Advice from RuPaul, Mark Zuckerberg and more that you should take on board to improve your life now
We’ve all been there – scrolling through Instagram, or Tumblr, or just chatting to a friend who has just so, and getting bombarded with inspirational phrases. For the cynical among us, they’re not massively convincing but instead maybe a bit cringe-worthy. However, have you noticed that they can be quite attractive, quite cheering when you’re feeling a bit down?
Among the snippets of life advice that don’t appeal, there are actually a few people talking sense. In fact, I’m going to invent a new piece of inspirational life advice; “only when you open up to advice can you tell what advice is worth listening to.” There you go. In that spirit, here are a few more genuinely useful thoughts for getting you through life.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” —Mark Zuckerberg.
Let’s start with some musings from the most famous entrepreneur ever to wear a grey marl t-shirt. The truly impressive Zuckerberg’s advice seems to sum up his career, and who knows, it might sum up yours someday. Humans are naturally risk-averse, but what if you only needed to be brave for 20 seconds? A brief conversation with a manager could be all you need to change your working life for the better, and it could apply to your personal life too. Quickly saying yes to an amazing trip, a sporting or mountain-climbing challenge could open up a whole new life, or at least a whole new outlook to life.
“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else?” – RuPaul
This is something we’ve heard a lot of people say in our lives, in different ways. RuPaul’s way of putting it is uplifting and emphatic, and a great reminder of how important this idea is. An interesting new study has found that if participants channelled their energy not into building self-esteem but self-compassion instead, they were more successful in a test. I know we don’t all spend our days sitting tests, but being more forgiving and compassionate towards yourself is a beautiful idea to take into the real world. Who knows, a bit of encouragement from you to you could make life easier.
“It’s not so much accepting defeat, it’s accepting that the outcome is largely out of my control.” – Dan Abrahams, Sports Psychologist
Sometimes you’ve taken a big (or the small) risk, and it hasn’t gone as you’d hoped. In fact, if you take any risk at all, there’s no way you haven’t faced this. It’s at these moments, when the chips are down, that a situation could go either way. Sports psychologist Dan Abrahams works with champions and pros in a wide range of sports, from football and rugby to poker. He has identified a reaction we can often have to setbacks, called Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs, which quickly gather round the fallen ice-cream cone of self-doubt, if you let them. As Abrahams says in the quote, sometimes a setback isn’t your fault and though negativity and worry can get the better of you, by identifying these thoughts you can fight them, and come back stronger.
“Grit is passion and perseverance… grit is sticking with your future day in, day out.” – Angela Lee Duckworth
In her fascinating TED talk, American psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth talks about how she found that grit, this magic ability to persevere long term, was the determining factor in long term success. It’s an exciting idea that if you keep trying, no matter what else you have going on, you will achieve through sheer force of effort. A 2013 study suggested that only 8% of participants had kept their New Year’s resolutions and although that particular goal is pretty pressure-filled, it shows just how much grit is needed. In research, it out-performed IQ, appearance and self-control in getting army cadets through training and salespeople to their goals. If you fail, just try, try and try again.
“Whenever you meet anybody, look for something nice to say about them” – Jilly Cooper
Politeness will get you everywhere, that’s my interpretation of this quote. Recent studies have shown that 65% of the UK population believe that their society as a whole is trustworthy, and this can have a lot to do with politeness. Showing consideration for the feelings of others is important and can help you to feel that you’re contributing to the lives of those around you. This can lead to more self-confidence, as you get the same reactions from others. Smile, and the world smiles with you!
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi
Living and learning is what life is about. This is a classic piece of advice, and like RuPaul’s, pretty much unbeatable. I’m not saying you should through caution entirely to the wind, though that can sometimes be a good idea. Maybe it’s about continuing to dream and achieve the things you want to no matter what stage in life you’re at. For example, 15% of all university entrants in Ireland in 2012 were mature students. Even if you’re looking to learn another language, or a musical instrument, the more you learn, the fitter your brain becomes. So there’s no reason not to take this particular advice.
Of all the life advice I have come across, “Aim high, even if you hit a cabbage” is a nice one to end on. Paralympic athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson was apparently given this advice, in this format by her grandfather. A bit of wit, or silliness often helps advice hit it’s mark more easily, doesn’t it? The interesting thing about life advice, no matter where it comes from, is that it all works together. You need both grit and self-compassion to achieve goals. Feeling that you can aim high often comes from spreading good vibes and getting involved in the world around you. Taking risks on yourself, and other people if often the most sensible option. If in doubt, it will be quite easy to hit a cabbage. Just saying.
(Image via Flickr)