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Managing and overcoming the effects of stress

Relax wherever you are.

Stress at work is one of the leading causes of sick leave. Overwork, sometimes burnout the syndrome, causing extreme fatigue and exhaustion due to the wear and tear of hard labour.

Definitions of Stress

There are several definitions of stress. Hans Selye defines it as “tensions … triggered by disruptive events.” He sees “potentially destructive forces” and speaks of “stress state” to describe “physical changes caused by a stressful situation.”

Stress is also a physiological impact (sweat, heart and breathing) and psychological effect (anxiety, sleep disturbances) reactions when a person is subjected to change in a situation.


Simply put, stress is that feeling you experience when you are faced with a situation you do not think you can cope with properly. It causes a sense of unease. It is like a reflex of the body that acts against external aggressions.

Flee, Fight,  Inhibition or Despair

Faced with what human beings perceive as a threat, the innate responses are flight, fight, or despair. Stress can help mobilize physical and mental forces. It brings readiness to combat. But it can also make people lose their means and hinder their actions. They decide to flee.  A prolonged stress situation depletes the body and leads to fatigue that promotes diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, depression, chronic anxiety, etc.

Holistic Stress Management

When you are stressed, there is a break in the normal balance. You will learn several methods to free yourself from stress and regain balance and good health. These methods are as seen below:

A holistic approach will consider the specific needs of various aspects of our being: body, mind, heart, intellect, and soul.

  1. First, there is a need for auto-diagnostic, a need to identify and understand stress sources.
  2. Be aware of the mechanisms of the mind to manage better emotions and thoughts. Stressful thoughts fuel negative emotions, which can lead to negative actions and consequences. Learn to stop toxic thoughts and replace them with positive and uplifting thoughts.
  3. Act on the intensity of stress to reduce its adverse effects. Make a pause, breath, and restore yourself to a state of calmness. Learn breathwork where you understand the necessity of inhaling and exhaling. Breath in peace, breath out all the tensions.
  4. Communicate effectively to share your messages under challenging situations. Mastering the art of communication can be a way to establish a meaningful relationship free from stress.
  5. Manage effectively conflict to eliminate stress. There are various ways of solving disputes and stop stress linked to conflict management. You can resolve the conflict by collaborating and reaching a win-win solution. But you can also try:
  6. D = Describe what has happened.
  7. E = Emotions: It is essential to explain how you feel and understand your emotions.
  8. S = Solutions: Look at all the solutions possible to solve the conflicts.
  9. C = Conclude: Resolve the conflicts and bring this to a successful conclusion.
  1. Exercise daily if you can otherwise, at least four times a week with intensity.
  2. Have a great diet and eat nutritious food to be in good health. Let food be thy medicine.
  3. Practice mindfulness and daily meditation to reach a state of peace.
  4. Sleep at least 8 hours a week.
  5. Learn the various practices of relaxation. I have found Yoga Nigra, one of the best forms of relations. You will below my record of a relaxation:

https://florineclomegah.com/2018/01/19/practice-relaxation-to-alleviate-stress/

  1. Practice effective time management to save energy. To be in control of your schedule will help you prioritize your tasks. Have a vision board with life, yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Buy a planner where you write your tasks and accomplishments.
  2. Personal and professional effectiveness improves your organization.
  3. Know your strengths and weaknesses to avoid the pitfalls of stress. Keep on learning and developing your skills after a robust analysis of your work, competences, and personalities.
  4. Create your stress management plan to end stress. Have a great strategy to deal with tiredness, exhaustion to avoid burnouts by including all the points above.

In conclusion, it is possible to have a life free of stress by using the above holistic stress management tools.  Choose a few that you can practice daily with consistency, and slowly you will reach a state of peace from all stress.

How to improve your self-esteem

Click to see Maslow’s pyramid of needs

How to improve your self-esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself and what you think about yourself. It is essential to have healthy Self-esteem.

Healthy self-esteem means that you have a realistic assessment of who you are.

Being proud of your achievement, and knowing who you are is essential. However, it is not arrogance or megalomania or a narcissistic feeling about one’s importance, etc.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is rooted in a negative feeling about oneself, feeling that you are terrible, hopeless, a looser, etc. It is all about self-criticism, which is the destructive voice inside your head. Life will be that much simple if you love yourself. Too many people suffer from low self-esteem and are unhappy.

The criticism, whether negative criticisms or self-criticism, does not help.

1. Negative criticism – Do not get upset; say ‘thanks for sharing’; avoid a fight and move forward. Do not sink into depression or self-doubt. Hearing criticism can start with the parents, family, and society. Making a child feel unworthy from early childhood will lead them to become adult with love self-esteem. Negative stereotypes linked to race, gender or social stigmatization can create low self-esteem. Negative criticism can be destructive and have a long-lasting impact.

2. Self-criticism does not help the situation but rather reinforce the feeling of helplessness.

Sometime, a child may end believing in all these negativities and develop low self-esteem. It becomes self-criticism. It is primordial not to dwell on self-criticism; you have made a mistake, recognize it, put remedial actions in place and then move forward.

3. constructive criticism

Constructive criticism, whether from self or others, should be welcomed. Imagine someone who drinks and drives, and it is vital to let him or her know that he or she can cause death, accident, and drive only when sober. In this case, it is a lifesaving criticism to say it is wrong to drink and drive. It is alright to criticize one-self if it happens. It is vital to recognize one is failing and put in remedial actions.

 How to improve one’s self-esteem.

It is essential when you have not done anything wrong or harmful to build your self-esteem and develop a robust system to boost your self-esteem and confidence. Self-confidence is a great help in achieving success. It is primordial to believe in yourself and your talent.

How to build good self-esteem.?

  1. Self-praise – Be your best friend, and always have something positive about yourself in mind. Recognize your value. Recognize that you are not average but great, talented, competent, virtuous, energetic, and whatever beautiful qualities you embody. Be your greatest supporter and cheerleader.
  2. Positive inner Self-dialogue – People with low self-esteem will have a ‘little voice’ in the back of their head, constantly telling them they are not good enough, and they are going to fail. Often there is a harmful habit of self-criticism build for many years, and it is high time to change the inner dialogue. You can change your thoughts with consistency and think that you are brilliant, talented, fabulous, and soon you will become what you think. Therefore, the power of thinking cannot be underestimated but must be used to elevate oneself. Descartes said, Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore, I am. Our existence is defined by the quality of our thoughts and intentions.  When we repeat the same ideas in our minds, we take the same actions too. This creates a habit pattern that plays a dominant role in our life. A positive inner dialogue brings a quality of life that leads to high self-esteem and greater happiness.

When suffering from low self-esteem, positive self-talk can counter these negative thoughts with positive ones, reaffirming your worth, focusing on your excellent point, and remembering your accomplishments.

  • Self-love. Love is the most incredible power which exists in this world. Love thy neighbour as yourself shows clearly that the first commandment is about self-love as a precondition, even before loving our neighbour.
  • Self-knowledge. Delphi’s temple clarifies that one of the sources of happiness, contentment, and accomplishment is the knowledge of oneself. With the words “know thy self,” the oracle of Delphi shared a gem from her store of priceless wisdom. A good understanding of oneself is essential in all businesses—spiritual or secular. The knowledge of self involves having a good awareness and knowledge of the body, mind, and spirit. In the professional domain, it means accurately knowing your aptitudes, competencies, strengths, and weaknesses.  It is necessary to have a realistic vision of ourselves. Too big a gap between reality and perception creates disappointments.
  • Self-respect. The dictionary defines respect as a feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard, esteem. Self-respect means that you show regards to your thoughts, take into consideration your emotions and feeling.
  • Self-care. Many people live with low self-esteem. Too many other people are simply indifferent toward themselves. Take care of your appearance.  Dress well, speak well, play well your part in the social. Eat well: Nutrition can make a massive difference to the way you feel about yourself and improve your complete well-being. Take vitamins, increase your energy levels, but also Exercise. It is suitable for the body, mind, and soul. Exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle. Sleep at least 8 hours a night. Your self-esteem will improve by exercising, simply because you will improve your physique, making you more attractive and capable. Ensure you have a healthy relationship with work and money to enable you to save and live well.
  • Self-actualization. In Maslow’s pyramid, once the basic needs are satisfied, the physiological one must fulfil love and self-esteem before reaching self-actualization. To be self-actualized means realizing our highest potentials. It is the tangible achievements of our personal goals, gaining knowledge, and living a mindful and meaningful life. It is about inner and outer beauty and balance. The time of self-actualization is about personal growth and fulfilment. When we are self-actualized, we are accomplished and fulfilled. We have realized our highest potentials. Humans seem their happiest when they have fulfilled their needs and have achieved self-actualization.
  • Practice meditation and Mindfulness. Have a spiritual practice that helps you cope with daily life stress. Repeat daily that you are resilient and capable of dealing with anything life may throw at you. Meditate and realize your true self. Take time for self-introspection and contemplation on the nature of the self. It could ultimately lead to self-realisation and self-actualisation, the highest level of attainment.
  • Practice self-compassion, be kind to yourself. Kindness is underrated. Practice Metta Loving Kindness, Meditation and Gratitude, daily.
  • Embrace sustainable life changes. Spend time in nature to benefit from the Healing Power of Nature. Embrace country walks, time in the garden or the park.

In conclusion, it is essential to cultivate self-respect, self-care, self-love, self-knowledge, and a habit of frequent self-praise to develop healthy self-esteem. This will deliver us from low morale, depression, and feelings of unworthiness. Too many people are depressed because of constant self-criticism—that destructive little voice in their head that feeds them a copious amount of negativity all day. Self-love, self-respect, self-nurturing, and self-praise are great happiness boosters.

It is also essential to maintain a clean inner space, avoid unnecessary mental discussion, and cultivate inner peace. The more you work on yourself, the sooner you will achieve a healthy sense of self, leading to self-actualization and fulfilment.

The Laws of effective Time Management

The Laws of effective Time Management

Knowing the laws of time management will make you more effective and improve your life quality if you keep these laws in mind. Many of you know the Law of Pareto and the 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle states that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes (the “vital few”). This 80/20 rule helps us focus on the essential. Knowing the Pareto Principle’s efficiency, I have shared below some of the fundamental laws of time that will help you manage your time better, set your priorities rightly, account for your accomplishments, and achieve work and life balance.

1. The Carlson Law -Reduce InterruptionsMinimise interruptions. Let people know on Outlook or the company organiser that you are busy and do not wish to be disturbed unless it is urgent. Request people for a meeting at a specific time so you can manage your time effectively and spare yourself from unwarranted interruptions.
2. The Douglas law – Bringing order into the office.Organise your desk in an orderly manner to avoid delays in searching for documents.
3. The Ecclesiastes Law – Vary work activities.Avoid routine! Vary your activities; do not always do the same work. It is important to do different things at different times. Plan your day following your biological rhythm or chronobiology. Schedule important work when your body is alert and you are most active, i.e., between 9:30 am, 11:30 am, and between 3 pm and 5 pm. Avoid planning an essential job on Friday at 3 pm if your office closes at 5 pm.
4. The Illich law – Take breaks. Pause and reflect!Do not hesitate to take breaks to recharge the batteries. Enjoy the pauses. Rest, restore, and nurture the body, mind, intellect, and heart!
5. The Laborit Law – Do the most challenging work first.Delay Gratification. Do not procrastinate! Tackle the hardest task first, as putting in the right amount of effort into a job is indispensable. Talent alone does not always suffice! Do not eat the cherry on the cake first. Try not to be like the kids who cannot stop playing, so they neglect their homework. Rather, be like the ones who do their homework first so that they can enjoy the remaining hours for play. Learn to respect your duties and start your work promptly.
6. Murphy’s Law -Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.It is all about setting aside a little time for the unexpected. Anything can happen, so when we plan our day, it is essential to provide alternatives and set aside a margin of our time to cope with the unexpected. Be ready for crises and challenges, and trust your ability to face it all!
7. Pareto’s Law –80% of the effects come from 20% of the causesThis Law is concerned with the focus on the essential. It is the 80-20 rule: 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population. 80% of business profits come from 20% of the customers. 80% of the profits come from 20% of the time spent on work. These are the value addition times that need to be carefully monitored. So, while we focus on the 80% that will bring results, we should also focus on the essential, the 20% that will deliver results.
8. Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Parkinson’s Law is the outcome of the adage of Cyril Northcote Parkinson, and it is a reminder to set deadlines. Work fits the time allotted; therefore, it is better to set clear deadlines to do a job and complete it within the allocated time. It is good to break your tasks into small portions to finish at a fixed time. It is all about planning and organisation.
9. Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.This Law means that it often takes more time to accomplish things than we initially thought. The only way to estimate correctly how long a task will take is based on research and experience. Factories are good at estimating the production time of a commodity. Nowadays, due to frequent delays, businesses, in general, have started monitoring the time taken to complete tasks. For example, buildings’ construction is often delayed for months or years due to adverse weather conditions and other unforeseen situations. Hence every worker should ideally plan their day by allotting an estimated time to complete tasks, knowing that it may sometimes take a little longer or maybe finish before time. 

Compassionate Leadership

Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on February 111990.

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” Nelson Mandela.

I was enlightened this week to reflect on compassionate leadership and the importance of leading from a place of love and compassion.

What is Leadership?

There are various definitions of leadership. This includes influence, empowerment, deep connections, etc.

  • According to Peter Drucker, leadership is “someone who has followers.”
  • Bill Gates looks at leadership as “those who will empower others”.
  • John Maxwell posits that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less”.
  • “Leadership is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory and when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership”. Nelson Mandela.
  • “Leadership is not just some empty formula but establishing deep connection at soul levels through service, integrity, passion, perseverance and equanimity.” ― Amit Ray, in Mindfulness Meditation for Corporate Leadership and Management.

Vision, Momentum, and Charisma

A leader has the vision, the energy, and the drive to succeed a tremendous amount of charisma. Charismatic leaders can change the world.

The Vision

Nelson Mandela’s vision of ‘one man, one vote’ led to the destruction of the apartheid system, where black men in the rainbow nation could vote as citizens of South Africa and bring to the end one of society’s most destructive models. A leader must have a vision that can change the world and make it a better place for you, me, many others, and the entire planet. A real leader’s vision will depend on its areas of work, societal, political, and economical changes.

Energy

Leaders have the energy and the drive to lead their projects to a successful conclusion. It is essential to have the motivation to lead a project to the final victory. A leader is the one who acts, leads, and uses all available resources to get to the goal. Sometimes s/he works day and night to get to attain their goal.

Charisma

It is the authority of a leader, based on his/her innate gift and personal qualities. A charismatic person has an exceptional personality and exerts an inevitable ascendance on others. He/she knows how to influence, convince, motivate, and lead their team to fulfil the mission they seek to accomplish. We find these in some political leaders who are, in empathy and can listen to others.

I remember the first time I experienced great charisma. I was barely 21 or 22 years old when I had the opportunity to meet President Jacques Chirac at the town after a day of gluing billboards for his re-election as the mayor of Paris. It was magical. He was a King, a solar king. He was like Louis XIV, the Sun King, one of the Greatest French statesmen. He was magnificent and charismatic. I was extremely impressed as a girl in her twenties. From then onward, I understood the significance of being a charismatic leader. I thought of him and Nelson Mandela when I was writing this article as they were great leaders filled with empathy. They also had the ability to listen and lead their people. The French civil code has a wonderful expression of a good Father of the Nation. I think a leader can incarnate such archetypical figures as the father, mother, brother, or friend.

There is a Difference between a Leader and a Manager.

The manager of proximity has other responsibilities. He manages, plans, organizes, and controls day-to-day work of his employees. The manager’s role is to give directives daily. He gives works. He controls these assignments by ensuring that they are respected and completed. He often acts as a coach and a mentor. Today’s concern is to create a positive work environment, in which every employee will feel valued and more productive. A manager supports employees in their work.

What is Compassionate Leadership and Management?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines compassion as ‘ a strong feeling or sympathy and sadness for the suffering and a desire to help them’.

Early Compassionate Leaders

Christ and Buddha are two of the earliest compassionate leaders. Other leaders were Prince Siddhartha, Prophet Mohammed, and Moses.

Christ died to save others. Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance or redemption, is the saving of human beings by Christ’s death and resurrection. The idea of salvation and sacrifice reminds us that He defines His love for His followers and friends for whom He gives His life for those He loves.

Buddha stated that, ‘Life is suffering’. He taught for around 45 years and his teachings are based on his insight into suffering ‘dukkha’ and how to end suffering.

Prince Siddhartha was destined to become a King. He renounced his future life as a king to find a way to alleviate others’ suffering. He found eight ways in which one could extricate another out of suffering; called the Eight Noble Paths. The Eightfold Paths consists of eight practices. They are: the right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (meditative absorption or union). Furthermore, self-observance, self-restraint, cultivating kindness and compassion will ultimately absorb into a divine, luminous, and peaceful state, free of suffering.

Furthermore, the Prophet Mohammed taught four lessons in Compassion. Compassion for animals, children, the poor and enemies. “Every Muslim has to give in charity” (Sahih Al-Bukhari). His compassion for the poor is such that; making charitable donations to the poor and needy is one of the five central pillars of a Muslim’s faith.

Last but not the least, is Moses. Being a humanitarian and working with refugees, he sacrificed his life as an Egyptian Prince to become a liberator and lead the Hebrew from Egypt to the promise Land.

Finally, I thought of Gender parity and gender sensitiveness and the name of Tara came to my mind.

Tara The Goddess of Compassion

Matt Caron a blogger wrote “Tara is thought to be a manifestation of the goddess Parvati, the personification of love and devotion. But to be more specific, the story of Tara’s origin comes from Avalokiteśvara, or the “lord that looks down”. This bodhisattva (a being that has the sole wish to remove suffering from humanity), began to weep one day at the intense suffering of sentient beings. Eventually, he cried so much that his tears began to form a lake…and out of this lake sprang forth a lotus containing Tara. Tara, having been birthed from compassion, began to labor behind the scenes day and night to relieve suffering from humanity, eventually incarnating in multiple forms…all women.”

Compassionate leaders nowadays, demonstrate:

  1. Connection: Compassionate leaders feel deeply connected with those they lead. They know their needs and do their utmost best to fulfil their dreams, hopes, and alleviate their sufferings, fear, and anxiety.
  2. Compassion: Compassionate leaders have real empathy for those they lead. At work, productivity does not exclude compassion. They seek to uplift stress and bring job satisfaction.
  3. Clarity: Compassionate leaders know their why, when, what, where and how. They have a clear vision and goals, for the future. Some are visionaries or seers as they can see what the future will be like and lead their people to the promise land.
  4. Courageous: Compassionate leaders speak their truth and lead from the front when there are dangers. They are fearless. They advocate for the rights of their followers.
  5. Collaborative: Compassionate leaders create a collaborative environment free from hostilities for their employees and colleagues. They honour the complexity of human relationship and with integrity they establish genuine and authentic collaborative relation.
  6. Ethical: Compassionate leaders have ethics and morality and walk the talk. They demonstrate the value and expect others to abide. Real leadership is synonymous to noble ideals. They stand by principles and values and are exemplary.
  7. Respectful: Compassionate leaders respect the principle of equality and recognize that all men are born equal. They defend gender equality and gender balance in the workplace and promote gender-sensitive policies.
  8. Wise: Compassionate leaders are continuous learners and great mentors, and they can listen and impart wisdom at all times.
  • Lead with Your heart: Leading with the heart does not stop with great leaders. Still, each of us who have responsibilities leading a group must emulate these lofty ideals and be empathic and compassionate leaders.

In practical terms, this means that if your staff is sick, give them space to recover. If they have a parent or child with underlying conditions do not transfer them from the hospital to a place where they cannot have the same level of care. If they are studying, allow them to attend classes, and to prepare for exams. Bring the bank and financial expert to advise them on savings, insurance, retirements and help them prepare for a better future. This list could be longer.  Always remember to be empathic, kind, compassionate, and always be good and do good to others.

Conclusively, human beings are in pursuit of happiness. Compassionate leaders are aware of the need for happiness of fellow humans and seek to bring social justice and happiness in their work environment.

“A compassionate leader always feels motivated to bring happiness and relieve the suffering of customers, investors, suppliers, employees, government and communities.” Amit Ray, Mindfulness Meditation for Corporate Leadership and Management.

I’m the Lion Heart – A courageous and determined Heart.

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. (John 1:1|NKJV)

I have a Lionheart; I am Lionhearted, a courageous and determined heart.

When I thought of writing about overcoming fear with courage and determination, the idea of the Lionheart came to my mind. I realised that affirming what we are; helps us achieve our goals. Affirmations are powerful instruments that help us gain confidence. The Indians call them ‘Sankalpa’. If you repeat them daily at the start and the end of your meditation, you will realise that you will become what you affirm yourself to be.

While reflecting on affirmation, concentration and ‘Sankalpa’, I thought of a story of an inspiring yogi who visited a Sage and wanted to learn meditation. The Sage advised him to concentrate on what he loves the most. During meditation, concentration on one object will lead to meditation, an effortless flow of the mind towards an object.  As the young man found this exercise difficult, he decided to meditate on his buffalo. At the end of the day, the Sage came and asked him to come out of the meditation room.  The student replied.

“I am very grateful to you. I am in deep meditation now. I cannot come out now. I am very big. Horns have grown out of my head. I cannot get out of the small door. I like the buffalo very much. I have become a buffalo myself.” He was persuaded to come out the room and meditate on the light. We become what we focus on. This is a funny story, but it shows the power of concentration of one thought. Affirmations are such thoughts.

The Power of Concentration and Affirmation

‘… A man reaps what he sows’ (Galatians 6:7|NIV). It is essential to sow positive thoughts, words, emotions, and actions worldwide, thus reaping positive results. So, if your dream is to be happy, successful, and courageous, start by affirming what you wish to be every morning.

  • I am happy.
  • I am successful.
  • I am a courageous leader.

Repetition alone works wonders but doesn’t suffice. We must still do the work of self-transformation.

Clarity about Your Goals.

You have to be certain about what you want to be, who you wish to become, where you want to go and why you must work consistently to achieve your goals.

Change Your Thoughts: Overcome Fear and Stress.

Think about what is preventing you from becoming what you want. Knowledge of what triggers anxiety, stress, and fear is the beginning of the battle to overcome it. The key to freedom is to know our mind and free it from negative thoughts, and train it to be grounded, calm, and relaxed.

Understanding the Psyche and Changing One’s Thoughts.

It is imperative to know your ‘self-talk’. You feed the stress when you repeat certain thoughts mentally. These thoughts are specific to the psyche and are rooted in our environment. Negative ‘self-talks’ are a source of stress, fear and anxiety when they are harmful and destructive and vice versa. As we have seen, thoughts influence our emotions and our emotions influence our thoughts. The change of negative thoughts into positive thoughts affects our mood and emotions and stopped the anxiety, fear and stress.

You will experience a change in your life only when you alter your inner dialogue and ensure that it is always positive, affirming, and empowering.

Learning how to release anxiety, fear, anger, or irritability without creating havoc in your psyche, is key. It is essential to learn not to allow instinctive responses to cloud your thinking. Problems are better solved when you are not emotional. The thought process works better. More energy is available, which means mental energies are not frittered away in anxious ideas or irrational fears. It is about training the mind to deal with feelings and emotions, to calm down first before you act. It is also about transcending limiting thoughts. There are various relaxation, mindfulness techniques one can learn to achieve peace of mind. Beyond prayer, meditation, one can exercise, and develop positive habits and sustainable life changes.

If you can ensure the following, you will be less stressed, less fearful, and happier:

  • Know how to remain positive.
  • Know how to put thoughts in perspectives.
  • Be satisfied with your achievements.

Change Your Habits.

Negative habits are the source of suffering. These negative habits, such as smoking, addictions to drugs or alcohol, food binging, bulimia, using excessively your credit card, borrowing money, living on debts, procrastinating, unnecessary backbiting, stealing, overindulgence, etc. are all sources of pains to you and others. Being ruled continuously by these habits is an enormous source of stress, fear, anxiety and unhappiness. So, change your habits.

Develop Positive Habits.

One of the most positive habits one can develop is to build courageous habits in the time of fears and uncertainty. To live with courage, confidence and clarity about your life’s goals should not be a challenge. To achieve such a purpose, one must develop courage and overcome fear.

Courage Habits Model.

Make sustainable life changes which will impact meaningfully in the way you live. Rather than always struggle, consistently develop new courage habits which will bring sustainable changes to your life.

List five habits which you will develop and sustain over a long period of time and stick to them. Repeat them daily and they will bear fruits.

Align Yourself to Your Highest Purpose, Goal and Truth.

If you do not know your life goals, envision and create a vision board and spend time reflecting on what you were meant to do in life. Be clear about your life goals. Write these goals, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and prioritize them.

For those who believe in God, whatever name they give to Him (God, Christ, Yahweh, Allah, Shiva, Krishna, the Great Mother or Divine Feminine, it all depends on your religion), surrender to the divine will, and fulfil the mission you were created to accomplish. It is always something lofty, ideal and source of goodness.

Fulfill the mission you were born to accomplish.

Be Courageous and Speak the Truth.

Be authentic, genuine, honest, and trustworthy.  Find your voice and speak the truth. Be courageous and don’t let anyone oppress you or oppress those you love.

It is essential to have the courage to speak your truth in the face of adversity. As Martin Luther king said ‘the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by good people. ‘

Work on Your Fear and Take Action.

Work with your fear and examine which fears are rational and grounded, in facts. If this is the case, then take action. Suppose you fear poverty and take remedial measures by building a financial safety net. If you fear illness, do your best to exercise, have a nutritious diet and keep optimum health.

Disregard all irrational fears. Instead, develop healthy emotions that create checks and balances and bring you back to peace and inner trust and security.

Use prayer, meditation, relaxation, and positive techniques to fill that inner space with joy, happiness, and absolute trust. The absolute trust in that great power eliminates fear.

Declare that you have attained a State of Courage, beyond all Fears.

I am not talking about the mechanical fears but going beyond the imaginary fears and trusting that whatever comes, you will have the strength to face the world with a strong and generous heart. May you become Lionheart, strong, powerful, and generous.

Together we are stronger. We must incarnate a powerful, loving, honest, kind, courageous and a lion’s heart.

Conclusively, Indira Gandhi reminds us that, ‘Without courage nothing can be accomplished’. Without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue. You have to muster courage – courage of different kinds. First, intellectual courage, to sort out different values and make up your mind about the one that is right for you to follow. Also, you have to exercise moral courage – ‘no matter what comes your way, no matter what the obstacle and the opposition is.’ Indira Gandhi

Therefore, arise, awake, and fight the battle of life. Face all challenges with courage and grace. Remember that you are a courageous man or woman.

Practice daily gratitude!

Practice daily gratitude!

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. Cicero

I believe like Cicero in the importance of virtues. In his written work, the great philosopher recognizes the familiar four cardinal virtues. In this instance Cicero’s order is–

  • Wisdom/prudence
  • Justice
  • Fortitude
  • Temperance

However, Cicero gave a special place to gratitude which he deemed the queen of all virtues. For more 2000 years, now, there have been countless teachers reminding us of the power of gratitude. In modern psychology, several studies and books demonstrate the connection between gratitude and increased well-being for the people involved.

Using Cicero methods of questioning (5W and 1 H) frequently used by Journalists, I will explore the idea of gratitude.

What is gratitude?

It is a feeling of appreciation when one receives a gift, a favour, an act of kindness toward the person who gave him the help, present, or favours.

Who can practice gratitude?

While everyone can feel grateful, not all of us do. Studies have shown that the more grateful one is, the more feel happy. Positive feelings, thoughts and emotions generate happiness, and as such gratitude, a positive feeling is the source of happiness. While negative feelings, thoughts and emotions bring a state of despair.

When? Practice gratitude daily

Practice gratitude daily in morning and evening. For years, I started and often ended the day with Denzel Washington short YouTube video where he spoke about gratitude and expressed thanks. Nowadays, I listen to the same words but put in music.

Express Gratitude to God, a higher power for all the goodness in your life,

Journaling also all the things that you feel grateful for in your life is a great way to express gratitude.

Make also sure to express thanks to all the people who have helped you along the way. A sincere thanks to your family, children, parents, colleagues, friends, well-wishers, business partners, and all those who are there for you, Give thanks to God and those who are helping you, sending a gift for your birthdays, anniversaries, or giving you money when you are broke, sharing good advices along the way.

Why? The benefits of gratitude

Studies equate the practice of gratitude with better psychological health and well-being. It gives renewed enthusiasm and optimism as your mind is filled with feelings of appreciativeness and gratitude daily. Modern Psychology has published many studies attesting of a connection between happiness level and gratitude. It will improve your relationship with others as people appreciate your attitude of gratitude.

The secret a world-famous book also states that there is a link between gratitude and abundance. The more you have of gratitude, the more abundance there is in your life.

The more you give gratitude, the more you get. People are more inclined to help a grateful heart.

How to express gratitude?

  • Say thank you to people who help you along the way.
  • Write an appreciation note thanking people for all the good things they do for you.
  • Help in return if you can.
  • Count your blessings.

Where do we find gratitude? In Modern Psychology and every world religion?

Modern Psychology

Sonja Lyubomirsky, an American professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, states that ‘the expression of gratitude is a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness’.

And Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude defines gratitude as -a felt a sense of wonder, appreciation and thankfulness for life and wrote in his essay ‘Why gratitude is good’ that ‘it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.’ And second Dr Emmons clarifies “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Psychologists, sociologists, and researchers have found that gratitude strengthens human relationship as there is also a recognition that others have helped us. Gratitude has a powerful impact on social connections. It creates bonds and memories as people remember those who helped and treated them well. They are eager to express gratitude and repay them.

Gratitude is recommended and practised in every major religion. Gratitude to God is at the core, centre of Christianity, Islam, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu traditions.

In Judaism

Psalm 9:1 1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. The psalm of David and many more speaks of giving thanks and praising God.

In Christianity

Christians are strongly encouraged to give thanks. We found a beautiful excerpt of The Imitation of Christ, which summarises well the idea of gratitude.

Be grateful then for every little thing, and you will be worthy to receive greater things. Regard the least gift as great, and the most common as a special gift. If you consider the dignity of the Giver, no gift will seem little or mean to you. For that is not little which is given by the most-high God. And even when he inflicts punishment and stripes, it should be acceptable to us; for whatever he permits he always does it for our salvation.

              He, who desires to retain in himself the grace of God, let him be thankful for the grace given him, and resigned for that, which is withdrawn. Let him pray to receive it; lit him be cautious and humble so as not to lose it again. From the IMITATION OF CHRIST by Thomas A Kempis

Thanksgiving Day is also a potent reminder to practice thankfulness and gratitude, not only one special day a year, but all year long.

In Buddhism

The teachings of the Buddha on Gratitude are found in the Kataññu Suttas (AN 2:31–32):

“Monks, I will teach you the level of a person of no integrity and the level of a person of integrity. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”

“As you say, lord,” the monks responded to him.

The Blessed One said, “Now what is the level of a person of no integrity? A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful. This ingratitude, this lack of thankfulness, is advocated by rude people. It is entirely on the level of people of no integrity. A person of integrity is grateful & thankful. This gratitude, this thankfulness, is advocated by civil people. It is entirely on the level of people of integrity.”

In Islam

A traditional Islamic saying states that “The first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance”.

In the Quran it is also stated in Sura 14:7 ‘Also call to mind when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will certainly grant you more; but if you are ungrateful for My favours, my chastisement is terrible.

Even the daily prayers encourage believers to pray to God five times a day to thank him.

Hinduism

The sravanas and daily worships are filled with praises to God and ritual and worship, which expressed profound gratitude to God. The path of Bhakti is full of praise and gratitude to God.

In conclusion, “Wise men count their blessings; fools, their problems…” so let us be wise and count our blessings.  It is essential to find time to practice gratitude in our busy daily schedule, it is never too late, or even when we are remarkably busy, we can always find time say a simple Thank You. As stated by Meister Eckhart, ‘ If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.’

A day of service

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

—Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service in America.

I like the great symbol behind the idea of a day of service, where people are invited to volunteer and help others.  Since its inception, people have volunteered and delivered meals, built home, tutored, and mentored children and engaged in various projects. They have also reflected on the life of Dr King. The idea is to engage volunteers beyond the holidays and have them dedicate time to year-round volunteering.

Service is a noble and lofty idea

Service is a noble and lofty idea, and each of us can find time to help others. Volunteering in any not-for-profit is a great source of joy. Whether it is serving food to the poorest, mentoring young children, serving at the local church, or writing for an NGO advocating for women and children rights, there are many possibilities to help others.

Any one of us can serve; all we need is a willing heart filled with love for others.

Service as a way to greatness

Some of the most generous and most extraordinary people in this world are public servants; they work tirelessly for others’ welfare. Well-known philanthropists have devoted time and money to great causes. Others have created institutions where they serve wholeheartedly and give their life in the service of others.

Artists have sung for free for decades raising money for charities and changing the world

Together we are strong.

The U.S.A. for Africa changed our perception in 1985. The music industry and the world came together in an extraordinary outpouring of generosity in response to the tragic famine wreaking havoc in Africa. The greatest artists created a worldwide performance.  We Are the World, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie; with Quincy Jones, the artistic director made a sensation. Mega artists volunteered their time and put their wonderful music and voices to raise funds for Africa. This is a perfect example of selfless service and the results are as follow:

  • More than 7 million records sold
  • $100,000,000 raised to improve lives
  • Hundreds of humanitarian initiatives supported
  • Supporting programs in the U.S. and Africa

Citizens everywhere joined the call for services and volunteered for Not-for-Profits to serve the poorest, wherever they are in the world. Some for one day, some for years. Without volunteers, these charitable organisations could not function.

In 2012, I enjoyed volunteering at a local church in Newark—I had just lost my Mum, and I was grieving. In October 2012, the Hurricane caused severe damage in New Jersey, and the population sought help in a Newark Church with a beautiful team and a great Senior Pastor.  The church was a Heaven on Earth and serving along these beautiful people in a loving community made a real difference in my life. More than one thousand people volunteered throughout the years. Service healed my broken my heart. These months of volunteering mended my heart. 

Volunteers are a great source of assistance to the organisation. They give their time and energy. Some receive refugees in their communities, home and make sure the refugees feel loved and welcomed. Some feed the hungry or visit cancer patients—All such initiatives bring comfort to those who are served and to also those who volunteer. All the volunteers make a difference in this world because of their commitment to service.

 Service dissolves all the barriers of classes, castes, and religions. Through volunteering and service, we meet people we would never have met and discover that we all belong to the beautiful human family. We may be different men and women in body but we share the same esprit de corps. Service teaches us solidarity, kindness, empathy. It makes us better human beings.

Service is a way to happiness

Some of my greatest joys have come from volunteering, especially with people with learning disabilities at Mencap. I was always so happy, serving tea and joining in the Thursday evening Café and do a Karaoke jig at one of the London Mencap. Volunteering with women organisation has also been great and I have ironed my leadership skills sitting on the board of a women Not-for-Profit board. I love serving and volunteering. It is a source of great happiness.

What do you reckon? Here’s my concluding thoughts

Through service, we soften our hearts. By helping others, by making sure that others are provided, we reach a state of happiness beyond all understandings and are filled to the brim with it.

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

—Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Plan for your 2021 Goals

Goals are like the light in the darkness. At the beginning of the year, it seems essential to have goals. Words like vision boards, life goals, yearly goals, weekly goals and daily goals are thrilling. It is incredibly inspiring to set time aside to write goals.

Find a Quiet Time at the Beginning of the Year

When the year begins, take two or three days to think and then write down your main goals in one afternoon or a day. A Sunday afternoon could be sufficient for some. I have found the weekend is the best time for me, as I am less busy and Sunday is a special day, as filled with God’s presence after the morning service.

Choose the best time when you feel connected to your highest intuition and capable of making the right decisions.  

Get a Vision Board

First, buy or create a big enough board to contain your vision of what your life could be. Mine is about one 90 cm long and about 60 cm large. I purchased it on Amazon. I also have a virtual board that I have found on Google Play Store. Download an application from the Play Store to write down your goals. Have a board that is large enough to contain all your life goals and yearly goals. Get an annual planner for your monthly goals, weekly and daily goals. There are some great planners out there; and some with a definite spiritual focus, etc.

Your vision board is a snapshot of the things you wish to accomplish in your life. These are the dreams you want to make real. It is a visual board with images or words or both, with all the things you wish for in your life. In spiritual terms, it is about visualisation and clarity.

Be patient; you are trying to make your dreams come true, which require talent, handwork, and grace. It is not wishful thinking, but rather a combination of serendipity and work to bring one’s goals to a successful conclusion.

Planning from Unmanifest to Manifest

Your goals will cover the main areas of your life: work, marriage, family, spirituality, travel, business, and whatever you dream of. It can be as powerful as you wish and as you exercise your thoughts and mind, you can attract the things you wish for and work hard to manifest them. You can make your dream and visions come true.

Remember the whole universe will conspire to help you.

Segregate your goals into Yearly, Monthly, and Daily

Your goals are all about what you want to achieve during the year. And everyone has got their own. But look at what you wish to stop, start, and continue for the year. Then, work on yourself and accomplish your goals. Develop the right habits to reach your goals. Make sure your goals are SMART.

S=SpecificM: MeasurableA: AchievableR: RealisticT: Time-bound

Your goals can concern any areas of your life:

  • Health goals (lose weight, have nutritious and healthy meals, walk 10,000 steps a day, sleep well, exercise 3 or 4 times a week, practice daily yoga and meditation)
  • Financial goals (Create an emergency basket, a saving basket and an investment basket, and save for retirement, regularly check your credit score and plan for it so that you are able to clear all debts and have a coherent monthly or weekly budget)
  • Family Goals (Get quality time with family members, keep a good connection with those who are close and far, love all, call parents at least once a week, spent time with kids or parents)
  • Relationship goals (Bring attention to your relationships, show appreciation and affection, allow your partner to be his/her best self, accept your beloved as they are—be generous and altruistic to love and be loved)
  • Career Goals (get a promotion, get a pay increase, get a better job, or change the environment in your job, create time for continuous learning and further enhanced skills, create a side business, volunteer for not for profits, connect and network with inspiring people)
  • Personal growth goals (Have a personal development plan, implement it; have an excellent self-improvement plan, read x number of books per month, spend quality time with yourself)
  • Travel plan (Organise regular time off to unwind, take great vacation in your own home or your favourite places in the world)
  • Spiritual goals (Pray more, love more, forgive more, be regular in your daily spiritual practice)

In conclusion, take some days to think and write down the goals you wish to achieve in 2021. Afterwards, during the year, keep the board somewhere you can see regularly and check from time to time how well you are doing. By the end of the year, you will be seeing that the clarity of writing down a vision board and setting up your goals have been an amazing factor in your success.

Keep on updating your monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Write down your priorities and accomplishment. It is one of the surest ways to success. Plan your day, week, month and stick to the plan. Have rooms for change, as nothing is more certain than change. Have room for alternatives and allow 40% of free time in your daily and weekly planning to cope with alternatives, changes and ad-hoc tasks.

At the end of 2021, many goals will be achieved. It will be thanks to a combination of self-effort and grace. Trust the process and start writing your goals.

Panel on Building trust, at the Humanitarian Congress Berlin 2020.

I was invited to be a panellist at the Humanitarian Congress Berlin 2020: Exposing Power & Privilege in Times of Crisis.
The Humanitarian congress welcomed the following panellists:
Babita Alick, Operations Manager, Caritas India
Florine Clomegah, Director of Operations, AIRD
Leela Ramdhani, Associate Director of Confederation Development, Oxfam
Chair: Hugo Slim, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford

The conversation was centred around the theme and questions below.

To ‘commit to as local as possible and as international as necessary’ and to ‘put people at the center’ is nowadays considered part and parcel of good humanitarian action. But have ‘local ownership’ and ‘localization’ become nothing more than buzzwords in the sector? Local, national and regional actors have been at the forefront of any humanitarian response for decades. However, the ‘formalized humanitarian system’ seems to be failing to connect meaningfully with national and local institutions. In the current status quo, incentives for such engagement do not exist: the sector’s power dynamics, culture and financing, accountability and control measures create compelling reasons to remain closed and centralised. Organisational mandates and missions, public perceptions, donor interests and internal targets often drive institutional structures and operational decision-making, at times limiting innovation, inclusion and efficiency. The emphasis on institutional and organisational priorities all too often occurs at the expense of local actors and affected populations. However, the imperative for increased local, national and regional leadership of aid, and the necessity for strengthened international response capacity, are not mutually exclusive. Questions: In the light of imbalanced power structures in the sector, how do we go about better partnerships and a more trustful, more mutual way of working? How can actors engage with one another across their comparative advantages (local, national, regional and international) and complement one another around mandates, technical expertise and/or funds? And what’s the role of major donors in facilitating and driving this agenda (looking at reporting etc.)? Within a centralised humanitarian structure, is localization unlikely to result in the empowerment of local actors?