We are What We Choose

We are What We Choose

My mother recently had a major surgery to remove a gigantic tumour from her abdomen. It was quite a traumatic thing to go through for us, her children. It turns out that nothing else is scarier in your entire mother daughter relationship than not knowing whether your mother will be dead or alive in a matter of mere hours while she is in the operating table. My sisters cried from the overwhelming flood of emotions, mainly worry, fear, and deep compassion for my mother’s pain. Surprisingly for such a cry baby I am, I managed to hold back mine, instead, I got into my usual crisis management mode, which is iron clad focus, research, and rationale. I had to have information, anything to help me understand and plan a course of action, I needed my reason and a way ahead to know how to handle this situation. So, I googled hard to find information on survival rates in old people who go through similar surgeries, eliminated every seemingly impossible outcome from the pages and pages of descriptions out there in the cyber world, bribed the nurses who had access to the OR and afterwards to the ICU to get me live news from the operation table. It worked, any information was better than not knowing and sitting there in anxiety and worry silently listening to loudly (in our heads) ticking clock. We coped together as much as we could.

My elderly mother is not the easiest person to persuade to do something or anything really. She is very stubborn, a blessing and a curse I too carry in my blood. So, every time we asked her to take care of her health and see a doctor, she would always say “leave me alone, I lived my life and if I die, it is ok”, this has been her response to any hints of any possible change in her daily routine for the past many years. But this time when she got the diagnosis that she had a mass completely occupying her abdominal cavity, and she has very limited chances to survive if she doesn’t act immediately, she reacted differently. She chose to fight, and fight she did with vigour, determination, and great deal of courage.

We the children were positively surprised, she even repeatedly reassured us that she is going to be ok and that we shouldn’t be scared, that she normally heals fast. Her usual negativity was completely replaced with optimism and hope for the best. After all, I learned to be strong minded woman with strong will from HER!

Her will to fight got me thinking…

Do we all have to have a life or death wake up call to take actions to change the things which are not working in our lives?! To finally gather that courage to be strong and make the hard decisions and get out of our comfort zones?! Heal the pain, get over the past, and look forward to the best future?! Life is precious at any age, and we all get only one life to make it count. Until there is a chance to live on, we keep choosing life over death, such is the survival instinct of all human beings.

So, what does it take for us to act proactively, and not to actually leave it until it is almost too late? Sometimes our brains seem to trick us by making us think that we can re-live our lives, that there is plenty of time to make up for those things which we never got around to do, for those lost opportunities we never dared to take. To read that book, to launch that business, and to learn that new skill, to stand up for ourselves, and say: “enough, my life is as important as yours, stop abusing me and my space!”

What is holding you back to get up and just do it and change one small boring thing at a time.

What is that wakeup call you need to live the life you deserve?! To free yourself from the chains of comfortable misery and to break through the cage of fear?!

The good news is that there is always a way to change your course of action to see immediate differences. You just need extra big courage to decide to act and not to be afraid of failure. Think of the failure as a test run for your efforts. Choose to live, not just drag through the days with this enormous yearning on your shoulders.

I certainly am not a stranger to such despair and loss of hope at times. Sometimes I simply cannot cope with the hardships without falling into the traps of negativity and hopelessness. But it always help me to bounce back when I make an effort to choose life over death, action over stagnation, and failure over regret.

Voices Till Dawn

Voices Till Dawn

Finding voice…It’s a funny phrase; find your voice… most of us are born with our vocal cords intact as infants, and even when we don’t know how to speak yet, we make ourselves heard with our voice…

Of course, then the adult life has a totally different meaning to ‘having a voice’. It is especially important for girls to have their voice, all the social and patriarchal conditioning force girls lose their voice from an early age, or not to use it at all… “Good girls don’t speak loudly” they say… “No one marries a girl who speaks her mind” they say… “a lady doesn’t argue with men” they say… And there you go; in the smack middle of our adulthood, we find ourselves in a place where we don’t even know who we are and what we want anymore. And if we know what we want, we don’t voice it out loud, and we don’t know how to pursue that without walking on eggshells. If we see injustice being done to us, we don’t voice our fight for justice.

These past few weeks have been a knockout setback for women’s rights and equality. What is with the Taliban taking over beautiful Afghanistan and abusing women and doing everything possible to make them invisible, turn them into silent, childbearing furniture at home as we speak. Women losing their rights to their own body in Texas with abortion law banning abortion for unwanted or unhealthy pregnancies, even if the girl is a child or raped, sometimes by their own family members, the law which sentence them for lifetime of trauma and torment…

But we can’t and shall not put up with that. If the patriarchy is prevailing and intensifying its grip on controlling women around the world, it is not because they are right! It is because they are wrong, and they know it very well that they are in the wrong. Because they know it very well that a woman with a VOICE is powerful, a woman who speaks her mind and does not stay silent in the face of injustice is invincible. So, find your voice, shout it from the rooftops, use it until you are heard, until you get to the purpose of your soul.

Five Ways to Boost Your Motivation

Five Ways to Boost Your Motivation

The summer is already over, the very scorching hot summer that we had! Can you believe it? It was just like yesterday that we all vowed to make changes to our lives, learn new habits, and unlearn the bad old ones! Make a big list of New Year resolutions, write up the names of the places we want to visit, quit our jobs and chase our dreams, make them a success and live a happy life.

How come then it is already the way past into the second half of the year, and we still find ourselves yearning for a different life, different day and new dreams?! The list we’ve made has turned into a faint and hazed blur of lines. We easily shrug it off or block and lock them deep into our minds saying it was an impossible list, and that we are not ready to lose the job, chase the dream and become the person we want to become.

So how do we ever change then? How do we ever make things happen, roll with the flow? I have some tips to share, if you are curious, then keep reading.

Tip #1 Don’t do it alone!

We humans like all the other creatures are a herd nation. We thrive when we are surrounded with likeminded people. Like good old saying: “misery does need a company”, but so does creativity and motivation. Yes of course, you can do the thinking and fine-tuning part alone, but all the discussions, sharing and listening can so nicely light up your creative part of your brain. In other words, if you want to change any habits, or learn something new, find your herd, your own tribe, and let the evolutionary science to kick in and put your brain into motion. (No wonder why in work places the toxic environment can affect the productivity and the quality of work decline over time, the only inspiration you can get from toxic people who want to control your creative and productive process is to finally say “fuck it, I deserve better” and leave…!)

Science does support that grouping with likeminded people actually boosts our confidence, lowers stress, anxiety, and fear. The key word here is the likeminded if you’ve been socialising with people who do not support or judge and criticize your ambitions and dreams, it won’t do any good for your will to overcome your insecurities and move forward. Ruthlessly ditch them and never look back. Of course, it is harder if those kinds of people are actually your own family members. You may not be able to ditch them for good, but you can definitely do damage control and compensate with choosing your friends carefully.

Tip#2 Tame the Fear

I cannot stress this enough how important of a feeling fear is. Yes, it is our primal, most evolved, most dominant instinct! Why?! Because it keeps us alive and safe, especially women. It sheds a light to potential dangers from miles away, warns us against harms and evil. And be prepared for fight or flight. But that’s it that should be all of its function! To support you when needed, give you strength when you have to run for life, but never ever control your free will and your limited time in this life! And if it is controlling your every decision and crippling your every step, then it has gotten out of proportion, it is not saving you anymore, it is caging you. So tame it, tame it hard and uncage yourself, bring the balanced level of fear and make a room for your other feelings, like love, taking (measured and carefully rationalized if you are like me who has too much fear) risks, seeking some adventures, chasing your dreams, and making your life colourful and find a purpose (or more than one!)

Tip #3 Dream your Vision!

Ok, so this one is important. Why?! because every quest starts from a dream, the world’s most amazing discoveries, beautiful arts, science, engineering achievements like airplanes, trains, cars, flying cars, space, deep of oceans, they were all products of a vast dreamland of some great humans. The world is moved by dreamers and risk takers, not comfort seekers and judgers, who are too scared to leave their cosy boredom. So, don’t be afraid of dreaming, dream big and dream a lot, not all of them will come true anyway (what?! Yes, I am a dreamer, but I also live in a real world with limited time and resources, so one needs to prioritize!). If you forgot how to dream, then try and reinvent it for yourself, seek out inspiration, read inspiring books. Don’t bother with the movies as much, very rarely movies stick to our cognitive mind. Scientifically our imagination works and develops much better when we receive the information through reading than watching. why?! Because your brain works harder to imagine the let’s say colours, emotions, sound and the temp of the music, shapes, locations, landscapes, sceneries, so on and on. As opposed to movies where everything is ready made for us, we are just watching movie makers’ creative imagination, it is like a junk food, too easy and too much and does very little good for our minds.

Tip #4 Always try to grow!

Duh, this one is not a brainer, of course we grow! Older wiser, stronger (maybe not physically but emotionally). But I mean, always keep nurturing your life machines, your mind, your body, and soul. This holy trinity can take you through anything, and I mean anything, if they are strong and resourceful enough, you can come out of any situation unscathed at best, and with the least losses and quick recovery at worst. Discipline your time, keep your curiosity alive, you don’t have to have twenty-eight different careers, but you can definitely try and see what other people are spending their time and energy on. You can try new activities, whether it is sports, arts, or science lectures, or a yoga retreat. Remember nothing in this world is a separate and segregated and have a detached life span. Everything is interconnected and scattered pieces of a big picture like a jigsaw puzzle. The more you learn about different aspects of the world, the more knowledgeable and skilled you will become. Yes, we all have too many commitments, to our families, friends, never ending jobs and “most importantly” our social media life… but try to invest and try hard to make time for your self-development. And if you absolutely have a very restricted time, then choose three activities: reading, exercise and meditation, and aim for at least three times a week. You have no excuse or justification to neglect the most important asset in your life: YOURSELF!

Tip #5 Plan small and big!

This one is a little bit harder for me to preach because I’m not the most organised person. I don’t write down my plans, if I do, I never remember where I put them anyway. My plans are always in my head, repeated, refined, and rehearsed relentlessly. Although with age and so much social freaking media distractions, I can’t remember anything anymore, so I am slowly getting into habit of writing them down and put them in a visible place so I can find them again. But it is important to have a plan and have your own process of making that plan stick and work. You can break down your tangible dreams and visions into small, achievable milestones. I say in order to keep your mind healthy and spirits high, don’t tie yourself up to every detail of your plan, because that can be a FastTrack to failure, and you might end up giving it all up all together very quickly. Plans are there just to map out your journey, they are not the ones which lead you through your life, you are the one who use those plans to go through your life. And the plans and milestones can be fluid and adjustable. By making them bulletproof, but at the same time flexible, you will make yourself a favour to prevent failure which then might damage your confidence and make you hesitant to try again. One of the best advices I received during my internship from one of the leaders in the organisation was to always have a plan A, plan B, C and even D. If one fails, you can quickly turn to the next best available option of action. I think I should also point out to prevent confusion that plans are not your end goals. While you should have your goals and visions fairly steady, plans are the ways a process which will lead to the achievement of your ultimate vision. Hence, they need to be kept fluid and flexible. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect failure free plan, the best things in life have been invented or achieved through trial and error of many times. If a plan could work perfectly well and flawlessly, we would have invented everything under the sun millions of years ago. Even several lifetimes were required for certain things to be developed and achieved. So, forget the notion of a perfect plan, or a perfect skill, self, etc. just ditch anything which starts with perfect. It is very limiting and final after all. If something starts with perfect, then why even bother to change it right?!

And here is a bonus one!

Bonus tip: You must take the decision to act. You can dream and plan every detail of every single wish you have ever had, but ultimately you will have to get off your comfortable chair and start from somewhere. And if you don’t know where to start, as the King in Alice in Wonderland would say: “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop…”

Faded Shadows

Faded Shadows

The first thing I remember about my father is his loud and infectious laugh, I remember how he would burst out with his loud voice in almost incontrollable laughter which would fill in the space.

I remember how it was terrifying when he wasn’t feeling humorous… I always thought it was fascinating this is the only memory I have about this time we spent together.

I remember the intense smell of grass and the harsh sensations it made me feel on my skin. I remember the butterflies bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. I remember how I was running in this wildly thick meadow elated with excitement and thrill. I remember I went too deep into the grass chasing the colourful butterflies.

It is as if it happened yesterday how I felt the iron lock on my forearm, and I looked up to see my father not smiling. I remember how he didn’t say a word and led me back to the camp.

I remember the fear I felt from his unspoken words, I remember the thrill and excitement disappeared and the dread replaced its place. I remember how I waited for the punishment to come, but it never did.

I remember how we burnt potatoes in the charcoal of the barbeque. I remember how they were delicious, and I wanted more.

I remember the Russian kid.. until this moment I don’t know if he was a boy or a girl with his cropped hair and shorts.

I remember how my father’s loud snore didn’t let me fall asleep for a long time at nights. I remember how I was the only person awake in the entire camp site and I could hear the water streaming behind our tent.

I remember that water stream was the place I washed my face in the morning, and how it jolted me up fully awake. I remember how the water was crystal clear, the stream running down all the way from the mountains. I remember how I didn’t like washing my face.

Somehow, I do not remember the way back home, nor do I remember how we gathered our things, how we got back on the busses. I don’t recall any moments of the long drive, change of transport. I don’t remember at all whether we stopped for bathroom breaks, did we eat anything on the way back? No, I do not have those memories.

But I remember my father! Strong, menacing, confident…

Understanding Fear

Understanding Fear

Today I wanted to talk about confidence and how to overcome our fears and doubts.

Success is all about confidence, “It is easy to say, because you are confident” I hear a lot. The answer is I’m not, I’m like everyone else with doubts, questions, insecurities, and fear. Lots of fear, but I prioritize them, I prioritize what is important and constructive, and what is not helpful, has no validity and no value. That helps me put things into perspective and check if my fears are well founded or just something I can easily brush off. Confidence is learned, not given. Let’s put it in a context now.

Imagine you are at home alone or with your kids, and you think there is an intruder in your house. What is your first reaction? Do you hide under the bed, under the cover, or perhaps you lock yourself in a closet or try to escape through the back door if you have any, jump off the window if you are close to the ground. Ok these are all well figured flight or fight responses humans have developed throughout the evolution. So in any of this situation what would be your second response? You probably would evaluate the situation once your immediate safety is more or less provided, be it under the cover, or you jumped off the window. You perhaps would double check if there is really an intruder in your house, so maybe you call the police, or perhaps you decide to take your own action and arm with a baseball bat and go to see what is happening out there in the other corner of your house. You turn on the lights, clench your muscles to be ready to fight off whatever is expecting you out there.

So these are all available safeguarding steps you can take to face your fear, you either fight or you flee, such is our human survival, such is the survival instinct of every being on the planet because if you leave it unattended for too long, it can be devastating or complicated for your safety. You must face the situation either way.

In life it is exactly the same. In these modern days we do not fight bears, we do not fight a large mammoth to hunt, or we do not run from a sabre-toothed tiger to save our lives. The enemy is pretty much internal. The monsters we need to deal with have become internalised in the form of our cultural, family and social backgrounds. Throw into the pile our own personalities, childhood traumas (who hasn’t have them really..?) and you get the whole package of monsters and ghosts from a nightmare.

However, our response to the threats which can undermine our physical or mental safety remains the same. The fight or flight may take a different form, but the concept hasn’t evolved that much from the caveman times. So how do we adopt it to the modern-day challenges? Well, here are few steps I take, this is my process of dealing with my fears:

Fear #1 “What will people think/say?”

Well absolutely anything and everything. This is why people have brains, mouth, ears, to think and say. Based on their own perspectives, own knowledge, skills, and experiences, but what is the added value for you in it? Will you solve your problem if you base your actions to accommodate what people think or say? If it does, if your monster can be defeated by that, by all means, listen to what people say, or consider what they think. But if it does not, then you still have the monster or the intruder to deal with, and you can no longer hide under the bed or be locked outside of your house.

Fear #2 My situation will not allow it.

Ok, fair enough, but what exactly is your situation? Which aspects of it will not allow you to overcome your monster? If you truly and honestly evaluate your situation and see the aspects which need to be fixed, which then can enable you to allow it, this will become your tool to overcome your monster. The truth is everyone has a situation of some sort. Financial situation, health situation, family situation, you name them, and they fall under your feet in abundance. I had my whole 10 seasons of tv series worth situations. And believe me those situations will never help to solve the situation. You help it, only you can solve that situation. And using those lists as an excuse again and again didn’t help me like at all to get out of them. If one thing they did, it was to drag me down deeper into those situations.

Fear #3 I have no funds or resources to fix this.

I know, it really sucks when you don’t have money, it feels scary to think about not being able to meet the ends. It feels intimidating to see all those rich people flaunting their expensive wealth and behave like total arses and you truly believe those people are ‘chosen’, God’s luckiest creatures on earth. And the sun and the moon rise up their eyeballs (putting it in nice words). If you truly believe that this is the truth, that unless some miracle happens and you dug out a hidden chest filled with gold coins mixed with human flesh somewhere in your garden, you will never see more than a dime in your pocket, then you are in deep shit to climb out.

Well, I don’t believe in miracles, at least not the types which say the water turns into wine and you can turn your house into a castle with a magic wand… Here is the thing: Money is a made-up thing, repeat after me: MONEY IS A MADE-UP THING! Anyone and everyone can have it. You just need to do a bit of thinking and lots of working for it.

All the people who are self-made rich, successful, and ‘lucky’ have done it, and so can you. You just need a good planning of what you can and cannot do. Ok, a fair point to consider: This one can be tricky based on your location. Harsh, but true. I work a lot with people whose physical liberties are limited, or people who live in completely devastated and impoverished economies with no infrastructure, not much possibility of livelihoods. But all in all, money is the means to the end, in other words, you need money to be able to get certain things done, have, improve, etc. And it might seem so, but it still is not a holy grail, if other people managed to get it, so can you. But you need to put things into perspective, and identify the ways how you can get money (with good, honourable and honest ways, not the criminal ways, duh) so by evaluating your own resources and intellectual assets you can get the money too. Increase your income. Always remember, working hard is not embarrassing, owing too much money or being held back by the lack of it, is much harder dilemma. Because we only live once and if there is a chance to improve it, we should give our all to make it work, make it a success. It will not be easy or instant, but hard work and investing in your mental and intellectual assets will always, always pay off in one or the other way.

So, come up with a short term and a long-term income generating plan. Maybe what you really want is to become an astronomer, but there is no way to get the right education without enough funds. Well set up a timeline and always be ready to review and adjust it, and work and do things which you don’t want to do for long term. The path to your dreams is not always straightforward, you may get off the course, but if this is what you really want, you will get back to your path again. And everything you learn along down the line will give you the tools to shorten the journey to your dream.

Fear #4 I’m too old…

This I hear often about pursuing a change in career or acquiring new skills or education. Well you are still breathing, right? And you are still thinking and yearning about a change in your situation, let it be career related, or something else. It is your life and you probably heard it before, but here is the news for you in case you haven’t. You only live once! With each breath you take, the clock is ticking. Doesn’t matter if you are still you in your twenties, fifties or sixties, you should start changing your situation. You may have ten, twenty or fifty years ahead of you. If you are forty something, ok change may not happen as fast as it was happening when you were twenty, but in grand scheme of things, it still happens. You might learn slower, you might have less time, but you still can do it. Ask it from those refugee women who never crossed the border of their villages their entire lives, and they had to rescue their children and run for their lives… In fact, the change is the only constant in this universe and any stability you think you have is an illusion. Your uncomfortable comfort will not be able to stop the clock. Of course, by all means, reassess that, some of us are just happy with that steady, slightly boring routine, and complain because there isn’t real and fast threat to knock us out of that comfort zone. If this is you, then it is absolutely fine to carry on. There is no judgement or extra suggestion to make you change anything in your life. This blog post is for those who really want to change something unsatisfactory in their lives and need some motivation.

So, it’s up to you to ride that ship- your life. Either you do it, or someone else will do it for you and you may not like the ride, because it might be too bumpy, or you get nauseated. If you are stuck at unhappy marriage, jobs, small spaces and generally in a rut, then now is the time for you to act, not tomorrow, not yesterday. It is now! You take a deep breath and say to yourself: “I want to be happy again”, I want to be … again. Up to you to fill in the blank and say whatever it is you want to achieve. Remember! The change doesn’t happen in a comfortable, boring, repetitive course of life. Not to get too philosophical but remember the good old big bang theory?! The entire world has come to existence under a huge explosion and lots of hell broke loose in uncomfortable chain of events…

Fear #5 I don’t know where to start…

Well, how about you start at the very beginning! Start changing one thing, your process of thinking! Replace all the can’ts and don’ts with cans and dos. Start slowly if it is more comfortable, but start it, do not delay it any longer, you can even contact me if you want to start growing your mind and changing your perception again. Listen to the loud ticking of the clock! Your ultimate judge!