Seven life lessons to help you take control if you feel lost

Social media star Toni Tone wrote her new book Take Note: Real Life Lessons with the aim of guiding younger women through life’s trials and tribulations – but the truth is, her wisdom is welcome whatever your age.

‘The book’s about living the life you want for yourself and how you can get there,’ says London-based Toni, 33.

Whereas her 2021 debut book, the best-selling I Wish I Knew This Earlier, focused on dating and romantic love, this tiny one (it’s literally pocket-sized) focuses on confidence, identity, friendship and making the most out of your career and is packed with inspiring advice.

‘Like the first book, it’s set out in a concise way that’s easy to carry, read and digest. The best teacher is lived experience, but I hope the book acts like a toolkit for those who might be feeling lost and to remind women it’s okay to reset and make changes, in order to take control of your life and reach your full potential,’ adds Toni, who shares a few of those life lessons…

Reinvent yourself as many times as you like

Toni says: ‘People can assume they are too far gone for change, or too old to do whatever it is they want to do, but that is not true. Reinvention is a necessary part of figuring ourselves out, helping to determine who we are, what our values are, our likes and dislikes, and allows that room for growth.

‘Present the version that suits you in that moment, not a version you think other people will like or that best suits other people’s assumptions of you.’

Tone’s tips:                            

  • The end of the year marks a moment of reflection. Ask yourself: am I happy with the year I had? Am I happy with the person I’m becoming? If you’re not happy, what do you want to change? Are there any ways that you can reinvent yourself to make you feel happier, or more fulfilled?
  • Try something new, whether it’s a new hobby or hairstyle. You might realise a talent or something about yourself you never knew before, or feel more confident because you decided to go through that period of change.

Overthinking is the enemy of happiness

She continues: ‘As an over-thinker, I’ve come to realise that while it may have benefits, especially if you’re creative, often it does more harm than good. It can exaggerate problems, encourage doubt, feed pessimism and prevent people from fulfilling their potential.

‘When we catch ourselves overthinking, it’s often rooted in anxiety, which is why it’s really important to manage those thoughts.’

Tone’s tips:

  • Write things down. Find an outlet that allows you to minimise the anxiety and stress you’re feeling.
  • Focus on the solution rather than the problem. If you weren’t happy with your performance, for example, think ‘Next time, I’ll prepare a week in advance as opposed to the night before.’
  • Create new habits by challenging your thoughts. Instead of thinking, ‘What if I do this and it goes wrong?’ flip it and ask yourself, what if it goes right?
  • Keep track of good things. When we’re overthinking, we can lose sight of all the stuff in our life that’s going well, so keep lists of good things, save photos… this can really help to focus and ground us.

Be mindful of the company you keep

The social media star and author adds: ‘The people we spend the most time around will always rub off on us whether we like to admit it or not.

‘People’s behaviours, beliefs and words all contribute to the person we’re becoming, so consider how your friends impact your life.’

Tone’s tips:

  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel valued, who tell you the truth and who encourage you to love yourself. Do your friends make you feel great or awful about yourself? Do they encourage you to be the best version of you or to compromise your character?
  • Think quality over quantity. According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, people typically have five very close friends, which usually includes one or more family members.

Friends don’t always grow at the same pace

Toni says: ‘Sometimes we outgrow people. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with them or they’re on the wrong path, but that your paths don’t align anymore.

‘It might be you have less and less in common; you catch yourself becoming easily irritated by their actions or decisions, or find yourself making excuses as to why you can’t spend time with them.’

Tone’s tips:

  • Communicate with your friend. Don’t send them a random text or ghost them. Out of respect, make the effort to sit down with them and explain how you’re feeling. They might be struggling with something and operating out of the norm, or the feeling might be mutual.
  • Losing a friend is a major loss, so give yourself time to grieve. The compassion we give to ourselves after a romantic heartbreak should be applied to the loss of friendship, too.

Success lies outside of your comfort zone

She contineus: ‘In the book, I refer to a study by Harvard University behaviourists who proposed something called the Yerkes-Dodson Law.

‘It was a series of experiments which concluded that optimising performance required a slightly higher level of stress, referred to as “optimal anxiety”. It’s about getting to a point where you are a little anxious about what you’re doing, not because it’s the wrong thing, but because it’s something new that pushes and tests you. The results can be life-changing.’

Tone’s tips:

  • Performance is improved when we take risks, but make sure those risks are calculated. They allow you to step out of your comfort zone while retaining an element of control.
  • Take small steps rather than focusing on one mammoth goal.
  • Expand your social circle. It’s easy to want to do what feels comfortable. To stay in locations that make us feel at home; to speak to people we can relate to, to take on opportunities that don’t feel scary. That’s normal, but sometimes it pays to do the opposite.

Discipline is an essential part of success

‘Discipline is required for any goal you want to reach in life, so a lack of discipline is an easy way to crush potential,’ explains Toni.

‘Many people are capable of achieving great things, but they’re not disciplined enough to focus, prioritise or say no to certain temptations. When I needed to hone my own discipline, I had to ask myself “Is the way I’m choosing to live my life now conducive to the kind of life I want in the future?”‘

Tone’s tips:

  • Affirm your goals and write things down to act as a reminder.
  • Remove or distance yourself from temptations that distract you from your purpose or goal, whether that’s things, environments, or even people.
  • Stop people-pleasing. Sometimes lack of discipline is about the inability to say no to people.
  • Forgive yourself for failing. Rather than beat yourself up over a mistake and quit, pick yourself up and try again.

Ask for help when you need it

Toni stresses: ‘Sometimes people don’t ask for help because they are always “the helper”.

‘I’ve struggled with seeking support myself, to my own detriment, until it got to a point where it just overwhelmed me. While the instinct might be to “figure it out on your own”, hyper-independence can be debilitating.’

Tone’s tips:

  • Don’t presume other people aren’t helpful when you haven’t actually asked for help.
  • Consider how you want to communicate the need for help that feels most comfortable, whether that’s in writing, over the phone or in person.
  • Be mindful of the language you use to avoid a sense of entitlement. Instead of, ‘I need you to do to do this tomorrow’ say, ‘I’m not sure if you’re busy tomorrow but I would really appreciate your support.’
  • Understand the worst that can happen is someone says no.

Take Note: Real Life Lessons by Toni Tone (4th Estate, £8.99) is out now.

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