Egoless moments

happiness

EGO IS THE JOY KILLER

We tend to be unhappy when we’re egoistic. Ego is not only the enemy, but also the joy killer. Ryan Holiday, author of the book Ego is the Enemy, defines the dead time as moments that we’re controlled by ego. He even has a tattoo EGO IS THE ENEMY on his forearms to remind himself to let go of the ego to stay alive. That makes me wanna get a tattoo on my forehead: GO AWAY EGO!

I highly suspect that it’s ego hinders me from getting healthy relationships to grow. Also, ego stops me from getting to know and loving other people without sorrow. Oh no, I hate ego breaking my flow. I’d better throw myself into a new reality show if ego won’t go.

Ryan Holiday

Do your work. Do it well. Then let go and let God.

When we let go of ego, we can get more done and love more. My ego is clingy all day long and distracts me from doing what I want. The more time I spend with ego, the more restless I feel. If I focus on a movie, the sky, other person or a sport, I forget about the ego for a while and stay in peace. I wanna kill my ego to have egoless or peaceful moments. Is that possible and doable?

STRATEGY FOR FIGHTING THE EGO

STAY A STUDENT

Ryan Holiday suggests staying a student to drop the ego. When you learn something new, does your ego tell you to give up when things are getting difficult? Or does your ego tell you that you’re so great that you don’t need to learn more? Of course, your ego will do anything to drag you behind. That’s ego’s expertise!

Don’t let ego stop you from learning. Keep learning from anyone and anything, and growing anytime. No wonder Einstein said “More the knowledge lesser the ego, lesser the knowledge more the ego.” I think I just gain a new perspective here: knowledge is the enemy of ego!

DON’T LOSE YOUR PRESENCE OF MIND

I cherry-pick one of The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene – don’t lose your presence of mind. The presence of mind is the ability to detach yourself from all to see the whole picture with clarity. This is a stoic or zen way to fight the ego. Preparation in advance or meditation can give you that mental distance and make your ego disappear, for at least a period of time.

If you love history and war, you will enjoy reading The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene to learn more strategies and tactics. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of history. Anyway, in his book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday takes a similar approach as Robert Greene – telling the stories of significant historical figures. You can learn how Napoleon, Steve Job, and many others handle the ego nicely or badly.

Ego is not your amigo. Let it go.

Happy reading!

GENTLE LIVING

happiness

I’m loving a slow life as time is running away like a lunatic. Slow living offers us more time to enjoy the life we have. Gentle Living by Monocle is a nice book to remind us how to live and take it easy. It suggests 50 ways on how to live a gentler life. We deserve to enjoy more, worry less, and be happy in a slow fashion. Let’s choose the ways you love to live your life fully. I pick my favorite ways to savor life as follows:

BE OPTIMISTIC

I learn to be optimistic using the ABCDE model. I’m struggling to be an optimist as my thinking is negative by default. ABCDE is a simple tool that helps me to gain new and positive perspectives. Give it a try when you’re in a bad mood. You’ll instantly become optimistic like magic, turning tragedy into comedy.

GET BACK TO NATURE WITH PLEASURE

Cheung Sha Beach
Cheung Sha Beach

Nature is a natural healer and it leads us to live in the present moment. I love going to the beach whenever the sun’s out. Cheung Sha Beach and Big Wave Bay in Hong Kong are good for surfing. Surfing is cool and I don’t mind failing like a fool. I fall in love with it despite many times of failing. I love that surfing can train my muscles and my patience as the waves are unpredictable, unbeatable, and readable (if you know them well).

VISIT ART MUSEUM AND MUSE

Hong Kong Museum of Art

I love the silence and artistic vibe inside art museums. Being quiet in the art museum declutters my mind and gives me more space to get new ideas. Located in Tsim Sha Tsui by the harbor, I find the renovated Hong Kong Museum of Art. This museum has a new frame and interior to reflect the beauty of the sea. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows set the ideal conditions for more light, vision, and imagination.

“On Your Seat, On Your Mind” is a lovely art project for you to take a seat and relax, rethinking the way you live and the world around you. It’s fascinating to see things from another person’s point of view. “I have never thought of that!” “What are other possibilities out there?” “How to create my version?”

GO GREEN AND DON’T KILL

Plants make people happy and sad. When I got some green plants to decorate my bookshelf, I was trilled these green babies looked great at first. But they’re getting weaker and weaker. I don’t want them to die so I refill the water and add nutrients once a week and also clean the container once a month. Yet, the round leaves of pilea keep falling off and all of them turn brown. Before I buy any houseplant, I should have read the book How Not to Kill Your Houseplant: Survival Tips for the Horticulturally Challenged.

READ A BOOK AND ACTION

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone will.

Grab a book to read today and you’ll do things differently tomorrow. That’s why I love reading books. A good book will change my mindset and make me form a new habit. My all-time favorite books about simplicity are Essentialism by Greg McKeown, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists. Less is bored? Yes and no. Look at the happiness level of the monks and you’ll understand less is happier.

What’s your favorite book? Let me know when you comment. 🙂

Happy reading!

Awareness

happiness

When I read some books about meditation or mindfulness earlier. I often come across a key word – awareness. I’m curious to know what exactly awareness is. Does awareness mean knowing what I’m doing or how I feel at the moment? Is awareness a state that only guru like Yoda can get there? Am I ever aware for a nanosecond?

I find a simple answer from the book Awareness by Anthony de Mello. In Anthony’s spiritual point of view, awareness is suddenly you get another perspective on life. Wow, that sounds effortless and all of a sudden. My follow up question is: how to get there SUDDENLY?

Anthony’s 4 steps to wisdom might be the pathway to get there. From his book Awareness, he said “Put this program into action, a thousand times: (a) identify the negative feelings in you; (b) understand that they are in you, not in the world, not in external reality; (c) do not see them as an essential part of “I”; these things come and go; (d) understand that when you change, everything changes.”

I put this “program” into action and it goes like this: (a) I have a negative thought that I feel lonely at my new workplace; (b) I understand that this feeling is only inside me, not inside my new colleagues or other people; (c) I don’t see the loneliness as an essential part of “I” as it comes and goes; (d) I understand that when I make new friends at the new environment, everything will change.

As I’m an introvert, it takes me long to build new relationships in a new environment. In my new office, I work on a project alone and do everything alone most of time. When I overhear my colleagues talking, I can’t find a perfect timing to say something to engage in conversation. And I seldom take the initiative to start a conversation. One of my colleagues senses that I’m bored working alone. She gives me a snack, prawn crackers, and chats with me. At this moment, I’m aware. That’s love!

We’re surrounded by love or reality, like the fish in the ocean, but we have no notion about it.

Self-awareness

I love a simple, concise and nicely written A5-sized book about self-awareness. It’s published by Harvard Business Review Press. Although it’s a small book, it covers a lot of topics like emotional intelligence, passion, core value, data-driven path to know yourself, feedback, and growth mindset, etc. It’s a good book that can save your time as it summarizes many good books in one, like a hot pot with great ingredients.

If you would like to dig deeper into self-awareness, I suggest reading the book Insight by Tasha Eurich. Her definition of self-awareness is the will and the skill to understand yourself (internal) AND how others see you (external). After reading her book, I get a new perspective on life. I see myself and others in a new light. According to Tasha, there’re 3 types of unawareness as follows:

Lost cause

Let’s take me as an example. I used to be unaware and refuse to wake up. I didn’t accept critical feedback. I couldn’t take the perspective of others. I was hurtful to others without realizing it. I was unaware of what I did and my impact on others. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The worst-case scenario!

Aware don’t care

Again, let’s take me as an example. I’m aware internally and externally that I’m slow on every level. I talk slow, think slow, eat slow, swim slow but fall asleep fast (That’s the only thing fast). My brother always persuades me to play video games to train up EQ and fast response. But I refuse to change through his favorite hobby. So I keep being a sloth and enjoy slooooooooooowing thiiiiiiiiiiiiings doooooooown.

Nudgable

Last but not least, let’s take me as an example again! This time, I’m unaware that I’m not a generous person. When my family spots that to me, I’m surprised. Giving more is counterintuitive to me. For example, I don’t want to give more money to my mum for housekeeping when I earn more. But I have to because my mum will nag (or nudge) me until I do so. With a few nudges and the will to change, I give more (or give in).

I’m aware that I’ve reframed my personal stories from a miserable perspective to a positive perspective, after editing my draft a few times. I feel better at the end of the writing process. That’s the power of journaling. What’s more, I gain another perspective. That’s awareness! Are you aware that I’m unaware of how you feel while you’re reading this post? Let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Happy reading! Be self-aware and insightful.

Feedback

happiness

HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK

We’re living in an ocean of feedback. Sometimes I feel drown by negative feedbacks. Sometimes I feel confused without any feedback. And I’m clueless how to give a proper feedback. Richard William is an internationally recognized business consultant specializing in leadership development. From his book Tell me how I’m doing, he advises readers how to give feedback in an effective way. I did the experiment myself. The results were profound, out of control and surprising.

Positive feedback

I seldom give appreciation to others or myself. Richard suggests giving positive feedback on look, behavior and character. I tried this to my brother. “You’re good-looking today. I’m happy that you washed the dishes. You’re a good kid, ” I said. My brother was not convinced at all and replied, “Why are you so fake today?”

Supportive feedback

When I want to appreciate others’ behavior, I followed Richard’s advice – describe the specific behavior, its consequences and how I feel. I tried to thank my mum in this specific way. “Mum, thank you for cooking me dinner. It’s yummy and it makes me feel full and lucky that I have a good mum who still takes care of me. I feel like I don’t have to grow up at all and I enjoy being taken care of.” Despite my long and specific appreciation, I couldn’t identify any reaction from her. Only poker face.

Corrective feedback

My mum always talks negatively to me. I have never heard of any compliments from her. My self-esteem is low with her presence. One day I asked her, “Did you realize everything you said to me is negative? Did you ever encourage others? Could you stop personal attack? Give encouragement in stead of criticism, please. I don’t think I can do anything with this negativity.” She kept looping the negative comments again. I felt totally hopeless. “What is the meaning of life? Does anyone know?”

My mum fails to give me corrective feedback and I refuse to change as she wishes. Me too. I fail to give her corrective feedback and she keeps being who she is. I feel happier to go no contact with her. So I think unless others want the corrective feedback, it’s better not to give any. Maybe you can do it better than me by taking Richard’s advice to deliver effectively as follows:

  1. Try the supportive feedback first
  2. Use carefully guided questions
  3. State that improvement is needed
  4. Use appropriate discipline
  5. Draw a line in the sand

HOW TO RECEIVE FEEDBACK

The book Thanks for the feedback by Doug Stone and Sheila Heen talks about the art of receiving negative feedback. They suggest the best question to ask for feedback to self-improve is that “What’s the one thing I can change so as to make the biggest difference?”

Understand first

When we receive the negative feedback, do we really understand it? Most likely, we might have a wrong interpretation if we don’t clarify the true meaning. It’s great to understand it from other’s point of view first. Ask where is the feedback coming from, what the adviser wants you to do differently and why.

I think the hardest part is to decide if the feedback is valid or not. Yet the negative feedback does tell us the impact we’ve made on others somehow. It helps us to recognize our blind spots, letting us know what we don’t know. Just like a CCTV video tape showing what we did from a third party’s point of view. I wish I could have an exclusive and invisible camera recoding my life so that I could watch it myself. This can skip asking people for feedback (If you’re an introvert, you will understand).

Avoid switchbacks

I always get defensive when my mum criticizes me for not doing things her way. I scold her for being rude and loud, pointing the finger at her instead. Doug Stone and Sheila Heen call this switchback, which means changing to another topic. Do I switchback to her tone? They suggest not to switchback when receiving negative feedback. Simply focus on discussing one topic at a time. This takes self-awareness to do so. And obviously I’m lacking that.

Build a growth mindset

After I get the feedback and understand it more, what’s next? Two choices here. One, thanks for the advice and don’t take it. Two, do small experiments to change in progress. There could be one more choice and I just invent it. That is, ask a friend to improve together.

Happy reading! And please give me feedback. 🙂

Hooked

creativity

I’m hooked by many things. Now, I have a better idea of why I’m hooked after reading the book Hooked. The hooked model gives me the explanations of why I’m hooked by Netflix and Apple tv+. And why I’m hooked blogging here.

The Hooked Model

When I feel bored or uninspired, I turn to Netflix or Apple tv+. My desire for entertainment and inspiration is the internal trigger that causes me to watch endless videos. My friend’s recommendation on what to watch is the external trigger that makes me watch even more. My action of watching streaming videos gives me various rewards like getting inspired by many new perspectives and staying connected with friends. I’m totally hooked.

I want to read and write more (internal trigger) so I blog about books I’ve read (action). I feel happy when I get positive and supportive comments on my blog; and I make new friends with other bloggers (various rewards). So I spend more time and effort to keep blogging (investment). Can you see another hook cycle is happening here?

You can make use of this hook model to create good habits or products. Or try to unhook yourself from bad habits by eliminating any of the key factors: trigger, action, various reward, and investment. I’m trying to unhook myself from my phone by hiding it away. Be aware of what and why you’re hooked.

Happy reading!

Measure what matters

creativity

Do you like goal-setting as much as I do? I understand that not everyone prefers goal-setting. As the future is uncertain, not all goals will go as planned. That’s ok if things don’t turn out as you wish. Just be flexible. On top of that, knowing what matters most to you outweighs everything.

What matters most to you? Your answer will reveal your core values. Let’s say my answer is to stay happy. Based on happiness, I can start to set OKR and stretch goal which are the key concepts from the book Measure What Matters. Google adopts OKR and stretch goal to get things done.

What is OKR?

OKR stands for objectives and key results. Recently, I set OKR with my exercise buddy. Our objective is to reduce waist size by 2 inches within a month. Our key results are doing exercise at least 30 mins and eat clean daily. OKR is like SMART goal. Here’s another OKR example as follows:

Objective: stay happy daily

Key result 1: mediate 20 mins

Key result 2: exercise 30 mins

Key result 3: practice gratitude and optimism

Key result 4: help others

What is stretch goal?

Simply put, stretch goal is the advanced version of OKR. Stretch goal is 10 times more difficult to achieve. It’s a challenging goal set to make you grow and accomplish more. I usually publish a blog post once a month. So it’s challenging for me to do as follows:

Stretch goal: write well and more

Key result 1: write 250 words daily

Key result 2: publish 10 blog posts within a month

What’s most important to you? What OKR and stretch goal will you set? Planning what you wanna do is just the first step to make things happen. After all, your actions determine the final results. Focus and take action today!

Creative doing!

Art Therapy

creativity

In art therapy, creativity is a means of coping with anxiety, depression, and disturbing emotions. Painting is not only a creative process but also an art therapy for famous painters Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo who suffer from chronic illness. Art therapist Bruce Moon thinks art making serves an existential purpose, helping us make sense of a world that seems filled with boredom, dysfunctional relationships, abuse, addiction, and purposelessness.

To know more about the creative process, I read Art Therapy Sourcebook by Cathy Malchiodi and Trust the process by Shaun Mcniff. These two art therapists mention that many aspects of daily life involve personal creativity: arranging flowers in a vase or setting a colorful table. If we approach what we already do on the desk or in the kitchen from the perspective of artistic expression, we’re in the creative process.

Create from home

Create from home is the new norm nowadays, not just work from home. I start by making drinks with different colors to make home life more colorful. Drink red on Monday. Drink orange on Tuesday. Drink yellow on Wednesday. Drink green on Thursday. Drink indigo on Friday. Drink blue on Saturday. Drink violet on Sunday. I can feel a rainbow is radiating inside me after a week!

Rather than try to rid your life of tension, consider doing something more creative with it. – Shaun Mcniff

During the lockdown, I also self-publish a book called Lazy Giver. Setting some time to write daily sounds a tedious commitment but it’s rewarding when I finish it. I feel happy that I have created something I want to do for long. And it’s something that will last forever! Check it out if you’re curious to know more.

My book

What’s more, my family has decided to rearrange the furnitures and reorganise the things we have at home. Now, my home is different in a good way. I’m happy that home looks tidier and more spacious. To me, art therapy could be any forms. And creativity is new ways of doing or seeing things. For more creative insights, check out Zig Zag, Wired to Create, creative and meditation. Do you create from home? Feel free to share with me your version of art therapy and any wonders in ordinary home life. 🙂

Creative doing!

Everybody writes

creativity

Hello, writer. Yes, you!

Are you a blogger, marketer, or content writer? If yes, you might be interested in the writing tips from digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. Simply put, her book Everybody Writes is the recipe for writing better in the digital world. I find it practical and love the tips and tools such as this title maker.

Pathological empathy makes you write well

I can write well for people like me as I know my needs. Yet, I feel difficult when writing for people who are different from me. Because I’m not naturally empathic, I will have to force myself to get to know other’s habits, needs, and goals. Understanding others takes effort to figure out why they behave and feel that way. Spending time with the target audience is essential to write well.

Find a writing buddy

Finding a writing buddy or a good editor is like finding a life partner. It may be difficult. But, it’s rewarding to have one. I’m still looking for a writing buddy. Let’s connect if you’re looking for one too. How do I self-edit? After developmental editing and line editing, I use an editing tool to make my writing more concise. I will check readability and grammar, and make sure it sounds natural. If you’re interested in great writing tips, check out On Writing, Writing Comedy, and The Element of Style.

Writing is stretching. It feels good to stretch a bit more daily.

Solve for Happy

happiness

What is the happiness formula from an engineer’s point of view? Mo Gawdat, the author of Solve for happy, has written one like this:

I like this equation as simple as that. Simply changing our expectations and how we see our lives will make us happy. If we manage to have no demands from our loved ones, we feel happy. A friend of mine, Sasha, once told me she’s happy in her marriage because she has no expectations. With no expectations, the joy settles in.

Another key factor is whether we see everything that happens in life with a positive lens or not. Jackie, one of my readers, shared with me a good news about seeing the good in bad times. The story was about people recovered from Covid-19 donated their plasma towards finding a cure. This is an example of turning a disaster into something wonderful!

There are many things in life we can’t control. All we can control is our actions (towards the goal) and attitude (focus on the good). Let’s have some awareness breaks every day to live our lives in here and now, not inside the head. Be aware of any selfish thoughts as any thought that stems from ego is bound to disappoint.

Golden rule for happiness: choose to believe in the side that makes you happy

What’s your state of mind?

The book Solve for happy has covered the illusions we might have, like time and control. I love the way Mo Gawdat explains complex stuff with simple metaphors for easy understanding. What I like the most is the graph above for joy check. It’s a great way to know what our state of mind is right away! For example, I’m unemployed and I’m thinking I’m free to learn new things I want (positive thoughts) so I’m in a state of happiness. What state are you in?

Happy reading!

Simple Secrets

happiness

                                                                 

What’s the most important thing that determines our happiness? Most people say it’s the quality of relationships that we have with ourselves and other people! If that’s true, we better work more on building great relationships. Wouldn’t you agree? After reading 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships and 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, I select 3 points from each book and they share similar meanings. They are so simple that we tend to overlook them.

Friendship beats money

Money matters less over time

The way we talk about our family and friends can tell others if we are happy or not. Good relationships make us feel food. Bad relationships make us feel bad. As simple as that. Shall we pay more attention to cultivate friendships daily?

See possibilities

If you’re not sure, guess positively.

During the COVID-19 adversity, I was laid off as my previous company underwent restructuring. I accepted this circumstance but I chose to see possibilities of earning money even in tough times. With focus and effort, I explored various ways to increase personal finance. Luckily, I found a new job with even better pay after job hunting for a month! I could earn more through freelancing and investing stocks too. I felt so blessed, grateful, and surprised by the possibilities.

Attitude triumphs outcome

It’s not what happened, it’s how you think about what happened.

When it comes to the process of getting a life partner or keeping the relationship, how can we stay positive? Take this attitude: continue being someone who sees the good around you, and continue being someone who would offer love, affection, and support to the right partner.

 

Happy reading!