“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it” – Helen Keller

Dear “Discouraged One”,

Life is hard. There’s no two ways about that. Sometimes it gets better, other times, it gets worse. And in those one in a million times, it makes you feel like you’ll never make it out alive or the same. And you usually don’t. Instead, you come out stronger, with a couple more lessons under your belt, and most importantly, with the feeling of being achingly alive, instead of simply existing. Everyone goes through their trials and tribulations in life, but the key difference between those who overcome and those who crumble under the weight of problems is summed up in two simple words: personal effort.

Ever encountered that one individual who seems to have their life all figured out? Who always has the best opportunities, the coolest friends, the brightest smile? That one person who you are convinced was born with a silver spoon and never had to really work to get what they wanted? Yeah, one – or two – specific names are probably popping up in your head right about now. But before you conclude your opinion on who they are and where they’ve been, ask yourself this: Have you ever actually stepped up to them and asked that they relay their life story to you? If we’re gonna go with documented personal stories and history, most of the successful, well-known, influential people in life didn’t just drop from Jupiter and land as far as they got. They worked hard, even when the going got tough, and they insisted on making it through.Take Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, President Barrack Obama, Patrick Awuah, Kwame Nkrumah, or any other business/fashion/career/science/sports/media/national pacesetter in any country out there and you’ll see that’s what they all have in common.

Most times people will talk about the importance of hard work, of networking with like-minded individuals, or being persistent in order to achieve one’s dreams. And I think all those square away as being essential in the pursuit of happiness or dreams. But I’d also like to add another thing to that list: inspiration or self-motivation. In my opinion, that’s a skill that can be garnered any and everywhere, but that few people actually take the time to cultivate. Take note, inspiration or self-motivation here don’t mean relying solely on other people to make you feel better about yourself and whatever your latest “worst experience ever” is. It means taking charge and actively seeking out things, people, opportunities to inspire yourself (and others if you will). As Elizabeth Gilbert eloquently puts it:

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

My History With Active Self-Motivation
In writing, I always make it a point to highlight some of my personal struggles, because too many times I’ve had people comment – to me or to someone else – that I seem to have my life all figured out. Well, as they say, appearances can be deceiving. Trust me, the day I finally unlock the code to cruising right through life, y’all will be the first I share it with. Until then, allow me to share what has been, for as long as I can remember, one thing that has helped keep me sane, particularly when I’m drowning in ‘problems’ or craziness: inspiring others in order to inspire onself. In high school I once copied down over 300 motivational quotes onto plain sheets of paper, bound it up in a book and gave it to a dear friend of mine as her birthday present. Ultimately, she got the book, but that entire process of collecting quotes, writing them down, and “producing” a booklet of quotes did more for me than I ever imagined. It taught me how to actively seek inspiration and to keep myself motivated regardless of time of day or prevailing situations.

However, very few people know – and here, I’d ask those particularly close to me to brace themselves in case this is the first time they’re hearing/reading this – that at one point in my life, I actually considered ending it all. During my first year in high school, second semester I believe, I ‘contracted’ a skin ailment that was very irritating. The doctors couldn’t decide whether it was viral or fungal and I had rashes all over my body. But these weren’t ordinary heat rashes, they were persistent and they spread everywhere, with the exception – thank goodness – of my face. The worst part wasn’t necessarily how they looked, but rather how they felt. They itched like crazy, particularly during the humid nights in Cape Coast. Like any adolescent, I was on the journey of trying to find myself and as a first year in high school, any Ghanaian can tell you, it was a particularly tumultuous time of my life with trying to find new friends, keep the grades up, and dealing w/ boarding school life.

My little nuisance wrecked havoc in my life, especially on my self-esteem and my grades. Whereas I was usually very involved with after school activities, sports, entertainment etc, I kind of just closed up and lost interest. Whereas I was usually in the top 5 students of my class I dropped to 15th that semester. And while I had a smile plastered on my face, I felt like no one really understood what was going on. For the longest time, I’d thought about being a psychologist. And now, in the situation I was in, I felt I needed help, needed someone to talk to – outside of my family and friends – and I even started seeking out psychologists in Ghana, under the pretext of career research. But truth be told, when your thoughts start bordering on ‘what would be the easiest/less painful way of taking your life’, you know you gotta find help. Unfortunately, back then – not sure if its changed – not much attention is paid to adolescent mental or emotional health. If there’s a psychiatric hospital (and there were quite a number) they are mainly for interning the already ‘mad’.

As fate would have it, both my parents had undergone training in child psychology as they’re both teachers, and they had a whole bunch of books on the topic. Leafing through some of the books I came upon a chapter dedicated to suicides among adolescents. I sincerely believe God led me to that section of the book, and mercifully, he helped me understand – through the book – what I was going through, what my thoughts were, how I was reacting to people, why I was closing up, all of that. Adolescence is probably the most confusing part of growing up, and unfortunately, most developing countries including Ghana do not have the systems, programs and resources necessary for paying attention to the emotional and mental health of adolescents. Sure, there’s peer counseling and all, but they tend to be focused on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) not self-esteem and self-perception issues. Anyway, to conclude the story, I also chanced upon a book on self-development. And in that book, I found quotes from some of history’s greatest people about perseverance, the importance of knowing oneself, and insisting on pursuing one’s dreams. That book started my journey to active self-motivation.

Today, when I think about that entire experience – one of my “I’m not gonna make it through this alive” moments – I cannot help but continue to share motivational and inspirational quotes on twitter, on facebook, in conversations, and where have you. Because you just never know who needs what when. The way I see it if such a simple act could give someone some encouragement to make it through the next hour or day, then it’s well worth it, even if you risk being called a ‘spammer’ LOL.

Resources for Active Inspiration
Since 2001, I have come across some really amazing motivational resources thanks to the awesome social media networks I’m blessed to have. And now, I’d like to share some of my best and often-used resources with all of you. If YOU have some inspirational/motivational sources, kindly comment on this article so we might all share in those couple of words that make life seem less draining. Alors, here goes!

1. Google: With the expanse of Google’s empire, I’m sure its no longer a surprise when they come up first in anything. On a day when I don’t have a specific quote/inspirational piece in mind, I google it. If I’m looking for quotes about “perseverance”, about “achieving dreams”, about “knowing oneself” about “a new day”, about “forgiveness”. Whatever key word I have in mind, I just google it. You’ll be surprised the kinda stuff that pop up. And of course, always make reference to whoever that piece of inspiration burst out from :)

2. Books & Authors: Be it the Qu’ran, the Bible, a collection of poems, fiction, an autobiography, most books document experiences and lessons and there’s bound to be at least one sentence that inspires or motivates. For me, that book on self-development helped change a dangerous course in my thinking and life. Another book – the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – has come in handy through so many rough patches in my life. And now, I re-read and refer to so many books/writings – Conversations with God (Neale Donald Walsch), Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert), The Zahir (Paulo Coelho), Khalil Gibran’s poetry, Hafiz of Persia’s poetry, Rumi’s poetry, Desiderata by Max Erhmann – that inspire and motivate me whether I’m going through an up or down in life. If you’d rather not re-read the entire book, just go on www.goodreads.com and look up the author’s profile/book and quotes.

3. Quote Databases + Newsletters: There are numerous quote databases out there, you barely have to look too hard! Do you have a role model? Check out Brainy Quote, Think Exist, BeliefNet-Inspiration, Neale Donald Walsch.Com and so on. If you can, sign up to their daily/monthly/weekly inspiration newsletters. Trust me, there’s nothing more motivating than starting your day to some words of inspiration delivered right into your inbox.

4. Songs + Lyrics: Music, they say, is food for the soul. You know how you come across that song that just lifts up your soul? Well. In addition to downloading/buying the song and putting it on replay, it’s always great to check out the lyrics. Maybe I’m just a word person, but something about seeing the actual words – without all the sometimes distracting tunes – makes a lot of difference. Some particularly motivational artistes I usually turn to are: Lauryn Hill, India Arie, Rascal Flatts, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, Kate Voegele, Asa, Tracy Chapman, Regina Spektor and so on. Additionally, some words literally jump out at you, kinda like T.I. and Rihanna’s “Live Your Life”. So yes, while we might no longer copy down lyrics in notebooks as the in-thing to do in primary school or high school, it’s still great to check out those lyrics from time to time.

5. Twitter: You know twitter’s a global phenomenon when you look to it to keep you inspired (in addition to informed) throughout the day. Since becoming more active with my tweeps (twitter peeps), I’ve started following some amazing quote-dedicated accounts. Some of my faves include TheGodLight, IHateQuotes, MensahOtabil, TheDailyLove (also subscribe for their daily newsletter!!!) IyanlaVanzant, EncourageOneAnother, MulahTruth, Rumi Quotes, GeniusQuotes, and AceQuotes. I usually retweet some of their stuff, so you can also just follow me  :)

6. Miscellaneous Links: In consideration of time, and in no particular order, here are some of the other places I peruse frequently for inspiration or just a reminder to be thankful for blessings.

The Whisper Wall

Paulo Coelho’s Blog

Dear God


Dua to Allah

Post Secret

Gives Me Hope 

Africa – The Good News

Finally, there are a lot of blogs that showcase the perseverance of the human spirit. All in all, the thing about active inspiration is to keep an eye and an ear out. You just never know when the next bout of inspiration will hit you! Hope you guys find this post helpful and look forward to seeing and learnin from some of YOUR suggested resources. Sharing is caring! Much love + peace! Stay inspired!

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