One of the things that many of us have in common is a past we cannot change. We’ve often heard many life coaches and motivational speakers talk about continuing to work on the present and moving forward, that we should keep the past behind us. As appealing as this advice may be, I feel that ignoring an important part of ourselves isn’t really complete advice. Ultimately at the end of the day when we are by ourselves and we become introspective, where does our mind go? Often to the past.
Since the past isn’t something we can change, it’s important that we look at it from different perspectives. Just like with people and situations in our lives, if we can’t change them, it’s important to change our perspective. As I sit here, I think about all of failures I’ve had in the past. For some, reflecting on things that’ve gone wrong might be debilitating and discouraging. But with the right perspective, it can be liberating. Each time we’ve failed at something, it means we’ve displayed courage and took a risk. And most importantly that we’ve survived.
We fell down seven times, but something made us stand up an eighth time. What was your reason for continuing to keep trying? And can we cultivate that into a passion that keeps us interested in life?
Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of our time, but his opponents extended far beyond the boxing ring. We too can be the champions of the battles we fight each day if we are adaptable and courageous.
Being a black Muslim in the 1970’s produced its own challenges in the forms of racism and Islamophobia. One of the characteristics that made Ali so remarkable was his ability to stand firm in his beliefs, regardless of who was opposing him. If you look up any video today, you’ll see ferocious confidence in his self-expression.
Being unique today requires tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. Heroes are scarce in our generation because most of us have been taught to limit our critical thinking for a paycheck; by fitting into society like a standardized cog in a machine. Ali found courage within himself and became an individual. You can also cultivate this courage for self-expression.
In nature, a butterfly is able to float because it is light, agile and curious. On the other hand, a bumble bee has similar capabilities but different mindset: workers that’ll defend the queen and hive with their sting. Humans however are not restricted to any particular pattern, because self awareness allow us to change our perspective when presented with new information.
When Muhammad Ali’s saying, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was also a comment on how humans can adapt their nature. We can be light on our feet and observe like a butterfly, but change and strike with purpose like a bee. We are not restricted to nature’s patterns, but to recognize and change them requires self-awareness and that courage deep inside you. Adapt, and you will overcome anything.
If your goal is to build a bridge, then following the advice of a demolitions expert and buying dynamite make no sense. But most of us do this in our lives every day: we take actions opposite of our goals and end up frustrated.
Demolition experts are the negative people in your life. They’ve relentlessly practiced how to locate and identify even the smallest faults and weaknesses to destroy the greatest structures. The reason negative people seldom live positive lives is because they focus on failures their entire life — so they rationalize any risks to avoid taking them. They can easily demolish the foundation of your courage with their years of practice.
On the other hand, an expert bridge builder focuses on strengths, and what materials go well together for a strong structure. His mission is to connect people, and this goal far outweighs any short-term fear of failure. His team and tools are also much different than a demolition expert: one carries dynamite and a wrecking ball machine, and the other employs construction workers and engineers.
Depending on what we are trying to accomplish, we need the right team. Whether you’re trying to build bridges or destroy them, you’ll be able to achieve your goal more efficiently with a team on the same mission as you.