Archive for the 'Personal Development' Category

Happy New Year!

It’s a great day today because it’s new year day. And it’s a new beginning. I wish everyone a happy 2008 ahead.

For me, I’ve been battling with a severe cold and sick like a dead pig in the past few days, so I hope everyone out there is staying healthy unlike me :) I’m trying to recover quickly because it’s also time to go back to work.

Now what’s new year without new year resolution. It’s always good to have a resolution, or goal in a new year. Something you want to improve about yourself for your own sake or the people around you. Be it financial, health-related, spiritual, or of some personal habit. It’s good to set one or few goals but don’t set so many of them because you can do anything but you can’t do everything. Focus is important.

Once you set your mind on what the goal is, keep in mind these few things:

For me, I definitely need to get back to my work-out routine because past 2 weeks’ inactivities, albeit some exercise, have lead to quite some muscle loss. That means 3 times weight training in the gym per week plus cardio once or twice on separate days. Besides that, I will continue to be consistent and persistent in my endeavors in my career, personal finance, and then of course, piano and singing. Perhaps you think this is a lot of items? Perhaps it is, but I have been consistently contributing to these things for the past 2-3 years already. It’s just a matter of keeping up now, and we all know that the beginning is always tougher.

With that, I once again wish that everyone a happy and wonderful year ahead. Keep up the effort!

[PD] Dealing with Emotions

Posted Under: Personal Development

Allow me to share with you today a way to deal with emotions. For the majority’s concern, this will namely be a more healthy way to deal with negative emotions, although it can be generally applicable. People never think in terms of dealing with positive emotions anyways. By no means am I an expert or guru, but this is something I believe and practice and that is why I am sharing with you.

Before going into the description, I categorize below the common ways people act to deal with their emotions. Note that the categories usually happen in combination. After that, I share with you the way I have in mind, and finally I provide an example from my personal experience.

Distraction through External Means
We should all be familiar with this category, whether we know someone or we have done it ourselves. Like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and even food and chocolate abuse… People use these substances to try to block out the mind and numb the senses in order to avoid feeling emotions. It becomes abuse because the effect of these substance is only temporary.

Being in Denial
Somewhere in the continuum of human race, the notion that people should not have negative emotions was thought up. The ones who believe this notion refuses to acknowledge the fact when they are feeling emotion such as anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. Those are label as “bad”. It’s not right to have them. And they will relentlessly ignore them and probably claim that everything’s fine and they are happy, optimistic, kind, etc.

Obsession with the Emotion
This is the scenario where the person allows the emotion to completely take over. He loses self-control and most of his logical ability. He fixates on the emotion so much so that all his actions are purely as a result of that emotion. It is very difficult to talk sense into such people but easier to just try to calm them down first, even if just physically.

Substitution
Instead of feeling disappointed, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling sadness, people switch to anger. Instead of feeling love, people switch to hatred, at the end of relationships. It’s like playing musical chair with emotions.

When people react to their emotions in terms of the categories above, more negativity and harm are generated more often than not. My hypothesis on why people have so many problems due to emotions lies in the fact that they never deal with the emotions at the root when they happen. Therefore, they keep accumulating and eventually lead to detrimental effect, which can take years to happen and then years to solve. It is similar to how people handle their physical body. They often don’t maintain the body by not exercising and not eating properly until illness occurs, but this is another topic. Moving on to what I think people can do to deal with emotions.

Be Okay with Emotions
The first and foremost thing to understand is that it is okay to have emotions. Any types of emotion. Human beings are emotional creatures. It is part of being humans. You feel emotions. I feel emotions. Every single day. Lots of time during a day. As long as we are still breathing, emotions will happen. So it is okay to feel sadness, jealousy, hatred, anger, disappointment, frustration… Just as it is okay to feel happy, satisfied, excitement, passion, love… You just need to understand that they are your emotions. Your emotions are not you. It is a big step if you can simply be aware that you have the emotions when you do.

Identify the Thoughts
Now that you know it is okay to feel emotions. You can be more comfortable with them. When you are sad, you feel sad. Just as when you are happy, you feel happy. This is about simply being with your emotions. When you are okay with having emotions, you can be aware of them. Once you are aware of what you are feeling, you can begin to understand what are the thoughts associated with it. Why do I feel sad? Why do I feel anger? The answers to the questions are the thoughts that are the true culprits of the pain those emotions are causing you. These thoughts exist together with your emotions. Emotions are created from thoughts. Thoughts can intensity emotions. Now that you know you have these thoughts, know that it is also okay for them to exist.

So the first two steps involve identifying the emotions and thoughts that exist within you. By no means are these two steps small or easy. It is very uncomfortable to do at first, but like everything else, it comes with practice. It may be so hard at first that you will want to run away and go back to the usual routine of distraction, denial, obsession, or subsitution. We all do it. So let me say that this is also okay, but try to be aware of the behavior and if you can, return to identifying what are the emotions and thoughts. If you cannot, just try to stay calm and not act rashly for awhile. Then try again.

Check with Priorities
Now you are aware of the thoughts that you have. These thoughts are at the heart of why you are feeling the emotions. Remember I talked about priorities before. It is beneficial to line up those thoughts with your priorities, your values in life. The thoughts you are having, are they aligned with the priorities in life? If they don’t pertain, maybe they are not so important after all. Have you done your best in terms of your priorities in the event that leads you to feel those emotions? If you have done so, maybe it is not so bad after all because you did not abandon your values. If you haven’t, it’s also okay, because we all make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from it and do your best next time.

This is not an easy process, and it doesn’t make emotions and problems go away immediately. However, I do believe by following this process, you can face your emotions with a sense of peace and not to do anything destrustive to yourself and others. I am also confident that you will “handle” the emotions in a shorter time frame instead of having them linger for ages. The more you practice experiencing emotion as described, the quicker it gets to free yourself from the burden of emotion.

I have briefly mentioned that I experienced a break up in a recent post. I will use what I went through as examples. Break up is never easy, as for you, as for me. As long as one is truly devoting one’s self to a relationship, the end is never easy. Definitely I was sad. Besides that, I also somewhat confused and then a bit angry. I think that is normal for most people :)

My Sadness
The fact is that I only enter into a relationship when I genuinely like the person a lot. I would like to spend time with her and have fun together, go through experience with her and be able to support each other through good and bad time. I sincerely care for this person, and hope that I can be there to make her and her days better. But in the end, she made the decision to leave. All these things combined together are the thoughts that made me sad. I still feel some sadness, but it is okay. During the time we are together, I did my best being the person I truly am and giving in the way I believe in. “I truly did my best yet it still ended”, that maybe another thought that is causing me sadness. That doesn’t matter because it is okay to have sadness. Plus, it can also be, “I truly did my best and I have no regret.”

My Confusion
As for the true reason behind the end of relationship, I probably will never find out, which causes confusion. Being human and being me, I am curious. I also wonder what I could’ve or shouldn’t have done. However, the reason behind and all the wondering mean nothing. Does it really matter if it’s really due to circumstances in life, or if she has found someone else? The bottom line is that she is certain about the choice. By staying calm during the conversation, that is exactly what I endeavored to ascertain with her. She has made up her mind. She has made the choice to walk a different path, and I will just have to be okay with it. And I am okay with it.

My Anger
As for anger…I am not quite sure, but probably for all the reasons that left me sad and confused. And also perhaps I was looking forward to spend our holidays together, decorating Christmas tree. A happy scene only to be decimated. A bit of anger was there, but it is now gone. After all, there is not that much to be angry about once I can be okay with my sadness and confusion. I should be thankful that we had a chance to share a part of our lives together.

In a nutshell, the key point here is to be aware and to be okay with your emotions, truly experiencing the emotion when it happens. Staying calm and just feeling it, know that it is there. It is okay for it to be there. Once you can do that, you can move on to seeing your thoughts. If you can do something about those thoughts, then do something about them. If you cannot, then there is nothing to do and no reason to have those thoughts and therefore no reason to have those emotions. And if there is emotion remaining still, just be okay and experience them. And repeat the process.

It will take time to develop this way of dealing with emotion. However, there is definitely this peace you feel by doing so, which will allow you do deal with more emotions that happen in the moments in life.

On a final note, this post has a lot to do with awareness, so if you enjoy reading this, feel free to check out my post on Awareness and Zen.

[PD] Tips on Happiness and Improvement at Work and with Co-workers

Posted Under: Personal Development

We can all related to work. It’s how we bring bread to the table and survive in our cement jungle. Amy Quinn from Bootstrapper sent me a kind email informing me their new blog post, Work Happy: 25 Ways to Improve Your Mood When People Around You Are Miserable. It’s a good read with useful and practical tips. Below I share some of my own comments regarding each point on their list.

  1. Choose to be happy. Every moment is a choice. Being happy is one of them. Being at peace is a step above. If you cannot be happy, at least choose to be at peace. You cannot control anything other than yourself and your choice. Choose how you respond. Choose to be at peace. When you are calm and at peace, you can analyze and respond in a more optimal way than not.
  2. Make friends. I endorse that having genuine friends at work helps because I am lucky to have a few. Not only can they offer encouragement, it is helpful to discuss things with people who have the same scope. It can be difficult to explain to someone outside of the environment.
  3. Do things you love. If you hate every aspect of your job, and it is a permanent job, it’s time to make a plan to move on.
  4. Avoid particularly negative coworkers. There are people who are energy drainer. They suck your energy dry by constantly complaining and being angry at everything and the world. If you are not careful, they can infect you with their negativity. Avoiding coworkers can sometimes be difficult. The ability to be at peace is what can keep you from harm here.
  5. Meditate. Meditation is useful beyond that it helps you to relax. Superficially, you notice your muscles are tense and try to relax them. However, meditation involves activities on an inner level, where you identify your thoughts and emotions using awareness. By seeing them, you understand and resolve them because you see that they are all but illusions created by our ego. This is the ability of awareness. This is what helps you to relax because thoughts and emotions create tension in the body. This is my view of meditation in a nutshell. Meditation is a great way to practice awareness and to attain true peace.
  6. Take a walk. All the sitting impairs your body circulation. Pressure on the rear, pressing of the arms on desk, tension from bad posture, and simple immobility all restrict your blood flow. Walking will get your circulation going again and get oxygen into your body. Only with sufficient oxygen can your brain function efficiently. In the least, stand up and stretch.
  7. Clean and organize your desk I hate clutter. A clean desk gives me peace.
  8. Listen to music I do this all the time. Great way to focus and block out coworkers. I share a compact office with 2 other guys. I suggest Sony fontopia headphones that satisfy my need for sound, noise blockage, and price. Either MDR-EX51LP, or MDR-EX90LP if you want improved sound and clarity and got the cash (affiliate links).
  9. Personalize your desktop I suggest a few photos. They remind you of the people who make you smile.
  10. Eat better A balance diet is a given whether you work or not.
  11. Smile Smiling works many facial muscles which helps to release tension. Either way, follow the saying, fake it til you make it because smile is contagious. You will be happier when you make people around you happier.
  12. Concentrate on working towards a goal Having multiple tasks on the job is a frequent occurrence. In many companies, it’s probably a given for the employees. Concentrating on finishing one thing at a time will help. By shortening the long list of tasks, you reduce anxiety and lessen the chance for you mulling over the list instead of doing what you need to do. If situation allows, finish the smaller items first.
  13. Make someone’s day. Giving is receiving. It’s also how you make friends. If not friends, you make allies. If not allies, you make non-enemies. Give because you want to give. Give because you choose to give. But give in ways that are appropriate in work setting.
  14. Count your blessings Try to count the positive things about your own company next time you feel the urge to complain. Let’s be honest. There are things to complain for every company. Quite often, it’s a case of the grass is greener on the other side.
  15. Find the humor in it. Humor helps to maintain a light-heartedness. You will suffer a stroke or seizure if you get serious about every details happening at work. If you think you cannot find any humor, go read Dilbert. I also recommend Pearls before Swine for good laughs.
  16. Use aromatherapy. I never tried this in office, but I know for a fact that smell is one influential sense for human. Just look at relationship, how smell can be a great turn-on… or turn-off… Maybe I should consider some fragrant plants in the office.
  17. Treat yourself. I think people treat themselves too much in the office. It’s more like indulgence. It’s a chocolate, donut, and soda feast… The scale is tipping over…
  18. Change your lighting. Your eyes are very important instruments.
  19. Shake it off. Back to the point about finding peace. If you are truly at peace, no one can shake you. You can go back to finding humor too.
  20. Help out coworkers. You are stuck at work anyways. Why not try to be helpful to the human race? Some people may just return the favor. Don’t expect it though.
  21. Try to relate. You both are human beings. You both work at the same place. You both are trying to win some bread home. You both are doing your best to be happy. Wow, so many things in common already and probably many more. Don’t be so quick to judge and get angry. You maybe in the same boat. This is empathy. This will help you make friends.
  22. Look your best. This one depends on personal preference. Some people don’t care. Some people do. I do it because it makes me feel more comfortable and confident when I’m well groomed. Plus, appearance does have an impact on others’ impression on you. It’s shallow but yet, undeniable.
  23. Get plenty of rest. I got all those sleep debt from college days. I’m paying them back now. Scientifically, your body breaks down toxins and deal with bacteria while you are sleeping. These processes only happen during different stages of sleep. So if you consistently do not sleep enough, you are slowly poisoning yourself. That’s also why adequate sleep can save you from the rage of the pimple army.
  24. Take your vitamins. I took them for a period of time with no apparent effect. If you have a balance diet, you shouldn’t have to take supplement.
  25. Get out of the office. How long can your body sustain certain productivity level doing work? I’m quite sure it’s not 10-12 hours on a persistent basis. It is important to maintain a work-life balance. Time to get your life priorities straight.

[PD] Bad Timing

Posted Under: Personal Development

Bad timing.
They want the right timing to take action.
They wait and wait and wait.
Meanwhile, they stand still and do nothing.
Maybe they talk about it.
Maybe they think about it.
But otherwise, they do nothing.
Seconds go by, minutes go by, hours, days, weeks, months go by…
They wait and wait and get more and more complacent.
All the while, still telling themselves it’s not the right time yet.
Years passed by and they seem to have forgotten what exactly was that they wanted to do.
Then maybe one day, they realize suddenly as if struck by lightning…
“Oh, I haven’t accomplish anything…”
Or maybe they wont’ realize…
Too comfortable to notice, too comfortable to care.
Or maybe they are too comfortable to make changes anymore…
They continue to wait for the right timing.
There is always tomorrow.
There is always more time.

Aren’t we all familiar with the scenario above looking at the people around us?
Sadly, that’s the majority of the population.
Maybe you are one of them.

I’m 24 now.
Maybe it’s safe for me to say that?
Maybe I can just sit back and relax and do nothing for awhile?

I chose the difference.

I encountered the death of a near-age friend earlier this year. One day I was still chatting with him and then couple days later he’s gone. No sign. No prologue. He just left. I was speechless when I got the news. There is no words to describe.

I took that to the heart. It is not that I am afraid of death. It is actually about facing death. Chinese people avoid talking about death, and I hate it. Death lets me find and identify the things are meaningful to me, the things that I genuinely want to do. Those things are a part of my character. Without them, I am not the person I am. They are my priorities. If I don’t act in accord to my set of priorities each moment, I may not live to the next day to do them. It is precisely facing death that lets us to be not of it because we will start to do the things that define us in the best of our ability everyday. Things like caring for my family, being kind and compassionate to people, always trying to learn, becoming financially stable and independent, playing piano, trainingly myself mentally and physically, doing what I can for the world (You can laugh at me but I’m serious and sincere about it)… I have no regret if I am to die. It is doing with the end in mind. I also believe this helps to put us at ease and let us find that inner peace.

I do still relax and have fun. Sometimes I get tired and slack off, but I remain conscious and mindful of my priorities. Your priorities are your character, and there is no bad timing to act in your character. I am not suggesting to act rashly and bully ahead because there are moments, quite often actually, that require patience depending on situation. It is about consistently making the choice to move forward and contribute to those priorities, despite hectic schedule, despite fatigue, despite difficulty, despite bad timing. It is about making choice proactively to move forward with regards to what you truly want to do and the person you want to be, while staring death straight in the eyes.

So I urge you…
If you are still waiting for the right time…
Stop talking.
Stop thinking.
Stop reading.
Stop finding excuses.
Do something already.

[PD] Awareness and Zen

Posted Under: Personal Development

Recently after I have read up on Zen, I came to an understanding of awareness that differs from what I talked about before.

First of all, awareness is within all of us. One does not have to develop awareness because it is alwas there, always a part of us. Then why don’t we all have it and become Zen masters? What happened is all the cultural, societal, and environmental conditioning that has stopped us from being aware as we grow up. So in a sense, our awareness got buried, and we have to uncover the awareness within us.

Awareness is above and separate from what our thoughts and feelings. It is about seeing the truth, unclouded and without the intrusion of thoughts. Thoughts distort reality and prohibit us from seeing thing as it is. Seeing things with a pessimistic point of view is a distortion of reality. Seeing things with a optimistic point of view is also a distortion of reality. Thoughts are always subjective because they are based on one’s perspective. It is being aware of our thoughts that we will start to see things as they are. Sadness is just sadness. Pain is just pain. Happiness is just happiness. It is with the subjective thoughts that we label those experience as “good” and “bad”. Being sad is bad. Being happy is good. But we all know that is not always true. When you are sad, you are just sad. There is no need to suppress sadness or try to avoid it. Same as for pain. Same as for happiness. When you are happy, you are just being happy. There is no need to try to adhere and capture the sense of happiness. There is no need to think about how this happiness will eventually disappear. It is not about suppressing thoughts either. Instead, when you are aware, you see the truth and also see the thoughts that linger in your mind.

That is why awareness is simply being. When we see a beautiful sunset, we can simply watch and be in the moment of watching sunset. That is simply being. When we try to capture the sunset, that is not simply being. When we exclaim, “what a beautiful sunset!”, it is not simply being, but I am not saying you cannot say such things :)

I am not saying we should be emotionless and heartless because we are humans after all. Living in society, we cannot be without attachments and therefore emotions and feelings. What we can achieve is being aware of our thoughts and emotions, and emotions being just bodily sensations in the most basic levels. When we see our thoughts, then we see thing as it is. Awareness is inside all of us. But for most of us, it is like a mirror cover with a thick layer of dirt as we grow up. We will need to uncover it to once again to use it in life.

The more you practice awareness, the more time you can sustain it. You will shift in and our of being aware as you practice. Ideally, enlightenment is when you are aware 100% of the time in life, but it’s very difficult to reach that level.

Awareness is not a silver bullet. It does not solve all your problems. It does not take away pain and sadness. In some sense, it will make it MORE painful if defined through the common subjective point of view. What it allows is, to provide you with a sense of peace and calmness in situations to allow you to make the best judgement and decisions. It does not provide right or wrong answer, but it most probably allow you to make choices to move in directions that is more desirable to your being. It is also through awareness that this peace and calmness allow you to find a sense of joy, which not the same as happiness, in life. Joy is the ability to appreicate and find wonder in each moment.

It is important to specify that that awareness does not solve your problems because people often turn to Zen when they run into obstacles in life and would like to “try out” Zen as a solution, an answer to their problems. By seeking Zen as a solution and trying to “find” awareness in order to be rid of the pain and suffering, they have already fail the fundamental concept of Zen and awareness. The action of trying to “find” awareness in itself already defies the essense of awareness or Zen. It is not something to be reached because it is already a part of you. The notion of removing pain and suffering is also defiant to the concept awareness. You simply have to be aware of your pain and suffering, and any other thoughts and emotions. Just being aware of and experiencing those things as they are untainted by thoughts. You simply be.

Awareness is simple and straightforward, but it is not easy. It is difficult because each and everyone of us grew up years under life conditions that put us in varying degree of unaware state. It is difficult because it’s not easy to simply be under the scope of modern society. It is difficult because it could take any amount of time to for people to regain awareness. It may takes years, or even a lifetime because everyone will experience different things in life. This difficulty turns a lot of people away and not follow through with Zen. Additionally, Zen is indescribable and can only be experienced, which makes it incomprehensible despite all the Zen writings available out there. What I am doing here is sharing with you my experience, the best I can describe in words.

With that said, let me try to provide an example of awareness in a personal finance scenario. Let’s say a stock for which you own a lot of shares is dropping. You will likely begin to feel a panic. Maybe you will quickly sell all the shares because of the panic. However, if you maintain awareness, you are aware of the panic sensation and aware of the fright of loss. You simply be aware and and experience them, knowing that they are just emotions. With that, you keep your calmness and analyze if the situation is really dire that you should sell the stocks, or if it’s only temporary and you can wait it out.

Now let’s move on to a different scenario that concerns personal relationship. In fact, this is a personal example based on my own recent experience. A person who I consider important to me has decided to give up on our relationship. Honestly speaking, it is the last thing I want to happen between us, but it did after a conversation. As I am only human, it is most unpleasant, and I felt sad. Additionally, thoughts like what could’ve been done and doubts about what are the real causes inevitably torment me. However, I do my best to be aware of those thoughts and the feeling of sadness. I simply am aware of them. That allows me to see that she has made a decision to the best of her ability based on her situations, and that I have offered the best of myself throughout the time together. That is simply how it is. She has chosen a different path. I feel the same way toward her before this happens and wish that whatever happens, she is happy.

It is not that I don’t think anymore. It is not that I am not sad anymore. It is that sadness is just sadness and thoughts are just thoughts. They are all parts of my experience. I am not to suppress them. I am not to avoid them. I identify and acknowledge them as they happen. I simply experience them and be. It is a moment in my life like any other ones, and as I experience and be in the moment, life continues as I remain in peace. In a sense, being aware has indirectly helped me come to terms, or let go, of the event faster.

Zen is simply being aware. Awareness is simply being. That’s why simply being lets you find joy and peace in each moment.

That is how I understand awareness and Zen now.