Monday, September 26, 2011

Choose Your Pain: Discipline or Regret

Self-discipline involves acting according to what you
think instead of how you feel in the moment.

I lack self-discipline. Many out there share my pain.

There were countless times I intended do something I knew was good for me. Somehow, I gave in to my moods and how I 'felt'. At times, I garnered enough will power to hit the road but halted after a short while.

We all have such experiences. Don't we?

What is Self Discipline?

Self discipline involves acting based on how you think rather than how you feel. It usually comes with some momentary discomfort or pain.

There are many different but similar ways to define 'self-discipline'. The one from Wikipedia defines it as "the ability to motivate oneself in spite of a negative emotional state."

Steve Pavlina attributes the five pillars of self-discipline to "Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence." (See 'Self-Discipline' by Steve Pavlina)

Self discipline requires the inner strength to
reject immediate satisfaction.

What is Self Discipline to me?

I look around for ways to 'cure' my lack of discipline. I come across so many suggestions to the point they become rather confusing. I thought I just have to give it my own meaning.

'Self-discipline' is about the mental strength that gets you to do what you need to do. Many call that strength 'will power' but I look at it as 'thinking muscle'. Just like any muscle, you can also build up your 'thinking muscle'.

'Self-discipline' is also about a collection of good habits. These habits get you to do what is good for you. You too can build such habits.

Build up your 'thinking muscle' to overcome the
desire to indulge in unhelpful habits.

Within this simplistic meaning of 'self discipline', I have a few related thoughts:

1) You can choose your behaviors

First and foremost, you have to believe that you have the choice. It is never about what is around you or who is getting in the way. You decide on the set of behaviors you think is helpful to achieve your goals.

For example, when you are confronted by a hostile person, you have the choice of walking away or play 'tit for tat'.

2) Habits can be built

Having decided on your choice behavior, make it a habit.

A habit is a repetitive and unconscious act. For example, if it is your habit to clean up your work desk everyday, you would do it without much struggle with your moods. You would just keep tidying up your desk whenever the need arises and you don't give much thought to it.

On the contrary, if that has not become your habit, you would have to rationalize the need to do it and might constantly find reasons to lower its priority. During this time, your desk stays messy.

You need to take control of the internal world of
yourself before you can take control of the
external world.

3) Do 'exercises' to rid reluctance

When you lack self-discipline, you constantly experience a sense of reluctance which prevents you from doing what you set out to do. You need to strengthen your will power or 'thinking muscle' to rid your reluctance. Some simple exercises can help you achieve that.

The exercises can take place anytime and anywhere. Whenever you are about to take the easy way out, grab that as your chance to practice.

Here are some examples:
  • You are about to buy something on impulse, fight that desire.
  • You are about to put the second sugar cube into your coffee, hold it.
  • You are about to walk away from someone you dislike, say 'Hi' to him.
  • You are about to sit in front of the TV, take a walk.
Such exercises would gradually strengthen your will power. In turn, you get a more disciplined self.

You can exercise your 'thinking muscle'
anytime, anywhere.

Putting it into practice

I write regularly and I enjoy organizing my thoughts in words. However, there were times I experienced great reluctance to write because I 'felt' like doing something else. I did not allow that to happen and my writing did not cease.

That is but one of my practices. You can find yours and start practicing. 'You are better than you think you are'. Just take the  first step and keep going. Let the 'Power of Small Steps' take you to where you want to go.

Surely you would agree that it is better to take the pain of discipline than the pain of regret.

"The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions." ~ Stephen R. Covey~

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Picture Blog #22: Dalí - Mind of a Genius

'Dance of Time II', at the entrance of the Museum. [Pic]

A genius is in town but not for too long.

"Dalí: Mind of a Genius – The Exhibition" opens at the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum, Singapore, on 14 May 2011. You have up to 30 Oct 2011 if you have yet to catch it.

Dalí: Mind of a Genius Exhibition,
14 May 11 - 30 Oct 11

Source: Marina Bay Sands
The Spanish artist, whose full name is Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol is usually just known as Salvador Dalí (thank goodness). He was born in Spain in 1904 and died at the age of 84 in 1989. During his life time, his creations spanned across various media. His field is expansive covering paintings, sculptures, photography, films, writings and even furniture designs.

To a lay person like me, Dali appears to be an eccentric artist. To others who have since admired his ingenious works, he is well regarded as a surrealist. Very briefly, a surrealist is an artist who is a member of the surrealism movement. I know that does not really explain very much. After all, I have to respect that a surrealist is surreal and it is not something I can grapple with easily.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931 (Source: Wikipedia)

Dali's most famous piece of work has to be "The Persistence of Memory" painted in 1931. The painting consists a surreal images of melting pocket watches which seem to straddle into the fourth dimension of time. This recognizable piece of artwork leaves you with limitless room for interpretation.

At the exhibition, be prepared to lose your mind in the imagination of Dali. There are three themes, bringing you through 'Femininity and Sensuality', 'Religion and Mythology', and 'Dreams and Fantasy'.

ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands [Pic]

I did enjoy myself immersing in more than 250 pieces of his striking artworks. I would not say I understood or appreciated every single piece I saw. However, I was temporarily transcended into a surreal world which was most refreshing and intriguing. 

I tried to go into the mind of Dali and wondered if he was sane. After all, he once said that:
"There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” 
However, he seemed to have contradicted himself when he said:
"The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad."
Only he knew better, or did he?

Snail and the Angel [Pic]
Dali's Paintings [Pic]

The Mae West Lips Sofa [Pic]

Spellbound [Pic]

Image of Dali on a smoke screen [Pic]

Ticketing Information

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it." ~Salvador Dali~

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Reflection: 10 Years After 911

10 years on...will the world ever forgive and forget? [Pic]

Today is the 11th of September 2011, 10 years after the horrific incident which will take the world forever to forget.

On that fateful day, two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center. Another crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Defense. The forth one crashed in Pennsylvania.

All these four unforgettable tragedies took thousands of lives and they were no accidents nor coincidence. The planned acts were driven by seemingly insurmountable hatred among groups of human beings.

On the same day three years ago, I wrote "I Guess I'll Never Understand" and wondered why human hatred can be so extreme that nothing else seemed to matter. I am not any wiser today.

Human hatred can be so extreme that nothing else
seemed to matter.

Have we become worse?

In the beginning, the cavemen were preoccupied with physical survival. They hunted and they fought with animals. They became territorial and guarded their turfs. Back then, human beings fought and kill each other because they were protecting their families and food.

Over the last few millenia, men added more sophistication in their lives: language, religion, ethnic and culture. Lifestyle became more varied and beliefs became more complex. It is no longer just about food and shelter.

Today, we need more. At least, that is what most people think. In our hectic pursuit of what we think we need, we forget about some simple facts of life. We lose ourselves in materialism and become anemic in spirituality.

Are you losing yourselves in materialism and
becoming anemic in spirituality?

On the anniversary of the painfully unforgettable day, let's spend a moment to take stock of ourselves.


We complain and we complain a lot. However, if we were to take a step back, we would realize that we have been complaining about things that we can do without and forget to be thankful for the richness that has already been given to us.

We forget that we were born healthy, we received education, we have three meals a day, we have clean water, we have jobs and we have our loved ones with us. The list does not stop here.

See "Sometimes, I Forget..." and learn to complete the sentence "I am thankful for.." everyday, starting from now.

Be thankful for the gifts and richness
bestowed upon you.


We are constantly being lured by glitzy advertisements and busy 'keeping up with the Joneses'. We want more the moment we have more. The pursuit never ends and increasingly serves less purposes: A more powerful automobile is not going to bring you to office any sooner in the morning; a bigger house is not going to make your family much happier and a more sumptuous meal only means more wastage.

Do ponder over the notion 'The More The Merrier'.


How much of your time is spent embracing 'Now'? Some people live in the past and feel sorry for things they can no longer change. Some people hope for a better tomorrow but do little to make that happen. Some people often forget that 'Now' is not here forever and there are only so many 'tomorrows'.

In 'The Last Lecture' I tried to imagine if we were to know our 'expiry date' right from the start of our lives, would we have lived our lives differently?' Would you?

Complete the sentence "I am thankful for..." everyday,
starting from now. 


We do not stop learning after leaving our last learning institution. No one disagrees with that but few truly understand and practice lifelong learning. We seem to have loads of reasons why we have no time to keep up. Some of which, I must say, are creative. In 'Lifelong Learning - My Way", I said that it is about making it a habit and making it a priority.

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can - there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.


We do not own the Earth and yet we behave like we have another one out there. If all the seven billion of us could be gentler to the Earth, this blue marble can certainly be happier. After all, it is the only thing we have in common.

See "The '350' Global Warming Alert", take a little interest on global warming and see "Say NO To Plastic Bags" and start doing something within your means, at least.

Not forgetting our animal friends. If you plan to keep one at home, do remember that "A Pet is for Life". Have some "(Cruel) Food For Thought" when you put what is left of them in your plates. Take a look at "(Cruel) Food For Thought #2" too.

We do not own the Earth. Do live harmoniously
with nature.

Everyone wants to be happy but many go the opposite way and make themselves miserable. How very odd. Is it really so difficult to be happy?

In "Happiness is a Choice", I wrote that we can become happier if we learn to tell apart what we can control and what we can't. It will definitely help if we always examine ourselves first before blaming anyone. In "Happiness Quotient", I reckoned that the secret for being a happy person is not that complex and we should not make it so.

Will time ever erase the pain in the past? [Pic]

So, 10 years on, with Bin Laden dead, has the world become more peaceful? I am not certain. What I am certain is that each of us owe ourselves the duty to make ourselves a better person. Make this your daily reminder: "Be a "Better Me" Everyday".

Finally, let's not forget those who died, those who were never found and those who were left behind on September 11, 2001, just because some individuals had forgotten to "Think "Better, Not "Bitter".

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace." ~John Lennon~

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Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Time for Moon-Gazing Party

Waiting for the fullest and brightest moon on
the Mid Autumn Festival.

In a week's time (12 Sep 2011), we will be celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节).

According to the lunar calendar, this festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month every year. It is not known when it began but some historians believe that it has its origin from a few thousands years ago. In those days, life evolved largely around agricultural activities. During the mid autumn, farmers would celebrate good harvests under the full moon in the eight month.

In the early days, the Chinese would worship the moon during the Mid Autumn Festival. Later, the tradition evolved to a more leisurely moon-gazing, wine-sipping and poem-reciting celebration. Many Chinese poems from the Tang and Song Dynasties include poetic appreciation of the moon.

Mid Autumn, a festival for moon-gazing,
wine-sipping and poem-reciting.

When is the moon at its brightest?

The moon is said to be the fullest and the brightest during the mid autumn and there is even an ancient Chinese saying for it (月到中秋分外明). However, some may disagree and say that the brightest moon is found during the Winter Solstice (冬至).

In fact, in the last Winter Solstice (21 Dec 2010), we experienced a rare occurrence where the Winter Solstice coincided with lunar eclipse. On that day, the moon was said to be big, round and red, nothing we have seen since 1378.

Meteorologically, the moon is not necessarily the brightest during the Mid Autumn Festival. Earlier this year, we have just seen a Supermoon on 19 Mar 2011. On that day, the moon was said to be the nearest to the Earth in 18 years, making it the brightest, biggest and perhaps, the most threatening. Yes, threatening...

Is there any connection between natural
disasters and the moon?
Should the moon be blamed for disasters?

Just a week before the Supermoon Day, Japan experienced one of the most powerful earthquake in history (11 Mar 2011). The quake has brought about the most monstrous tsunami that sent shock waves globally. Half a year later, Japan is still licking its wound inflicted by the nightmarish natural disaster.

Some people have speculated that the supermoon is responsible for natural disasters such as earthquakes. However, scientists have thought otherwise saying that there has been no evidence so far.

Is there a bunny up on the moon? [Pic]

What's up on the moon?

The moon must have ignited much imagination since time immemorial. According to folklore, Chang'e (嫦娥), the goddess of the Moon, lived up there with the Jade Rabbit. During full moon, take a good look at the moon and you might just spot the shape of the bunny in the dark shadows on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was there to check out on 20 Jul 1968. Ask him and he will tell you he saw no rabbit on that remarkable day.

The festival, today

In these modern days, we celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival contemporarily. In Singapore, the day is not one of the Public Holidays. Notwithstanding that, it would be difficult not to know that the festival is around the corner.

The businessmen would be at their top form, trying to lure you to buy their ever-most-creative mooncakes. They would stop at nothing to make their products eye-catching and attractive. This has drawn some criticism on ''unnecessary and wasteful mooncake packaging'.

Mooncake is the traditional sweet cookies during
the Mid Autumn Festival.

The Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the 'Lantern Festival'. Decorations would feature lanterns in elaborate designs. The little ones are certainly more keen to carry their lanterns around the neighborhood than to taste some of the most exotic mooncakes. In nearby Malaysia, it has been reported that the Angry Birds lanterns are flying out of the stores fast.

Traditionally, Mid Autumn Festival celebration is preceded with presentation of mooncake as gifts to friends and relatives. However, in the eyes of the Chinese tax authorities, these are not ordinary gifts. Since 1994, employees who receive such gifts from their employers are to pay a 'mooncake tax' as part of their personal income tax for the benefits they enjoy. Needless to say, such a move has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Chinese taxpayers. (See more Weird Tax Stories)

If you are in Singapore, you may want to check out Mid-Autumn Festival Street Light-Up, Street Bazaar, Mass Lantern Walk, Nightly Stage Shows in Chinatown or Lantern Festival at Chinese Garden.

There are hungry people elsewhere.
Go easy on food wastage.

Spare a thought during the festive time

In "Where's The Bunny?" I wrote in 2008, I noted that "Everybody seems to be rushing to buy for everybody. The net result of this whole hullabaloo is the handsome profit netted by the merchants and loads of unconsumed mooncakes being transferred from those gleaming boxes to the least glamorous trash bins."

I doubt that things are any different this year. While you are in the mood to indulge in the sweet cookies, spare some thoughts for the hungry people in some other parts of the world. Go easy on food wastage!

Happy moon-gazing l!!

"In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy." ~Albert Clarke~

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