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The Difference Between Quitting And Giving Up Can Be Virtually Imperceptible

It all depends on how you perceive it

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Life lesson from Barack Obama ascends to the highest office in the land

How to go from “Just Maybe” to “Yes I can”

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The One Trait You Need to Overcome Any Obstacle In Your Life

How to maintain courage when it is tested

Photo by Diogo Nunes on Unsplash

Growing up, my mom always told me an Indian legend that highlights the power of courage.

A king had everything: a beautiful palace, thriving kingdom, and peaceful citizens.

One night, a goddess visited him in his dreams. “I am the Goddess of Wealth,” she said. “I have decided to leave you.” Surprisingly, the king showed no signs of protest, and the goddess left. With her disappearance, the kingdom was stripped of its splendor.

The next night, similar events occurred. “I am the Goddess of War, and I am leaving you,” the king heard in his dreams. Again, the king stayed silent, and his military strength disappeared. Soon, enemies ravaged the kingdom.

The third night, the Goddess of Courage arrived, and you guessed it: “I am leaving your kingdom,” she said. But this time, the king stopped the goddess. “I can do without money or a powerful army for now, but without courage, I am as good as dead. Do not forsake me,” he begged. Moved by his pleas, the goddess remained, and soon, the king faced his enemies with bravery and regained his nation’s glory.

Just like the king, even if we have lost material wealth, our internal wealth, an abundance of courage, should remain. From Maya Angelou to Vincent Van Gogh, respected leaders from all over the world have spoken about the vitality of courage. As Maya Angelou put it,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

However, courage often eludes us in the times we need it most. Due to the global pandemic, millions of jobs have been lost, lives have been left in disarray, and it seems impossible to persist amidst these struggles. So, how can you maintain courage during difficult times?

1. Think of a realistic worst case scenario

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston Churchill

While it may seem counterproductive to think of the worst that could happen when you’re trying to keep your spirits up, doing so can put things in perspective. The worst case scenario may not be so devastating after all.

Don’t go overboard with your imagination: failing to sell thousands of copies of your first book won’t destine you a life in the dumps. You might lose a few thousand dollars in marketing money or editor fees, but authors who find massive success on their first books are rare.

In the moments where courage fails me, it’s easy to let my mind wander off into gruesome scenarios of utter failure. However, consciously envisioning the realistic worst case provides a dose of much-needed perspective. Plus, it sets a baseline that I can work from to create an action plan to ensure that even the realistic worst case doesn’t come true.

2. Create an action plan to see your project through

We fear what we cannot prevent, and by having a detailed action plan, you reduce the chance of unknown variables throwing you off your guard.

If you were laid off from your dream job, spend a day researching new job opportunities, updating your LinkedIn profile, and drafting cover letters.

Write down what your end goal, your light at the end of the tunnel, is. Then, jot down the steps you are going to take along the way to ensure that your dreams become a reality.

By plotting out your future steps, you create an action plan that will be a map, guiding you through the difficult times. When worry strikes you, act on your plans instead of succumbing to stress.

3. Look at the big picture

Hold a pebble up to your eyes, and it will become a boulder and block your vision. But, extend your arms and hold the pebble far away, and you will see both the pebble for what it really is and your surroundings.

Look at your problem like an audience in a drama, detached from emotions. From a bird’s eye view, a mountain becomes a molehill. Thus, by switching your perspective and looking at the big picture, you are able to analyze your situation and find solutions.

Apply the rule of tens. How much will your problem matter in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 months, and 10 years?

Realizing that your struggles aren’t permanent will ease your mind and provide a boost of courage.

In school, whenever I’m taking a difficult test and can feel ripples of anxiety, I remind myself that in 30 minutes, the exam will be over. I simply need to keep calm and work for 30 minutes, and then the test will be in the past.

While it is impossible to know how long it will take for real world challenges to subside, the same mentality of remembering struggles are short-term can be applied.

The Takeaway

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” — Vincent Van Gogh

One of the only guaranteed parts of life is struggle. However, with courage, any struggle can be overcome. Thankfully, courage isn’t a magical quality only the wise possess.

The word courage comes from the Old French word “corage,” meaning “heart and spirit.” Courage is an innate quality, a never-ending well of hope from deep within you.

Just like the ancient Indian king refused to let the Goddess of Courage slip away, cling to courage, and you will have the power to overcome the insurmountable.

The One Trait You Need to Overcome Any Obstacle In Your Life was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The Bravest Thing In The World Is To Hope

How to find your way.

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This is What Courage Looks Like

In the middle of a storm

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How can you develop a fearless approach to life?

We should all aspire to navigate a hero’s journey

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Imprisoning Opinions

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I was stuck in the jungle for 12 hours

Looking back, it wasn’t as horrible as it seemed

Photo by my friend Emma

Yes. You read that right. At 15 years old, my friends and I were stuck on a jungle trail in Fraser’s Hill Malaysia, for 12 hours whilst on our Silver International Award Expedition. The Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award is designed for young adults and requires the participant to complete 26 weeks of 1-hour allotments for a sport, skill, and service. Additionally, participants need to go on a Practice Adventurous Journey and a Qualifying Adventurous Journey, both trips of which are 3 days and 2 nights of trekking and surviving in the outdoors. This is my account of my expedition which has got to be the most cinematic and at the same time most terrifying moment of my life thus far.

I should probably have mentioned that a guide was with us most of the time, at the beginning of this story- sorry, you can calm down now. We were hiking in the jungle along the Pine Tree Trail which would lead up to the peak of a mountain for a gorgeous view. Having left our campsite around 8.30 am (this was our 2nd day of hiking) we aimed to reach the peak around lunchtime so that we could enjoy a relaxing break in the fresh, cold air. That didn’t work out, as you’ve probably guessed. It was almost 5 pm and we hadn’t made it to the peak yet, which meant that though we’d been walking for about 8 hours, we hadn’t even made it halfway. We were all getting nervous and rather panicked since we were usually meant to be back at the campsite by 5 pm. Because of how long we’d taken to get this far, I told the guide that we should turn back now because if we didn’t, we’d get back very, very late. She didn’t relent. We all took turns attempting to persuade her, especially when the rain began to fall and thunder began to boom across the forest. We saw flashes of lightning up in the sky, but looking around, we realised there was no shelter- we’d have to keep walking.

Photo by my friend Emma

We eventually reached what looked like a vertical wall of rocks (it was much worse than the picture!). The guide told us that the peak was at the top and that she’d fail us if we didn’t get up there! By this time, we were a mess. Two of the girls were crying, we were all chattering from the cold of being thoroughly soaked, and we had no idea how to climb up the wall with our heavy rucksacks using two thin ropes. Then one of the boys volunteered to go first, and he was soon out of sight, climbing high along the wall. After what seemed like ages, we heard the faint shouts that he had arrived, and after another of us reached, I went next. I wish I’d had the courage to go first, for now, the thunder was bellowing and the rain was pouring down on me making it very difficult to see, especially since I was wearing glasses! I rock-climbed about a meter of the wall, then stopped. I was shaking so terribly with cold and the gnawing in my stomach reminded me that we had never eaten lunch. Terrified, I pushed myself to keep going and to date, it’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. I pulled myself up from the tree roots and occasionally held on to the rope, which was so slippery that I was afraid of falling right down from it. I don’t know exactly how long it took for me to get to the top but it seemed like forever, and when I finally reached, my hands and legs were scratched and bleeding from the sharp rocks and rough roots.

At the top, I found the other two shivering with cold and we nervously paced around trying to get warm. After a while, two more group members came up and we all stood in a circle, clenching hands and moving our arms. After a while, our final member of the group reached and we were able to go down. I went second, and this time I didn’t doubt myself at all. Trusting myself to land on correct footing I slid down the rope until I reached what I judged a steady tree root. Then I would lower my body down and use my hands to get hold of the root so my feet could swing down. It was no way as bad as the ascent, particularly because the ferocity of the rain had significantly decreased to a normal shower. While we waited for the others to get down, we snacked on Nature Valley bars and that made me realise that that was all we had eaten that day! Incredible.

After everyone was down, we followed the trail back and if my memory serves me right, it was almost 6 pm. The sky was pitch black and our headlights shined paths for us, and after a good half hour, we saw an indistinguishable shape moving toward us quickly. It was the best sight ever- our teacher had run in to find us! He quickly helped us take off our bags and store them in a sort of cave nearby before telling us to get out as fast as we could. Three of us immediately began running soon leaving the other 3 behind who were walking with the guide. We ran as fast as we could while staying together, in the darkness of the night, stumbling over flailing branches and winding roots. Hearing a pounding behind us, I turned around to find our teacher had come back to us. We stopped for a moment to take Himalayan salts and finish the last of our water before running again. The running was making us warm again and my teacher had given me a jumper which made me feel much much better. Fatigue was taking over us after running for an hour and we were tripping and stumbling over the branches but we kept pushing through.

Now that I’m home, sitting safely in my comfy couch, I can say that the moment was so cool when my teacher was talking into his walkie-talkie repeating “Get the kids out” or “The kids are the priority”. To our delight, we soon reached a station that was filled with guides from the company carrying big water containers which we immediately seized and began swallowing from. We then continued out of the path with another teacher, whilst the first ran back in to help the others. As we exited the jungle, a truck was waiting for us which drove us back to the camp where we reached at 9 pm. Because we had no food, sleeping bags or tents (our bags had been left in the jungle), our teacher cooked us big bacon, cheese and egg sandwiches which we hungrily devoured while drinking large cups of tea and coffee. It was my first time having meat since… Christmas! (I’m mostly a pescetarian!) We were wrapped in blankets and sat around telling stories while we waited for the others. They arrived two hours later and after they had eaten, our teachers salvaged enough roll mats and blankets for the 6 of us.

Our sleep was terrible. We slept at around 12.30 am but woke up around 6.30, laughing about our awful sleep on the hard floor. Our teachers came in with oatmeal soon after and after eating that we went on to have large egg sandwiches and drinks. It’s a lot of food, but I mean, we’d just walked about 22km in the jungle!

So that’s the end of the tale. We were driven back to our school and our rucksacks were collected by the guides and returned to us later in the week. Why I wanted to share this is because of how much this experience has taught me, and how it truly has helped me develop into a more resilient individual. You never know what you can do until put into a situation that you are entirely unfamiliar with. I was so proud of how I managed to stay mostly calm as I climbed and support my friends. Relating this to the COVID-19 situation that we now find ourselves in, the same mindset is crucial. Use the difficulty of the situation to empower yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone and reap the rewards. Trust me- it’s an amazing feeling.

I was stuck in the jungle for 12 hours was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The Colour Purple

Presentation of Discrimination

Photo by Prince Akachi on Unsplash

Did you know that on average, black males in the US receive sentences that are 19.1% longer than those of white men convicted for the same crimes? Or that only 6 countries in the world give females equal legal work rights as men? I’m sure you didn’t know that 33,000 girls become child brides every day, did you?

What do you feel when you hear these statistics? Pity, anger, sorrow? But how long does this emotion last in your head? An hour, a day, maybe a week? How long before you forget the feeling and move on with your everyday life, thinking about your own troubles instead?

For the few among us, fortunate enough to have averted or been treated to only the slightest form of prejudice, it is difficult to truly understand what the victims face, what they feel, and how it impacts the rest of their life because they live with a reminder of their trauma every day. They cannot forget or be distracted by what has happened to them as we can.

The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker, is a novel every person must read simply because of that reason- it makes us feel as we journey through the life of a sexually-abused female girl named Celie. There are so many emotions that arise through reading such a profound novel with such individuality in sexual and social explicitness. Although I initially felt sympathy for Celie, a girl my age, for the terrible unfathomable things that had happened to her because of the family she was born to, as the novel progressed, I was also empowered by the person she had become and how she was able to set her past aside and channel her hurt, her fury, her pain to grow into a stronger individual. The message that Walker leaves the reader with, is an important one: women are strong and they can accomplish great things. Instead of showing the weaknesses of such women, she chooses to show their power to persevere and help each other achieve greater heights, through the friendship of Celie, Shug, and Sofia, which is truly inspiring.

While most have a knowledge of the physical impacts of sexual abuse and discrimination, Walker also highlights the mental effect it has by portraying how little self-worth and self-esteem Celie has. Although she understood that she was being used, she simply wonders why and never speaks as though she believes that she deserves more, which is shocking as she does not believe that she is worthy of even basic human rights such as the right to free will and consent. We further see this quality as she does not even sign her letters to God. This contradicts with most people who would normally take pride in signing their names, as it is one of the first things we learn to write. This mentality she has developed, that she is not good enough, can be owed to how she was objectified throughout her life, first by Alphonso, her father, and then by Albert, her husband. By doing this, Walker warns of the external factors that can influence individuals, male and female alike. The absence of a warm and nurturing environment can result in such people, like Celie, who feel disregarded and unnoticed though they are often the ones that hold their family’s lives together. This is truly a misfortune.

Novels like The Colour Purple, A Thousand Splendid Suns, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, are all such powerful stories that help us understand what other people face, and feel grateful for the life we live. Every time I finish reading such a book, I feel so appreciative because my reality is someone’s biggest dream. Living my life with an awareness of others’ difficult situations has opened my eyes and constantly reminds me that everything around me; my family and friends, my education, my home should not be taken for granted, because few get the chance to experience what we do on a normal basis. This is why it is so important to consistently try to broaden our minds and expand our thinking in the hopes of becoming more conscious humans, and the way that I try to achieve this greatness is through reading such novels.

The Colour Purple was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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If you are going to do it anyway. Do It Now.

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