My early 20s was an unfocused, bewildering time. I had plenty of ambition, but lacked the motivation to work on myself, and didn’t know what I was doing with my life.
Once, I moved to Sweden, to study Anthropology in university for a year. Ever since I’ve had a fascination with the subject.
Anthropology, a.k.a. Social Anthropology or Cultural Anthropology, is the study of human culture; what people have in common and what sets them apart. Studying the subject makes you feel like you’ve glimpsed at secrets of the world that so many are missing out on.
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”
I was at my parents’ house recently. There, in the big playroom, I found my old books from that year, stuffed into the shelves with little thought, amongst a variety of other forgotten books.
Their smell brings me back. My studies: African tribes that believe in witchcraft, the family structure of Aboriginals and the Navajo way of life. For me, the eye-opening experience was not realizing how differently people live, but how differently they think.
The colors of our thoughts
Neuroscience is discovering a lot these days. I remember sitting in Biology class when the teacher told us that adults can’t grow their nerve cells, that they decay until a person dies. That has now been disproven. In other words, scientists realized we can change our own brains, which is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.
How we think is a choice. We teach ourselves and each other to think a certain way until it becomes automatic, we live in the fishbowls of our thoughts, and it’s our reality. We forget that our experience is construed – we weren’t born with it.
You might have heard of the Himba tribe in northern Namibia. There is a fascinating BBC documentary about how they see colors in their own unique way – in particular when it comes to what we call blue and green. It seems crazy, but color is relative.
This is one of many examples where Anthropology shows us something we believe is factual and universal only exists in our minds. Not only are there cultural differences in its perception, but also individual ones. My Mom and I often have little arguments over what is green to her, but blue to me.
Now, we’ve all heard it many times: “to change your life, change your thinking”. That’s the first step, the spark that lights the fire. You won’t get far if you’re stuck in the same old negative and unfocused thought patterns, the self-doubt, the setbacks.
Focus makes magic happen
Shift your focus to the good stuff. Just decide to go after the things you want and start believing in yourself a bit more.
Not only does this enable you to create change. It also improves the quality of your life right now, without doing anything else.
Let’s take a common goal as an example. Many of us want to be fitter and healthier, and so we know that to achieve that we need to work out more. On a regular basis, we think “I should go to the gym” without deciding to do so.
So, what I want to ask you, is when you think of your “shoulds”, how does it make you feel? Do you get a twinge of guilt in your stomach? Because, if you’re like most people, those neglected goals give you negative feelings.
The first thing we need to do is let go of all the “shoulds”. They aren’t good for us; they are a form of self-betrayal and only cause guilt and anxiety.
Find your focus. From now on, either decide that you’ll actually do something, or let it go. No more in between. Haven’t you ever seen someone succeed because they had amazing willpower? What’s more, have you never been super stubborn about getting something done, that doing that was an absolute priority, so you just did it?
Something happens when we decide to be unstoppable.
Something that can’t be described as anything other than magical – focus and determination can help you get wherever you want to go in the world.