Stop Parenting, Start Coaching

I attended the free talk given by my Global Coach Connect partner, Dolly Yeo on “Stop Parenting, Start Coaching”.  I thought it was wonderful and very timely as many parents today are at sea in how to deal with their teens.   In this new digital environment and the wide, seemingly out-of-control exposure we are dealing in, managing our kids calls for a much different parenting skill than those employed by our parents.  The world is different.  I am sure you notice.

The old school of thought in managing children and in particular teens is outdated.  Parenting is tough, parenting teens is even tougher.  Hormonal changes around this period make it more challenging and most parents are at a loss.  It is not aided by the generation gap, especially now that couples are marrying and having children at a later age.  Conflicts begin almost overnight leaving parents to wonder where and what they have done wrong.

One thing they have done right is loving their children; what they have probably done wrong is how to communicate with their children.  There is always a tendency for parents to compare those days when you were teens to what their own teens are today and obviously there is a big divide.

There is this in-built inclination toward telling our children what to do, have and want all in the name of love.  Well and good but teens needed to be heard and respected as adults too because that is where they are heading towards and they need their parents’ understanding and support to become one.  Parents and their teens need to learn how to tango to establish certain level of trust in order for them to grow into responsible, well-adjusted and happy young adults.

Dolly shared her own experience – the pains, anxiety, frustration – in managing her three teenagers; the ups-and-downs she has gone through and how she managed to triumph and conquer the situation.  It was a very inspiring talk.

She told of the hours and courses she spent to learn to become a better parent and primarily to manage first herself as a person – learning to love herself and removing her baggages.  In her journey of self-discovery, she stumbled on coaching and began practising her coaching skills on her children.  It drew fantastic results (not overnight but with lots of patience and perseverance), leading her to understand that it is time to let go and stop parenting.

It was a very lively interactive talk.  Participants were open in sharing their teenagers’ problems and view points.  The one thing that sticks out is that parents tend to insist that the problem lies with their children because they believe they are absolutely right and by refusing to reflect on their contribution to the problem – checkmate, nothing changes and there is no winner in this tuck-of-war.  What is right and wrong is very subjective.  As long as we maintain we are right, we leave nothing for negotiation and it is then impossible to find a solution.

Parents need to stay flexible and the first order of things is to see how we, as parents, can change in order to incite the change we would like to see in our children. Getting parents to change and see things differently and to stop parenting is difficult but until they see that this is where they have to start, we will end up with losers in the battle of wills.  The ending can be disastrous if we are not careful.

If you have “problem” teenagers, you may want to join Dolly’s group parenting sessions to get some insights on how you may want to change in order to save your children’s future.  Their future happiness is dependent on you and your behaviour.  If you love your children and want to do something about it, act now and make the call.  This may be your best investment yet.

To find out more about Dolly and the event, go to: .


Why the Training and Coaching Connection?

News abuzz on the training scene following the recent Singapore  Budget 2010 – all the talk about boosting productivity through more training.  I am all for training but without the coaching connection, training by itself would not be enough to sustain long-term change to reap the benefits training provides.

I have an interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a professional soft skill trainer  and a trained coach a few days ago.  We were discussing how we could develop programmes that use both training and coaching to enhance their effectiveness.    He is concerned over reports that appear to portray a rather skewed focus on technical training leaving little space for soft skills training, although more recent news started reporting on promoting sales and marketing training even for technical staff.  I applaud that move as they signal a more balanced view.  Nonetheless any spotlight on training is good news for trainers.

I liken technical and soft skills training to IQ and EQ.  A proportionate balanced IQ/EQ has served many successful leaders and entrepreneurs well and a good concoction of technical and soft skills would likewise do more good than harm, forming a more rounded skill sets to meet any challenge.

Training unfortunately, and in particular since the economic crisis, is seen by many as more of a frivolous rather than a valuable undertaking, in spite of all the incentives provided by the government.  I followed with great interest the comments posted on one of the LinkedIn group discussion on the value of training, both of in-house as well as external training programmes.  Some lamented on how some companies still do not recognize the value training brings while others are buoyant about the training future.

It is not surprising that there are such wide ranging views on the effects of training.  I often have conflicting views of training not because I do not believe in training.  On the contrary, I am a strong supporter for continuous learning and training is certainly one of the ways to go except that a better post-training management is called for to enhance the effectiveness.  That, sadly is missing or very under-developed.

I have my fair share of training and I have noticed that a majority goes for training courses for the wrong reasons, i.e. not necessarily to improve their skills and knowledge.  Attending any training for the wrong reason would certainly give raise to negative reports and impressions.  Some genuinely want to improve and see the training provided as God-sent but whatever the intention may be, there will always be some who will return energized and ever ready to try out the new skills only to fall back on old habits after a few weeks, or at best a few months.

This often resulted in companies wary of sending their employees to expensive courses to find out later that there is no significant improvement to speak of.  I can hardly blame them but there is always a flip side of things.  In spite of training having been around for several decades there are very few people who know how to manage post-training measurement and have proper follow through to ensure that the skills and knowledge are applied at the workplace consistently.  Over time, the employees seeing no acknowledgement of their new behaviour return to old habits while management moan about the ineffectiveness of the training.

Workplace Coaching enters the scene as a complement to training.  Often training takes a couple of days or a week or two while a coaching engagement spans over a few months.  This is the first major difference but not the most significant.

Coaching is about applying and internalizing the skills learned.  We all know that breaking a habit is very difficult and with just training alone, old habits will continue to lurk in the background waiting for the weak moments to resurface again.  Coaching is about reinforcing new habits over the old for longer lasting change.  Hence, coaching is training’s perfect partner for true transformation.

Coaching uses positive questioning skills to help coachees explore and make deliberated actions toward attaining their set SMART goals.  By giving them enough time and space and in focusing on solutions using the skills and knowledge learned, coachees are thus able to develop longer lasting and enduring new thinking habits to gain personal breakthroughs.

Increasingly coaching is recognized as an important development tool so much so that some companies send their managers to coaching classes so they may use their new found skills to manage their staff more effectively.  Still there are differences in deploying managers as coaches as opposed to having external coaches just as you would have external trainers instead of internal trainers.

What has become interesting is that the mindset about coaching is starting to change as the awareness of coaching benefits grows.  In the days of old, when one is selected to be coached, he would feel insulted with the thought that only those who performed badly require a coach.  How wrong they were as that is far from the truth.  Today, however, managers hope they would be selected because those left alone would be perceived as being less important or not as valued by the management.  So don’t reject being coached if offered.  You may regret that decision.

You do not need to undergo any training before you are coached.  Coaching can be applied in many different areas for personal development and growth, and workplace coaching touches only just one aspect of one’s life.  If you have not been coached before and would like to try it out, find a coach who is willing to give you a free trial session.  You may be surprised…

Heard of Psychoneurology?

Hmm…until recently I have not heard of psychoneurology and I have since found that it is fairly NEW so much so that you would not find in any dictionary nor in Wikipedia.

I met a lady while offering my service to crew at one of T.Harv Eker’s “Train the Trainer” 5-day seminars last week.  I was totally amazed by her enthusiasm in attending the seminar.  She told us how she made an on-the-spot decision to come once she learned of the seminar – she dropped all activities, rushed home, grabbed her luggage, bought a ticket, jumped into the plane and off she went all in under 2 days.  She could not wait for the training to come to her in a few months in the UK.  I love her energy.

We exchanged cards and on her card, it says that she is a Coaching Psychoneurologist.  What’s that, I asked but I didn’t get to hear her reply.  It was a rather rush meeting so I decided to do a little digging.

If you have been following some of my articles you would know I am very interested in neuroscience, spirituality, happiness  and such.  This new terminology really pricks my curosity and until I found out what that is, it would bother me.  What I found is, it is akin to a fusion of science and spirituality.

Psychoneurology is the study of the interactions between the brain and the nervous system and by applying this understanding as a new approach to wellness it is said that it is possible to do it without using drugs.  It is a drug-free alternative to traditional psychiatric and psychological approaches.

The study may be new and yet it is not as it combines the latest technology in science with ancient wisdom.  It is about working on your inner self, deciding and making choices of the changes you want.  It is about integrating the power of the mind, body and soul – at least that is what I understand it to be.

The study of psychoneurology is offered by Barron University, founded by Dr. Colbey Forman.

It would involve an entire paradigm shift in thinking and to healing.  To learn more about this, you can visit these sites:,

This is very much like what a coach does – helping people understand where they are coming from, recognizing the unconscious actions we carry out are based on effects of past experiences that may no longer hold true, and that we could consciously choose our actions to reflect what we want here and now to become what we want to be tomorrow.

Aligning coaching with psychoneurology creates a powerful combination in filling the gaps of a counsellor and psychologist or even psychiatrist.

We all have the ability to heal ourselves if we only know how.  Coaching Psychoneurology may just be the thing to help us enter the journey into healing of mind, body and soul more effectively.

I hope to have a chat with my new found friend to learn more of what she does.  So look out for the post.

The Pursuit of Happiness (II)

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, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Commit to making these changes and set short and long term goals.
  3. Identify the ones that are most comfortable for you.
  4. Prioritize and decide which ones to start with.  Start small with just a couple of exercises that can easily fit into your current lifestyle.
  5. If necessary, get a life coach to help you for a faster and more effective change.
  6. Perform regular evaluations and adjust.
  7. 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.

The Joy of Appreciation

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?

The Pursuit of Happiness (I)

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

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?

Mindmapping Your Ideas

Mind mapping is fascinating with the wiggling curves, colourful text and images.  It is a genius tool according to Tony Buzan the inventor of Mind maps.  He has developed his own mind mapping software – the iMindmap, an alternative to the better known MindManager.

I love mind maps and use it extensively for problem solving, brainstorming, remembering (studying for exams), report preparation, presentation and many others.  Mind maps are supposed to mimic your brain’s thinking patterns and thus help in creativity by joining the dots of connectedness and related ideas, leaving no stone unturned.  You can also improve your productivity using mind maps.  You may want to listen to this interview with Chuck Frey:

Over the years, I have been using various mind mapping software and the first one was MindManager.  It is a well-developed software with rich connecting features to other applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Project.  I have also experimented with other freeware such as Freemind.  Though less sophisticated it provides the basic mind mapping features that can still prove fairly useful.

iMindmap, the official mind mapping solution by Tony Buzan came out about a few years ago but is catching up fast in functionality and connectivity with its rapid developments.  It is equally interesting and perhaps better value for money.

There are people who find mind maps hard to read perhaps only because they do not have an understanding of its workings and hence benefits.  For a better appreciation of mind maps, I will leave it to Tony Buzan to explain in his own words:

If you want to try iMindmap go to:

Other mind mapping software to explore:

For news on mind mapping, you may also want to check out this site:

Five Ways to Become Happier Today

I found the post by the same title on  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 –

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

An Evening with Michael Roach

Before yesterday, I know nothing about the man nor his books.  I attended a free talk entitled “Karmic Management: Unlocking Secrets to Success in Life & Business” by Geshe Michael Roach, the author of The Karmic Management, The Diamond Cutter and The Garden and his team.

Born in 1952, Michael Roach is an American teacher of Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa school and was the first Westerner to qualify for the geshe degree at Sera Monastery in India.  He is one of the founders of Andin International Diamond Corporation which has become an annual US$200 million revenue company in a few short years, marking it the fastest growing company in the history of New York.   Very impressive.

His success is attributed to the application of the ancient Buddhist wisdom from The Diamond Cutter, turning traditional business mentality upside down and by helping others – suppliers, customers and even competitors – succeed in life and business.

He looks and dresses like anyone else and if he did not introduced himself as a monk, I would not have guess it.  He presented well and had managed to capture the interest of the audience enough to have them returned the second night for his talks.  I did not attend the first night but from what my friend told me, the auditorium was almost full on the first night as well.  I left feeling excited and energized with possibilities tingling in my head.

Michael Roach is on a world tour with some of his students-turn-teachers — at the Diamond Cutter Institute that he has set up — to promote Karmic Management.

Michael Roach talked about how to plant seeds (ideas, thoughts) into our minds and use them as a multiplier effect to gain personal growth, or advantage if you like.  By giving freely (our time, money, compassion) we are introducing thoughts into our minds that will allow these to flourish in unimaginable ways back to us.  However, there is a certain way to plant the seeds correctly which does not include giving money to charity if we want to generate wealth.  It has got to be a continuous process of giving with the intent to multiply wealth creation, such as investing.  So you may want to give some money, whatever amount – although he is recommending 10% of your earnings – to people in need of money to build a business.  You will need to do that for at least 6 months to habituate and ensure the seed is well planted in order for your own business to flourish and profit in abundance.

This principle applies in other areas of your life too.  If you want health, go and volunteer to help the sick.  If you want a partner, go and help someone get hitched up.

This one I like – if you want to remain youthful looking, make sure you do not get angry.  Anger is poisonous; it destroys all your good intentions, weakens your seed planting and makes you aged faster.

I think the most valuable lesson I came away with is this:

All things come from a seed,
and Everything is possible.

He gave the example of Google – how it would have been unimaginable to send messages in an instant that cost you nothing just a mere few years ago.  Now, no one can (almost) live without this form of communication.  When you have an idea (seed), it can be manifested to become real and possible.

If you have an idea now, plant it well and wait for the returns.  🙂 Good Luck.

Want to know more about him and his philosophy/teachings?  I am sure you will find lots by googling him!  Or, read his books as I am planning to do.

Note:  You do not need to become a Buddhist to apply these principles to succeed.

Velcro vs Teflon

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:


Be Courageous

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.”

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?

Change Motivation

How often have we set goals for ourselves to find that we either have not started or completed them. We tell ourselves we have to be determined and disciplined but the moment daily activities become overwhelming, we forgot about our goals and once we get off the focus point, it stays unfocused – out of sight, out of mind.

One common issue I have found in the cause of coaching is that most realised they are not that motivated to accomplish anything. Often people are contented with what they have and do not want to disturb their comfort zone which could be due to various reasons. The underlying reason could be fear of failure but is camouflaged by excuses such as no time, don’t have the right training or experience, etc.

Motivation is driven from two angles: internal and external. The majority of us is more reactive than proactive and therefore more reliant on external motivation for change. External motivation usually have a negative connotation and leaves a feeling of helplessness and despair.

For internal motivation to happen, there must be strong desire which often takes place after some serious self-reflection. Self-reflection is not something many do since it is as difficult and scary as change itself because they are afraid to confront their fears. However, being self-aware allows us to feel more in control with our lives. Being more relaxed can lead to positive and creative solutions and help us better manage unanticipated changes.

Change is scary.  Change is hard.  It requires courage, self-knowledge and thinking abilities to overcome the fear of uncertainty and failure.

The question is: Can we stop change? How do we handle changes in our lives? Can we ever be prepared enough?

Someone once shared this with me “The Change that is most certain is change itself”.  There is no escaping change.   The crux of the matter is whether it is a change that is anticipated or not; a change that is welcomed or not; a change that is feared or not, and so forth.  Any change that does not align with personal comfort incite negative emotions.

Whatever the change may be we need to deal with them. We may never be totally prepared but having the right frame of mind and constantly working proactively with the environment can relieve some of the effects of unexpected changes.

Have you ever asked how prepared are you?

Chasing After The Solution

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Ultimately the best possible solution would have come from within you.  However, this is not to say you should not consult their opinions.  Just do not expect the final decision handed over on a silver platter.  What you need is some deep reflection – and perhaps some guidance.  You may want to consider someone who has been trained to ask the right questions to help clarify your thoughts, re-order your thinking patterns and draw insights from the process; someone who is objective and most importantly encouraging of your efforts; someone who is supportive and to whom you could be accountable for the solution and actions you have decided on.  Yes, of course, I am referring to a coach.

You may not need or want a coach for everything but the one or few challenging periods in your life to help you through.  Just recognize the moments but if you are not sure, ask for a free trial to see if this is for you.  Decide!

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 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 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 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: – this is nearly 1.5 hours long. – this is about 42 minutes – this one is obviously funny; about 8 minutes – 24 minutes – 21 minutes – 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 and .

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.

Is Positive Psychology Helpful?

I have heard enough about positive psychology to be convinced that a happier person is generally a healthier one too.  Ever since I have taken an interest in neuroscience, I have expanded my reading materials to include psychology.  I am no expert but I like to share my interest and findings.  If you are like-minded, you may enjoy this little tit-bit.

I am reminded of this when I read a quotation by Amy Arnstern as mentioned in David Rock’s “Your Brain At Work”:

“The loss of prefrontal function only occurs when we feel out of control.  It’s the prefrontal cortex itself that is determining if we are in control or not.  Even if we have the illusion that we are in control, our cognitive functions are preserved.

What that essentially means is that we cannot function at our best when we do not feel we have control.  The operative word is “feel” and having the illusion of feeling in control can help us preserve our ability to think better and therefore function more efficiently.

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.

The power of belief is best illustrated by the story told in the book “Why We Believe What We Believe” by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman.  I will tell you more about this book in another article but for now, I just want to rehash this story about Mr. Wright whose body was riddled with tumors and there was nothing else the doctors could do for him.

Mr. Wright, believing that a much publicized potential new drug would help him, pleaded his doctor for treatment.  His doctor, Dr. Klopfer, was involved in its research for cancer.  Mr. Wright miraculously recovered within 10 days of the treatment in spite of results from other test subjects showing no positive effect.  Two months later, Mr. Wright, discovered that the drug given to him had proven to be ineffective in research, immediately went into relapse and was hospitalized again.

Dr. Klopfer believed that it was the patient’s belief in the treatment that actually cured him the first time round.  He then decided to test his theory by applying a placebo – nothing more than sterile water. Mr. Wright agreed to the treatment believing that the treatment contained twice the dosage of the previous drug would help him.  Again Mr. Wright’s recovery was dramatic.

It was not until it was published in the American Medical Association that the drug in question was worthless in its treatment for cancer that Mr. Wright fell ill again.  This time, he died within two days after being admitted into the hospital.

This story demonstrated the influential impact of beliefs and how it can affect the physical condition of a person.  This story has greatly affected me,  reinforcing my determination to cultivate positive thinking, something that has caught my attention over ten years ago.

What about you?  Do you consider yourself a positive thinker?  Is this story talking to you and if so, what is it saying?
If you are interested to find out more about positive psychology and it benefits you may want to look out for the seminar “Courage & Resilience” to be held on 9-10 June 2010 in Singapore organised by Philip Merry Consulting Group (PMCG).  Check out the details on this website: .

Continuous Learning Into Our Old Age

If you have been following some of my articles, you will know that I have a little bit of an obsession with neuroscience and therefore brain plasticity.  I came across this video clip on a talk by Dr. Merzenich, on “Think faster, focus better and remember more – Rewiring our brain to stay younger”.  

Click this link to watch from Youtube:  (Note:  This video is 1.5 hour long.)

With new discoveries that brain plasticity stretches past our adolescence until we die (if we choose to exercise the brain), then it is possible over time with more research and better  understanding on how our brains work would help us to maintain tip-top mental condition throughout our lives.
There is no stopping us from learning and the myth that we cannot learn too well in our old age is therefore not true.  What happens is that we are limiting ourselves in the ability to learn by telling ourselves we are too old to learn, often propagated by our fore fathers – you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.  Take the examples of many past and current world leaders, who, in their 70s and beyond, are still contributing to the world, learning to use the Internet, blogging, etc. – something which were not available decades ago – and leading lives in perfectly healthy faculty of minds.  I have often held these people up as examples to incentivize myself into doing more.
Obviously not all of us want to be world leaders but we could be leaders in our own fields and passions.  Our brains may be different and we may be good in doing different things but that does not mean we can no longer learn.  Life-long learning is good for everyone wanting to have a healthier life, both mentally and physically as learning put us in a positive frame of mind.
With new developments in neuroscience in brain plasticity, scientists are gearing to help not only those who have impaired brain functions but also normal people like you and I to do better in any area we desire to improve, prolonging and maintaining a better quality of life throughout our lives.
I am very encouraged by the stories I hear and read of people who continue to persevere in attaining their goals regardless of their current dismal conditions, perceived or otherwise.  By being continually in touch with such motivating stories, I remind myself in keeping up the resolve to pursue my own positive thinking as, like all normal human beings, we do from time to time fall off the wagon of our good intentions.
Making the decision is the easiest part but maintaining the stamina in our journey is often not as easy.  If you find difficulty in maintaining a consistent will to carry out the actions toward your goals, it is best to get someone to work with you.  It may be a friend, relative, spouse, mentor or coach.  Take a pick on whoever works best for you.
I am leaving you with a slide extracted from the talk that I find most encouraging:

A Few Minutes Go A Long Way

I have often wondered about the benefits of meditation.  A few years ago, I bought a book trying to learn the practice but finding it hard, I dropped it.  My first introduction to meditation directed me to concentrate on a single point and holding onto the image as long as possible.  Of course, as a beginner, I found it hard as my mind seemed to wander to many subjects.  The harder I tried, the more my mind wandered.  When will I be able to master this?

When other things in life intruded, I found better – as in fast rewarding – things to do, I forgot about my resolution to work on my meditation daily.  The habit never got formed until…

Years later, when the tough gets going, I turned inward for answers.  I began reflecting on my life – something that I do from time to time but more consciously when things are not going well – that prompted me to rediscover meditation again.

I have never been real religious having had no particular guidance in that direction and had been deterred during my school-going years by overly zealous Christians dogging my every move trying to get me to church.  Still, in my late teens, when a particular situation troubled me tremendously, I started going inward looking for answers and inevitable I turned to praying.  While not being affiliated to any religion, I somehow adopted a God to talk to.

I remembered standing at the window, looking out at nothing with tears running freely down my cheeks and just purely focusing on the issue at hand.  I explored the various options and asked myself what outcome I wanted from this process.  Suddenly an idea dawned on me and I decided to go ahead to try it out.  It was a rather radical idea but I did it and it solved my problem.  I was seventeen then and it was something I never forget.

Whenever a problem arises, I would go back in time and call up this incident to mind to boost my self confidence in handling any situation.  If I have done it before, I can do it again.

Coming back to present time, a year ago I have decided to revisit my interest in meditation once more.  I read and research the various meditation methods, putting my resolve to master it.  I found that there are different types of meditation; the two main branches: passive and active meditations.

What came out of the research is how meditation is tightly linked to mindfulness and brain plasticity.  Being a keen follower in neuroscience development (no, I am not scientist but have an avid interest in the subject), I come across many references and experiments on how long term meditation changes the brain neuro-activity no matter the age, dispelling the notion that the brain stops changing as we mature.

With this new scientific discovery, meditation is no longer in the domain of religions to which meditation is so closely related.  To me the words “meditation”, “spirituality” and “the mind” have started to become synonymous.  That opens up an aperture of interest in a wider dimension from the original intent and my interest is renewed to a brand new level.

The most complex organ in the human body, the brain is continually the subject of researches and investigations.  Yet there remain many unanswered questions.

I am not sure where this interest will take me but I am sure it would be something real exciting.  At the moment, for the past 9 months or more now, I have been trying daily, every morning and night and sometime in between to practise meditation for a few minutes to as long as an hour although I have yet to determine if that is active or passive meditation.  Still I find it peaceful and more in control of myself – at least that is how it feels to me.  Other benefits?  I will let you know when I know…perhaps my practice is still too elementary.

If you are as interested in this as I am, you might find this video clip captivating.  This is a talk by Daniel Siegel on “Neuroscience of Buddhist Contemplative Practices”.  Enjoy.

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