Monday, August 29, 2011

The Power of Small Steps

Taking a step each day will bring you 365 steps forward in a year. [Pic]

At any one time, you feel the need to change some parts of your life. Don't you?

Some of you tried to make drastic lifestyle changes and fell flat on the floor. Some of you tried to take small steps but halted along the way. But many simply felt stuck by your problems and circumstances.

Is making changes so difficult?

Before making any attempts to change your life, there are a few pitfalls you need to recognize:

4. Wish for a breakthrough

It is difficult to work towards a breakthrough in life. More often than not, a breakthrough comes incidentally along with other plans.

When one says 'I want to be a millionaire tomorrow', he is wishing for a breakthrough. He may have to win a lottery to get there. However, when one says, 'I want to be a millionaire before age 35', he may then plan to become one.

Wishing for a breakthrough is not the same as planning for a change.

You have many victorious moments everyday.
You just have to look out for them.

3. Failure to recognize small victories

You have moments of victories everyday. However, you tend to let them pass without acknowledging, celebrating and rewarding yourself.

Small victories may not be earth-shaking but they are aplenty. Examples of victorious moments: You plan to get fit so you walk to the convenience store instead of driving; or you plan to reconnect with friends and you call an old friend instead of being buried in your busy routine.

Small victories won't bring you to your final destination. However, they encourage you along the way in this long race of change. Embrace them daily.

2. Fear for the unknown

This is a common phenomenon with human beings. You tend to resist meeting anything unfamiliar. This is one of the main reasons why making changes can be unpleasant.

Your fear lives in your imagination and so does your confidence. Change the way you think and you will change the way you feel. Visualize your success and let that fill your mind, leaving little or no space for fear.

1. Procrastination is a habit

This is a habit found in almost everyone. You know you ought to make some changes but most of the time you would say, 'that can wait'.

In "Procrastination is Best Left Till Tomorrow", I said "There is no panacea to curing procrastination. The most practical way to deal with it is to face it. However, you can choose to start small and gradually scale it up".

If you like to procrastinate, do it tomorrow.

Procrastination is best left till tomorrow.  [Pic]

Let's go back to the earlier question "Is making changes so difficult?". To me, the answer is "No" if you do it consistently, taking small and manageable steps.

You may find the 'small-steps' approach unambitious. This is understandable because the journey is so long and taking small steps may mean taking forever.

However, if you compare this strategy to that of a runner, you would understand the power of small steps.

Sprinting is reserved for the 100-meter race. The journey of change is a long one. Just like a long-distance runner, you need to pace yourself. Look out for short-term 'finishing lines' and celebrate each milestone. If you use up all your energy in one burst, you are unlikely to go very far.

Feel the power of small steps. [Pic]

By taking small steps, you tend to reap benefits immediately:
  • You fear less
  • You tend not to procrastinate
  • You see regular interim results
  • You gain confidence with each step forward
  • You tend not to fall badly

In "Things You Can Do Better, Now", I shared that "it does not take much to make a difference, immediately". That is exactly what the 'small-steps' strategy is all about. Do all the things you can do immediately and see how little achievements accumulate and compound into respectable triumph.

Anthony Robbins, a renowned motivational speaker, wrote a book on "Giant Steps: Small Changes to Make a Big Difference". It comprises of 365 simple techniques to improve your life. Many of them are ideas which you have already known while you may need to pause and ponder over some other lessons.

I suggest you do not dismiss too quickly any of those lessons in the book as 'commonsense'. After all, in real life, 'commonsense is not so common'.

The simpler the idea is, the longer you
would need to ponder over it.

In "Not-So-Common Sense?", I pointed out that many know what commonsense is but few are conscious in applying it. The simpler the idea is, the longer you would need to ponder over it.

Take your first baby step today, everyday, for the rest of your days. See how the power of small-steps launch you from height to height.

All the best to you on your journey of change.
"I dream of men who take the next step instead of worrying about the next thousand steps." ~Theodore Roosevelt~

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 22, 2011

Are You A Good Conversationalist?

No one is an island. You need to hone the art of conversation. [Pic]

Even Robinson Crusoe finds the need to converse with someone. He has Friday.

We are gregarious creatures and we need to interact with others. However, not everyone finds holding a conversation easy. Some would rather avoid it as much as possible. Why?

Taken from Wikipedia, 'conversation' is explained as "interactive, more-or-less spontaneous, communication between two or more conversants." The word 'spontaneous' makes conversation potentially challenging.

You do not usually 'prepare' a conversation the way you would with a speech. More often than not, the going is spontaneous. That is to be the problem faced by those who find holding a conversation trying, especially if spontaneity is not their forte.

A conversation is not about having many
concurrent monologues.

Let's look at some simple rules to improve your conversation skills:

12. Have a conversation, not a speech

If you would rather talk about yourself and not let anyone else have a chance, give a speech instead. Sometimes, there may be less active participants in the group. You can choose to 'invite' them by asking questions such as, "So, how was your vacation last week?".

11. Involve everyone

Everyone within the group should be active, contributing to the conversation. You should not dominate. Neither should you be passive. Constantly check yourself against the participation level of other members. Whenever you find yourself talking too much or too little, tune your involvement level.

10. Ask questions

Questions can ignite a conversation, making it lively. Simple questions such as "What do you think..?", "What is your favorite..?" can nudge everyone to say something. However, go easy on your questions. It is a conversation that you are a holding, not interrogation.

Use colorful and vibrant words to
liven up conversation.

9. Choose your words

A good conversationalist makes good use of descriptive and vibrant words. Use words that help others visualise and feel. Saying that your experience was a 'bad' one is certainly not as lively as saying it was "nerve-wrecking.". See "Choose Your Words".

8. Avoid using jargon or being pompous

Big words are not necessarily impressive, unless you shower them on your English teachers. Use easily understood words and avoid being too technical. Save your jargons for conversations with people in the same fraternity.

Be simple. Be understood. People have been saying "I love you" for centuries". They do not say "I am immensely infatuated by you" for obvious reasons. See "Don't Be A Jargon Junky".

7. Choose appropriate topics

Unless everyone in the group is a fan of Luciano Pavarotti, don't keep going on and on about how you love operas. Choose everyday topics instead. It doesn't mean that you have to confine yourself to talk about the weather. In Singapore, talking about food and shopping can't go very wrong.

In any conversation, you need active listening. [Pic]

6. Listen

Listening to someone is more than just holding back you interruption. You need to be attentive and acknowledge what is being said along the way. If you start to wander off and worry about when you can pick up your kids, you will lose yourself in the conversation. At times, it can be embarrassing.

I wrote about 'active listening' in "Listen! It's Been A Year!". Take a look.

5. Do some homework

If you are meeting someone for the first time, it is a good idea to find out more about him first. You can find out from common acquaintance or get information in the public domain. However, you might not want to be over zealous in showing how much you know about him. It can be creepy and he may think that you have been stalking him. Use the information you know as conversation starter instead. If you found out on social networks that he likes scuba diving, you can ask him if he is into any sports. Let him tell you about scuba diving, not the other way round.

4. Move around

If you are having conversations at social gatherings, move around and mingle with different groups of people. Learning how to cut into a group is part of the social skills you need to acquire. A simple starter such as "Hey! I see that you have something interesting to say about the latest..." would usually earn you the 'right' to join a new conversation group.

You can revive a stalled conversation by
revisiting earlier topics.

3. Run out of things to say? Don't panic!

You don't have to feel awkward when where is a prolonged silence in the group. All you have to do is to revisit what was conversed earlier and ask some questions relating to those topics. Say something like "I was thinking about what you said earlier...". Very often, the group would end up starting a new conversation topic. Alternatively, you can scan around the room, pick up some objects and strike a conversation with them. After asking "I wonder who would pay for something like that?", the group should be ready to jump in and start the conversation anew.

2. Be constructive and positive

You do not have to agree with everyone all the time. But, do offer alternative views in a constructive and respectful way. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you are perceived as someone forceful in personal opinion, the other people may find the conversation daunting.

1. Have a graceful exit

All great conversations will come to an end. Do not just walk away. End it with a positive note by saying something such as "It has been enlightening talking to you" or "I hope to catch up with you sometime. See you again".

Conversation can be tough when dealing
with difficult people.

Be prepared for difficult conversation

I would not want to make the art of conversation sound overly simplistic. The truth is, some conversations can be very stressful causing much anxiety. Having a conversation with someone who is unreasonable, dishonest, hostile or emotionally wrecked is not fun. In social settings, we can afford to avoid such conversations altogether. However, in life, one needs to survive difficult conversations sometimes, at home or at work. I won't cover much here (maybe another time) but I will leave some references at the end of this article.

Even if you think you generally have little difficulties holding a conversation, you might have some 'bad habits' that you aren't aware of. Take some time to reflect over the above pointers and refine your skills. For those who find it tough to enjoy a conversation, you just have to start doing it. It will get easier.

I will end here by leaving you with some references to help you handle difficult conversations:

"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~

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 15, 2011

Boost Your Self Esteem: You're Better than You Think You Are

When you have low self esteem, you do not realize
that you are better than you think you are.

Self esteem is your opinion of yourself.

It is important to have a decent level of self esteem. It affects your attitude towards life and eventually the quality of your life.

Regardless of your station in life, your self esteem is capable of dipping. It does not matter what family background you have, which school you attended, what position you hold, which man/woman you marry, how much you have in your bank account and which land you live in, you are susceptible.

The good news is, you are your own architect who can build your own self esteem. You do not necessarily need help from others.

The bad news is, no one but you can pull yourself up from your low point. Others, at best, can bring you closer.

Ask: "How do I feel about who I am?" [Pic]

Why are we having problems with self esteem?

When you feel less worthy, you tend to focus on causes which make you feel that way. You shift your blames to anything and everything you can find around you: your teachers, your parents, your employers, your neighbors, your government or the society and environment at large.

That is to be the main reason why you find it hard to elevate your self esteem: you are looking in the wrong direction.

The one and only person you have to focus on is yourself. All other matters are but the backdrops of your life.

Raising self esteem begins with raising self awareness. [Pic]

What can we do about our self esteem?

I am not spared from having moments of low self esteem. None of us are. What we need to achieve is not a state of perpetual high self esteem. Rather, we need to learn how to bring ourselves up whenever we are down.

Having a healthy level of self esteem means not self hating. However, it does not mean that you have to be narcissistic. It is a balance that is part of the learning.

Your life consists of a potpourri of experiences. The level of your self esteem depends on which part of your life experience you amplify. If you play up bad moments and dismiss good stuff, it is not difficult to understand what emotional state you will get yourself into.

Your self esteem can go either way. It's up to you. [Pic]

Let's have some quick pointers to work on:

8. Learn self-dialog

How you talk to yourself affects your level of confidence and happiness. Just like any dialog with another, you learn to use the right tone and the right words when you have self-dialog. See "Self Dialog: Look Who's Talking?"

7. Record your successes
We tend to be swamped by immediate problems and amplify them. In doing so, we forget our moments of success. To make re-counting those positive moments easier, you can maintain a journal of your accomplishments.

If you let everyone come into your personal space, you would not
have enough space to attend to your inner feelings.

6. Maintain personal boundaries

We need our personal space to nourish our emotional health. You would have to learn to say 'No' and discourage others from encroaching into your space. If you constantly give in to other people's demand, you will grow to dislike yourself. You compromise what you really like and over time, your self esteem suffers.

5. Stop thinking in finite terms

Very often, things do not exist in black or white. Manage your self esteem by learning how to glide on the scale of greyness. Learn to replace "I am a total failure" with "I can be better". Notice that "total failure" is finite while "better" is a matter of relativity.

4. Be fair to yourself

If you magnify your failures and dismiss your strength, your self esteem goes down. Learn to see yourself with a positive lens. See failure as a reference point from which you can move forward. See success as affirmation of your strength.

Normalcy is a gift. Don't take it for granted. [Pic]

3. Be a volunteer

You can help and you always can. As a volunteer, you help those in need and at the same time, you help to up your self esteem. One thing for sure, you would be reminded of your own gifts. Normalcy is a gift. Don't take it for granted.

2. Beware of the 'more-is-better' trap

Some people are busy making money for they believe in "The More The Merrier" At some point, after expanding their bank account and material possessions, they wonder why they hit a low point.

The reality is that, the lack of worldly possessions is not the cause of your low self esteem.

1. Keep a healthy lifestyle

Do not ignore your health. If you feel strong and healthy, your self esteem improves. In fact, if you want an instant lift on your self esteem, start exercising and eating healthily.

No one can make you feel low if you
do not allow them to.

What are the characteristics of a low self esteem person?

Before we end, let's do a quick diagnostic on the state of your self esteem. If you have most of the characteristics below, you need to work on your self esteem:
  1. Social withdrawal
  2. Anxiety and emotional turmoil
  3. Lack of social skills and self confidence
  4. Depression and/or bouts of sadness
  5. Less social conformity
  6. Eating disorders
  7. Inability to accept compliments
  8. An inability to be fair to yourself
  9. Accentuating the negative
  10. Exaggerated concern over what you imagine other people think
  11. Self neglect
  12. Treating yourself badly but NOT other people
  13. Worrying whether you have treated others badly
  14. Reluctance to take on challenges
  15. Reluctance to put yourself first or anywhere
  16. Reluctance to trust your own opinion
  17. Expecting little out of life for yourself

You are a gift but you must first unwrap it before the
goodness in it can be shown.

Your existence is a gift to this world. However, if you do not unwrap the gift, nothing good can be revealed. Self esteem is all about your ability to bring out your strength and appreciate yourself.

If you are not for yourself, who will be for you?

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 8, 2011

Waiting for the Ones: 11-11-11

What are your thoughts on 11-11-11? [Pic]

On Sep 9 2009, I wrote in "When All The Nines Collide":
"090909 is obviously a unique date and we are only left with just three more similarly 'unique' days: 101010, 111111 and 121212."
In about three months' time, Nov 11 2011 or the "111111" day, will be here. This time, I shall write about it ahead of time.

November 11 is the 315th day of the year. Just like any other day, it is one of the 365 days (366 for leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. However, in 2011, the day will make a never-to-be-repeated date combo of 11-11-11.

Planning to tie the knot on 11-11-11? [Pic]

Many people would have found the date special and have made plans months ahead to spend the day in a memorable way. Among other things, I expect many couples to tie knots on 11-11-11. Well, if that is your plan as well, you have 10 weeks to file your application for marriage at the Registry of Marriages (ROM) ie. Aug 11 to Oct 20 2011.

If you are one of those who are fascinated by the number combo, I have some fascinating facts (and fiction) to share with you.

Make a wish at time 11:11 and see your
wish come true?

Time 11:11

When it comes to time, the number 1111 has some strange significance.

Some people believe that if they make a wish each time they see 11:11 on the clock, their wish will come true. I am unable to verify the origin of this belief but I do see people playfully make wishes at the 11th minute of the 11th hour.

So, does it mean that on 11-11-11, at 11:11, your biggest wish will come true? At least, someone must have believed it enough to create a Fecebook page with the title 'Nov 11, 2011, at 11:11 your biggest wish will come true.11/11/11 11:11'.

Remembrance Day

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended. Today, Nov 11 is marked as the 'Remembrance Day'. It is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the members of their armed forces who have died on duty in the war.

Leonardo DiCaprio: 37th Birthday
on 11-11-11
[Pic: Wiki]

Happy Birthday!

Leonardo DiCaprio, well known for his lead role in Titanic, was born on 11 Nov 1974. He will be celebrating this 37th birthday on 11-11-11.

The 'Palindrome Number' game

When you multiply '11', '111', '1111' and so on, with itself, you will get a palindrome number.

A palindrome number is a number which remains the same when read from left to right or the other way round. '123454321' is an example.

Take out your calculator now and see some creation of palindrome numbers when you use the fascinating 'ones':

111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321

"11-11-11" the movie will be released
on 11-11-11.

"11-11-11", the movie

Well, no prize for getting it right, the movie will be officially released on 11-11-11. The storyline evolves around the '11:11 phenomenon' with strange happenings and constant sightings of the number 11. In the story, '11-11-11' is more than just a date. It is a 'warning'.

The movie is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, the same director for Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV. I do not suppose the movie is meant for the fainthearted. Watch the trailer.

The 'Singles Day'

This day is also known as 'One's Day' or 'Guang Gun Jie' (光棍节) and it is celebrated by singles in China. This pop culture is believed to have originated from the Nanjing University in 1993.

'Guang Gun' (光棍) means 'bachelor' in Chinese. The date 11-11 is chosen because it consists of four 'ones'.

Demographically, China is experiencing one of the worst gender ratio imbalance in the world. It was reported that, the 2010 figures showed a ratio of '119 boys born per 100 girls'. The ratio went as high as 140:100 in some rural areas. At this rate, we can expect more bachelors to be celebrating the 'Singles Day' in the years to come.

Pepero Day in Korea is celebrated like
Valentine's Day.
The 'Pepero Day'

While the bachelors in China celebrate their 'single' status, young people in Korea celebrate the 'Pepero Day' on the same day.

Pepero is a brand of cookie stick dipped in chocolate sauce and it has been a popular snack in Korea since the 1980s. The day is so-called because 11-11 resembles four Pepero sticks.

In Korea, 'Pepero Day' is akin to 'Valentine's Day'. On this day, couples exchange Pepero sticks and other gifts to reaffirm their special relationship. Some would even time their exchange at 11:11. (see article)

The world is going to end on 11-11-11? [Pic]

The unknown

There are many other suggestions in the Internet about the meaning of '11-11-11'. Many of them are mysterious and mind-boggling, relating to prophecy, astrology and divinity. Some people question if that day would be the 'end of the world' while some believe it will be the day a 'New World' will be created.

I do not know enough to believe or dismiss any of those suggestions. However, I do believe that the special number combo has triggered many unusual ideas.

11-11-11 is three months away. You have time to decide how you would like to make that day special for you. For me, it is going to be just another 'TGIF' day.

"Men willingly believe what they wish." ~Julius Caesar~

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 1, 2011

Say "NO" to Bear Farming

Help end bear farming. Source

Bear bile farming is a shameful trade and you ought to know.

Bile is a bitter fluid produced by liver to aid digestion. Since ancient time, this extract from the gall bladder of bears has been used as a useful ingredient in the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Since the 1980s, bear farming was carried out in China to meet increasing demand. The scale grew out of control. Today, there are a few hundred such farms capturing tens of thousands of bears.

A bear farm in appalling conditions. Source: wspa

What is bear farming?

Bear farming involves caging bears in tiny spaces. This to restrict their movement to facilitate extraction of bile juice via a catheter. The captured bear would have a tube extending into its gall bladder for the rest of its life.

'The rest of its life' is sadly a short span of time. Between age five to ten, the bears stop producing bile. They are then put away to die of illness or killed for their paws and gall bladders.

Source: Animals Asia

During bile milking, the bears suffer such unimaginable physical pain and mental stress that they would normally exhibit disturbing behaviors. They were seen to be banging their heads against the cages, gnawing on the cage bars and chewing their own paws. Most of them suffer from skin sores and malnutrition.

The process of bile extraction is crude. A rubber tube is surgically inserted into the gall bladder. It is placed to run under the skin up to the thigh where the bile juice is collected. The surgery is done by untrained farmers. The bears would suffer during the procedure and there have been many incidents of death due to complications.

Here are more picture on bear farming.

Bear bile products. Source: Bush Warriors

Why go after bear bile?

The value of bear bile comes from a chemical known as ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). It is used by TCM practitioners who believe that it has properties that help to reduce fever and protect the liver, among other things.

Nothing is of any commercial value unless it is sought after. Bear products are widely banned but they were reported to be readily available in the U.S. (91%), Malaysia (78%), Japan (77%), and Singapore (74%), closely followed by Canada (67%), Indonesia (62%), Australia (49%) and Taiwan (30%).

Bear products stay in demand because people continue to believe in its benefits. Few were aware that in modern chemistry, cheaper and equally effective alternative medicines are available. Most importantly, many are clueless about the horrendous cruelty that went into the products.

Bile milking. Source: Bush Warriors

Who cares?

For a long time, many people in and outside China were unaware of this cruel practice. In recent years, pressure has been mounting locally and internationally to end bear farming. Somehow, the Chinese Government has been slow in giving due attention to the matter and they barely bow to the demand from lobbyists.

A baby step was taken in 2000 to act against the cruel acts. In July that year, the Animals Asia Foundation signed an agreement with the Chinese Government to remove 500 endangered Moon Bears from the worst bile farms in Sichuan province. The agreement has an eventual goal of ending the bile trade.

Here is a video on the bear rescue.

Billboard in Beijing: "Rescue Black Bears. Give Up Bear Bile."
Source: Animals Asia

You can help!

Meanwhile, here are some of the things you can do to help end bear farming:

- Do not support bile trades
- Support "Say No to Bear Bile" Campaign
- Get involved
- Sign a petition
- Learn more about it

There are many articles in the Internet and here is one by GreenMuze. You can also watch this video by Jackie Chan (成龙) who teamed up with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to create awareness. Karen Mok (莫文蔚) also teamed up with Animals Asia Foundation and gave the same message in a separate video.

Lastly, you can spread the words to raise awareness. Share this article with your friends. No one should stay ignorant about bear farming.

"One of the ill effects of cruelty is that it makes the bystanders cruel." ~Thomas Fowell Buxton~

Stumble Upon Toolbar