You’ll Probably Think About Something Else While You Read This

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

Yes, I’m still here. And I come bearing news.

News such as the fact that 50% of you won’t finish this article. 90% of you will be thinking of something else while you’re reading it. 100% of you will quickly realise I made these figures up.

So, try something new right now, you saucy go-getter. Focus your attention solely on this article for three minutes.

For this blog, is about being in the moment.

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You, the reader – circa 2018                                     Image credit: me.me

Stressing About Tomorrow is Ruining Your Today

Do YOU spend too much energy worrying about the things to come?

Do YOU fail to enjoy a Sunday night because you’re worried about Monday?

Then YOU, are a worrier. And you’re missing out on the here and now.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes, it pays to think about how we’ll approach certain situations when they come around. Perhaps you have a job interview tomorrow, (you should probably close this and start preparing if you haven’t already) or a big deadline at work next week. By all means, consider how you’ll handle them if they require preparation. But don’t spend too long fretting about it. You need to instead play a game of would you rather.

Would you rather… enjoy the moment you’re in right now, or mull a future event over and over in your head? If you do choose the second option, pretty soon you’ll be too stressed about it to even properly engage in the now.

Take it from the person who once sat at the dinner table at home, quietly having an internal meltdown about his dissertation due in a month’s time. The person who had such a panic, that they booked a train up to university the very next day, two weeks before anyone else went back, to work on said dissertation. And who subsequently got a 60 in that piece of work.

Bit of a waste of time really.

So how do you get yourself out of that rut and into the present moment?

 

Get Some Perspective – Your Problems Aren’t all That

We have a habit of building things up to mean far more than they really do.

Take that deadline at work you’ve probably spent all week stressing about. Your boss has made it seem life or death. They live and breathe their job, and have decided you must share in their worries. So that stress gets passed on to you, and you become caught up in worrying about how you’ll manage to get everything done right and on time. Maybe it’s getting to the point where you’re staring at the ceiling, 12:30AM, midweek, and you just. Can’t. Go to sleep. So, what should you do?

Well, the genius behind innocent smoothies’ revolutionary Tone of Voice has some solid advice here.

Stare out into the cosmos. Remembering how small and accidental you are reminds you that what you’re doing isn’t that serious or difficult.” – Dan Germain

These things on your mind have been faced by people in the past and they will be faced by more people in the future. So take comfort in that, then take yourself back to the here and now. After all, you’re never going to be happy anyway.

Wait, what?

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Yeah, I said it.                                                Image credit: tenor.com

Remember the Pursuit of Happyness?

Half of the message of Will Smith’s 2006 hit movie was in the purposefully misspelt title. “Happy” is merely a temporary state, much like “sad” and “angry”. So in wanting to achieve happiness, you’re effectively pursuing fleeting moments that won’t last forever.

So in order to fully enjoy these moments, you need to be present in them. That means no distractions and that means not being preoccupied with the past or future. By worrying about next week’s workload, you’re affecting your own number of “happy” moments.

If, like me, you don’t know the first place to look for hints on reducing stressful thinking and being more present, try this link.

If you don’t like the link, do your own research.

 

 

 

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Role Models

Celebrities, sports stars, family members, family friends – role models can come from any direction. We may choose our role models based on their attitude, their success or their impact on our lives.

It’s an essential aspect of life to choose appropriate role models. As many modern-day celebrities appear to let their followers down time and again in the media, is it more important than ever to look closer to home for inspiration?

Role Models
Image credit: Role Models

Role Models in the Media – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Growing up with TV, radio and music permeating every inch of our daily lives, it’s difficult not to become attached to some of the characters we encounter. As a child I idolised Spider-Man following the animated series in the early 90s. Our idols can come from fiction or reality – fictional role models can sometimes be more reliable, as their defining characteristics are mostly constant.

We have some fantastic role models to aspire towards in the media today. Many look to names such as The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Kate Middleton, Beyoncé, David Beckham, Lebron James and numerous others. These individuals have all achieved vastly different things in their time, but they are generally united by their positive attitude, hard-earned success and widespread impact.

However, negative role models are emerging faster than ever, thanks to the development of social media allowing fame to be achieved almost overnight for some. This has led to millions of young, impressionable teenagers following people who have questionable attitudes, a limited sense of work ethic and an awful lot to say.

These new stars are prone to making some pretty monumental mistakes. Examples are easy to find:

  • Logan Paul – 15 million YouTube followers, decided it would be okay to film the body of a young man who had recently taken his own life in Japan in 2018
  • Tekashi69 – 15 million Instagram followers, published a video online of a child engaging in a sex act, currently facing jail, yet still commands a cult following
  • The Kardashians – with a whopping 465 million combined followers on Instagram, the celebrity family of our generation have made some pretty high-profile errors. Kendall’s Pepsi ad, Kim’s “diet” lollipops, Rob sharing revenge porn, Kim posing as the virgin Mary… this list could continue for a while

Perhaps you and I will dismiss the above listed names as attention-seeking celebrities, but it would be remiss of us not to recognise the negative impact they are having on today’s youth through the sheer reach social media has given them.

The responsibility for guiding young people away from these role models lies with their parents or guardians. A teenager turning to a role model such as those above is down to a lack of guidance or engagement from those who are meant to watch over them. We’re too quick to take the easy solution today – hand a teenager a phone, keep them scrolling social media endlessly, and assume there’s no lasting impact beyond keeping them busy for a while.

Daily Maverick
Image credit: Daily Maverick

Closer to Home

Family and friends are around us day in and day out in most cases. They’re the driving factor behind so much of what we do, and it only makes sense to keep maintain a healthy circle. And this should extend to our personal role models too.

If you’re lucky, your parents will have set you up with the right role models before you were even born. Godparents can be constantly available for advice, present at every family event and generally be one of the most reliable people in your life. What sets godparents apart is the very fact that they are not your parents, and so are able to maintain a considered distance when giving advice.

I’m fortunate to have three exceptional godparents, who I see regularly to this day. Thanks to my parent’s choices, I have external role models who are positive, hard-working and emotionally intuitive.

However godparents can be hit and miss. Some send a card every year, and eventually disappear into the background never to be seen again. Therefore uncles, aunts and older cousins all carry a responsibility towards their younger relatives. If you smoke, it’s likely you play a part in influencing your nephew or niece to consider smoking. If you drink heavily, the same can be said. The actions we take every day can be, unbeknownst to us, shaping the life of a young person near to us.

Your First Role Models

Our parents provide you with the first insight into adult life. They educate us consciously and unconsciously on how to approach relationships, work, education and strangers. These are the role models we do not choose – no matter the relationship a child has with its parents, as long as they are present they are acting as a role model. This is vital to keep in mind as we get older – some of us will soon have our own children, and if we are not prepared to be role models as well as parents, then our children will be at a distinct disadvantage.

Finally, it’s important to recognise that your parents should be the first role models in an ongoing team. As we grow, role models are added to our lives from all different areas. The benefit of having a number of role models is that no single one is perfect. We can’t learn everything from one person, and when they do fail or falter, we will need to look to others for their examples.

What are Friends For?

Your friends are a reflection on you as an individual.

On more of a positive note than usual, this week I’m talking about keeping a healthy social circle.

But what makes a great friend?

Photo by Daan Stevens from Pexels

Great friends will challenge and support you simultaneously.

Your best friends often know where your strengths and weaknesses lie even better than you do. They will push you towards what you should be doing rather than what is easy, and they’ll also guide you away from making poor choices (like the time I wanted to go into the Music industry).

Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ people, who are more concerned with keeping you happy than making sure you’re striving towards your goals. If you find that there’s occasional friction, that’s not always a bad thing. This probably means your values are being stress-tested by those who have your best interests at heart.

Keep a good mix of friends. Hanging out with all like-minded individuals can leave you in a positive feedback loop. Yes it’s nice to hear how well you’re doing, but you’re not going to learn much new. My idea of a great friendship group has a plethora of different characters. Some are overly positive, or have a wicked sense of humour, or go out too much, or never go out (guilty), some are artistic, and some are all about business.

Photo by Min An from Pexels

So, how important are friends to us?

In 2013 the University of Virginia used MRI scans to monitor brain activity when giving test subjects an electric shock vs. when giving their friends an electric shock. Brain activity when the test subjects themselves were under threat was almost identical to when their friends were under threat. Interestingly, there was no significant brain activity registered when strangers were shocked in front of the test subjects. Our brains react the same way to danger posed to our friends than danger posed to ourselves.

It makes sense that our friends should therefore be considered an extension of ourselves – and hopefully if you have a varied mix, they should be capable of bringing out different aspects of your own personality. In turn, this will help you become a more rounded person.

“When we develop friendships, people we can trust and rely on who in essence become we, then our resources are expanded, we gain. Your goal becomes my goal. It’s a part of our survivability.” – James Coan, U.Va psychology professor

I count myself lucky with the friends that I have, though I know I don’t say it nearly enough. While they can be overtly teasing, I strongly suspect they desire what’s best for me. I used to think my goal for friends should be that they were ‘cool’, perhaps so that others would see me with them and that this reputation might rub off on me. But there isn’t much cool about trying to be something that you’re not. I like comics, History books and Playstation. I’m definitely not cool.

And neither have my friends always been cool. After all, it’s not a criteria for friendship. For instance:

  • One of my best friends spent much of his teenage years chubby and catastrophically shy around girls.
  • One would have a single Kopparberg at pre-drinks, before spending his evening asking girls to kiss him on the cheek in an attempt to pull.
  • One defecated himself in the refectory rather than risk the cut-off time for food, because his mother didn’t raise no quitter.
  • One was quietly sick in his drink on a night out and, when a girl unknowingly asked to try some, he proceeded to gulp down the whole thing so as to avoid the embarrassment of telling her what had transpired.

Sure we weren’t always cool, but we’ve always managed to be confident and relaxed in each other’s company. This has been a critical factor in allowing us to grow into our own individuals. After all, your friends really need only be people who make you happy while challenging you to grow. There shouldn’t be any other criteria.

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Don’t just fall into a friendship group that doesn’t necessarily fit you. Circumstance can be both wonderful and limiting. Provided you’re not a total sociopath, it doesn’t take much to make new friends, and it can make a huge difference to your life. If you don’t feel supported in your goals, or don’t feel any drive from those around you, you could be in the wrong circle.

Once you have this sorted, so long as you’re looking after those in your social circle, you’re sure to always have people around to look after you. A little bit of give and a little bit of take.

After all, that’s what friends are for.