I think certain therapies such as occupational therapy (OT) have their place, but sometimes I feel like it’s too focused on what I perceive to be “fake growth”. Instead of making internal shifts, I feel like it’s too focused on accomplishments and goals. I think it’s fine if it’s something you want to do. But otherwise, I’d much rather focus on “real growth”, which stems from internal shifts.

How do I define “fake growth” vs. “real growth”?

Fake growth is basically anything that can be a bullet point for a list of accomplishments or for a resume. It could be a blog/website you’ve worked on, a book you wrote, a degree you’ve earned, money you’ve accumulated, jobs you’ve possessed, the next step in a romantic relationship, weight loss, muscle gain, etc. It’s something external that you can measure.

But, real growth is typically an internal shift. And, there’s no real “ego” or attachment to it. It’s about how you relate to life. You may start having a deeper understanding of life. You may grow past your fears. Or, you may learn how to better deal with negative emotions.

Eventually as you make these internal shifts, you may see it reflect externally. But, simply making an external shift doesn’t necessarily indicate internal shifts. For example, you can go from being broke and depressed to rich and content. But, could you stand to be broke and content? Did you make that mindset change first, or did you achieve making more money, which caused the mindset change? Depending on your answer, it would make the difference between fake growth and real growth.

Some people pursue fake growth in the hopes that it will solve everything. They go through years of working hard on their goals, only to achieve them and be left feeling empty. The achievements only mask what was hiding under the surface. The only purpose of the state of busyness was to avoid their internal reality.

Think about it. What is the purpose of fake growth? It might be to stroke our own ego, or to feel as if we have contributed to the world in some way. But, what if the world didn’t need any contributions? What if everything would be perfectly fine or even better without you contributing anything at all? Your list of accomplishments would essentially be meaningless.

Even real growth can seem meaningless, but it doesn’t have that same attachment that fake growth does. With fake growth, it’s all about showing and proving what you’ve done. With real growth, there’s no need to prove it. Still, it impacts your life and indirectly affects the people and situations you interact with.

Also, fake growth is sometimes focused on this idea of “leveling up” or “achieving a higher frequency”. With real growth, there are no levels. There is no comparison between individuals. Everyone is on their own journey. It may relate in some ways or not at all. But, there is no race to the top. It doesn’t matter what you possess or what you have achieved. It doesn’t even matter if you’re trying or not. As I mentioned before, there is no ego to real growth.

But what about being productive?

According to Google, the definition of productive is, “Producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.” It’s just essentially making more of what isn’t there. Is that necessarily good? Do we need to have all this stuff? What are we going to do when we have an abundance of everything we need? Do we just keep going?

Plus, how do you decide if one activity is more productive than an hour? Some people may define it as the opportunity cost, maybe based on how much money they are making per hour doing a particular activity. But then, isn’t that just values-based? You’re prioritizing money, so you try to align with more activities that earn you more money.

What if you decided to focus on something else besides money? Would that still be considered productive? Again, what is the point? Is it to drive your ego, or to contribute to society? If it’s driving your ego, then when is it enough, or is it a constant battle uphill? If it’s to contribute to society, is it something actually meaningful or are you just doing it for the sake of doing it?

Being productive just for the sake of being productive doesn’t really make much sense. It’s better if you are working on something that matters to you or that aligns with your values/interests. It’s more purposeful this way. Simply checking off a box on your to-do list isn’t actually meaningful in itself. It may help you keep track of your progress, but again, it’s still focused externally and doesn’t really mean much in the end.

How do I start focusing on “real growth” vs. “fake growth”?

There’s no easy way to do this, but basically, you focus on how you’re relating to life. Do you hold onto resentment? Do you act in ways that feel aligned, or do you often feel conflicted? How do you feel about yourself? What are your beliefs, and do you find these beliefs to be serving you?

You may notice patterns in your life that you want to change. Maybe your boundaries are always being crossed and you want to learn how to enforce good boundaries. Or, maybe you have a pattern of lashing out on people you love, and you want to learn how to communicate in a healthy way.

The only thing I want to call attention to is that no one point of your real growth journey is better than another point. It’s just different. There is no attachment, as the journey of real growth is constantly going in ebbs and flow.

Have you ever thought about creating habits or accomplishing goals based on your identity? So instead of just exercising a few times a week for a set amount of time, claim that you are an athlete, and act like athlete. Instead of just dabbling into blogging, actually own the identity of being a blogger and blog several times a week. I think this is a powerful shift if you can feel aligned in that particular identity. This is the reason why people are able to become engineers or doctors. They decide from the get-go that that’s what they would like to become, and they work towards it.

What happens when you dabble into different goals/actions and don’t commit to a particular identity? It’s fine to dabble, but you can’t really claim to be that identity. I mean you could, but it would be a pretty loose identity. People wouldn’t take you seriously. Plus, why claim to be something you’re clearly not?

For example, if you started a website and post a few articles in the first few days, but then go dormant for months, would you consider yourself to be a blogger? Sounds more like a dabbler to me. There’s nothing wrong with being a dabbler per se. It’s just when I think of a blogger, I think of someone who has been doing it for years. Or even if they haven’t been committed to it for years, they have been posting consistently. Personally for myself, I have been blogging since middle school, back when I first started on Xanga. It evolved to Blogspot to Blogger to WordPress, and then eventually to my own domain in I believe 2013. (Yep, I just confirmed by looking it up, I purchased my domain May 19th 2013.) And I’ve deleted old blogs and posts over the year, even taking breaks in between. So, you won’t see the hundreds of blog posts I’ve done over the years. However, I consider myself a blogger since I’ve been consistently producing content for this blog ever since revamping it in October 2020. Though, I consider myself to be an intermediate blogger. A blogging god would be someone like Steve Pavlina or Leo Babauta. I mean, Steve Pavlina once did more than a year of blogging every single day. That’s incredible. But for someone who just posts a few times for just a few days, can you really call yourself a blogger? Maybe a low-committal one. It’s the equivalent of running for a couple of days, stopping for a few months, and still calling yourself a runner.

When you choose to identify a certain way, you decide the type of person you want to be. I don’t think people really consciously think about this too much, aside from maybe their occupation if they have one. What if you could intentionally carve out your identity? What actions would it lead to? How would you view goals differently?

I remember back in 2017 when I dabbled into producing music again and sharing it online. It was hard for me to claim being an artist. I posted this identity on my Instagram profile, and immediately took it down. How could I claim to be an artist when I don’t sing live, when I don’t do shows, when I don’t even have a single available on streaming platforms like Spotify? I don’t have an album, a record deal, nothing, just cover songs. I couldn’t even really call myself a “cover artist” since I just started and I didn’t really know if that’s what I wanted to continue doing. I felt like if I claimed to be an artist, then I needed to actually be committed to being one.

Fast forward to now, I consider myself an artist, not only in music but in content creation as well. I’ve built up a collection of songs on YouTube. And, I’ve posted a couple of covers on Spotify. Now, I feel confident saying I’m an artist, because I feel aligned with one. It’s not just something I dabbled into once in my life, but something that I’ve built up for a few years now.

Could I have still claimed to be an artist starting off? Sure. But honestly, not even I could take myself seriously back then. It’s not like I could say back then, “I’m a music artist. Check out my music on Spotify.” Or, “I’m releasing a single soon.” But once I decided that I wanted to be an artist, I took the actions that I thought relate to being one and claimed this identity.

My idea of an artist has changed over time. Especially with the pandemic, I think it’s fine to call yourself an artist even if you only share music digitally, even if you don’t do live singing, even if you’re not signed to a record label, even if you decide not to start a record label on your own. If you change your idea of what a certain identity means, you still have to commit to it and take those consistent actions if you want to claim being it.

There’s a powerful shift that happens when you decide to consciously create your identity in this way. You don’t only focus on the actions, but you think, “Is this the type of person I want to become? Is this what I want to be known as?” Sometimes, we unknowingly sabotage ourselves from achieving goals because we may believe certain related identities are negative. It’s helpful to think through these ideas consciously and decide what we ultimately want to become.

There are various forms of psychotherapies or therapies in general that revolve around the idea of reframing thoughts or beliefs. I find these therapies to be interesting, because I’ve had success with using them myself to change my behaviors or overall feelings about myself. Some of these therapies however frame certain emotions or feelings as being “negative”. They try to eliminate feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, doubt, fear etc. I wonder if this is really necessary though, or if it is just contributing to more avoidant or destructive behaviors when these feelings do arise.

In college, I was introduced to this idea of removing limiting beliefs. With the help of an expert, I was able to remove several limiting beliefs that hindered my self-confidence or sense of ability/worth. All these negative feelings that I once had were now completely gone. It seemed life-changing. It honestly was great because I felt a lot better about myself in general. But the thing is with this particular method of removing limiting beliefs, they would frame “fear” or “anger” as negative or unnecessary, something that we “should” actively work to get rid of. Your behaviors would then be influenced by the new positive emotions that you would form. I think it’s awesome when you can work from state of positivity, but then wouldn’t all the “negative” emotions essentially be useless? Are we supposed to act solely out of positive emotions?

It’s one thing if the reaction or emotion is extreme and you’re trying to lower the intensity. But, it’s another thing when a slight irritation or a normal sense of fear holds you back from moving forward. What if instead of removing the source of negative emotion, we plan out a set of actions that help the situation?

I think learning what to do in the moment of negative emotions is better than just trying to get rid of the emotion. I mean even with positive emotions, we have to be mindful. Some people make rash decisions when they are excited, for example. Some people mindlessly get into dangerous situations when they are content, not really paying attention to what’s going on around them. And of course with negative emotions, some people exhibit violent behaviors or verbally abuse people when angry. What if we planned out what to do in these situations before these moments arise?

When someone says something that causes you to become angry or upset, you could plan out what to say. You could state how you feel and what bothered you, without necessarily blaming the other person. You could also offer a solution. For example, let’s say a friend tells you that you’re making an assumption, and you feel upset by this. You could say, “I feel hurt by what you said. I feel judged. I don’t like that you’re saying I’m making an assumption, as I find that insulting and I would never say that about you. Instead, I wish you would ask me what my thought process was in this situation.” Or let’s say when you get upset, you have trouble finding the right words to say. You could plan out what to say any time this situation occurs. For example, “I’m upset and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So, I will talk to you later when I figure out why I feel this way.”

I feel like a lot of us learn how to make situations worse when dealing with negative feelings. Some people are exposed to violence. Some people are exposed to hateful language. Some people learn to avoid situations, never truly resolving them. And, this doesn’t just apply to my example of anger. It can apply to any negative emotion.

Think of people who deal with anxiety or depression. Yes, of course these people could try removing limiting beliefs. I even encourage it. At the same time, we want to teach them to deal with these feelings in healthy ways. Sometimes even, just accepting the feeling and learning how to cope with it helps to reduce the feeling itself. This happens when we decide to tackle our fears. Confidence comes from engagement and taking action.

We want to make sure we are taking the best course of action regardless of how we are feeling. This is also a part of emotional intelligence. If we experience negative emotions on a regular basis, of course, removing limiting beliefs is helpful. Otherwise, it is best to learn how to respond during the times we feel these emotions. Learn to cope with all your feelings in healthy ways.

Some of us are used to receiving rewards in the form of food, perhaps from childhood, or just as a way we’ve been used to treating ourselves for good behavior. This can sometimes be in conflict with our health goals depending on the foods we reward ourselves with. It may be okay to reward yourself with fruit for example, but you might be used to indulging in sodas or cheesesteaks. Especially if you’re trying to reward yourself after achieving certain health goals such as exercising a certain amount of time per week or eating a veggie/fruit with every meal, you may find yourself negating your progress.

So instead of rewarding yourself with foods or drinks, how about rewarding yourself with non-food items? It could be an experience or an object. And, it doesn’t always have to involve money if you can get creative. Here are a list of non-food related rewards that I came up with:

– A manicure/pedicure (either at home with nail polish and manicure/pedicure equipment you already have, buying nail polish and nail tools, or getting one done at the salon)
– New clothes (fitness or non-fitness related, can be from a thrift store)
– Video games (can be an old game you haven’t played in a while, or you could buy a new one)
– Fitness gear/accessories (you can buy, or you can design your own online and buy one for yourself while selling to others)
– A day/weekend/overnight trip, with or without friends/family
– Watching a show/movie
– Coloring pages/books (print or buy)
– Progress selfie or photoshoot (DIY or paid)
– Signing up for a course you’ve always wanted to take (music lessons, a program that gives credits, foreign language lessons, etc.)
– Home decor
– Scented candles
– Hiring someone to clean the house
– Flowers/plants
– Jewelry (buy or DIY)
– Books that you’ve been wanting to read (you can check out the library too)
– Stationery or journaling materials
– Haircut or dying your hair (DIY or at a salon)
– Massage (either set aside time to do one yourself, ask a partner/family member, or pay for one)
– Splurging at a cheap store such as the Dollar Tree (and setting a budget, such as $10)
– Live streaming, creating a video, or blogging about your progress for friends/family/others to see

I think it’s a good idea to come up with not only non-food related rewards, but also free rewards that require no money. For example, I already own some nail polish and some nail tools, so I can easily give myself a manicure as a reward. I have a printer at home and I already own some markers and colored pencils, so I can print out coloring pages. I have an account with my local library and own a tablet, so I can check out eBooks for free. Some courses are available for free online, so I don’t necessarily have to spend money to take a course.

The reason I like non-food related rewards is because I usually get the same amount of enjoyment (or even more) through other objects or experiences. For example, it feels nice and relaxing after cleaning the house (or getting someone to clean the house). It feels refreshing to get a new haircut. It feels engaging to play a new video game. It feels motivating to see yourself in clothes that flatter you and look good in pictures. And also, it just feels good that you’re not being driven by what you eat. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s how it feels for me.

Non-food related rewards would be useful for me when I’m already out and about. Rather than buying sweets or fattening foods to entertain myself, I can for example buy an interesting book or engage in a fun activity. This would be especially useful when going on vacation. I would have my normal meals, and in between, I would find other interesting activities to do. Instead of consuming cotton candy and soda at an amusement park for example, I would just get the best possible ticket/pass and enjoy all the rides.

Personally, I’m going to work on incorporating more non-food related rewards. I’m going to use them after completing a workout (aside from my normal meals or consuming water), when I go out for fun, and when planning out celebrations. For example, I might watch a good show after taking a yoga class, or I might take photos when going out, or I might dress up for an occasion. Of course, I might still have to eat, but it won’t be the main focus or reward.

If you want to start using non-food related rewards, you should start by identifying when you’re going to use this. Define the event, and then define the reward ahead of time. Here’s an example. After one month of exercising 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes a day, you will treat yourself to a manicure/pedicure from a salon. It’s specific enough so that you know when you have achieved your goal, and you have outlined exactly what you’re going to do as a reward.

Have you ever tried using non-food related rewards? Do you think it is helpful in progressing with your health goals?

I used to struggle with thinking that I had to always be productive. I felt like I should always be reaching the next milestone, building upon my success in a linear or exponential path. I was always looking for the next experience or goal that I had to accomplish. Maybe I’d be content with the present moment for some time, but eventually, I’d feel some pressure to be doing more.

It wasn’t until I faced mental health challenges that I realized that pushing yourself to do more all the time isn’t the healthiest way to live your life. If you are able to do more and you accomplish that, great. But if not, there’s no reason to beat yourself up. Life doesn’t have to be constantly going up. And actually, life doesn’t even work that way. You’re going to experience downs at one point or another. If you can embrace that you will be unproductive at some points in your life, it will make it easier to prepare and deal with those “down” periods.

Personally when I’m down, I just focus on basic self-care. I eat well, and nowadays I try to incorporate minimal physical activity, I let out my feelings in healthy ways such as journaling or music or talking to someone, I get enough rest, I maintain my hygiene… There’s actually a lot that goes into self-care that people may not realize. If you’ve ever experienced long periods of time with difficult or sad emotions (depressed, or not even necessarily depressed, maybe grieving, dealing with anxiety, or just having a difficult time dealing with hardships in life), you’ll know that it can be hard to do the most basic things sometimes. But, self-care is especially important during this time.

Honestly, I know I’m privileged, so it may not be easy for everyone to do this. However if you can, I’d say not to focus on making money or working too much during a down period. Some people find it helpful to give back to their communities, to do volunteer work or to involve themselves more in their work in general. But, many people can experience burnout. I wasn’t pushing myself to work too hard or to focus on making money when I was having difficulty dealing with voices. In addition to self-care, I engaged in CBT therapy, trying a variety of coping skills, and involving myself with activities that I thought I might enjoy. I was working on myself, to become healthier (mostly mentally/emotionally, but now even physically). I figured that if I couldn’t help myself, how could I possibly help others? It’s nice if you can provide values to others, but don’t neglect yourself in the process.

I would say 2019 was one of my least productive years. I was just barely getting by, disconnected from reality and feeling trapped by the command voice I was experiencing. Some people were trying to be helpful, but didn’t really know how or gave poor advice. For example, a few friends told me that they didn’t think CBT would help me with my voices. (It did.) One professional I successfully worked with many years ago had no idea how to help me with the problems I faced with the command voice. Another so-called professional was overtly rude and judgmental, not really understanding the severity or the intensity of the command voice. I didn’t taking any courses or work on any major creative projects at this time.

2020 was the year that I started to regain my interests slowly but surely. I revamped my blog. I started a body hair positive Instagram. I posted a couple of song covers on streaming services. I became more social. CBT was really helping me. It reminded me of my college years when I removed limiting beliefs, but it felt much more balanced. Back then, I wanted to avoid all negative feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, etc. But with CBT, I realized the importance of sitting with those feelings of anxiety or sadness, not letting it overwhelm you but to experience it without any quick judgments or reactions. I learned that you didn’t always have to view events positively or to lean entirely to a positive perspective. Sometimes, I felt right in the middle, like the negative thoughts evened out with the positive. And, that was okay too!

Even in 2020, I would say I wasn’t the most productive. I was gaining a lot of clarity mentally and emotionally. I did focus on some creative outlets, but it was mostly from inner work I was processing.

This year, I still feel as if I’m focusing on myself. But, I’m trying to find ways to transform that into value for others. For example, I finished producing a song on hearing negative and suicidal voice. I thought I could share with others how I work through those feelings and try to reframe the voice. I unofficially started this health journey, hoping to reduce a few pounds to reach a normal BMI again and to feel more energetic and stronger in general. I’m also planning to accomplish other goals and create other habits that I can turn around and teach others about. I want to share reviews of courses or books that I’ve finished. I have other goals such as producing another song and maybe even publishing another book. I would like to also get back to creating videos on YouTube, besides just music.

It took a couple years, but I’m finally becoming “more productive” again. And honestly, I don’t think anyone really notices the difference. I don’t think anyone is really keeping track except myself. I could have another 2019 all over again this year and nobody would notice. So, I don’t know why I really felt pressured to be productive all the time. I think honestly, just being there for yourself and doing what you can to be a healthy person is enough. Self-mastery is a worthy goal in itself.

Don’t mistake your worth or importance for being how much you contribute to society. It’s great if you can contribute, but it’s not necessary. Society will continue to function whether you contribute to it or not. Plus, you can’t really compare each person’s contribution. Someone who has 5 million YouTube subscribers for their mukbang channel may be providing entertainment value in their videos garnering millions of views, and someone else may be providing mental health services for a child who has ADHD. Can you really compare the two? One person versus millions of people? Online versus face-to-face? Entertainment versus mental health? Why even compare? What’s the point? People engage in different activities. People have different experiences and are educated on different subjects.

Again, your worth is not tied to your contribution to society. Your worth is not determined by your level of production. So, please don’t feel as if you have to force yourself to be productive all the time. There will be a time again when you can and when you are able to do so. In the meantime, just focus on your health.

Recently, I finished listening to module 1 of Amplify (by Steve Pavlina) for the first time. I went through all the workbook exercises for those lessons and tried to come up with short answers in my journal. So, here are my thoughts on the course so far.

Module 1’s theme is “The Frame Game”. I am familiar with this idea as I have worked with experts in removing limiting beliefs or with CBT (where you examine your thoughts, actions, behaviors, responses, etc. and you explore alternatives). So, this concept is not new to me. I understood it right away. I think even if someone did not know about these ideas, they could easily learn them through his presentation on the topic. Sometimes, I feel very limited in my thinking when it comes to trying alternative frames. That’s probably normal because we’re used to seeing things a certain way. But, I know I could always ask someone else for their thoughts to find new frames that I haven’t yet explored.

The workbook gives different exercises for you to do to explore new frames. For example, there’s one about your relationship with your inner muse. There’s another about personifying threats in your life and examining your relationship with those threats. Even if it seemed external, I felt like a lot of these were just a reflection of myself.

Though, one that seemed external/unknowable to me was figuring out life’s intentions. I have a distant relationship with life outside of myself, so I don’t normally think about what a higher being wants from me. I used to think life was positive and that the seemingly negative events were guiding me to a greater path. But after a particular hardship I faced, I wondered if that were really true. I wondered if life had good values or if it could be secretly hateful at times. I wondered if it were just neutral and that it would just allow the worst things possible to happen to you. I still don’t know what life really wants, needs, or desires. But through the last call we had, Steve mentions how the flow and resistance you feel can be indicators of what life intends.

The course focuses on creativity, but it made me think about my experience with hearing a command voice. Basically, this is an experience where sometimes my body moves without me controlling it, or something will make me talk out loud without me controlling it, or will say something in my head similar to a thought but more like conversation. At first, I found it to be an interesting experience, and I thought “Universe” was trying to guide me and help me with achieving my goals/dreams. And, I’d often say, “Hey, I am Law of Attraction! Let me do it on my own!” And then when the command voice stuck around, I tried to be friends with it, and for a while I was on this high of life. And then eventually, it became very negative and suicidal. I didn’t understand why this was happening at all. Why would a higher being want something to encourage me to kill myself, when I was trying to spread positive messages with the work I was doing?

Recently though, I thought, what if this experience were to teach me about the struggles of suicidal people or people with mental illnesses in general? I used to think that it was so simple to remove limiting beliefs and to change your thoughts and that this same idea could be applied to the content that I was hearing from the voice. But when I tried to do see if the voice had limiting beliefs and if I could remove them, it didn’t seem to follow logic or emotion. Sometimes, it actually became worse. It can be like an unexplainable physical illness. Sometimes, your body fights against you. Some people are allergic to water, for instance. Some people’s intestinal tracts tear or rip up when consuming fibrous vegetables or fruits. Some people function at a high level for years, and then suddenly develop hearing a suicidal or threatening voice.

A while ago, I came up with the possibility that perhaps the voice has no limiting beliefs. It might be open to any possibility, even the possibility that we can willfully live a life of negativity, so why not explore that. It’s possible, but I’ll never really know what motivates the voice to act in a particular way. It often blurs the line between truth and what I label as storytelling. I don’t know when it’s telling me something it actually feels or when it’s making up a story, or if it simply has no feeling at all.

I’m not trying to spin hearing voices into something positive. It’s something I would never wish for anyone. Some people experience hearing positive voices. Psychics sometimes claim to hear spirit guides. Personally, I never wanted to hear voices in general, because I don’t want it to hold so much power or influence. But, having a command voice taught me more about mental illness in general, and how it’s not always so straight-forward. There are probably other reframes that I haven’t even considered yet.

I don’t have a favorite lesson from module 1 as of now. All the lessons are useful. I do think I will have to return to some of the lessons, particularly the one about social, individual, and life-level intentions. I want to expand on what I came up with for life-level intentions and see if I can come up with more. So far, I’ve come up with life wanting to express itself through me, and life wanting to destigmatize mental health/illness.

So far after enrolling in this course, I’ve signed up for BMI (performing right organization) for my music, I’ve set up my original song for release in less than a month, I’ve created lyrics videos for my song for both YouTube and IGTV when it releases, I’ve released some merch for my music (something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but procrastinated on), I’ve livestreamed, and I’ve created a worksheet that focuses on habit change through identity. I don’t know if these are directly related to enrolling in the course… I would think so because you can be influenced by the people you interact with, and since it’s a creative group, I guess I would be inspired to create more in general.

In terms of my music in general though, I still have ways to go. I haven’t worked on music production for the past week. I got sidetracked focusing on health goals such as exercising or reaching my food goals. Though, I have been actively trying to find a new music producer to work with. I’ve been leaning more into the idea.

Module 2 has 11 lessons, so it will be another 3-4 weeks before I review that if I’m keeping my current pace (3-4 lessons a week). Module 2’s theme is “Opportunity”. I think this is what I was interested in learning more about before signing up for the course, find opportunities to share your art or music with more people, or finding golden opportunities in general. So, I’m looking forward to it.

When I was in my early 20s, I remember hearing about how we all have the same 24 hours in a day, therefore we make time for what we want. I used to look to this idea as a way to motivate myself to plan out my day in a way that I can reach my goals. But in recent years with my new experiences, I’ve learned that not everyone has the luxury or ability to do what they want in those 24 hours. It’s actually quite ableist and classist to assume that people choose to live a certain way. I’ll explain why.

Some people are accustomed to living with certain luxuries in their life. We may feel as if everyone should have access to clean water, heating, healthy food, a loving home, etc. But realistically, this is just not the case. Some people live in areas where clean water is lacking, and they don’t have access to technologies such as cars, delivery, computers, etc. You and I may just access clean water by turning on the tap, or we may even drink out of bottled waters that we bought from the store. But, some people have to walk miles barefoot just to access water, which might not even be clean. They may spend a whole day going back and forth collecting water for their family to use over the next few days. And, there may not really be an easy solution for them. These people may not have good education where they are living, and they may not have good opportunities to earn money or to barter in general. They may not be in a position to move, because of citizenship, of war, of no means to do so, etc. I mean, what would you do if you were in this situation? It’s not like you can start a GoFundMe when you have no computer, no literacy, no knowledge of what that even is, no bank account to even receive the funds… What if you didn’t even know you could access these things? What if you didn’t realize that tap water even existed?

There are also people who face illnesses every day. Some are visible, some are not. Some illnesses require a lot from a person every day. Some people have to sleep a lot more than the average person because of their medications or their illnesses in general. Some people have to see doctors, nurses or therapists on a regular basis to maintain their health. Some people spends hours filing insurance claims for their health expenses. Some people are unable to work a regular job because of their condition. Do you think that these people wouldn’t want to spend their time in a different way if they had a choice? Who decides that they want to get bloodwork done every week just to make sure their meds aren’t messing up their white blood count? In one sense, yes, they want to make sure they’re alright. But, the ideal situation would be not to have to worry about these things at all. Some people don’t want to sleep 12 hours a day, and yet they find themselves doing this because of their new medication, or because they have some type of disorder. If you don’t have to worry about tending to sickness in general, honestly, you are privileged. Not everyone is as lucky as you. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad. It’s just you have to recognize that not everyone is in the same position to choose what they do in a day.

The point I’m trying to make is to not just assume that people choose what to do with their time. You never really know. Of course, I’m all for helping people to realize their potential. But, I never push someone to do something unless they make it clear to me that it is something they want and are ready for as well. Everyone has different priorities depending on where they are in life and what they value. I’ve always wanted to start my own business or to basically be self-employed, but I realize that this kind of lifestyle is not for everyone. Some people actually like having a job or being part of a company. We value different things, and there’s no point in judging each other. It’s not like one of us is doing something harmful. (Well, unless you’re working for Monsanto I guess…)

I hate to say it, but sometimes, I look at how others are doing in similar fields to me and use that as a way to gauge my own abilities. They say comparison can kill, but honestly, sometimes it motivates me. Sometimes, I get inspired by what others do. Sometimes, I even get envious or judgmental. I always acknowledge it, and I tell myself, “Hey, if they can do it, so can I, if that’s what I really want!” I wish I wasn’t envious or judgmental of other people at all, but I figured if I’m feeling this way, I might as well spin it into something beneficial. And you can too!

Sometimes, it may be a person you know in real life: a friend, an acquaintance, a family member, a bully... Other times, it could just be some random person online, or that you may only know by name (e.g. a celebrity, an influencer, an author, etc.). It doesn’t really matter who. The point is, sometimes they do something that you’ve been dreaming of, and you see their success. You see them doing well. And then deep inside, you’re like, “Wait, that could be me.”

And uh, no offense, but sometimes, you feel like you could do a much better job than the person in question. I’ve had a few acquaintances who have started businesses, started blogging, published books, created merch, and so much more, and I’m like, “Hey wait a minute, that’s what I’ve been wanting to do!” And then out of curiosity, I look into what they’re doing. I read their blogs, check out their social media, and view their merch designs. When I read it or view it, I’m thinking, “Wow, this is really average or bad quality. Do they seriously make money this way?” Hey, maybe it seems brilliant to them, just as what I’m creating seems brilliant to myself. And you know, maybe their advice actually works for some people. So rather than scowling at their work, if I think I have much better ideas, why don’t I create something of my own and put it out there?

Most of these people who write books or start businesses have no clue what they’re doing when they start. Even after they execute the idea, it’s imperfect. There may be many flaws. But you know, that’s how you get started. And, I guess the reason I get so critical of others is because I’m constantly trying to make sure that what I put out is of good quality. I’m a perfectionist in a way. But today as I was tuning into Steve Pavlina’s 5th Amplify Zoom call (I know I’m rambling, bear with me), I shared the realization that it’s better to share an imperfect creation than not at all. Who is going to benefit from your creations if you keep it all to yourself?

Plus, usually you improve over time. I say usually, because it does take some conscious effort. You have to be aware of where you’re at, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, what’s landing with people, etc. I’ve dealt with so-called professionals, I’m talking about people with PhDs or who have been working in a field for 25+ years, and they continue to give outdated advice. They don’t really learn anything new. One example is a psychiatrist that claimed to have had training in CBT. She really only knew the basics and thought that that was sufficient enough. I received treatment from her for a couple of years. She shared a lot of ideas that I just couldn’t see eye to eye with. I couldn’t understand some of her suggestions. Well much later, I went to an expert on CBT and he was able to help me make significant changes in my life with what I had been struggling with. And a few times even, he would say the complete opposite of what my psychiatrist was suggesting. I could rant about this in a whole different blog post (or maybe even a video), but anyway…

The reason I’m rambling about this is because honestly, it takes little to no effort to be ordinary, to do what everyone else is doing, to be average… So honestly, if someone else is able to do something with such low effort, imagine if you were the one doing that. I’m not saying you should strive to be average. I would hope that you would try to become better. But, I’m just saying, there are so many average singers making song covers on YouTube who have thousands of followers. There are so many average life coaches making hundreds or thousands of dollars a month with their coaching business. There are so many average merch designers making hundreds of sales every year. If they can do it, why can’t you?

Also, you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Don’t know how to set up a website? Ask someone. Don’t know how to create quote posts on Instagram? Ask someone. Honestly, I’m working on this myself because I get a little nervous to work with other people. I tend to do most of my creative work by myself (blogging, setting up a website, creating Instagram posts, creating a bio website, producing music, putting my music on Spotify/iTunes, etc.). But, I have a friend who helps me with music artwork. It started with her approaching me and asking me if she could make artwork for a song I was covering. We have a good friendship in general, so I feel comfortable going to her continuously for help. I’ve collaborated on a song in the past with someone I knew, though we weren’t particularly close, and I felt awkward trying to push for the project to be completed by a certain time. So, I’ve learned I like working with friends, or at least have that openness to be transparent/honest about what your expectations are. You don’t necessarily have to be friends though. You could find someone to help you in whatever area so that you can focus on what you do best / what your interest is.

It took me a while to start my “music career” on YouTube. I was haunted by this memory in 7th grade when a boy, who I considered to be a good singer, heard me singing with friends, and commented that I sounded terrible. I was so embarrassed that I was shy about singing in front of others if it was by myself. Honestly, thinking back, I realized that my style of singing was different, much softer. I was in tune. I was in choir. I didn’t have a “pop” vocal, I had a choral voice at the time, and I didn’t know how to sound like people did in pop songs.

ANYWAY, long story short. Eventually, I got into K-Pop, and I remember putting out my first cover (2NE1!). A while later, a couple of friends heard it and encouraged me to post more. It took another year or so, but I started posting more bad quality covers. I thought it was so cool that I could figure out some songs by ear. But oh my goodness, the instrumental quality was horrible. Anyway, I received feedback from random internet strangers that it wasn’t that great either… >< (I set those videos to private, haha.)

But then, I would go see other YouTube cover artists who were not even producing their own instrumentals, who had terrible English translations (I thought I could do so much better), and with poorly edited vocals. They had thousands of followers, and hundreds of likes. I was wondering, how on earth were they doing this? And how were they not getting the terrible feedback that I was getting?

I kept going, and eventually, some of my song covers were landing (though admittedly, improving in quality too as compared with my previous covers). One was even shared by the original artist! In my head, I was like, “How’s that Bob?!” (That’s not his real name, but I’m referring to the boy who told me my singing was horrible back in middle school.)

Even now, I consider myself an average singer. I’m not a good belter. I don’t have this dazzling tone. My head voice sounds weird when recorded. Heck, I use pitch correction on my vocals. I hardly sing live to people. But I told myself, if others can do it, so can I! I don’t need to be the best. It’s not like I’m doing brain surgery where it’s life or death. And hey, you don’t need to appeal to everyone either.

I don’t want to throw names, but there are a lot of people for example in the personal development field who I consider to be quite average. They talk about very basic concepts and share these ideas as if they’re the most profound ideas ever. And you know, for people who are learning these ideas for the first time, it can seem groundbreaking. But I’ll be honest, I consider myself an intermediate in terms of what I know in the self-help field, and I feel like I know just as much or even more than some of these “experts”. Truthfully, I don’t like that I’m being so judgmental about these people. They’re probably just trying to help others. If I feel like I can do so much better, then I should just do it.

Some people make a living out of criticizing others. It can be funny or entertaining honestly. There are vegans who analyze non-vegans’ “what I eat in a day” videos. There are film critics, reaction videos, and course/book reviews. Some of these can be done tastefully. Though, some can be outright obnoxious, so I would tread carefully into this path if it seems like something that interests you. Personally, I want to do reviews/criticisms of my own, though I’m trying to find a tasteful way to accomplish this. I’ve tried doing this in the past in college / post-uni, but it came across as harsh, and I didn’t like that. I wouldn’t want to receive such harsh criticism myself so publicly, so I’d like to tone that down.

I went on a tangent, but my point remains. If someone else can do it, why can’t you? They might not even be as talented, as skilled, as experienced, as knowledgeable, as smart, as clever, as whatever! But if they can find a way, surely you can too. Sometimes, this is what motivates me to get started. This may seem petty at first, but honestly if it inspires you to do something for yourself, then that’s great! Eventually, you may even find those feelings of jealousy and envy and comparison go away as you begin to focus on accomplishing your goals or dreams in life.

I had been planning to join Steve Pavlina’s Conscious Growth Club (CGC) for 2021-2022. It opens in the end of April, but recently, he launched a new course called Amplify. From what I’ve read, it’s beneficial for conscious creatives. I wanted to joined, but since Amplify would be free for CGC members, I didn’t want to pay extra. The only benefit to joining early would be to join the live calls. But today, I received an email from Steve saying that anyone who joins Amplify would have the course fee waived from the CGC membership for 2021-2022. So, I ended up taking that deal. I missed the first call, but you know, I would have missed them all if I just waited to join CGC. So, it’s not too bad.

I previously joined DAI (Deep Abundance Integration) back in 2018. It was only $97 at the time of offering. I joined maybe half of the live calls. I never got around to finishing all the calls. Steve even added a lengthy eBook as an addition to the calls, but I only read it for Day 1. I mean, you can finish it at your own pace. But honestly, I really should go back and make the most out of the course.

For Amplify, I figured I could at least join in on the live calls before CGC starts. I’m not crazy about recordings because they can be long. He said that the first call was 3.5 hours. I have a short attention span these days, so the only way I could make it through is to break it down into small chunks that I could listen to throughout several days.

Honestly, I’ve never really finished any course online that I’ve signed up for outside of university. The most I’ve gone through is the Success Triggers course by Ramit Sethi. It started with me blogging my progress with it summer of 2020 when revisiting it. And then, I just kind of left it. I’ve gone back a couple times, but I still have 25% left to go.

With DAI, I’ve attended maybe 40% of the calls, but I don’t remember a lot of it. I didn’t really take notes, just engaged in the chat and tried to follow along. And, I definitely didn’t read much.

I really should restart the habit of completing a part of any course I’ve signed up for at least maybe 5 minutes a day. I tried building other habits like reading books every day and exercising. My exercise habit is still going okay, considering I exercise for at least 10 minutes 5/7 days a week. I mean, it could be better, but considering I was doing nothing before, that’s a start. For reading, I started off ambitious, so I have to restart the habit and really start small. Same with courses.

I just recently checked out that book by James Clear about habit-building from my local library. I only read the introduction. But, maybe I’ll learn more about habit-building that I haven’t tried myself yet. I’m hopeful…

Anyway, back to the Amplify course. The regular price is supposed to be $497. I said it would be worth it if it could double the highest amount I’ve made in a month with my music. So, that’s my goal with this course. I’ll only know after a few months since with music income, payment is delayed by 2-4 months. And, it’ll probably be 1-3 months at least before I release the original song I’ve been working on. So basically, I won’t know until summer/fall.

I tend to dabble into different activities, courses, hobbies, etc. So, I hope that I actually stick to checking out the whole Amplify course and implement what I’ve learned from it into my life. My hope would be to actually be paid decently for my music. And also, to create more without feeling burned out and actually finishing what I’ve started. (I tend to leave drafts, and then think they’re not good enough to finish.)