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Most People Have Great Potential. But Very Few of Them Unleash It

Most People Have Great Potential. But Very Few of Them Unleash It

Has any authority figure ever come up to you and told you that you have the potential for so much more, but are not reaching for it? Or have you yourself ever felt that despite achieving all that you have, there’s a lot in you that needs to be explored and reached for, but you are pulling yourself back somehow? The first step to self-actualization is often realizing this. Once you have done so, the actual journey can begin.

Why Do We Need Self Actualization?

Self-actualization is a theory created by Abraham Maslow that “represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life, in particular.” [1].

Basically, think of who or what you are today and what you could be, ideally, down the road that leads you to search for the truth in yourself, for the true potential in yourself and for the all the good and altruistic tendencies in you. A person who has achieved self-actualization knows all of life’s meaning and purpose – be it basic needs or a higher calling.

According to Maslow, self-actualization is a step-by-step process: first you satisfy your basic needs (things like money, shelter, food), then comes the need to satisfy the social desires (love, friends, family) and then comes the most difficult step: to be as self-confident a person, as mentally and internally strong, as you can be, no matter the challenges or circumstances. So the need for self-actualization is simple – to be the best that we can be.

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    Essential Skills Needed To Reach Self-Actualization

    Perhaps the first step to self-actualization is the fact that you are not yet your ideal self, but that’s okay. You first need to learn to accept who you truly are, however lacking you may be in certain aspects. [2]. The second thing to realize is the path to self-actualization is perhaps a winding, interesting but never-ending road – there’s always more to learn, even if it’s about your own, true self.

    So here go the essential skills you need, and the steps you need to take to reach self-actualization, as guided by Maslow [3]:

    Skill 1: Accept Yourself Holistically, And Just Be You

    You are unique, be it in your achievements, talents or even fallacies. There isn’t anyone like you – and the mistakes you made, they are nothing but milestones in your way to success.

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    Be who you truly are and want to be. Cloaking your true nature in a bid to please others will work only so much, and for so long. Ultimately, the ones around you need to see and accept the real you but before that you have to see and accept the real you, yourself. [4] Don’t be or say or do what others want you to, think about what is right and wrong – and always follow the path that seems right to you. The key thing to do here is to remember that it has to be selfless, ego free and on the path of righteousness.

    Remember not to compare yourself to anyone – no matter how much better, more successful or simply “more” someone else is. You are you, and you are your best canvas. Remember that you write your own destiny, and that you are the one in control of who you want to be. Tell yourself that, in front of the mirror if you need to.

    Skill 2: Be Honest, Brutally, With Yourself And Gently With Others

    The decisions you make in life need to come from an honest and truthful place – be true to yourself always. Not to say that being dishonest with others is a good thing, but if you start lying to yourself, there’s no end to the vicious cycle you’ll end up trapping yourself in. What you do, why you did it and what you will do next all needs to come from a place of stark honesty and nothing else. [5]

    Maintain a diary of your actions and their explanations. Many of us often tell little white lies about our lives to others. The reason mostly being that we are dissatisfied with ourselves, or ashamed of something we feel we lack, and so we often cover-up and hedge and pretend to be something we are not. Problem is that when we lie to others, we end up believing it ourselves and then the line between truth and honesty tends to get blurred. The path to self-actualization is paved with bricks of truth, always.

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    Skill 3: Think Of Challenges As Obstacles, Not Insurmountable Walls

    Sooner or later you will face resistance in your solitary walk to self-actualization. People may not like that you have changed, they may not like that you are choosing to pull away from them or the life you were leading earlier – and they will try to pull you back. Still others will brand you as stubborn, or principled, or too idealistic or just plain wacko.

    You have to let these things slide off of you. You have to rise above it all and not be bothered by it. Do not change your way in case challenges are thrown your way, do not shift to the path of least resistance to “smooth” things over. No one said that this road was going to be easy, but the results and the journey in itself will make you the happiest you can ever be. [6]

    Skill 4: Live In the Moment, And Be Grateful For All That You Are

    People on the path of self-actualization have truly understood that their time on this planet is finite, as is everybody’s. And this finiteness is also very dubious: you never know what the next moment will bring, or when you’d suddenly meet your Maker. Living in each and every moment is one way to ensure that when it is your time to go, you go with nary regret. [7]

    Remember to be grateful for all the little things in life – the sun on your face, the fragrance of rain-wet earth, the loved ones in your life, all the good things that happened to you and all the bad things too (for they made you learn and rise up to the occasion) and of course, for just being you.

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    Skill 5: Never Stop Questioning or Learning, Ever

    The meaning of life, for people who have reached self-actualization or are well on their way to it, is a never ending quest. This quest is not materialistic or even ambitious in its nature, rather, it is simply a thirst for knowledge, for self-development and for being better than who you were a day, hour or even minute ago. [8]

    People who want to reach self-actualization have already accepted the best and the worst about themselves. Now they are on road to better themselves, to help someone along the way if they can, and to make a positive change in the world if they so can. They know, understand and accept that there is no such thing as perfection and that life, despite all the challenges and hardships, is a beautiful gift meant to be enjoyed to the fullest in the literal sense of knowledge too.

    The Pitfalls That You Need To Avoid On The Path To Self-Actualization

    People on the path to self-actualization have learnt to take failure in their stride, accept and even delight in their imperfections and have a control over their emotions. [9] Here’s what not to do:

    • Stop mulling on your failures or “deficiencies”: No one is perfect, accept that and accept yourself.
    • Stop “not knowing”: Ignorance is as big a sin – learn about yourself, the world and keep the quest on.
    • Nip that self-pity: So you didn’t achieve a goal or two or ten – shake it off and start striving again. Feeling sorry for yourself will not get you anywhere.
    • Kill your ego: Your ego and your high opinion of yourself will get you nowhere if you want to be on the path to self-actualization. Kill your ego and be as selfless as possible.
    • Do not be too materialistic: No, we are not asking you to give up your worldly possessions or pursuits. But don’t make them your sole goal, there has to be a higher calling than that sometimes.

    All in all, if you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, try to be as good and morally upright a person that you can be and keep on the quest to be a better person – you are on a good road to self-actualization, and will soon reach your goals. Remember that is not the end, just a great new beginning!

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is.

    You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by. You just want to be happy.

    However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

    Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

    1. Do what brings you meaning

    We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do.

    Nancy is one of the many who’ve been there. Take a look at her story and find out why finding your meaning to live is so important.

    Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

    “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

    Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

    Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy[1] to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

    What you can do right now:

    In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

    • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
    • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
    • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down.

    I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me:

    “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

    Recommended reading:

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

    2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

    “Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[2] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

    When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

    The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

    What you can do right now:

    Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

    • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
    • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
    • Choose your meals in advance.
    • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
    • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
    • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
      • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
      • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
      • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

    3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

    We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

    The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[3]

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    All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

    When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

    At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

      Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

      Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

      Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

      • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
      • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
      • Being turned down
      • Asking someone out
      • Waiting for the doctor to call back
      • Getting laid off
      • Laying off people

      Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

      What you can do right now:

      Practice vulnerability.

      Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

      Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[4]

      Recommended reading:

      I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

      4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

      Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

      Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[5] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

      While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

      “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

      By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

      What you can do right now:

      Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:[6]

      • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
      • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
      • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
      • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

      Recommended reading:

      Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

      5. Help yourself by helping others

      The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

      “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

      Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

      Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel good and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[7]

      “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

      What you can do right now:

      Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

      Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

      6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

      Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new.

      Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

        Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

        Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[8]

        What you can do right now:

        • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
        • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[9]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[10]

        7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

        I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

        While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[11]

        “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

        What you can do right now:

        Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

        • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
        • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
        • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

        8. Meditate regularly

        Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

        Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

        These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

        What you can do right now:

        Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

        “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

        9. Change your attitude to gratitude

        This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

        The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[12]

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        Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

        When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[13] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

        What you can do right now:

        • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
        • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
        • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

        10. Create better habits

        One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

        The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

          For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

          If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

          What you can do right now:

          Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

          Also take a look at this detailed guide to try to hack your habit loop and build lasting habits for a better self:

          How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop 

          11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

          There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

          You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

          You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

          Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[14]

          “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

          Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

          What you can do right now:

          Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

          Speaking to a close friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

          Recommended reading:

          Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

          12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

          Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

          “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

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          “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

          “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

          Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self.

          The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

          Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

          Here’s the video:

          People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

          What you can do right now:

          Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

          • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
          • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
          • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
          • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
          • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

          13. Give yourself time to be sad

          Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

          It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[15]

          Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

          “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

          What you can do right now:

          Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are.

          This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

          The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

          The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

          Recommended reading:

          Happiness marks the spot

          Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

          If you find yourself feeling unhappy about where you are, you don’t have to stay that way. You can in fact restart your life to be happy again:

          How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

          As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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          Reference

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