Why the Link Between Your Body and Self-Image Is So Important

We live in a society where we tend to mainly focus on, and be concerned about our physical health; our appearance – how we look, or maybe more importantly how others look at us. We tend to measure and base our health, and sometimes-even worth, on numbers. Numbers coming from a scale, measuring tape, a calculator or likes on our last IG picture. We want to fit in so bad, whether it be in a certain BMI box or amongst the bikini pictures we see on social media, that these numbers, and how others see us become what’s important. And we forgot to focus on how we feel about ourselves, and how we make others feel. 

But what about what’s hidden underneath those numbers? I believe that is important too. I believe that health is not just determined by what we see on the outside; my weight or my body fat percentage. It’s also how I feel about my self and my body. What is a ”perfect” body worth if you’re not happy? 
I think the mental aspect is equally as important – that we’re happy with ourselves and how we look. 
This is not saying it’s ‘not okay’ to want to work on your body, become stronger, faster or lose weight – but do it for you. Because YOU want to, and not because others make you feel like you should to “good enough” or to “fit in”. 
Magazines and social media constantly influence us when we create body images or body ideals. But some of what we see and strive for is unreal – and yet we still judge others and ourselves by them. Leaving some people thinking “if I don’t look like that – I’m not good enough”. Some people dedicate their lives to work and on their bodies. To improve strength and minimize fat, and as a result they are amazingly fit. I think it’s impressive, and if that’s what makes them happy that’s great, but it doesn’t mean that’s the right way to live or that’s the way you have to look to be ‘good enough’. 
Healthy and being healthy is not as black and white is we want it to be. Like everything else in life we all have different preferences, and the same goes for what works for us to stay, or become healthy. Of course our bodies have some physiological needs in order to function properly for as long as possible, and that’s why we have some guidelines for nutrition as well as physical activity. But based off of these we still have freedom to choose what kind of physical activity we want to do, and what we prefer to eat. Some people choose to minimize certain food groups, other leave them entirely out, and others eat a whole variety of food groups  – we all prefer different things, and doing one thing is not necessarily better than the other. The same goes for physical activity. 
I think what’s important is that the choices we make regarding physical activities and what we eat, are based off of what gives us joy, rather than what we read, or was told was right for us. My personal experience is that joy builds and strengthens motivation. And I believe that motivation is the engine behind most things we do, and helps us to achieve goals and feel successful. I bet, if you base your health related choices off of what YOU want, and what makes YOU happy, they’ll last longer, and you’ll find more joy in doing so. 
I think being healthy is about balance. Balance between doing what physiological serves your body and what gives you joy, and strengthens your mental health and wellbeing. And I think as part of finding that balance, happiness is an as important part of being healthy as the physical side is. And I know happiness and wellbeing are not constants; we all have ups and downs – it’s part of life, and expressing those feelings are important too. But I strongly believe, we have the power to influence our own happiness – and others’. 
Liking your body, enjoying what you eat and the physical activities you do is not the key to happiness and wellbeing. But I believe it’s a good place to start. So let’s quit the unreal ideas of a perfect body and the mentality that we all have to look the same. And instead of judging and defining ourselves and others based on numbers and physical appearance, let’s start supporting each other in habits that not only increase our physical health but our happiness as well.

Eva is a student-athlete for the Red Deer College Queens women’s basketball team. Despite her first language being Danish, Eva is a terrific writer in English as well. She has a passion for intellect and depth, and the support for The Five You Need runs both ways- as Eva continues to demonstrate her obvious talent for creative writing. 

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Without These Keys, Growth Stays Locked (Guest Post by Paul Bagnall)

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to be better” -Pat Riley 
Who doesn’t want to be excellent in their lives? In basketball there is a phrase “Bring something more to the floor than scoring”.  As a basketball player, you need to be able to aide your team by doing things other than putting points on the scoreboard. Playing hard-nosed defense, diving for a loose ball, and being a leader are just examples of actions that allow you to influence the game beyond scoring and become excellent. Basketball revolves around players learning how to score points, but how many players are truly willing to play hard-nosed defense, dive for a loose ball or be a leader? These skills will allow you to stand out as an island amongst the ocean of “scorers”.
Life is like that as well. We need to bring more to the floor of others lives than just being present.  Life does not allow us to just exist, but rather we must strive to better the world. Sometimes that means lending an ear to a friend in need. Other times it’s a friendly “hello” to a stranger on the street. Or pushing a stranger’s vehicle out of a snow bank even if it means you’re going to be late to work. Society has created a vacuum of individuals who just want to exist, without bringing something more to other people’s lives. On a personal note, I am trying to implement some “Evolutions” to my own life in order to create something better the lives of others. 

“Selfish Listening” evolves to “Selfless Listening”
Having recently been dismissed from a relationship, I have had a lot of time for some introspection. One of the numerous “we need to talk” talks my ex-girlfriend and I had revolved around how I listen. I didn’t realize I was doing it but when I was responding to her, I would use “I” a lot which caused the focus of our conversations onto myself. I now understand that I need to become a selfless listener. One who doesn’t respond immediately with “I know what you’re saying…” or “I had something like that happen to me…”. Selfless listening involves listening to the other person and asking questions to move the conversation forward instead of turning it towards yourself. I now see that I can evolve just being ridding myself of the “I”s in my life. (Yes, I purposely used “I” a lot in this section…)
    “Making excuses” evolves to “Owning what happens”
I think we all have had bad things happen to us at some point in our lives. Whether it be a speeding ticket, a broken relationship, or a failed exam. When bad things happen, it’s really easy to look externally to create causes for our disappointments. We blame speeding tickets on the police trying to make quotas, we blame a broken relationship on the other person, we blame a failed exam on the teacher. When we blame others for our hardships, we give them power over our lives. This evolution in my life is to take back the power that I would normally give others and give it to myself instead. Giving myself power has to include both the positive and negative parts of my life. If I take all the credit for getting a good grade on a test, I have to be prepared to take the blame for a bad grade. I think the reason people have a hard time owning what happens is that you become vulnerable to yourself and others. Yes, you are opening yourself up for blame, but you are also opening yourself up for growth. Vulnerability is not as negative as society sometimes makes it out to be. Being vulnerable to another person (or yourself!) allows for trust to grow. With that trust, the relationships (even with yourself) strengthen.

“Waiting for experiences” evolves to “Creating experiences”
I love Jim Carrey. I became a fan when he was Ace Ventura and have followed his career ever since. I feel one of his most underrated movies is “Yes Man”. The story revolves around a man who starts to say yes to everything that is asked of him, no matter what. Go to a concert? Yes! Give a homeless man some change? Absolutely! Take Korean lessons? Sure! While the story is fictional, the premise behind the story holds merit. By saying yes to what is asked of us, we create experiences in our lives that we can grow from. Each experience creates a situation we can reflect on, whether the outcome is good or bad. But instead of waiting for experiences to find me, I have started to try and create my own. My neighbors recently invited me to their house-warming party. I said I would try to stop by but later that night I wasn’t feeling very social. Instead of waiting for the experience to come to me, I summoned up all my socializing might and sauntered my way next door. It wasn’t a life-changing experience by any means, but it could have been (I could have easily met my future wife). And that’s the point! Do not wait! Create your own experiences because it might just change your life.

Even through muddy waters, a river always flows. Even at the worst of times, we must always be moving forward in our lives, striving to be better. Be a better friend, better husband/wife, better athlete, better employee. Implementing an “Evolution” strategy into our lives will push us to become better people. Striving to be better will allow us to bring more to the lives of others by being the best possible person that we can be. It’s really easy to be a scorer as a human, but it’s what we bring to the life beyond our scoring that makes us a person.  

Paul Bagnall (Right) is a teacher and coach for multiple sports teams- most notably assisting for men’s basketball at St. Mary’s University as well as head coach at the highschool level. Paul has a fire for life, which includes his passion for mentorship. This mentoring is how Paul’s path crossed The Five You Need, as his guidance and support for Jordan in all dimensions is already unquantifiable in such a short window of time. 

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Jumping Off A Bridge: Anxiety or Excitement

Winter is here! After a few weeks of flirting between hot and cold temperatures, a white blanket finally covers the Albertan earth and it looks like it here to stay. But let’s flashback a couple months ago- I’m in a mountainous paradise known as British Columbia.

Not only that, but I’m sat on the left side of a two person tube that’s gently floating down a beautiful teal river, surrounded by pine trees that not only fill up the scenery, but give life to the immense peaks that rest behind them.

Needless to say, it’s pretty relaxing.

Up ahead there’s a bridge, one where our local tour guide and good friend says is a fantastic place to jump off. After gliding to shore, we mosey up towards the bridge and make our way to the middle. And instantly, the calm relaxation is replaced by intrepid anticipation and adrenaline. I try to decipher whether I’m anxious or excited but the pure exhilaration from the impending jump makes it impossible to tell, so I embrace it before tossing any thought aside and plunge down deep into the river below.

Like anyone jumping into water anywhere, as soon as splash I swim upwards as fast as I can to escape the water burying me.

As soon as my head breaks the top, I exhale quickly in order refill my lungs with air. And just like that, the post-glow of anything exhilarating sets in and the only thing found on my face is a smile.

I replay the scene in my head, and all the thoughts that came with it. I’m struck by the feelings I had, and how the nervous excitement was overwhelming.

Nervous excitement.

What an intriguing, and entirely true sentiment that I’ve come to embrace with open arms. One of many caveats in life is that each and every one of us will have moments where we are nervous. On the same token, we will inevitably be placed in situations that also make us excited. The point is- it’s utterly astounding how closely related these two traits are.

Think of a time where you were boiling with excitement. This could be from anything from an upcoming vacation to a roller coaster ride- being excited is fun, at least for me. During this time you probably had butterflies in your stomach, your heart started beating faster, and you might’ve felt more alert and energized. All one-hundred-percent normal things to feel when you’re stoked about something upcoming.

Now think of a time when you were anxious or nervous about something. Whether from a presentation, performance, or a looming deadline, everyone has felt those ‘uncomfortable’ feelings of anxiety. They’re a part of life, and for thousands of years were the very mechanism that enabled us to survive in a primitive world where virtually anything had the potential to kill us. The fortunate reality is that these instincts are no longer necessary (unless sabre-tooth tigers make a wild comeback, which I don’t see happening), yet we still possess them and many other things passed on from generation to generation. When you’re nervous, you probably have butterflies in our stomach. There’s a good chance your heart rate increased. And your alertness probably made it feel harder to sit still or appear calm.

Sound a little familiar? The crazy thing is that these two emotions are so close in identity they are becoming linked in helping people overcome the harder one by utilizing the fun one. Excitement can be your friend, and training your mind to wrap your anxieties in a bow of exhilaration is very real, very accessible possibility.

Simple affirmations corroborate with almost everything else I’ve written, this topic is no different. Giving positive self-talk to guide yourself through these emotions might seem silly, but ‘speaking’ things into existence is a very real concept in the mind. Self-affirmations can be as simple as repeating “I’m excited” over and over again, as well as a baby step to allowing your mind to see it in an alternative way. Eventually, feeding yourself heaps of positivity can become effortless as it becomes second nature by way of habit.

This is only a small piece to a beautiful mosaic that is the puzzle of the human mind, specifically anxieties.

I don’t know about you, but an opportunity to change that sounds pretty exciting to me.


Leave me a comment below on your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Take Control of What You Can or Your Life Might Suck

As I’m walking to my car, I take a moment and acknowledge how the air is refreshingly comfortable, opposed to the stifling heat that enveloped the outdoors over the past couple weeks.

Fall is definitely coming. 

I look around, and realize that up until now I hadn’t even noticed the gradual change from lively, leafy green, to pieces of yellow and amber scattered throughout parts of the trees. Frankly, the assortment of colours looks scenic, and along my drive I overlook a valley and see even more, with the yellow and orange cozying around the river. With this view comes anticipation of everything the new season is going to bring with it. My mind wanders very easily and before I know it, I’m already fantasizing about Thanksgiving turkey and hoarding an entire pumpkin pie to myself.

A few hours later, I overhear someone meeting the same realization that summer is fading away, and dreading everything that strings along with the change.

Huh, well that’s another way to look at it. Listening to the distaste throws me off a little bit, as my own excitement for what’s to come clearly is not mutual.

Why view it as impending colder weather and dead leaves when you can think about awesome things, like a new medley of colours surrounding the outside, a comfy hoodie to enjoy it with, or even something like the white girls delight- pumpkin spice lattes?! (Maybe this is the year I try them, although I am admittedly reluctant, as I will probably be on that hook for life…)

Neil Pasricha has been a pleasant inspiration to me via the book he’s written, The Happiness Equation. As an individual who has committed himself to being a student of happiness, the findings he has discovered are incredibly interesting and the topic is something I will always be drawn to. Early on, long before his success, he took on a personal challenge of writing 1000 Awesome Things, a daily article on something fantastic, yet common, that he encountered and might otherwise have overlooked. Things as simple as when someone holds the elevator door open and waits, or the feeling of warm photocopies fresh out of the printer.

While there were other things accompanying his journey to satisfaction, what he noticed was how much his appreciation for life and all it’s details grew. Every day he sat down and wrote about something awesome that he experienced throughout his day, and as you can imagine, the list reached 1000 after some time. On top of appreciation, what he didn’t realize was how trained his mind became at recognizing positivity in seemingly small details. Before long, no matter how insignificant, nothing that impacted him in a good way went unnoticed or unappreciated in his life.

This is an attractive idea, but going in the opposite direction is also entirely possible. Scoping out negativity can become just as much of a ritual as the optimistic side. In fact, lawyers are highly trained in finding flaws and inconsistencies in the legal system and obviously become much better at it over time as they develop their skills. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that this does not contain itself at work, as attorneys have been shown to carry this habit over into their personal lives and in anything they interact with outside of the office. The critical mindset accompanying lawyers can become apart of who they are!

Personally, after learning two very real and very different sides of the coin, it’s not difficult to see which route I’d rather go. And to be quite honest, the more attractive option is also not as difficult as it seems. Noticing and appreciating the little details that swirl around our lives every single day is very doable. Before long, and with practice, your mind won’t even have to try- you’ll be trained in seeing your life how you want it. I don’t about you, but the idea motivates me to take an extra moment on top of each happy moment, just to appreciate it in full. Yeah, there’s no denying that at some point something won’t be great, and sometimes it’ll suck. But taking charge of what I can control is a step along the path of love and satisfaction.

The season’s changing, there’s no doubt about that.

What will you see?

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Why Our Friendships Always Run Out Of Gas

It’s beautiful day out and my car is full with friends; we’re on our way back from visiting more friends. The right tunes are vibrating out of the speakers, with all of us in high spirits and just enjoying each others company.

I look down through the steering wheel and do a double-take, since I’m hoping that what I’m seeing isn’t true. And with comedic timing, the wheel stiffens as my car slides into neutral and I guide it to the far right shoulder of the road.

We are completely out of gas.

For what it’s worth, this  never happens to me has happened to me to many times in the past calendar year. I should’ve learned my lesson from the first time, since I know my car loves to throw obscure, over-exaggerated estimates on how much mileage it has left until empty, like it’s some grossly overconfident jock judging how much Axe body spray to put on. But I didn’t, so there I sat, waiting for the last of our momentum to be expended before we stopped at a dead halt.

Yeah, this one’s my fault.

I glance around the rest of the car sheepishly and relay the update in our current situation, and I’m met with the reactions I figured I’d find.

The thing is, friendships are not unlike the car I had unwittingly depleted of gas to leave it dead on the side of the highway. Much like the gas, and regular servicing that the car needs, the relationships we have with the people around us need to be maintained.

Friendships are a very real vehicle that will help carry us to where we need to go, all the while supporting us along the way. There are good cars and bad cars, new ones and old ones, efficient vehicles and gas guzzlers. The same can be said for friendships and relationships.

There are good friendships and bad ones, old and new friends, friendships who don’t need much, and ones who need the world.

The reality is that we let a variety of factors stop us from keeping our friendships running. Whether it’s effort (or a lack of), personal anxieties, or we just simply don’t know how to keep our relationships strong, many of us have let people and friends go by the wayside because the vehicle wasn’t getting what it needed to keep running.

I’ve seen too many times where people grow distant because their own anxieties made them believe they’d be bothering the other person if they reached out.

I’ve watched people who used to be inseparable, separate because they couldn’t be bothered to make small gestures necessary for friendship to live.

Sometimes, we don’t really know how to keep a relationship breathing and so naturally, it fades out with the wavering hope that they may be rekindled somewhere down the road.

I’ve always had a personal pride around the maintenance of my friendships, and sometimes I felt like this came across as annoying to some people- and that’s okay. It doesn’t happen often, and if you really want to keep the people who matter most to you around, sometimes you’re going to have to reach out in ways that make you uncomfortable. We as humans are incredibly social creatures, in fact we depend on it, but we let a myriad of other factors influence us in contrasting directions.

In other words, assess who you need in your life and rid yourself of any other external factor, like doubt, fear of rejection or the unknown, and put what needs to be put in to your relationships. The easy way out might feel easier at the time, but keeping the people you want around you is both rewarding and fulfilling- and something you’ll probably thank yourself for down the road.

Every car needs things to keep it running, and your friendships are no different.

To read more on friendship, click here and here.

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The Past Will Haunt You And The Future Can Destroy You, If You Let It

Aside from maybe when I was a kid, times where I’m truly ‘in the moment’ are rare for me.

And honestly, up until a couple weeks ago, I was entirely ignorant of it and what it was doing to me. Sure, I’ve heard endless clichés about “living in the moment” and cherishing the time you have in the present, but I had become so desensitized that they were left at just that: clichés.

Call it ignorance, call it whatever you want; the fact is that I was obsessing over the past and thinking too much about the future. Apart from the fact that this completely robbed me of the whole, complete, enjoyment in most of what I was doing, the effects it had on my mind are clear.

Depressive moods, like sadness and regret, have an intricately dependent relationship with the past. Basically, sadness is caused by something that has happened at some point in our past- fresh and recent, or long ago. These two sister-like characteristics of sadness and the past rely on each other, coexisting. They share the fact that neither really thrive without the other. If you feel sadness, especially regret, it is because of something that has already happened- not something impending and coming soon. An easy way I found to look at it objectively was to think about how I feel after leaving a holiday, or a vacation of some sort. Naturally, I’m a little bummed because the glow is over and in the past- everything else in life is not much different.

Now you may be thinking of how you can be sad about something in the future, however it is a different quality found there.

Anxiety is based on fear about the future, and this fear (like it’s cousin, sadness) is also entirely dependent on the concept of the future. You simply can’t be anxious about something in the past, because it is done. Therefore, it is this other, futuristic side of the spectrum that hold this pair of correlated concepts. Another way to look at it is the excitement I feel before the glory of the incredible vacation mentioned earlier, as excitement and anxiety are so closely related emotionally that they can be viewed in the same sense. It is this excitement that is brought on solely by the anticipation of an event coming in the future.

Sadness is caused from an event of our past while anxiety looms from something in our future.

This may seem like common sense, but the reality is that most of us (and myself, without a doubt) aren’t aware of it, which means we can’t really counter it properly.

The truth is that my habit of living in the future and always thinking 5 steps ahead of myself was giving me anxieties that I wouldn’t have had I put my mind in a better place to enjoy the moment.
In short, I was always thinking about my next move, the next part of my day, and what was to come after whatever I was doing currently.

Like I mentioned earlier, this also affects the satisfaction of experiencing the moment, and I was making things way less enjoyable for myself.

If you’ve ever been surrounded in the bliss of a warm summer vacation, you likely know exactly what it’s like to be lounging in the sun, maybe on a beach or by some water- with not a thing to do or worry about except relaxing and enjoying every second. There’s a whole host of other factors that contribute to these habits, like my cellphone and busy mentality.

Just like any other group of habits, there are ways to replace them with better ones.

Focusing on engaging your senses is the bees-knees when trying to stay in the moment. Concentrating on things you can see, feel, hear, taste, and smell is exactly what helps to keep you anchored in the present. Sounds so simple, right? Unfortunately, with technology and all it’s progresses, this becomes increasingly more difficult. The human mind is more engaged than ever before, thanks to these cellular ‘joys’ of innovation, so being mindful of the moments that make up your life gets harder and harder. The effect that being present in each moment you experience does wonders for your own mental health, so taking time to realize it’s importance daily can really reinforce the good feelings of psychological tranquility- which always seem to increasingly more elusive as the stresses and negativities in life pile up.

Just spreading a friendly service reminder of something most people know somewhere within themselves, in order to help keep what matters most at the forefront. As for me, I’m trying to get better at living fresh- and passing along my thoughts in the meantime.

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Love Will Not Work Without These 3 Things

What a week! After spending time vacationing in beautiful, British Columbia (and giving myself a quick concussion on the way…), I’m filled with inspiration to write about something that I myself have little experience in: love. I’m not a married man, nor some guru of romance, so naturally the inspiration came from two of the sweetest people who find themselves nestled into Nelson, B.C..
Grandma and Gramps have lived in a little honey-hole on the lake for almost 25 years, and have been together happily and successfully for 52 years. I’ve known them for over a decade now, but spending time in their home as they hosted myself and some of my friends (and their grandson of course) allowed me to get to know them a little more intimately then I had previously.

As someone who doesn’t even know what my next week looks like, to see people who have managed 52 years in the company of one another is something I can’t even begin to fathom- but after talking to them I begin to understand.

Grandma and I walk out in to the garden, flowers and plants surrounding the borders of the property, only ending for the expanse of the deep blue that is the lake.

Yeah, the Kootenay lake is their backyard. Gentle mountains cozied around the lake finish off the view that happens to be their every day view.

We take a seat, and I mention to Grandma about why I wanted to talk to her. I explain that I was taken aback to see a happy, vibrant love between two people who have spent more than double the time together than I have spent on the earth, and that I was eager to find out how she makes it work.

For anyone that knows Grandma, the joy and energy that bubbles out of her is always apparent and this surely doesn’t change for our conversation. She immediately begins talking about her main man, and how important he is to her.

The love and compassion she so evidently possesses for the love of her life is visible in far more than her words; when looking at her mannerisms and body language it’s easy to see that this is easy to talk about.

After talking to her, I wrote down the pillars that hold up her love, relationship, and marriage.

1. Love and most of it’s success is hinged on you and how you govern yourself within it to foster growth.

The first of what I gather while talking to her corrects a way I had been thinking up until this point. In my comparatively miniscule experience, I had been under the impression that finding the right partner was 99 percent of the battle. Quickly after talking to Grandma, I come to realize that this isn’t quite right. How we act, how we respond, and how we behave play a tremendous role in the success of our relationships- and is something we will always be able to control.

2. Patience, and understanding how important this is in your relationship is crucial.

“We all think differently, we’re on different levels.” Realizing that there will be struggles, and that not every day is roses is key. Much like the hours of winding roads endured to get to the mountains required patience, love requires patience and endurance.

3. Being mindful and willing to communicate, while also understanding the importance of it.

Everyone knows how to communicate when they need something badly, but understanding the importance of talking about things is essential. Much of the time it’s external factors, like our egos, or emotions that prevent us from communicating in the right way. Mostly everyone knows that talking is good, but simply being mindful of how important it is, combined with a willingness to talk about things in the right way go a long way.

. . .

One profound aspect explained to me by Grandma is the nature of how dynamic and changing we as people are. We will always be changing, and having a willingness to grow and change together is an ingredient of success in a partnership. Being adaptable is a terrific quality, and factoring in someone else and how they may change is amazing. Growth is a motivating concept, and the thought of growing alongside someone else, in sync is extremely attractive.

As we sit on the bench swing, the compassion that radiates from her is immense. Time and time again she stresses how important Grandpa is to her, yet even without her repeating these comments, they are found subliminally in virtually everything she says. 

I thank her for sitting down to chat with me and she hurries off to continue her day- only stopping to give Gramps a quick kiss as she passes by.

Gramps with the proudest catch of his life, and a fish

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I Took A Whooping From An Eleven Year Old, And It Won’t Be My Last…

With the game tied up and two points away from being decided, I look at my opponent in front of me and know in myself that it’s game time.

He drives around me, crossing over before scooping the ball through the hoop while going off the opposite foot.

Okay, one more point and my game is over. This is fine though, I’ve been here before.

I pass him the ball for the final, game deciding possession, and he dribbles and crosses over to attempt a similar move- only this time he sneaks around to the other side for a reverse lay-up, gently spinning the ball off the backboard and through the hoop.

Before shock even has time to fully sink in, the loudest squeal of joy can be heard from him as he runs off the backyard court and into the house faster than I can even make words come out of my mouth.

My eleven-year-old little brother Austin just beat me one on one for the first time.

I stand there a moment, wondering how I got myself into this position before walking up to the house to find my brothers animation is somehow filled with more excitement and emotion then when the Warriors won the NBA championship less than a month prior.

As someone that means the world to me, seeing the joy on his face somehow lessens the competitive blow my ego just took, and I sit there and accept his energetic elation without making excuses in front of my bewildered family.

This kid has shown day in and day out uncanny similarities between us, and the gratitude I have for him is immeasurable. While we aren’t identical, looking at him and seeing qualities evident from our brotherhood is something I cherish and hold close to me. I know that through him, I can walk along life beside him and find solace in the fact that I can support him through struggles and challenges I faced at the same ages.

For better or for worse, my brother emulates me and this is something that I will never take lightly. I love the relationship and how complacency is no where to be found, because of how highly improvement is viewed by both of us. Life and growing up brings many mistakes accompanied by lessons, and to be frank, the plentiful mistakes I’ve made have thankfully afforded me with countless lessons- and the age gap between Austin and myself means that I have the luxury of helping him through similar times.

The awareness of this fills me with happiness and relaxes me, while also adding another dimension of fulfilment to my life that helps validate my worth. My internal compassion develops by helping him, because making a habit of putting someone else first is a humbling element of selflessness that can grow into other areas of my life. For as much as I’m helping him, I truly believe he’s helping me. 

I’ve talked a lot about gratitude in previous posts, and how this magnifies when talking about living, breathing, people in your life is immense and should never be taken for granted. Having appreciation for those around you is one of the most important vehicles of your own wellbeing. Assuming someone will be there regardless of what happens is an easy trap to fall into, and in doing so it robs you of truly appreciating them and what they’re worth. Taking time to fully value and appreciate the people around you will ensure that you’re always spreading the compassion you need to the people you need most. While obviously this element of gratitude is consistent with all members of my family, this post is for Austin and this feat he managed on his birthday.

Pretty soon he won’t be proud of beating his big brother in a game of one on one, so maybe I should be the one cherishing the moment!

Congratulations, Austin. I love you buddy.

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What I Saw While Dirtbiking Around the Coast in the Philippines

I was driving a dirt bike up a sandy coastal road in the Philippines when I look over and see a clearing just below, with a cluster of shacks with mud for floors and enough for maybe the basics of living. There’s not a chance that there’s power in the huts, and as I look to the left I see a woman washing what looks like children’s clothes in a basket.

My glance is met with a glowing smile, and a wave.

I kind of feel like a jerk because the amount of concentration and balance needed to manoeuvre the bike through the slippery, sandy, dirt hill is enough to make me sweaty, and because of this I can’t return the gesture.

The wheels I took around the island

Over to the right are kids running around and playing together, and sounds of laughter are heard throughout the little pasture of dwellings.
No phones, no roads, no appliances- all of them living more minimal than most people in North America do when they’re camping.

But no happiness? It’s infectious and found mostly everywhere you look. While riding on past, all I see are people smiling, socializing, and truly seeming to be content with the moment they are in right now.

You might think that this is something atypical, lucky, or even rare- but that’s just not the case over here. While I didn’t have the luxury of time to travel the country entirely, all of the places I did go had the same thing in common.

These people truly epitomize happiness and connectedness. The former concept is joyful, but the way these people value communion and social interaction is admirable. Each individual can attest to the way they feel connected to those around them, and the results are living right in front of you. While a vast majority of people from the Western world would view this minimalist lifestyle as torturous and unpleasant, the people here who are immersed in this way of life are living a life with tremendous gratitude for what they have, and who they have.

In the same way that Western culture has placed an importance on capitalism and making money to be successful, this little region of Pacific culture has cultivated a priority on community. The proof is in our backyard too: Filipino’s have created their own communities and do a pretty good job of orchestrating groups and leagues by which they can all gather together with.

I think it’s amazing. To have a culture so warmly embrace togetherness is inspiring, and the results can speak for themselves. The social structures connecting everyone are found everywhere, and the sense of community is unparalleled in our culture. We live in a world where all of us feel like there’s always something we need to be happy, perpetually seeking the next thing and the next dollar.

“Once I can afford that car, then I’ll definitely be happy.”

This goes on and on forever, steadily keeping pace with you and the next thing you want, only resulting in endless dissatisfaction.

Learning to be happy with what you have, and letting gratitude be at the forefront of your life will pay you the biggest dividends. The Happiness Advantage is an eye-opening book that truly instigated this paradigm shift in me, and the fact that is the one I chose to bring with me to read while travelling through the Philippines is astoundingly coincidental- and to this day, still blows my mind. One of the main themes of this book is the concept that money and success will bring you happiness, when in reality it’s not true. Constant hunger for more stems from this, and happiness will always elude you as you race towards the illusional rainbow.

Instead, the truth is that happiness is what fuels success, and focusing on your own happiness will actually make you more creative, motivated, and energetic.

My belief is that adding gratitude into the equation will compound this even further, because allowing your happiness to rely on what you already have rather than what you want is the key to being in love with the moment and the life you are submersed in.

For me personally, the proof is in the country and culture I was lucky enough to experience overseas. This was the main trait that was consistently found; people wrapped up in gratitude for what they have and the community around them.

Allowing yourself to let your motivation come from happiness rather than “more” is the rewarding experience you deserve, and what ends up happening when you become happier is amazing. Everyone deserves to be more motivated and energetic, and the byproducts of these two qualities will naturally bring you more. There’s nothing wrong with getting more, it’s simply the prioritization of acquiring more that is counter-productive, and will end up making you less happy. This ends up causing a chain reaction, in turn making you less motivated, with less energy, while your creativity dwindles. It’s a vicious cycle, but adjusting this to be centred around happiness allows you to snowball in the direction you want- naturally attracting more and more to you instead.

It starts with the little things; smiling at people, holding the door for someone, or even waving at someone.

Unless you’re biking up a steep hill.

If you’d like to give The Happiness Advantage a read, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

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Chucking Yourself Out Of A Plane Might Be One Of The Best Things You Can Do For Your Friends

Another day, another article on friendship. But with something as important as this, inspirations are plentiful, meaningful and found all around.

The reality is that all of us stand to better ourselves a bit within the relationships we find ourselves surrounded by. Some people seek to better themselves in creating friendships, others with maintaining them- and every thing possible in between.

As a progression from of my previous articles (about vulnerability, honesty, and value), ways in which to deepen the bonds between those close to you is a natural and attractive step forward. Plus, the idea came from another very close friend- a huge inspiration!

Having a deeper connection in your friendships is wonderful and allows you to connect with people in ways that needed for the very survival of our emotional wellbeing. Knowing how to do this with people can be a tricky task, and is something people naturally progress to slowly over time. But what if you could expand the depths of all of your friends? Could you become closer to everyone, hand in hand increasing your own emotional socialization and maximizing your own growth?

Without question, this is something I relish in my life. The friendships I have entrenched myself in account for the growth I’ve been able to achieve as a person, as well as all of the memories and stories I’ll be able to tell on a porch someday to make myself sound interesting.

The world craves meaningful relationships and the evidence is found in the multitude of different social structures. People crave socialization whether they realize it or not. Holiday parties, bars, office functions- you name it, and they all boil down to assisting people’s basic needs for socialization.

Alcohol is a cheap representative of people and they’re desire to bond. In some cases, alcohol is a commonplace instigator of socialization and fuel for friendships. People are drawn to how easy making friendships are without any social thoughts or anxieties that prevent them from sharing themselves honestly to people they normally wouldn’t.

Not going to lie, it’s such an easy social trap to fall into.

Unfortunately with alcohol, once the drinking is done and the day is new, most often the bond does not carry over quite the same. The bond that was bought for a night is usually exchanged back for the inhibitions that were missing while the night was alive and wild. I’m sure almost anyone can look back on someone they talked to while drinking and then wonder why on earth you were telling a stranger about stuff that would make a good episode if you ever wanted to be featured on Dr. Phil. Or hey, maybe that’s just me.

Alternatively, sharing intimate experiences with someone else will always deepen the connection you share with someone. People often think of it as a concept that flows only in one direction- yet this is wrong. It’s a common misconception that to share these profound experiences with someone you must be very close with them, but I don’t agree. A person can share experiences with someone else they aren’t as close with, subsequently enhancing the intimacy between those two people.

For example, when my mother (a sensible woman) decided it would be a good idea (it was) to pay for me to throw myself out of an airplane for a milestone birthday, just being lumped together with the few people taking on the encounter at the same time was enough to spark conversation after and feel a faster connection than the stereotypical, ‘it feels forced’ conversation with the person behind you at the supermarket. Now if I were to have utilized it with a friend comfortable enough to join me on this, us sharing this experience would elevate our friendship high off of the ground (accidental but welcomed pun).

Have you ever noticed that people just seem friendlier when you’re on a tour or vacation of some sort? Of course, the elevated happiness and friendliness from just being on holiday definitely plays into it, but the common ground of a significant experience you’re sharing is also a factor.

In short, pursuing opportunities where you can share an meaningful experience with someone will make it easier to increase the intimacy of your friendship. Remaining stagnant as friends and being mired in a routine of things that never change will provide a barrier between friendships, and simply being conscious of it allows for a better chance of proactivity and change. Step out of your comfort zone, and search out those opportunities for growth.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone is probably the biggest, albeit toughest, next step. Even the phrase sounds like the verbal equivalent to getting out from a warm blanket to step onto the brisk floor and colder air of your room. However, just like the latter is needed to head to work or school, the former is also needed to gain the most out of life- and for this example, your relationships. In a previous article about vulnerability, taking the plunge is an idea mentioned to enhance a friendship. This is the tougher, less illustrious concept that takes a little more guts.

Something embedded in my friendships is the notion of shamelessness. Whether it’s making sure everyone gets a hug on arrival for one of our annual guys reunion (yeah, we’re grown men and we like to hug, so what?), or offering our thoughts unfiltered, as they come, removing the element of shame just allows you an easier path to be free in who you are with everyone around you. Be shameless in the way you approach your friends, the way you communicate with them, and the way you let them know you care. Take the first step by offering a piece of vulnerability by which those around you can build on, and watch the seeds you plant grow.

 Many people remain chained by inhibitions preventing them from expressing their true thoughts and feelings, and appearing free yourself shows others how possible it is to step away from theirs. This ultimately rewards you and the person you share this side to. The important thing to enable this is to understand why someone is reluctant to be real, and encouraging them by being vulnerable and real yourself.

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