What To Do When Things Are Going Well

Life is circular. Seasons come and go and even the moon has different phases. In our personal circumstances we experience this as well. Apart from telling yourself ‘This too shall pass’ when you’re in a less than fun part of your journey, I think there are some other useful things that you could do when you are on top of the world, to make the transitional stages more bearable.

Gratitude List

If you don’t like making gratitude lists for every day, I’d suggest creating a Master List where you state everything and everyone that you are grateful for. When you’re feeling ‘meh’, your mindspace will be dark and gloomy, but a quick read of your Master List will remind you of everything that you do have and how ‘rich’ you are.

Accomplishment List

Similar to the above, it’s useful to have an Accomplishment List that you can reflect on when your irrationality takes over. By considering that you have climbed Kilimanjaro, that you have won that songwriting competition or that you’re artwork is hanging in a hotel’s foyer, you will have legitimate evidence as a counterfactual for the next time you feel like little worm.

Fill Your Fire Extinguisher

The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, uses the term ‘Fire Extinguisher’ for that saving account you use in case of emergencies. When things are going your way and you don’t have a care in the world, you will not want to save. However, the best-est thing you can do for your future self is to save money. If you haven’t noticed, the world is an unpredictable place. General Motors just laid off thousands of people before the holidays. Today you still have a job, but in a few years your job might be a goner. You never know when you will need some extra cash to pay a hospital bill or a lawyer. Take the short-term pain and save. You’ll thank yourself later. Promise.

Save Motivational and Inspirational Quotes

Whether it’s on your phone or on Pinterest, collect some good ones that you can refer back to when you feel like you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Curate A Playlist

Have a specific playlist on standby to activate your fighting spirit when the going gets tough. Songs and/or movies that will either give you a good cry when you need it or that will reaffirm your purpose or dreams and why you have to keep going.

Hope some of this helps, folks!

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Meeting The Enneagram: A Defining Moment In My Life

It was a game-changer and a life-changer when I encountered The Enneagram for the first time. No, it's not an occult spirit, even though it might sound like that. It's one of the most powerful tools I've come across in terms of providing personal insight and helping me to understand myself, my friends and my family. I've completed a Myers Briggs test, I know what my DISC profile is, I have my Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator results and I've done the StrengthsFinder, but not one of these has been as illuminating as The Enneagram. So, what is it exactly?

The Enneagram is a  model of nine personality types. Every person has elements of all nine types within them, but ultimately there is a dominant number or type for each individual. Among other things, the types are distinguished by different ego fixations, fears, desires, temptations etc.

Type 1: The Reformer or Perfectionist

Type 2: The Helper

Type 3: The Achiever or Performer

Type 4: The Individualist

Type 5: The Investigator or Observer

Type 6: The Loyalist

Type 7: The Enthusiast

Type 8: The Challenger 

Type 9: The Peacemaker

 The Enneagram further defines levels of development e.g. describing what a certain type looks and acts like at unhealthy levels, average levels and healthy levels. Every triangle within the circle is used to link the behaviour of types together. For example, a healthy three will look like a healthy six, but under stress a three will look like an unhealthy nine.

 

 

 

For descriptions of each type, check out The Enneagram Institute. There is an incredible amount of information available online, but if you want to get comprehensive results, I suggest you take the RHETI test here. It will cost you $12, but the value you'll get far exceeds that amount. That was what happened in my case at least.  

 P.S. I'd definitely recommend you take the test before you get married.

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What It's Like To Stay With Good Samaritans After Surviving A Hurricane

Who knows what he might've been smoking. The man in Harlem with the scarred cheek and cluster of chains around his neck surreally mirrored my thoughts."Yo momma told ya not to talk to strangers" he said as I passed him. But does that advice still apply in the middle of a natural disaster? I took my seat on the train, my palms still clammy.

She waited for me on the platform. I hadn’t showered in three days - my hair was so oily Dunkin’ could fry their doughnuts in it and I’m pretty sure I smelled like rotting garbage. Am I not supposed to be in the land of tall-decaf-caramel-soy-lattes and honey? How did I end up here?

Two nights earlier, the wind was seething. The trees swayed from side to side as if a dark sorcerer was controlling them. Occasionally lightning pierced the sky. I was stuck in The Big Apple and Hurricane Sandy was taking her bite. In my hotel room, looking for distraction from my racing thoughts, I flipped through photos on my Canon. The images transported me into another reality – a city that pulses possibility, locals hustling to achieve their dreams, deafening sirens and headache-inducing lights that make you feel like you’ve followed Alice down the rabbit hole.

My checkout date had arrived, but hotels remained full as people struggled to fly out, new ones kept coming in and the New York marathon was scheduled. My heart rate would have broken an EKG: I now had refugee-like status in the majestic kingdom of Manhattan. I stepped outside. Only a few other souls were trudging through the sludgy debris. Business signs still depressingly proclaimed ‘closed’ and I could actually hear my own footsteps. News came like autumn leaves: power outages, evacuations, the death toll…

Where else to go, but the airport? Her name tag said Kaatja. Tough years were etched onto her face. She was the first person to see me looking lost. "Mami, you've been crying ...? Do not cry, mami. I will sort you out, mami.” My sunken eyes and blotched cheeks must have given me away. Minutes later a message came through on my phone. Through word of mouth in South Africa, 10 000 miles away, someone heard of my predicament and sent word that Caroline in Connecticut had a room free. After exhaling pure relief, Kaatja put me on a train to Connecticut via Harlem.

Seventy-two hours as Caroline’s guest have passed. In the airport parking lot, I asked her how I would ever be able to repay her. She leaned in for a (mother) bear hug and whispered, "Just pay it forward."

My Whole30 Experience: Six Weeks Without Grains, Dairy, Sugar and Alcohol

This post originally appeared on www.food24.com 

A while ago I came across the Whole30 book and movement. I read the Kindle sample of the book and did some extra research on the internet. No one's Whole30 looks the same, but the key is to stick to the main principles as best you can. So what on earth is it?

Created by sports nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Whole30 calls for the elimination of grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar and alcohol for a period of 30 days. It's like Paleo, but a bit stricter than that. The only sugar that you're allowed to eat should come from fruit and you shouldn't stuff your face with it. You should also avoid avoid carrageenans, MSG, and sulfites. You're also dissuaded from recreating normal foods in a healthier manner e.g. you're not supposed to bake cookies using coconut flour or milkshakes using almond milk. You can eat as much as you want of the foods that are allowed, i.e. no calorie counting necessary. After 30 days you start to reintroduce certain foods selectively. When you start reintroducing you basically eat clean plus only the isolated food group for that day, i.e. on dairy day you're not allowed to mix in gluten or soy, otherwise you won't be able to distinguish which ingredient caused which reaction.

I've never really seen the point of going to such dietary extremes, but I then decided to try it and set myself a Whole30  personal challenge. Besides, if you never stop eating certain foods, you will never really know how certain foods affect you, right?

My Whole30 outline

Day 1 - 30: Clean eating

Day 31: Introduce legumes (in my case lead to constipation)

Day 32-33: Clean eating

Day 34: Introduce gluten-free grains (no notable effect)

Day 35-36: Clean eating

Day 37: Introduce dairy (in my case lead to diarrhoea and then to constipation; maybe I just went a bit overboard with the cheese and yoghurt?)

Day 38-39: Clean eating

Day 40: Introduce gluten (no notable effect)

Day 41-42: Clean eating

Example of meals

Breakfast

Coffee with almond milk

Almonds, raisins, banana, nut butter and a dash of almond milk in a bowl

Mid-morning

Diluted 100% fruit juice and some biltong (dried, cured meat)

Lunch

Hake and veggies

Dinner

Chicken, walnut, grape and rocket salad with homemade Whole30 approved mayonnaise

What I've learned (in general)

  • The beginning is hard. Two or three days in I was wondering why the heck I decided to do this stupid thing.

  • Going to the grocery store was torture, walking around with my can of tuna when other people are buying freshly baked baguettes and pushing around desserts in their trolleys.

  • Eating out was not impossible as there were still some options on the menu, but it takes a while to get used to your baked potato when the other guests are eating their pasta or sushi.

  • After the end of week one I felt some sense of achievement - only five more to go. But I can totally see how one can give up easily if there's no internal motivation to prove to yourself that you can and will stick to a/the goal, no matter what.

  • The food you eat matters. My energy levels and moods were definitely more stable during the period of clean eating. On the whole my demeanour felt more consistent.

  • Meal planning is very, very important if you want to take this seriously.

  • I think many of us know this, but food and eating is an extremely social activity. For many of us it has become second nature to meet for a chat over a cappuccino and cake or a glass of wine when we're having pizza.

What I found difficult

  • I am not the biggest meat or egg eater. It therefore made it a bit more challenging as I chose to limit my intake of some of the foods that I was allowed to eat. E.g. I don't like pork, I usually only eat red meat when I indulge in a hamburger and I only like eggs when they are baked into a pudding. My sister did her Whole30 as a pescatarian, eating no meat at all, so it can be done!

What I missed the most

  • Initially I really missed milk in my tea. In fact, I missed it so much that I quit drinking ceylon tea altogether during the experiment.

  • I missed bread, but when I eventually ate some toast and rusks it was quite a large anti-climax. The taste was less amazing than I remembered.

  • On the weekends I really wanted a G&T.

Some personal triumphs

  • I can now drink black coffee without thinking that it's the grossest thing in the world. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer my flat white, but I can take my coffee black and still kind of enjoy it.

  • I've realized that I don't need to eat bread every day. Previously in my life it was a non-negotiable, one of my meals had to include some form of white or brown stuff from the bakery.

My results

  • I've not lost weight, but I've definitely lost centimeters as my pants fit me better now.

  • My stomach is not as bloated as before.

  • My total cholesterol came down by 1.3.

  • Food has lost its power over me. I still like trying out new dishes and can appreciate quality ingredients, but I can actually walk past a piece of cake now and not feel like it's calling my name. In a sense I feel like I've gotten some of my ownership back as I can now choose what I eat without being hypnotised by a burger or manipulated by brie.

My six weeks are now over. How will I eat from here on onwards, you ask? That I still need to figure out. 

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The Five Truths of Life

Last week I started watching a documentary series on TV. In the program, In Your Ear, people are fitted with an earpiece and then given advice by sages. The first episode features four wisdom guides: a health and nutrition coach from Norway, two retired policemen from America, a traditional healer from South Africa and a nun from Ireland. In the show the sages tell the participants what they should do and say in order to minimise pain or possible heartbreak and maximize happiness and contentment. 

I don’t think we necessarily need earpieces when there are five truths of life, which have been proven time and time again.

1) Never Say Never

We love bold statements. To try and prove how strongly we feel about something we like to take it to the extreme. Many people thought presidents Mugabe and Zuma would never leave their posts and that we'd be stuck with them forever. Surprise, surprise in the last three months the world has finally seen both walking away.  After my father built his dream home, he said that he would never move again and that he would be carried out of that house, feet first. It’s almost a decade since he made that statement and he’s still alive and has since sold the house in question and moved twice. I never thought that I would be able to go a day without eating bread; I simply love my sarmies too much! Now, I’ve almost gone three weeks straight without any gluten. Life is a funny thing and never is a long, long time.

2) You Reap What You Sow

Whether you believe in the Bible or karma or reincarnation, what goes around tends to come around. If you’re robbing people by selling them defunct products, it will bite you in the butt someday or another. Someone won’t necessary sell you a fake iPhone, but you might find that your insurer refuses to settle your legitimate claim. The universe likes restoring balance and it’s better to be a decent human being and keep your side clean, than ‘winning’ in the short term.

3) Nothing Goes Away Until It Teaches You What You Need to Know

It’s very difficult to figure out what the lessons always are, but there tends to be method in the madness. Real change unfortunately only comes through pain, so if you’ve been a victim of credit card fraud six times in two months, life probably wants to send you a message. Either you’re spending too much, or you’re passwords are too weak or you’re careless etc. If you’re finding yourself in the same boat a few times too many, ask yourself if you’re disregarding life’s teachings.

4) It All Comes and Goes in Waves

Wo(man), is this a hard one to accept - ebb and flow, the circle of life. When you’re in bed and you’re breathing through your mouth and your skin feels like the equator, you can’t imagine ever being well again. Yet 7 days later you’re killing it on the squash court. Bad times do pass and good times do come again. It’s about cherishing those seasons when everything is in order and it’s about not losing hope when you feel like you’re drowning.

5) You Can Only Focus on What You Can Control

We don’t like to hear this one, I certainly don’t. Regardless of how much we push back, it does make sense. If the economy is tanking, no single person is going to save it. You can only limit your own expenses and try to increase your own resilience. Similar argument - you have no power to stop a pandemic from breaking out, but you can wash your hands frequently and boost your immune system.

I’ve always hated clichés, but I increasingly think they are clichés for a reason. What other truths would you want to add to the list? 

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Protecting Yourself From Shattered Expectations

I was surprised to hear of its existence and yet it made total sense. We've all felt the sadness that comes when our wants and wishes keep eluding us, but it's just as possible to have physical and medical symptoms when life does not live up to our expectations.

Paris Syndrome or Syndrome de Paris is a temporary mental disorder (mostly) experienced by Japanese tourists when they arrive in the capital of France and realise that the reality does not match the picture they had in mind. Why? There's Paris and there's Paris.

You're dreaming of the Louvre Museum and you imagine yourself admiring great art in silence, having enough time and space to stand alone in front of master works.

In real life you're dealing with the inevitable whispering in multiple tongues, while trying to ensure that you're not elbowed to the ground (okay, okay, it's not that bad). It is, however, a legitimate struggle to catch a glimpse of the portraits through a sea of selfie-sticks and screens.

There are two other syndromes that fall in the same category as the Paris Syndrome. Jerusalem Syndrome refers to the phenomenon of religious visitors to the Holy City experiencing psychotic delusions that they are Samson, the Mother Mary or John the Baptist incarnate and then try to act accordingly. Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes heart palpitations, fainting spells and hallucinations when an individual experiences a deep connection to a piece of art e.g. Michelangelo's David sculpture or when they stand at the grave of someone they admire or respect).

Of the three syndromes, I think the disconnect that arises when Japanese tourists visit Paris is the one that we can best extrapolate to our everyday lives. It's so easy to become disillusioned when a) you have expectations and b) when you have high (or unrealistic) expectations. Socrates said it so powerfully, “What screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be.”

It's not that we're doomed to suffer physically and emotionally like the Japanese who feel let down by their destination. We simply have to become aware of our assumptions and the churning of our mental gears.

By all means expect the best/positivity/joy/peace/fun/happiness, but do not become attached to what this should look like. Just because you expected yourself to be married by 28, don't force relationships or engagements in the last three months before your birthday. You'll most likely be married, just a year or two later than intially thought. If you 'see' yourself working as a digital nomad in Bali, don't dismiss opportunities for remote working in Portugal or Cape Town.

Once you mentally attach to a preferred outcome, you are setting yourself up for potential hurt when "life" happens and your desired situation does not materialise. Also, when you focus too much on what you want to happen or what you want to see, you miss what is actually taking place. Your mind is full and preoccupied instead of you being mindful and present in the moment. Know what you want and wish for in life, but be careful of making your mind's imagery a reality at any cost or at the expense of yourself and/or others.

Fearlining

Tim Ferris, the author of the book The Four Hour Workweek, has a very useful exercise which he calls Fearlining. You focus on a decision that you are considering (e.g. taking 6 months off to travel the world) and explore the worst that could happen if you do it (or don't do it). Another crucial part is to think about the actions you could take to minimize the consequent potential disasters you are concocting in your brain. Every time that I have applied Fearlining, I came to the conclusion that the risks are really not that big and insurmountable as I have believed. If you change your perspective by working through what could go wrong and seeing that the tectonic plates won't shift as a result, you will feel more comfortable to move out of your comfort zone. Check out the video below.

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