Posts tagged self-discovery
Life is a Game
Estimated reading time: 9'

Estimated reading time: 9'

If I had to choose a person in my entourage whose path has impressed me the most, I'd pick Hanine.

Hanine, the guy who, in less than two years...

- Participated in TEDx and other conferences in front of thousands people, but who used to shake in front of his sheet of paper at the board at Uni,

- Trains 3-5x a week and ran a marathon in 4 hours, when he did not understand the point of playing sports a year and a half ago,

- Can go out alone at night and head home with 10 new numbers saved in his phone and make girls fall under his spell with the right one-liners, while upon his first attempts, he was unable to string two words together to a stranger,

This is the guy for whom everything is possible, provided that you see life as a game, don't take things seriously and go full speed.

How did he start his transformation? I asked him directly when I came back to Lille, France, for the holidays.

 

"I did a lot of work on myself when I originally moved from Morocco to France, and I've been a personal-development enthusiast ever since I was 18. I was reading all the books and watching all the videos and documentaries I had at hand.

I wanted to improve my social skills, my EQ and gain self-confidence. I prepared myself before going out for example... The first hits gave me more confidence and it became easier and easier.

Maybe you can now picture me as an extravert or a ladies man, but it has not always been this way :)

The learning process was complex because every time I was working on my social skills, it did not work out in the long run: I was completely dependent on my mood swings. If I had the chance to wake up fresh and energetic, I would work on myself and push myself. On the other hand, if I felt lazy or tired, I would not get anything done.

My energy level was key.

One day, I read one of Tony Robbins books explaining how nutrition can impact your energy levels. It was new for me as I'd only associate healthy food with "weight loss" or "muscle gain", and never thought that it could impact my mental abilities.

At the time I was eating a lot of industrial food. I started each day with 4 or 5 chocolate buns and a soda. Then I'd swallow 5 or 6 coffee cups and vitamin C tablets throughout the day, to try and get those energy levels up... I was looking for supplements to be energetic, without realizing that I was fueling myself with the wrong gas from the start.

That's when I decided to give it a shot and stop eating sugar for a month. No need to take it to the extreme, just one month, to see how it would go.

On the 3rd week, I started to practice sports more intensely. On the 4th week, I started to meditate & stopped watching news.

If I'd describe my life before, I'd go to work, come home, watch a movie and order pizza. On the weekend, I'd get hammered and spend days recovering. If I was depressed during winter, the problem was not just the lack of light, it was also my physiological state. And if I could strengthen it with the proper food, rest and workout, I wouldn't be as impacted by external factors. All of a sudden, after I stopped sugar, I would come home and want to do more meaningful activities.

When I took sugar for the first time again (and I still do, exceptionally), I noticed the switch in my energy and it confirmed that it was the trigger. It gives me a brief peak of energy that then falls back and makes me even more tired during the digestive process.

Think about it.

If I prevent you from sleeping and eating for two days, and I make you watch a masterpiece, say your favorite movie. Are you going to enjoy watching it?

No. Because you aren't physiologically healthy. It's like swimming against the tide.

That's how my 365 days challenge started.

Every day, I'd wake up and think: "what can I do with this excess of energy?"

It wasn't a boost like after a coffee cup, it was a continuous and stable level of energy.

I started googling activities: dance classes, exhibitions, guitar lessons... & eventually gave myself the challenge of doing a new activity each day for a year, and started blogging about it.

People tend to think that the lack of time is the issue. It's not.

I used to waste 25 hours per week watching TV. "I don't have the time" literally means "I don't have the energy". That's the difference between those who have time for their career, friends and family and can be awake for 18 hours, and those who feel like zombies.

If you want to change your situation, see life as a game.

Somebody is likely to have had the same problems as you, so you can look it up. For example, at work: how can you sign more deals? How can you negotiate a raise? Change your perspective and see those obstacles that used to bring you down as fun challenges... That's how I tripled my salary in a year.

In my opinion, the fear of failure is also a fear of losing energy, and it goes back to the basics. You are worried of losing energy if you don't have an unlimited amount of it.

When I look back, I was the first one of my classmates to get an permanent working contract, paid twice the minimal salary, despite being an "immigrant", while others were simply looking for a fixed-term contract, remunerated the bare minimum. It happened because I knew that if I did not find anything, I'd have to leave the country, so I became more creative and staked it all. I accepted rejections and analyzed them to get better. In fact, winning 10% of the time is a huge statistic.

Friends I used to hang out with would say "look at X, he has a Master's degree and is a cashier, I'll never find a rewarding job either..." Those people did not even try and ended up like that too. I did not believe that I was better than anyone else, but I was thinking "they might be right, but I am the producer of my own life". If I got rejected at an interview or with a girl, I'd think "let's rework this and that". I never question myself for who I was and thought "they rejected be because I am Arabic". If you have a limited belief system, you'll limit yourself.

Self-knowledge is probably the best starting point if you want to make changes in your lifestyle.

I see myself as a train that stops at different stations. For instance, if the girl I am attracted to steps on the train, she is the right person for me and this is the right timing, is not, she simply is not and I let go of her, I am not an Uber, i’m not changing my destination, I keep driving until the next station.

The second most difficult part of personal development is acting out. People love to read tips and imagine how their life could be, but once they put their book down, nothing major happens and life goes on at the same pace. I personally have to display originality and creativity on a daily basis, hack my brain so to speak, to be able to take action.

When aiming for personal goals, we usually have plenty of intrinsic motivations, but not enough extrinsic ones that are stimulating (for instance, a boss that will fire you if you do not show up in the morning, competition with your colleagues). So one way to make the process fun  and random is to introduce hazard. At some point of my 365 days-challenge, I put a bunch of ideas in a box and would pick a "mission" to fulfill randomly in the morning. I literally felt like a kid on Christmas Eve!

Also, make sure to have fun. You'll spend more time "on the road", going from point A to B. As long as you have fun on the way, you can go very far, you won't stop at difficulties because you won't be only attached to results. This is what makes the difference between people who give up and those who keep it up.

Finally, prepare for the times you'll be less motivated. I call the doubtful side of me the "little Hanine", and the bolder version of me the "big Hanine"! For example, if I want to wake up early in the morning to work out, I'll prepare my outfit by the bed, socks included, as if I were to prepare items for a four years old. I'll also place my alarm downstairs (I live in a duplex), in case I lose my motivation when 6 AM strikes. Once awake, I'll put my clothes on without even thinking. If you start thinking, that's when you weaken and think: "it's fine, I can miss the gym one time, I'll go tomorrow". 

There's also people who are going to doubt you, or situations that will make you feel like giving up. One thing that boosts me is reading biographies of people I admire, and get inspired by the way they've handled challenges. A good example is Elon Musk, who had to figure out how to pay his employees, in millions of dollars, kept going when everybody thought that he was insane...

I keep on challenging myself every day and am working on an app* to help others do the same, because I truly believe that once you understand how the brain works and start seeing life as a game, anything is possible".

I love the idea of getting outside of our comfort zone to reach our goals. And when looking at Hanine's example, I've understood that it only takes a small step. Wether it is stopping sugar for a month, going to the opera for the first time or saying hello to a stranger, this creates new patterns in our brain that allow us to test new things and get excited rather than scared, and grow. I've actually tattooed a butterfly wing on my wrist that symbolizes just that - the butterfly effect.

Each small step you take may seem insignificant, but it brings you closer to your goals and to a better version of yourself, one wing flap at a time.

There's a quote saying "losers have an objective, winners have systems"... Here are some tips for getting outside of your Comfort Zone successfully:

- Audit your life and find ways to improve your energy levels

- Know yourself

- See life as a game

- Start easy and gradually increase the difficulty

- Act out by implementing various motivational techniques (extrinsic motivators, hazard, planning ahead for weak moments)

- Have fun on the way!

___

*N.B. an app that helps people get outside their comfort zones by sending them daily challenges.

Hanine's blog -> bit.ly/GoodbyeComfortZone

Which challenge are you going to take today to get outside of your comfort zone?
Invest In Yourself
Estimated reading time: 4'

Estimated reading time: 4'

The night I met my new roommate, I had just lost my job and was overly anxious.

After exchanging a few introductions, he told me that he had a lot of energy and could share some with me, preparing a “ball of energy” between his hands — if you can picture that. He approached me and asked to put his hand on my chest. Caught unaware, I accepted. 

After 3 or 4 deep breaths though, and without completely understanding how, I suddenly felt much better, like relieved of a weight...

Intrigued, I asked him if this “energy thing” was magical.

"- I did not believe in this either at first!

- So how did you get introduced to it?

- A few years ago, I started a pursuit of enlightment. I wasn’t a cool kid growing up. I was shy, not good at dating or with friends. I thought I’d have to live with that, that this was engrained in me. Until I learnt that it was possible to master social dynamics, and alter my own energy and vibration. I have learnt certain tricks: eye contact, charisma, confidence, body energy… Those are skills that you can train, like leadership.

In 2014, I had a depression, I felt that I was trapped, hiding behind a mask so friend recommended that I'd go to a landmark farm. It is a transformational workshop consisting in deep psychological work, that helps people break out of their limited beliefs in a group.

This was succesful so I tried other things. I've learned about chakras, I've participated in "Interchange", a counseling program, and the "Authentic Man Program", which teaches you the masculine/feminine dynamics. I've been to naked camps, where everybody opens up and gives love to each other, freely, without the constraint of clothes. I also do daily meditation and yoga for body awareness and have a Tantra lifestyle, which helps being conscious of my energy and the ones of my partners.

There's also the orgasmic meditation. It is another group experience during which you meditate and stroke other people while focusing on body awareness, rather than seeing it as a sexual experience. I used to not be attuned to my "energy body" so this was a vulnerable experience that unlocked emotions the first time: I cried for the first time in 20 years. In other words, you can compare this experience to the healing of your inner child. It also improves your relationships to others. The male gives, and the female receives. Once you do this, you break a lot of fears when it comes to approaching women...

Another impactful experience I've had was with psychedelics: LSD, mushrooms, Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is made from a vine in the Amazon forest — it's cooked and you drink its sludgy liquid, while a shaman calls in the spirit. You feel that "Loving Mother Earth Spirit" enters your body, to heal you psychologically, spiritually and emotionally. You start having visions and puke out energetic patterns. It shows you what you need to see, for example, the next steps you need to take for your company. That's why Ayahuasca is known as the "CEO drug".

I personally had visions of my dad, whom I hadn't seen in 3 years. I bought a plane ticket to meet him and resolve our issues and forgive him. He passed away the following week.

- How can this be explained?

- All those experiences are created by you, your brain in the end, but set up by those activities. You cannot "pretend". Especially the ahayuaska that really gives you very strong body reactions, it is difficult to imagine that it is only the brain making things up.

Also I've once been asked to hold a kryptonite, not knowing the effect it would have on my body. And suddenly I started to feel extremely warm and had to undress, to then learn that kryptonites are full of energy, which spreads into you as you touch them.

- So do you feel like you are done with all those experiences, or are you still in quest for spirituality?

- There are no limits to human capacities, I've grown faster than I ever had, I am on an accelerating ramp. There's always the next workshop to attend, the next article or book to read.

- What have you learned so far?

- That the number one priority as as human is spiritual awakening, not money. I used to be cheap — now I'd rather invest in myself and it is paying off, I am much happier, self confident and can have intimate connections and experiences. The Universe is not random, there is a master plan, and everything is happening FOR us not TO us, so we have to listen to the signs, listen to our bodies and be present, in order to achieve enlightment".

Being Accepted Isn't Your Life Mission
Estimated reading time: 3'

Estimated reading time: 3'

It is commonly known that Swedish people (in particular those from Stockholm) are referred to as “cold” or “not easy to approach”. Having lived there myself for 5 years, I have noticed that compared to other countries, they are indeed not very keen on small talk nor having any sort of interactions with strangers. Just google “waiting for the bus like a Swede” to see for yourself (and crack a smile).

That’s anyways where Patrick grew up. A couple weeks ago, he spent a weekend with his cousin in Copenhagen, and went out to a bar. Despite being originally “hungover, tired, and not in a party mood”, he ended up spending one of the best evenings of his life.

"We went out, had a few drinks, no more than usual, and started to talk to random people sitting next to us, also Swedish. 

First, a guy asked us if the seat next to us was taken, I said “Sure, as long as you turn your back at us and do not talk to us!”, half joking. 

Another one asked to smell my cousin’s drink, and he let her take a sip, which he’d never usually suggest. We all ended up talking for 5 hours until the place closed down, then headed to a club and let loose on the dance floor until it closed at the break of dawn.

It was all a coincidence, everything was just smooth from the taste of the food, to conversations, to the music..."

But was is really just a coincidence? Why did he completely let loose with strangers, for once?

"I just felt a connection with other people I haven’t felt in a long time. I didn’t feel the need to impress, and was 100% myself. I used to convince myself that I did not enjoy meeting new people, because fear was taking over. What if they did not like me? It would have reflected my own low self-esteem. That night, I figured that I had it all wrong. I used to see “being accepted & being special” as my life’s mission, until I accepted that other people’s expectations, opinions and wills were theirs, not mine.

I originally understood this after studying Biocentrism*, which gave me a clear understanding of life, our purpose and relationships. As soon as you stop trying to please everyone, you become your own boss. I feel good about myself now, which means that I can BE myself, and consequently, others can also appreciate my personality, which was confirmed that night. I felt a flush of satisfaction and pride the next morning, which led me to want to start being more social, open, travel more, change my business and do something with my life. Live it to the fullest so to speak".

Living in a society where people have to be someone special, do something special, live to expectations, seems to have a heavy impact on people’s self-confidence in social environments, in particular in Stockholm, according to Patrick’s experience... It made it harder for him to open up and make new acquaintances. But the cocktail of those 3 things seem to do the trick:

  • Having a special connection

  • Letting go of social fears (being abroad, where nobody knows you & you can reinvent yourself, helps, as well as alcohol, the infamous social lubricant)

  • Topped with some background work on self-confidence

_

*NB: Biocentrism is a theory developed by the physiologist Robert Lanza that explains that life creates the Universe, is infinite, and that there are as many realities as there are people.

Don't Wait for Something Drastic to Happen to be Reminded of How Good Life Is
Estimated reading time: 3'

Estimated reading time: 3'

We were on a bus ride to the Russian river when my roommate Rob and I started to discuss about life-changing moments. He is quite a laid-back and private guy, which made the confession of his personal experience all the more intriguing. He got his one day, while on acid (LSD). It was an experience that had never happened with other drugs; other substances he tried would actually make him feel miserable at some point, either physically or mentally. That day, after having swallowed the drug and as the substance started to kick, he started to step deep into his soul, reflecting around his emotions. 

"Drugs help you realise that everything is a result of the decisions you make, including your emotions, your thoughts. Emotions are like a flame on your arm, you can decide to either blow them off or let them burn you.

I also started to become aware of every single cell forming my body, interacting to keep me alive, without having to actively think about it or consciously act on it. Every part of our bodies make us who we are, when all we really know is our skin. While on LSD, your mind is clear, but your visual experience is different, sharper, brighter, bolder, kind of like the screen saver of a computer. 

As I looked at myself in the mirror, I touched the glass, trying to reach out to my reflection, amazed to discover every single detail of my appearance, noticing my facial features, the mannerism of my body, as if it were for the very first time.

When walking around alone, I could see how amazing the world around me truly was, how each little detail had been created with such perfection, and the fact that surprisingly, all seemed to work and make sense".

At that point of the story, I almost wanted to try acid myself, but I focused on the lesson he had learnt: the common denominator of all those emotional, physical and mental disruptions, was a deep feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.

Rob continues: "I, like most people, used to take my comfort and security for granted, from the clothes I wore, to the coffee I drank in the morning. Yet, we were born in a moment of history when the biggest problems of humanity have already been solved: unlimited access to water and electricity, shelter, preventable diseases, to name a few. We forget that we were born into it a world that was not made this way. But we never think about it. Do you ever?

In comparison to the future too, there’s a lot to be thankful for. We do not know how life will look a hundred years forward… Most likely, looking at the current evolution and trends, our lives will become more superficial, social interactions will decrease. We will thrive with our laziness. And virtual reality will take away the journey. For example, let’s say you want to travel, you do not have to go to Australia anymore. You skip the line at the airport and the 30+ hours on the plane. You simply put a VR headset on and it’s like you are there.

The best part of this awakening moment is that Rob has been keeping this sensation ever since:

"I now see the world differently, I realise how small we are in the grand scheme, and I more appreciative of what I have".

We seem to live in a world where everything is taken for granted, where we expect to get everything right here right now, and the more we have, the less we appreciate all the good things we see, own or get to experience. We shouldn’t need to wait for something drastic to happen to be reminded of how good life is and to be thankful for it. Let’s wake up and remind ourselves every day instead.

_

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be informative only and represents solely the personal experience of interviewees. This blog is not meant to promote use of any drugs.