If I were a person of joy, I would act as such

One of my yearly themes this year is about fun, though for the last few weeks everything seems to be working in a direction that is .. not fun, not very joyful.  What would it take for a little joy?  I start the morning hopeful and ended a little blah by evening.

Sometimes things do get overwhelming.  With a full-time job, two young kids, crazy schedules, a weaker immune system and everything else in between, living fun or having joy, seemed a far out task.

Yet, I can’t be the only one overwhelmed at various points in life. 

And if so, then how would someone living from joy, act?

If I am living from joy today (just today), how would I walk, talk and move? How will I brush my teeth or comb my hair? 

If I am living from joy today (just today), how would I turn the key, type on the keyboard, talk to my kids, nod to the passerby?

If I am living from joy today (just today), how would I flip the book, eat my lunch, drink my water, stir the tea?

If I am living from joy today (just today), how would I react to the next email, the next assignment, the next phone call?

And then repeat it tomorrow.

And replace the word joy with fun, or wholeheartedness, or inspired, or inspiring, or passionate, or compassionate, or vulnerable, or alive.

Watch what happens.

Relax: If you can’t control it, you can’t screw it up

Sometimes I think we get it the wrong way round, we think that we can’t screw it up as long we don’t control it. So we conclude that the best way is to take an either-or stance: to either control everything or to give up and decide that by not taking part (ie. not controlling anything intentionally), nothing can be considered to be screwed up by us.

A round-a-bout way of thinking, no doubt, and one that makes me suspicious because it (seemingly) creates only two options. This, or that, and nothing in between.  What I have discovered living on both ends was that there was always something missing.

Taking the Either-Or Stance

We try to control everything so nothing screws up.  And very quickly, we learn that a lot of things are out of our control, how others think, respond, the nature, environment around us.

So we move to the other end, and decided that it’s best to not take part, not control anything, so that in that way, we can’t be said to have (actually) screwed up anything.  Life starts to be lived on default, and because life moves on and we are relinquish our need to make decisions, we wonder why things seem to keep “happening to us”.

Getting the Order Right

For the things we can control, we show up wholeheartedly.  For things we can’t control – relax, because we can’t screw it up.  It is what it is – we can’t make it something it is not.

We can however, control how we are, think, respond or react, and most importantly, what we can create.

So relax. When we are spending energy controlling something external of us or worrying about screwing up, we are wasting that energy to otherwise create something worthy to call our own.

Now relax.  Release the tension, flow into ease, and watch how much more you can create.

Deliver Compassion

Tis the fourth day of the Lunar New Year, Year of the Horse.  Eleven more days to go in celebrations.

Well, work has started and another new week.  I’d love to bounce out of bed, all excited and raring to go. Some days though, it is a more subdued variation.   I don’t think that is uncommon.

That said, while it’s a period of celebration in the Lunar New Year, I’ve also received sad news from friends around me.  My first reaction is anger, indignation and a need to lash out.  But each morning I wake up, I get to make a different choice.  In each moment even, I get to make a different choice.

Deliver Compassion

In considering my response, I landed on compassion. When the kneejerk response is anger, the healing response is compassion.  When the natural tendency is to play the victim, the call to action is to play the higher game.

It is not easy. Just in the next breath, it’s easy to find reasons on why compassion should be withheld.

So what is it worth?

It’s worth the Good Fight, to break the cycle of anger and fear.

It’s worth the depths of love that can be created.

It means forgiveness is in order.

It means believing in yourself that you have the strength to play the bigger game.

It also means making mistakes, but treating yourself gently when you do.

And because it’s Monday, and because it’s a new morning, new day, new week, new moment.  Will your choice be compassion?

Goal Setting in 2014 & Loving Monday Mornings

I spoke on this recently.  Each year or stated time frame, we set certain goals.  It’s easy to make goals, not so easy to keep them.

The tricky part, is about building on these goals, taking steps to progress forward towards the intended results, day by day.  It’s about the staying the course, and despite the easiest of goals, we sometimes get caught up with everything less important.  Things crop up, stuff happens, one day goes by and we think it’s okay to just let it be, and another day goes by.  Before we know it, a week, month and a year is over, and we “transfer” our goals to the following year, in the hope of doing it better.

Hope probably isn’t getting us anywhere.  But what has Loving Monday Mornings got to do with it?

Can you visualize it?

If I asked you what would it take so that you would get out of bed on a Monday morning, excited and grateful for the day – given the space to dream, you might have an idea of the things you would do for the day, what your room will look like, what your morning will look like.

The simple truth is that if you can’t visualize what a great start to a great day would look like, you can’t visualize yourself achieving your goals.  And when the going gets tough, how can you remember why you do what you do to take daily steps towards your goals?

Can you say it?

Amongst all the list of goals, what are 2 – 3 words that you can attach to it?  These are themes or keywords to trigger the original motivations or inspiration of the goals.  Every morning and anytime you need a reminder, it probably would not make any sense to run through the list of the goals line by line.  But with the 2 – 3 word themes – inspiration, action, health, well-being, love, passion, fun, wholeheartedness etc. – these can be recalled easily and serve as one-word mantras to propel you forward when it feels like you’re swimming against currents.

Mine for 2014 are inspiration, fun, wholeheartedness.  What is yours?

Can you feel inspired?

When days get rough and the days call upon you to draw inspiration, would the well be dry?  Reading daily (biographies or inspired authors), even for 5 pages a day, means a daily deposit into the bank of inspiration.  The bank is not necessary on times when the mornings and days feel great, but are often neglected during the times when the mornings and days feel dreary, which coincidentally are times when they are needed the most.

I’ve read Michael Jordan’s the last three months.  And now, have books Saint Germain and the Dalai Lama lined up.  Authors I fall back on for inspiration belong to a wide range (which I will write more about in the Build My Library section), but to name a few quickly: Paulo Coelho, Mitch Albom, Wayne Dyer, Napoleon Hill, Deepak Chopra, Robin Sharma etc.

Along with that, get a favourite music playlist in easy access.  Music, favourite music (of which I go through phases as anyone else does), picks me up whenever I need it and whenever I play it.

Is it worth it?

For whom are your goals being set?  This is different from setting your goals because someone else things you should.  This is about looking at how big your goal is.  Is the goal selfish, or does it serve others? Does it make you bigger than you so that you may serve others – your kids, your parents, your family, you friends, your neighbors, your students, your colleagues, your bosses?

Setting goals and keeping goals means making a little progress on it every single day

Progress doesn’t mean we ‘win’ every day at the goal, sometimes we make mistakes.  But progress means we move ahead, we figure out what works and what doesn’t work, but we don’t. stop. moving. forward.

And loving Monday mornings, loving what you do, doing what you love, loving your goals and every step you take in it, is what a great day is all about.  And when you look back to the year, you will have great stories to tell of the goals that you achieved and the miracles you created along the way.  Enjoy the journey and enjoy your morning.

What will you build?

I truly believe we are not as clueless about our lives as we think we are. Whenever I get stuck, I remember that the world always need more builders.

For a long while, I got stuck at the first question, what can I build?

This is what I found.

That the world needs builders to build …
– bridges, to create connections;
– homes, to create belonging;
– communities, to create compassion;
– tools, for the other builders to build;
– schools, so that all can learn to build & never to fear what is destroyed in the name of change;
– paths, to journey for the journey is as important as the destination;
– rest spots, because a journey is not complete when we learn to be present & rest;
– torches, to light the paths and warm the hearts of other builders;
– stages, so others can showcase their story as a means of enriching others’ lives.

Most of all, builders are needed to build new worlds, for anything is possible as long as the mind can dream, the heart believes & the hands can build.

Ushering in the New

So Christmas just passed, and often before that there will be some cleaning and then ushering in the festivities. Where I live, we also celebrate the New Year (ol’ classic 1 of Jan) and the Chinese New Year, which typically happens in January or February (the first day of the Lunar Calendar Year varies with each Gregorian calendar year). A simpler way to look at it is that Chinese New Year is the start of spring, as per ancient Chinese traditions come by.

So by my count, each year, I clear out the old and usher in the new three times. The biggest spring cleaning operation happens closer to Chinese New Year but you can see where I get confused.

Nonetheless I feel good with the opportunity to clear out the old, broken, unusable…even if it comes in three spurts. (Decluttering and space is a particular topic I’ve been studying by myself for years and I can write a whole blog on it…. Hmm maybe I will..watch this space).

This year I’m sitting at my table exhausted, it’s late I want to sleep I don’t think I can effectively clear out the house good enough for the magazine or visitors, of which I don’t usually have either. Griping about what else I need to do, how I need to outdo last year and the year before. Somewhat a mini panic attack, without the medical conditions of it.

But this year I am choosing fun, wholeheartedness and play (themes of my year 2014), so how can I laugh at this?

Out with the old…
For starters, it’s about throwing my images of what should the house look like pre-CNY, throwing out images of me not doing enough or that I had to fix a certain amount of “work done” on the house that was acceptable.

In with the new!
And then it means welcoming the new:
1) Habits about removing the rules of what should be and opening the possibilities of what could be;
2) Accepting that I have done a lot and in that present moment, is enough for what is required that present moment; and
3) Effort and action is just important as achievement

And that, is a pretty good spring clean in its own right.

Postponing happiness

Once in a while, some events happen around me that make me feel really joyful. There are probably more than I can care to remember, but it only took me till recently to realise that I often numb most of the others in between.

It happened after a recent talk I gave about this blog (yes, people are interested to hear about Loving Monday Mornings *excited*) and how it relates to goal setting for the year. The staff at the place I gave the talk were all extra chirpy the following Monday when I swung by. They seemed really inspired and happy, and knowing that Loving Monday Mornings contributed to that just made me really joyful.

I was happy for 2 minutes, the real simple kind of happy. Smiling, at peace, feeling that all is good around me. And for some reason, I spotted it this time, as fast as the thought popped into my head:

“Better not be so happy. It will likely not last so you should tone it down a little, and leave some for later.”

What?!?!
What was the point of enjoying a moment, any moment, if you had to somehow carve a portion of it and leave it for later? What was so terrifying, the idea of scarcity? That there might be a limited amount of joy? And so it seems another usual reaction I had, just that I was somehow outside looking in again:

The need of postponing happiness to save some for later was equivalent to the scarcity mindset that there wasn’t happiness. As a result, I am not truly enjoying the moment, occasionally guilty and thereby, not happy as a result of postponing what I was trying to be – happy.

How long?
As far back as I can remember, and that is a long time to keep postponing something. It is draining, exhausting, and feels ironically, thoroughly miserable. How much had I short-changed myself along the way?

There comes a time when you get amazed at that very instant how far you have come – especially if it’s down the wrong path.

Now what?
I was still standing at the same spot, moments into my new realisation. The only thing that was left, was to stop postponing happiness. And then, to be happy now.

What if there is not enough and it “drains” out? Be happy now.
What if I get it wrong?
Be happy now.
What if I don’t know how?
Be happy now.

Being present in the moment. Being happy.
Being happy. Being present in the moment.

It’s going to be a great week ahead!

Really?

If you could sit back and monitor the voices in your head (actually, you technically could with an appropriate meditation process), that would likely pop up first.

Really? But it’s a work day tomorrow.

Really? But there is so much to clear in the office.

Really? But I have to hand up the report due (fill in the blanks).

Really? But the boss is back from vacation and has lots of work to dump on me.

Really? The client is going to be calling in with all sorts of complaints.

And so on.

Seriously, it’s late on a Sunday night (my time). I’m exhausted even listening to that tirade. And if my experience in the last few months where I have been working on certain goals, going through a coaching process for myself and a group of others around me counts – a lot of what we create around us really comes from us: our perspectives, our intention, our direction and our pure ability to create the environment we want around us.

So when you are done begrudging the week lost, come over and join me on this side, looking ahead to the week.  When I’m not stewing inward in my own self-dug corner, I can clearly see the blank canvas in front, brush in one hand and colourful palette in another, ready to paint in answer to the question:

“It’s going to be a great week ahead – what will great mean for you (not me, not them, not him, not her), but specifically for you?”

“Where has the week gone to?!”

It used to happen every weekend, in conversations and now in social media status updates “Where has the week gone to?!”

Often we look out for “cheat days” – days off from our goals.  The reasoning is that for a stretch of these few number of days, we have been driving relentless towards our goals, therefore, once in a while a break is warranted.

I think before anything has become a habit, or that if we see it as goals = work, then taking a break is where the comfort zone is and can be very enticing.

Subsequently, one day stretches to two: “another day won’t hurt”.

And another.

Just like writing this blog, a whole week goes by and a little more, almost in a flash, without nary a post.

Has it been fulfilling or restful?  Strangely, or perhaps not so strange, no.

Writing recharges and writing inspires me.  This thing that I did frequently, this blog that I built one post at a time, refreshes me.  By “not doing anything” wasn’t restful, it was allow the writing muscle to atrophy.  No wonder I got more tired as the day went by.

Of course, for everyone, it may not be writing but something else that recharges them: reading, singing, drawing, dancing, sports, photography, fishing, driving etc.  What doesn’t get recharged, gets left aside and atrophies.