How to do the right thing

I have been thinking hard about what’s the most important lesson that a father should teach his children … and the answer that sprung to mind is: Do the right thing.

‘Always do the right thing’ sounds like a pretty good mantra to live with.  It seems rather obvious and straight forward, for after all, if we let our conscience (our innate moral compass) guide our actions, don’t we naturally do what is right?

No, not so easy. The challenge lies in ascertaining what constitutes ‘right.’ Would telling a white lie, punishing a misbehaving child, or putting a sickly animal to sleep (by lethal injection) the right thing to do? What do you think?

Now, I don’t plan to get into a lengthy debate on morality and ethics.  Instead, I want to introduce you to a simple framework that informs my judgment and actions, especially when determining the right actions isn’t that clearcut.

I coined this the I-A-M model.  Essentially, it prompts us to consider 3 distinct yet inter-related elements of action.

  • Intention (I) – WHAT: What do I want to achieve? What outcome do I wish to create? For whose sake am I acting?
  • Motivation (M) – WHY: Why do I want what I want? What would it give me? What’s important about it?
  • Action (A) – HOW: What do I need to do to bring about the intended outcome without causing any undue harm onto myself and others? What can I do? Ultimately, what will I do?

It’s interesting to note that we tend to judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions. However, just having good intentions isn’t good enough, for it’s often been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to heaven is paved with good deeds.

In this model, the ‘rightness’ is measured by the degree of alignment between our intentions, motivations and actions.  So long as your intentions are pure and well-meaning, your motivations are healthy (driven by values and not emotions), and your actions are effective and free from harm, rest assured that you are pretty much on the  ‘right’ track. Give it a test run and find out for yourself.

Love,

Your Right-minded Dad

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Dream Big. Start Small.

I was at uncle Mac’s place today.  As I listened to him expounding on the process of Visioning and the importance of dreaming (something that we all once did intuitively well while we were young but seemed to have forgotten as we grew up), a voice in my head whispered:

“Dream Big. Start Small. Scale Fast.”

The idea isn’t new.  It was a mantra I learnt more than a decade ago during the internet boom or ‘dotcom’ era.  I suppose it is equally applicable now, especially in an exciting time when the possibilities in our lives are simply limited by our imagination.

It’s interesting how this ‘wisdom’ from my days in management consulting is creeping back into my current work in executive coaching and leadership development.   I have seen so many intelligent, gifted and talented professionals losing their spark and their capacity to dream, particularly after a decade or two of conditioning in the ‘real’ corporate world. They were told to ‘get real’ and ‘stop dreaming.’  Early failures taught them to play safe and take the more secure or steady route, rather than the road less travelled.  Disappointments, disillusionment, and dismay typically follow.

Gradually, work becomes less exciting, less meaningful, less fulfilling, albeit financially rewarding (for some). That’s both sad and ironic, given that an average adult spends the majority of his or her wakeful hours at work.  Son, I hope you never get to that state, or if you do, remind yourself to dare to dream again.

Yes, dream big, really BIG … let your imaginations run wild, indulge in your creativity for a moment, give yourself permission to PLAY with any idea that emerges. What would you dream of accomplishing, doing, being, becoming, having, conquering, creating, experiencing, if you know you can’t fail? Ignore the obstacles or constraints for the moment (they are real, but not useful in the act dreaming). What would your dreams be … write it down.

Now, pick one that you feel most compelled to act upon now, and work out the ‘first steps’ that you will need to take to bring your dream to reality.  Remember to START SMALL.  Take baby steps. The more doable, the better.  For example, if you dream of scaling Mt Everest, you could start with pinning a picture of the summit on a wall, and speak to someone about what it takes to be a serious mountaineer (Uncle Stephen is a good choice). Next thing is to KEEP GOING.  I prefer that to ‘scale fast.’  Hence, my version of the mantra would be:

Dream Big. Start Small. Keep Going.

Love,

Your Dream-Big Dad

How to kick a bad habit

I came across a familiar quote by Aristotle while researching for a training today:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Another related quote that I like is:

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” ~ Charles Reade

It got me thinking about how our lives are influenced, shaped and determined by the habits that we have cultivated over time. As human beings, we are necessarily ‘creatures’ of habit.  Our habits allow us to function on an autopilot mode, without any conscious thinking needed.  It’s almost like the ‘programmes’ we have installed in our personal OS (operating system) that kick in automatically when an external stimulus is provided, freeing our mind to focus and work on more ‘important’ stuff.

While our habits are generally helpful, some are less desirable than others. Smoking, snacking, biting our nails … just to name a few.  And it’s often been said that habits are hard to break, especially if we are relying on willpower alone. The neural pathways that account for our habitual ways of thinking and behaving are pretty stubborn and not easily changed.

What I have found useful, when it comes to kicking a bad habit (oh yes, I have plenty), is to alter the conditions or environment that make the exercise of the habitual behaviours difficult or inconvenient.  In other words, the first step is to ‘break the pattern’ … which then lays the foundation for a new pattern to be formed by substituting the old behaviour with a new or desirable one.  Finally, repeat the new behaviour until it becomes a habit.

For example, to kick the habit of snacking (which is a common cause of obesity), get rid of unhealthy snacks at home, and have some fruits readily available.  When you feel like munching something, rather than reaching for the fattening potato chips (which is impossible if you haven’t got any), head for the apple instead.  Similarly, to quit smoking, start with not carrying any cigarette with you, and try an alternative that will satisfy the same need that smoking addresses (e.g. physical exercise is a much better remedy for stress than a nicotine fix).

Now, pick a ‘bad’ habit that you wish to kick and try out this simple 3-step process:

  1. Break the Pattern
  2. Substitute old behaviour with new
  3. Repeat new behaviour until it becomes a new habit

Love,

Your Habitual Dad

Do it now!

To some extent, the accomplishments, successes, and achievements we enjoy in life, are the results of what we do (and don’t do).  We all know the importance of TAKING ACTIONS.  There is definitely no shortage of wise sayings on that and here are some of my favourites:

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. ~ John F. Kennedy

Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often. ~ Mark Twain

Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Pablo Picasso

With all these wisdom readily accessible, why do we still fall victim to INACTION and settle for the less-than-desirable results from the lack of actions?  Why do we not do what we know we ought to do in order to get what we want? Why do we sit on good intentions or wishful thinking, and not do anything about them?

For me, the number one culprit is neither ignorance nor fear.  Ignorance is easily overcome through learning, and fear through understanding.  The real culprit is  PROCRASTINATION – a habit that most people possess.

Procrastination can often lead to loss of opportunities, regrets from not taking timely actions, missed deadlines, last minute rush, broken promises, etc.  The results are mostly undesirable. When it comes to taking care of our health, procrastination may also cost us our lives!

Now, the good news is, procrastination isn’t incurable.  One simple remedy is to DO IT NOW! Yes, do it right now, especially if it takes no longer than 5 minutes to carry it out. Often, it consumes more energy to manage the procrastinated tasks on an ever-growing to-do list than simply to just do it. Get it done, and feel the sense of accomplishment that completion brings you – it’s a nice feeling, no matter how small or insignificant the task may be.

Of course, there are times when it is wise to procrastinate (or eliminate if possible). If you really need to procrastinate, make sure you put a specific time to deal with that later, and not just defer it indefinitely.  Son, try this out, and experience the fruits of your labour from choosing to take actions instead of inaction.  And if you catch me procrastinating, remind me to DO IT NOW.

Love,

Your Procrastinate-no-more Dad

Fear less, understand more.

It’s been almost a week since my last post, and exactly a week since I experienced a profound transformation of the body.  Part of me was struggling with the ‘guilt’ from failing to keep to the commitment to write everyday.  Another part of me was bursting with excitement and curiosity to investigate the bizarre bodily sensations that I have been experiencing.

Last Sunday, after a brief morning run around Botanic Gardens followed by some Qi Gong exercises, I experienced a sudden surge of energy. Parts of my body began to move spontaneously and effortlessly, as if I was plugged into a cosmic energy source.  I felt like the ‘Energizer Bunny’ that could hop, run, or walk for hours without feeling exhausted.

Curious and playful, I experimented with directing the energy. Admittedly, it’s bizarrely fun to be able to somewhat ‘control’ the involuntary movements, sending energy from one part of the body to another at will.

While the experience was exhilarating, it was also somewhat scary.  What on earth is happening to my body?

A simple Google search on ‘spontaneous body movement’ pointed to a host of topics ranging from ChiDissociative Identity Disorder, Kundalini awakening, and Kriya – subjects that are outside my usual reading.  As I plough through the pages eagerly and learnt about the various explanations of what my body was going through, the initial fears gradually subside with each new understanding gained.  The following words of Marie Curie came to mind:

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

Energy, is definitely not something to be feared.  It’s something to be understood, harnessed, conserved, channelled to good use, etc.  Perhaps this experience comes at the ‘right’ time, along with my growth in awareness of the body and its impact on one’s overall well-being.

Now, I’m applying this newfound ‘gift’ to my current love – running.  I learn to listen more to the body, make adjustments where needed, be present to the here and now through feeling the body, and experience the joy of having my legs move almost effortlessly (like zooming on the street with a Segway!).  At last, I get to combine the practice of Qi Gong with running, and truly experience what Danny Dreyer called ‘Chi Running.’ More on this in my coming blogs.

Love,

Your Energised Dad

Change your body, change your mood.

Yesterday, I wrote about gratitude and the practice of counting our blessings as a way of dealing with a ‘bad’ day.   We can’t change what had happened, but we could certainly change the way we feel about it.   And how we feel, our emotions, and mood, are functions  of two elements – the Mind and the Body. Altering any one of the two will necessarily alter how we feel. The logic is that simple.

The good news is … it’s often a lot simpler and quicker to change our body. By that, I don’t mean losing weight or looking more beautiful, but simply through changing our body posture and movement. For instance, when you are feeling down, sad, or even depressed,  try biting a pencil between your teeth, opening your arms and chess widely, dropping or relaxing your shoulders, hold your chin high, stand tall, and breathe deeply and gently, etc. Never mind if you look silly …  try it out and experience the effect on how you feel, and how your mind will naturally begin to function differently.  Keep experimenting, and find your favourite way to alter your mood as and when called for.  Personally, I find running and deep breathing tremendously useful.

Life isn’t a bed of roses always … there are good days, and there are bad days.  But the bad days  need not last longer than necessary. Try changing your body, and watch how easy it is to change your mood by simply doing that.

Love,

Your Experimenting Dad

If you think you had a ‘bad’ day …

I heard on the radio today, where the DJ said “If you think you had a bad day at the office, listen to this … ”

An Aussie woman plunged into a crocodile infested river in Zimbabwe when the bungee cord snapped.  She blacked out on impact, but was woken up by the cold water. With the cord still wrapped around her ankle, she drifted downstream towards the rapids, and had to go underwater to disentangle it before swimming to shore. She survived with a broken collarbone and a few bruises. What a miracle!

Now, it got me thinking … we hear of interesting news all the time, and until it happens to us, they are just news. What if it happened to someone you know? What if it happened to you or your loved one? Then, it’s no longer just news, but possibly life-changing moments.

This story reminds me of what your mum and I did about two decades ago. Yes, we had jumped off the Kawarau Bridge in NZ  (thank God the cord was intact), visited crocodile infested rivers in Darwin, and done a host of other adventurous things. We got stung by bees, and one time, your mum almost drown when we swam across a river at Katherine Gorge, Australia. That near-death incident made her sign up for swimming lessons right after the trip, and she became quite a good swimmer since.

Back then, we never quite knew how to truly thank God.  We just counted ourselves lucky. Now, we know better who to thank.  We’ve learnt to thank God each day, be it good or bad.

So, whenever you think you had a ‘bad’ day … think again. It’s a blessing to be able to wake to a new day. Some never made it.  Learn to count your blessings. A little gratitude will make your ‘bad’ days much more bearable.

Love,

Your Thankful Dad