The Warrior In You

 There’s a Warrior inside you!

Have you ever experienced a moment where you stunned yourself, where you were just like: “HOW DID I DO THAT?!” I’m talking about moments where You surprise yourself and see you’re more capable of doing something than you believed. 

I’ve experienced those moments many times in exercise! 

I consider myself more of a Lover than a Fighter. But there are moments where the inner Warrior comes out of me, seeping into every ounce of my being as I push myself past the mental limits I initially set. 

It happened one day on my morning run. As I was starting to run, a song by Hans Zimmer called “Journey to the Line” started playing on my smartphone. It’s a song that slowly started to build as I turned my run from a short jog into a faster pace. 

The music continued to build. My pace continued to increase. As the music reverberated through my ears, so it did through my body. My eyes started to squint, the wind pushed against my face, the sweat started to form. In the moment, I let myself go… 

The song hits its climax, and I am no longer sprinting; I am running for my life! In my imagination: I am running for the Gold. Running straight into battle. Running as explosions and chaos reign behind me. Running as if it is life or death. Running as if all of humanity’s lives depend on it. 

Suddenly, the music calms. Reality comes back into focus. I am back in my body. I am back to slowing down my sprint. I am aware of my panting breathing. I am back in the quiet suburbs of Chicago. 

The immortality I felt in the moment becomes but a thought again. 

There’s a Warrior in me. I don’t often show it, but it’s there. And it’s in you too. To think I use to be 80 pounds more than I was 3 years ago…it required the Warrior in me. Will You open yourself to it?  #TranscendLabels

A Very Important Question!

🌟 It’s important to ask oneself: Do you possess your beliefs? Or do your beliefs possess you?

I see a lot of life in paradoxes and contradictions. I see how everything contains its opposites: enantiodromia, yin-yang, pros/cons, however you want to call it. You could say I’m very analytical in my thinking.

But what if the way I’m looking at life is “wrong”? What if my beliefs are not the “best” way to live my life? What if what I believe as “absolutely true” isn’t the case? 🤔

There’s a film I once watched called “My Dinner With Andre”. It’s a fantastic and thought-provoking film about 2 old Theater friends, Wally and Andre, who reunite for dinner after 5 years. Wally remained in urban New York continuing as a playwright while Andre abruptly left Theater to travel the world in search of something more.

Throughout the film you hear about Andre’s vivid adventures abroad as well as Wally’s eventual skepticism with them. They share conflicting viewpoints:

📍Andre believes in seeking transcendence; Wally believes in a more pragmatic way of living.

📍Andre would say to climb Mount Everest for a greater sense of purpose; Wally would say that same purpose can also be found in the simplicity and details of one’s own backyard.

📍Andre would say he receives divine messages through patterns he sees; Wally would say they are coincidences.

📍Andre would share the benefits of a subjective, emotionally-driven view of life; Wally would share the benefits of an objective, intellectually-driven, scientific view of life.

Who’s right in this case? Do they both have valid points? What I absolutely LOVE about this film is while they share many things they disagree on, they also are able to find COMMON GROUND within each other’s beliefs. They understand and respect each other’s viewpoints and why they believe them to be so. In the end, they BOTH are able to learn from each other. No pitchforks. No name-calling. No eternal righteousness. Just 2 people having a conversation.

And this brings me back to the original point of this post: We all have beliefs. But do we understand why we have them? In other words: Are we in control of what we believe…or do the beliefs themselves control us? Do we impose our beliefs onto other people because we selfishly want others to follow them too? Or do we voluntarily share them without the expectation of agreement? 🤔

One solution I want to provide to you in order to figure that out is to ask yourself: “What do I believe? And is it possible from another perspective my beliefs could be ‘wrong’?”Just like Wally and Andre, both were very open to this possibility. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been willing to communicate with each other at all. And I believe that’s something all of us need to embrace more in our lives to further work with each other. 👥

And I know some of you may be thinking: “This whole post you’re also sharing your own beliefs! Challenge your own!” I will assure you I have. I can see how my own beliefs have both pros and cons to them, and I still choose to hold onto them. They are currently what’s serving me in my life. I’m not saying you have to agree with me, nor would I say you have to believe it. It’s another point of view you’re welcome to agree with…or not. #TranscendLabels

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Are you willing to do the same? Comment below if you are! <3

My Transformation(s) #TranscendLabels

We’ve all had moments where we ask ourselves the The Big Questions: Why am I here? Why are we here? What is my purpose? Is there a purpose?

But what if you had a darker moment, a moment where you wholeheartedly asked yourself these questions and you felt really shaken? What if you pondered these questions and started seeing holes in what you believed about your very way of life? What if you started feeling your identity starting to crumble around you, that what you once held so dear and tangible to you now felt “empty”? What if what you once felt so “true” now seemed “false”, making your beliefs meaningless? A hopeless endeavor. A lost cause. A pointless journey.

There are many terms for this experience. Mental breakdown. Existential crisis. Dark night of the soul. Depersonalization. Ego death. Identity crisis. It’s not pleasant. It can be scary, frightening, overwhelming, depressing, and all of them together at once.

I know because I’ve been there. As the philosopher Nietzsche may say: I stared into the abyss. What had once fulfilled my life had become a void. I was now stuck with way more questions than I had answers for. I felt lost. I felt numb. I felt anxious. I didn’t want to do very much other than to sit, think, and find out the reasons why I felt the way I did. At the time I really didn’t know what it was. But I know now what it was…

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Before I was diagnosed with any mental disorders, I remember as a kid reading an article online that talked about the definition of Depression. The article read almost like the results of a personality test. Was I feeling down for no reason? Yes. Did hanging out with my friends not feel the same way it use to? Yes. Did everyday things not seem to matter much to me anymore? Yes, so true! Well then you very likely have Depression and should see a doctor!

I self-diagnosed myself online. I was the one who told my mom “I think I have Depression”, and it’s why she ever took me to a psychiatrist. I wouldn’t have been diagnosed if I had never told her. And when I was officially diagnosed after a short interview with a psychiatrist, I hung onto these newfound labels. My newfound labels. I embraced their titles and their definitions as my own.

Why? Because I had discovered the answer to my problems. It explained exactly why I felt the way I did, the Ultimate Truth to my suffering. It wasn’t because I had lost my sense of self; it was because I had a “chemical imbalance” in my brain. It wasn’t because of any daily habits in my personal life; it was because I simply “couldn’t help it”. It was just something I couldn’t help except with some medication and therapy.

I hung onto these beliefs because I had my identity back. I had now found Donald again! Donald was suffering from these illnesses. Donald is the way he is because he is ill. It’s what others told me, it’s what I heard, and in doing so I inherited their beliefs as my own.

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But as I was asking before: why did I feel the way I did? The answer was because I accepted the opinions and beliefs of others about who Donald was: how I needed to live, what I needed to do, rather than discovering the answers for myself. The problem was I was living in dozens of other people’s dreams, rather than the one-and-only I could’ve created for myself.

I believe the answer is the same reason for why it’s so hard for any of us to change ourselves and our beliefs. I believe it’s the same reason why it’s naturally hard for many of us to be open to someone else’s ideas and perspectives. I believe it’s why so many people will fight each other for the sake of being “right”. Because being “wrong” invalidates our identity and challenges what we see as reality. Our existence. Our ego. Our sense of self. Our purpose in believing what we believe. If Donald’s beliefs are “wrong”, then who is Donald to even have these feelings? Does Donald’s voice even matter in this world if he’s “wrong”?

Dale Carnegie said it very well: “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insulted his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.'”

Now by no means am I saying I’m perfect or have mastered this skill. I’ve had my share of biases, mistakes, and letting my emotions dictate my responses. Nevertheless, I want to provide you all this because I believe this is one of the reasons why so many people are suffering today, why it’s part of my mission to Transcend Labels. We each have our own, unique identities. None of us sees reality 100% like another person, and no person is 100% the same individual. We’re going to meet cultures, religions, lifestyles, and people in our lives we won’t agree with. We will hear ideas and opinions that will challenge our very existence of our identity and character. And that’s okay; there’s nothing “wrong” about that.

The Bible talks about the Tower of Babel and how God disrupted the languages of the people building the tower so they would no longer understand each other. Everyone became divided and they could no longer build the tower up to Heaven. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the story provides great symbolism. Can anyone try and play God? Should we focus on becoming Gods ourselves? Or should we be grateful in what we already have on this earth? What if the people in the story found a way to communicate and work together despite their differences?

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I lastly want to let you know if you’re in the dark, if you’re feeling like your life lacks any meaning or purpose, I want to provide some very good news. Yes, it’s true! We can certainly look and focus on this emptiness from a pessimistic viewpoint. But I want to provide you another perspective: With this emptiness, you now have a room you can fill up with ANYTHING you want! You’re a clean slate, and it’s now an amazing opportunity to fill it with the things in your life that make it worthwhile!

Here are some additional strategies that have greatly helped me in lessening my stress and anxiety:

  • Acknowledging I’ll never know ANYTHING 100%. And that’s absolutely okay! We want to believe that somehow, some way if we keep searching for the answers that we’ll uncover The Ultimate Truth. I’d like to myself at times, as it seems like quite a reassuring feeling to my identity! But we also as human beings have been seeking to find it for thousands of years. I believe we continue to grasp towards it, similar to the story of the The Blind Men and the Elephant. But will we ever know 100%? Can we play God? And if we don’t, can we let it go and continue living our lives?
  • Set standards for yourself. Hold yourself to your word. These standards are for you to decide, not me or anyone else. Build up your identity, build up whoever You want to be. Because every time you don’t hold yourself to your standards or your word, you make a dent in the foundation of your identity. Who are You if you keep changing your standards or your word? Are you You, or are you what the Environment dictates you to be?
  • You can STILL hold onto your old Self. That’s right! You don’t have to do a complete 180 degrees on your identity! If there are beliefs that served you in the past, why not keep them?! The only difference now is that you see you have a greater awareness and understanding that you can change them. The world now appears bigger. The possibilities of who you are and what you can create seem more infinite. You can not only embrace your old beliefs, but now you see you can also replace the old ones with new ones that better serve you. With this freedom you have the power!
  • Change takes time to adjust. I know what some of you are thinking: “Well this is all easier said than done, Donald! You don’t know what I’ve been through!” You’re right, I don’t and I won’t pretend I have. I’ve never met you, I’ve never been in your shoes, or felt what you’ve felt. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. As with any habits in our lives I’ve observed it’s much harder to break one than it is to create new ones. But is it possible that we really can change and transform ourselves into the people we want to be? Is there far more fluidity to our existence than we know? Yes!
  • Don’t take life too seriously. I have chosen my mission to Transcend Labels. But am I to say my way is the only way? Not at all! I only wish to share with you what has personally helped me on my journey. You can take it or leave it. Look online and you will find thousands of people with similar or different beliefs than mine about life. You don’t need to take my beliefs, but you’re more than welcome to borrow whichever ones may help serve you until you can create your own. 🙂

Creation is about coming from the inside-out, not the outside-in. Instead of being what someone else is (outside), why not create your own beautiful, unique You (inside)?

“Life is not about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself. So live the life you imagined.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

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Want to know how to Transcend Labels too? My FREE eBook “Transcend Labels: The 5 Keys” is NOW AVAILABLE! Click HERE to get your personal copy!

Do You Believe in Coincidences?

Do you believe in coincidences? Do you believe everything happens for a reason? As my other blog entry about reuniting with my old friend illustrated, I’m a believer in this area, how life happens for us, not to us. The past few years I’m noticing what I’d call “happy coincidences”, occurrences I can’t fully explain but I can’t help but smile about. I’m not talking about anything paranormal, but occurrences that make me think that the odds of them happening were so slim. Nonetheless, they happened.

I’ll share with you another example. Two weeks ago I was on my way to London to do some volunteer work. I’d never visited London, let alone traveled to Europe by myself, so a lot of Firsts were going to happen for me on this trip! Little did I expect an additional First that I wasn’t even expecting!

The day of the trip, I anxiously packed my bags, got driven to O’Hare airport, stepped onto the Norwegian Airline plane, and traveled 4000 miles across the world to London’s Gatwick Airport. Minus my new sleeping accommodations, I was so anxious I could hardly sleep on the plane. By the time we had arrived at the airport, I was needless to say a bit dazed and drowsy!

As I stepped off the plane, it was now 10am in London. Still in my half-awake mode, I grabbed my bags at the baggage claim and went straight to Customs so I could enter the UK. I believe I waited in the line there about 2 hours, but given my sleepy mood I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say it was at least an hour. It was one of those long lines where the airport had it set up to zig-zag throughout the room. It was one of those lines where every 30 seconds everyone took a step forward except you because you likely weren’t paying attention. It was one of those lines where you could look at the crevices in the floor and write a bestselling novel about them before you reached the front. Long story short, the line took a while.

And here’s where it happened.

I was waiting in line, rubbing my eyes with one hand and holding my baggage in the other. I’m looking to see where the front of the line is, and then to the back to see how much longer the line has extended since I got in it. And then I see him. I see a taller gentleman with a woman. At first I’m unsure, but then I have this feeling in stomach that I know who he is. This person that was about a dozen people behind me in line was someone I use to work with.

I remember my body feeling tense, because in my mind I debating whether or not I should ask and confirm it was him. The part of me that was saying not to do had a valid point: What is the possibility I’d really run into someone I knew from a different state, from 10 years ago, 4000 miles away from home, in the same country, in the same airport, and in the same room?

It was him. He was just as surprised as I was. We honestly didn’t know what to make of this surprise reunion. He noted how he vaguely recognized me, but he remembered. We briefly spoke, we gave each other our farewells, and we went on our way. This person, I worked with him 10 years ago at a summer camp. I barely knew him at the time then too, but I never forgot his face. As I got to the front of the line and walked out of Customs, I started smiling to myself: The possibility of that happening happened… 

I had many great memories on my trip, and this was just one that continues to stick out to me. 🙂