Letter To My Daughter
Our dearest Ava Aurora Skye Jacobs. How quickly you are growing up. What a blessing you are to your mother and I. We are truly the luckiest parents in the world. You will not know this, but your mother and I go over to your bed many times and just gaze at you while you are sleeping. Not in a freaky way, of course. You always look so peaceful and innocent. I usually say something like “if only she was like this awake”. Your mom then gives me her usual girly punch followed by ssh and me then pretending to be in agony. OK, I am exaggerating now, but then you know I always do. We always smile and hug each other and always say how much we love our Bimba. Your mom then puts the duvet back over you; you never liked to be covered; she always kisses your forehead and we then walk away happily being grateful for everything we have, especially you.
Ava; knowing that there will be a time when loving your parents; publicly at least, will not be the coolest thing to do, and that when you are in your teens; how behind the times we as your parents will be; how we won’t understand how the world works anymore and how you will hate us for not letting you get that nose ring or let you go out with Brad; the super-cool college boy, 5 years older with his razor wire tattoo and souped-up VW Golf. I am sure many a door will be slammed during those years with shouts and screaming about how we don’t care about you and your feelings and what all the other popular kid's parents are allowing them to do. O’; how we are looking forward to you growing up; not! Why can’t you just stay our little ‘poppoloti’; whatever that means, I still don’t know; who loves jumping on beds; especially the ones in retail stores, or our little musician who plays her flute leading the family orchestra with dad on drums and mom with the tambourine. Ahh, those were the days.
Knowing that one cannot bend the natural cycle of life; we know that you will go through these phases no matter how well we think we have raised you. By hoping that teaching you manners, morals and respect will smooth these teenage bumps out, we accept that all will be in vain and that we will need to brace ourselves for what is the inevitable storm coming.
Your Nona hasn't called you ‘the tornado’ since you were 3 months old for nothing. Also knowing what blood runs through your veins; I will be slightly disappointed if it is anything else but ‘Hurricane Ava’ once you hit puberty.
With this in mind and the fact that I like the door frames of our house; I am putting pen to paper. What follows can be described as my guidelines to your happy, successful and extraordinary life. I am not telling; O’ no, I will never do that; I’m advising you. These guidelines built up over years of happiness and sorrow; triumphs and failures, good times and bad times. My wish for you is to learn from my many failures and weaknesses and far exceed all my dreams and successes.
When you are old enough to read and understand all these guidelines, they will obviously not be foreign to you, as they will be the foundation of the way your mom and I have raised you. As your parents, we will hope to discuss these topics around the family dinner table over the years to come; but I also know that there will be times when you will feel that you are alone and feel that you need to be alone. Your heart might be broken; you might have failed a test or made a mistake that you just don’t see a way out. In that dark moment, you might think that your mom and I just won’t understand, will judge you rather than listen to you or just be parents. At that moment you might feel that solitude behind your bedroom door is your only sanctuary or place of solace. It is for that moment that I am writing this. My wish for you is that you can always pick up this copy knowing, hoping, that you might find the right wisdom for any challenge you will face growing up and beyond.
Here are my guidelines;
How you treat people will come back to you. You might not always feel it’s possible; especially at times when you have been hurt by someone; but you must always live by the golden rule of treating other people how you want to be treated. The universe is powerful, and it always balances everything out. Demand respect by showing respect. Show kindness to receive kindness. And if you are not receiving what you are giving; let it be onto them. Never let your ego lead you in trying to be better than anyone; to win an argument or just get one over the other. There is much more strength and courage in humility and humbleness than in victory over others. It is so important that I will repeat it. Always treat people how you want to be treated.
Know that your mom and I love you very much. There will be times when it might not feel like it for you, but I promise you that everything your mom and I do and say has one main principle behind it, and it's that we love you with all of our hearts. No mistake you make will ever change that. No matter how dark the moment is that you feel you are in, know that we will always be there for you. You will never have to fight a battle alone and you will never have to deal with consequences alone. We are a tripod and only together do we have strength. Initially, we might show weakness and react in a way counterproductive to the immediate cause but know that we will always assist; always forgive and surely quickly forget; especially at our age.
Your name, Ava Jacobs, is your most valuable asset. Throughout your life, you will accumulate many things. Some are more valuable than others, but you must know that one thing will always be more valuable than anything you will ever acquire and that’s your name. The Bible says that a good name is more valuable than fine gold and how you are known at the end of your life, more valuable than when you were born. Deciding what you stand for in life is your most important task. To stand for love, integrity, kindness, and passion for everything you do; is vital towards yourself and others. To always be God-fearing and kind-hearted will serve you well. Never find pleasure in someone else's loss and never stoop so low as to be known as a bully. Always stand tall for what is right rather than being popular. Be authentic and celebrate your uniqueness rather than being a follower of the crowd. Choose your friends well. You will be known by the people you associate with. Surround yourself with friends who will always be there for you, support and inspire you and who will only be a good influence on you. Don't ever smoke or take any drugs. You don't have to experiment with everything to know that it's wrong and not good for you.
Dream big dreams. Since you were born your mom and I have been saving what we can to make it possible for you to have choices later in life. The world can be tough on a teen and the decisions and choices you make in your teens will most likely influence your journey for a long time; if not the rest of your life. Be a positive person who focuses on positive thoughts and activities. Your predominant thoughts will manifest themselves; so always dream big and think happy positive thoughts. Easier said than done, I know, but try and never dwell too long in a bad or negative state. Thoughts become things, and therefore always try and go to a ‘happy place’ in your mind when times are testing. Always believe in these four words – "This too shall pass", and soon you will be on your way to making your dreams come true again.
Whatever career path you choose, your mom and I will be there to advise and support you. When you are a young adult; you will have choices that you might not have when you are older or have a family of your own or a mortgage or other ‘grown-up’ responsibilities. Now is your time to be daring; to be experimenting; when you have no real commitments. Break the rules but never break the law. Be creative and think of starting your own business; eish, why not start many businesses! Fail often but never be defeated. Mostly have fun with your ideas. Nothing can stop brand ‘Ava’ from accomplishing anything if that’s what you want. Perhaps becoming an entrepreneur is not for you, just yet, and you decide rather that you want to go to university. If that’s the case, then study hard so that you can get into the best school. The sacrifices you will have to make during these years by working hard when others are playing will pay dividends when you are older. Widen your horizons to opportunities abroad. You are limitless in potential and the world is your playground.
Define your definition of success early on. We all have our own definition of success and you will need to decide what yours is as well. There is nothing wrong with changing your definition of success as you journey on, but it’s important to have one at any one moment. Your goals, aspirations and daily actions will be guided by what your definition of success is. I remember mine being an M3 BMW in yellow of all things; even if it meant eating bread only and drinking water for the rest of my life. Luckily, I grew out of that phase quickly. My definition of success now is to live an abundant life. To be able to provide materially for my family to a joyous level. To have a happy family and a loving home. To be grateful and content with and for what we have but remain ambitious. To keep growing in knowledge, wisdom, and spirit. To grow old, but never grow up – always to remain a child at heart. Ultimately to be at peace when I go to bed and after a long, healthy and happy life, to be surrounded by the people I love. That is my definition of success now. Yours might now be like my BMW version; which is still cool.
Know that your heart will be broken. My heart wants to tell you that I will need to approve of your first date when you turn 30 and every date thereafter, but my head knows that, by then, your heart will be broken many times and you will break many hearts yourself. There is nothing more painful than a broken heart when you are young. This will obviously be THE area where your mom and I will know the least about, because, as you know, we don’t know anything; we are old and skipped our teenage years because things were just different in our days, decades ago. What I can say is, don’t take life too seriously at this stage. All good things come to those who wait, and you will find your soul mate. Hay, that rhymes!
Be the good person we know you are, and your vibrations will attract the man to you that will make you happy and your mom and me, semi-happy. Always love with all your heart and yet be thoughtful to not make decisions and mistakes that will have long-term challenging consequences. Life can be just a little simpler getting through this phase without something holding you back from achieving your full potential.
Get to know your Bible. Lastly, but most importantly; even more important than the golden rule – let’s call it the platinum rule; is to get to know Jehovah and to love Him with all your heart. The Bible is a wonderful recipe for a happy life. However, only if its guidelines are followed. Read it daily and meditate on its content. Become aware of your spirituality and how every living thing is connected to Infinite Intelligence. The universe and God want you to live an abundant life. Nature only knows abundance. But to have that life, you must seek first God’s loving wisdom so that everything else is given to you. That is my most important guideline for you. Love Jehovah with all your heart and everything I mentioned above will be yours.
We love you. We are proud of you. Be extraordinary!
Early Morning Realizations
With my eyes wide open staring at the ceiling, I could see the digital clock through the corner of my eye displaying 12.51AM in red bold numbers on its clock monitor. It was not that surprising since I had always been a night owl and adding to it, the rising nerves regarding our upcoming trip was acting as a natural CNS stimulant, keeping me awake. Despite knowing all this, Simona has been encouraging me to get a shut eye as the flight was early at 6.30 am and she didn't want a zombie to take care of her daughter, but a perfectly awake and alert man.
Thanks to Simona’s insistence, I managed to get an hour’s rest but falling completely asleep was impossible. And I didn't even blame myself for that, since my mind was on a brutal overdrive, and was dreaming one after another the most bizarre scenarios that could happen during our trip.
For instance, in my last dream, I was driving through a bend around the Iceland ring road and was trying to explain to Ava what it meant by having crushes and being infatuated, using my own personal stories. Trying to ease her into opening up about any crush she may have in her class, I was saying, “I might be your dad Ava, but I am always your friend…”.
Before I could complete that sentence, she suddenly cut me short and blurted out, “Dad...I really like Mr. Roger, my Math teacher. I have already confessed it to him and he...” Her words took me by such a surprise that I almost lost control of the wheel for a moment, making our car swerve towards the left and cutting her sentence short. I forcefully applied the brake and woke up with a start.
Phew! Luckily only a dream!
I had gingerly gotten up while trying to not wake up Simona, had sat on my bed and realized it was now 2.02 am; with an absolute pin drop silence around me. The status of my internal environment, however, was a different matter altogether. My heart was galloping like I had just completed a triathlon, sweat beaded my brows and my mind was replaying Ava’s words like a broken record, “I really like Mr. Roger”.
Now, the rational me knew that my mind had conjured such a ‘strange’ dream because Math was Ava’s favourite class and she was always full of praises about how Mr. Roger made Math class interesting. However, the emotional me was not getting that memo and was still getting anxious over a silly dream.
Groaning, I had covered my face with my hands and realized that I was already dreading the trip before it even started. Not for the first time I wished to not have catapulted under Simona’s wishes and hoped that she would change her mind and surprise us by joining us on our trip.
However, the trip was planned, and I comprehended that hoping such a thing would be an exercise in futility. Knowing that I had to get up by 3AM, I took deep breaths and tried to shut up my irrational side to get some rest in the remaining time. As I laid back again, I kept on repeating the mantra in my head, “I would only be a strong father to Ava if I could be there to guide and support her, irrespective of what decisions she made.”
However, sleep remained an elusive entity and after twisting and turning for the next half an hour, I finally gave up trying. With my head turned towards the ceiling and my back resting on the support, I thought about my bizarre dream and my uncharacteristic reaction to that. Our Ava had always been a carefree but a level-headed child, so somewhere it didn't make sense that I would worry about her confessing something like that to her teacher.
And then it dawned on me; the crux of my problem. Somewhere, maybe I had developed a subconscious fear of what talks we would have during the trip, as lately there were many things I didn't know about Ava. Like who all were her friends? If she was having any trouble with school or in her studies? What her dreams for the future was etc. For many fathers, it may not seem like a big issue, but for me it was a problem because this distance between us had not always been the case.
For a greater part of her life, Ava and I have had a very close relationship. Among all the people she knew, I had been the reigning victor of that accolade of being the ‘coolest person’ in her life. But with time, that coolness morphed into awkwardness. From being the person with whom Ava shared everything, I guess I had been demoted to be the person who was last to hear anything.
Moreover, since my baby girl had started on her journey towards womanhood, she had started sharing a lot more with her mom than with me. And despite understanding that it was natural for girls to gravitate towards their mother at this age, I was a bit disappointed for having lost the coolest person title, and for missing the opportunities to share wonderful life experiences with Ava.
While staring at our dimly lighted ceiling, I tried hard but could barely remember the last time when Ava and I had a heart-to-heart talk. When was the last time when she told me, “Dad, I am confused about something, I need your help”; I just cannot remember.
The closest we had come to share some deep father-daughter time of late was while planning the itinerary for our Iceland trip. And thinking about our shared time made me realize that I just had one person to thank for it; the gorgeous woman sleeping by my side, who had coaxed me to go on a father-daughter trip and would surely reprimand me, if she knew I was awake the whole night.
The alarm went off at 3AM. It looked to be a cold, wet and wintery morning outside. Good preparation for Iceland, I thought to myself. A few minutes later, getting to the kitchen I can see that Ava is already dressed, bags by the door and eating her Weetabix while leaning against the kitchen table. Coffee dad, she asked while taking a sip from her own cup. A strong one please, I replied; needing a boost after a bad night’s rest.
I finished loading the car with what looked like enough bags for a yearlong excursion. Ava said her goodbyes to her mom and went to sit in the car. Simona and I hugged each other goodbye and still in embrace, she murmured in my ear, “Have a great time and show Ava what she is missing by not having her father as a best friend. It’s high time my husband won back the coolest guy title.”
Iceland This Way!
We arrived at Keflavik airport just after 9am. I am always amazed to find that England and Iceland are in the same time zones, as on a map Iceland seem so far to the west. Walking to our luggage belt, we are greeting by an amazing billboard of a woman in the rain standing in the Blue Lagoon. The headline on the billboard was saying ‘Iceland, this way’. After months of planning, we have finally arrived.
Initially, we wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon first before heading to Reykjavik, but silly me forgot to make reservations until the last minute, so we couldn’t get in until 6pm. It worked out great though, because the lagoon wasn’t as crowded later in the day. Most of the flights to Iceland get in first thing in the morning and everyone heads straight to the Blue Lagoon since it’s close to the airport, so it’s crowded in the morning until mid-afternoon.
It was a chilly but sunny morning with beautiful blue skies above. Who said December's in Iceland are not for the faint hearted, I thought to myself. We collected our car and was ready for the roughly hour-long journey from Keflavik to the capital. Reykjavík is a small and artsy city buzzing with activities, sprinkled with Scandinavian huts and a cluster of bars and museums.
Some of my favourite spots in the city were the Old Harbour, with lots of cool cafes, the Sun Voyager boat sculpture and Hallgrímskirkja church, where you can get a view of the city from the top of its tower. We also managed to get some hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, Iceland’s famous hot dog stand.
Although Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the largest city in the country, it’s still relatively small and can be seen within a day or two. We checked into our Airbnb at around 3pm and enjoyed our lovely apartment for a bit and then headed off to the Blue Lagoon for early dinner and relaxation. We had reservation at LAVA for 5pm, which gave us an hour to eat before our 6pm reservation at the lagoon. LAVA’s dining room was awesome. You felt like you were in a luxury cave with huge windows looking out to the lagoon. We ordered the lamb and ribeye, and everything was fantastic!
While waiting for our desserts; I asked Ava, what she would consider to be a successful Iceland trip. Obviously, seeing the Northern Lights, came a quick response. I agree; I said, that would certainly be a big part in making this trip a success. But seeing the Northern Light is not really a guarantee; therefore, would the trip be a failure if we do not see the Northern Lights?
Not to sure dad, she responded and continued to ask - what would you say will make this trip a success? Well; my definition of success will be different to yours; we all have our own definitions of success. A successful trip for me would be that you and I have a great time catching up, talking about things that might worry you, things that might worry me, how things are going in school, perhaps rebuilding some bridges and bonding like old times.
Perhaps; I could understand more of what your dreams for the future are, as I feel we have not really had descent conversations lately and who knows, perhaps I can advise you on a thing or two that you might find meaningful and helpful. And then off course to take you home safely to your mother, I said laughing.
O, I did't think of all those things dad, but not to worry about any of that, everything is going fine. There is that word, I nervously thought to myself – ‘fine’. Knowing how similar Ava is to her mother, I know that ‘fine’ is code for ‘there is something seriously going on, watch out’.
We paid our bill, went to our locker rooms and changed into our bathing suits. It was with a sprint that would have left Usain Bolt proud that I dashed the 10 yards or so to the lagoon. It is pretty cold now. Slowly walking through the warm water of the blue lagoon, scoping out the scene, I have this bittersweet feeling, as my body enjoys the heat, but my bold head not so much the icey crystals landing on it.
Ava eventually joined me and as we slowly strolled through the water at shoulder height and our feet sinking away in the sludge underneath; Ava asks, dad, why do you say that everyone’s definition of success is different? I hear a lot from my friends that they want to be successful when they grow up, but I am not sure what that means. When will I know if I am successful? That is a deep question on our first day in Iceland I thought to myself, but exactly the type of conversations I want to have with Ava during this trip, so was glad at the direction this was going.
Well; my view on this might be different to that of your friends. For me success can never be an end goal. I have always believed that success is a consequence of positive actions, any positive action. What do you mean by that Dad, asked Ava; will I not be successful when I am rich, drive a nice car and have a big house?
I chuckled; yes, that surely is the definition of success in today’s material world, and there is nothing wrong with wanting and having nice things, but that is not what will make you successful and happy, in my opinion. There are many rich people who, on the surface looks very happy and therefore come across as very successful by worldly standards, but deep down they are very unhappy with later reports revealing them suffering from depression, going through ugly divorces or even committing suicide.
Real success has nothing to do with the amount of possessions you have. Real success; I continued, is a state of mind. Real success come from acting, every day, no matter how small, but taking action today to better your life in some sort of way, so that you are in a better position tomorrow. I read a book the other day that mentioned that at the end; the only possessions that Mother Teresa and Gandhi had, was the items they had carried in a bag with them. Now, I would consider them successful.
Success for you at fourteen might be being more prepared for your history test so that you can improve on the last grade you received; not being tempted to spend your pocket money on meaningless things but rather saving it for that Justin Bieber concert you want to go see. You enjoy running, so success might be that you cut some time off your 5K time. Success doesn’t need to be major achievements; it hardly ever is, success is to always just take one extra small step forward. Progress is our most important goal.
Dad, would you consider yourself successful? Ouch, what a direct question, I thought, but one that I have given thought to many times over the years. Well based on my definition of success when I was around your age, I would not consider myself successful now at all, I replied with a laugh. Back then I had a poster of a red Ferrari on my wall on the one side and a green Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle on the other. I would lie in bed having big dreams of driving around with those two monsters.
I always thought that I would be successful once I have them. Later that red Ferrari turned into a yellow BMW M3. Me driving around in that with my Don Johnson Miami Vice suit and white pointer shoes. Well, I had the suit and the shoes but never owned that BMW. I am pretty sure I would have felt successful and happy for a while driving along with the window down and my elbow resting on the side door panel with bass pumping from the massive speakers, I had to convert my car boot to house the booster.
But I can guarantee you, that feeling would have waned very quickly, because I know now, and realized this way to late in my life, that success and happiness is not an end result. It is not that I will be successful once I own this or that. I know now that success is a feeling. A feeling you can have living in your apartment driving a Lexus, I said smiling. It isn't what you have that's important but rather the person you become and the goals that you are working towards. Once you have a goal, success is your daily journey progressing towards it, no matter how slow it might feel for you.
Don't see yourself as the person you are now. See yourself as the person you will become in the future. You know how your swimming coach always tells you to visualize your race before you even enter the water. The same goes for success. Visualize that you already have what you want and am who you want to be. Visualizing is a very important part of reaching your goals.
But what if I am not sure what to visualize for right now dad? What if what I visualize now is not what I want to visualize in a few years’ time? Good question! At fourteen you have your whole life ahead of you. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind as your interests in life switch from one dream to another. Many people change careers late in life; they start a new hobby or sport or discover a new talent for being creative. I did my first marathon at age 42. I was never into running so much before then and since then have done a few marathons.
My advice for you at this stage in your life would be to just keep trying out as many new things as possible. I know you are active with all your sports, but you cannot deny that you have become a bit of a social media slave as well. Is spending all that time scrolling and texting really the best use of your time? I understand that your standings within your peer group is important to you right now; it’s important for us as your parents as well that you have healthy social experiences.
But I cannot help thinking that if you half the time you spend on social media and rather pick up another book or plan another adventure or learn a new skill like that cooking class you did with your mother last month, that you would not find life a lot more meaningful and fun. What I am trying to say is that you always need to focus on developing yourself and spending your time wisely. You only get one chance at life. There are no reruns. Focus on yourself and try many things until you find that one thing that you have a passion for.
Isn’t thinking about myself in that way a bit selfish dad? You always say that the biggest joy in life comes from helping and giving to people who are less fortunate than us. It might sound a little selfish, but believe me, it is not. Remember the announcement on the flight coming over to Iceland where they said that in case of an emergency oxygen masks will drop from above and to please make sure that you attend to yourself first before you attend to others? That is because you cannot look out and help others without looking after yourself first.
I agree with you that ultimate success in life is all about making the lives of others better and contributing positively to your community, but you can only do that once you are mentally coming from a positive position of strength yourself. So, in order to inspire the people around you to become better versions of themselves; you need to show the advantages of becoming a better version of yourself. There is no greater feeling knowing that someone is in a better state today, because of your inspiration, guidance and example the day before. You will feel successful then, no matter your age or dreams.
Success, I continued, therefore, is not to be pursued, but something you attract by the person you become. Always keep working on yourself and the rest will fall into place. Put your energy in becoming a better you. The best you. Learn the skills, practice those skills. I wish I knew all these things when I was your age. If only they would teach some of these life skills in school; I believe that the world would be a much better place. Learning in school was never one of my strong suits. But how foolish I was. There is nothing better than to learn something new. Learning is the key to your future success. There is a saying that says that learners are earners. Never stop learning.
Focus on your self-development more than on your career. To always be striving for more money, more stuff for your house you end up never using, more debt in order to keep up with the Jones’; is all a highway to unhappiness and depression. As I mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with wanting and having nice things. But, having nice things or the ability to acquire them is usually the by-product of doing something you really love. I always say that money is not the route of all evil. We need money! It’s the love of money and that continuous drive to have more of it at any cost - that is evil for me.
Success is going to bed at night and sleeping peacefully not worried about things of the future or past, but to sleep and have big dreams. I always had big dreams, but you know that since I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the ripe old age of 40; the year you were born; I really started taking ‘success’ more seriously. But I also learned that having big dreams are of no value unless followed by action. It took a crisis for me to start living a more focussed life and not just dabble with things here and there, but that doesn't need to be you.
There are thousands of people who find their purpose after a crisis. But I am hoping that you can learn from what I can teach you now, so that you don't have to make the same mistakes I have, or wait so long to apply lessons I have learned late in life. If you can slowly start applying the principles that I would love to teach you over the next seven days, I can guarantee you that you will have a successful life.
For example; I went on to say, I know now that we need to be specific in what we want and visualize our dreams to the finest detail. I am told that your brain cannot differentiate between visualization and reality so if we have a clear vision of what we want, it soon will manifest itself.
I will repeat it, as it is one of the most important lesson I can ever teach you - never stop working on yourself. Have big scary dreams and goals. Thinking small is not what God wants from you and I. We can all be lions, but we choose to live like mice. We all have great potential; it’s all down to clarity of what we want and acting. Tony Robbins said that clarity is power. I believe that too.
Ava, you know the vision board we have up on our kitchen wall? That has served me so well since creating my first board 14 years ago. It is very specific with pictures, words and affirmations of all my goals and I can honestly tell you that most of my past goals I had on my board came true. And even though a vision board is mainly about future events, I know now that our destinies are shaped by the decisions we take today. Every step we will ever take will have consequences; even taking no steps is still a decision and therefore will have its consequences. Every step we have ever taken in the past has led us directly to this point in our life, having white mud on our faces and enjoying the Blue Lagoon.
Ava, you mentioned the other day when we toured Oxford that you would love to study medicine at Oxford University one day. If that is really what you want; then that is a great goal to strive for. Once you have made up your mind, you need to break down your goal into smaller more immediate goals. A starting point might be to understand what subjects you need to take and what grades you need to get. Knowing that, you then need to sit down and work out how much time you need to spend each day studying to get the grades required. You can speak to someone already studying medicine at Oxford and see what tips they can give you to improve your chances. Sign up to their newsletters, get familiar with the curriculum. Think and breathe your goal. The more you think about it, the more the universe will help you in taking the right steps towards it. Stephen Covey said that whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Think big!
I am still a bit unsure dad, murmured Ava in a quiet voice. That’s OK! Ava, you know that we worked out an itinerary of what we want to do and see each day while here in Iceland. Yes, replied Ava. Well in order to reach your goal, you will have to work out your itinerary. You need to plan and write down what a good day will look like; what a good week and month will look like. You cannot reach your goals without a plan. Your plan will be your roadmap. Just as we put the coordinates of our destination each day in our GPS here in Iceland, so you will need to work out the map to your final goal.
Now; we live in a world full of distractions and things unplanned will always come up, so therefore it will be unlikely to stick to our map a 100% all the time. I have tried this for years and hardly ever have done everything on my ‘today list’. But to start with; I would suggest you focus on what the perfect day for you might look like and then at the end of each day go through your list and note what tasks weren't done.
It might be that you were just a bit too ambitious for now and have too many things on your list to start with, or you might have something quite hard to achieve on it and therefore do anything and everything else but that task. Brian Tracy calls that task your 'frog'. And as ugly as it might sound, his advice is that you eat your frog first. Do the thing you put off doing, first. It will give you a huge sense of accomplishment and make the other tasks on your list feel so easy. For now, try and achieve at least 50% of what is on your list. As you get more familiar with the system, we can aim for a higher percentage. If your plan A is to study at Oxford; you still need to have a plan B. There is no disgrace to reach for the stars and land on the moon.
As you try to live to your own roadmap you will need to be aware and manage your distractions. Our world is full of distractions all the time. We need to really limit our TV watching and social media usage. I know you love reading, which is great. To reach the top shelve in life you will need to stand on many books. I strongly believe that reading is the key to a successful life. They say that reading is like having a conversation with the author. Imagine having conversations with the greats of the past – Abraham, David, Jesus, Ruth, Socrates, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius and more recently Da Vinci, Newton, Tesla, Gandhi or Mandela. Would having conversations and learning lessons from these people not make you a more enlightened and knowledgeable person? Keep reading as much as possible – always.
Thanks dad; said Ava, I will make it my New Year’s resolution to focus more on setting goals and the actions required to reach them. Setting goals, I replied, at any time can never be a bad idea, but my views on New Year’s resolutions are that they never last. You sign up for a gym membership and statistics show that by March 70% of new members don’t go anymore. Why wait for a future date or time to set your goals? Why not start right now? There is an old Chinese proverb that states that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago the second-best time is now.
Let’s make it our goal now, that we will wake up at 5am every morning during this trip and start the day with 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of meditation or reflection and then another 20 minutes of reading. We will have breakfast by 6am and out the door by 7am to make the most of every day. It is well known that most achievers start the day early. If you can make it a habit to get up at 5am and put in the effort while others are sleeping, you will live to a standard that few others achieve. What do you think, should we give this a go, I asked laughingly? Let’s do it dad, comes a quick response. This is going well, I thought to myself.
Dad, what is the difference between a goal and your standards? I have learned a long time ago that what makes me happy is not necessarily the setting of new goals but always setting higher standards in living. Goal setting is very important to reach desired outcomes; like getting the grades to get into medical school. But your standards are who you are. If you are satisfied with mediocre standards, you will have a mediocre life. What is your standard on appearance, on morals, on helping others, on the friends you choose to bring into your circle on managing your time well? If you focus on your standard by always aiming for higher and better standards in all you do, then things can only go well with you. Always strive for higher standards.
This does mean that you need to spend time getting to know yourself well and think of what you truly want out of life. I know at fourteen it will be different to what it will be at forty. That is just normal, but even at fourteen you need to really think of what you want. Write it down, meditate over it often. I am a strong believer of where you put your focus, your energy will flow. Focus on what you want; be specific and then spend the energy to get there. The energy of the universe will work with your energy in making your goals manifest itself.
However, this is not an occasionally exercise and you putting in a low energy effort when you feel low. You need to create a sense of urgency for what you want. It needs to become the thing you think of the most. Your thoughts become things. Therefore, make something a ‘must do’ and not ‘like to’. Have a passion for what you do. Is medicine and helping people really your passion? Most people who are successful in various fields will tell you that they have not worked a day in their lives. They are passionate for what they do and when you have a passion for something, it almost becomes recreation when you spend time doing it.
It won’t always go plain sailing. Sometimes you will have to do what you do not like to do, but always try to work in what is called ‘flow’, which means that you spend at least 80% of your time doing something you truly love doing.
Dad, you said that if you think about things a lot that it will come true. How is that possible? I dream a lot about a lot of things, and I cannot think of a single thing that has come to be. Is your level of success not going to be determined by how clever you are? Every great idea started with being a thought in someone’s mind. I can also tell you that all of us, more than we recognize, are products of the thinking around us.
The average person thinks small, not big. Thinking big is contagious. Why do you think all the great companies that you always talk about, like Google, Amazon, Tesla, Apple, Asana, are all located in a 20-mile radius of each other? It is because like-minded people attract like-minded people. You are like a magnet. If you think big, you will attract other big thinkers, but if you think small, as most people do, then you will attract small thinkers. To be successful you can't continue being around low frequency people for a long period of time. Your time needs to be spent consistently with people on high quality activities.
I will repeat it, think big and you will live big. You will live big in happiness, big in accomplishments, big in income and big and respect. You will stand out by thinking big and taking actions according to your thinking. Therefore, success, is not so much determined by your IQ but by the size of your thinking and your attitude. You need to remind yourself daily that your attitude is far more important than your intelligence.
Your attitude towards life is critical and attitude starts with thinking. It’s not always the brightest people who make it to the top. Your attitude and drive is what will get you there. If you are committed to studying medicine; it will be your attitude and drive in reaching that goal that will make it happen. Sure, you will need to have a level of intelligence, but that alone will not get you to your goal. In sport any coach will tell you that grit and determination will overtake talent eventually. Focus on your attitude in all you do and know that when the 'why' is strong enough the 'how' is easily found.
You can decide in a heartbeat what your attitude is towards something. Emerson said that If I knew what you think, I would know who you are. Our thoughts make us who we are. Our mental attitude is the X factor that determines our fate. Two people can be struck by the same amount of ‘bad luck’; one sees it for what it is; a temporary setback from where he can learn a valuable lesson from and take immediate action to better the situation. The other can feel the weight of the world on his/her shoulders, feel that life is unfair, think why me again, take no action and spiral into a dark world of depression, self-pity and loneliness. Same circumstance, different attitudes and different outcomes.
Not for one moment did I ever think ‘why me’ or was depressed by the fact that I had to inject myself with insulin 4 times a day; and I was very scared of needles, still am. Rather, I just praise the guy who discovered insulin meaning that I can live and not die like many people only a century ago. Instead of being depressed it gave me an extra oomph to be more focused in life in everything I do.
But Dad, what if other people find out about my goals and make fun of them? How should I respond to that? People, I answered, will not always like you standing out as it will highlight their own insecurities and attitudes towards life. They will try and belittle your thinking. These people might be very close to you, but you will do well to limit your association with them. It needs to be uncomfortable for you to be around negative energy sapping complaining people. Never feel bad or accept the judgement of average people as you are not average. People who tell you that it cannot be done almost always are unsuccessful people who are strictly average. Just focus on your own roadmap. It's your life and you need to lead it the way that is best for you.
Robin Sharma said that haters confirm greatness. Let that be your test in life. You need to be very aware of who these haters are. When you really start showing up the haters will be intimidated by you. Rather than reflecting what they could do as well; you reflect what they are not doing. They won't get what you're about and what you are doing, and they will be afraid of what they don’t understand.
Therefore, do not worry or be sad when this happens, and it will. This isn't about you; it's about them and their insecurities. Most people will say that you need to be ‘realistic’ but they are just in denial themselves: They are simply being negative. Being ‘realistic’ to them is a synonym for negativity. But, in the end I believe that most people; the right people to be around, will support you and most people will be inspired when they see someone living their dreams. Do you get what I am trying to say? Yes, dad, Ava says in a confirming voice.
But, Dad, you keep on saying that I need to think big. How can I think big if I don’t know what big is? Big for me might be small for others but we don't know what we don't know, so why put a cap on what is possible. You need to always stay curious and interested in success. Be a lifelong student of life. You need to study what other big thinkers are doing. Therefore, you will need to keep nurturing your passion for reading and learning. Study the habits of successful people. Who is the best in their fields in terms of what you are interested in. Who is world renowned in knowledge of nutrition, health and fitness, business, finance, relationships, travel and adventure, philosophy, spirituality and what other area of a balanced live that is important to you. Identify them and mimic their habits.
All the books that you will ever need to be successful in anything have already been written. You just need to take the steps to study them and then act. Even though I believe that reading is the foundation of a successful life, it will be of little use if not followed by action. The saying goes that knowledge is power, but I always take it a step further in that knowledge is only potential power. It only becomes powerful when it is put to constructive use. Also, don't ever count on luck for your victories. Instead just concentrate on developing those qualities in yourself that will make you a winner.
Dad, how do I build a good attitude towards life? I don’t always feel confident in myself and therefore feel that I cannot always accomplish what I want. There are others in my class that always look so confident. How can I become like them? Well; I think the greatest weakness we as humans have, is that we sell ourselves short. Life is too short to be little. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that most people live like mice when they can be lions. Why is that, you think? As you know that the Bible says in Acts 17:26 that everyone are born equal, but as you and I know we don’t all end up living equal lives due to our differences in will, motivation, effort and habit.
No one is born with confidence. Confidence is acquired and developed. Those people you know in your class who radiates confidence must have acquired their confidence in some way and so can you. I had to work hard on my confidence and still do so all the time. When I feel the need for more confidence, I go to my 'cheat sheet' to remind myself of steps I take that works for me. My list might not be your list and therefore you can develop your own steps or 'go-to' guide or 'cheat sheet', whatever you want to call it. As long as it works for you. Do you want to know the steps on my cheat sheet? Yes, please, answers Ava enthusiastically.
I always follow eight rules when I feel I lack confidence. I am sure there are many things you can do to make yourself feel more confident, but here is mine;
First, you have always loved acting. Since you were 3 years old you were acting out all the scenes from the Frozen movie. If you don’t feel confident, you need to act confident; fake it till you make it. Always sit in the front row and be conspicuous. Stand out, but for the right reasons. When I lack confidence, I am aware of it and therefore I act confident, like an actor would in a film. By acting confident, I soon become confident. Remember success is not born it's made, and you can always make yourself confident.
Second and as James Allen stated in his book ‘As A Man Thinketh’; that it is impossible for positive thoughts and actions not to have positive consequences. The same goes for negative thoughts and actions in that it cannot produce positive consequences. It is also impossible to always be positive. We will always have things happen to us, but when you feel down for a length of time, you have to decide to think positively. Positive thoughts will lead to increased confidence. Right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring right results. When I am low, I will read an inspiring book; I will listen to a great audiobook while driving or listen to uplifting music. Who don't feel uplifted after listening to the Eye of the Tiger by Survivor? That usually gives me the boost I need to start thinking positively again.
Third; your body language, behaviour and appearance will speak volumes. I always try and remind you to stand tall and always have eye contact with people. Listen tentatively when people speak to you. Really be present and not already think of a response in your mind while the other person is speaking. Other people will be attracted to you and will open to you because you are a good listener. Knowing that people can talk to you, will give you confidence. Always be an example in your behaviour in dealing with people. Good manners and morals will reflect well on you and people will treat you with more respect. Being treated with respect will lead to more confidence. Also focus on your appearance. By looking good, it will make you feel good and feeling good will build your confidence.
Fourth, the words you use and the way you speak will show people who you are. Words are powerful. Words can build up or tear down. They can motivate or discourage. Sometimes, it might be best to not say anything at all. As I have always told you that if you can’t say something good about a person, don’t say anything. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said that we should remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Choose the words you speak very carefully because they have the potential of accomplishing nearly anything or destroying nearly anything. Just one negative comment can ruin a person’s day. A few might even ruin the person’s life. On the flip side, one positive and encouraging comment can make more of a difference in an individual's life than you might ever know. The way you speak; attitude, tone and choice of words reflects the person you are and impacts everything around you. It can greatly contribute to your success and therefore confidence.
Fifth; to give rather than to receive will give you the greatest joy. Napoleon Hill said in the best book I have ever read – How to Win Friends and Influence People, that he can sum up his book in one sentence. To always make the person you interact with feel important and special. Leave every person dealing with you feeling better about themselves than before. It takes a lot of confidence to be so happy in yourself that there is no need to be self-centred and selfish and to always focus on the other person’s needs. But know that the universe always balances things out. So, by focusing on others, you will get it returned back to you and most likely with interest.
Six – Keep moving. Walk 25% faster than anyone else and walk with purpose. You can change your attitude by changing your state or posture through the speed of movement. Use this 25% faster walking technique to help build self-confidence. Straighten your back, lift your head up and move ahead just a little faster than anyone else and see your confidence grow. Don’t stand to the right with the crowd when going up or down an escalator. Be the person who walks past with purpose on the left. I always find it hard to get to the gym, and walk out a different, more positive, more energised person. Keep moving to give you more confidence.
Seven – Keep setting goals and know that failing builds confidence. It is a paradox but failing means that you have tried something and that can never be a bad thing. Also, that goals are as essential to success as air is to life. No one ever stumbles into success without a goal. You will fail along the way but failing puts you one step closer to reaching your goals and reaching your goals will build confidence. It was Edison who said “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that didn't work”.
Don’t be afraid to fail along the way in reaching your goals, but don’t fail in setting goals though. True failure is our inability to set and reach our goals in life. When you start taking your dreams seriously you will initially not be qualified but as you build momentum by continuously acting you will become qualified to do what you need to do.
Eight – As I mentioned earlier; dream big dreams and believe that they will come true. I have always been a dreamer. Keep asking yourself, if money was of no concern will I still do what I currently am doing? All things are possible to him that believes. (Mark 9:23). To learn to believe is of primary importance. It is the basic factor of succeeding in any undertaking.
End of Day 1
The phrase “there’s nowhere else like it,” is so overused, but is truer when used to describe Iceland. Iceland have always left me spellbound as I wandered from place to place. It quickly became one of my favourite countries in the world.
The locals are warm and welcoming. They are incredibly hospitable. And, while locals make any destination better, there is no doubt that it is the magnificence of the natural landscape that does it for me; from geysers to glaciers to waterfalls and landscapes that make you think you are on the moon; not to mention the magical Northern Lights.
For me nothing is more rewarding than a strenuous mountain hike ending in a perfect 39°C natural geothermal pool with a view to die for, all to yourself. This something that we will be experiencing a lot of during our trip, and hopefully, if we are lucky, we will see the Aurora Borealis.
We left the Blue Lagoon around 9 pm and drove around 45 minutes back to our Airbnb in Reykjavik. The drive back was a quiet one. I was quietly pleased at the way day one turned out, and I was hoping that Ava’s silence meant that she was meditating on some of the points we discussed at the Blue Lagoon as well. It was the slight snoring noise coming from my right that made that hope crumble. A well, let the start not define the end, I thought to myself. Tomorrow is another day.
Happiness Is a Journey Not a Destination
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life” - John Lennon
Day 2. Reykjavik to Vik
We got up early in order to hit the road and make the most of the few hours of daylight we will have. Today we are driving from Reykjavik to Vik and will make a few stops along the way. We pack our bags into the car with coffee ready for the road. What stops will be do today, ask Ava. This is going to be an ambitious travel day as I planned for us to do a few stops. The Golden Circle consists of Pingviller National Park, the geysers at Haukadalur and the Gullfoss waterfall. It is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland. Our first stop will be at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It is about an hour and forty-five-minute drive from Reykjavik. Falling 213 feet over and old sea cliff, Seljalandfoss is one of the most well knows waterfalls in Iceland. If you do not mind getting wet, you can even walk all the way behind the falls for a unique viewpoint. There will be a restroom there, a small shop and a stand that serves some sandwiches and caked if you need a snack. We will then stop at the Skogafoss waterfall as well which is nearby.
We will then stop to see the geysers and the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Visitor Center. This center is about fifteen minutes from Seljalandfoss and comes highly recommended, especially if it is rainy and cold like it is today and craving a warm indoor shop. There, we will watch a 20-minute video about the 2010 volcanic eruption that cancelled tens of thousands of flights and how it impacted the local people. For short the center is called E-15, because the name is E plus 15 letters. I think that is what we will call it, as we will probably not pronounce the name correctly, Ava said laughingly.
We will then move on to Reynisfjara Beach which is about 10 minutes from Vik. This beach is especially impressive because the sand is black and the beach is home to basalt columns of Reynisfjall mountain, which are like an otherworldly experience. These rock formations are completely natural, and the massive basalt cave has been continuously carved and shaped by the sea. They say that Reynisfjara Beach can be quite an eerie site to see on rainy, foggy days like today, so we should be in for a treat there. From there we will head to Vik where we will stay for the night. Sounds all very exciting Dad, said Ava.
Hitting the Road to Vik
Driving east from Reykjavik, we see the first rays of the sun trying to fight through the fog and rain. The landscape makes you think you are driving on Mars. Sipping on a warm coffee, I ask Ava; Ava, have you given some more thought on what you want to do after school? Before you always wanted to become a pilot or an architect. I remember you being so creative building all sorts of things when you were younger. I know that at fourteen you might think that you still have loads of time to decide, but in three years’ time you want to go to Uni and, even though tough and probably unfair on a fourteen-year-old; the decisions you make now will impact your career choices and therefore your life going forward. What subjects you choose now will dictate what your choices will be. Have you given your future some more thought?
I am not too sure Dad, says Ava. You and mom installed a passion for travel in me from a young age, so I would want to go travelling a bit so that I can be sure by the time I come back. That sounds like a good plan. But Dad, said Ava, I just want to always stay happy. ‘Stay Happy’, I smiled. I am glad to hear that you consider yourself happy, which makes me feel that your mom and I am having some level of success in raising you. Wanting to be happy is good. Being happy as a young teenager can be challenging, as teenage years can be difficult for many. I remember having had many internal struggles myself in my teens. My I ask what you think will make you happy in the future? Not too sure Dad says Ava. What made you happy when you where my age?
What is Happiness?
Well, each one of us is unique. What made and still makes me happy might not make someone else happy. Additionally, we change as we grow older. When I was your age, being with my friends made me happy. Sunday barbeques, or braais as we call it back home, with the family and watching movies made me happy. Many things made me happy in my teens, especially growing up in a happy home. But evidence suggests that some things are more consistently associated with happiness. Studies suggest that genuine happiness is linked to being happy with who you are and what you have, being humble and not to envy what others have, having great relationships with people and leading a healthy lifestyle.
I always say that it is good to be alive. I do believe that is the way a person feels when he or she is happy – alive. But I also believe that we need to be realistic in that in this system of things, life will not always be happy, and we will experience problems along the way. Do you believe that it is possible to cope with problems and come through stronger on the other side? Yes, I do believe that Dad, says Ava. Great! I believe that your life must have meaning if you want to be truly happy.
What do you mean by ‘meaning’ dad? Well, I believe that a person really lives if he experiences his life as having meaning and value and if he or she has something to live for. As soon as meaning, value and hope vanish from a person’s experience, he begins to stop living and just exist. Tony Robbins once said that if you do not grow, you die, and I know that we want to live and not merely exist. So never stop growing and always keep searching for your own meaning in life, even in your old age. This helps to explain why many of the wealthy are not really satisfied. Many older people also know from experience that a long life without a feeling of accomplishment or of being needed is wearisome.
So, dad, you are saying that being wealthy and growing to an old age will not bring you happiness? No, that is not what I am saying. We need money to survive and we need a certain level of income to thrive. I believe that God wants us to thrive. What I am saying is that we mistakenly believe that happiness comes to us when we have become what the world believes is successful and wealthy. But I believe that happiness must precede achievements of success. Happiness is as much a cause of success as it is a result of success and we can begin to experience happiness whenever we wish regardless of our current circumstances.
I also believe that happiness is very contagious. If you surround yourself with genuinely happy people, it will rub off on you. The same vice versa in that your happiness will rub off on other people. If you focus on being happy; it will cause the people you meet to be happy as well. It is not always easy to be happy, and no person is happy all the time, but studies have shown that if we act happy, soon we will be happy. How can one’s mood not lift when listening to the Eye of The Tiger, I said laughingly.
You need to be self-aware all the time. If you are depressed acknowledge that you are depressed and ask yourself why, then take action to get you in a good mood. Each day when you wake up you need to decide to be in a good mood. Also, do not take yourself too seriously. Laugh at yourself. Laughter is the great secret of living life. If you bring laughter into your life you will live longer. Make it a habit to be happy. Do not postpone your happiness by saying that I will be happy when I have this or that or reach this or that goal. Decide now to be happy, right here in the car. Let us both decide that today is going to be a happy day.
How can I make it a habit to happy, ask Ava. I think that happiness is like baking a cake. What do you work from when you and your mom bake a cake? Well, A recipe, says Ava. Exactly! Just like you have a recipe for baking a cake, so you have a recipe for happiness. For me, the recipe for true happiness is one whose ingredients are contentment and generosity, being of sound health and mind, to have love as your strongest ally, to forgive yourself and others freely, to continuously learn through having positive goals, dreams and aspirations that pushes you for growth outside your comfort zone, and to ultimately love and serve God.
Contentment & Generosity
Ava, how often have you heard that happiness and success are measured in terms of assets or wealth? People say that all the time dad. Exactly! Driven by that view, millions work long, exhausting hours to make more money. But after what we just discussed, do you believe that money and possessions bring lasting happiness? No, does not sound like it Dad. Good, because studies show that once our basic needs are met, more income does little to improve our overall happiness or our sense of well-being.
Money itself is not the issue, Money is a protection. As I said before that we need money to survive and a bit more to thrive. But it is the continues striving for more money that is linked to unhappiness. The Bible says that it is the love for money that is the root to all sorts of injurious things, not money in itself. Trust me when I say that this love for money is not good for you. I can remember vividly my own struggles with this. The hours at night that I lay worried about money and have anxiety for the future; disappointment when the promised happiness failed to arrive after buying that next shiny thing; the disappointment when money or investments depreciate or fail. That drive to always have more, bigger, better. Once loved, that craving for more money can never be satisfied. The Bible says that a lover of silver will never be satisfied with silver, nor a lover of wealth with income. Solomon, who we know is regarded as the richest person to have ever lived, learned that a life of self-indulgence ultimately leaves one feeling empty and unfulfilled.
So, Dad, how can we guard against this love for money dad? There are a few ways I believe we can guard against it. One needs to be content with what you have. This does not mean that you stop being ambitious and settle for a mediocre or average life, to the contrary. By focusing more on just money will give your life balance. Money is usually the result from following your passions and dreams. I also believe that envy is the cause of many personal problems. Envy is a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another and your desire to have that same advantage. I believe, like an illness that envy can take over one’s life and destroy happiness.
But Dad, can we not get inspired by people who have what we want and learn from them. Absolutely, I focus hard on being associated with the people who can inspire me in the areas that I need to grow. But there is a difference between being inspired and envy. The one is healthy, and the other is not. Studies have showed that people tend to envy their equals, perhaps in age, experience or social background. You might be inspired by a 14-year-old being the youngest Olympian in a sport you love, but you are envies of your friend who seem to always dons the latest fashion clothing.
But, Dad, how can I tell the difference between envy and being inspired. Well, I think you need to ask yourself; does a friend’s successes delight or deflate you. If a friend fails in something, are you sad or secretly happy. If you think your answer is the latter in both questions, you most likely are nurturing envy. This is something that we need to guard against at all costs and I believe that envy can poison a person’s capacity to enjoy the good things in life and reduce the feelings of gratitude for life’s many gifts. Such tendencies hardly lead to happiness.
But, Dad, I will be honest in that sometimes I cannot help being envies. How can I guard against it then? We combat envy by cultivating genuine humility and modesty, which enables us to appreciate and value the abilities and good qualities of others. There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Generous people are happy because they enjoy making others happy, even if all they can give is a little of their time and energy. They often gain in abundance what no amount of money can buy - love, respect, and genuine friends, who give generously in return.
Also, do not blame anyone ever for your current circumstances or situations. Take full responsibility for all your actions and its consequences. Embrace who you are and so you are not trying to compete with anyone. Do not let your ego drive your emotions. Be humble and learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want. Your health and well-being will thank you for it. My health and well-being Dad? How is my health linked to anything we discussed?
Your Health Is Your Wealth
Most things we do, affects our health, mindset and overall well-being, in some sort of way. Chronic ill health or a disability can have a major impact on a person’s life. I remember how my life changed when I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes close to when you were born. Within a day, I went from taking life for granted, to being in hospital with drips in my arms with the Doctors telling me that from now on, I will need to inject myself 4 times a day with insulin. And if I do not and neglect things, as I did in the past, I will die. Imminent death certainly changes one’s perspective. I always say that paradoxically, I believe that Type 1 Diabetes saved my life.
Why do you say that dad? Well, realizing then how quickly life can change, it made me look at life differently. I focused more on my personal development, my relationships, my spirituality and on my health. I realized that if I wanted to see you grow old and see my grandchildren, I had to act and live a healthier more balanced life. I had to do some serious introspection and be honest with myself. I needed to identify all of my many bad habits and the consequences of bad choices and habits from my past. No one really knows what brings on Type 1 diabetes, but there is a big school of thought saying that it mainly is related to long levels of high stress and overall being unhealthy. So, your overall well-being, and therefore your happiness, is directly related to your health.
So, what steps can I take to live a healthier life dad? I am active in school sport; I get enough sleep and I eat what mom makes us. What more can I do? I know you do all those things, which is good. They say that sleep, sunshine, diet and exercise is the foundation for good health. Your mom being Italian who loves to cook great food, does not make eating in moderation easy as well. She likes to cook, and we like to eat. My waistline confirms that. In England we cannot do much about the sunshine though, I chuckled.
But I do believe that there are other elements that can help towards a healthier life. One thing is to not pollute your body with anything harmful. You should never smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs. Smoking, for example, leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ in your body. I know they say that you need to experiment in life and stay curious, but I also know that you do not have to experiment with anything where the outcome is known and know that some things are bad for you. That is not experimenting, that is just plain silly really.
Look at all your habits. There is a saying that goes along the lines of – you are what you do when nobody is watching you. What are you doing during your free time? I do not expect you to answer, but this is a good question you need to ask yourself.
I think another thing is that we should appreciate life as a gift and not take things for granted. Appreciating life as a gift will move you to avoid taking needles risks. A momentary thrill is not worth a life of disability. You also need to control your negative emotions. Your mind and body are closely linked. So, try to avoid undue anxiety, anger, envy as I mentioned before, or other harmful emotions. Try to focus on positive thoughts. Your thoughts drive your actions. If you think negatively, you will feel negative. I strongly belief in the power of positive thinking and that you can manifest what you constantly think about. No good can ever come from a negative mindset, so always try and have a positive outlook. Even when you are experiencing problems.
I never once thought of my Type 1 Diabetes in a negative way and not once thought, why me. I refused to be a victim. It improved my way of thinking of therefore my life and my mental wellbeing in so many positive ways. But that might not always be the case for all. Some become overwhelmed with discouragement, which may only make matters worse. Others, perhaps after initial feelings of despair, bounce back. They adapt and find ways to cope. Always try to be the latter.
Then lastly and the most important one for me, is to always cultivate love in your life. Love yourself, love others, love God. Love is by far our most powerful emotion. Love makes you drive 12 hours to see someone for an hour before they fly out to somewhere. Love turns work into a passion rather than a job. Love sometimes make you do crazy things. What crazy things did you Dad? Well, that is a topic for a conversation for when you are a bit older, I said laughingly.
I do believe that humans crave love. No marriage, family, or friendship can thrive without it. Therefore, I believe strongly that love is essential to happiness, mental health and overall wellbeing. Ava, what do you think when I refer to ‘love’? I guess you mean the love you have for mom, or I do for you and mom? The love I am referring to, is not necessarily a romantic love, which, of course, has its place and I believe that choosing the right partner contributed to huge percentage of our happiness in life; but the love I am referring to here is a superior form of love that causes a person to show sincere concern for the welfare of others, even putting them before self. It is love that is guided by Godly principles but by no means is lacking warmth and feeling.
There is a nice verse in the Bible that describes the love that I mean, very well. Can you Google it for us quickly. I think it is 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. Can you find it and read it out for us. I am sure you will recognize it. Sure dad, I found it. Please read it out for us! It says: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
Exactly, now is that not beautiful? Such love “never fails” in that it will never cease to exist. Indeed, it can grow stronger over time. And because it is patient, kind, and forgiving, it is a perfect bond. I believe that, relationships bound by such love are both secure and happy despite the imperfections of the individuals. I also believe that people’s feelings about their relationships have a bigger impact on their overall satisfaction with their lives than do their careers, income, community or even physical health. To genuinely be happy for other people's success and sad when they fail. That love, I believe is the foundation for all happiness.
You also do need to practice self-love. The key to helping others and therefore be happy is to love yourself first. In other words, the best contribution you can make to someone else is your own personal development. If you become 10 x wiser and 10 x stronger, think of what that will do to your adventure helping others and building stronger relationships. James Allen said that you should lose yourself in the welfare of others, forget yourself in all that you do, this is the secret of abounding happiness.
Another thing I believe that will add to your happiness is to forgive freely. Forgive others, no matter how difficult it might be and almost more importantly, you need to forgive yourself for anything you might have done in the past. To seek forgiveness is more about you and not the person you have wronged. Openly apologize for things you have done wrong in the past.
Ava, do you understand how forgiveness can lighten the weight off your shoulders and therefore make you a happier person? Not really dad, can you explain? Well, first we need to really understand what I mean by forgiveness. Forgiveness really means pardoning someone who you feel did something to you. Letting go of anger, resentment or even thoughts of revenge. It does not mean condoning a wrong, minimizing it, or pretending that it did not happen. Rather, forgiveness is a well-thought-out personal choice that reflects a loving commitment to peace and to building or maintaining a good relationship with the other person.
No one is perfect and forgiveness reflects that understanding that no one is perfect. A forgiving person understands that we all sometimes stumble and say and do things that we are sorry for; many times, instantly when you have said it. I, personally, have lost count of the number of times that I had a heated conversation with your grandmother and put the phone down, only to immediately phone back to apologize. Never be too proud to apologize. I also remember not speaking to your uncle for almost a year over something silly as well. Your ego can be your worst enemy sometimes. Luckily, I think I have outgrown that bad habit. That year of not speaking to your uncle was not a very happy period in my life. Being so unforgiving, angry and bitter over something silly obviously soured our relationship and can lead to loneliness, as your uncle was the only family I had in England. Sometimes people can become so focused on a wrong that they cannot enjoy life. Being so easily offended can lead to increased stress levels and therefore a higher risk of being unhealthy and even severe depression. Life is too short for trivialities like this.
I think that if you freely forgive or ask for forgiveness when you have offended someone will lead to healthier relationships, including feelings of empathy, understanding, and compassion. It will lead to improved mental and spiritual well-being. You will have less anxiety and stress and will have fewer symptoms of depression. I also believe that in order to make it easier for you to forgive yourself, you should not expect perfection from yourself, but realistically accept that you - like all others - will make mistakes. That you learn from your mistakes, as I have, so that you are less likely to repeat them.
You need to be patient with yourself, some personality flaws and bad habits may not go away overnight. Associate with friends who are encouraging, positive, and kind but who will also be honest with you. If you hurt someone, take responsibility for it and be quick to apologize.
When you make peace, you will gain inner peace and resilience. You must recognize that mistakes and failure are a natural occurrence. Your choice is the way you respond to these events. When people who are resilient make mistakes, they do not berate themselves with self-defeating language, such as “I’m a failure” or “I’m useless.” Being resilient will help you achieve all your future goals as well.
Have Big Scary Goals
Dad, why are having goals important? First, I think we need to understand what a goal is. A goal is more than just a dream; something you wish would happen. Real goals involve planning, flexibility, and action. Goals can be short-range, taking days or weeks to accomplish, medium range, taking months, and long-range of up to a year or more. Long-range goals can be reached through a series of intermediate goals. Goals are important because reaching them can boost your confidence, strengthen your friendships, and increase your happiness. When you set small goals and reach them, you gain the confidence to take on bigger ones. You also feel more confident when facing day-to-day challenges - such as standing up to peer pressure.
People also enjoy being around those who are reasonably goal-oriented - that is, those who know what they want and are willing to work for it. Moreover, one of the best ways to strengthen a friendship is to work with another person toward a common goal. When you set and reach goals, you feel a sense of accomplishment. I love having goals. They keep me focused and give me something to keep reaching for. And when you achieve a goal, it feels great to look back and say, ‘Wow, I really did it! I accomplished what I set out to do.’” I also discovered that if you expect mediocre results, you will get the mediocre results and if you expect the big results you will get the big results. So, I set myself big scary goals that will challenge me. Not too big and scary that I will never be able to achieve them; that is just counterproductive, but still big and scary enough to push myself outside my comfort zone.
That sounds great Dad. What steps can I take to reach my goals? Well, first I must start by saying that I believe that you are where you are today based on past decisions and actions. That is very important to understand and accept. I am right here in this car with you because of every step and decision that I have taken before. You and you alone are in control of your destiny and therefore setting and reaching your goals. Then, I also truly believe in an abundance mindset and that you do not have to compete with anyone, but yourself, as you need to believe there is more than enough to go around for everyone to win. So setting Big Scary Goals is not a selfish act.
Different people will have different steps that work for them, but what works for me is first to identify my goals. I write down a list of goals I want to achieve. Many say that by thinking about and writing your goals down, you are already halfway there. So, start by writing them down. Then once I have my list, I prioritize each one of them, deciding which one to do first. Which goal on my list is the most important to me and will have the biggest impact on my happiness. It usually is the biggest and sometimes scariest goal that is your top priority. I am a firm believer of tackling my scariest goals first – eat that frog, as Brian Tracy would say.
Then once I have my list in priority order, I need to start planning. I need to set realistic deadlines. I break the end goal down into smaller steps or goals. I also need to anticipate obstacles and think of how to overcome them. But most importantly; I need to act. A goal without action is a dream. They say that knowledge is power, but I firmly believe that applied knowledge in power. Do not wait until you have every detail worked out to get started. Ask yourself, ‘What is the very first thing I can do toward reaching my goal?’ Then do it. Any psychiatrist will tell you that work, or to act - keeping busy - is one of the best medicines ever known for sick nerves. Then, lastly, I track my progress as I complete each step.
Some people also say that by telling your goals to other people; it will give you focus in order to act on them as you do not want to lose face by saying that you are going to do something and then not do it. Personally, I prefer to not tell anyone and let my actions talk for themselves. You will need to do what works best for you.
That sounds all good and well dad, but how is having goals going to help me being happier? Well, psychologists believe, and I happen to agree with them, in that to keep alive and mentally healthy we need something to live for. It has been proven that people whose lives have purpose show widespread health benefits. They have reduced risk of mental impairment, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better recovery profiles from stroke, and therefore, they live longer and healthier lives. That surely must make one happy. But this is not a single exercise that you do once or now and again. This is a never-ending journey for your whole life.
My whole life! But Dad, you mentioned earlier that you need to show gratitude and be content with what you have and now you are telling me that I need to set goals and never stop growing for the rest of my life – I do not understand. When you attained a goal or acquired a desired item before, did your happiness last, or did it begin to fade? Fade; replied Ava. Reaching a goal or obtaining something we have desired do make us happy, but that kind of happiness is usually fleeting.
I believe that lasting happiness is not based solely on achievements or acquisitions. It is a journey. Rather, like good physical health, it just does not happen overnight, but is a process. And once you have reached a health level that you, and your Doctor, are happy with, it needs to be maintained or else you can become unhealthy again. That is the case with setting goals and growing as a person. It is a lifelong cycle of starting and completing goals. And once completed, many of them will need to be maintained. Sounds like hard work, but it is worth it.
Contributing to the benefit of what setting goals will have to your happiness is the type of goals that you set for yourself. What do you mean by that, Dad? Well, not all goals have equal benefits, and some goals can be outright bad for you and your eventual happiness. Imagine you set a goal to climb the corporate ladder as fast as you can and will do whatever it takes to get ahead. Many people have this type of goal. It starts of at what looks like a positive, inspirational, and ambitious goal to have. But the steps some take in reaching this goal can have detrimental effects to others and many times, themselves. You might give up valuable family time to reach this goal. You might give up focusing on your health. Even go so far as to cheat, lie, use, and hurt people along the way.
This is where your values come in. Your grandmother taught me from an early age that your name is and will always be your most valuable asset. What you stand for, is much more important than anything you will ever own. What do you mean by values Dad?
Values are the personal standards by which you choose to live. For example, do you strive to be honest in all things you do? Our values reflect what is important to us in life. They are often referred to as our personal guiding principles or life goals. While we may have a variety of shorter-term goals that are specific to a situation, like we discussed earlier, our values are life-goals that is not specific to any one situation. Values guide our behaviour in all aspects of our life, including our home life, our work life and our social life. Values are important because they guide our beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. We are not always aware of our values but knowing what they are can help you more easily make decisions that are right for you. Learning that people can have very different values from yours can also help you to better understand others.
Values are important because they can help us to predict each other’s choices, and can help us avoid misunderstandings, frustration and distrust. Understanding that other people prioritize a different set of values that guide them toward different decisions, may help you better understand that their choices may be different from yours, but they may be right for them. But always be aware of your choices. You have a choice in how you react in any given situation.
Values also include your ethical standards. For example, a person with solid ethics is industrious, fair, and considerate of others - traits that are best developed while a person is still young, like you. I believe that, especially, in this age of technology that moral values are even more essential than ever. Bad influences can be accessed on your phone at any time. That the reason why your mom and I have always been so determined to limit your screen time and make sure that we see the type of things you watch and listen too, not so much now, but especially when you where younger.
This was not because we wanted to deprive you of anything, but because we love you and wanted and still want to protect you as much as we can from bad influences that you might not be aware of at your age. As you grew older and became more aware of the dangers out there, our role in what you can and cannot do on-line diminished, but we still have not let go fully yet, I said with a smile.
Ethical values like extending simple courtesies such as saying “please” and “thank you” and showing concern for others - a value that has become rare, as people seem more interested in devices than they are in people are also very important. Therefore, can you please turn the radio down as we have arrived in Vik.
Arriving in Vik
It is around 3pm when we arrived in Vik and was pitch dark. Vik is the largest town for 40 miles in all directions with a bustling population of about 300 people. Sitting right along the Ring Road, it is the most southern town in Iceland. We stayed at the Volcano Hotel and where welcomed by the friendly and helpful staff. They recommended the Halldorskaffi restaurant for dinner and we enjoyed some Icelandic pizza and burgers. Another awesome day in this fantastic country.