So the month started with a background story to “The Day Akela Died,” giving out some information on what inspired the story. Also I provided a sneak peek on what stories would be coming up soon inshaAllah. If you haven’t received your copy, make sure to check it out here.
Then we discussed a bit on The Masks People Wear, and that brought on a lot of comments from readers who connected with that post, leading to a compilation of comments on The Masks People Wear – Comments. Then I disappeared for 11 days and returned with a post that was not exactly that popular titled the Effects of More Facebook-Like Inventions. The topic came up once when my friend and I had one of the longest chat ever that stretched to the wee hours of the morning. But you can tell from the many comments – or lack thereof – that people’s interest was not piqued enough…or maybe, people other than RetireWannabee didn’t have anything to contribute with.
It has been quite an interesting month I must say and even though I wasn’t as productive as I should have been, but reader’s contributions on my blog made up for that. Thank you all for continuously supporting and sharing this blog. Thank you for all your comments, and emails, and twitter retweets.
The journey is not over, and if you’re wondering what I have planned for next month inshaAllah, check this out…
So today, I thought of sharing with you some of the tools I personally use to keep track of certain actions/goals in my life. I’ve always been an avid reader in the field of Goal Setting and Personal Development. The very first book I read on this was the Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I always found it quite interesting how we as Muslims have so many jewels in our religion and yet we don’t really use it or utilize it, when other people sit, study and work hard to come up with “discoveries” that have been part of our lives for a long time. For example, a lot of these books state that the biggest motivation for achieving something can be found in ‘gaining pleasure or running away from pain’, and if you think about it, when we’re told to do good deeds and avoid bad, it’s either to go to Heaven – gaining pleasure – or stay away from Hell – running away from pain – in the Hereafter. Then some people say that to make sure that a habit sticks, you have to continuously do it for 30 days, which makes you think of the discipline gained through the Holy Month of Ramadan. In the Magic of thinking Big, the author spoke about the importance of smiling, and it’s Sunnah to smile. There are many other examples, so in short, we can enjoy our lives without much of the Westerners’ philosophies. However it’s really interesting if you’re seeking knowledge pertaining human psychology, and to read on modern methods and tools to improve your life.
Productivity Tip #1: Keep Track
So one way to discipline yourself to achieving results you’d desire is to keep track of everything. If you want to lose weight, you’d keep track of the number of hours you spend in the gym. If you want to do well in school, you’d keep track of the time you spend studying. If you want to be more productive, you’d want to keep track – and minimize – the time wasted on social networks such as Facebook. If you want to manage your money, you’d want to keep track of your expenses. So without further ado, here are the tools I personally use;
1) Excel Sheet. What can be more efficient than a properly labeled excel sheet? You can add tables of hours spent working, hours spent in the gym, money spent, and then it’s just simple maths…
Okay, I know that was no brainer, but other things I like to outsource such as…
2) 750words.com. To keep track of the words I freewrite, I use 750words.com. By freewriting, I mean unconstrained, unedited writing. I normally track my proper writing on tool # 1. The cool thing about 75owords is that it disciplines you, and personally, a lot of blog ideas come out of the rubbish I post there daily.
3) QamarDeen.This is a really cool iphone application to record your prayers, Quraan reading, charity and fasting. You can easily download it from the app store. More on it here. I first read about it on Dxbgirl’s blog.
4) Toggl.com. This helps you keep track of time. Personally, I haven’t started using it yet, but I would like…when I have the time.
5) Goodreads.com helps you keep track of books you’re reading or want to read. It helps you connect with your friends so you can check their bookshelves and reviews on books. It’s quite useful though I have to admit I don’t update my profile that often.
6) A notebook and pencil to keep track of your ideas throughout the day. Technically, any idea-capturing device would do; a voice recorder, an email to yourself, phone notes….
What other tools do you like to use to help yourself be productive?
An excerpt from “From Sarah With Pain” (a by-now-very-dead project I worked on back in 2008);
You know, once upon a time, I used to love the word ‘family’ until I discovered that most family members took their kinship for granted; people who think that they have the right to hurt somebody just because they are related to them; people who stamp on each other for the sake of materialistic gains; people who no longer respect the word, ‘family’, and maybe I am the same, but I’m neither the first person nor the person to be like that.
Following up on Relationships worth fighting for, let’s focus today on family. The equations of family relationships are supposed to be the easiest in the sense that you tend to carry unconditional love for people who are related to you by blood, right? Also in Islam, upholding the ties of kinship is obligatory, and it is explained by the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when he said: “The one who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one who truly upholds those ties is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 5645). 
When people are younger, they may respect the word ‘family,’ defending their siblings when they get into trouble so they end up into trouble together, but as they grow older something happens. Maybe it has something to do with “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” (or to be more exact, “Family Breeds Contempt”). Maybe other people enter the equation in the form of wives-husbands-in-laws and result in disequilibrium. Or maybe they decide to put their money together in the form of a family business, which puts one of two things at risk; either the business or the relationship. Or maybe they just grow up and grow apart, developing their different personalities that act like sodium and water, so that the status of the relationship disintegrates with time.
Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s justified, because in the end family is family, and upholding ties of kinship is a religious kinship.
Quote ; “I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.“
The other day I read a very interesting quote on my twitter feed. Somebody had posted, “You fight with the most important people in your life because those are the relationships worth fighting for.”
It made me think, how true is that statement?
Think about it. When two people find themselves in a heated argument, screaming angry words at each other about how “you are wrong, and I am right” does that necessarily translate to being dentrimental to their relationship? Or could arguing actually be healthy for their relationships?
Successful relationships are based on mutual respect, trust and honest two-way communication. Depending on the situation, honest two-way communication could also mean arguments or “constructive debates” (analogous to constructive feedback).
In biology, it is known that tear ducts produce tears to clean, moisten and lubricate the eyes. That keeps the eyes in good shape. Similarly, arguments can be healthy to some relationships. People may let out their negative feelings about each other be known. As a result of that, the other person knows if there is a habit that bugs you so they could change it. It helps clean the air between them, and weed out any misunderstandings that could exist between them. Also after the argument, if the relationship survives, then the two people have a new reference point to which they can point and say, “If we survived that, then we could survive the next argument.”
Plus from my experience, there are some people are amazingly unaware of things like hints, or codes or diplomatic talk, especially guys (sorry guys). They need to be told things explicitly in detailed steps; 1, 2, 3…and if you miss a step then you lose them. So if you really think about it, arguments could be used to keep a relationship healthy.
But what if arguments don’t necessarily patch up relationships? What if the relationship slowly erodes with every argument until the day something major happens and the relationship goes to a point of no-return. This usually happens when people don’t play by the rules of a healthy arguments. When a ‘healthy’ argument ends, both sides need to learn the lesson that they needed to take from that argument and ‘move on’. In other words, they need to delete the argument permanently and not bring it up again over and over again in future arguments. Bringing it up again is what makes the argument harmful to the relationship.
At least, that’s one way of looking at it, what do you think? Do you think that arguments could be healthy or are they always damaging?
How many of us work with passion every day? If you’re the typical person, then you probably hate Sunday morning more than anything, snoozing your phone alarm for the umpteenth time and crawling under your blanket for just a few seconds…but when it comes to Thursday morning, the resistance you face whilst getting out of bed is less because guess what…the weekend is close by?
It’s funny cz when I started writing this, I was drinking Milco Apple Juice and it’s written at on the label, “Milco has a passion for delivering great-tasting juices packed with nutrition.”
And I’m pretty sure that while Milco might – or might not be – passionate about its work, half of the people working at Milco are doing so just for the pay and don’t feel any passion for what they are doing. It’s a common mentality that goes like, “We’re not supposed to enjoy a job, that’s why it’s called a job not a hobby…”
A job is seen as a means to an end not an end in itself, and that’s why most people are content going through work without having fun. But the question is, if you’re going to do something whether or not you like it or not, why not enjoy it?
If your job takes 40 hours per week (and I’m sure it takes more if you count the commute and the overtime), then that’s equivalent to 30% of your waking time (assuming you get 5 hours of sleep per day).
So just a few tips
1) Find meaning in your job. This might take some time to think about but it’s worth it. When you find out why you do what you do in the office everyday, things end up falling in perspective. So people’s reasons for keeping miserable jobs are many and half of the reasons involve $$$, maybe it’s for their families, or to take care of their parents. Maybe they’re content about the job they have because they know that there are many people out there who are unemployed and they are grateful to God for providing them with a good job to pay the bills and keep them busy.
2) Give yourself a pep talk every morning. Fake it till you make it. Tell yourself you’re going to enjoy work…does that mean that you lie to yourself? The thing is, the more determined you are to enjoy your work, the more opportunities you tend to get for enjoying it.
3) Stay around passionate people. Maybe you’re not passionate about what you do every day, but somebody out there must be, so spend some time with them and have some of their passion rub onto you.
4) Find a connection between what you’re passionate about and your job. Mine has always been easy. I loved writing during classes. Actually I was more productive in engineering classes than english classes, so I ended up doing my Creative Writing assignments in engineering classes. And if you ever get to see my diaries you’ll notice that I write in English, but from the end of an empty notebook to the beginning (why? Because it’s a habit I picked up from working on my own writings in class…the ‘class’ notes began normally, but then I’d turn to the last page and work on my own writings and continue working in that direction. You can easily imagine which side of the notebook was normally more full).I had a friend who loved Chemical Engineering, and she’d use all these engineering terms to describe normal things in life. I enjoyed that because it struck with my passion for writing (I ended penning down a whole series of poems titled “Chemical Engineering Seminars” for my Creative Writing class)
5) If you can’t enjoy your whole job, then at least enjoy part of it...while I pretty much hated most parts of my previous job, at least I enjoyed lunch with my best friend
6) If you can’t bring life to how you feel about your job – and you’re in a position to quit or change careers, then do so. There’s a quote that goes like, “If you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.”
Life’s too short to spend it waiting for the weekend.
Last but not least, a checklist to find out whether you’re passionate about something or not;
1) You absolutely love it. When you’re working, you just get in the ‘zone’ and the feeling of time disappears. You get so into your work that you end up forgetting important things like eating.
2) Even if it’s hard, even if nobody appreciates you, you’d do it for free, day in, day out, because you just love doing it
And since we’re at the topic of passion and jobs, I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes by Steve Jobs – CEO of Apple -
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
“What we’re about is not making boxes for people to get their jobs done. Apple is about more than that. We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe.”
Imagine a time comes when 10 new things are invented with the phenomenal effects of Facebook. What do you think will happen to the world, socially, economically, politically and mentally? Will there be a thin line between reality and virtual reality? Will reality become obsolete?
Think about it.
Society-wise, cobwebs of social networks would become more complex, and the six degrees of separation would get reduced to five as the world turns into a global village. Remember the time when people used to visit each other to drop wedding invitation cards? Now people get invited through facebook events, and though some people might not like it because they deem it impersonal, it’s the new trend.
People’s lives are divided into two; a private life and a public life, and the line between them is getting thinner and thinner. Thanks to facebook and twitter, it’s not just your friends who get to see what you’re thinking, drinking, eating, how you’re feeling during the day, strangers who follow you do too. But it still depends on how much of your life you are ready to reveal.
With multiple facebook-like inventions, the concept of money would evolve (or dissolve) and turn to virtual money. Something like paypal but without the physical cash at the beginning of the chain. So let’s say you get a job, you’ll be paid with paypal-like virtual money and that’s what you would use to buy things online.
Similarly, the educational system will need to be revolutionized. In the age of google, why do you need to remember Boltzmann’s Constant for an exam when you can just google it. But the system would need to teach you how to think. Imagine you were asked a question on a topic you never took in class, but it requires the same pattern of thinking as something else that you did take in class. Would you be able to build analogies yourself? Would you be able to sift through the material to get rid of the junk and evaluate the real treasure?
Of course, we can’t close the topic without discussing cyber attacks that could become easier because people are more anonymous. But also wars would not need to be on the field using weapons, but could be waged online using information…i.e. ideological wars would be common.
So to comment on the comments of The Mask People Wear, first we need to distinguish between the term ‘wearing masks’ and having privacy . We all hide private stuff from people because it’s normal. However, by wearing masks, I mean people who portray to others that which they are not. Examples might have of people who drive huge cars that they got from bank loans just to fit in with society when in reality they can’t even afford the car or the lifestyle they’re living. I mean, people who hate each other inside but talk to each other like old pals. People learn to wear masks from such a young age, and I see it in the teenagers who emulate pop stars just to fit in with their friends at school. People who wallow in gossip everyday when they don’t like doing it, but because that’s the pastime of their group, so what to do? (for those who don’t want to see the comments, my opinion in the blue paragraph)
The best comment I received was, “sumtimes you just have to hide certain weaknesses or faults becuz you know that showing it won’t help you overcome them nor will make you feel any better, it’ll only make you more vulnerable and needy without getting enough support in return from ppl… who happen to be just as helpless as you are sometimes….. so i dont really see the mask concept applies on this case..sometimes its merely losing hope in people’s power and putting all faith in Allah’s power …however, not admitting to those weaknesses n faults is the unwanted attitude.. life gets so busy that we fail to have a sit down with our true selves and workk on our unresolved matters.”
Other interesting lines include, “We all have two sides, at least. the good side and the not too good side. It just depends on who we chose to be with every person that we come across.”
” showing your real face can have very bad consequences, because after all, people only see your through their own distorted lenses”
“Yes i do wear a mask…but not in the sense that i am fake! We have in mind that those with masks are two faced. No its not. I believe everyone has one on…its a part of us…”
And about the masks one wears to one’s own self, the comments were, “Facing yourself, accepting who you are, is a big, big achievement that most people never succeed at.You can’t take off the mask if you don’t know what you look like without it.”
“But then my discussion with you AH makes me think, is it really a good idea to drop off all the masks? I think maybe when it comes to oneself..maybe.”
Upon the reason, why people wear masks, we have this comment, “On a side note, I believe that it is the surroundings that you grow up with also plays an important role in determining what side of your personality you would like them to see and which side you’d rather have hidden from everyone.”
Then there’s, “i could say lack of self confidence but yet again we humans have this urge for everyone to like us, be in the cricle of the society, trying our best not to be outcast.”
I agree with most comments, and I’d say since we have come to the conclusion that most of us wear masks, and tend to hide our faults and weaknesses, sometimes wearing masks comes out of necessity. Some of my friends can’t imagine this, but sometimes I put on the “DramaQueen” mask just to get what I want from my family. Why? Because it’s what works.
However, cases where chronic mask-wearing can become serious is when people blindly emulate others without thinking for themselves, and the most prominent example is of the teen emulating pop stars to fit in and be ‘cool’. Because then the person might grow up without a sense of identity or individuality, so that they can’t even take their own decisions and have others run their lives by others. And you might see people who seek acceptance in any way even if deep, deep down inside it goes against their own values and principles. So yes, as mentioned in the comments, “Facing yourself, accepting who you are, is a big, big achievement that most people never succeed at.”
But I disagree with, “You can’t take off the mask if you don’t know what you look like without it.” Just because you don’t know how you look like without a mask doesn’t mean you can’t take it off. Taking it off might cause some confusion, but it’ll take time for the person to study and figure out his identity without the forces of the people around shaping them. Maybe the person will need help from a close friend to let them see who they are inside, like the person who grew up with a tough dad who taught him that crying is only for girls, and thus the boy grows up translating his anger in any way OTHER than crying; he would punch people, throw things, but never cry because he doesn’t know what it is to cry. But if someone notices that thing in him and makes him aware that he’s only exhibiting his anger through violence because he is not used to anything else, he might end up changing, you never know.
I guess that’s it for now, and I have to admit I enjoyed reading all your comments here.
Have you ever seen a friend of yours do something that shocked you the very core? Something that made you think, “I thought I knew him/her, I didn’t know they’d be like that”? What happens when we discover the masks that our friends and family wear in front of others, in front of us?
Who do we blame for the masks that people wear? Society that defines how we are supposed to act even if it’s all a huge pretense; a mock show that we put in front of people, so that people would pat us on the back, and not talk badly about us. Or is it the parents, who wake up every morning and wipe the tears from their eyes, smiling to the world, telling everybody that everything is all right? Or is it ourselves, do we blame ourselves for not having the strength to show others who we truly are in case we are afraid of ridicule?
The masks that people wear are real. The existence of these masks can be seen in the fake laugh that explodes from a person who tries to look good in front of his superior. It’s in the girl who goes out of her way to look thin just because that’s how society will accept her, even when she knows she’d rather be devouring that haagen-dazs ice cream every night. It’s in the husband and wife who scream at each other every night but when they appear in front of others, they act all sweet to each other. It’s in the hundreds of people who when their hearts are breaking and they’re asked, “How are you?” They answer,” Fine.” As if there’s a new universal definition for fine that says, ‘a state of total misery…’
Richard Bach says, “The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we’re afraid. We fear we will not find love, and when we find it we fear we’ll lose it. We fear that if we do not have love we will be unhappy.”
So when you wake up tomorrow morning, ask yourself, are you going to meet the world wearing the mask of a person you’re not?
If you are now telling yourself that you’re not wearing a mask right now, ask yourself this question, could it be that maybe, the mask is so stuck to who you think you are that you don’t even know it’s even there?
that’s something to think about and leave your comments below.