Change is the only constant.

I am a peculiar breed of Chinese. I picked up speaking Bahasa Malaysia as I grew up in a majority Malay area. At home, I spoke English. In my childhood years, I had minimal non-Malay friends, and as such did not end up learning any Chinese dialects.

But, one thing I did enjoy every evening were TVB dramas, typically broadcast on national TV at 7pm. It was my only source of Cantonese.

Other than learning “what is your problem?” and “busybody” in the Cantonese dialect, I unfortunately did not pick up any other phrases. What I did remember, though, was a particular scene in one of the episodes.

The restaurant owner and his customer.

Image source

Out of passion and skill, one of the characters in the show opened an upscale restaurant, serving more sophisticated food. Despite the quality of the food and ambiance, it did not manage to draw a crowd.

One day, a person who was working in a construction area nearby had dropped by to taste the food. The restaurant owner, sensing an opportunity, tried to persuade him to bring his co-workers over. The owner was confident that they would like it, as the food was good!

However, the customer had provided feedback that this is not what construction workers wanted. Despite the food being good, they want food which is cheap, fast, and large in quantity. They need to be full to work hard! If the restaurant owner was willing to cater to these needs, he will most definitely bring them over. There were many hungry workers ready to try out a new place, he said.

The turnaround.

The owner deliberated. Customers were still not coming into his restaurant. He was soon facing financial difficulties in up-keeping the cost of running the restaurant.

One day, he decided to give change a try. He invited that customer back to the restaurant, and this time, serving a menu that was cheaper, larger in quantity, and since he was skillful in cooking, it was also delicious.

Eventually, his customer brought in more of his colleagues, and they all raved about the food and the restaurant. They then promised that they’ll be frequent customers to his restaurant. All is now well. His restaurant was saved!

History repeats itself.

Similarly, real life offers many case studies. Take the example of Nokia. It was unable to see the need to innovate beyond its highly successful versions of mobile phones (remember snake?). What about Toys R’ Us? It did not see the urgency to move into e-commerce. Remember Kodak? It was huge while I was growing up, but nevertheless was made redundant when images went digital.

A familiar quote. (Image source)

By examining history, what can be learned here is that the only constant that we can expect is change. There is no such thing as complete certainty. We cannot expect to land a job and assume that it will always remain there. Similarly, your relationships, health, and finances wax and wane through time. It is up to us to not take these resources and blessings for granted.

It is within the nature of the world that change is constantly happening. This happens at the extent of the ever expanding universe, and even down to the smallest particle. Isn’t it interesting that as you are reading this, the cells in your body are even being replaced with completely new ones?

Who Moved My Cheese?

In the book “Who Moved My Cheese?”, the human characters wake up each morning always expecting the mountain of cheese, to which they get their source of nutrition from, to always be there. On the other hand, the mice characters always have their running shoes with them, constantly measuring volume of cheese remaining, and sniffing around for new cheese.

Image source

Not surprisingly, the cheese eventually finishes. The human characters continue to grumble and be unhappy over the situation, while the mice had already found new cheese. Which would you rather be in this fable, the humans or the mice?

Put on your running shoes.

The only control that we have over change is our attitude. Being open and adaptable to change, always looking out for opportunities, and never taking things for granted are vital attitudes in welcoming change. By having these attitudes, we avoid being complacent, and are instead ready for success.

Do you have your running shoes with you? What are you waiting for, change is around the corner!

The Case Of The Dog And Its Tail

Dogs have taught me a great deal about life. This article is about one of them. (Image source)

It felt just like yesterday when I had taken my UPSR exams (note: an exam one takes in Malaysia before entering secondary/ high school). I remember that teachers would oftentimes give prep talks before lessons regarding how important that exam would be. They would say that not only is this exam important to get into a good high school, but also in employee selection. If there are two candidates of equal standing to choose from, employers would then go back to as far as your UPSR exam results to make their pick.

Imagine being a 12 year old boy and believing that is true. The UPSR exams felt like a mountain to overcome. There were countless hours of studying, extra tuition, and even an overnight camp at school to prepare for this.

I remember a great deal of anxiety leading up to that event. When it was all done and the results announced, a big sigh of relief followed. Wow, I finally did it?

Life After The Exams

About 20 years has passed since that exam. Was it a life changing event? Not as much as I thought it would be. It now feels like a passing moment I had went through as a 12 year old boy. As much as the teachers believed in its importance, the exam results were never shown on my CV.

Since then, I had gone through similar events in my life. I went through a couple of important school examinations, a pre-university exam, completed my degree, completed a master’s degree, got my first job, started my first business… and the list goes on.

Each one of these events felt the same like when I was sitting for my UPSR examinations. In my mind, it was a big challenge that I had to overcome, and that it was really, really, important that I accomplish it well.

Did it matter in the end? It somewhat did, but not as much as I thought it would be. When I’m done with a challenge, I move on to the next. Each time, thinking that this next challenge to be more important the one preceding it. Each time, thinking that it will somehow make my life better than before.

A Dog and Its Tail

Have you seen a dog chasing its own tail?

I did. One fine day, I managed to catch a glimpse of this amusing occurrence. As the dog spots its tail at the corner of its eyes, round and round it goes, thinking it can outsmart the tail. Lo and behold, to both the dog and my surprise, it did manage to bite on it. A long pause followed, as it mentally processed through what had just happened.

All its life, it has chased the tail to no avail. And now that it has managed to do it, does not know what to do next. There was a look of confusion. It let go of its own tail. And then it walked away, as if nothing happened.

The Chase of Life

While it may seem amusing to watch this happen to a dog, this is what we do in our lives as well. We continuously chase after our own metaphorical tail, thinking that this upcoming accomplishment will significantly alter the course of our lives.

Most of the time, it doesn’t. We move on to the next thing.

Looking at things objectively, we will continuously achieve our goals, one presumably bigger than the one before it. It is in the very nature of a person’s development. As we develop more skills and resources with the passage of time, we develop competence over incrementally more challenging tasks. This is life.

But I think the important question to ponder on here is: What is the purpose to all of this?

Process > Outcome

After all, what really matters? (Image source)

Looking back at the time of my UPSR exams, what I remembered fondly of wasn’t the grades that I received. Instead, I smile when I think about discovering what a leaf is comprised of. There were also the long walks home with my friend while eating snacks under the scorching afternoon sun. And we played games using whatever we had, such as pencils, erasers, papers in between classes.

What I most valued out of working towards that goal was the time spent being a 12 year old boy.

Whether or not we are able to have great accomplishments in our lifetime remains uncertain. But what is certain is that we cannot relive a moment. And you’ll find that the best moments aren’t the times when you actually accomplish your goals, but the memories made working towards it.

A great poet once said that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women are merely players”. I think wisdom comes in knowing that we’re all playing our roles in this show of life; and savoring the time that we have doing it makes all the difference.

Team Work Makes The Dream Work

Recently, a student had uttered the title of this post during one of our many group sharing. As of late, I’ve come to appreciate this tagline much more.

I completed the MBTI (a kind of personality test) sometime last year, along with team members from the university that I am attached to. What I’ve taken away from it is that I thrive more when tasks/ projects are pursued based on the “big picture”. Also, I do well when tasks are done more spontaneously in a less-structured manner. In a nutshell, I get “fired up” when something has a strong “why”, with problem-solving done as things go along.

Understanding Differences

This resonates with me, as I oftentimes find myself getting excited over prospects of projects and pursuits that I have in mind. I am very motivated when piecing parts of my life together – the opportunities available, the skills that I can contribute, resources that I can gather, and the hypothesized outcomes of that. Throughout the course of the year, I have also realized how drained I become when following through with a highly-structured routine or task. If I’m caught up with tasks that requires intense organization skills, it’ll only takes a fraction of the workday for me to feel completely exhausted.

On the other hand, there are people who LOVE doing things that I’m weak in. There are people in my department who thrive in a highly structured and organized environment. This can include tasks in designing and going through lists, steps, and specific formats to get the job done. At the same time, these are the people who would also be drained and irritated when tasks or projects do not have clear and detailed rules or steps to completion.

Obvious fact: Teamwork leads to positive outcomes (Image Source)

Although these two attributes may not be so clearly defined within us, you and I tend to have our preferences. And when two individuals with strong opposing attributes are in a team, there is a chance for unproductive and damaging conflicts to happen. Likewise, when team members understand each other deeply, these attributes can instead complement and improve a team’s performance.

Intentional Teamwork

What I’ve learned is that intention matters a lot. In improving relationships, whether romantic or collegial, intention is the key in making it work and bringing it to the next level. Intention allows for investment of time and effort into the relationship. One aspect of what I like in the current department is that there is the intention to develop a culture of deep understanding with one another. This involves spending a great deal of time with one another.

We have weekly meetings which starts with personal updates and icebreakers. There is also tremendous investment in training which develops not only our primary roles, but also in learning new things about one another. Not forgetting, all the retreats and outings that we have gone for, with the intention of not only to having fun, but to have sessions to reflect and learn about ourselves and others in the team.

As a result, our strengths and weaknesses complement one another. There is little, if at all, damaging criticism or finger pointing. There is ownership over assigned tasks, and no hesitation in seeking for each other’s support when times get tough. Projects are completed well, and the team spirit is high.

Happy Career = Happy Life (image source)

A Meaningful Career

Not many teams I’ve belonged to, or if at all, have reached this level of cohesion. With this experience, my aspiration is to belong to working groups that has the intention in developing high levels of team work. I strongly believe that investment should be prioritized in developing human capital, and only with that is it possible to reach new heights in career advancement.

After all, we spend 1/3 of our lives working. Wouldn’t it be all the more meaningful to spend it in a way that’s enjoyable?

READY TO LAUNCH: Comprehensive Guide To A Fulfilling And Meaningful Life For The 20 To 30-Something [INTRODUCTION]

Note: I had started on writing a book a while back, but had not prioritized completing it for the longest time. After much deliberation and soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that now is the best time to accomplish this. I expect this book to be completed and published by the middle of next year. This is the introduction to the book:


I remember being depressed when I was 20 years old. Like many others at that age, romantic relationships formed a big part of my life experience. Upon a traumatic relationship breakdown, I went through months of feeling helpless, hopeless, and incompetent in handling myself. I wasn’t a happy person, and had no clue on how to get out of that deep hole that I was in. As a result, I wasn’t keeping up with my studies, suffered with my health, and neglected the existing relationships that I have in my life. I was merely surviving, barely scraping through the day just to live another day. It was a mess.

At this moment of writing, I am filled with an odd feeling of gratitude. Things are different now. In the past decade, I have been investing a lot into figuring out myself. More importantly, I have been learning the tools necessary for me to have a happy and joyful life. I now remember that event as the beginning of a long journey towards personal development. I’m happy to see a significant progress towards being empowered to make the necessary changes in my life, to live according to my values, to have a clearer sense of purpose, and to develop meaningful relationships and career. It has been a fulfilling journey thus far.

Being happy and fulfilled is one of the most important and sought after experiences in life. It is the foundation to the “why” in our actions. It is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It fills you with passion for experiencing life. There isn’t a reasonable person who would want to perform a routine without believing (which may be different from the outcome) that it will provide them with happiness, or at the very least, some relief. In an ideal world, every person deserves to be happy.

However, reality tells a very different story. In 2014, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that about 1 in 5 adults experienced a mental disorder in the United States during that one year duration itself.1 In Malaysia (where I am from), the figure for “mental health problems” rose from 10.7% in 1996 to a shocking 29.2% in 2015!2 That is 1 out of 3 persons in my country experiencing some kind of mental health concern, commonly depression and anxiety.

That is indeed a very worrying number.

That same concern applies to the way we work. For the most part of the urban population, we will be spending at least 1/3 of our lives doing work (measured in hours of the day or years in our lifetime). Considering how much valuable time we are investing into this portion of our lives, I’d think that it is vitally important that work is done in a way that fulfills us. But, the percentage of employed working-age adults across 155 countries who are engaged – meaning they are enthusiastic and very involved in their work – stands at only 15%3.

These numbers show that a significant amount of people in the world are living a life that is unfulfilling, unproductive, and unhappy. Why is this so?

That is the same question that I have been asking myself in the past decade. What started as an inquiry for my personal development also then grew to become a subject for academic understanding and career path.

Studying psychology as a subject matter and completing my undergraduate and postgraduate thesis in studies of happiness, sitting through hundreds of hours of therapy with individuals from all walks of life, and facilitating groups for personal development gave me insight into what people really needed in their lives to become the best versions of themselves. The crux of the matter is this: to live a fulfilling, productive, and happy life, what is needed most are skills to navigate through the seasons and challenges that we face.

As a 30-something who had gone through my 20s experiencing challenges faced by young adults for the first time, such as how to manage and grow relationships, finding a purpose in my daily actions and career, and how to regulate my emotions, I can understand how lost and alone it can feel to not receive the kind of support to know what to do in life. When I look around, it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing and what they wanted. But, hours and hours in therapy with clients tells a different story: while it may seem like things are in order, people are actually struggling with getting a grip on themselves. We are desperately looking for the support and guidance to live a fulfilling life, and for the most of us, we fail to find that holy grail.

The reality is, a one-size-fits-all approach to personal development is not possible.  There is no magic advice that can be given by a guru which will immediately transform your life. This is because we each have different strengths, aspirations, past experience, and chapters of our unique lives that have yet to be told to the world. What is very possible, however, is to bring awareness of the skills that can be developed and applied in your day-to-day life so that you are able to live a life that is to the best of your abilities. As a result, you’ll find that your individual potential can be realized, and life will be more meaningful, joyful, and fulfilled. That is the purpose of this book.

The material gathered for this book comes from years of experience as a psychologist. You’ll find that the skills highlighted in the book may come from empirically-driven approaches from existential, humanistic, and cognitive-behavioral psychology. It also comes from understanding the lived experience of the many clients that I’ve seen throughout my career. Lastly, as someone who is also in your shoes, I hope that my personal experience of living through this part of life can be useful to highlight that just like you, I too go through the same challenges, and that you are not alone.

I hope that you’ll get as much value reading through this book, as much as I did writing it. Let us begin.

What makes a good life?

I had a rather profound moment whilst vacationing on a beautiful island off the coast of Terengganu recently. It was at night, and one of the staff divers was enthusiastically showing us a spot on a big rock for us to look at the stars. Indeed, the sky was really beautiful. The stars looked as if it was hanging off from the atmosphere. I laid on the rock, looking up at the canvas which forms the galaxies to which these stars come from. The gentle blowing wind and sounds of the ocean waves made me imagine what it is like for creatures from the sea to live through this everyday. It must be a peaceful experience.

“It looks good, right?” asked the diver. I replied to the affirmative.

He then exclaimed joyfully, “Of course it does. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here for 22 years!”. There was a lightness in his steps as he  then headed back to his room.

A stroll by the beach, with a view to remember.

That statement made an impact on me. Sure, the view is incredible. It is peaceful. I feel very much connected to nature. To live like this for 22 years? That seems much more of a sacrifice than a reward, as I would then need to let go of the many worldly desires that I aspire to have.

At the same time, his expression of pure joy to a way of life that he has experienced for a whole 22 years, is very, very, inviting. Clearly, that is an inner experience that I too would like to experience for 22 years. But, I realized that the way to achieve that joy can also be very different. I then snapped out of my illusory trance. While island life serves his inner calling, it is a momentary leisure pit stop for me. We are different individuals meant to live out our unique and individualized purpose.

There is a convenient but tragic flaw in our logical reasoning. When we see someone having something that makes him or her happy, we assume that too, is something that we need to have in order  to be happy ourselves. While this statement may be true for certain universal characteristics of being a person, such as fulfilling basic needs of food, water, shelter, and meaningful relationship(s), in most cases, our estimations of what we need to make us happy are highly inaccurate.

At times, we get so mesmerized by what we see.

What makes us happy depends more on our intrinsic experience, such as living to our values and purpose. Depending truthfully on our  inner compass then leads to fulfilling and meaningful actions. Unfortunately, we find observations of our external environment to be a more valid predictor to our well-being. We oftentimes confuse happiness with what the person has or does. The former is an inner state, while the latter is a way or means of reaching that state of mind. The way to being happy for one person may include amassing power, wealth, and fame. However, that may not be necessary for another person to also achieve happiness. In most cases, such worldly possessions is more of a by-product than an end goal.

The reason a deep neglect of our inner being exists is because external observation is a much more convenient tool. There is little need to inquire on our own individual existence, to explore the plethora of emotions that lies within, and to ultimately be comfortable with answering the question of “Who am I?”. Questioning oneself is akin to opening a Pandora’s box. It is an effortful and frightening process. For many, this becomes overwhelmingly frightening that mimicking the behavior, desire, and goals of others becomes an automatic response.

But, as the saying goes, nothing that is worthwhile is ever easy.

On a related note, I really enjoyed a parable that I’ve read before, of which I will loosely paraphrase here to conclude this blog post:

An explorer from a big city enters a vast jungle. In his adventure, he managed to make his way deep into the jungle. As the afternoon sun began to set in, he rests by the river to regain his strength. Coincidentally, he was met with an aboriginal man. The aboriginal was dressed in nothing but some leaves covering what is necessary.

The explorer, clearly shocked, said “Oh my, look at you! You need to be brought into civilization. Look at the kind of life you are living!”. The aboriginal replied, “What is it that is wrong with me?”

“Firstly, you need to get properly clothed, and go through some education”, said the explorer. “How will that benefit me?” asks the aboriginal.

“You get educated so that you can be smart enough to go to University”, said the explorer. “How will that benefit me?” asks the aboriginal.

“You go to University so that you’re able to get a degree and get a good job”, claimed the explorer in a proud tone. “How will that benefit me?” asks the aboriginal again.

“Well, you get a good job so that you can save enough money to retire when you’re older!” said the explorer, looking increasingly irritated. “How will that benefit me?” asks the aboriginal again, looking even more confused.

“So that you can then do whatever you want!” said the explorer in a loud tone. “Like what?” then asks the aboriginal.

“Well, you can wake up without an alarm and do nothing, go fishing, go for a walk…anything that you feel like doing for the day, really. You can enjoy life, obviously!” the explorer said in a defeated tone.

“Oh..”, the aboriginal murmured under his breath. There was a short pause as he pondered on what he had just heard. He then said, “Isn’t that what I have been doing all along?”



My name is Alvin, and I am lonely.

I was driving back home at 3 in the morning, and I felt alone.

It wasn’t the loneliest of nights that I have felt. But it felt lonely enough to have that bruised, sinking sensation in my chest. It’s the kind of loneliness where I feel drawn into the hollowness of my emotions. It’s like looking into a bottomless pit from above, deciding if jumping in would be a good idea. How deep can it go? Will I be able to reach the bottom?

The video that I had posted about being OK with being alone must have hit some raw emotions. Surprisingly, a few viewers had personally messaged me conveying their thanks regarding the video, in what I believe was an expression of relief that they are not in this on their own.

We were born naked into this world. And once our last breath has left the body, we are also leaving this world on our own. In our most natural way of being, we are both vulnerable and alone. Since when did the opposite become true? Is it really true that being alone or vulnerable is a sign of weakness? How was the narrative reversed?

You and I were born as social beings craving for deep, meaningful relationships. Somewhere through the passage of time, we experienced unfortunate events that bent our trust in the world. We no longer believe that the world is a safe place. We begin to separate ourselves from others, dividing one another through both concrete and psychological walls. What makes this more tragic is that there exists not only a barrier between you and I, but also a barrier between our inner and outer reality.

Over time, you and I no longer behave in ways which are connected to how we actually feel. We fear the consequences of embracing our vulnerability. We feel as if we are naked in a sea of clothed people. Others are social, and others are happy, right? Even if we are not social, and even if we are not happy, we should. Everyone else is. Or at least that was what we were made to believe.

The problem with this scenario is that it breeds a society that is divided and disconnected from one another, despite it being one of the most important human needs. We have settled with “good enough”. It is good enough that others acknowledge me for my accomplishments, but not my disappointments. It is good enough that I know your strengths, but not your weaknesses. It is good enough that you and I both know each other, but not on the finer details.

Is it truly satisfying to be living in this kind of world?

There is a solution for those who would want to be in a world where they are free from these barriers. It begins with knowing what is OK. It is OK to have “negative” feelings. It is OK to be sad, to be angry, to be disappointed, and to be lonely. It is OK to admit to these feelings and to live as authentically as your life demands you to. It is OK for others to have these feelings too.

When you are OK with your own feelings, you can also begin to understand that others share these feelings too, despite how hardened or desirable they are. The popular, the wealthy, the famous, the regulars, the socials, the loners, the downtrodden: deep down, we all share similar feelings. You know this because you too once played the game of being perfect.

Suddenly, you have much more in common with others than what you had previously thought. You do not feel as divided or distant from those around you. Your approach to life could be different. You are more forgiving of your feelings and the feelings of others. You are more intentional and genuine in approaching relationships. There is more room in you for love and kindness. You can live life with more courage.

Support group members oftentimes introduce themselves while also taking ownership of the concern that they are facing. This is a call to action to those of you who want to drop your act, live genuinely, and grow deep, meaningful relationships:

My name is Alvin, and I am lonely. Do you want to be in this together?

The Year That Was 2016.

2016 could have been a better year. Over hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from their own countries, in a desperate attempt to avoid persecution, famine, and war. To escape such horrible conditions, a lot of them ended up losing their lives, are stateless with nowhere to go, having no food, shelter, or appropriate clothing to brave the weather, and not an idea of what the next few days would be like for them. 2016 also saw the escalation of primitive rhetoric based around geographical location, race, religion, and gender, which stirred emotions of the masses and opened the floodgates to behaviors stemming from hate and ignorance, not fitting of this day and age.  In 2016, many people suffered.

2016: When happiness could have been found within the turmoil. Image from

I am very grateful to be able to sleep on the same bed every night, safe within the four walls of my room, not needing to worry if there will be food to eat, or water to drink, or if I’ll still be alive. Despite the troubles that this part of the world is facing with the economy and rampant corruption, I am thankful that I have the ability to enjoy the next breath that I am taking, and to have the opportunities that presents itself to me at every moment. I am grateful to be living in a relatively peaceful neighborhood and country.

Despite this, suffering presents itself in many ways. From the people closest to me to strangers that I have met by coincidence, what became clear to me in the past year is that suffering is universal. Yes, they may be driving luxurious cars and live in big houses. Yes, they may be in good health and having enough rest and nutrients to be healthy. Yes, they have others around them to interact with and to go through these times together. And yes, they will still be very much alive in the foreseeable future.

But they are suffering. The unhappiness is clear from the frustration that they express. They believe that the story of their own lives are unique, that their suffering is something that no one else is experiencing. They believe that others often have it better, that what others are showing through their social media feeds, or from their brief exchange of pleasantries shows that life is great for everyone else. Everyone else but them. They feel alone in their own world of suffering.

How did we become so disconnected from others that we fail to see how others, too, are suffering? How did we become so unaware of our own blessings and instead blame or pity ourselves because of what we are lacking?

It seems that with advancement in how fast paced information could travel, and how much opportunities we have to consume new information, we started becoming greedy and impatient. Our greed and impatience caused us to consume knowledge of others in bite sizes, often wanting to only know what other people are like on the surface. We have many friends, but none that we really know.  Our greed and impatience caused us to fit in as many things to do as possible, in hopes that we could gain more enjoyment, but without having the time to do the heavy and time consuming stuff, like personal reflection, developing self-awareness, and addressing our insecurities. After all, everything is at the convenience of a click of a button, right?

In 2016, we started failing in understanding both others and ourselves. We end up covering a mile wide, and not a mile deep.

Did behaving this way bring us any happiness?

On a personal level, I am hopeful. I am currently in the midst of writing a book scheduled to be published by mid-2017 (fingers crossed). In my book, How To Live A Fulfilling LifeI hope to illuminate the fact and fiction of happiness, meaning, fulfillment, and the good life. Clearly, a lot of what we are doing are not working for our own good, and a lot of what we could do in order to improve our lives have not been done enough. I’m hoping that my experience in practice, the research that I’ve been doing to write the book, and my own understanding of human life thus far, could offer a small contribution in improving the lives of all of us who are suffering.

Although I am almost half a month late, I would like to wish all of you out there a happy new year 2017, and may the year bring you bountiful opportunities to grow happiness in your daily life.

Time Management and How You Self-Sabotage In 3 Big Ways

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
– Jackson Brown Jr.

We’ve all done it: We have used the reasoning of having “not enough time” as a “get out of jail free” card from some commitment we have made to our friends, family, or colleagues at one point or another. Perhaps it is bailing on an evening out with your friends whom you’ve not met in a long time and promised not to lose touch. Or maybe it is a family dinner that you’ve set on your Google calendar but can’t make it due to an overdue report. In our fast moving modern world, time becomes such a valued commodity that we can’t seem to get enough of it. There’s just not enough time.

Does this speak to you?

It can be a nightmare chasing after time, and in the case of this picture, to be chased by time (source: Google images).
It can be a nightmare chasing after time, and in the case of this picture, to be chased by time (source: Google images).

Being a person takes some hard work. There’s many aspects of our life to juggle: family, friends, career, health, solitude, leisure, love, and the list goes on. When one aspect of life has a sudden demand for more time, other areas suffer. And to a certain extent, that is accepted and understandable to most people. People would understand if you have just fallen ill, or that the machinery at the factory you work in has malfunctioned and require immediate attention. These are natural indicators of you needing to temporarily invest more time into it, and to take off from your more routine standards of behavior.

However, if having “not enough time” becomes usual (and expected) of you, then it is most likely a reflection of character rather than circumstances.

And here are 3 big reasons why this behavior needs to be addressed:

1. Your reputation suffers 

Nothing leaves a dent more to your reputation than when you are known as the person who is unable to deliver. When juggling multiple commitments at a single time, you become less reliable and your output wouldn’t be the best that you are able to produce. When something is required of you, the thought that might pop up in a person’s mind would be “Can *your name* be trusted with this responsibility?”.

Indeed, there will be times when you find yourself being placed in a position where expectations are beyond what you’re able to deliver. Be self aware of your own capabilities and circumstances to arrive at a decision to take steps in either improving your delivery or to understand if the external culture that you are currently in does not resonate with your abilities or your current position in life (and as such, perhaps warrants an exploration of a more suitable environment). It is better to be focused on less than to over-commit and compromise on your reputation.  This is because a loss of reputation is a loss of opportunities. 

2. You hurt others around you

Have you been in a situation where you’re feeling excited to meet someone (like a date), only to be stood up at the last minute? How does that feel like? That is the same feeling that you produce in others by trying to cheat time. What you’re essentially communicating to others, be it in your personal or professional life, sounds something like this:

“My time is more important than yours”
“I matter more than you”
“I prioritize my own interests than the commitment that I’ve made with you”

If the target of these statements are your loved ones, these only makes them feel small and unappreciated. If these are directed to your colleagues or superiors, then you’ll eventually get to know of how such gestures are not reflective of the real world (refer to point no. 1).

3. You are not at peace. 

How does it feel like needing to be at two places at the same time? Is your heart pacing really quickly? Are your thoughts scrambling about? Chances are, you’re feeling more stressed and anxious than usual. Not only does this have drastic effects on your health in the long-term, but it also significantly reduces your quality of life. If you think you’re achieving more by over-committing to your time, you are actually accomplishing the opposite. This is because instead of living in peace and happiness, you are behaving in ways that contributes to anxiety and dissatisfaction.

In a nutshell 

Although allowing the notion of not having enough time to define your character may appear to benefit you (especially in immediate circumstances), it is on the contrary a damaging attribute that does not help you in your journey of self development and success. The fact of the matter is, we are all governed by the same laws of time, and it is up to us to use it mindfully. More can be accomplished by being aware of our capabilities and to be fully present in the commitments that we make, than to be the boy who cried wolf. You never know when would be the next crucial moment when the help and support of others are needed, only to not receive it, because all along you did not have the time. 

3 Simple Steps to Life Mastery.

Hello everyone! This is my first attempt at recording a video of myself. I figured that this could be another way for me to put out helpful content, rather than just writing. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m pleased that I got around to doing it. Looking forward to putting out more videos!

I think, therefore I am.

It’s been more than half a year since my last post on this blog. Much has been lost, and much has been gained. The most significant of losses would be  the sale of the cafe that I used to operate. One year of caring for something can bring about a kind of emotional attachment and feeling of loss. However, with the sale of the cafe, there were significant gains too. I have gained:

1) Good experience in running a business.

2) Good experience in running a business… as a sole owner (trust me, this is really tough. But also in my experience a necessary step to develop to the next level).

3) The necessary capital to start on my next business venture (this time, with more confidence placed on me by others due to my experience) with other business partners.

4) Knowledge of what works and what doesn’t for the product and applying it in the next business.

5) Fond memories of staff, family, friends, customers, and the struggle of making something work.

6) A new appreciation of doing business and what is required of me as a person to operate one.

Me in the cafe: our last picture together.
Me in the cafe: our last picture together.

The sale of the cafe was a business decision that I felt was the best step forward in order to grow, both for my self as a person and the business entity. It sits well in my heart because it was the right time and the right move.

How is this small snippet of me and my (ex) cafe related in any way with the title of this blog post?

For the past few months, I have been reciting gratitude before I sleep every night (i.e. 10 things that I’m grateful for today). While I cannot tell for sure if it provides a direct, positive effect on my mental health, it sure did develop a habit to think in a more positive way. And with that habit, came improved mental health.

To me, it is a fact of life that the bad and the good are inseparable. Sometimes, it may appear that there is more bad than good, and vice versa. Deep sadness comes from thinking that life is all bad, and overwhelming anxiety comes from wanting things to be good at all times. Such psychological disturbances, I believe, comes from a projection of  personal expectations, thoughts, and beliefs, that do not reflect how life is supposed to be.

The mind is just like a muscle; it needs to be regularly trained and fed with the right nutrients in order for it to grow. Among the many things that can be done for good mental health, practicing gratitude in daily life is one of those that I highly recommend. This is not a way to gain instant happiness, but instead to develop the habit to be happy and to allow ourselves to be fed with the positivity that we require in daily life.

A philosopher by the name of Descartes once came to a conclusion that he exists based on the principle of “cogito ergo sum”, which means “I think, therefore I am”.  To me, this carries a personal meaning of “how we think defines who we are”. As I end this blog post, I implore my readers to ponder: What kind of person would you like to be, and how do you think in order to be that kind of person?