Ahead of her talk at Horizon, we heard from Toyosi about how to overcome both physical and mental barriers, and instead ‘hit play’ on our goals.
Please note: This interview has been edited for increased clarity and readability. Toyosi’s views are still fully represented.
What was the inspiration behind your talk?
First of all, TED talks in general – I love watching them, and hearing people share their ideas. But, also just talking to different people in my life, my friends and family – it is clear that one of the most important things is your perspective. My talk focuses on how you look at stuff, what you call them, and who you let speak into it. From conversations and things thatI have seen, I have noticed that those three things are very big and impactful in people’s lives – and sometimes this is the barrier between them starting something now or having the will to continue with something.
Why do we end up holding ourselves back?
Once you say you can’t achieve something and you believe this, it is very unlikely that you’re actually going to do it. However, once you say something repeatedly and work towards it, there is a much greater likelihood that you will actually do it.
In my talk, I mention the illusory truth effect – that even if information is false, if you repeat it many times, you may start to believe it. When you are working towards a goal in life, if you repeat it to yourself again and again, it may occur.You see this a lot in many businesses, where business leaders have mantras that they say in their own lives that they repeat.
Also – the people that you keep around themselves. I believe that if you have limiting people around you it also impacts your ability to go further, especially in terms of words.
How do we ‘hit play’? – a concept you mention in your talk.
I’d say one of the biggest things is what you label something as. For example, two people may be trying to climb a hill and someone says, “this is too hard, we are not going to achieve this” and the other person says, “this is something that I am going to overcome.” The first person sees themselves as inferior to the challenge and the second person sees themselves as a conqueror. A relevant quote I like is “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough” (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). I believe that the ability to even impact the world in whatever field you want to go into requires you to have big dreams, you don’t necessarily need to achieve every single dream but for you to set something beyond yourself requires you to work harder.
In what ways has Covid-19 been a barrier to achieving your aims?
Covid-19 isolated us. For most people isolation has either had positive or negative effects on them. For a lot of people, it was the first time they were ‘alone’ with themselves for a long period of time, so there were things that people had to deal with that they didn’t realise before when they were always surrounded by people. Different people have their own nuances but just being able to tackle yourself and your struggles you face is important, for example someone who struggles with anxiety trying to manage their symptoms so that they do not go into every situation afraid and fearful.
Whether it is your ability to pursue your dreams, talking to people, Covid-19 has brought a lot to the forefront that had previously been pushed away for so long. Being able to say, “ok, I’m going to step forward and tackle this” rather than shy away, is incredibly important.
You mention in your talk the influence of those around you. What are the qualities of the ideal person/people to surround yourself with? Is there an ideal?
It differs with everyone – everyone has different things that they want to improve on and different stuff in which they are strong and/or weak on. Something I try to practise on is, at least for me, discipline. When you surround yourself with disciplined people and when you see things in front of you it makes you more likely to believe that you can be it. It is this notion of “I can achieve it because I can see it”, if you don’t see it, it becomes much harder for you to say “ok, this is actually achievable.”
I do think that you are not always going to have those people readily available, so sometimes you then must take the burden of responsibility and go and seek people and try and find these people. For example, you are really interested in football but no-one around you is. You can go out of your school, go to an extracurricular club, ask your parents if they have friends involved, cousins, etc. Putting those people into your lives will help you improve on certain areas you wish to improve on, instead of just wishing it will happen.
I would also say hope. Being hopeful because ‘hope is free’ as I say in my talk. It doesn’t cost anything to hope, yet for a lot of people this is one of the hardest things – the idea that “I hope tomorrow will be better than today.”
Have you faced any adversaries or challenges in your life that have acted as barriers to the concept of hitting play?
There are different kinds of barriers. An obvious one is physical barriers – in the sense that you try to do something, and it doesn’t doesn’t work. As an example, I registered my charity in Nigeria and adhering to the whole legal system is incredibly complicated and takes a considerable amount of time. It is important to say “despite the long time, I am going to persevere and continue with this and find out how can I best do this.”
But also, in terms of mental barriers. When you constantly hear limiting beliefs, when people say you can’t do this because of x, y and z – you consciously must make an effort to tell yourself, “No, you can do it. It will become a reality and it is not just a concept in your mind!” When you eventually see this concept become a reality, it will then push you to do more. If you only set small goals, this won’t challenge you as much.
What are your hopes for the future?
One thing, especially with my charity, is to empower people more. There is a lot of poverty in Nigeria and a lot of belief that ‘oh, nothing will change, nothing will get better.’ But even just empowering people more in the sense that they can make an impact in their lives, even if it’s just little changes everyday. Especially through working with kids – a lot of limiting beliefs start at a young age – so working with kids to instil a sense of hope and help them believe that they can do more and can be better.
Academically, I am not exactly sure! I want to solve problems in the world, be a problem solver. That is generally something I have enjoyed from a young age, being able to see a problem and come up with a solution – there are different routes, but I will find one, and if what I do doesn’t work then I will try again and try again.
Transcribed and edited by Oliver Ind.
The views and opinions presented in this interview belong to Toyosi Somoye — not Oliver Ind, nor TEDxWarwick.
If you have any questions concerning the interview, or opinions expressed, do feel free to comment in the comments section, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.