6 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Relationship If You’re Wondering About Its Potential

By | challenging, Food for thought, goalcast originals, stories

Long-term relationships are increasingly rare. For many millennials, marriage is a relic from days-gone-by, and solid commitment is a second-date. Finding connection in the digital age is difficult when relationships can be fleeting and fickle. As I approach 30, my dating journey consists of multiple mid-term monogamous relationships — most of my friends are the same.

There are two sides to this evolving dynamic. On one hand there’s freedom from societal pressure to settle down and commit to an unfulfilling relationship; it is liberating. On the other hand, many promising relationships break down at the first sign of hardship.

How do we uncover where our relationship stands? How do we know when to liberate ourselves from obligation, or to work through problems?

The answers to these questions are unique to each relationship. However, there are 6 questions to ask yourself that can reveal deeper hidden truths, guide you to making decisions, and provide clarity on whether your relationship will stand the test of time.

1. What expectations do I have?

There’s a fine-line between “not settling” and “chasing perfect”. This line is dictated by our expectations. Having sky-high expectations about what your relationship should be is a way to add too much pressure and join the conveyor belt of always looking for the one

The reality is arguments happen, there will be conflict, there will be disagreements, there will be times when you aren’t feeling attracted to your partner.

Having realistic expectations gives you a clearer view of the relationship. Without fixed beliefs about what a relationship should be, you’re able to see the reality of the person in front of you.

I learnt the hard-way that my belief in “the one” was making each relationship destined to fail. Only when I let go of sky-high expectations did I mature in my approach to dating.

2. Are we compatible?

Compatibility comes in many forms. No relationship should be your number one source of fulfillment, and it’s normal to have areas of incompatibility. Still, it’s important to break down your areas of compatibility into negotiable and non-negotiable. There may be areas you know are deal breakers: such as sexual chemistry, spirituality, meaningful conversation or sense of humor.

But there are a host of incompatibilities that don’t mean things won’t work out. Not every box has to be ticked. Again, assess expectations in this regard. Whilst I used to look for 100% compatibility, now I look for 60% or 70% in a partner.

Right now, my non-negotiable compatibility includes monogamy, mutual spiritual support, emotional intimacy, and honesty. I’m independent and enjoy my own company, so it doesn’t bother me if I don’t share many social activities with a partner, and I’m content meeting a few times per week.

3. What is my motivation for this relationship?

If you’re in a relationship because it’s what you’ve always done or because it feels safe or familiar, then it’s worth assessing the motivating factors behind this. Life’s too short to be in a relationship with a sense of obligation, or simply because we fear being alone. Explore your motivation and see if you’re in a relationship to avoid or gain.

In the past I’ve entered relationships to avoid loneliness and gain companionship. But under the surface I realized I was afraid of being alone. When I worked on my codependency and developed a sense of self-compassion, I no longer felt I needed a relationship. My self-sufficiency freed me to choose a relationship because I wanted it, but didn’t need it.

Now, I look to relationships as gain only. I gain companionship, mutual understanding, emotional intimacy, fun, sexual fulfillment. I’m not using the relationship to avoid difficulties in life, such as an inability to handle my emotions, or a need for external validation. I take responsibility and find a healthy balance between self-regulation and emotional support.

4. Am I sexually satisfied?

I’ll be blunt. Romantic relationships are distinguished by sexual intimacy. Sex is important. This doesn’t mean earth-shattering intoxication or chemistry all day, every day, but it does mean a relationship where you feel comfortable sharing, exploring and expressing your sexuality. Life’s too short to be in a romantic relationship with zero sexual compatibility.

Are there times when this doesn’t matter? Of course! If sex really isn’t a big deal to you and you value emotional intimacy and security and find that in a partner who equally doesn’t value sex, it can work. But this isn’t about ever-lasting lust and excitement. It’s about a level of comfort in satisfying each other’s needs and cultivating a trusting space of loving intimacy; the kind that doesn’t diminish over time. 

This requires an honest look at your level of sexual satisfaction. It’s highly unlikely to find a partner with exactly the same sex drive, and that’s fine. The key is clear communication, and finding a mutual mid-point that works for both of you.

5. What do I want to create?

The decline in social expectations offers the chance to build unique, unconventional relationships. Rather than allowing unquestioned cultural norms to dictate the relationship, ask yourself what you’d like to create.

Exploring grey areas with openness and honesty is liberating in itself, and you’d be surprised just how much conditioning exists around what romance really means. There will be areas you think you want, only to realize it’s “how things are” and your natural needs are different.

As I mentioned earlier, my relationships leave room for independence and spiritual growth. I no longer chase chemical highs that come with meeting someone new. For me, monogamy is a deal breaker when cultivating emotional and physical intimacy with someone. This form of monogamy and independence is unconventional. We’re exclusive yet there aren’t expectations around regular sleepovers, daily contact, or living together.

This works for me. What works for you will be different. So ask yourself what you genuinely, authentically want to create. Write a list in your journal. Reflect on what feels natural. You might be surprised at what you discover. The next step is exploring how to create something from authentic foundations with your partner — this in itself will show areas of compatibility.

6. Do I see myself in this relationship in five years’ time?

I’m going to turn this question on its head and say: it doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself in your current relationship in five years’ time. None of us know how life plays out.

Some relationships last a lifetime when originally both people thought it wouldn’t work. Others paint vivid futures together only for things to rapidly fall apart. The future is uncertain and no relationship is future-proof.

So instead of viewing a relationship in terms of longevity, ask yourself: am I nourished by this relationship in the present? Am I growing and learning, about myself, about my partner, about how to relate? 

An ex of mine sent me an article recently about how to define “success” in relationships. Ultimately if we are learning and growing then the relationship is a success — whether it lasted 10 years, 10 months, or 10 weeks. Getting to know someone, sharing hopes, dreams, fears, and the human experience is beautiful in its own right. To experience this is a blessing.

So regardless of how you answer these questions, know nothing has been wasted. But by gaining clarity on what you want, you’ll get the most from your current relationship, and make the most of each moment. The rest will take care of itself.

More helpful articles:

Will These 36 Questions Make You Fall in Love?

By | challenging, dating, Food for thought, goalcast originals, stories

What would you say if I told you that, by asking and answering the right questions with a complete stranger, and then staring into their eyes for several minutes, you’d suddenly find yourself in love, and it would be mutual?

The whole thing would take—oh, I don’t know—an hour or so. If you’re not the gullible type, or the kind who’s into gimmicks, or believes in a formula for anything so difficult to pin down like love, well, I’m with you. But I’m sure you’d agree that it’s always best to keep an open mind, right? 

A method of modern love

Although creating a feeling of closeness and intimacy between people who have just met is challenging, particularly in lab conditions, in 1997 psychologist Arthur Aaron of Stony Brook University and his team created a method that supposedly does just that.

It consists of 36 questions broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the last. The two people take turns answering each question, the idea being that mutual vulnerability builds closeness. And then, the final task (and the cherry on top) is at once terrifying and utterly disarming: staring into each other’s eyes for four whole minutes.

The method even inspired a movie called 36 Questions, where its lead characters go through this unconventional method.

Does it, um…work?

In 2015, Aaron’s unorthodox study was tested by writer Mandy Len Catron at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In her New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” she discusses her experience testing out the method with a friend—someone she knew, but not intimately.

The questions range from “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” to much deeper questions about mothers, death, and personal approaches to problem solving. 

It was going as well as could be, and in response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at her and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other,” which from Catron’s account, they were.

When it came time to stare into one another’s eyes, they chose to leave the bar they were in and go stand atop a nearby bridge. Romantic much? Catron found the prospect of looking at someone for four minutes very intimidating:

[T]he real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected…I felt brave, and in a state of wonder.

Mandy Len Catron

“You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love,” writes Catron. “Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become. Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

Strengthening existing bonds

Writing for Salon, Melanie Berliet decided to try the method with her boyfriend after five years of dating and three years of living together. She went into it with the following question: “Is it even possible to grow closer once there’s nothing left to discover?”

Still, she found herself nervous about the prospect of the questions revealing them as somehow mismatched (even though she describes their bond as “impressively strong”).

Unsurprisingly (from where I’m standing), they learned a few new things about one another, like the fact that they have opposite answers to the question “If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you choose?”

Just the newness of this revealed discrepancy is a revelation to the author. But when prompted to list positive attributes about one another, Berliet’s sense that her chosen partner respects her immensely was only strengthened. 

It’s impossible to guess how long the amped up intimacy will last. But I’m more certain than ever that I’m with the right person. And that openness and vulnerability are powerful tools we can use to spark love, and sustain it.

Melanie Berliet

No formula is foolproof

In 2017, Carina Hsieh tested the study for Cosmopolitan, arranging a last minute Tinder date. She calls the end-result “a disaster.” Her experience with her date, Matthew, was overwhelmingly awkward, at times agonizingly so, and largely served to highlight how different they were and why it would never work.

He was close to his family, she was not. He mentioned his need to “drop off the face of the earth” for days at a time, which was already a red flag for her from previous relationships. And the dealbreaker: he described himself as a “Chihuahua person.”

To Hsieh, the experience of answering and asking the questions was a good way to speed things up “if you’re meant to be,” but, she added, “if you’re just not compatible, those differences will come out sooner rather than later.”

So how can a scientific study produce both lovers and not-lovers? Because, silly, study or not, love is ultimately always a choice. Aaron’s study, as I see it, is a very handy dandy tool that can be used to carve out love, hone love, facilitate it, strengthen it—but without a mutual will, there’s no real way.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed. But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action.

Mandy Len Catron

The moral of the story, then, is that falling in love is one of the most proactive things you can do in life. 

More interesting articles:

20 Hero’s Journey Quotes That Will Fuel Your Next Adventure

By | challenging, Food for thought, Motivation, Quotes

Being a hero doesn’t necessarily imply wearing a cape and having superpowers, although that would make things a lot easier. There’s a hero in each one of us and the challenges we face and overcome every day are proof of our strength and courage.

In narratology, the hero’s journey is also known as the monomyth and it’s basically a template for all the hero stories you know: the hero goes on an adventure, faces many trials, takes risks, wins a victory, and then comes home wiser and stronger than ever. As an expert on mythology, Joseph Campbell laid out the basic elements of this concept in his book The Hero’s Journey.

The hero’s journey did not originate in fiction. It is simply who we are as human beings. If you take a step back and think of all the things you’ve accomplished by now, the way you managed to overcome every situation that almost made you quit, and the kindness you’ve shown to others, you’ll come to realize that you’re the hero of your own story.

But your journey is not over yet — your obstacles will be your greatest teachers and hope, your best friend.

Here are 20 hero’s journey quotes that will fuel your next adventure:

A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.

CHRISTOPHER REEVE (more Christopher Reeve quotes)

Every time you are willing to say ‘Yes’ to everything on your path, you express the hero inside of you.


Though nature be ever so generous, yet can she not make a hero alone. Fortune must contribute her part too; and till both concur, the work cannot be perfected.


The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.


And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.  

HARUKI MURAKAMI (more Haruki Murakami quotes)

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.



MALCOLM X (more Malcolm X quotes)

True heroism consists in being superior to the ills of life, in whatever shape they may challenge us to combat.

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (more Napoleon Bonaparte quotes)

Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.


The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.

ALAN WATTS (more Alan Watts quotes)

When the hero is ready, the mentor appears.


Man is capable of every great heroism; it was man who found a means of conquering the formidable obstacles of his environment, establishing himself lord of the earth, and laying the foundations of civilization.


We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.  


The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  


The great mission of our day is not conquering the sea or space, disease or tyranny. The grand quest which calls to the hero in every one of us is to become fully alive–to stand up and claim our birthright, which is inner freedom, love and radiant purpose.


The hero journey is inside of you; tear off the veils and open the mystery of your self.


Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere, and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.


When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.  


The world breaks everyone, and afterward, Many are strong at the broken places.  


I believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel, but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and allow them to blossom.


Is Appreciation Deficit Disorder Ruining Your Relationship?

By | challenging, dating, Food for thought, how-to guide, marriage, movie, relationships

Contrary to appearances, Netflix’s hit movie Marriage Story is not a story about divorce. It is, as its title indicates, a story about marriage. More specifically, it is the story of how a good marriage goes bad for one simple reason: Appreciation Deficit Disorder.     

What is appreciation deficit disorder?

While Appreciation Deficit Disorder isn’t a clinical disorder, if it was it would be defined as something like this: a “disorder” characteristic of the character we meet individuals like Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson)– who are in decent, functional relationships, but who are “appreciation-deficient” with regards to themselves, their spouses, and their relationship as a whole.

In fact, the failed marriage between Charlie and Nicole could be considered a textbook example of this as-yet undiagnosed “disorder” because it displays all the classic symptoms of this brand-new, made-up malaise.

Here are the symptoms of appreciation deficit disorder:

1. Physical and emotional withdrawal 

Example: Charlie and Nicole have been living parallel lives for the last joyless and sexless year of their marriage.

2. Criticism 

Example: Nicole repeatedly criticizes Charlie for being selfish, whereas Charlie repeatedly criticizes Nicole for being… Nicole;

3. Contempt 

Example: harlie claims that Nicole hated him during the last year of their marriage, whereas Nicole feels Charlie has been contemptuously ignoring her core needs; 

4. Negative sentiment override 

Example: The spouses are both so flooded with negative emotion that they each accuse one another of rewriting their shared past, as when Charlie insists that Nicole has only decided, after the fact, that she wasn’t happy with their life in Brooklyn, when at the time she was.     

Fortunately, appreciation deficit disorder contains, embedded within itself, its own obvious cure: appreciation. 

Indeed, the renowned couples therapist Terry Real considers appreciation not only the single “most effective” strategy for improving a relationship, but he goes so far as to say, “This one principle is equal to all the others combined.”  As we will see, most of the top couples therapists in the world agree.  

How to avoid appreciation deficit disorder:

Step 1. Appreciate one another

Marriage Story opens with tender and heart-warming expressions of mutual appreciation between Nicole and Charlie. At first sight, it certainly doesn’t seem like they suffer appreciation deficit.

The world’s pre-eminent marriage researcher, John Gottman, would say (with one important reservation) that Charlie and Nicole both have good “love maps,” a term that evokes the amount of “cognitive room” one has for all the little quirks of their spouse’s personality and personal history, as well as the marriage itself.

Gottman’s research shows that having good love maps is the very foundation of the seven-story “sound marital house” that constitutes a strong, sustainable relationship. His research also shows that having good love maps is a necessary prerequisite for building the next level up in the sound marital house, “fondness and admiration.”

Step 2. Be grateful for the things you appreciate

Researchers like Sara Algoe, Amie Gordon, Emily Impett, and Samantha Joel would also be impressed with the way that Charlie and Nicole express gratitude for how their partner invests in their relationship– a tendency that functions as a “booster shot” for relationship commitment and overall happiness.  

For instance, even when Charlie complains about Nicole’s untidiness – “It’s not easy for her to put away a sock, or close a cabinet, or do a dish” – he nevertheless expresses his gratitude for her effort and attributes it to her fondness for him: “but she tries for me.” 

Likewise, Nicole peppers her appreciations of Charlie with generous expressions of gratitude, singling out, for example:

He takes all of my moods steadily, he doesn’t give in to them or make me feel bad about them.

As the marriage historian Eli Finkel explains in his widely-praised book The All-or-Nothing Marriage, “In the long run, people who experience elevated levels of gratitude also experience stronger relationship commitment and are less likely to break up.”

But if Charlie and Nicole are so good at appreciating one another in all of these ways, then why do they break up?

Step 3. Express your appreciation 

While they feeling appreciation, Charlie and Nicole don’t express their appreciation out loud to one another. When we finally hear Nicole’s appreciation of Charlie articulated out loud, we come to understand that one of the main factors that causes both their marriage and their divorce to unravel is the unwillingness to give voice to appreciation. 

Most of the top couples therapists in the world – John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Terry Real – emphasize the crucial importance of not just appreciating our partners but expressing that appreciation. 

For instance, Terry Real writes, ”When I speak of cherishing, I do not mean just feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I mean doing something to let your partner know what you are appreciating.”

Gottman makes the same basic point:

When you acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner and your marriage, your bond is strengthened.  

Why is expressing appreciation so important?  Perhaps for the same reason that it’s so important not just to appreciate a house plant, but also to water it.    

Step 4. Appreciate one another’s life dreams

Why does Nicole refuse to read her appreciations out loud to Charlie?  While there are many answers to this question, they all ultimately boil down to another, more fundamental symptom of ADD.

Nicole is both hurt by and angry at Charlie because he has failed to listen for and appreciate her deepest needs and most-cherished longings.

According to Gottman, whenever there is a gridlocked conflict in a relationship the thing to do is dig down to what he calls the “dream within the conflict.” 

By “dream” he means the hopes, aspirations and wishes that are part of people’s very identity and that give purpose and meaning to their lives. In Gottman’s experience, the best way to drill down to the dream beneath the conflict is to explore the underlying symbolism of the surface-level desires at play in the disagreement. 

If he had taken me in a big hug and said ‘Baby, I’m so excited for your adventure and of course I want you to have your own piece of earth’ then we might not be getting divorced.

The marriage researchers Shelly Gable and Harry Reis have shown that when partners communicate and celebrate their individual successes with one another they both feel greater positive emotions and mental health, and also experience increased feelings of trust, intimacy, and satisfaction in the relationship.

As Eli Finkel explains, “Enthusiastic responses are beneficial because they convey the listener’s shared joy in the event and appreciation of the personal significance of the event for the discloser.”

Step 5. Appreciate (or, at the very least, accept) your partner’s influence

In Marriage Story, Nicole complains that all of the furniture in their apartment was Charlie’s taste. She bemoans the fact she didn’t even get to pick their apartment but just moved into his.

More generally, and perhaps most significantly, she remarks that during their marriage:

It would be so weird if he had turned to me and said ‘And what do you want to do today?’

In their long-term study of 131 newly-wed couples who they followed for nine years, Gottman and his fellow researchers found that even in the first few months of marriage, men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier relationships and were less likely to eventually divorce than men who resisted their wives influence. 

“Statistically speaking,” he writes, “when a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81% chance that his marriage will self-destruct.”

Marriage Story Adam Driver Scarlett Johansson

Step 6. Appreciate and assert your own needs and dreams

It seems fair to say that Nicole also fails to appreciate her own dreams and assert her influence in a way that Charlie can understand.

She says, “I made noises about wanting to move back to LA, but they came to nothing, but “making noises” is a far cry from clearly and insistently articulating your dreams and desires. And unfortunately, as Terry Real writes:

You cannot create an extraordinary relationship unless you’re willing to do the hard work of identifying what it is that you want and pursuing it.

It is for this reason that, out of the many possible forms of appreciation that exist, Real prioritizes the cultivation of self-appreciation. 

“First and foremost,” he says, “I want you to cherish yourself.  I want you to value your own wants and needs. I want you to value your voice.”

Real has a confrontational way of encouraging people to appreciate and express their own wants up front. He invites them to swallow this bitter pill:

You don’t have the right to complain about not getting what you never asked for.

Step 7. Appreciate relationality

If Nicole had discerned and appreciated her own dreams more fully, she might have been able to summon the courage to not only stand up for herself but to speak up for herself and ask for more out of Charlie and for more out of their marriage. 

This is the very essence of what Real calls “fierce intimacy” or “daring to rock the boat.” Grabbing your partner by the collar and saying, ‘Such-and-such is really important to me. You better take it seriously. I’m not kidding.”  

Unfortunately, because Nicole doesn’t fully appreciate her own needs, she cannot articulate them to Charlie, let alone roll up her sleeves and fight like hell to make sure he meets them. 

Rather than moving from disempowerment to what Real calls “relationship empowerment,” she moves directly from disempowerment to what he calls “personal empowerment.”  

In Real’s view, “traditional femininity” teaches women disempowerment (i.e. “shut up and eat it”).  In contrast, third-wave feminism teaches women “personal empowerment” (i.e. “speak out and leave it”). But the next step is what he calls “relationship empowerment,” which encourages women to “stand firm and mean it.”

Marriage Story appreciation

What is real “relationship empowerment”? 

Something like this: “How are we going to be together in a way that works for both of us? How are we going to negotiate our needs? This is what I’d like. Tell me what you’d like.  And tell me what you need from me to help you deliver.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that if Nicole and Charley had had the guts to have this kind of conversation they would have been able to work things out. But it certainly would have upped the odds. And it certainly would have been better than either staying in a marriage plagued by Appreciation Deficit Disorder, or complaining after the fact about never getting what neither of them ever asked for. 

By identifying the problem and addressing it maturely with these tools, you’re well on you’re way from moving from “appreciation deficit” to “relationship empowerment.”

Where to go from here:

Man Loses Over 100 Pounds By Making One Simple, But Radical Change

By | challenging, Food for thought, Motivation, stories, success stories, transformation story

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Aaron Leupp often worked over a 100 hours per week as he built his career. While he invested all of his time and energy into his work, he neglected his health.

His ran on little sleep and spent most of his time behind a computer. As his weight crept up, he tried fad diets and even went to the gym, but nothing seemed to work.

“I was over 310 pounds,” he told Men’s Health. “And never in my life did I think would ever get that big.”

At first, nothing seemed to work

As Leupp grew tired of feeling rundown and unhealthy, he took to YouTube, podcasts and spent hours researching different approaches to weight loss. However, despite his efforts, nothing stuck.

Not only did he want to feel better, Leupp also wanted to look better, so that he could feel more confident about getting back into the dating scene.

After many failed attempts, he wasn’t ready to give up so he tried again, and decided to drastically scale down his diet.

A motivating habit

Leupp started eating one meal a day, and only after he’d complete his daily workout—a habit he’s been able to maintain and that he says still keeps him motivated.

“Every day I wake up to check my emails to see if there are any fires or urgent matters,” he said. “If not then I go straight to the gym.”

Trust me, you find motivation quick when you’re hungry.

Over the span of one year, Leupp has lost over 100 pounds and has noticed his productivity go up. 

“I feel better than I ever have,” he said. “I have way more energy and have more confidence.”

He keeps track of his transformation

He’s been documenting his transformation journey by posting daily accountability photos online, which encourages him to keep going.

He hopes that by sharing his story, he can help inspire others to take action if they’re feeling stuck.

“I will continue to do this until I get fit and then for the rest of my life.”

We can all learn accountability

Aaron’s journey towards a healthier version of himself has taught him the power of accountability. Without it, the achievement of our goals, whether they are health or career related, would take a longer, more rocky trajectory.

Learning to make ourselves accountable means that we will depend on nothing else, no other person, to validate our progress and victories. We can start one step at a time and implement a system where we hold ourselves accountable for small things at first and then applying it to more significant projects.

Once we have mastered the skill of holding ourselves accountable, there is no stopping what we can accomplish.

More inspiring stories:

Why Will Smith’s Jealousy of Tupac Shakur’s Bond With Jada Pinkett-Smith Is A Learning Moment For Us All

By | challenging, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, marriage, stories

Insecurity and jealousy seems to be such a basic human emotion that we can often think that someone who is rich and successful not be likely to feel them. However, it turns out that Will Smith dealt with the very human feeling of jealousy, when it involved his now wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her relationship with rapper Tupac Shakur.

Will has no problem admitting it now

In an interview for the radio show at Breakfast Club Power, Will Smith spoke to Charlemagne tha God with his costar Martin Lawrence, while promoting their new film. He was then asked the ultimate question: had he ever been jealous of the love Jada had for the now-deceased artist, Tupac?

Oh f— yeah. Oh my god. That was in the early days and it was like, that was a big regret for me, too, because I could never open up to interact with Pac.

Will Smith

Smith confessed him and Tupac “had a little bit of a thing” over their shared love for Jada, who was childhood friends with Shakur.

His insecurity ran deep

Will recognized the special bond that Jada seemed to share with Tupac. After all, the two had grown up close to each other. Jada and Shakur met as kids on the first day of high school in Baltimore and remained very close until Tupac’s lifestyle got too dangerous for her and she created some distance.

Jada herself admits that both her and Tupac “were an anchor for each other,” which did not go unnoticed by her husband. “So any time he felt like that anchor was threatened… Oh my God,” she continued.

Will felt he could not compete with that bond, but also with Tupac’s drastically different image.

“Pac had a little thing on that but she just loved him, like he was the image of perfection, but she was with the Fresh Prince, you know?” He said.

At the time, his jealousy was so pronounced, that he could not even address Tupac, if they were in the same room together.

I couldn’t speak to him, and he wasn’t going to speak to me if I wasn’t going to speak to him.

They were two different characters

Charlemagne, the interviewer, was surprised at Will Smith’s answer. After all, as many people may have thought, the two seemed to have a lot in common. Both Will Smith and Tupac Shakur were popular and successful rappers. Even Jada recognized their similarities.

That’s what Jada would say all the time: ‘I’m telling you, y’all are so similar, you would love him.’ And I just never… that was a huge regret of mine, I couldn’t handle it.

Will Smith went on to say that he was “deeply, deeply insecure“ and “wasn’t man enough to handle that relationship.” But what exactly caused that insecurity? After all, to all of us, Will Smith is the picture of confidence. He is handsome, charming, a great actor and father and a hilarious human being.

Smith confides that a lot of it had to do with a lack of self-esteem and confidence he had that time in his past. He unconsciously compared himself to Tupac, whose appeal was on a different level.

I was the soft rapper from Philly and he was Pac.

Will’s insecurity had a lot to do with public identity

Smith admits that a lot of it had to do with a lack of self-esteem and confidence at the time. Tupac’s rougher life was in direct contrast with Will’s ‘Fresh Prince’ image, which made him look a little less fascinating. The former’s music expressed the realities he had lived, the truths of a brutal world that Will was not entirely privy to.

Therefore, there was an unspoken competition, which had much to do with the way Will viewed himself and his position in the celebrity world.

This conflict of identity, of the way he viewed himself from the perspective of the outside world, left room for jealousy to seep in. But now, the actor has learned his lesson. With time, the Smiths have managed to distinguish themselves from the image projected on them by the outside world.

He now understands that being a public figure requires a “certain amount of pretense and inauthenticity to hold up the character.” His identity as Will Smith has been defined by decades in an industry that requires him to maintain a reputation. Much of his success, as he admits, depended on him being able to play this character.

Will now has a more fleshed out understanding of himself as a person and a celebrity. Now, his question is, “are you gonna have the courage to live as who you really are?” He and Jada have also been able to apply this to their own marriage and refuse to let the world define their relationship for them.

“Me and Jada talked about this a lot…in our marriage and how people want us to be married versus how we’re really married,” Will confessed. They were able to reach a point where they let go of “the characters people want to see” in order to thrive together, on their own terms.

What can we learn from Will’s raw admission?

Will Smith’s refusal to engage with Tupac remains one of his biggest regrets. However, there is much to be learned from his willingness to open up and share the reasons behind his decisions at the time.

First of all, he recognized that much of it was due to insecurity, which is a universal sentiment. By admitting his regret, he teaches us a valuable lesson.

Perhaps, we have also been guilty of shutting out certain people and missing out on connections because of fear and insecurity. If we take some time to analyze our motives and emotions, we can trace the root of certain tensions we feel. As Will Smith’s story shows, he was struggling with accepting his authentic identity in a world that valued image over everything else.

When we let go of the characters we feel obliged to play in our daily lives, we can reach a truer version of ourselves. This version worries less about the way it is perceived by others. Furthermore, by being at our most authentic, we can also read our motivations better and understand the root of certain emotions when they arise. In doing so, we find better ways to process them.

More inspiring stories:

The Dark, Hidden Truths in Fairy Tales and What We Can Learn From Them

By | challenging, Food for thought, goalcast originals, mindset, stories

Most of us consider fairy tales to be stories for children, innocent and without real evil or harm. The reality is that, while there are many empowering and positive messages in fairy tales, they don’t always depict relationships between men and women in the best light.

When we delve back into the fairy tales of our childhood as adults, we rediscover our heroes and princesses from a different perspective. The endeavor is not useless, far from it! Fairy tales still yield useful lessons about life for us grown folks when we learn to take a deeper look at the stories.

“Beauty and the Beast,” a tale of abuse and inner strength

Originally written in 1740 by French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale that is still relevant to us. In today’s online dating, most people would swipe right for Gaston, the arrogant narcissist who wants Belle as an arm piece to validate his ego, and swipe left for the Beast, who has a heart of gold underneath his rough exterior.

“The tale’s message is a good reminder that we should not judge a book by it’s cover. We should take the time to get to know somebody on a deeper level to see if there is a meaningful love connection,” said Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist and national speaker.

It’s a reminder that inner beauty, not outer beauty, is what leads to lasting love. With a heroine who owns her strength and intelligence, and refused to let the snarky townspeople stop her from being herself, “The Beauty and the Beast” has a strong protagonist.

This is a positive message for all of us to own our strengths and detach from negative messages from others. It’s also positive that Belle didn’t “dumb down” to make herself less threatening and more attractive to men.

Joyce Marter

However, “Beauty and the Beast” is not without problems, the first one being its portrayal of abuse as romantic. Belle is held captive against her will by the Beast. Yet, she falls in love with him over time, almost as if she was afforded no choice in the situation.

“This is a negative message, as sometimes victims of abuse misconstrue controlling and domineering behavior as signs of love and care,” says Dr. Marter. Indeed, the Beast’s unpredictable behavior, from angry outbursts to kindness, is destabilizing and manipulative.

We see Belle’s resilience and ability to love such an unloveable creature as noble–which it is, to an extent–but it can also normalize these red flags to younger readers.

“Beauty and the Beast” is also a tale of self-sacrifice, which, while noble, can also be taken too far. When Belle sacrificed her freedom to take her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner, we all believed her decision to be powerful, a reflection of her strength as a heroine.

However, as Dr. Marter argues, it is “a negative message” about “detrimental care-taking at the expense of one’s own health, safety and overall wellness.”

Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the question of consent and female friendships

Both “Snow White” published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 and Sleeping Beauty, a folktale originating from the Medieval era, feature a famous kiss that brings the princess back to life.

Both heroines, Snow White and Briar Rose, are unconscious when the prince kisses them, which raises up a lot of issues about consent. This is especially relevant now, as conversations surrounding sexual assault and abuse have become more mainstream, thanks to the #MeToo movement.

In the #MeToo era of educating people about the importance of sexual consent, romanticizing non-consensual sexual actions with an unconscious person is a negative message.

Dr. Marter

These two stories also feature an evil older woman who is jealous of the younger woman’s beauty. This is a harmful stereotype, as it not only reduces the value of women to their appearance only but also perpetuates harmful and ageist stereotypes about older women.

“We need to show more examples of women lifting other women up and the value of women being placed on far more than beauty,” says Dr. Marter. 

Indeed, the princesses have dwarfs and animals as friends, but are missing the enormous support that can come from close female friendships.

Many fairy tales have the message that a woman needs to be saved by a prince to live happily ever after and don’t show empowered women making their way on their own.

Dr. Marter

However, these two stories still have a good ending, where true love conquers all and goodness prevails.

“Little Red Riding Hood”, a timeless cautionary tale

“Little Red Riding Hood” is a good example of a cautionary tale. Like “Snow White,” the story was compiled by the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault, but its origins can be traced as far back as the 10th century.

The main character is warned by her mom to stay on the path and bring food to her sick grandmother. But she does not listen and ends up meeting with the wolf instead, who pretends to be her grandmother and ends up eating her in the end. 

“This fairy tale is a warning to women that there are bad men out there,” says Dr Renee Solomon, a clinical psychologist with Forward Recovery. It is helpful in terms of trusting your judgment that someone is dangerous.

“Little Red comments on his features being big as compared to how she remembered her grandmother. She is showing us that she senses that something is off, which is important for children  to trust their instincts when people appear dangerous,” says Dr. Solomon.

The unfortunate truth behind “Little Red Riding Hood,” is that it is relevant in today’s world, where the most vulnerable of all, children, are still the victims of predators.

Cinderella’s struggle with identity and bullying

“Cinderella” treats abuse and trauma in interesting ways. Its main character endures unjust bullying from her stepmother and stepsisters, but she refuses to let their actions break her.

“I think it’s beneficial to show that when people are jealous, they can be mean as demonstrated by Cinderella’s stepsisters who are not nice to her,” Dr Solomon says. It sheds light on the motivations behind a bully’s actions and reassures us that it has actually nothing to do with who we are.

However, the only form of escape avoided to Cinderella comes in the form of a prince whisking her away from her house. This perpetuates the idea that women have to rely on men in order to be saved.

I think it’s not a great message to tell little girls if they put on a slipper they instantly turn into a beautiful woman and then a man wants to be with them. The prince wants to marry the woman that fits in the shoe.

Dr. Renee Solomon

This sends a message that we have to appear a certain way to be valued and loved, that we have to fit a certain mold in order to deserve a better fate.

Understanding and helping teenagers develop

However, Cinderella is an example of a modern day teenager’s ‘coming of age’ story and can help parents to conceptualize bullying, its effects and solutions. “As a young person, Cinderella struggles with identity issues, much like our teens do today,” says Bri McCarroll, MSW, LICSW. 

Cinderella is not liked for who she is and where she comes from. Throughout the story, “she is ridiculed by her peer group (stepsisters), not supported by authority (her stepmother), and is stuck in an apparently hopeless situation.”

This story symbolically conveys the experience teenagers go through as they navigate relationships towards developing their own identity.
They have to manage critiques by their siblings and peers and often don’t feel understood by parents and other figures of authority. 

Like Cinderella, who is isolated in her own home, “teens often feel ‘alone’ in the family unit, as they strive to find their own identity and be liberated from the ‘confines’ of the family.”

The fairy godmother represents, for a teenager, the adult who is outside of the family unit, like a teacher or mentor. 

Through the coaching and support of this non-family adult person (this Godmother), the teen is able to be seen for who he/she truly is.  Through the reflection of self in this adult’s eyes, the teenager is able to come into their own identity and see his/her own worth and value.

Bri McCarroll

Much like Cinderella, who shocked her stepfamily by revealing her true self, teenagers can finally achieve recognition as capable young adults through the relationships with non-parental adults in their lives. And we know what happens then: they live happily ever after…or at least, so the fairy tale says.

Destructive parenthood in “Hansel and Gretel”

“I see it as a story of personal resourcefulness,” says Dr. Alleman.  Abandoned by their father, who cannot feed them, in an alien and alienating world–a classic childhood anxiety–the children are able to defeat the witch (who can be seen as symbolic of the suffocating and devouring parent), thereby achieving independence. 

The story illustrates the importance of mutually nurturing relationships. Without parents, the children are forced to ‘parent’ each other, and their relationship is essential to their survival.

Dr Allman

Either of them alone would have been easily devoured by the witch, but together, they bring about her demise. Its ending is a positive one, but it also reflects much about the importance of ensuring a safe family environment for children to grow up in. When parents are either too absent or too suffocating, they can significantly inhibit the development of their children.

Self-improvement through self-awareness in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Most fairy tales are about self-improvement through lessons on morals and ethics. Some of the most powerful ones come from the 19th century Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen.

“One of the Andersen fairy tales that can teach about self-improvement through self-awareness is ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’,” says Sam Gladding, Ph.D., a professor at Wake Forest University’s Online Master’s in Counseling program who specializes in creativity in counseling.

The story revolves around an emperor who is obsessed with his clothes and appearance; he wants to be the best-dressed monarch in the land. When approached by two swindlers who promised to weave him a marvelous fabric for his clothes, the emperor cannot resist.

“Not only do the swindlers tell him the fabric they are making his clothes out of will be beautiful, but it will also be invisible to those who were stupid or unfit for their positions in the kingdom,” says Gladding. 

The tricksters, who have not done any work, praise the invisible threads they present to the emperor and convince him that they have made an exclusive, fashionable outfit.

“The emperor, not willing to admit he does not see the invisible and nonexistent clothes wears them to a great procession. Everyone in the kingdom at first pretends to see the emperor’s clothes, except a child who vocalizes the truth – the monarch is naked.”

A lesson in being honest with oneself

This story provides powerful learnings about pride, vanity, and image. As Gladding says: “When we are over concerned about trivial matters, such as our clothing, we become gullible and often act foolishly.”

Self-improvement comes through acknowledging reality, listening to truth, and genuinely interacting with others.

Seeing matters clearly helps us avoid pretentiousness and improve our lives and those of others in our environment.

Sam Gladding

We do not know what happened to the king in Andersen’s story after he received a harsh, but much needed lesson on self-awareness. “The fact that he did not march in another parade in invisible clothes probably means he made a needed change,” Gladding suggests.

But, “self-improvement, as Andersen subtly points out, has to do with what we do as well as what we avoid.” The child helped him face the truth of his actions and motivations, so that his future decisions will be much more grounded and thought out.

What we can take away from our favorite tales

As Dr. Marter points out, most fairy tales “do not include LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive storylines,” which is an ongoing issue as film and animated adaptations have done little to remedy that issue. However, there seems to be a slow, but promising evolution in the way relationships, female characters and friendships are portrayed.

For example, Disney‘s Frozen boasts a strong, endearing relationship between two sisters, which significantly overshadows the romantic plot, and indirectly speaks about living with mental illness.

Similary, Maleficient challenges our perspective of a very well-known villain by humanizing the character and adding depth to the otherwise tired and stereotypical jealous older woman in “Sleeping Beauty.” Merida is also the first princess to have a whole story that does not revolve around marriage or finding a prince, which is a great narrative for children to enjoy.

Fairy tales are an important and almost inevitable part of childhood, which is all the more reason why we must pay attention to them as adults. They contain both positive learnings and problematic ideas on issues like female agency, consent and self-sacrifice.

It is important to reflect on these issues and how they may have directly or indirectly influenced our development and understanding of relationships. In doing so, we are more prepared to address these topics with children, so that they can have a better grasp of what these stories say about the world.

More interesting articles:

Meryl Streep Saved Carrie Fisher By Embracing Her Flaws

By | carrie fisher, challenging, Food for thought, friends, Inspiring Celebrities, Meryl Streep, stories

Carrie Fisher and Meryl Streep are both icons in their own right, and have both enjoyed immeasurable professional success. But in terms of personality, you might think they were from completely different worlds.

While die-hard Star Wars fans may see her as inextricable from her character Princess Leia, she was indeed from Earth, although her life on this planet was quite singular.

From an outsider’s perspective, her wild child persona and troubles with mental health and addiction could have made a friendship with the more staid, straight-laced Streep unlikely.

However, the actresses defied the odds and managed to dig a little deeper within themselves to find common ground in women’s advocacy, loss, and above all, humor.

Carrie and Meryl’s road to finding each other

Carrie’s life was everything but ordinary

Carrie Fisher’s early life was more than a little unconventional. Born to America’s Sweethearts at the time, actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, she was thrust into the spotlight mere hours after coming into the world.

Then her father famously ran off with Elizabeth Taylor when Fisher was only 18 months old. After the event, her mother turned to drinking to cope with the loss. Reynolds’ work also kept her away for much of Fisher’s childhood.

Carrie’s mother spent a lot of her time at home sleeping, or becoming Debbie Reynolds the movie star, applying lipstick and rouge and false eyelashes, as Fisher recalls in her memoir, Wishful Drinking. What little time she had with her mother, she was forced to share with the world, and she didn’t like it. 

Fisher started experimenting with drugs at the age of 13, first with marijuana. Then, when the highs started becoming dark and scary, she found substitutes in painkillers, hallucinogens, and cocaine.

While her unstable childhood could very well account for her penchant for drugs, Fisher claimed she used as a means of moderating what would turn out to be bipolar disorder, an affliction she inherited from her absentee father. 

After an overdose in 1985 Fisher to rehab, and incited her to write her seminal, semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge, which she would later adapt into a screenplay. Eventually, it would be made into the 1990 movie of the same name, starring the legendary Meryl Streep. 

Just a regular girl from New Jersey

You could not find an actress with a more opposite background to Fisher’s if you tried. Raised in New Jersey, as far away from Hollywood as possible, in a loving, supportive, stable household, Streep credits her mother for instilling confidence in her and fostering the belief that she could do anything and be anyone if she was willing to put in the work.

And she did. She completed an MFA at the Yale School of Drama, and eventually became the actor with the most Oscar nominations in history. And all this without so much as a stain on her record. 

In fact, in an appearance on 92y in 2000, Streep talked about preparing for her role as Carrie Fisher’s alter ego, Suzanne. “I did take one illegal substance,” she says coyly to a tittering audience. “But that was an important part of the research.” 

The friendship that would change their lives

“She and I became, and still are, very good, close friends,” Streep goes on to say of Fisher. The friendship between the two women may have blossomed through a mutual refusal to cast judgment.

When Streep married her current husband, sculptor Don Gummer, only six months after Cazale’s death, she faced a wave of anger and resentment from friends and family — even from her own mother. Just as Streep did not hold Fisher’s addictions against her, Fisher would never have batted an eye at her friend’s unorthodox decisions in her quest for happiness.

“No one is good or bad – but a hearty mix of both,” Fisher has said. “And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

In fact, the two actresses might have bonded over their experiences with loss. Fisher’s of her father – and subsequently her mother, to an extent – and Meryl’s of her first husband, actor John Cazale, to lung cancer.

Perhaps Fisher’s irreverent sense of humor and inclination to shine a light on the dark, ugly side of life with candor and wit (“I’m Joan of Narc, patron saint of addicts,” she’d quip) was a kind of balm to the more introverted Streep.

Fisher’s free-spirited nature and unrelenting yet wry positivity clearly struck a chord with Streep, who quoted the late Fisher during her Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech at the Golden Globes in 2017.

As my friend, the dear, departed Princess Leia said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.

The two women also shared a passion for women’s rights and equality. Princess Leia was “the ultimate survivor”, per The Independent. “Stripped of everything and yet, still, she blazed on. She never bowed down to fear, never to grief or hopelessness.”

Whether it was Leia who influenced Fisher or vice-versa is anyone’s guess, but it is clear the character and the actress who portrayed her shared similar traits. Fisher talked and wrote at length about her struggles, a brave act in an industry that thrives on exposing one’s flaws, especially when it comes to women, for whom even aging is taboo.

Streep is also a force to be reckoned with, championing for equal opportunity for women not only in Hollywood, but all over. She recently starred in the movie Suffragette, about women’s fight for the right to vote, and has been a vocal supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

As she stated in her speech at the 2016 Women in the World Summit in New York City, “women are in the world now and we will not be bullied”. Fisher would surely have been proud. 

A broken heart, and a happy farewell

After Fisher’s untimely death in December 2016, Star Wars fans and everyone at Lucasfilm, from writers, executives and costars, were devastated. But, as they say, the show must go on.

Some fans started a petition to have the role of Leia played by Streep for the final installment of the Star Wars sequels. It gained traction, garnering almost 9,000 signatures, and rumors of the recasting started flying.

And, let’s face it, if anyone else in the world was going to play Princess Leia, you couldn’t find a more appropriate actress than her dearest friend. However, a rep for Streep shut down the rumor mill, and Fisher was ultimately written out of the script.

“The women I have played in the movies and in the theater have all felt like me to me,” Meryl explained in a talk at Princeton University. Surely the role of Leia could never feel like anyone but Fisher. 

Their friendship inspires us to look beyond difference

Streep and Fisher found in each other a common love for womankind, and a desire for the betterment of the world for women through writing or acting. Most of all, they found inspiration, to live life with humor, and to never give up the fight for happiness. 

Streep is said to have sung Fisher’s favorite song at her memorial, “Happy Days are Here Again”. And while she may not have felt it at the time, she followed her dear friend’s advice. She took her broken heart, and sang. 

The unlikely friendship between these seemingly opposite women is living proof that diversity of life experiences can create a beautiful unity, and that one is never too far from understanding another. We simply have to love and accept people for who they are.

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Are Meditation Apps Missing the Point of Mindfulness?

By | challenging, Food for thought, personal essay, self, Spiritual Health

In the not-so-distant past, meditation was only taught at in-person classes or written instructions in a book. The rise of digital technology has opened up a world of accessible mindfulness, with guided meditation apps booming in popularity.

Learning meditation has never been easier.

There are around 500 different types of app associated with Buddhism in Apple’s App Store alone, each focusing on mindfulness. In their basic form, these apps tend to encourage focus on the breath, and becoming aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

The industry is thriving, valued at $130 million and predicted to continue to grow as the “self-care trend” rises in popularity. Seventy percent of the market is shared between two titans of app-based meditation — Headspace and Calm.

It doesn’t take enlightenment to see the impact thee apps have. They complement the mindfulness buzz, are easy to use, and package what can be a mystifying topic into digestible chunks. All things considered, their prominence should be uniformly good news…

But that’s not the case.

Meditation apps may be missing the point of mindfulness


In an article on The Conversation, Gregory Grieve and Beverley McGuire explain how meditation apps dilute mindfulness by stripping away religious elements.

As Buddhism scholars specializing in social media, they’re well positioned to understand. According to their research, meditation apps “miss the point of mindfulness.”

They highlight early Buddhist texts, such as the “Satipatthana Sutta,” as including important guidance on life and death, impermanence, and skilled and unskilled thinking.

Mindfulness apps, on the other hand, encourage people to cope with and accommodate to society.

The issue with this is overlooking the root cause of distress and suffering: “Indeed, our findings show that Buddhist meditation apps are not a cure that relieves suffering in the world, but more like an opiate that hides the real symptoms of the precarious and stressful state in which many people find themselves today.”

There’s not much research into the benefits or pitfalls of meditation apps to date. However, the authors conclude such apps may have the opposite of their desired effect and increase stress and smartphone addiction.

But wait… meditation apps changed my life

Grandiose subheading aside, I have immense gratitude for meditation apps. For years, I had the inclination to begin meditation. But I struggled with the technique, and felt overwhelmed any time I tried. So I spent a while accepting meditation wasn’t for me and pedestaling its elusive qualities. Until I tried Headspace.

It changed my life.

I built consistency with my meditation practice purely with the app and Andy’s dulcet tone. At that time, I was experiencing severe anxiety, depression, and psychosis. I wasn’t in a good way. I was caught in my thinking mind. 

Meditation (which I wouldn’t have started without the app) shifted me out from incessant loops of mental activity and provided the first “aha!” moment — distance from thought.

Headspace was a portal to my spiritual awakening.

Curious by the different “dimensions” I was sensing, I then started to explore the concepts discussed in the app in more detail, beyond their secular summary. Thus began my spiritual journey.

Mindfulness Lite?

Here’s an important counter argument: meditation apps act as a catalyst. For some, they help reduce stress and create more harmony. For others, like myself, they lead to deeper insight and a shift in worldview. 

Ultimately, anyone using meditation to improve wellbeing rather than coping mechanisms such as alcohol, food, drugs, sex, or shopping is something to be celebrated. The technique itself increases compassion, empathy, ease. The world desperately needs more of these qualities.

But there’s no denying Grieve and McGuire make a valid point. Mindfulness is diluted. And, the deeper we travel into the benefits of spiritual practice, particularly disciplines such as Buddhism and Hinduism, the more obvious this becomes. 

On some level, mindfulness is commodified and swallowed up by the capitalist system. Critics refer to this as “McMindfulness.”

As Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Full-bodied mindfulness has the potential to make meaningful change on a societal level, by elevating consciousness and addressing core triggers of burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression from a compassionate perspective.

Instead, the majority of its use is moulded to fit an already existing (and dysfunctional) system. To this degree, meditation apps are a symptom of a wider issue.

Changing ourselves to change the world

A multi-ethnic group of young school children are indoors in their classroom. They are sitting on pillows and meditating with their eyes closed and hands clasped together.

Of course, this doesn’t stop individuals from exploring further. And I don’t believe commodified or full-bodied benefits are black-and-white. My experience wasn’t ego-aggrandizing or purely self-serving.

For example, I learned the loving kindness technique through Headspace, which greatly enhanced my relationships and levels of compassion.

Still, there’s a long way to go. Change begins with ourselves, but we have to be ready. Not everyone is looking for a spiritual realization through smartphone, but a little more ease and a little less stress. If using a meditation app brings more harmony to the world, then it’s worth it.

But above all else, we must remain mindful of the source of mindfulness and its related teachings. And remember, focusing on the breath is the beginning of a much deeper and more rewarding journey — if we’re brave enough to take the leap.

The 6 Stages of Change To Create the Life You Want

By | challenging, Food for thought, how-to guide, self, self-development

Resilience is forged in the fire of determination. It’s the courage to take action when facing fear and resistance. Although sometimes we’d like it to be easy, all meaningful change ignites fear and resistance to some degree. Self-actualization — the manifestation of our full potential — is a long, painful process for this very reason.

A potential pitfall I’ve noticed with spiritual practice, is that it can become excessively inward focused.

Picture the monk in a cave in the Himalayas, with no external distractions and days filled with hours and hours of meditation

Meditation increases self-awareness and awareness is a catalyst to meaningful change. But unless you pair awareness with action, you’ll freeze at this step.

Changing your behavior is a courageous leap, particularly when you realize that your life are out of alignment. Building an authentic life is an immense challenge; and it’s the path few take.

But it’s essential for living a fulfilling life.

Are you ready to change?

Face your fear to create the life you want

Meaningful change is intimidating. What happens when we realize jobs, relationships, or life situations aren’t what we want in our heart of hearts?

Such realizations can trigger all kinds of fear-based responses in the ego. We fear rejection, loss, or failure.

But it’s crucial to mix spiritual intelligence with getting stuff done, right? We aren’t here to play small, but to live fully and authentically. This takes an immense amount of courage and effort. And in my experience, it requires a smart, structured approach.

This is where behavioral psychology comes in. I find immense value in Prochaska and DiClemente’s model of behavioural change, The Stages of Change Model (also known as the Transtheoretical Model). The model was developed in the 1970s by examining people who successfully quit smoking.

Typically, change is seen as all-or-nothing

The Stages of Change model provides a different approach. Progress in this framework is cyclical. Moving up and down stages is common. By understanding this model, you’re more likely to stick to new habits, and avoid self-sabotage or perfectionism.

Prochaska and DiClemente formed this based on healthy habits, but it’s just as applicable to our dreams and deepest desires, including self-actualization. I recommend using this model as a journaling tool (or discussing it with a coach) for various areas of change.

Let’s look at each stage in detail:

1. Precontemplation

Precontemplation is the point before you even entertain change as a possibility.

There’s zero awareness around the need to change; perhaps due to denial or ignorance.

At this stage, you have no thought of changing, even if others see the need for change.

Without awareness, you may underestimate how problematic a certain behavior (or lack of behavior) is, while emphasizing the drawbacks of making change. Applied to self-actualization, pre-contemplation is intertwined with shadow work.

Ignoring or denying the shadow self, anger, or jealousy makes contemplation impossible.

2. Contemplation

Contemplation is the moment of awareness; the lifting of the veil.

The contemplation stage is introspective. Meditation and mindfulness expedite the shift from precontemplation to contemplation.

This stage is balanced: you equally assess the pros and cons of making change.

When contemplating behavioural change at this stage, you may feel hesitation and doubt. A common example is setting boundaries; a fundamental practice in living authentically.

Communication is key, yet the build-up to such conversations can take a while. There can be lots of contemplation before finding the courage to set boundaries — particularly with those you love.

3. Preparation

The preparation stage is the beginning of exploration.

Using boundary-setting as an example, you may reflect on what your needs are, what needs have to be communicated, and what you’ll say to communicate them. You may buy books on communication rely on your support system for guidance.

We’ll refer to this as the information-gathering stage, or the “Google it” stage.

By this stage, there’s a clear determination to take action in the near future.

A common example with physical health would be researching gym plans, looking up exercise routines, or prepping the cupboards to start eating healthier.

Man cleaning face

4. Action

This is the “Just Do It” moment of change.

It’s crucal that your actions are congruent with your values and authentic desires. I say this because, many times in my life, I’ve pursued goals or taken action due to ego-driven desires.

A common misperception is to view this as the final stage of change.

Believing the moment of action is “final” leads to setbacks and complacency. Your action has to be repeated.

5. Maintenance

Sticking to the new action and developing consistency is the true test.

Remember: the Stage of Change is a spiral model. What this means is, you’re expected to oscillate between stages, rather than consistently progress.

Keep in mind there’s a significant difference between a lapse and total relapse.

And, remember: in all big changes, there will be lapses. Lapses are guaranteed! You may reach the action stage, face setbacks, and return to contemplation. Be kind when this happens.

Most people slip up at this point because they see progress as linear, and change as a success or failure.

Rather than seeing setbacks as failure, it’s much easier to recognize the setback as a lapse, and take action to correct the behavior as soon as you can.

If you find yourself spiralling to an earlier stage, it’s a good time to reassess your goals.

Were they aligned with your deepest wants and needs, or from a place of ego? What can you do better? Do you need more tools or support systems in place? Reflect without judgement.

To remain vigilant, self-monitoring is needed. Applied to a diet, this could be counting calories or checking weight loss. Spiritual growth isn’t as easy to define; but it could involve commitment to a meditation practice, journaling to see progress, or remaining self-aware to ego-triggers and behavioral patterns.

6. Termination

At this stage your new behavior is ingrained and habitual. However, it’s important to note this stage is often not included in health promotion programs because it’s incredibly rare.

It’s likely most of us will be at a stage of consistent maintenance

This is apt for the process of self-actualization. Ego-driven desires and impulses may remain, to some degree, throughout our lives. We just become much better at handling them and choosing to live from a place of heart instead.

I almost decided not to include this stage purely because the ego can play tricks and decide you’ve reached termination stage as a way to breed carelessness. But with this new perspective on change, I hope you’re able to progress and avoid excessive self-criticism on the path to creating the life you want.

It isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.