How do you want to live your life?

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde

This post was inspired by something that happened to me last week. I was agonising over whether to purchase another 1 month deal with my current yoga studio because I will be going away on a family holiday in 2 weeks; which means that I will only be utilising only 2 weeks out of the 4 weeks that I pay for.

 

Now, coincidentally a new yoga studio opened up closer to where I live and I did briefly consider trying it out since it is so much nearer. So, I hatched a plan to try out this new place for the next 2 weeks. Even better, they put out a Groupon deal, for those of you who do not know what Groupon is, it is a marketing platform for business owners where customers can buy products and services at a ridiculously low price. The aim is not to make any money out of it, the purpose is to create awareness and get people through the door.

So, I happily purchased the deal and off I went excitedly last Friday for my very first class. Now, because the purpose of this blog is not to review the studio, I will simply say that it was not a good experience for me at all. The mere thought of returning there made me feel really awful.

I tried talking to a few good friends about it, hoping to get to some form of decision; whether to stick it out or for someone to tell me that it is okay to let it go. The answer came from a good friend who happened to be a great yoga teacher. She told me that it could be a learning experience for me. The first thought that came to mind was that it was a different style of practice that I am used to, so yes…maybe I could further improve my practice through persistence.

The real learning came to me after a night of tossing and turning because I was trying to come to a decision all night. It was as clear as can be. As an avid learner, I would hate it if my reason for not pushing on was because it was taking me out of my comfort zone. I admit that I was pushed to my limit during that practice but if I truly cannot get out of my comfort zone, I would not even have walked in the door!

My lesson is to learn to listen to myself and do what makes me happy. I thrive on pushing my boundaries and I have! I tried something new and hated it. No point sticking it out just because I wanted to save a few bucks. How often do we overlook our own wellbeing just because we refuse to listen to our inner voice? I am glad that I am able to jump over this hurdle this time with the help of supportive friends. We often get caught up with the initial plans and are unable to be flexible or worse still, we think we are doing the right thing while the whole time this right thing is eating us up inside.

So my message to you today is: Choose you every time, do not allow the situation to choose you.

i choose

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Evidence of positive resonance even as Singapore mourns its loss

I just wanted to share an amazing phenomenon as I observe my fellow countrymen stand together as they mourn the loss of our former prime minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kwan Yew. Perhaps he is better known as the man who led a team to bring Singapore from a third world country to the first world country it is today within one generation.

What I have observed was only via social media as I currently reside in Australia. But I am truly moved and wanted to share with my course mates that very often, people stand together in moments of great loss and offer unparalleled compassion for each other. It is these moments of unexpected positive resonance that builds an incredible upward spiral.

So what am I talking about? Mr Lee is currently lying in state in the parliament house and people are allowed in to pay their respects 24 hours a day. Despite this, the queue to enter remains as long as 8 to 10 hours. I have watched video footage of it. People are not allowed to linger, they just get to walk by and yet the wait is so long. Needless to say, the queue snaked down streets and in front of shops and cafes. Here is where it all began, business owners started offering free supply of cold drinking water, bringing out chairs for the elderly. As more and more people started to observe these selfless acts, more joined in. It started with free drinks if you happen to be in front of the shops. Now there are random people who would bring food and drinks to those standing in line in front of the field just outside the parliament house. How amazing is that? The nation has suffered a great loss and this sense of loss has evoked an upward spiral of positive momentum. People are looking to help one another; perfect strangers that they would normally not even cast a second look on any other day. But during this week, they have reached out to each other, offering positive connection through their action and compassion for one another.

We have often assumed that positive connections only occur when one is in the ‘correct’ frame of mind. That is true in most cases because why would anyone want to be nice or even talk to another person if they are stressed and in a bad mood? But this is a very unique case where people are sharing a common loss and in their grief, they sought to offer each other comfort in the ways that they know how to. In this giving and taking, they are in fact offering each other support. And it is also these actions of giving and taking that has created the momentum and opportunity for upward spiral. For the giver, the reward was that they could offer comfort in their own way. For the receiver, the concern offered was the reward. Hopefully, the need to reciprocate would then keep the momentum going for a long time as the movement goes from one person to another. It was Mr Lee’s dream for Singapore for as long as I can remember; to build One Nation, One Singapore. What a great way to honour this amazing man and to continue his legacy.

Just wanted to share my perspective and observation on positive connections and how life offers us opportunities to reach out to others in unusual circumstances. It is then upon us to be aware of  the opportunities presented and grab them as they come.

 

lky

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Actively seek the positive!

I have recently gotten off my backside and jumped straight back on my mission: to unravel the intricacies of some amazing human qualities such as resilience, gratefulness…and many more which fall under the umbrella of Positive Psychology. I have the good fortune of being able to be part of a course conducted by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, one of the leading experts on Positive emotions.

This area of study holds great interest for me both on the professional and personal level. But that’s another story for another day. Today, I would like to share something that I learnt today in class. Great news!!! Positivity can be learnt and can be increased!!

Here is a simple way to increase your positivity. Get yourself a glass jar/vase, plus a pen and paper. Everyday, write down 1 thing that was good that happened to you. This event may evoke the following emotions in order to qualify; joy, gratitude, amusement, interest, love, awe, serenity, pride, inspiration and lastly, love.  It may seem tedious but you will be amazed by the result. Just by thinking of a good thing that happened to me everyday last week was enough to bring a huge smile on my face, can you imagine a full year of goodness! Good things happen to us more often than we are aware of. The purpose of this mindfulness based exercise is to help you be more attuned to these precious moments that we often overlook. Go on, have a try, even if it is only for a month! What have you got to lose?

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Treating our bodies with respect and mindfulness

I read this post on my facebook page yesterday and woke up this morning with a renew sense of awareness and respect for my body. I hope that I am able to reach out to more people and help you see yourself in a new light like the way I did. This was what I read:

My dear, dedicated body,

From this moment forward, I vow to feed you with clean food and positive thoughts. I will water you religiously. I’ll seek nourishment for your physical form, but also for the spirit you so tirelessly protect. I will strive to understand you, in all your delicate complexities, so that I may serve you into our old age.

From this moment on, I will hold in my heart that you are doing your best for me, and I will not expect more. From this moment on, we are a team and I will repay your best with my best; and we will be brave together.

With deepest gratitude,
Me

Now, all I ask is that you spend a few moments thinking about what I am about to say. How many of us take our bodies for granted? Choosing to satisfy the few inches in our mouth instead of taking care of the overall body? We eat whatever we feel like and overeat on occasions just because we can, and we wonder why our bodies refuse to cooperate sometimes.
I have never looked at my body in this way. I take it for granted, often abusing it with too much yummy but unnecessary food, or worse still drinking too much alcohol. I was actually ashamed when I read this. I stepped out of my body for the briefest moment and looked at it as a separate entity. In all honesty, I don’t think I would even treat the person I dislike most so shabbily.
Another inspiration I received in tandem to this letter was the travel photos that was posted on facebook daily. These photos featured a loving couple, retired and having a great time travelling in Japan. I met Raymond in Singapore when I first moved back there and fell in love with the way he taught children how to swim. Subsequently, we engaged him to teach our boys how to swim. I suppose you could say that he is athletic his whole life but I have read of athletes who do not keep up on their physical exercise after they reach a certain age. I am proud to say that both Raymond and his wife, Sally maintains a very active lifestyle which enables them to travel around Japan with such ease. Think about it. You have spent more than half of your life in the rat race, and raising children. You have finally reached your golden years where you can do whatever you want to without concerns and with the money you have saved! Wouldn’t it be nice if your body would allow you to still do whatever you wished?
I hope that this post will find its way to your heart and open your eyes to see the special relationship you have with your body. You and you alone have the power to determine the quality of life you can have in the years to come. You don’t have to get out there and do a 10km run. Start small, every little bit counts. Start with something you enjoy doing; or if exercise is just not for you, start with walking a little bit more to the shops? Or even power walking whilst you are window shopping at the local mall. Just promise me you will have a think about this.
‘Be kind to your body, treat it like you would your best friend and it will reward you with many more years of quality living’ – Karen Foote
In the end
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Truth behind staying happy

I want to start off the post by sharing this piece that I read recently:

‘Once you learn to be happy, you won’t tolerate being around people who make you feel anything less.’

Yes, I can see some of you smiling in acknowledgement. I would like to break today’s post into 2 parts. First part examines why we feel a certain way about some people; second part is aimed at helping those who find it difficult to defend their own happiness.

Just last week I had some friends come over for dinner and after they left, I was in great spirit, gushing about how wonderful dinner was…etc. My husband in response to my lovely mood, commented:” Well, you do choose friends who adores you.” My immediate response was to defend my integrity as a person! I most definitely do not choose friends based on how much they adored me! Piff! Ah, but I have learnt over the years that a good response is usually not made in haste. So I sat on it and had an honest conversation with myself. I concluded that yes I do choose friends who adores me. I mean who would want to be around people who says hateful things about you all the time? But these friends also had to meet certain criteria. They had to be real, share common value systems, great sense of humor, smart, compassionate, passionate about life…yes it seems like it is an impossible list but you will be surprised how many people possess such qualities!

We NEED to be around friends who validate who we are, yet unafraid to speak the truth when required. Yes, this post is not called the definition of a true friend. But it is a fact that a true friend also validates you; they are sincerely happy about your successes and are there for you in times of need. One without the other will not work. It is, in my humble opinion very much a give and take relationship. All these circles back to the quote today, once you had a taste of great friendships that leaves you giddy with happiness, why would one go back to those who cannot provide such happiness? We are drawn to certain friends because of the way they make us feel.

Now, let’s move on to the next part, we all have different types of friendships. Those aforementioned, and the ones that we hold on to because ‘it is the right thing to do’. How often have you come away from these obligations and felt dejected and lousy about yourself. People who are supposedly your friend but cannot validate or inspire you to be better are not good for your self-esteem. And yet, time and again we find it difficult to cut the cord and set ourselves free. I am still trying. But how about this for a start? Begin by trying to spend more time with those who lifts you. And do your best to minimise contact with the ‘not so healthy’ friends. In order for this to work, you need to be honest with yourself. Remember, all relationships need to have an almost equal amount of give and take. A friend who gives all the time is not good, nor is one who takes and drain you all the time. For me, it is so important that good friends can share your glorious moments as well as help you sweep up your mess. Again they need to be able to do both. You do not need a ‘fixer’ friend who is super helpful when you are in trouble, because you are not broken, just need a little help to clean up some mess. Similarly, you do not want party friends who are only good when things are going well.

I hope that I am making sense to you and that you feel more equipped and empowered to select the friends around you. In all honesty, a bad friend is not better than no friend. You are better off without until the right one comes along! Good luck and choose to stay happy!

 

anything less

 

 

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Taking our own advice

Yes, it has been a very long time since I last posted something; well, life does get busy and overwhelming. I will endeavour to write more often….

Now, back to the topic on hand, I have been talking to people lately about some issues that I have been facing and there is a common response that I have been getting: Heed your own advice. Wow, if it had not been repeated to me so many times in a matter of days, I would still be oblivious.

I realised why  keep facing these issues…. I have not been walking the talk! My close friends would know my favourite sayings like: ‘Happiness is a choice’, ‘ Just get on with it’, ‘Look for the positive in everything.’ Yet somehow when one is in the hot seat, it is not as easy to practise what you preach!

I have been humbled today, I hope that I will be able to put into practise these favourite sayings. Then I know I will be able to retain my inner peace when the world around me threatens to take it away. I learn that it is easy to dish out advice but never easy to put it into use. But I will strive to make it happen.

Start by listening to what advice you have been giving people and try to find your own solution from there. You might be surprised that not only do you have the answer to someone else’s problems, you also have your own. What have you got to lose by trying? A little self-awareness goes a long way!

Til the next time, be happy…or rather choose to be happy!

‘Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself!’

 

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Expressing Gratitude

We may not celebrate thanksgiving in the East; but I am sure today’s post is applicable to everyone regardless of race and culture, and everyone should be very mindful about putting it into practice whenever they can.

“Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

I talked about gratitude a lot; in fact my thesis was written about how people experience gratitude. Today, I am taking you one step further. Feeling grateful is not enough; I am urging you to do something about this warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment and appreciation. Fortunately, we already have a natural tendency to react to feelings of gratitude. We will usually feel a need to return the nice feeling or want to help others attain this state of pleasantness.

For those of us who are still wondering how can you show gratitude, it can be done in many ways. I am already assuming that you are already feeling blessed for what you have; which is why I am not going to explain what gratitude is all about. When you feel grateful to someone, the full potential of it cannot be realized if you do not take any action to show your gratitude. Gratitude is supposed to be a cycle; even better if it becomes a vicious cycle. But instead of being in a cycle of self-destruction, it is a cycle of constantly thinking of the other party and trying to find ways to make him/her happy because he/she bring so much joy in your life, and vice versa.

I suppose girls would do this more often than the guys. Sometimes when I see something I know would amuse one of my friends; I would get it for her. And they would return the favour when their opportunity comes along. Some people might read this and think to themselves; this is silly and tedious. It might be for you, but for the people who put in the extra effort (it need not be buying things for each other all the time, there are other ways to shoe people you care about them and that you are so thankful that they are in your life) and receive in return, it is a wonderful feeling. To know that the other person is also thankful to have you in their lives, and they have made the effort to do something nice for you.

Gratitude needs to be reciprocated, that is the whole point of this emotion. The associated feelings of gratitude should propel you to want to take action. But if you resist the urge; then the emotion and meaning of it is lost on you. Just like the quote I posted today; you cannot feel grateful and not show it. It just does not work that way. Gratitude requires one to be aware of the goodness he/she have received; it encompasses feelings of humility and being loved. It is often rare that you do not feel the need to reciprocate. But if you are one of those who feels grateful but is too shy to express it; be it due to social/cultural norms or a shy personality. I am humbling telling you this; feelings of gratitude cannot be kept within yourself, it needs to be expressed and shared with the person who gave it to you. The fact that you felt grateful is a great feat; don’t waste it by not harnessing the positivity of it and passing it along.

So today, take the time to do something nice for the people you feel grateful for. It can be as simple as giving them a hug and telling them how much you love them….

Another quote that I loved, in case you are still unclear about my message today:

‘I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’                 – Maya Angelou  

 

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Delicious Ambiguity

Read this quote today and really loved it:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I learned that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing. Having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it. Without knowing what is going to happen next…DELICIOUS AMBIGUITY…” – Gilda Radner

How beautifully phrased! I daresay the first sentence would describe most of our inner desires. We all want to have the perfect and happiest ending. In our quest to reach the end, we forgot to enjoy our lives during the process. The process is where we spent most of the time; yet we fail to see the importance of enjoying every moment of it.

The other irony is this; we think we know our perfect ending…but do we?? Human beings are hard to satisfy. Think back of a time when you tell yourself; after I achieve this, I will be happy. Then, after you got there, hmm… not quite enough to keep you happy. You are off looking for the next challenge that promises you the elusive ‘final happiness’. After you understand and accept that we have a greedy nature; it will be much easier to understand that since we cannot be satisfied. Reaching our goals every time does not guarantee happiness; then let’s not wait to reach the end to be happy, because getting there does not mean we will definitely be happy. So, might as well be happy now!

In essence, the quote is a reminder that it is okay to not have absolute control of our lives. And if we are honest with ourselves; we actually have very limited control anyway. We can only control certain things that only involve ourselves and that’s it! Rather than engage with a power struggle with fate; we can choose to go with the flow. Make the best decisions within the given space. Be brave, because it does take a lot of guts to just live. I’m not saying, don’t plan. I’m saying; please continue to plan but if life throws you off-track; try to not resist it. I truly believe that we are placed in situations where we can always benefit/learn from, and we are there because we are supposed to. When we get caught up with the whys and frustrations, we lose the ability to see the true potential of the situation.

Again, I need to emphasis that being able to articulate all these does not mean that I find it easy or practise what I preach all the time. But at least I am aware of it and I do try to walk this talk. Life is too short to wait to be happy at the end. There is so much to be grateful for; and that my friends, is the key to authentic happiness… a grateful heart. But alas, our hearts are easily tempted and treacherous, that is why we have to keep reminding it to be content and grateful for all that we have, right here and now.

 

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State of Mind

My older son asked me a question yesterday which got me thinking. He asked:” What is the perfect state of mind?”

My first answer that came instinctively to me was – calmness. A few moments later, the full impact of the question hit me. I realised that like most people I assumed that the perfect state of mind refers to someone who is calm, collected and unaffected by the chaos around them. I was wrong. Therefore, I amended my response to him. This was my reply:

“The perfect state of mind is one that is contented, grateful, and happy.” I stand by that when any combinations of these 3 conditions are fulfilled; one would have achieved their perfect state of mind. Today’s post is going to be as simple as this; take some time to consider this – “What is your perfect state of mind? And how are you going to achieve it?” Not what someone else thinks is the right way, but what is uniquely yours.

 

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It’s the first day of November; so instead of the me posting about my observations, today I am going to pose you a question.

‘What would you rather? Regret something you have done? Or something that you haven’t?’

This is the type of question people ask themselves before the beginning of a new year so that they can start a whole list of new year resolutions that many do not keep in the end. I chose to bring this question 2 months ahead because the way you choose your answer is going to change your life. And new behaviour needs time to take root and getting used to. So, it’s safer to start now so that it can be carried forward into the new year!

Needless to say; my answer to this question will be: I would rather regret something that I have done because I am the sort who needs to know. Put another way, I would rather die trying than not knowing. Up to now, I have done many things that many in my position would have regretted ten times over. Lucky for me, I have survived through it all to learn that things happen for a reason. If I have not done what I did then; I would not be where I am right now. Therefore, I stand by the ‘regret what I did’ side.

Nothing is worse than to regret something you haven’t done. Many times when the opportunity passes you by; it will never return again. So, I would rather leap first then worry about the safety net. Rather than stay hanging and looking out but never to experience the exhilaration of freedom.

Lucky for all of us, we all have choices ( I am constantly reminded by my husband every time I whine about doing things that I do not like; moaning about not having any choice but to do it that we all have a choice. It is whether we want to exercise that choice or not). Like I said earlier in this post, the way you answer this question can tell you alot about how you are living your life. There is no right or wrong answer, of course. However, there is happy and unhappy. If you are happy to play it safe; by all means stay there. It is working for you, then why change?

But if this question tugs at your heartstrings; leaving a bitter taste in your mouth. Then ask yourself if it is time to make a change. Remember this though, changes takes time, even if you are the one who wants that change. Your mind and body runs on auto-pilot most of the time, doing what it thinks is best for you. So, it does struggle abit when you want to take over the driver seat. But a little of persistence should do it.

My intention for today is to create an awareness for you; crack open your inner self and have a peek. Hopefully this can help you understand you better. If your inner desire matches your current behaviour, this exercise should help you reaffirm who you are and set a stronger foundation. If there are some discrepancies; which is very common, then decide if what you are doing is working out for you. Remember, let your happiness level guide you in whatever choices you make. Happiness do not necessarily translate to only doing things for yourself. It means that whatever you have chosen to do leaves you with a sense of contentment.

Enough said….Start pondering when you are ready….

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