sandcastles out of nothing. We’re spitting in entropy’s face, taunting it. Because we know we cannot win, cannot turn back the tide, cannot cheat death.

But we will do all we can. To defy entropy.

I think I’ll try defying entropy. And write a musical while I’m at it. Teehee.

Why do you fight?

Let’s Talk About Muscles

Time to get technical for a little bit: let’s talk about muscles. Now it doesn’t matter if you’re into sports or weights or nothing at all (stupid sexy Flanders). You need muscles. To live. (And if you would prefer not to strain your eye muscles on sciencey mumbo-jumbo, feel free to skip to the TL;DR!)

Now there’s a few fields of thought with regards to muscle types and groups, and they call it different things and interpret the findings in weird and wonderful ways. Generally, what most people can agree on is that voluntary muscle (a.k.a. skeletal muscle) falls into two categories: slow twitch and fast twitch.

Slow twitch muscle is a very oxygen-rich muscle type and is rife with capillaries for profuse blood supply, hence it’s alternative name “red” muscle. This muscle type is aerobic in nature and thus carries lots of oxygen and can sustain activity for long periods of time.

Fast twitch muscle is the more anaerobic of the two, and it can generate quick and powerful bursts of energy at low oxygen costs (anaerobic kind of means without air). This means it requires a lower oxygen supply in the short term but it also fatigues rapidly. It has a paler hue compared to slow twitch, resulting in the name “white” muscle, although the actual colour of it is far from white. Little twitchy mammals, such as the epitome of twitchiness Mr. Squirrel, have a large proportion of fast twitch that gives them their lightning bursts of fidgety speed.

Red squirrel
Omnomnom-what? Omnom-who-said-my-name? No-it’s-not-Alvin!

Right, I think that’s enough biology for one lifetime. You’re still here? Interesting. Now, how does all this tie in with relatively regular life as an athlete? If you’re into endurance sports such as marathon running, then chances are you’ve got a greater proportion of slow twitch muscle. On the other hand, if you bench regularly, then your upper body is going to be chock full of fast twitch muscle! Simple, right?

TL;DRSlow twitch: aerobic & long-lasting; fast twitch: anaerobic & short bursts.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to expound on the goodness of either type of muscle, or even sell you some exercise regime for the low, low price of a dollar per minute per second per second (no wait, that’s too many derivatives). I’m here to talk about how working to achieve a certain ratio of fast to slow twitch muscle can help you focus towards getting to your goal.

Table of muscle and sport typesThe table above is a somewhat unverified (oh, am I not supposed to say that?) estimate of the amount of slow twitch muscle you will find in people who frequently perform a particular path of sport or exercise. I’m truly curious about how they measure the ratio of different muscle fibres in a living (I hope) person’s body.

Another comparison that I can’t put numbers to is the difference in muscle types between men and women. It is generalised that men tend to possess a larger proportion of white, anaerobic muscle in their bodies, while women have more red, aerobic muscles. This has been postulated as to why women tend to float better than men in water, due to their lower specific gravity. Perhaps their body shape plays a part too. Wink wink.

It would seem like I would be biased toward red muscle, since my favoured activities would desire and require a greater quantity of salubrious, aerobic muscle. However, it has been observed that white muscle fibres have a much better ability to grow and increase in mass compared to their leaner brethren. So if you’re aiming to bulk up them guns or want a shorter road to a firmer build, then focus on short burst exercises that target your anaerobic muscles. Activities like weight-lifting and resistance training should give you results a lot faster than cycling for long periods.

Of course, ultimately you have to work out for yourself which types of physical exercise are best suited for your needs, as certain things work better for some. And no money back guarantees, thank you very much.

I Want To Break Free

I don’t want to be fed, I want to create! This might seem like a strange comment out of context, but do you ever get this yearning inside to make something of your own, to give something of yourself?

In our modern society, we are perpetually surrounded by things that somebody else created and manufactured. We either help make it, or we’re on the receiving end of the conveyor belt. The clothes we buy, the shows we watch, even the food we eat. Take a look around you. Which of the objects in your immediate vicinity did you have some form of input in? Doesn’t have to be personally made from scratch, but something with your mark, your own signature on it.

How did you go? More than ten? You’re doing a lot better than I am. What is my point? What is my point!? Relax, I’ll get to it. First, a simple question: if you could create one thing with your own bare hands (or feet or mouth or whichever part of your body you like), what would it be? Say you had all the resources available at your fingertips and all the time in the world. One thing. What is it?

I’m not saying mass produced things are in any way bad or derivative; I’m not advocating we stop appreciating other people’s works of art. I’m merely saying we’ve been programmed by modern marketing to acquire over create, buy over build. Programmed in the ways of the consumer. The ways that lead to the dark side.

Media indoctrination

Why all this anti-consumerism propaganda? It makes the world go round, right? I’m against it because it quashes creativity. Certainly without industry we wouldn’t be where we are today, and that I do not disagree. But who is keeping these industries in check? If one day they start churning out amber protein blocks and convincing us they’re the only thing we should be eating, are we going to stop cooking too?

Everything ends in a product these days. Need more sleep? Buy this pillow. Need even more sleep? Buy these pills. Or how about this hyper-ergonomic atomically-accurate alarm clock that counts sheep for you while playing Mozart? Who comes up with these things? The people who use their creativity. These people are the movers and shakers and the select few that make the changes governing our little streams in life. These people dare to dream, dare to do.

Perhaps you’re content to sit through the movie of your life comfortably perched in the plush cinema chair, passively watching events unfold. Happy to watch it all play out, never once wishing it could be different, wishing you could make it different. Maybe you upgrade your seat with the money you save up. Surely you’ve been to a movie that you could do much better! Then why don’t you go make it? Why don’t we go make it?

Let’s make a movie. What kind of movies do you like? What kind of mark do you want to leave in this world?

Be The Change In Your World

No one wants to hear you preach to them about how to improve their lives or better themselves, even if it’s painfully obvious. They may moan about a problem or complain about their circumstances and yet not lift a finger to change it. Talking about it and telling these things to their faces will rarely achieve the results you desire. And yet here I am on this very topic.

I’m sure we have all met people that exude a negative vibe in the way they act and speak, and I cannot deny that I myself have been guilty of being negative and discouraging towards others. We all do it, at some point or other, depending on our mood or place in life. The turning point is when you acknowledge it; the best part is when you do something about it.

So what can we do about it? Actions speak louder than words, right? If telling someone doesn’t make a difference, then how can we make a change in the people around us? Easy, start with yourself. The one and only person whose thoughts and actions you can control is you.

Change begins with the mind
Change begins with the mind.

Look inwards, study your inner thoughts; observe your outer actions, and then look outwards. Think of your family and friends. How do you think you make others feel? If you were to observe yourself interacting with your friends from a third person perspective, how would you feel about the things you are saying and doing? You don’t have to be an expert in body language to gauge how those around you react and respond to what you say and do.

And now ask yourself: do I need to change? If you find you are the one bringing up the complaints in a group setting, or dousing cold water on the things your friends are chatting about, then how do you think that makes them feel? Because at the end of the day, that is how you will be remembered.

Mentalities are by no means a simple thing to change. They are basically a habit of the mind, a way your brain is used to thinking. To change it requires practice and repeated adjustments. Here are some things to try if you feel like changing something:

  • Start by thinking more about others. Put others ahead of yourself on the daily priority list; think about their thoughts, their feelings, their well-being. I’m not saying neglect your own needs and wants, but merely turn your focus to other people rather than looking at your own issues and problems all the time. For example, if you need to stop by the supermarket, ask others if there is anything you can pick up for them. By making the people that you interact with happy, you will naturally feel happy yourself.
  • Try to include more people in the things you do. Look out for those friends or colleagues who are easily excluded. I’m sure you can recall the elation you felt when someone invited you to an event that you were interested in, so why not pass the favour on? If you are an introvert that prefers minimal social contact (trust me, I can relate), there are still many ways to reach out to others, like adding them into a group chat on social media or simply asking someone else to tag along when you go to get lunch.
  • Be thankful. A little gratitude goes a long way. It helps you focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. All part of being happier and more content with your lot in life. Of course you still strive for bigger and better things in life, just try not to lose sight of all those wonderful things you already have (like your spouse).

I admit I’m no expert in matters of the heart and mind, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we can only truly change ourselves. Change comes from within: you have to change your thoughts and your actions will follow suit. Your actions may then go on to inspire others to change. Be the change in your world, if no one else will. In the end, hopefully the world will be that much better because you made the effort. So thank you, and live long and prosper. Oh wait, that wasn’t Gandhi.

A little gratitude goes a long way.