Sunday, December 6, 2015

Change Your Life: Choose Deliberately - No Autopilot Please!

We need to make our currently unconscious thoughts, actions and feelings conscious. We need to deliberately (and repeatedly) make new choices—choosing to act, think, and feel in ways consistent with the new reality we’re committed to creating
(Brian Johnson)

We spend much of our time “flying on autopilot,” reacting unthinkingly in the same way we always have in the past to whatever it is that life throws at us. We may get angry when someone says something we strongly disagree with; we may withdraw affection when we are criticised; we may give up when a challenge seem daunting. In the moment, these reactions may feel inevitable, but they are not.

When I go through life reacting to everything in the same way I always have before, I deny myself the possibility of much more positive experiences. Instead, I need to step back and think about how I want to respond to a situation. I need to take control and act consciously and deliberately, thus creating a better experience of myself and for those around me.

Don’t fly thought life on autopilot,
Choose deliberately.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1) Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!)
2) The Feeling Good Handbook by D.D. Burns (New York: Plume, 1999)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Change Your Life: Be a Lifelong Learner

“I'm a constant learner. You need to be a constant student
because things change and you have to change and grow.
And I emphasize the word 'grow’”
(Zig Ziglar)

To know is to arrive; to ask questions is to embark on a quest. People whose lives are characterized by a question mark (?) rather than a period (!), who look for learning opportunities everywhere they go, are generally joyful, are more creative, enjoy better relationships, and attain higher levels of satisfaction in life.

To be a lifelong learner is both fun and functional, and all we need to travel along that path is a humble heart and a curious mind. Every person we meet – a student or a teacher, a friend or a stranger – can teach us something; each experience holds within it an important lesson; in every moment is a message waiting to be discovered. When we embrace the spirit of inquiry and curiosity, we embrace life. How wonderful it is that this life is an inexhaustible source of wonders. How exciting to learn that the excitement of learning can last a lifetime. Even young Jesus “listening to [the Jewish teachers] and asking questions” and they in return “we amazed at his intelligent answers” (Luke 2:46-47).

Don’t be in ignorance,
Open your mind and heart to learning.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Change Your Life: Perceive Hardship as Temporary

Whatever comes, this too shall pass away.”
(Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Our life is not free from sorrow and suffering. Even the happiest person in the world experiences sadness, disappointment, anger, and frustration. The difference between happy and unhappy people is not whether they experience painful emotions – everyone does – but how they approach these emotions and how they interpret their experiences.

People who are unhappy tend to believe that painful emotions are here to stay – which, of course, they are more likely to if this is their expectation. By contrast, happy people know that painful emotions – like all emotions – are temporary, and this expectation tends to liberate them from their unpleasant experience.

When we choose to perceive painful experiences as they truly are – as temporary and fleeting – then we allow them to take their natural course. Just as these emotions arrived naturally, so they will naturally depart.  

Don’t perceive hardship as permanent,
Perceive hardship as temporary.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

 Reference: Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Change Your Life: Focus on Strengths and Abilities

It’s abilities, not disabilities that count
(Peter Drucker)

Individuals who invest in their strengths are happier and more successful. This does not mean that we should ignore our weaknesses but, rather, that our primary focus ought to be that which we are naturally good at. In the words of leadership expert Peter Drucker, “Only when you operate from strengths, can you achieve true excellence.”

The kind of questions that I have to ask myself if I am to discover my strengths are: What are my strengths? What am I naturally good at? Where do my talents reside? What are my unique abilities? These questions are significant for choosing general life goals (being a writer, becoming a teacher, and so on) as well as for choosing to apply my strengths in the immediate future (prepare a sermon for my students, hone my creative skills, plan a vacation, and so on).

Again, it’s true that we should not ignore our weaknesses – we need to learn to write, do basic arithmetic, and acquire some skills at work just to get by in the world; at the same time we must not ignore our strengths – and invest most of our efforts cultivating our talents and abilities. We need to invest in our weaknesses so that we can survive in the world; we need to invest in our strengths so that we can thrive.

Take some time to think about your strengths, those things that you are good at, those areas where your talents reside. Once you identify your strengths, find ways to use them more often in your daily life. 

Don’t dwell on weaknesses and deficiencies
Focus on strengths and abilities.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. Now, Discover Your Strengths by D.O. Clifton and M. Buckingham (New York: Free Press, 2001)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Change Your Life: Be Hopeful and Optimistic

a movie
Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Choose the Life You Want writes that until 1954, running the mile under four minutes was considered a physical impossibility. Doctors and scientists all agreed that the four-minute mark represented the physiological limit of human ability. The best runners in the world confirmed the experts’ view by closing in on the four-minute mile but never bettering it. Runners spoke of the “brick wall,” an impenetrable barrier that existed at the four-minute mark.

Despite the prevailing conventional wisdom, Roger Bannister, a medical student at Oxford University, believed that he could run a mile in under four minutes. He was dismissed by other athletes and the scientific community as detached, unrealistic. On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the world record for the mile, running the distance in three minutes and fifty-nine seconds. The impossible had become reality! But there is more: only six weeks after Bannister’s achievement, John Landy, an Australian runner, ran the mile in three minutes and fifty-eight seconds. A year later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. Since 1954, the four-minute mile has been surpassed thousands of times. The impenetrable barrier, it turned out, was a product of the mind – and it was broken by the mind.

The lesson to be learned from this story is that our beliefs – whether we are optimistic (I can!) or pessimistic (I can’t…) – play a significant role in creating our reality. This does not mean that we can throw reality out the window and that everything that we hope and wish for will come true, but it does imply that being hopeful and optimistic about life and believe in one selves can make it happen. George Bernard Shaw once says, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” Where do your beliefs limit you? What barriers can you overcome on your way to fulfilling your dreams?

Don’t be a pessimist,
Be hopeful and optimistic.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Change Your Life: Life is Short... Move On

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow,
It only saps today of its joy” (Leo Buscaglia)

Worry can serve an important purpose: If we worry about something today, we can take action to avert trouble in the future. Most of the time, however, we worry about what is beyond our control, or about things that are trivial and unimportant. Whenever I worry, I remind myself to step back and ask myself whether my worry serves a purpose. If it does, then I should take action! If, however, it does not, then I need to label my preoccupation as unnecessary worry, and move on to other more useful pursuits.

Although it may be difficult initially to shift my focus away from worry, I know that over time I will gain better control over what preoccupies me and learn to move on when I engage in futile concern. Life is short. The question for all of us, young and old, is how long it is going to take us to realize this. Whether we like it or not, the clock is ticking and our time here on earth is limited. Much in the world is worth doing and worth contemplating; it would be such a shame to waste time and effort on futile concerns. Make the most of the time you have!

Don’t worry,
Life is short… Move on.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. Existantial Physhotherapy by I.D. Yalom (New York: Basic Books, 1980) P.s.: I don’t agreed in existentialist thinking.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Change Your Life: Bring Humour and Lightness to Life

A person without a sense of humour is like a wagon without springs.
It’s jolted by every pebble on the road” (Henry Ward Beecher)

I read psychologists use the term cognitive reconstruction to describe our ability to look at a situation from different perspectives. In difficult times and in tough situations it can be beneficial for us to look at things from a new angle, including seeing the humorous element – the lighter and brighter side – of our troubles. Of course, there are times when solemnity and gravity are the appropriate response, but more often than not we take ourselves – and life in general – too seriously, and we miss out on the comical and the playfulness of life. I personally think that Jesus was also a humorous and fun person to be with. If He was a serious man all the time, why do you think that children were drawn to him and wanted to be around him?

After God created the world, He made man and woman,” writes Guillermo Mordillo, “Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He invented humour.” Gordon W. Allport said, “So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter.” Regaining that spark of laughter and fun that we may have lost long time ago will make life more pleasant, contribute to our psychological and physical health, and will, of course – make us more pleasant to be around. “Anyone without a sense of humour is at the mercy of everyone else” (William Rotsler).

Don’t treat life with solemnity and gravity,
Bring humour and lightness to life.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!

2. Exuberance: The Passion for Life by K.R. Jamison (New York: Vintage, 2005).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Change Your Life: Accept Reality and Act on It

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be
(Jack Welch)

While we can change certain things, other things are out of our control. And if something is really out of our control, we have to learn to accept it regardless of how much we wish it were different. We may not like the law of gravity and may hope it did not exist (so we can fly!), and yet most of us accept it and learn to live with it. If we refuse to accept the reality of this law, we will not survive for long, and even if we do, we will experience constant frustration. The same applies to every fact of reality, such as the fact that it is impossible to literally go back in time and undo something that was done, or the fact that all of us have some real physical limitations.

Instead of evading reality and spending our life engaged in wishful thinking, we ought to spend our time and effort on real thinking. “You cannot tailor-make the situations in life,” said Zig Ziglar, “but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations.” See things as it really are, but then don’t let those that are beyond our control paralyzed us. Facts and our limitations may seem impossible to change – accept reality - but we have the choice of how we are to react about it (attitude) and act on it (positive actions).

Don’t refuse to accept reality,
Accept reality and act on it.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

 Reference: Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Change Your Life: Say 'Yes' Only When Your Vision is Served (Don't Refrain from Saying 'No')

A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than
a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble
(Mahatma Gandhi)

‘No’ is one of the shortest words in the English language, and one of the easiest to pronounce – and yet it is one of the most difficult words for so many of us to utter. We often end up saying ‘yes’ because we want to please, because we don’t want to let others down, or because we fear that their disappointment will turn to anger, which will be directed toward us. We forget, however, that sometimes saying ‘yes’ to others is tantamount to saying ‘no’ to ourselves.

To become more joyful and more productive, we have to focus our sights on the vision that God gives to us. This implies learning to say ‘no’ more often – to people as well as opportunities (even though how good they are) – which is not easy. Sometime we have to say ‘no’ to lots of good things in order to say ‘yes’ to the best ones. It means prioritizing, choosing activities that we really want to be involved in, while letting go of others.

’No’ is a complete sentence and so often we forget that. When we don't want to do something we can simply smile and say ‘no’. We don't have to explain ourselves, we can just say ‘No’. Early on my journey I found developing the ability to say ‘no’ expanded my ability to say ‘yes’ and really mean it. My early attempts at saying ‘no’ were often far from graceful but with practice even my ‘no’ came from a place of love. Love yourself enough to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’” (Susan Gregg)

Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say ‘No’ without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say ‘Yes’ all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say ‘No’ without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions” (Stephanie Lahart)

Say ‘no’ to everything, so you can say ‘yes’ to the one thing” (Richie Norton)

Don’t refrain from saying ‘no’
Say ‘yes’ only when your vision is served
P.s: Sometime ‘no’ is the kindest word.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Change Your Life: Listen with Empathy and Openness (Don't Rush to Give Advice)

It is the province of knowledge to speak,
And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen
(Oliver Wendell Holmes)

I’m still learning this: the key to providing emotional and moral support to people in need, is the ability to listen to what they are saying. When others need our help, my instincts, our instinct is to rush in and provide comfort and practical advice. But no matter how valuable the knowledge that we wish to share, no matter how well intentioned our desire to help, our first obligation is to provide the space and the opportunity for others to share experiences, feelings and thoughts. We need to beware of our inclination to think about our response while others are speaking, jump to complete their sentences, or interject with our advice – even if it is the best advice possible.

Learning from the experience and advice of others is extremely important – it is one of principal ways in which we grow as individuals and humankind. But it usually works only if those receiving the advice feel that they have been heard. Once a student told earnestly to me, “Thank you for listening to me.” I didn’t give any advice, I just listened and I asked questions. Well, if advice is needed and necessary, then give advice. But first – listen.

In the early 1970s, Robert Greenleaf coined the term Servant Leadership after noticing that the great leaders throughout history spoke and acted as servants. According to Greenleaf and other leadership scholars, one of the core characteristics of servant leaders is that they listen first and talk later. In fact, in become a servant leader, Greenleaf argued, a person has to go through “a long arduous discipline of learning to listen, a discipline sufficiently sustained that the automatic response to any problem is to listen first.” First we need to learn how to listen.

Don’t rush to give advice,
Listen with empathy and openness
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy by C.R. Rogers (Boston: Mariner Books, 1995)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Change Your Life: Don't Rush, Savour Life

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand;
the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone
(George Eliot)

The guiding axiom of modern life is that more is better. But we pay a heavy price for placing quantity above quality. Activities, no matter how potentially enjoyable they are, bring us no pleasure if we are constantly on the run, racing from one thing to the next. Even the most delicious food in the world can give me no enjoyment if I devour it as fast as I can. To be a good wine drinker, for example, I cannot sip the entire glass in one gulp; to fully enjoy the richness of the drink, I smell, I taste, I savour, I take my time. To become good at life, to enjoy the richness that life has to offer, I sometimes need to slow down, to take my time.

The first step to truly see the potential of my vocations and ministries, the richness in the world and the beauty in our life, to love and appreciate people around me, is to – slow down. Can you slow down just a little and, rather than rush through life, savour its treasures and gifts? (Life is hard you know, don’t make it harder. Speeding is not necessary winning. Slow down).

Don’t rush through life,
Savour life
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by C. Honore (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2005)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Change Your Life: Seek the Win-Win

In his book The 7 Habits, Stephen R. Covey puts #4: Think Win-Win
There’s plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. An Abundance Mentality involves sharing prestige, recognition, profits, and decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity
(Stephen R. Covey).

In most dispute – whether a minor argument or a major relational conflict – it is possible to find a solution that benefits both sides. When I set out to fight and defeat my opponent, I end up expending a great deal of energy and resources on destroying rather than on creating maximum value. Moreover, entering a dispute with a win-lose approach often leads to a similar approach being adopted by the other party. As a result, both of us may end up losing.

When I show goodwill and a desire to help, I invite similar behaviour from the other. When we put our joint resources, our mind and heart, to the task of increasing the benefits to the individual and the group, we stand a better chance of success – for all who are involved. The pleasure of winning when the other side loses is short-lived; the joy of a win-win outcome lasts a great deal longer, and often creates the basis for yet another round of positive experiences.

The next time you (and I have to remind myself very strongly because I’m naturally a very competitive person) interact with someone, whether the context is a cooperative or a ministerial or a competitive one, think about how you can both benefit, how you can both win.

Don’t focus on defeating the other
Seek the win-win
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (New York: Free Press, 2004)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Change Your Life: Express and Reveal (Stop Pretending)

Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness,
but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, or belonging, or love
(Brene Brown)

To express myself – to openly share my thoughts and feelings – is to risk being rejected and hurt by others. But choosing not to express myself and to hide behind a façade, no matter how impressive that façade is, is a form of self-rejection that leads to unhappiness and discontent. While it is the case that if I am true to myself others may not like what they see, it is certain that if I constantly put on a show, eventually I will not like myself.

Putting on a façade is often an indicator of low self-esteem. But far from being a fix for the problem, pretending to be someone I am not has the effect, over time, of lowering my self-esteem. Moreover, even if others like what they see when I put on a show, it is not me that they like, but the person I am pretending to be. When I choose the real over the unreal, the authentic over the inauthentic – when I express rather than impress – I no longer apologize for who I am. I allow my inner light in Christ to shine.

Rather than constantly being concerned about whether my love would be appreciated, I give love first. Rather than concerning myself about how I would be perceived, I was authentic – willing to let go of who I thought (or who people thought) I should be in order to be who I am, who God made me to be. Rather than hide my vulnerabilities and imperfections, I’m willing to express and reveal them.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, to let go of the mask of perfection, is very hard. Vulnerability comes at a price – it can hurt a lot! But this cost is negligible compared to the cost we pay when we suppress part of our humanity. When we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are also supressing our joy and happiness and the potential to cultivate deep and meaningful connections in our life. Can you open up a little more, reveal part of your true self? Go on, be vulnerable, and be real!

Don’t always impress and conceal
Express and reveal. Stop pretending!
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, 10th Anniversary Edition by P.J. Palmer (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Change Your Life: Actively Learn the Lessons of Hardship

Never let a good crisis go to waste
(Anne Harbison)

Although I do not wish hardship on myself, hardship often finds me, and when it does, I have a choice. I can treat it as a purely negative experience – one that I should put behind me as soon as possible and never think of again – or I can actively seek to identify and understand the lesson that every hardship contains within it.

For example, through hardship I can learn about humbleness (gaining a better understanding of my limitations), empathy (learning to connect to the pain of others), patience (absorbing the lesson that things do not always turn out as we planned), and resilience (gaining confidence from my ability to bounce back after the hardship is overcome). I most certainly do not have to be happy about everything negative happens to me, I can use it as a tool for development and growth. Things do not necessarily happen for the best, but I can choose to make the best things that happen.

Find the lessons in difficulties that you are facing right now. Look back and learn from hardships that you’ve experienced in the past; you will not only derive important lessons from reflecting on these challenges, you will also realize how much you have grown as a result. And how God works in and through you all this while.

Don’t avoid learning from hardship,
Actively learn the lessons of hardship.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!

2. The Handbook of Posttraumatic Growth: Research and Practice by L.G. Calhoun and R.G. Tedeschi (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Change Your Life: Appreciate and Learn from Those Around You

Appreciation is to humans what the sun is for plants
(Frank Iversen)

There are certain people – ones we know intimately and others we meet for the first time – who, for one reason or another, irritate us. It could be the way they act or talk, the way they look or walk. And while there is no need to always change our perspective about those people – leaving the scene or minimizing the time we spend with them could be the right thing to do – we lose many opportunities when we mindlessly succumb to the dictates of our unpleasant reactions.

Reflecting on the source of our dislike toward another person can reveal something about ourselves, because we often get annoyed by precisely those things we dislike in ourselves. Learning to appreciate things about the person who vexes us can help us cultivate the benefit-finder within, as well as develop deeper compassion – both of which will contribute to our relationships with others and with ourselves. What can you learn from others now?

Don’t allow others to upset you,
Appreciate and learn from those around you.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life by Dalai Lama (New York: Back Bay Books, 2002).

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Change Your Life: Experience Your Work as a Calling

Don't like your job?
1) Find work that is meaningful, or
2) Find something meaningful in your work
This is the true joy in life –
being used for a purpose, recognized by yourself as a mighty one
(George Bernard Shaw)

We spend a good part of our working hours at work, and yet many people derive little meaning from what occupies them for several thousand hours each year. If we do not experience a sense of purpose in our work, we can choose to do one of two things (aside from resigning ourselves to being unhappy): find work that is meaningful or find something meaningful in our work.

We don’t all have the luxury of having the perfect job – the one that reflects our values, where we work only with people we like, and whose atmosphere precisely suits our temperament. But even if we do not find ourselves in that ideal setting, we have a great deal of choice as to how we experience our daily work. Whether as a CEO or a salesman, an investment banker or a community organizer, a minister or a manager, a janitor or a cleaner – not complete control, perhaps, but some – over what elements of our work we focus on, and consequently, on how we experience our working life.

We can, for example, remind ourselves how our work is making a difference in other people’s lives; we can focus on the elements that we find exciting and interesting, the meaningful interactions that we have with colleagues and customers; or we can appreciate the opportunity our work gives us to develop or expand our professional skills. If we can find no inherent value in our current occupation, we can tell ourselves that our work is our current occupation, we can tell ourselves that our work provides for us and for those we care about, or that it enables us to engage in meaningful activities after hours.

Researchers have found that those who made the choice, conscious or not, to see their work as merely a job, were less happy, were less satisfied with their life, than were their colleagues who viewed what they did a calling. “Even in the most restricted and routine jobs,” the study concluded, “employees can exert some influence on what is the essence of their work.”

Don’t treat the work you do as a job,
Experience your work as a calling.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!

2. The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life by D. William (New York: Free Press, 2009).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Change Your Life: Just Do It!

A thousand-mile journey begins with a first step

Procrastination – putting things off, dragging one’s feet, unnecessarily postponing what can and needs to be done today – is a pervasive phenomenon. Over 70 percent of college students, for example, identify themselves as procrastinators. The temptation to put things off is understandable, but the price we pay for procrastinating is high – studies show that procrastinators have higher levels of stress, a weaker immune system, poorer sleep, and unsurprisingly, given all of that, lower levels of happiness.

Fortunately, the research into procrastination has also identified practical ways that can help overcome the tendency to procrastinate. The single most important technique is called “the five-minute take-off.” It consists, simply, of starting to do the thing you have been putting off, no matter how little you feel like doing it. Procrastinators often believe that to do something one has to truly want to do it – to be in the right mood, to feel inspired. This is not the case. Usually, to get the job done, it is enough to begin doing it – the initial action kick-starts the process and often brings about more action.

So, for example, if you have difficulty getting yourself to exercise, just make the choice to put on your running shoes and start running: more often than not, the action will reinforce itself. If you have a project that needs to be done, don’t wait for that “right moment.” Choose to act, now! This approach can serve you well on a larger scale too: Commit to your vision, your dream, don’t procrastinate. Find ways to start moving forward the life you want to be living right now.

Don’t procrastinate,
Just do it!
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012) Buy this book!
2. Overcoming Procrastination: Or How to Think and Act Rationally in Spite of Life’s Inevitable Hassles by A. Ellis and W.J. Knaus (New York: Signet, 1979)

Change Your Life: Make a Difference

Pay It Forward is a 2000 American drama film based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
Committed people can changed the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has
(Margaret Mead)

Don’t resign yourself to the status quo – make a difference. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of serious problems that our world is facing. The falling standards in education, the rise in corporate scandals, the economic crisis in Malaysia and the world – not to mention wars, pollutions, and terrorism. How can I, one person among so many, make a difference? How can I, with my shortcomings and insecurities, possibly bring about meaningful change? While it is true that much of what happens in the world is beyond our control as individuals, our capacity to bring about change is greater than we imagine.

I can make a world of difference – if I choose to put my mind and heart to a cause, and take action.

Tal Ben-Shahar writes: In the movie Pay It Forward, a schoolteacher assigns his class the task of finding a way to bring about positive change in the world. Trevor, one of the students, decides to do three good deed for others – three acts of random kindness – and in return ask them to do three good deeds for three other people, who will be asked in return to do the same for others, and so on. If every person who has just been helped pays this help forward to three others, then within twenty-one rounds, everyone on earth would have been helped. The movie follows Trevor and shows how his acts create a positive ripple effect that touches numerous people whom he never meets in profound and meaningful ways. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can changed the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Make a positive difference in the world. Pay forward what has been given to you, and encourage others to do the same. You can make a difference!

Don’t resign yourself to the status quo,
Make a difference.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012)

2. Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Extraordinary Results by R.E. Quinn (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Change Your Life: Carry Yourself with Strength and Confidence

A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind
(Morihei Ueshiba)

When we walk into a room with slumped shoulders, dragging our feet, or with our head down, we communicate lack of confidence and energy. When we enter with a natural posture, with a strong stride, shoulders open and relaxed, we send a very different – and positive – message to those around us. So crucially, the way we hold our body sends a message not only to others but also to ourselves. When we walk like someone who is confident, we actually become more confident; the physical act of sitting up straight actually boosts our motivation and increases our energy; when we shake hands firmly, we become assertive.

Assuming the posture of how we would be if we were more assertive and energized in fact boosts our confidence and invigorates us. Our behaviour changes our attitude. Sit up straight. Walk confidently. Carry yourself in a way that communicates to the world – and to yourself – strength and confidence.

Don’t neglect your posture,
Carry yourself with strength and confidence.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012)
2. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field by N. Branden (New York: Bantam, 1994).

Change Your Life: Think and Act Purposefully

Rumination inevitably backfires. It merely compounds our misery.
It’s a heroic attempt to solve a problem that it is just not capable of solving
(Mark Williams)

We often ruminate about a problem we face, obsessively playing and replaying the scenario in our mind. We tend to believe that rumination will help us overcome discomfort or unhappiness, but in fact replaying the scenario over and over in our mind usually makes things worse. In the words of psychologist Mark Williams and his colleagues, “Rumination is part of the problem, not part of the solution.” On the other hand, purposeful thinking – whether through writing in a journal or verbalizing our thoughts – is a much better way of dealing with psychological and emotional challenges. Purposeful action – actually doing something that could make us feel better – is a lot more helpful than allowing chaotic and usually very negative thinking to wreak havoc on our emotions.

Do this: Instead of focusing on the helplessness of your situation, which gets you nowhere, you could choose to engage in an activity that will help you feel better as well as perform better. Begin by creating a personal blog or/and writing your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Writing will help you feel better, and the clarity you reach will help you commit to taking concrete steps toward meeting the challenges you face today.

Don’t obsessively replay a scenario,
Think and act purposefully.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012)
2. The Mindful Way Through Depression: Feeling Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by J.M.G. Williams (New York: The Guilford Press, 2007).

Change Your Life: Be Mindful of the Wonder

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth
are never alone or weary of life
” (Rachel Carson).

What we see in the world around us is to a large extent a matter of choice. Do we take time every day to look, really look, at things? To find the beauty, or the humour, or the charm, or the mystery in them? When driving car to work or better at traffic light, do we stare aimlessly out the window, or do we make an effort to look at the colour of the sky, the shapes of the clouds? Do we look closely enough to allow ourselves to be delighted by the funny little dog trotting along the sidewalk? Or to feel sympathy, or admiration, or sadness when we watch an elderly woman walking slowly and carefully out her front door?

It is natural to be preoccupied by our own thoughts, or to be lulled into not noticing all that is around us while we do routine errands. And there is nothing wrong in daydreaming from time to time (in fact is it good). But the more we can be mindful of what we are doing as we doing it, the healthier and happier we will be.

Mindfulness is a choice, and it is something we can practice: When our mind wanders – whether while eating, doing the dishes, writing a report, or walking to our car – we can gently shift our focus back to the wonders that are everywhere to be found.

I like what Helen Keller (she lost her sight and hearing when she was 19 months old as a result of an illness) noted in her essay, Three Days to See:
I who am blind can give one hint to those who see – one admonition to those who would make full use of the gift of sight: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind… Hear the music of voices, the song of the bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object you want to touch as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. Make the most of every sense: glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you.”

Don’t overlook life’s treasures,
Be mindful of the wonder.
Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012)
2. Full Catastrophe Living” Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness by J. Kabat-Zinn (New York: Delta, 1990)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Change Your Life: Choose to Choose

Don't just go with the flow in choosing college: What's your interest?
What's your dream? What's suit your talent and passion? Choose to choose.
Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege.
Use it. Dwell in possibilities
” (Oprah Winfrey)

Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of conversation about dealing with the stresses of modern life seem to conclude with someone advising that we should all stop worrying so much and trying so hard, that we should go with the flow and “just live our life.” Sometimes this is good advice, as many things are beyond our control and worrying about them will not make any difference. And we can often be so focused on the future that we miss out on all there is to enjoy in the present moment. But this advice has a serious downside: “Just live your life” can lead us to turn our back on our most sacred privilege, our ability to choose our own path. In the guise of freeing us from stress and struggle, “just live your life” can actually have the sinister effect of preventing us from making the most of our life.

When the injunction to just live our life becomes a license not to choose, we end up being pulled along by other’s choices, simply behaving the way we always have in the past, passively reacting to life rather than actively creating the life that we really want to be living. To make the most of our life, we must first of all choose to choose – this is the fundamental choice underlying all other choices. We must commit ourselves to the idea that there are far more possibilities than we normally see, and then to the effort that it takes to examine these possibilities and choose the one that is best for us.

Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

1. Choose the Life You Want: 101 Ways to Create You Own Road to Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD (New York: The Experiment, 2012)
2. Think! Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by R. M. LeGault (New York: Threhold Editions, 2006)


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Creative Mind: The Creative Environment

Just as any plant needs a specific setting in which to strive, your mind needs a nurturing environment in which to maximize its creative abilities. The right creative environment will vary from person to person. Use these ideas to find yours:

Choose the best atmosphere. T.M. Amabile says that people are more creative and imaginative when they spend time around other creative folk. Hang out with people whose thinking inspires you. Find locations that energize you (Starbuck? Mine is State Library, surrounded by books already make me think smart and creatively). Play music that puts you in your desired mental state (Mine is Jason Mraz’s songs!). Paint your study walls your favourite colour. Experiment to find the atmosphere that most seems to free your mind.  

Give yourself time to “sit” with a question. Rushing can stifle your creative ability. When you allow time for thought to percolate, or you take breaks when figuring out a problem, you may increase your creative output. Change your environment, get some exercise, sleep; talk with a friend, work on something else. Some of the best ideas pop up when you have given your brain permission to go “off the job” for a while.

Let yourself play. People often hit upon their most creative ideas when they are exercising or just relaxing. Often when your mind switches into play mode, it can more freely generate new thoughts. Mental play can allow you to find a brilliant discovery in what seems like a crazy idea. For example, the idea for VelcroTM came when an inventor examined how a burr sticks to clothing.

Write it down. Many people think of ideas while exercising, driving, or in the shower, upon walking, or even while dreaming. When an idea occurs – a solution to a problem or a new thought – write it down as soon as possible. To make sure your creative environment includes a way to write ideas, try keeping a pen and paper by your bed, your smartphone in your pocket (Do we need a reminder?), a marker attached to your notebook, or a notepad and pen in your car. Try it, make it a habit!

Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

References and Suggested Readings:
1. Roger von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head (1998)
2. J.R. Hayes, Cognitive Psychology: Thinking and Creating (1978)
3. T.M. Amabile, The Social Psychology of Creativity (1983)

Creative Mind: The Characteristics of the Creative Person

Creative thinkers combine ideas and information in ways that form new solutions, ideas, processes, or products. “The hallmark of creative people is their mental flexibility,” says creativity expert Roger von Oech. “Like race car drivers who shift in and out of different gears depending on where they are on the course, creative people are able to shift in and out of different types of thinking depending on the needs of the situation at hand.” Look at table below to see some primary characteristics of creative people. Underneath all these qualities lie a desire to learn, a drive to question, and a commitment to keep an open mind.  

Willingness to take risks
Taking a difficult, high-level course
Tendency to break away from limitations
Entering a marathon race
Tendency to seek new challenges & experiences
Taking on an internship in a high-pressure workplace
Broad range of interests
Investing new moves on basketball court and playing guitar at an open-mike night
Ability to make new things out of available materials
Making curtains out of bedsheets
Tendency to question norms & assumptions
Adopting a child of different ethnic background than the family’s
Willingness to deviate from popular opinion
Working for a small, relatively unknown political party
Curiosity and inquisitiveness
Wanting to know how a computer program works
Source: Adapted from T. Z. Tardif and R. J. Sternberg, “What Do We Know About Creativity?” in The Nature of Creativity, ed. R.J. Sternberg (London: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Try some or all of the following strategies to boost your creative abilities.

Be curious. The more information and ideas you gather as you think, the more perspective you have to build a creative idea or solution. Collect information and ideas from reading materials, people, the Internet, anywhere – and record them on smartphone or in writing. Branch out and cultivate new interests. Seek out new experiences and take in the ideas and perspectives that you encounter.

Shift your perspective. At first, a problem may look like: “The house isn’t quiet when I study.” If you take a wider look, you may discover hidden causes or effects of the problem, such as “I haven’t chosen the best time of day to study” or “I haven’t let my housemates know that I need quiet.” Question your assumptions; ask people you trust for their perspectives; read in order to discover new ways of looking at situation.

Don’t get hooked on finding the one right answer. There can be lots of “right answers” to any question. The more possibilities you generate, the better your chance of finding the best one. Also, don’t stop the process when you think you have the best answer – keep going until you are out of stream. You never know what may come up in those last gasps of creative energy.

Break the rules sometimes. All kinds of creative breakthroughs have occurred because someone questioned a rule or an assumption. Women and members of minorities can vote and hold jobs because someone questioned a rule – a law – many years ago. Even the rules of logic don’t always hold – following strict logic may cause you to miss analogies or ignore your hunches. At one time in the not-so-distant past, for example, it made no logical sense that two people could talk to one another while in different cities – and now the telephone is a fact of life (Just thinking, how logical it was for you to read my blog from you smartphone or laptop from the invisible World Wide Web in the year 1800).

Ask “what if” questions. Set up hypothetical environments in which new ideas can grow. “What if I knew I couldn’t fail?” “What if I had unlimited money or time or energy?” See what idea, however outrageous, comes from a “what if” question – and then think about how to make it happen. Don’t necessarily make it happen, but – think. Just by asking the question “what if” you can boost your creative ability.

Take risks and, when necessary, embrace failure. Even though failure is always a possibility, taking risks is the only way to make your highest goals reachable. If you insist on playing it safe, you may miss out on the path – often paved with failures – leading to the best possible solution or situation.

Lord, Give Us Today Our Daily Idea(s)

References and Suggested Readings:
1. Roger von Oech, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants (1986)
2. Roger von Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head (1998)

3. J.R. Hayes, Cognitive Psychology: Thinking and Creating (1978)

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