Life is a Game
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