Inside the Mind & Regimen of the Renaissance Woman that is Cynthia Zhou
"The best innovations are the ones that take a bottom-up approach to solve problems for users on different scales."
Inside the mind of polymath Cynthia Zhou is a big future and a compelling present. You don't have to be a quick study to get it - one quick scroll through her page and you will be quickly clued into the something different that her message is.
What do we love about her? Her ability to embody and own what being boldly Whole is all about. For us, Innovation happens when we connect everything together - and to find it all in her message and story is without a doubt, very exciting. It's encouraging to all of us to try more things we are curious about, and to be all that we want to be.
Actress, Model, Engineer, Designer and Dancer - it all comes together with this modern take on a renaissance woman and we're so excited to share her story.
What does being your #WholeSelf mean to you?
It means respecting every aspect of myself. Whether it’s my personality, my habits, my outlook, or my culture, every part of me is integral to my identity. Sometimes we can get so carried away with our work or studies that we forget to care about these other aspects of our lives. Therefore, it's always good to maintain a good balance.
Tell us your story. How did you get into what you're doing?
My most prioritized value is to stay curious. It does not matter what I’m doing, I always want to learn. This made me the creative person I am today. I dabble in a lot of different things. I dance, I code, I design, I act, I model, but most importantly, I create. It does not matter if I am in front of the camera, in front of the computer, or in front of the mirror, I know the final creation will always be the fruit of my curious and innovative mindset. Currently, I am a Computer Engineering student at UBC. Technology has always fascinated me and I knew I wanted to get involved in the field. I hope to improve my software skills and eventually create something that will have an impact on anyone.
When did you know you had a message you wanted to share?
I always did. Because I think any small message can be something important to be shared. I was given an opportunity 3 years ago to speak about anything in front of a small audience for a speech contest. I absolutely did not know what to talk about, so I spoke about the most random thing — Pandas. However, as I was writing the script for my speech, it became more meaningful and transformed into a message about the human consciousness, which I totally did not mean for it to embody. After the speech, one of my classmates came up to me and said that my speech opened up his mind about our consciousness. I didn’t realize my small speech could make such an impact on people, so I was delighted. This panda speech is something that I have been meaning to improve and speak on again in front of another audience. I think anyone has a message to share, but many people have not been able to put them exactly into words yet.
How do you set goals for yourself, and how do you use creativity to help you get there?
There are always things I want to do that I find it quite hard to limit my goals. A lot of my goals don't tend to materialize to real plans, and I have been trying to change my approach to making goals so I can better achieve them. I found that finding someone to achieve a similar goal with you is the most helpful. Working in a pair to accomplish something together is a lot more powerful in trying to achieve something alone, especially because no one is keeping your progress in check. This has also helped me become better friends with people who I share common interests with. I like to set goals that push me out of my comfort zone, so every time I achieve one of those goals, I reward myself with food or more time for hangouts.
How does your day get started?
Usually, with a cup of coffee. I always like to take time to make a nice breakfast for myself. I check my calendar and go over all my to-do’s for the day. I make sure to start the day with a positive attitude, regardless of what I will be doing for the day. Having an open mind helps me to stay energized and motivated no matter happens.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness means taking good care of both your body and mind, and making choices that improve your overall health and living. There are a lot of different things people do to work towards wellness, including gym workouts, meditation, nutrition consultations…etc. Personally, I have been working towards wellness through developing better eating choices, sleeping schedules, and daily habits.
How do you incorporate wellness throughout the rest of your day?
I have been slowly improving my sleeping schedule by going to bed before midnight, and waking up around 8:30am even when I am not working. This change has greatly helped me in starting the day with a brighter mood since I have time to have a nice breakfast and plan for the rest of the day. I try to take breaks throughout the day so I prevent myself from spending too much time working on one thing, and also because it's always good to move my body after staring at the computer screen for so long. I used to suck at consistently drinking water until I realized that I was drinking way less than the suggested daily intake. I have been trying to keep up by drinking at least 6 cups of water everyday, which is honestly not a lot compared to the suggested 11 cups. Hydrating your body is actually very important to your body functions, such as digestion and blood circulation.
How do you make time for balance and self care?
In first year of university, I wanted to keep up my academic achievements, so I studied until very late almost every night. Unfortunately, my body did not take that well, and I got sick for almost the entire second term of that year. From that experience, I learned to prioritize my health over academic work. Now, I make sure to keep my sleeping and eating schedule in check. I take breaks whenever I feel that body has been working for too long. Since now I cook my own meals, I get to choose the ingredients and nutrition I put into my body, which is important for self-care. Even though I’m quite busy, I force myself to make time for exercise and dance classes, as they really help me relieve stress.
What are you most afraid of, and what are you most excited about?
I’m most afraid of regrets. I‘m always scared of missing out on opportunities that could have a life changing impact. I’m scared of the “could have”s and “would have”s. That’s why whenever I receive a significant opportunity that I know will never come up again, I always take it. I don’t want to live a life regretting what I could have done, what I could have had, and what I could have been. Nevertheless, the same idea also excites me, because I never know what I could learn and experience. I love taking risks and exploring the unknown. The idea of not knowing what’s possible drives me to create.
We all have stress, so we're curious - what do you do to manage it, and how has your outlook on stress changed?
The best stress relief is to talk to someone. I know I can always rely on my family and friends to support me whenever I’m stressed or anxious. I find that sitting down and having a talk with anyone about whatever is stressing me out always helps me manage my issues. The worst way to approach stress is to continue thinking about it and force yourself to think you’re not stressed. When something is really stressing me out, I will take a break from it and go find something else to do, which can be going out to eat, to dance, or to hang out with others. My outlook on stress has changed ever since going into university, because I really haven’t experienced so much stress on academics until now. I found that maintaining a positive relationship with stress pushes me to work harder while not breaking me down. But I am still figuring out how to maintain that balance.
What is your go-to snack to fuel your brain throughout the day, or when you need to?
Any kind of fruit. I usually go for a banana or an apple. Fruits are healthy, hydrating, and help satisfies my craving for sweets. I also sometimes boil edamame for a snack since they would fill me up for the afternoon.
Of the following 7 pillars- (nutrition, sleep, cognition, mood, cycle, fitness, and beauty) - which are the highest priority for you, and why?
The highest priority would be either cognition or mood because I believe having a healthier mind leads to having a healthier body. Your body is a reflection of your mental state. If you're happy, then your body will follow your mood and show the same.
How do you define innovation?
An innovation is a creation that challenges the norm. Innovating is the process of turning a new idea into a tangible solution. A revolutionary innovation would be one that creates a paradigm shift, but not all innovations have to be revolutionary. The best innovations are the ones that take a bottom-up approach to solve problems for users on different scales. These solutions can be large or small, but ultimately they serve a purpose to aid the user.
How do you and your inner network support each other in living your best life?
I like to make common goals with my inner network of friends to achieve together. We push each other to do more and do better every day. This truly helps me break out of my shell and achieve my fullest potential.
Do you have any advice for our audience on how to stay positive, and maintain a good outlook?
It’s hard to always stay positive, which is totally okay. I have struggled quite a lot with always maintaining a positive outlook since I am quite an analytical person and like to always prepare for the worst. But whenever I feel down, I like to remind myself that the thing that is bringing my mood down is probably nothing at all. If I were to look at the situation again years later, it will likely have been something so meaningless that I would have forgotten about it. Of course, this would not be true for every situation. However, I found that the majority of causes to my negative outlook is so minimal compared to any true adversities that other people experience in their daily lives. I began to look at everything on a macro scale rather in a micro way. Furthermore, I always believed that there’s a reason why everything happens. This belief has always augmented my faith in positive outcomes.
What advice do you have for someone who's ready to start sharing their message?
Share it. It can be with anyone. A message does not have to encompass an inspirational story, a motivational speech, or any life-changing experience. It can be about anything that happens in your daily life. Find someone who’s willing to listen to you and even potentially share their own message with you. Whether you took a really long time to craft your message or took a quick second, there is always someone out there who is willing to listen and talk to you about it. Even if you don’t think you have a message right now, you probably do, and you probably just haven’t been able to put them into words. If you keep trying, you will find a message to share.
What's your big vision?
No matter what I am doing and where I am, I always want to make an impact in some way. I want to remain curious and learn from everyone. I think everyone has some experience, value, or story I can learn from. My vision is to gain that knowledge from people all around the globe. It’s a journey that will help me grow and allow me to better understand the world we live in. But also it honestly would be so cool to just go explore because there is so much that we do not see and experience in our daily lives.
When in the grocery store- what do you pick up?
Definitely avocados and bread so I can make avocado toast. I would also pick up spinach and apples for my favourite spinach salad. Lately, I have been finding different ways to use bananas to replace simple dishes. They are so versatile and can be used to make one-ingredient dishes like pancakes and ice cream.
At the end of the day, how do you complete your regimen?
I take a nice warm shower and think about the things that happened. I reflect back on my to-do’s to see if there was anything that I did not finish, and if there is, why I could not finish it for the day. I got into a habit of doing this because I would end the day in an extremely good mood if I realize I completed everything I needed to. This has helped me overcome the temptation to procrastinate. Even though sometimes I still do, I make sure that I acknowledge that I did and think about why I ended up choosing to do so. I am slowly getting into the habit to meditate at night so I have a calm mind before I sleep.
Big thank you to Cynthia for sharing her story with us! You can find out more about her here @cynzyy
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Read more from our Inside Her Regimen series and learn about how college student and holistic wellness coach, Sloane Chmara, stays on top of her wellness routine. Click here to read her story.