Follow Your Bliss

Time flies! Another 3 weeks have just gone by since my last post.  It is evident that developing the discipline to write daily is proving to be more challenging than sticking to a diet or exercise routine.  This experiment is giving me good insights into understanding the gap between ‘commitment’ and ‘action.’

I once wrote about ‘commitment‘ being likened to making a gear shift that sets a car into motion.  Another critical ingredient that sustain the motion is FUEL.  In other words, we need constant replenishment of ENERGY.  The truth is, I was pretty much drained over the past few weeks with my more-than-usual travel.  Having delivered 5 workshops in 4 cities (Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dhaka and Singapore) over 4 weeks in Feb (and responding to hundreds of email between dinner and bedtime), I didn’t really feel much like touching the keyboard.  A walk in the nature would be good for the soul.  And that reminds me of some fond memories from almost a decade ago.

March 2002 is a significant turning point in my life.  It was the first time that I took a one-month vacation after working for about 7 years in an intense, demanding, and  fast-pace world of management consulting.  I remember vividly, how blissful I was, when I watched you boys jumping and rolling on the beds in a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur.  I wondered: “How come I never experienced this at home?”

The answer was simple. I wasn’t fully present.  Being too occupied with my work, I hardly paid attention to you.  When I read you bedtime stories, I would often either speed-read or skipped a few pages. You were probably too young and innocent to notice, and we had a good laugh anyway.  The epiphany at the hotel room (which I think occurred around 4th or 5th of March, 2002) got me curious about what would I do, if I were to live in a manner that is consistent with my values.  In other words, how would I design my life differently if I were to start with putting the things that matter most to me in the centre, i.e. family, personal development, meaning, adventure, creativity, and freedom.

Eventually, that inquiry led me to forgo the comfort of employment, in pursuit of my passion and dreams, resulting in a rich, colourful, and interesting experiences life had given me over the past 10 years.  In short, I followed my bliss, and experienced what Henry D. Thoreau discovered during his solitude in Walden, as he wrote:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

I hope someday, you too, will find the courage to follow your bliss.

Love,

Your Blissful Dad

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Some action is better than no action.

OMG, it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last post.  I know Dylan has been coming to me every other day asking, “Dad, did you post anything today?” – only to be told “Not today … daddy’s very busy these few weeks.”

Frankly, I’m feeling somewhat guilty of using ‘busy’ as an excuse for not doing what I have set out to do.  The feeling is unbearable, as deep inside, I felt that my integrity is compromised.  In business, busy is good.  On the surface, ‘busy’ means no time.  In truth, when we are too ‘busy’ for something, it means what we forgo is less important than what we are doing instead.  Face it, we are never going to have enough time in a day to do ALL the things we want to do. It all boils down to the choices we make, doesn’t it?

Today, I choose to do something about it. I choose to start blogging again. You might be pleased to know that I even clocked 20 minutes on the thread mill today too – to regain my momentum in training for a full marathon that I shall attempt this December.

Being away from home (and the loneliness of the hotel room) helps.   Somehow, absence makes the heart fonder.  I feel more compelled to have conversations with you both.  And as I write, an insight emerges … “If something is important enough and worth our energy, taking some action daily, no matter how small it might be, is better than no action.”  After all, that’s how a marathon is conquered – one step at a time.

Incidentally, I will be facilitating a workshop in Dhaka later this week to raise the ‘bias for action’ in a group of talented leaders.  What a perfect timing to have a little more action myself.

Love,

Your Dad in Action

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

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