Is the Mid-Life Crisis Syndrome Hitting You?


As years creep into forties and fifties, and for some late thirties, people start to look for signs of aging when they look into the mirror.  With each new wrinkle found, they get a little more depressed.  They are aging.  This phenomenon does not apply only to women as most people believe although it is the women who make the most fuss out of it.  For men, it is felt but not discussed least they are seen to be vain.  Nonetheless, whether people own up to their fears of aging or not, it is there lurking in the background.

The worse impact is in the psychological state for the beliefs in the mind control our physiological well-being.  Of course it is not just the aging that prompted the mid-life crisis syndrome.  It is during this time when things start to slow down a little, when you have time to ponder over what you have achieved or not, when you have less energy for things you once loved to do, when every change appears bigger than at any time in your life, that you feel the aging most.  Because time is running out to do all those things you want to have done but haven’t; you are struggling to find the time and opportunity to do them but find none.  If you are feeling this, you are in an unhealthy state of mind and you need to do something about it. Continue reading

From Suffering to Greatness


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

Reflecting on Teen Parenting


For the past few months, for some reason or other, I was drawn in the direction of Teen Parenting.  Aside from the programme run by my partner, Dolly Yeo, on parenting in particular on teens, I seem to attract all things relating to teen parenting.

Last week, I was with some friends celebrating a birthday.  The conversation somehow drifted to managing teens and the difficulties that went along with it.

One said, “Teens nowadays would not listen to you.  You tell them one thing and they will do another.  They would listen to friends and others but me.”.  Quite a few agreed.

On the same weekend, I met another ex-colleague and again the conversation was unconsciously steered toward parenting.  You quickly picked up on the self-justification on how different the world is today, parenting is becoming more difficult and there is nothing much you can do about it.  Such is the defeatist attitude. Continue reading

The Second Life


Aging is such a frightening thing for many people.  Rightly so if you do not prepare for it.  This is the period when everything is breaking down, some more quickly than others.  But it is usually the lost of health and loneliness that are the worst to bear.  Save yourself with a new second life.

Worrying and being afraid will not take aging away.  It is a natural process we have to go through.  The best defense is in managing it to the best of our ability by preparing for it.

At the heights of our lives, there are more things that consume our time and energy aptly summed up by this typical “Wheel of Life” chart on the top left.  (Click on the image to enlarge.)

This is very often used by life coaches to help coachees determine the areas of satisfaction and importance to set goals. Continue reading

Measure Coaching Success


In the past few months coaching seems to have gained some prominence in Singapore especially since the government started talking about upgrading skills with more focus on soft skills.  This is indeed good news for coaches although the focus appears to be more on executive coaching.  However, in gaining on soft skills, life coaching would seem more appropriate.

In spite of the reports in the Straits Times on 20 March 2010 acknowledging the successes of coaching there remains the question of its effectiveness in creating awareness. Continue reading

Cultural Differences in Parenting


Cultural differences have been a talking point as far back as I can remember and why should it be any different in parenting?  Personally I believe the differences are more apparent than the similarities seemly because we, human beings, rather like to differentiate for the sake of an argument.  Without the differences, what is there to talk about?

In reality, regardless of race, religion and nationality we all share the same feelings, wants and needs of being loved and respected.  Any other differences are shaped by societal expectations, behaviours and conditioning.

I was having coffee with a couple of friends a few days ago: Dolly Yeo, my partner at Global Coach Connect and Nadine Auzanneau, French by birth but is more of an international citizen having lived outside of France in several countries for 20 years . Continue reading

When Nice is not so Nice


We are taught from young to be nice but it is not always appropriate to be nice.  For instance, your parents do not always appear to be nice when they want you to do something that is perceived to be for your own good or, when your teacher lectures you for not doing your homework and, the list goes on.  They are practicing nice by being not so nice.

However, when we start making friends, we very often refrain from saying things that may upset them for fear of losing their friendship.  We are always trying to be nice. Well, if we are genuine friends we would have to learn to confront difficult situations without resorting to be being nice and burying the less than welcome truth. Continue reading

What Is Good Parenting Really?


Children are becoming very precious now that people are producing fewer.  Our world tomorrow will be very dependent on how well children are developing and as parents of generations to come, it is our responsibility to be aware of the underlying issues. This article is a wake-up call for us to ponder…

Recently I was told a story about how a frustrated child hurt his classmate with a pair of scissors because he was upset by being pushed. That sounds scary especially when the child comes from an average nice family and no one would have anticipated such an action. He is by nature non-violent, or at least it appears to be so. So what has prompted to this? Does the child, at six years old, realize the impact of his action? Is that premeditated or driven by impulse?  Do television programmes have influences over how children react to unfavourable situations? So many questions but where are the right answers?

To say the least the parents were in shock. On reflection, while they realize that the child has been naughty in little ways, they have not really understood their child. They have no idea how to deal with this, including how to talk to their child without inciting any adverse reaction. They thought they have been doing everything right until this which started them thinking, what is good parenting? What have they missed?

What is the definition of good parenting? Is it being there for their children? What is the right way to communicate with children? How do we know if we are doing it right?

These questions (and more) are becoming increasingly prominent in the last decade or two when more and more violent acts are being committed by children not even in their teens yet. Certainly parenting has never been easy but it has become more difficult now that influences come from more angles and paths than half a century ago, including bombardment from the media and lack of parental attention. Even with those whose parents are readily accessible, parents may not have the right knowledge to manage children of today. Too often we bring children up from what we learn from our parents and making adjustments we deem appropriate but they may not be adequate for today’s children.

Even parents need to study to become good parents. I met someone recently who is into providing parental support, basically sharing and coaching parents on how to manage their children. He shared his frustrations of some parents who are unwilling to spend even a small amount (SGD40/session once a week) nor the time to understand their children but would willingly spend the money and time on other social activities. At that time, while I thought it is a very admirable service and I applauded him for his passion and dedication, it did not occur to me how important that is until I heard this story. Not being a parent myself slows me in catching up on such issues.

I feel for the parents of this disturbed child. All sort of theories started surfacing when they try to analyse why the child acted that way with other family members and relatives that they suddenly realize there have been telling signs of possible jealousy and attention seeking but those thoughts have not really registered in their consciousness. They are now thinking of going for counselling, both the child and the parents.

Could this be avoided with better understanding what good parenting is all about? We must not forget that each child is different and it is therefore probably necessary for parents to understand some child pyschology and child development and apply the knowledge strategically.

How committed you are in your child’s development will determine the effort you want to put in it. What is yours?

Listening and Watching On The Move


Within my circle of friends I am considered rather tech-savvy but that is only by comparison to their knowledge level.  For example, I have only started on the podcast interest over the past few months and I am enjoying it.  While I enjoy music I am not one of those who would perpetually stuck my ears with a pair of earphones all day, everyday.

I love to play with tech gadgets and I “upgraded” my MP3 player to an iPod Classic a year ago.  With a capacity of 120GB, it would take a lot to fill it up especially when I do not watch movies on it.  Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I spent some of it in exploring iTunes and found iTune U.  Actually I did the exploration only after I was introduced to http://www.TED.com through one of the newsletter that I signed up for.  So what is the attraction?

Podcasts are audio files (MP3) and VodCasts are audio-visual files (MP4) which you can play on any MP3/4 players.  So many podcasts and vodcasts are now available for free that it can be exhausting to just browse through the subjects and titles even before you start listening, watching or downloading them.  But they have so much to offer in terms of both general education and entertainment.  I am continually amazed by the wealth of information available.

There are a number of websites where you can find vodcasts ands podcasts which you can watch or listen to online or download them for later use.  The most popular one is probably YouTube and almost everyone knows about it.  However, the video clip library contains such indiscriminative subjects that makes it difficult to search for the more serious content, or so I thought until I found the Education segment within it.

Google also has their own library of educational video clips of talks, seminars, etc. uploaded by universities and other subject authoritative producers made available for free.  Some of the video clips are as short as under 15 minutes to over an hour long with wide ranging subjects on various sciences, politics, literature, humanities, education, business, engineering, etc.

There is no shortage of video clips to watch and download.  I like http://www.TED.com which showcases videos normally not longer than 30 minutes or so.  Some are very inspiring and funny and the length of the videos is just right for the iPod to listen to on typical bus or train journey or while waiting for a friend to turn up for tea. I get a kick in thinking I am better “educated” and wiser after a bus journey listening to my iPod.  No time wasted there.  For me this is also the best time for pondering.  I tend to daydream, looking out the window unseeingly and so some useful data injection is always welcomed.  I also like to listen to audio books and podcasts when I go for a walk.

The other thing I like about TED is that some of the video clips come with subtitles of various languages and so if English is not your natural language or you are not an English speaker, the subtitle choices are of a great help. It also offers interactive transcription that links to the video clip.  By clicking anywhere within the transcription will take you to the corresponding location in the video, better than clicking onto the fast-forward button.

Everyone of those I have introduced TED to enjoy the videos and I started noticing there are more and more people having them bookmarked on their iPhones.

I learned that UChannel and Academic Earth feature free online courses from universities but I have yet visited them.  I probably will do that after I finish this article.

Recently I found http://www.fora.tv that also has similar offerings although those that interest me tended to run over 45 minutes.  They are generally talks that include a question and answer section.  Of course there are some which are only under 3 minutes too.  You also have the option to bookmark and download them onto your iPhone.

If you are a neuroscience and psychology nut like me, you might find some of these interesting:
http://fora.tv/2009/11/08/Does_Darwin_Illuminate_Emotion_and_Spirituality – this is nearly 1.5 hours long.
http://fora.tv/2009/09/29/Lise_Eliot_Pink_Brain_Blue_Brain – this is about 42 minutes
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_cute_sexy_sweet_funny.html – this one is obviously funny; about 8 minutes
http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_seligman_on_the_state_of_psychology.html – 24 minutes
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html – 21 minutes
http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_goleman_on_compassion.html – 13 minutes

These are just some of the video clips and I am sure you can find many more from the websites mentioned above.

There are also websites that offer free audio books.  You may want to try http://www.learnoutloud.com/Free-Audio-Video and http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/free-audio-book-and-podcast-resources/ .

I leave you with these resources that you can visit and I hope you enjoy.  If you come across other interesting ones, please share them with me.

Work Life Balance


The pressure of every day life is causing such a havoc no one seems to be able to find the appropriate balance between work and time for themselves.  Talk to anyone and they will give you a long list of their woes on their work-life balance – basically there is no balance at all.

Flip the newspapers and you will see that productivity is down!  Yet on the other hand, it is reported that we need to have work-life balance.  To me, productivity and the work-life balance equation is a big misnomer.  Or, is it?

Being productive, I hope, does not mean putting in more hours but producing more in the same time frame.  By not being productive would mean that we are not working more creatively, using more of our brawn than our brains.  So, by working smarter we should be enjoying better work-life balance but is this how it works?

Increasingly organizations are expecting more from their employees and for those who travel in their jobs, they are putting in an enormous amount of time not appropriately considered in the work-life balance equation.  That is just part of the job.  Modern technology is not helping in this area with the always-on availability concept, you are never “off” work.  There goes the balance.

However, there are ones who abuse the work related travel to include a lot of “self-entertainment” making it difficult to implement a good policy to address this issue.  Hence, as a responsible employee yearning for a work-life balance, one will have to work on their own plan to ensure that they are able to do that by making some changes to their lifestyle and getting an agreement from their supervisors.

That said, the employee needs to know the limits he/she is willing to take that will not affect their home life and be courageous enough to bring this to the attention of their employer.  Far too often, people prefer to suffer in silence for fear of losing their jobs.  This often happens when there is no clear cut job description, responsibility, authority and expectation outlined or if there is, it is not always honored by the employers.  Responsible employers are those who encourage their employees to live a balanced work-life through  leading by examples, consistently applied and showing concern with the their employees’ lives outside the office.

As they say, it takes two to clap.  If you cannot find an employer you enjoy working with and trust, perhaps it is time to reconsider your job options.  You cannot change what your organization is but you can change your job or employer.  Take action for how you want to lead your life and not let someone else control your life.  Yes, this is a big step but it may be worth considering especially if you life depends on it.

If this is your dilemma, what do you plan on doing?  What are your options?  What are you prepared to do about this?  What are the other considerations?  How prepared are you to take the next steps?  Do you have a plan of action – short-term and long-term?  Who else will be affected by this?  Who have you discussed this with, if at all?

If this is the time to look at this, who will you talk to?  Well, consider talking to a coach to help you through this and you may discover something else about yourself you never knew.

Contact me for a trial session to see if you could explore and find a way to deal with this.

Mobile:  +65-93379308
Email:  fun.infinitepotential@gmail.com

Do you know what your Passions are?


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.

Tel:  +65-93379308
Email:  fun.infinitepotential@gmail.com

What Has Voice Got To Do With Coaching?


Over a month ago I attended a talk on “Media Presentation Skills” organized by the ICF Chapter in Singapore.  It turned out more interesting than I had anticipated because there was segment on voice training, something I have great interest in.

Most people do not think that their voice could be trained to sound better – more pleasant and attractive – relegating that to something that only singers do.  You may or may not have noticed that some singers sing beautifully but when they start speaking, you want to cover your ears not because of what they say or even how they say it.  It is because of their voice!

Many tell me that I have a good voice but I have never had it professionally evaluated.  I would love to know what constitute a good voice and if it is true that we can change it.  This is where Paul Carr, Media Presenter and Broadcaster, comes in.  In the talk, Paul shared a few tips on being a good media speaker which, as mentioned, include having a good voice and how he had transformed his voice to one that is now well sort after and paid for.  I have extracted a few points from Paul’s presentation and added a few insights of my own.

Having good planning and preparation
Not everyone is good at speaking off the cuffs, and even then I am sure they run through a framework in their minds before they speak.  Otherwise the speeches will come out incoherent.

The first step, unsurprisingly, is to plan what you want to present or say.  Decide on the objective of the presentation – is it to promote, sell, or introduce a product, or protect and defend a reputation or situation – and keep your focus on the objective.  Depending on the type of presentation (i.e. a speech, interview, product introduction, etc.), content and pitch of the presentation have to be well thought through to ensure relevance.

Then write out the presentation speech and practise, practise and practise until you are fairly familiar with the content, including how you want to deliver it and visualize the response you want to incite from it.

One important thing to note:  You are on Live Presentation when you have a meeting with your clients and hence pre-meeting preparation is just as important as preparing for a speech.  Likewise for a coaching session with our clients, we prepare.

Presenting
With the increasing use of social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc., presentations can be delivered in a number of ways either using audio-visual as in video clips or simply just audio such as podcasts.

In audio-visual presentations not only do you want to sound good but also look good.  The audience’s attention is divided between what they see and what they hear, and while the voice is not the only focus point, it is nonetheless important if you want to drive a point through clearly.

Audio presentation as in a radio interview or a podcast will have a very heavy emphasis on the quality of speech.  The voice then becomes a very important part because that is the only thing that the audience will be focusing on.

Executing a good presentation would include having these components in the speech and voice:

“Finishing your words” is one of the most common issues in speeches and conversations.  Too often we make assumptions when we speak and have a tendency to “eat” up our words forming incomplete sentences. Just look at the quotes reported in the newspaper articles and note the text in square brackets and you will know what I mean.  By “eating” up your words, you no longer can deliver a concise and clear message leaving a lot to interpretations that can lead to disastrous results.

Intimacy is apparently a very important ingredient to conversations and speech delivery.  You want your audience captivated and focus on you and your words, showing that you care and is present.  Obviously you need to pace yourself on the level of intimacy added to your tone to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.  Especially in a one-on-one conversation, for example in a coaching session, having intimacy in your voice can demonstrate your full attention on your client and can promote trust and confidence.

Pitch Variation adds interest and live to the speech or conversation.  When is a dead-pan voice attractive unless you want to act or become a robotic I’ll-be-back terminator!  To be sure having a short statement delivered in a dead-pan voice can be very effective when used in an appropriate moment, just not the entire speech.  Delivering with high impact differentiates a superb presenter from the average presenters.  I am sure want to be the former and not the latter.  Take notice the next time you speak and see if you have good pitch variation or are you putting people to sleep in spite of the interesting topic discussed.

Tone, like pitch variation, gives depth to the speech.  You need to use the right tone for the right moment.  Obviously a gentle tone is better than a harsh one almost under any circumstance to sound encouraging, supportive, understanding, compassionate, etc. but you need to apply a firm tone if the circumstance calls for it to get the highest impact from the interaction.

Volume gives the speech a total different dimension if used appropriately.  If you are too loud, you sound coarse and unrefined.  This is very off-putting.  On the other hand, if you speak too softly, you could not be well heard and that frustrates your listeners.  Applying the right volume adds attraction and interest as your audience feels comfortable and do not need to strain their ears to hear you.

Pace, like volume, is critical and I can say this from personal experience.  When speaking, we must be mindful of our audience ability to follow you.  People lose interest after a few minutes of trying hard to understand and fail.  It is very brain draining to absorb, translate and try to understand, and if they cannot catch up, they give up altogether.  This is especially so when you are speaking in pace too fast and in a language that is not your audience natural language.  However, speaking in too slow a pace is equally unattractive for you will sound too dull and your audience need to pace their brain waves to follow your speech which can be just as exhausting.

Pronunciation is probably underestimated in importance.  It is not enough that your fellow countrymen understand you.  Operating in a global environment, we need to ensure that we speak for a worldwide audience to be heard and understood.  Otherwise why bother speaking at all?  Having good pronunciation means having a clear and crisp enunciation of the words and not necessarily changing your accent which, in some cases, could be worse off sounding most unnatural and certainly unattractive.

Breathe correctly is the most fundamental feature in having a good voice to do all those things mentioned above. Shallow breathing will not deliver the depth of feeling of your voice to execute good pitch variation, tone, volume and pace.  Taking a deep breath and releasing it in a controlled pace in alignment with the speech gives the best voice result, very similar to how a singer learns to sing.

Do you listen to yourself?  If you don’t, start now and learn to pay attention consciously to how you speak.  Compare your speeches in all the areas mentioned above to see how you fare and consider where you might need training.  I started listening to myself since my teens when I decided I want to speak good English and the practice pays off well.  I still continue to do it now but am adding the new components I learned here to my listening.

So why is voice important to coaching?  Coaching is a very intimate relationship between the coach and the client involving a lot of trust and confidence.  With an attractive voice as elaborated in this article, together with a host of other coaching techniques, could put a client at ease quickly to incite the needed trust and confidence for a successful coaching engagement.

Today, marketing your coaching practice may mean capitalizing on the use of social media networks and you may want to try a number of things involving audio-visual or just audio presentations in your blogs and/or websites.  Knowing how to use your voice to the maximum effect to attract audience and followers is certainly a way to go.  Good Luck!

Is this what it takes to cultivate Patience?


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.