The brain is probably the least talked about subject or organ. Maybe it conjures up complexities that most people want to avoid due to lack of knowledge, understanding and interest are probably the contributing reasons. (After all for many it is not an exciting topic.) Who could blame them? It was not until fairly recent, as far as science is concerned, that astounding research findings are available about how the brain works. Even then, there leaves much to be discovered. Continue reading
In spite of the increasing awareness of Emotional Intelligence and talks of introducing it into schools to develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in children, the actual implementation is slow in actualizing. It is a mammoth task as a stream of people are involved in making it happen; especially the teachers who must recognise their need to change first before such adoption in schools can be made possible. Perhaps learning to use coaching conversations is a good start.
So what is coaching conversations and their connection to Emotional Intelligence? Continue reading
If you limit your choices to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise. ~Robert Fritz
When I read this quote by Robert Fritz, I could not help asking myself if this is what I have been doing – compromising myself. Have you? I am not surprised if you do because most of us take the easy way out. Why push yourself so hard? Life is to be enjoyed. But do you get what you want and hope to become?
Is it possible for me to be a good teacher? Yes, it is but you must acquire the knowledge. Is it possible for me to be rich? Yes, you can but you need to learn how to make your money grow. And so forth…
When you are not pushing against the envelope you are not growing. Becoming stagnant is worse than death because, whether you realize it or not, life becomes less meaningful, listless and boring without a purpose. Continue reading
Almost every great man I read about had at one time or another suffer some personal losses before they become great. That puts me to wonder what really transpire during the time of suffering that make these people great. For their greatness is sustainable for many decades and often the rest of their lives. People like Lee Kuan Yew and Gandhi Mahatma.
Perhaps it is during the time of lost and suffering that people find there is nothing to lose by going deep within themselves to reflect and search for the thing they are made of. It is perhaps during this time that the greatest insights and passions are revealed because there is no other noise of fear that camouflage and prevent its revelation. Continue reading
Procrastination is probably one of the worst enemies in personal transformation and coaching helps to jump over this obstacle.
In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, one of my first motivators:
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear.
So when you procrastinate, you are inactive and the root cause may be something we are afraid to ask ourselves. Maybe that is the self-preservation at work – we do not like to see what we perceive as the ugliness in us. See not the ugliness but the opportunity to become better.
Successful leaders and coaches will tell you to take full responsibility of your own actions be they successes or failures. Only when we are honest with ourselves are we able to determine the areas we need to change for the better. Continue reading
If we are barking at the wrong tree when depending on external factors for our true lasting happiness, what could we do to deflect from this erroneous path?
I am not sure if it is a good thing that there are lots of resources on the topic of happiness. On one hand it is good to know that we are not alone in this journey while on the other it is rather sad to know that there are so many people afflicted by the disease – of not being happy. I refer unhappiness to being a disease simply because with enough commitment to change, this trend could be reversed.
It is interesting how long people pulse when you ask if they are happy. At times I wonder which of these could be the real reason for the delay in answer:
- They have never given it deep thoughts.
- They are afraid or embarrass to say what they think.
- They are thinking to form an answer that they think you want to hear.
- They do not know how to qualify if they are happy or not.
- …and many others I could not venture to guess.
If there is a long pulse before you get an answer, it could be a telltale sign of an unhappy person. If you are happy, it will be evident; every expression in your manner, speech and action projects it.
To reset our genetic happiness set point (see also http://wp.me/pJZPk-2h), we need to practise more positive thinking on a regular basis which will then lead us to having more positive emotions. It is not good enough to start on a transformation programme only to stop after a few days or weeks. It has got to be a continuous process of self-awareness, self-development and self-appraisal to the point of becoming second nature to you. The transformation process involves a change in mindset and developing the ability to consciously observe yourself in thoughts and actions moment-by-moment in your everyday life.
Wow, I know it sounds tough and it is tough. That is why you need to break everything down into achievable chunks to digest and practise.
Here are some suggestive steps you could take:
- Read some books or search the web for resources to help you line up the various exercises you could do to help in the transformation process.
- Commit to making these changes and set short and long term goals.
- Identify the ones that are most comfortable for you.
- Prioritize and decide which ones to start with. Start small with just a couple of exercises that can easily fit into your current lifestyle.
- If necessary, get a life coach to help you for a faster and more effective change.
- Perform regular evaluations and adjust.
- Add on more exercises when you feel right.
It typically takes 21 days of consistent application to form sustainable habits but be kind to yourself if you do not make it on some days. Being overly hard on yourself can discourage and hinder your progress and, you don’t want that.
If you are not using a coach, you could start a support group comprising people with whom you are comfortable having the same objective – to attain true lasting happiness – as a common goal. However, you need some very strict rules of engagement in the group to make this a success. More of this in the next article.
Hope you enjoy this and are able to use some of the suggestions here.
Do you notice that when you give out gifts you receive more? Not necessarily in terms of receiving more gifts in return but the warm tingling sensation of happiness that wraps around your heart when the receivers of the gifts beam their several-thousand-watt smile at you. You know that your gifts are appreciated and they are happy.
That is the joy of giving which is one of the reasons I enjoy Christmas. That is the time when I would be busy thinking of the things to buy or make to give to family, relatives and friends. What joy! And I am thankful that I have all these to give.
It is sad that most people now think Christmas as being too commercialized but does it really matter? What matters is how you perceive it and what you are going to make out of it no matter what others say or do. If you put enough effort to it, you will know to find the right gift for each person and you receive twice as much in happiness for the effort.
Sure there will always be people who exchange gifts (1) because it is expected of them, (2) all in the name of fun and so, as long as the gifts are purchased and given, who cares if the recipient likes it or not. Still as a recipient of the gifts, even they are not quite what you like, appreciate the thought that the giver has you in mind and has spent money on you.
Showing genuine appreciation is an art. The better you are able to appreciate the better it is for you. Remember we should improve our happiness set point and feeling and showing appreciate is one of the means to improve it. When you consciously appreciate the efforts of another, you are forming positive emotions which automatically makes you feel better of yourself and the giver. Try it and consciously notice how you feel, both as a giver and receiver of gifts. The gifts may not be in a form of presents but they could be a smile, a service, close trusting friendships and so forth.
Now then why should we wait for occasions – Valentines Day, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Children’s Day, etc. – to feel appreciation? Sometimes I think these days are specially created to remind people to be appreciative because leaving it up to us, we are very likely not do it. Sad, huh?
Happiness and positive emotions can be generated at any occasion of your choice. Make it an everyday occurrence. Observe the number of times you actually show appreciation for the service and help extended to you in a day. When you start doing this you may realise there are very few if at all because we have taken a lot of things for granted. It would be hard to rack up anything until you are in the swing of things. Practice makes perfect – so start now to note down the opportunities that you have showed or missed showing any appreciation a day. Overtime, with constant practice and conscious self-observation, the appreciation list will grow.
Once the practice is internalized and naturally becomes part of you, you will find that there are just too many to list them all. Continue nonetheless as the more you do, the happier you feel. People around will also appreciate you more because your happiness attracts them. It comes in a full circle. What you do influence others. Won’t you want others to be just as happy as you?
Who could honestly say they are not pursing happiness? I think none would. Everything we do relates to creating happiness; from shopping for the best of everything to ingesting the best foods. However all of those actions can only appease but a moment and soon be replaced by another craving for a better watch, pants, ring, mobile phone, movie, etc. There is no end to the things we want in hope to quench the thirst for happiness only that we do not realize that happiness is really what we are after and not the things we own.
Happiness depends, as Nature shows, less on exterior things than most suppose – William Cowper.
A research on happiness demonstrates that the statement above is true. Until I read the book “Happy for No Reason” (in which the author reported statistics to support this point) and did a little digging on my own, I have not given much thought to this. Perhaps I have taken for granted what truly being happy means.
I reproduce here the statistics as reported in “Happy for No Reason”:
- Americans’ personal income has increased more than two and a half times over the past fifty years but their happiness level has remained the same.
- Nearly 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.
- Once personal wealth exceeds $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in happiness.
I would suppose the statistics here would not have been very different elsewhere. It is not too difficult to call to mind a wealthy friend or two who are not too happy with their lives no matter how much money they have. They then go on to an acquisition spree for higher status, education, more and better branded stuff, bigger and flashier cars, more attention, love, respect, etc. but still find happiness elusive.
Interestingly people who suffer from depression are not necessarily those who are destitute but also from the wealthiest. There are probably more people in the lower rungs of society who are inertly happier than those in the higher social class; at least they have something to aim and hope for. It is when you have everything and still cannot find happiness, that must be the most painful.
In the research report Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon by David Lykken and Auke Tellegen published by American Psychological Society in 1996, it is said that social economic status accounted less than 3% in the variance in general well-being. (To read the report, go to http://cogprints.org/767/0/167.pdf.)
Our happiness set point may be inherently encoded in our genes. However, it is possible to reset to a higher level by our experiences and consistent application of positive emotions.
“Dysfunctional behaviour exacerbates depression, whereas the things happy people do enhance their happiness.”
You may also want to watch this video about happiness set point:
Intense happiness is an emotion that fluctuates according to moods and events (winning a contest, getting promoted, etc.) while to be truly happy is the high set level of contentment and peace to which we fall back regardless of our emotions over both good and bad experiences of our lives.
There is no arguing of the fact that we all have moods – the causal effects of events happening around us – but the duration of the positive or negative impact may be prolonged by concentrated and repeated thoughts that determines the level of happiness or unhappiness. Therefore the ability to self-regulate thoughts would help to improve the happiness set point in the long run.
Since we could reset our happiness set points, there is no excuse to remain unhappy. All you need is to find the key to unlock the blockage. Have your found yours?
I found the post by the same title on http://www.bigthink.com. It is an interview with Tal Bel-Shahar, Psychology Lecturer at Harvard University, who is also best known as a Happiness Guru. Here is an extraction from the interview.
So what are these five ways to become happier today?
Alive and undamaged: Interestingly he said you need to be not a psychopath or dead as only being one of these would mean you cannot experience painful emotions. If we can experience these painful emotions then can we open ourselves to positive ones. How true! You cannot possibly be happy if you are dead or damaged in some way. So celebrate the fact that you are alive and undamaged. Be grateful that you have the opportunity to be happy by choosing to be positive. Since there is a choice, won’t you rather be happy?
Quality social interactions: Spending quality time with family, friends, relatives, loved ones – people who care about us and whom we care about – is important in feeding our happiness. Quality time also means giving a 100% of your attention and not when we are doing something else at the same time, like being on the phone or text messaging. I love spending time with family and friends. While they may give you headaches from time to time, there is still no replacement for having a laugh or two with your loved ones. I have known of people who have dysfunctional family and remain unhappy throughout their lives.
Regular exercise: Physical exercise is also another way to improve your happiness level. Research shows that regular exercising several times a week is equivalent to some of the most powerful psychiatric drugs for anti-depression. Compared to our fore-fathers we are walking less by adopting habits such as using auto-transport even for short distances. Not only do these habits have negative impacts on our physical but also mental health. There is such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I take a 5-minute walk to the train station instead of taking a bus ride or complete a 4km walk on a good day.
Expressing your gratitude: Developing the habit of expressing your gratitude daily on things big and small carries a lot of weight in raising your happiness indicator. He suggests writing at least 5 things you are grateful for before going to bed and not wait till you encounter a crisis to be reminded to appreciate the things you have in your life. People who do that are happier, more successful and optimistic. Hmm…I am going to try this one out, starting today. (If you want to take your gratitude online there is a place to do it – http://www.gratitudelog.com.)
Simplify your life: Simplify by doing only one thing at a time. Savour every minute of the moment. Pay attention and appreciate the action, thought, feeling and words of the moment. Develop quality in everything you do without destroying it with multi-tasking. To help with concentration, allocate time for e-mail to say 3 hours daily, switch off the mobile phone during time set aside for the family, etc. No rush, no tension just simply be (happy).
All these five ways appear to be so simple and yet there are many who would find it tough. They are simple for the mind to appreciate but hard for some to carry them out. But “Rome is not built in a day” so don’t trip yourself up by trying to do them all at once and expect total transformation overnight. Instead set small but achievable goals toward these five things-to-do over a period and you will never be the same again. If you find it hard to do it on your own, get help from people whom you trust or get a coach or mentor.
The mind is its own place, and in itself can make
a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven
– John Milton, English poet
I was totally captivated by this phrase Velcro vs Teflon” coined by Dr. Rick Hanson in the book “Happy for No Reason” by Marci Shimoff. What is all that about?
Since it appears in a book about happiness, you could probably guess how this is related. Apparently we are naturally drawn to negativity like Velcro and oblivious to positivity as it slides off easily like on Teflon.
When you give this some thought, you would find that it is not difficult at all to drag up tons of examples to prove that this is all too true. Some of these might resonate:
- Everyone tells you how great a job you have done but your boss thinks you have missed out one important point. You take this as criticism and could not sleep for days; it eats you in the gut.
- You think you are a good mother but when your neighbour complains about your son’s misbehaviour, you take a dive in self-esteem.
- You take a test which you have no problem answering all the questions but one. You think you have done badly and could fail the test.
All it takes is just one small “wrong” to throw you into depression, destroying all the good simply because we are designed to focus on negativity.
Everyone seems to be seeking happiness but finding it elusive. Now you have a little better idea why this is so. Negativity being a natural reaction (due to the flight-or-fight phenomenon of our fore-fathers in early life form) makes it comfortable for us to remain unhappy. To become happy requires more effort; we need to learn new ways of thinking and responding. Any wonder why there are so many unhappy people?
Thomas Leonard said “People spend more time WORRYING about what might happen than DEALING with things that do happen“.
Concentrating on worrying leaves you no energy nor brain power to appreciate the beauty of the NOW and you miss the opportunity to be happy.
To avoid this natural tendency, we need to practise appreciation and gratefulness daily to ensure negativity is kept at bay. We should practise having good thoughts: notice the freshness of the morning air, the peacefulness in taking a stroll in the gardens, smile at the happiness of children at play, appreciate the thoughtfulness of your neighbours, and so forth. Concentrate on these things and you will find the warm in the heart grows.
Marci Shimoff suggests in her book to keep a count on the number of times you blame, complain or feel ashame a day and you would know how easily negative thoughts creep into your everyday life.
In order to train our brain to be more positive, each time you record these negative thoughts, replace it with a positive one. Eventually, slowly but surely, you will become happier.
Let’s make a commitment NOW to change this to:
My first taste of positive thinking comes from reading Norman Vincent Peale’s books. I still remember how tall I suddenly stand and everything becomes possible for me after reading his books.
That was over a decade ago. I took on a job that required me to create a database and I knew nothing of database much less creating one. I did however knew my sister was dabbling with it a bit and thought it could not have been that difficult.
Then I realised that she was only using the most elementary commands to filter queries, processing simple sorts and performing straight data entry in Foxpro which required some computer programming language knowledge. What had I got myself into? I started to sweat inside and not daring to show my discomfort outwardly.
It was around this time that I have decided to broaden my reading materials and picked up “The Power Of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale where I have gained my determination and focus to succeed.
It was in those days when Lotus was leading the market in desktop applications while Microsoft was furiously catching up fast. The company bought me Lotus Approach but I found out later that Microsoft was more user-friendly and much easier to learn and develop databases with. I managed to convince the company to invest in the software and I ploughed through the entire instruction manual from sun-up to sun-down, often forgetting to eat and drink.
I focused all my energy to get it right and right I did get. The database was up and running. My bosses thought the wonders of me (I guess it would not be too difficult since all of them were over 50 years old and their IT skills were a lot less than mine). The database continued to run for the next 5 years before it was replaced. It was not a super application by any standard but it was a significant achievement for me.
I took a chance – the possibility of failing that could land me out of the door or at the very least lost my credibility. I did it anyway.
Was that courage? Maybe. Was that self-confidence? Perhaps. Thinking back, before and after this incident, I have always been daring in committing myself to projects that I know little about and I have this little inner voice pushing me forward. More often than not, I end up finishing with relatively good results. I do not know whether it was courage or fool-hardiness though I would like to think it was the former.
I got a lot of self-satisfaction out of that exercise, boosting my self-confidence no end. It took me to other places higher up the ladder simply because I would not allow myself to say “no, I cannot do it” to anything thrown my way. My personal mottos become “until I try I will never know” and “what do I have to lose?”.
Since then whenever I have a dilemma and starting to tread down the road of negativity, I would recall my past victories to hold up as examples to remind myself, to give me the strength and courage to climb and scale once again. Now, isn’t that what it means to think positively?
I will leave you this quote from Norman Vincent Peale to ponder:
“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
Who does not have a dilemma? I am sure we all have a dilemma or two in our lifetimes. The difference is how you handle them when they knock on your door. Do you decide to deal with it or do you ignore it and hope that the problem will go away.
The thing is by not making a decision you are making a decision, i.e. the decision not to make a decision. How profound is that?
So what is the consequence of either? When you make a decision you are choosing the path you want to take, never mind what the outcome is. If you do not make a decision, something will still happen but you are leaving the choice to other people. The former gives you the feeling of power over the situation and therefore you are more positive while the other makes you feel helpless and disempowered.
Of the two, you would likely choose the first rather than the second option, right? Wrong. Many would still rather leave their fate to someone else because deciding also means having to commit to the outcome. By relying on others, you have the opportunity or option to curse, swear and blame someone else when things go wrong. Yes, some people do not want to take responsibility for their own actions and having someone take the blame makes them feel safe.
Now, you may decide you want to be empowered so you choose to face the issue. Then you need to consider a list of options. That’s when the hard part begins because you need to think. You would think thinking occurs naturally and in some cases for some people it is although there is a large number of them who would rather not or able to, especially when it comes to complex issues involving many aspects of one’s life. They are terrified. Thinking is hard work drawing a lot of brain power and it is exhausting.
Good decision comes from quality thinking and even thinking requires training. That is why there are loads of books and course on lateral thinking, etc. Quality thinking gives you wider perspective of the situation and therefore derives better solution options.
Finally you come up with a few possible solutions but somehow THE solution still remains elusive. None of them seems to fit somehow. So what do you do? You look for help from colleagues, friends, relatives, spouses, etc. That should cover the bases. Yet the advices feel hollow and you end up with “yes, but…”. You are no where closer to your solution than before. What has gone wrong?
This could have fallen between either one of these possibilities:
- The kind colleagues, friends, relatives, spouses, etc. may have agendas unbeknown even to themselves that could sabotage your hope. Consciously or sub-consciously they may not want you to succeed fearing that the outcome could jeopardize the relationship one way or another.
- Not having the same background, experiences and other personal differences, they could not fully appreciate the situation and have very different perception of the successful outcome.
When we are in control of our feelings – being happy is a feel-in-control state – we would be in a better position to deal with all things and that aligns everything to create a healthier body, mind and soul. So the trick would be to delude the brain by consciously choosing to think positively to transform your state of being. Since the brain cannot differentiate what is real or not, your positive thoughts would ultimately become strongly held beliefs taken as the truth. Isn’t this fantastic? You can then become who you choose to be. You have a choice.
Just like anything else, correct application is key. Beliefs can either save or destroy you and hence what you think of is very critical. Inappropriate thoughts lead to inappropriate beliefs that can lead you astray. That’s is how cults operate; they are playing with the mind – if you allow them to.
We all talk about our passions every now and then but do we really know what our passions are. We say we are passionate about this and that. Are we really? How often have we thought about our passions? Some people live in their passions and they are usually those who are successful and I do not necessarily mean people who are rich either. The problem is in defining what is passion and success because these mean different things for different people. What is yours? Have you really thought about it?
Defining your passions and successes require a conscious mind – involving deep thinking. Some people think that they are clear about their passions but yet cannot find happiness in what they do. Then they are not living their passions. This is according to Janet and Chris Attwood in The Passion Test.
Many people lead their lives through others by being what others (parents, teachers, spouses, etc.) told and wanted them to be because that is what they are good at. Perhaps that is what they are good at but it is not necessary what they want to be deep down and they cannot be happy being what they do not really care about.
Recognizing this, Janet Attwood devises a system to help you reflect and self-discover your true passions. However, discovering your true passions (which could change from time-to-time) is only the first step toward self transformation. It elicits a conscious decision about what your life is all about and if you are willing to move toward them with the first step.
Transformation takes a lot of courage because you will face a lot of uncertainty but transformation does not need to be instantaneous and can be done in baby steps. The most important step is the first step – discover and decide.
In the book “The Passion Test”, Janet and Chris Attwood take you through the steps you could and should take toward living a life of your passions. People living their lives of passions are happier and more successful. The success part of it depends on your passions and is not necessarily measured by the amount of money you earn or the possessions you have. If you passion is to become a loving, understanding and supportive mother, your success would be the measurement by which your children see and feel toward you.
Living in your passions you are not stressed into doing things that you do not care about and hence you are more relaxed. That helps you to be more creative leading to more success. Are you beginning to see how passion works?
You may want to work on your passion test with a coach so that you get better clarity in discovering what you want and allow your coach to help you through the challenging transformation process.
To find out more about The Passion Test, you may want to visit their website http://www.thepassiontest.com or read the book available at all major book stores.
Better yet, contact me for a trial coaching session to see how you can use the Passion Test to help you discover your passions.
How often is it said that Patience is a virtue but it is not something that is easily maintained throughout the day. Patience is what I would like to accomplish yet it has not been on the top of my list until in recent months. I have been trying to make a conscious effort to take note of the times that I get frustrated and lose patience. The occasions have reduced significantly partly because I spend more time with myself and therefore can maintain being peaceful and serene. I was rather pleased with myself until…
I have a lot of dealings with old folks, in the past and the present, and they do test your patience. It could not be helped that they get forgetful and repeat things over and over again, sometimes everyday. Now that communication means are so easily available, there is no where to hide without causing some upsets. So you get calls day and night. They have no regard for the number of times they call you or consideration for your availability. Sometimes, I wish I could be firm enough to tell them to back off but I know I won’t.
My parents have an issue with our maid and we are in the process of terminating her services. My father has been picking every single small issue and complains daily. The maid has been working for us for 3 years now and the problems started surfacing some 6 months ago. The complaining started. At first it was weekly or as and when a problem arises then it gets more frequent. Ask what they wanted to get done about it, both my parents have different views and refused to make any decision. So the complaining continues more frequently and intensely.
Talking about complexities of human relationships, this one tops everything else, at least in my experience. When you have misalignment of expectations, sensitiveness, unsubstantiated assumptions and accusations and poor communications where can there be peaceful co-existence? The main problem is old folks are obviously unwilling or not open to reflect and consider changes and maids, generally not angels either, do not see why they need to be accommodative to their employers’ eccentricities.
Being a rather objective person, I tried to put things into perspective but was frequently being accused of taking sides. Rationally, I understand that old folks just wanted to vent their frustrations onto a listening ear but there is only so much one can take and emotionally, on the receiving end, it posts a big problem for me. It gets to me each time in spite of my attempts to brace myself for it. I get frustrated because even with the decision made to let the maid go and while waiting for the maid to depart, I continue to be barraged with past and new misdeeds (I have 2 more weeks before we say goodbye to the maid and it feels like a long wait!).
It gets to the point that I want an escape to somewhere where no phone calls can reach me. I maintain my physical distance by limiting my visits to my parents for fear of getting myself upset unnecessarily. I know it sounded mean but I need to preserve my sanity. These are the times I repeatedly asked myself, “Patience where are you? When will you stay on permanently?“. Meditation helps tremendously until the next phone call comes in. Is this the ultimate test in cultivating patience, I wonder.
The new maid will arrive in 2 weeks. I sincerely hope she would bring on some peace then I can relax and be my peaceful self again.