10 THINGS YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT MARRIAGE

I want to give you a few facts about marriage that you should understand before you engage in this institution. This article is broken into two parts; first, we will examine the evidence and review findings from recent research papers about marriage. Next, I will share a few pearls I have learned almost 10 years into my marriage.

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THE EVIDENCE SHOWS MARRIAGE IS GREATLY UNDERRATED

MARRIAGE WILL LIKELY INCREASE YOUR LIFESPAN:

Overall, there remains a positive relationship between being married and health, which is consistent across different cultures and countries, with poorer health being observed in those who are widowed, unmarried and single. One caveat, however, is the fact that you are more likely to gain weight as a married couple. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017). However, the age when men and women gain weight may be different. It may even occur in different decades. You have to decide whether or not you are willing to deal with it.

YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE MENTALLY SOUND IF YOU ARE MARRIED:

Although the physical benefits to marriage are often touted, there is evidence that marriage also reduces the risk of poor mental health and thus all-cause mortality. In short, those who are married have been shown to have fewer hospital admissions, shorter hospital stays, and are less likely to move into a nursing home. You are less likely to die alone. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017)

MEN APPEAR TO BENEFIT MORE FROM MARRIAGE THAN WOMEN:

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Now, this appears to be counter-intuitive given that women seem more eager to get married compared to men. Evidence shows that men appear to derive greater health benefits from marriage than women. This is likely related to gender roles which are implicit in our culture with women being the de-factor caregivers for the family.

Interestingly young men who suffered early life conditions experienced less mortality when married compared to their unmarried cohorts. However, young women who suffered those same conditions did not experience the same benefit of decreased mortality. I wondered why when I read this and the only reason I could come up with was the fact that women mature a lot earlier than men and are therefore just better equipped to deal with those “early life conditions”.

YOUR CHILDREN WILL EXPERIENCE BETTER HEALTH IF YOU ARE MARRIED:

Previous generations can have a significant impact on the health of future generations. Children of married couples appear to have better health than the children of unmarried couples. Likely because they see these healthy behaviors emulated in their homes at a young age. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017).

WOMEN, SPEAK YOUR MIND!

There is scientific evidence which shows that women who “self-silenced” during a conflict with their spouse have four times the risk of dying, compared with women who did not. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017).

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MARRIAGE PEARLS

YOUR SPOUSE WILL DISAPPOINT YOU AND YOU WILL DISAPPOINT THEM, GET OVER IT!:

You are not perfect, well neither is your spouse. Give each other room to make mistakes and grow. No one wants a perfect spouse but the beauty of marriage is the ability to grow and learn together.

DON’T TRY TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE, CHANGE HOW YOU RESPOND TO THEIR FLAWS:

The challenge with marriage is, the fact that it feels like you are trying to grow and mature under a microscope. The truth is, once you marry someone, they get to know all your insecurities, all your “tells”, all your weaknesses, your strengths, they witness all your screw ups and all your successes.

It is very difficult to trust one person with all that information. Consequently, some people try to withhold some of that information from their spouse in order to protect themselves. My advice to you is to pick someone that you can trust with all that information. Pick someone who accepts and covers your faults until you have matured enough to change them. For some people that takes a year for others, it takes 40 years. Are you willing to stay long enough to get a return on your investment?

YOU WILL BE CHANGED FOREVER:

Marriage is like no other contract because it is not a contract it is a covenant. Covenants are different because they are almost impossible to break. In marriage, I can guarantee that you will be challenged like never before even if you have been in a relationship with this person for a long time. I married my college sweetheart whom I had dated for over 4 years. And marriage was still a shock. “Who is this alien?” I thought. Funny thing is, he thought the same thing.

The premise of marriage is a game changer it because it changes your context. After marriage, you think everything will last forever including vices and weaknesses. One of the challenges I faced when I first got married was the “forever” problem. After I got married my spouse’s quirks which I tolerated before the wedding suddenly became unbearable because I feared I would have to deal with them “forever”. I made the mistake of trying to change these perceived faults as soon as possible. In an attempt to “whip us into shape” as they say. Well, let me tell you how terrible that was. It totally backfired and I ended up having some of my faults pointed out. It was a total waste of time.

Now almost 10 years into our marriage, I can honestly say it just doesn’t matter as much. Some of these faults have changed, some haven’t, others I totally forgot about. Frankly, I just stopped caring about changing him and just focused on changing my reaction to these perceived faults. Truth be told I have more faults than he does and I have been so busy working on my own faults that I stopped obsessing about his.

NEVER COMPARE YOUR MARRIAGE TO ANYONE ELSE’S:

No two marriages or relationships are the same. Never compare your relationship to someone else’s because you just don’t know enough even if you think you do. Perception and reality are usually completely different. Instead, focus on the things about your relationship that you want to change and work on them together (but you both have to agree it’s a problem). Otherwise, just work on you. The better you get at interpersonal relationships the more your marriage appreciates in value.

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BE COMMITTED:

Marriage is not for wimps, it is hard and it takes some time to find your rhythm. Confounded by this is the fact that life happens in seasons. Some seasons are just more challenging than others. Although you are married, there is no guarantee that you will experience life in the same seasons. Sometimes my husband’s best seasons in his business are my toughest seasons at work but I must have the capacity to be happy for him and support him through that season.

Some people are more committed to their cell phone providers than their spouses. You may know that Sprint sucks but you are willing to tolerate them much more than you are willing to tolerate your spouse. You cannot be more committed to your 401k investment portfolio than you are to your marriage. Sometimes you are up other times you are down. The point is to put everything in context. Some tough seasons last for a month, others last for 10 years. The question is, how committed are you? Sometimes life will throw you some curveballs such as cancer, the death of a parent, depression, joblessness, infidelity, financial challenges, the death of a child etc, etc, etc. Hard times are a guarantee but whether or not your marriage will stand is not.

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MARRIAGE IS NEVER 50–50:

This is one of the greatest misconceptions about marriage. Sometimes you will give 20%, other times you will give 70%. All that matters is that your marriage benefits from each spouse’s investment. Personally, my husband has given up so much to support my dream of becoming a physician. He has given up job opportunities, turned down business and deferred certain dreams to make my dream a possibility. Now as I near the completion of my training, we are making adjustments to maximize his opportunities.

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LOVE ENTERS THROUGH THE EYES AND LEAVES THROUGH THE EYES:

I once heard this line in a movie “Love enters through the eyes and leaves through the eyes”. I thought it was really interesting. The challenge is finding someone who looks physically attractive and also looks good on paper. My advice is to focus on values more than looks. Yes, I know that you have heard this before but it bears repeating. Love is what remains after emotions associated with lust have worn out.

It is easier to change your looks than it is to change your character. Poor character will wreak your life and that of your children. Pick a spouse that will build you up, that will invest in your children and your family, pick a spouse who loves your parents, one who will stay even if you lost your job.

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You need to pick someone with staying power. Staying power is hard to assess when dating casually but you need to ask specific questions about their lives. Ask to meet their friends, meet their parents. Watch how they interact with people less fortunate than them. How do they treat the homeless? , how do they deal with deficiencies? How do they deal with failure? At the end of the day, you cannot build your life with materials or equipment that have been untested. You need to make sure that they can withstand the storm before you use them as an anchor in your life.

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How to MAXIMIZE the POWER OF CONCENTRATION in your life

power of concentration

The power of concentration when harnessed becomes one of the most powerful tools for success and increased productivity. Concentration however is a skill that is totally antithetic to today’s pop culture. Let’s admit it our inner man-child or woman-child craves to be entertained. Being entertained is fun and refreshing but it also kills productivity like nothing else if  you overindulge.

While in medical school I had to be a full time medical student studying 40+ hours per week, plus I had to be a full time wife and mother to 2 beautiful girls, in addition I also worked part time as a nurse working 20 hours per week. Trust me, increasing my productivity was not just an option it was a necessity. Starting medical school felt a little like a “sink or swim” moment and since sinking has never been an option for me I had to find a way to swim fast and to do so, I had to become PRODUCTIVE really really fast.

The most important thing I learned about PRODUCTIVITY was, in order to maximize your PRODUCTIVITY, you must increase your CONCENTRATION. I quickly realized that the ability to concentrate on a specific task or goal was the secret ingredient to most success stories. The problem is CONCENTRATION is just not sexy. It is boring and it involves things like forming great habits and breaking bad ones. Who wants to hear about that when you could be catching up on Beyonce’s pregnancy pictures? But the truth of the matter is,  the ability to increase your CONCENTRATION is directly proportional to your chance of success:

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So here a 5 really quick tips I learned on how to be productive. You may know some of them and you probably just need a quick reminder so here goes;

KEEP AN ACCURATE SCHEDULE:

I learned this the hard way. After forgetting important events and missing important deadlines, I finally learned my lesson. Your schedule becomes your blueprint for increasing your ability to concentrate. Although this may sound paradoxical, my ability to increase my concentration is increased when my schedule is busier. I found out that blocking out 2 hour blocks for certain tasks led to decrease productivity because there is no way I am ever going to be able to focus for 120 mins. Rather, breaking everything up into smaller time blocks usually less than one hour (see below) leads to increased productivity. Also hearing the alarm sound prompting me to move on to the next task is usually a welcomed nudge.

UNDERSTAND AND DETERMINE YOUR “FOCUS CYCLE”

“Focus cycle” is a term I made up and I define it as the amount of time you are able to solely focus on a single task before your mind wanders for good. In reality, you will get interrupted by multiple thoughts during this period but eventually your will lose concentration and your mind will wander for good. This number is different for everyone and for some it is 20 mins for others it is 60 mins. You have to determine what your study cycle is? For me it is somewhere between 30 to 40 mins. After that amount of time I am fried and I am ready to be distracted. Think of your focus cycle like the REM/NREM cycles of sleep. It is often more refreshing to wake up during the lighter stage of sleep (NREM). Likewise it is also refreshing to break your concentration at the end of your focus cycle rather than abruptly stopping in the middle of it. My focus/relaxation cycles are usually in 30–40 mins/15 mins. Notice how my focus/relaxation cycles last anywhere between 45 – 55 mins which as you may recall is the average time of each college class or period. That time length was not just chosen haphazardly but I believe it is more than likely the average time of concentration for most adult. Now I know some people who are able to be fully concentrate for 120+ mins but do not be envious these are freaks of nature. Remember the surest path to success is to be consistent with mundane but necessary tasks.

Mundane

 

SCHEDULE SOMETHING FUN DURING YOUR 15 MINS RELAXATION BREAK

I often reward myself by watching 15 mins of my favorite show. It does however take a lot of discipline to turn off that show after 15 mins. Other times I just listen to music or I get up and dance. Unfortunately, sometimes I just answer emails because breaking out into my favorite dance steps randomly in the library may be frowned upon. My favorite thing to do however is to call my husband or a good friend for a few minutes. I usually get a great conversation and a good laugh and I can resume my work feeling refreshed.

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE

This is a real issue and yes I know you have heard it before and will probably read it on other blog posts but it bears repeating. TURN IT OFF! Or at least turn off the notifications on your phone, your watch, your laptop, your tablet. I used to turn off the notification on just my phone but then I realized that being constantly notified via my laptop was just as bad if not worst. It was getting harder and harder to ignore my daily 3 on Medium and that is just no bueno! I turned off all notifications using my mute button on my devices and this works wonders for me.

REWARD YOURSELF FOR MAJOR MILESTONES

Every time you meet a major milestone reward yourself with something fun or something useful that you would not normally splurge on. I just rewarded myself by updating my bedding linen recently. For some this is no big deal but for me this was a real splurge. I saved for a few months and I can’t explain it but I sleep much better now. Activate your mesolimbic pathway (that is the reward pathway in the brain). Get your dopamine levels and endorphins pumping and teach your brain to associate increased CONCENTRATION and PRODUCTIVITY with PLEASURE. Before you know it, you will cultivate and develop the most valuable skill and habit to ensure your success.

Reward pathway

I recognize  that we are all overworkedover exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friend, family member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

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5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED A KNOW-IT-ALL ON YOUR TEAM!

Know-it-all

Know-it-alls can be annoying and extremely difficult to get along with; trust me, I know quite a few know-it-alls and I may or may not be one. However, they are extremely useful assets in life and in business. Rather than trying to stifle their exuberance, you can re-channel their focus and put them to good use. Here are 5 simple ways that know-it-alls can be of benefit:

THEY MAKE GREAT RESEARCH ASSISTANTS:

In general, they tend to obsess over topics and dutifully go over mundane details in order to be well informed. So use them to do research on a topic or subject you may be interested in and then give them a platform to broadcast their knowledge. They will love having an audience and your team will only benefit from their research. As I always say, know-it-alls make great learn-it-alls.

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THEY ARE GOOD AT PUBLIC SPEAKING:

If you need someone to help you build your public speaking skills, study the way know-it-alls handle an audience. They tend to be undisturbed by the size of the crowd or the group. In general, they are good orators and because they are sometimes outrageous in their claims they have a good handle on how to deal with an unengaged and sometimes a hostile audience.

USE THEM TO INTRODUCE DIFFICULT OR TOUCHY SUBJECTS:

Know-it-alls tend to be unperturbed by negative reactions from their audience. As such they are well equipped to broach touchy subjects or topics. They will appreciate and revel in the fact that they have some exclusivity and will gladly introduce touch subjects on your behalf. By the time they are done with their segments, your group will be ready for questions and you can answer questions and redirect the group’s energy. By the time the know-it-all is done with the group, they will be so happy to hear from you. Caution: this usually works better in group settings and not so well in one-on-one conversations since know-it-alls can be overwhelming in private settings. 

THEY ARE GREAT TEAM CHEERLEADERS:

Let’s be honest, know-it-alls can be annoying but once they decide to be on your team, they will sing your praises like a songbird. The fact that they are so emphatic in their beliefs, means they are extremely useful for boosting team moral.

THEY ARE AWESOME FRIENDS:

Know-it-alls tend to be extremely loyal which may seem a little counter-intuitive but trust me, you want them as your friend. They will silence your doubts and speak to your strengths like no one. Once they are on team YOU, it is extremely hard for them to switch teams. They reason being, they tend to over-analyze everything and they spend a lot of time researching the benefits of a friendship with you. Once they make the decision to be your friend, they will stick around no matter how long it takes to get a return on their investment. After all, they are so used to going against the grain that they will not falter when everyone else does.

Merriam-Webster defines a know-it-all as one who claims to know everything. 

Grace Favor & Faith definition: One who loves to know everything and is willing to put in the work. 

Learn it all

Disclaimer: Of course this is only my opinion which is extremely biased. I may be a little know-it-all… okay who am I kidding? I am a full fledged know-it-all. However, growing up with 7 headstrong siblings gave me a unique perspective on interpersonal relationships.

Definition of a know it all

I recognize that we are all overworkedover exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friend, family member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

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Murmurs

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In my opinion when a group of people make a statement saying “We don’t believe our lives matter” and any response other than, “Of course, you do matter” is inhumane. It is inappropriate to choose that moment to state all the other lives which matter instead of addressing the pain that is currently being verbalized.

I am personally perplexed that people can shed tears over a dead dog or pretend to care about orphans in south east Asia or Africa when there is a whole generation of kids in your backyard who don’t believe their lives matter.

I have met several people in academia who believe that the overall response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement has inappropriate to say the least but they will never say something in public for fear of offending someone else’s feelings. As Alain de  Botton so appropriately stated, “Many people in the intellectual elite are very scared of shouting. They insist on very quiet murmurs”.
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Personally, I never want to become so educated or get a title so important that I fail to respond to a fellow human’s cry for help.

Too educated

So let me emphatically say it; Black Lives Matter! You do matter to me at least. Of course other lives matter, white lives, Asian lives, Hispanic lives, Police lives etc, etc, But that is not the question at hand. The issue at hand is, a certain demographic in the United States feels systematically marginalized and targeted by law enforcement. And when they make a statement as a way of affirming themselves, any other response other than yes you do matter is WRONG! We as a people were provided with an opportunity to respond and we failed, the political leaders failed, the civic leadership failed, even the church failed.

So here is my advice to all the proponents of human rights in third world countries from the United States.  Before you condemn another dictator’s leadership and assert yourself as the self appointed  human rights police force for the rest of the world it would be nice to address the issues you have in your own backyard. Such as, the fact that a good percentage of your population is actually questioning whether or not their lives matter.  To all the awesome people who love travelling around the world to make a difference in the lives of other children 10,000 miles away, would you please consider addressing the issues here at home as well?

Disclosures: I happen to be black and I am also a part of the academia who ignorantly only voiced my disapproval in murmurs. Well, not anymore!

I leave you with a quote from Gaston Bachelard “The subconscious is ceaselessly murmuring, and it is by listening to these murmurs that one hears the truth”.

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I recognize  that we are all overworkedover exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friendfamily member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

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Ramblings of an overworked ENTJ

Truth be told, I have always had the reputation of a hot head who is neither lacking in opinions nor shy with sharing those opinions. However as I grow older, I have come to understand that being brazen rashness that may have by mistaken for bravado and may be even admired in your twenties is not cute when you are in your 30’s. As I begin to explore the idea that may be there is a different way to view and process things rather than just the usual I think I am right so therefore I am right.
During the pass decade I have grown so much and gotten so much more than I have ever hoped or planned or even dreamed of. But in order to understand my journey may be it’s important to understand my history up to this point.
I am the fifth girl in a family of 8 and growing up I was sort of a conundrum in the sense that even though I was clearly an extrovert and mostly outspoken and outgoing, I spent most of my child hood as a bookworm. Spending hours in our family library which is really an overstatement. It really was a small room may be 4 x 6 m with a small dingy window and poor ventilation with a collection of books that my dad a journalist had collected over the years. It was in the tiny room that my family and I affectionately called “small room” that I was introduced to Dicken’s flair, Bronte’s eloquence and Twain’s story telling abilities. It was my chance to escape into a world of possibilities and I lived an enchanted life.
It was a kind of escape and as I began to delve in the literature I felt liberated of sorts. It was at this time that I realized that I did not have to live solely on the basis of my experience but I could begin to draw from the experiences of others. I began to entertain the idea that there is more to life and to the world that just what I had seen or experienced. Also it did not hurt at all that my father was such a great story teller who had spent the majority of his working life travelling for his job.

The Education Quandary

Education

My dad taught me this principle at a very young age. I guess we each have to decide which conversations we want to keep having.

I recognize  that we are all overworkedover exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friendfamily member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

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I grew up in Africa. Don’t be sorry for me

I grew up in Africa. Don’t be sorry for me by Naofal Ali in Medium

To understand this article, two precisions are needed. I was born and have grown up in Benin (a west African Country), and I’m presently living in Paris.

A simple fact makes me write this post. Each time my European colleagues and friends ask me about my life course, I naturally answer them i’m from Benin. It’s my birth country and the place I have grown up in. Then, something incredible always follows: I read pity in their faces.

At that moment, their facial expressions silently shout at me “Oh the poor little guy. How sad and traumatic his childhood should have been”. People feel sorry for me, sorry I was born and have been raised in an African country.

Dear people, henceforth, do not be sorry for me anymore. I’m okay! Actually i’m even fine, and growing up in Africa is still the best thing ever in my life. I’m going to tell you why, with the hope it will make your vision less naive.

“In countries like Africa”

For your information Africa is not a country. It’s a 54 countries continent and each has its own realities. Are North Korea and South Korea the same ? Colombia and Brazil ? France and Italy? You know they are not. So when the will you understand the same goes for us ?!

“The war zone”

Even if all you heard about Africa is CNN sad news and safaris, be smarter than that. There are not conflicts all over the continent ! Of course we have our own issues, but who hasn’t ? You got FARCs in South America, Ukraine issues in Europe, and Palestine in Asia. You see ? Problems are everywhere, not only in Africa.

“Poor people”

I know it can sound weird but the notion of poverty is a way more complex than you actually think. According to you, is someone with an annual wage of 10 000 euros a year poor ? I guess yes. Actually, with that ‘’low wage’’ in Benin you can live four times better than with the quadruple in Paris. Your house will be better, your food will be better, you’ll have more people to count on, your job and your life will be less stressful, and as bonus you’ll get a tropical wheather 7 days a week. Don’t just make currencies’ calculations, it just distorts reality. As far as your means allow you to live in comfort where you are, you are not poor, and many of Africans are in the case.

‘’No social life’’

In Africa, family and friendship mean so much to us. No matter the situation you are dealing with, someone always got your back. Our grandparents don’t live in rest houses, our mothers don’t feel concern in who will keep their babies because all their relatives want to. We have the lowest suicide rate in the world, and it shows how much we appreciate life. We do not wait for Facebook to have hundreds of friends, we do not wait for Blablacar to share cars. We do not wait for Airbnb to welcome people in our houses for free. We do not wait for “vizeat” to share our home-cooked meals. In fact, your social revolution is our everyday life. Sharing is not a new business trend in Africa. We got it in our DNA. Values, help, friendship, sharing, and sense of family. That’s what social life is made of in Africa. Not only of stupid images you watch on TV.

‘’No technolgy’’

I confess we have no high speed internet, many electricity issues, no subway, no high speed trains, only few malls, and sometimes, it really turns out to be problematic. But take a step back, and look around you. See the life that we’re living these years in western countries. Parents are afraid of GMO’s in their babies’ food, citizens are afraid of terrorism threats, people are being watched permanently by governments, banks are playing dirty with workers savings, Isis is turning vulnerable teenagers in radical islamists on the internet. So, maybe Western countries have opportunities that we don’t. But the same goes for their problems.

Once again dear non-African reader, don’t be sorry for me. Growing up in Africa is the best thing life ever gave me. Just raise your eyes. The world is larger, and more complex than you might think.

Hi, I’m Naofal. I’ve grown up in Benin and I’m fine.
Nice to meet you.

Dr. Tina: I loved this article so much, I am inspired to write my own article titled “I grew up in Cameroon, please don’t feel sorry for me”.