Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Time to Chill Out, Not Stress Out

Learn to avoid holiday blues. [Pic]

Tis the season to be, wait, not quite.

Ironically, during this festive season, most people experience very high stress level. The reasons are aplenty. Here are a few common experiences and some of these may have hit your stress button:

  1. Rushed - You are running out of time and you work feverishly to clear your work before your year end break.
  2. Cash trapped - You have a long shopping list and you feel the strain on your wallet.
  3. Lonely - The sight of family reunion, friends get-together or loving couples sparks a bout of loneliness in you.
  4. Irritable - With all the hustle and bustle around you, you begin to feel an overdose of jingle bells and Santa Claus.
  5. Brain drained - You run out of gift ideas but refuse to settle for the cliche.
  6. Resentful - It's never your cup of tea to socialize and celebrate. You don't understand and resent all the excitement around you.

Life is not stree-free but you can do with less. [Pic]

There you go, you are stressed out and may have some of these stress symptoms. While life is never stress-free, you cannot afford to leave it uncontrolled.

There are many ways to eliminate stress and they are not new to you. Let me put some of those together and hopefully the list is a timely reminder at this time of the year. Revisit it whenever you need a nudge.

Understand what stresses you. [Pic]

9. Know your stressor

If you do not know what bothers you, you do not know how to respond. Spend some 10 minutes to think about how you feel and why you feel that way.

8. Check your commitments

List your commitments and consider how each of them add on to your stress level. Sort them in a descending order and delete from the top of the list.

7. Have a 'do it now' habit

Very often 'later' becomes 'never'. The more you allow your 'to-do' list to grow, the more you feel stressed. Read more in "Procrastination is Best Left Till Tomorrow".

Multitasking can be stressful and unproductive. [Pic]

6. Learn to single-task

If you have been duped to believe that multitasking is the way to raise productivity, think again. You might be one of the many victims who are so stressed out juggling from task to task at the same time. See "So Clever ! You Can Multitask !" and "Farewell to Multitasking".

5. Motivate yourself

Stop blaming others for the lack of motivation. Let's face it, it would have to come from you. See "Get Your Daily Motivation" and "How to Kill Your Motivation?".

4. Balance your calories account

How much must you eat and how much exercise do you need? I don't know! All I know is that you never take in more calories than you burn. I will leave it to the experts to give you tips on exercise and healthy diets.

Take time to feel grateful. [Pic]

3. Be grateful

Appreciating what you have gives you instant richness. Sometimes, you just need to remind yourself how much more you have compared to millions others and how good you are and can be. See "Sometimes, I Forget..." and "You Are in a Top Ten List".

2. Choose happiness

That's right, choose, not pursue. The thing about happiness is that it is always with you. If you want to be happy, just be. See "Happiness is a Choice" and "Happiness Quotient".

1. Quit your job

Hang on and don't jump in yet. I do not want to be responsible for a workplace exodus anywhere. This is an option albeit a drastic one but do it with your eyes open. See "To Quit or Not to Quit?" and you may not have to quit after all.

Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. [Pic]

Our body is built to feel stress when danger is sensed. The Adrenaline rushes make our body works efficiently and it is important for a 'fight-or-flight' situation. However, when stress is sustained, our body will protest over time. 

Take control of your life and manage your stress level. The colors of Christmas are red and green. Not blue.

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." (William James)

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Amazing Jelly Beans

Jelly bean colors and  flavors - Endless possibilities [Source: Wiki]

I am fascinated with Jelly beans. Or should I say, with their colorfulness?

Jelly beans are a type of bean-shaped candy with a jellylike center and a firm sugar coating. Honestly, I don't really like how they taste but when they come in loads, it is definitely a feast to my eyes.

Colorful and flavorful

No one knows the exact date of their birth but these colorful beans have been around for a long time. The first jellybean was created by an unknown American candy maker in the 1800s. An 1861 advertisement recommended sending jelly beans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.

From the 1970s, jelly beans were not only multi-colored but multi-flavored. Just take a look at Jelly Belly's Official 50 Flavors Guide and you will be amazed by the choices available. Too boring? Try "Tropical Mix" flavors or "Cocktail" flavors.

Exotic or simply bad taste? [Source]

Jelly bean in the wizard world

In "Harry Potter", the novel and movie, 'Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans' encompasses any flavor you can imagine, including puke-inducing ear-wax flavor. Check out the full list of flavors.

The jelly bean President

The 40th U.S. President (1981-1989), Ronald Reagan's favorite candy was jelly beans. He began eating jelly beans in the 1960s when he gave up smoking and kept up the habit ever since.

He kept a crystal jar full of jelly beans in the Oval Office and often offered them during Cabinet meetings. He once said, "You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful."

'Jelly bean portrait' of Ginger [Source]

Jelly bean art

President Reagan even has his own portrait made of 10,000 jelly beans. It is displayed in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

If you do not have any jelly bean, you can create your own 'jelly bean portrait' digitally. I had it done for our pet cat. Try making one with your own photo.

What can you do with 288,000 jelly beans?

Jelly bean MTV

What can you do with 288,000 jelly beans?

It took 30 people, 1,357 hours over a period of 22 months, lots of dedication and creativity to produce a 'Jelly bean' MTV. They worked with singer Kina Grannis and 288,000 beans for the MTV "In Your Arms" (Watch MTV).

Jelly bean and technology

The popular Android operation system was first released in Sep 2008. Since then, many updates have been added on. From Apr 2009, each version was codenamed based on dessert items in alphabetical order. Starting from Cupcake, we have Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and the latest Ice Cream Sandwich.

There have been some unconfirmed suggestions that coming up next would be, yes, what else? Jelly bean! Time will tell if this is true. (see article)

What comes after 'Ice Cream Sandwich'? 'Jelly bean'?

Celebrating 'Jelly Bean Day'

22 April every year is the 'Jelly bean Day'. I have no idea why that is so. To me, everyday is 'Jelly Bean Day'.

Jelly bean quiz

Let's take a leisurely closure to this sweet and colorful story by taking a quiz. Find out "Which Jelly Belly Bean Flavor Suits Your Personality?". Just for fun. Don't take it too seriously.

"The colorfulness of your life can be tainted by your monochrome mind." (Vanilla Lenscape)

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Hello Kitties!

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat."
(Ellen Perry Berkeley)

This post is for all the cat lovers, cat haters and everyone who wants to know a little more about our feline friends.

Felis catus or felis domesticus, is what domestic cats are known scientifically. To most of us, they are simply 'cats' or 'kitties'. Today, they are arguably the most popular pet in the world. (Dog lovers, chill!)

"Thousands of years ago, cats were worshiped as gods.
Cats have never forgotten this.
) [Pic]

Cats and history

Cats have been featured in human lives for thousands of years. Their history as human pets can be traced as far back as the Ancient Egyptian era. The word for cat in Ancient Egypt was "mau". This sounds similar to the universally known word of "meow".

Cats 'meow' internationally. [Pic]

Cats in various languages

Besides "meow", cat is interestingly known by very similar names around the world. It is "gatto" in Italian and "gato" in Portuguese. The Vietnamese say "meo" and the Chinese say "mao"(猫). In Dutch, different names are given for male cats (kat) and female cats (poes). (See 'cat' in other languages)

Cats can be taboo. [Pic]

Cats as symbols

In many cultures and folklores, black cats are seen as a symbol of evil omens. This is the main reason why black cats have a lower chance of being adopted from shelters. In Thailand, the Korat cat is seen as a symbol of good luck. In Japan, the Maneki Neko is believed to bring 'fortune'.

Cats can be scary. [Pic]

Cats as a phobia

Ailurophobia is a form of persistent, irrational fear of cats. Similar terms include felinophobia, elurophobia and gatophobia. Just like other forms of phobia, it is likely to be developed by earlier bad experiences.

Cats can be funny. [Source]

Kats R Funny

Apart from their usual regal and aloof image, cats are often being picked as elements of humor. You can find lots of cat jokes in the Internet. "I Can Has Cheezburger?" weblog featuring lolcats is probably one of the most visited feline sites.

Puss in Boots: Endless cat wits.

Cats as fictional characters

The recently released 'Puss in Boots (3D)' movie (watch trailer) has received largely positive reviews. The combo of feline and wits is just purrfect. 

That is but just one. There are countless other popular fictional characters featuring cats: Figaro in Pinocchio, Dinah in 'Alice in Wonderland', Garfield in 'Garfield the Movie', Lucifer in 'Cinderella', Doraemon from the Japanese animation, Hello Kitty from Japan, Tom in 'Tom and Jerry' and Aristocats, the Disney movie are just some examples.

Oreo: Our house pet [Pic]

Cats as pets

A pet is for life and it is the same with having a pet cat. There are pros and cons and it is important that you do not introduce one into your life on impulse. Where possible, adopt. (See "A Pet is for Life")

Maru: A famous Internet Star [Source]

Cats as Internet Stars

Maru is a male Scottish Fold in Japan. His videos on YouTube have received millions of hits. He is known to love boxes and here is one of his videos. Check out others. You will love them.

Nora is a gray tabby cat adopted from the shelter in New Jersey. She has become famous for 'playing the piano'. Watch her play on the keyboard in this video.

In Singapore, Duke is a cat loved by many fans here and abroad. He was once a stray but now lives in an office. He has been a voice for other strays and has helped raise funds and awareness. Duke is taken care of by 'Minion' and his fans are known as 'dukakis'. (Read news and blog)

Cat quiz

Finally, give yourself a simple test and find out how much you know about cats. (I barely pass).

"People that don't like cats haven't met the right one yet." (Deborah A. Edwards, D.V.M.)

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't be a People Pleaser

People-pleasers want to make others happy at all costs.
Don't be one.

Do you find yourself agreeing to things you really do not want to do? Do you have difficulties saying 'No' to others? Do you feel uncomfortable about what others do or say to you but choose to say nothing?

Your answers to the above questions give you a quick idea if you are having issues with personal boundaries. A simple test can tell you more.

Healthy personal boundaries lead to
healthy personal relationship

What are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we set to protect ourselves from being manipulated or violated by others.

These limits, once communicated, serve as guidance on how others may act or speak in your presence.

What they are not?

Setting personal boundary may be mistaken as a negative behavior. It is seen as going against values such as selflessness and personal sacrifice.

Get those ideas out of your head!

On the contrary, it is a responsible act to have healthy personal boundaries. It is necessary as a prerequisite for harmonious and sustainable people relationship.

If you don't say, they don't know. [Pic]

Why are Personal Boundaries important?

Setting clear personal boundaries helps to establish healthy mutual respect and maintain good relationship. It is a win-win approach.

A healthy set of personal boundary boost self-esteem and happiness. It also helps us take greater control of our lives as we move on to meet the endless stream of life changes.

How to set Personal Boundaries?

4. Know your rights

Before anything else, you must believe that it is your right to set personal boundaries. Be honest with yourself on how you feel and what you think. Always have your own opinion while remaining humble and respectful towards alternative views.

You do not owe others more favor than others owe you.

Enforce your boundary. Say 'No'. [Pic]

3. Learn to say 'No'

If you are a people-pleaser, you may find yourself constantly agreeing to requests and advances. If you habitually accommodate others, you find your own happiness index dipping.

I am not promoting a selfish behavior. Rather, you need to remember that if you do not take care of your own needs, you won't be well enough to serve those who deserve your time.

We all know this too well: A frustrated mom is far less than a great mom.

Learn to say 'No' without fear, guilt and anger.

2. Know that you are important

You need to constantly remind yourself that your own feelings and needs are at no time less important. This reminder is especially relevant to women who behold traditional values of self-sacrifice.

Respect yourself and develop a strong sense of identity. Do believe in shared responsibility and reciprocity in any relationship.

You have to say where your boundary is. [Pic]

1. Learn to communicate your boundary

If someone crosses the line and makes you uncomfortable, you need to let him know. Keeping silence will send the signal that it is not inappropriate to behave in that manner.

There is no need to defend or argue. Simply communicate directly and gracefully while staying firm and assertive. Repeat yourself when faced with resistance or persistence.

Remember, once you give in, you are encouraging others to ignore your needs.

You OK, they OK

You are unique and have your own ideals. Take personal responsibility for who you are and be in charge of your own life.

When you are well and good, you are ready to serve, with personal boundaries intact, of course.

Don't play victim. You are not one.

"The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others." (Sonya Friedman)

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Monday, November 7, 2011

How to Meet People, Anytime and Anywhere

How to meet people:
One of the most important skills you ever need.

When we were little, adults would caution us not to talk to strangers. Are you still lugging that baggage and have problems meeting people?

We grew up carrying with us a certain level of apprehension towards approaching a total stranger or people we know little about. Some of us moved on and learn to meet new people but others need some help.

The skill of knowing how to meet people can impact the quality of your social life and the bottom-line of your business. It is not effortless and neither is it beyond reach. With some practice, you can meet people anytime and anywhere.

Here are some ways to meet people. Give them a try and find out what works for you: 

Make the first move proactively. [Pic]

12 Have a proactive attitude

This is one of the key success ingredients in meeting people. You are responsible for your own social life and you would need to work on it. From now on, take note of your meeting encounters and check who usually makes the first move.

11 Build up self-confidence

Self-confidence is the result of self-perception. They way you interpret information received from feedback and body language will affect the level of your self confidence.

10 Handle the fear of rejection

The fear of rejection is worse than the rejection itself. It is usually a show-stopper. Before you make your first move, remind yourself that you have nothing to lose. So what if there is no reciprocity for your initial 'Hi"? Take some risk and don't anticipate rejection.

Small talks need not be superficial and boring. [Pic]

9 Learn to make small talks

Some say small talks are superficial and boring. I prefer to describe them as light and harmless. Before you can plunge deeper into any relationship, you ought to begin from the shallow end. When making small talks, give everyone an equal chance to say something.

8 Get ready something to offer

This is a good leverage to approach other people. If you are good at something, you can offer some advice. If you bake, you can offer a little treat. Caution: I said 'offer', not 'impose'.

7 Prepare self introduction

It may seem easy talking about yourself but some preparation is recommended. Some of us tend to talk too much about self and others prefer to preserve total privacy. Be mentally prepared on what you want to say about yourself. You need not disclose everything but stay truthful in what you say.

Be prepared to offer something. [Pic]

6 Be a good conversationalist

Prolonged silence can be creepily awkward. A good conversationalist keeps things flowing and yet avoids being too domineering.

5 Respect boundaries

We are talking about initial meetings with people who are total strangers or with little familiarity. You ought to observe some social norms and stick to the acceptable boundaries. For example, extended eye contact, excessive physical closeness and imposing personal questions are big no-no's.

4 Be interested

Have some curiosity and find out more about the people you meet. It is a thin line between being interested in a person and being intrusive. If you do not practice, you can't get better at gauging it.

You need not be a Mr. Know-It-All.
Some sensing of what is going on helps.

3 Be informed

It can be embarrassing not knowing what is being said most of the time, especially when you are the only odd ball around. Do keep abreast of current affairs and issues that affect us.

2 Be receptive

Others may hold a different view, which may seem radical to you. While you need not agree to that, there is no justification to start an argument, however mild it might seem. If it gets too uncomfortable, you can always switch to other conversation topics.

1 Learn to read body language

The problem with body language reading is not the lack of expertise. Sometimes, we may be too self-absorbed that we fail to observe what others are telling us through body language. Do pay attention and take the cue to respond appropriately.

You can meet people anytime, anywhere. [Pic]

Where to meet people?


Classes, social events, public places, workplace, interest groups and volunteer works are just some avenues. I am talking about meeting real people, not those over the Internet. So, you would need to get out of your seat and start walking towards someone.

If you plan to read up more, try these:

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." (Dorothy Nevill)

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Monday, October 31, 2011

10 Life Lessons from Dad

p [Pic]

Everyone teaches me something. That includes my dad.

Dad was a traditional man, soft-spoken with occasional bursts of temper. Most of his advice and wisdom were not handed to me through direct words. I was sure they were there but I had to decode them. Some of the decoding took awhile, and some, many years later.

He seldom gave straightforward advice such as "You ought to study harder...". Come to think of it, he had never directly acknowledged my academic achievement of any kind. It was as if it would have been too arrogant to do so.

His rare advice in words were cryptic, like "That is not the way". I usually took the heed and tried some other ways to do the same.

Over the years, I realized that he has taught me much, in his own unique ways. Here are some:

Embrace 'now' before it becomes the past. [Pic]

Lesson 1: Everyday is worth celebrating

My dad was never too impressed with special celebrations such as birthdays. To him, 'Everyday in our life exists only once'.

That is so true. Special occasions are indeed special for some reasons. But 'today' will never revisit.

I learnt to embrace 'now'.

Lesson 2: Read widely and wisely

My dad read widely and as a child, I admired his wealth of knowledge. We would discuss anything from history to entertainment.

I remember bringing home a children magazine which was popular among the kids back then. In his usual nonchalant manner, my dad simply said, "It won't teach you much". Since then, I gave little attention to that magazine.

I learnt that some books are worth more than others. Always read something worthy.

Learn to see possibilities.
Not obstacles.

Lesson 3: Be observant and see beyond the surface

Occasionally, I followed my dad on his work trips. I would wait patiently while he attended to his business. I knew that some 'mini tours' around the town were next on our agenda.

My dad was not a typical 'tour guide'. He would show me sights that were often overlooked. Once he showed me some barnacles along the river bank and said "They are there all the time but you can only see them during low tides".

Many things are always there but it is really up to us to 'see' them. Very often, we look but we don't see. (read "You Look But You Don't See?")

I learnt to look for 'barnacles' around me.

Lesson 4: Walk into the alleys of life

When I traveled with dad, we walked a lot. It was a good way to feel the place and be close to him. He usually would not stick to the main road and I found myself weaving through alleys and lanes.

I did not like that but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by many unusual sights. I would not have seen them on conventional routes.

I learnt to try new 'routes' in life and welcome surprises.

The alleys of life are full of surprises.
Explore them.

Lesson 5: Everything has its good side

As a child, I hated my neighbor's dog, Napoleon. He was unfriendly and often terrified me with his hostile approaches. Just to clarify, I loved dogs and I still do. I just did not like Napoleon.

One day, on our way home, my dad brought my attention to a street sign. Sitting there was my most hated dog in his most unusual serene manner. Dad said Napoleon was a faithful dog and would habitually wait for the return of his owner at that time of the day.

Sometimes, we can get so caught up with our initial ideas about a person or something. We forget to see what could be good as well.

I learnt to see the good in people (and dogs too, of course).

Lesson 6: Earn your respect

We lived in a small town and my dad knew many town folks. I could see the respect they gave him and I could see why.

My dad was one of the most unassuming men I know. He was humble even though I knew he was superior to many in numerous ways. He earned his respect through his contributions, not status.

I learnt to earn the respect of others too.

No one owes you a living.
You decide how you live your life.

Lesson 7: Don't indulge in negative emotions

My dad was not the most patient man I know. I have seen how he would burst into flames and cause everyone around to be uncomfortable. I did not fully understand why but I am sure he had his reasons.

When we lose our cool, we always find our actions well justified. We give little thoughts to how unhelpful our actions might be. More often than not, some damage is caused.

I learnt that others do not owe me a living and I have no privilege to impose my foul emotions on them.

Lesson 8: Dirty your hands

When I was in Primary (Junior) School, I used to ask dad questions found in my science text books. He would suggest, "Try it out!"

I remember he helped me magnetize a metal pin and we saw how it worked like a compass.

I learnt that life is a lab. I need to do some experiments to learn in it. 

Life is like a lab.
Do some experiments in it.

Lesson 9: Parental advice isn’t always correct.

My dad did not know everything. He taught me what he knew but he might miss the point.

He had a certain way of learning a language and he believed that was good for me too. I was not gaining much mileage under his guidance.

We have different learning styles and I learnt not to copy learning approaches from others blindly. 

Lesson 10: Don't hold back

We were saddened by dad's untimely demise. I have always wondered what more he could teach me if he had been around awhile longer.

The answers will never be known.

I learnt that life is short. So say what you want to say and do what you want to do, now.

Everyday is the right day to celebrate. [Pic]

Today is not Father's Day and why am I writing this? Just like what I have learnt from Dad, everyday is worth celebrating. Don't wait till the next Father's Day to celebrate who your father is, or was.

You might want to read up more dad blogs.

"Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance." ~Ruth E. Renkel~

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Monday, October 24, 2011

What Happened to Your New Year Resolution?

2011 is ending in about 70 days.
Have you made good your new year resolution?

Before the start of this year, I shared My New Year Resolution.

Many of you would have made new year resolutions at that time too. In fact, you may have done so year after year. Right now, we have about 70 more days to the end of 2011. Have you made good what you have set out to do yet?

Hang on a moment, I think I heard some people saying "What was my resolution again?".

One of the most common reasons for failure
is the failure to plan.

Most do not meet their goals

If you have forgotten about your resolution or eventually fail to meet your goals, you are not alone. Experts say that new year resolutions are doomed to failure and 78% would have failed in their plans.

One of the most common reasons for failure is the failure to plan.

Many new year resolutions are ambitious but simplistic. They lack execution plans and do not spell any start or end point. For example, if you shouted out loud on January 1st 2011 that you wanted to quit smoking, you were not making a plan. You were merely making a wish.

You need real discipline to make
good your resolutions.

Is your resolution a mere cliché?

Take a look at a top-ten new year resolution list. Usually, you will find personal health and wellness on the list. Many people make these new year resolutions year after year. It makes us wonder why they would ceremoniously make the same one without realizing that they have been missing it for years.

You need discipline, not mood swings

To make good your resolution, you need discipline, real discipline. Winners take discipline as a tool to guide their performance. However, most people see it as a chore, a painful chore.

The bad news is that discipline can be painful. However, the good news is, you can practice so that the pain lessens or goes away.

What you think is what you get. [Pic]

Your thoughts drive your actions

What you do is a result of what you think. If you think negatively and always gravitate towards the downside of things, you will find yourself there most of the time.

In order to shape a positive mindsets, you would have to learn to do positive self-dialog. Each time you talk to yourself, you are in fact asking and answering a series of questions. The questions you ask and the answers you give go into your brain in a similar way how a programmer puts computing rules in a computer. Your actions and behaviors depend on how you have been programmed.

Say "I am doomed to fail" repeatedly, you would. Say "I am sure I will overcome it", you would too.

Get back on track each time you
There will be obstacles [Pic]

Be honest with yourself

Let's face it, making a resolution does not magically make you lose 5 kgs. You would have to work on it. While doing so, you may constantly face difficulties and distractions. While I have suggested working on your discipline, I did not say you have to drive yourself up the wall.

Do expect to derail along the way. What is important is to come back on track. Set your mind to your end point and keep going. Sprinting may give you a good speed but you will lose steam before you get far. Taking consistent small steps can be more powerful.

The journey of change continues. [Pic]

The last lap

You have 70 more days to the end of the year. It is never too late to start working on what you have set out to do.

70 days is not enough? Who says you can't have more?

Your plan need not be compartmentalized by artificial time line. If it is more realistic to have more than 70 days, give yourself that. Start working on it today. Since when you always have to start on January 1st and complete by December 31st? Time is seamless.

My new year resolution was to have none. What I really meant was I will make a commitment to change whenever and wherever, not just at the start of the year.

Forgotten your resolution? Fret not, you can generate new ones. Nay, just kidding.

"Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short." ~Adam Hochschild~

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