Saturday, 31 May 2014

If you want to change the world, change yourself first

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." ~Gandhi

We all dream of the world being a better place. We dream of it being a kinder, more compassionate world, where everyone is considerate, helpful, courteous. But how do we get there? Sitting on the couch, dreaming all day of a better world, debating about the vices in our society, definitely will not evoke change. But it can start with you. Think about it. If you start being considerate to strangers, courteous to your peers, helpful to others, without expecting anything in return, you can start a snowball effect. People will be touched by your kindness, and pay it forward. Granted, not everyone will appreciate your goodwill, some might even deride your 'simple-mindedness', but who said anything about affecting 100% of the people you meet? As long as you make a difference in one person's life, brightening up their day, that person will eventually make a difference to another's life. And to another, and another, and so forth.
If you want the workplace to be more conducive to open discussions, or make it more women-friendly (where women are not suppressed/ignored in the hierarchy and decision-making process), reflect upon your own behavior first, and make the first change. Counter your own prejudices, let your desire for change drive you. Be willing to share your ideas, without an agenda of expecting reciprocation. Start promoting your female colleagues, (for women) learn to speak up. 
Stand up for your beliefs, and others will start to follow.

There are 7 billion people in the world, and if individuals can start to make minuscule effort upon themselves, can you imagine the collective change we can make? What a thought!

Just sharing a song to motivate you, by Michael Jackson, "Man in the Mirror". =)

p.s. There is another version of this same song that I really like, from the movie Joyful Noise. The link is here.

Step out of your comfort zone

It is never easy to step out of one's comfort zone. But a fledgeling that never learns to leave its nest will never learn to fly. =)

Challenge yourself, and be unafraid to fail. Stumbling blocks are all part of life, embrace them, use them as lessons for the next challenge.

Friday, 30 May 2014

How to achieve greatness: 10 life lessons from a Navy SEAL

This is the commencement speech given at the University of Texas at Austin, by Admiral McRaven, a video that is rapidly going viral on the internet. He provides 10 life lessons based on his experience as a Navy SEAL. I am summarizing them here, in my own words. 
  1. Start small. Take small steps toward your goal. Small accomplishments build up your pride and courage into enabling you to achieve greater things over time.
  2. Great things are never achieved alone. Ask for, and accept, help from others, friends and strangers alike.
  3.  At the end of the day, all that matters is your "will to succeed". Background and prior training/advantage pale in comparison to willpower.
  4. Accept that, despite the quantity and quality of preparation and performance, failure is sometimes unavoidable. This is a fact of life.
  5. Use failure as your motivation to improve. Do not be afraid of ridicule either, build up your resilience from the inside. A stronger tree is able to counter stronger winds.
  6. Challenge norms and be brave enough to take risks.
  7. Do not escape from challenges or problems. Face them headfirst. Be brave, counter your fears. Do not let a challenge or resistance stop you.
  8. Keep your calm even in the darkest moments, when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  9. Hope can work wonders. Never give up hope. Hope can unite the world. With hope, we can change the world.
  10. If you want to achieve greatness, do not give up. Persist.
If you would like to read the transcript, it is available here.
I hope this encourages you to push forward in your life! We can all achieve big things. It is simply a matter of how much we want to. =)
Have a good weekend, everyone!

Photography: seeing from another's eyes

One thing I really like about photography is to see things from the photographer's eyes. Different angles can really provide a different perspective, and sometimes enable you to appreciate something, however mundane, on a whole new level. Well-taken photographs can also convey powerful messages through imagery. For example, this series of photographs intended to portray our world in their 'native glory'. The photograph above is my favorite, as I love marine life and whales, but also that it was a perspective that I had never encountered before. It took a few seconds to register that this was a whale's tail in the early moments before a dive, a pleasant surprise for me. I love how the cascade of water flowing from the whale's tail freezes the moment in time, yet creates the illusion of continuity that sparks the imagination into a mental video, straddling between a lobtail and a dive.

It will be OK

To my friends who are having a hard time. Have faith. Enjoy life as much as you can. It will all turn out fine in the end =) *hug!*

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Real lives have curves

"How do I know where my passion lies?"
"If I don't have a defined passion, am I in trouble?"
"I don't know what kind of career I want..?"
"How do I figure out where I'll be in the next 10, 20 years?"

These are just some, out of many, questions that frequently come up at the career seminar series organized by the women's group that I am part of at Stanford. Women are not the only attendees at the seminars, men join us too. But that is not the important point. The point is, so many of us, men and women, are uncertain of what we really like to do, where we can best apply our skills, whether we want to stay in academia/move to industry/try a completely different field, etc. The passion theory states that you should follow your passion, but what if you have too many interests?? 

Everyday we meet so many people who seem to know exactly what they wanted to do since they were 18 ("I always wanted to be doctor", "I always wanted to teach", "Working in this field is my dream" etc.), so much that those of us, who are yet still indecisive, start to wonder if there is something lacking in our vision. It can sometimes even induce panic attacks, breaking out in cold sweat in the middle of the night, as we worry about not laying down a concrete path for the future. 

One thing I learnt from the career seminar series (we invite successful men and women who are top notch in their companies/field to speak about their lives) is that real lives have curves. What does that mean? Simply put, careers change all the time! Many successful people do not end up working in the same field/industry that they started off in, and do not expect to remain in their current position for the rest of their working lives. This includes those who had thought they wanted a specific path for themselves. In fact, careers change so often, especially in one's 40s/50s, that there is a term called 'the second career', where some people switch to a job that is drastically different from the one before. 

Interests and life situations evolve all the time, therefore careers do too.

Let me use my PhD advisor's wife, T, as an example. An amazing woman -- smart, funny, confident -- she is one of few people I truly admire.
T has a PhD in molecular biology, and she is really interested in archaeology and teaching. At the same time, she wanted to be an astronaut, but accepted the low likelihood of that option (due to various factors). In the middle of her PhD, T took time off (against her advisor's wishes) to join the Mars Society, and live in a biosphere in the Arctic for 6 weeks, running biological experiments related to settlement on Mars. She also spent time in their habitat in the Utah desert, building their biological laboratory and overseeing the construction of the observatory at the Mars Desert Research Station. To help fund her venture, she convinced NASA to allow her to use part of her fellowship (they were funding her graduate work) on travel expenses to NASA. 
After she graduated, T wanted to teach, while fulfilling her love for Egypt and biology, so she took up a Visiting Assistant Professor position at The American University in Cairo. Two years later, she was engaged to my advisor, whom she had met in graduate school, and moved back to the USA to be with him. In the States, T applied to faculty positions (she still wanted to be a professor), but unfortunately the global economic crisis in 2008 occurred, thwarting her efforts. During her brief unemployment period, she explored her love for writing, a skill she really honed during graduate school. In addition to accepting requests from contacts to write travel/science articles, she started exploring the option of being an independent scientific editor. This allowed her to discover her interest in being a business owner as well. At the same time, she sought out opportunities to conduct independent research in a lab on campus, exploring exciting and ground-breaking scientific questions in her own time. 
In a short span of less than four years, T now has her own scientific editing and consulting company to help edit scientific manuscripts, as well as to teach scientists how to write good papers. She also helps to teach a laboratory class, when required, alongside two other professors at Stanford. Due to their new addition to the family, she has stopped doing research at the moment. But more amazingly, T has written a novel over the past year (the storyline revolves around Egyptian history), and is on her way to publishing her first book. 

I hope this story has illustrated how much a person's career can change over less than ten years. T explored her various interests, adapted her career according to her passions (how many of us actually take time off a beaten path to try something new?) and evolving life situation (marriage, the two-body problem, children), and is still doing what she loves.

Granted, T is a truly remarkable woman. But my message to you, the reader, is this:
If you know exactly what you want in your life, I applaud you and wish you all the best in your journey. 
If you don't, do not worry! Just explore different options, figure out what works/doesn't work. Talk to people, find out what it is really like in your field of interest. Do information interviews, people are often more than happy to chat. Network*. You never know who may be able to help you in the future. More importantly, be brave. Never close doors just because you are afraid of failure. Don't be afraid to dream big. Ask for help. Fight for what you want. Never let someone else's expectations or reluctance stop you**. Learn as many skills as you can, you never know when they will be useful. Put in your best effort in what you do. So what if you're not good enough now? Become so good that they cannot ignore you***. If a job does not work out, do not take it personally (unless you were lazy and did not put in effort), move on to the next thing! Finally, be flexible. Just because you thought you wanted a particular path in life, do not beat yourself up if you lose interest and find another interesting area to work in. Also, be open to new ideas, even if you were not interested before. Evolve yourself!

If life was so predictable, wouldn't it be boring? =)

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

*You don't have to start giving out your business card to a hundred people right away. If you are an introvert like me, just take it slow, talk to one new stranger at a time. Over time, you might even find it fun!

**If you are fighting against bureaucracy, remember that people's first response is often 'No' because they don't want to do more work.

*** Recommended read: "So good they cannot ignore you" by Cal Newport

p.s. Thanks, T, for allowing me to share your story. =)

Slow down, you're going too fast!

Our modern world is obsessed with speed, so much that sometimes life zooms past and we regret not taking the time to appreciate what was important to us.
Here is a TED talk emphasizing this message (Sorry I could not embed it here).

When you take the time to slow down, who knows what you may find? =)

Here's a fun song to start off your day!
From one of my favorite oldies duo, Simon and Garfunkel. ^_^

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Shed your excess baggage

Today I just want to share one of my favorite short stories. 

Excess Baggage by Mary Morris


Women must learn to carry their own luggage, emotional and physical, before they can truly venture out.

Years ago I journeyed to Europe and took with me excess baggage. Among my material excesses were assorted electrical appliances I'd never use, high heels that made no sense on cobble-stone streets, dozens of pleated skirts and sweaters of high school vintage, weighty guidebooks I abandoned on trains, jackets for all weathers, and all those innumerable items called accessories, as if they were accomplices in crime. Along with heavy bags I carried a heavy heart. My inner baggage-- a desire to be taken care of, an endless search for love, and excessive needs--weighed my down. I spent much of my journey standing in train stations and bus terminals waiting for a porter or some other man to come to my aid.
Excess baggage is a symptom of something we are missing on the inside-- a fear that we won't be accepted for what we are, as if our selves are not enough. We bring too much of our past experience, the clutter of our emotions. These things get in the way and keep us from getting close to others. Then we are left with the task of having to find someone else to carry it, whether it is our luggage or our loneliness.
It was my friend Carol who taught me the value of lightness. A few years ago I went to Peru, where she was living. I had just ended a long relationship and I overpacked because I wanted men to admire me so I would feel better about myself. I arrived in a bad mood. We flew to Lake Titicaca and hired a boat to take us to the island of Taquili. En route we encountered a storm. Arriving four hours late, in pitch darkness, drenched to the skin, we still had an hour’s hike up a steep incline and then down again to get to the village. Everything in life looked grim as I crawled up the slope.
A small duffel slung over her shoulder, Carol scrambled up the hill like a mountain goat while I dragged myself and my possessions over rocks and mud. Carol had had some difficult times lately as well, but she was able to put them behind her. She was annoyed with me, but finally she took pity. Grabbing one of my bags, she said,” I’ll help you with this trip, but next time, lighten up,” referring to my entire being.
In the end I would have no choice. On the journey from Peru to Mexico the airlines lost my bags. What I had left were the clothes on my back and a carry-on with a pair of jeans, t-shirts, a sweater. At first I was obsessed by my missing things, as if I’d lost a part of myself. I wanted to stay in Mexico City and await their return, but I was meeting a friend in San Miguel. I went straight to San Miguel, but my friend hadn’t arrived and that night I had nothing—no possessions, no people—to distract me from myself. I spent a dark and anxious night, troubled by memories and a concern for what lay ahead. In the morning, the Mexican light streamed in like a blessing.
I went to the market, where I was struck by the colours and smells. Fresh mangoes and gladiolas, raw meat, flowers and grains, burlap sacks of lentils and beans.
I bought an avocado, some cheese, tortillas and beer, put them in my small pack and walked down the road heading out of town. I walked through hills covered with cactus and wildflowers until I reached a lake, and there I sat, in the heat of the day, having a picnic with myself.
I forgot about my luggage and all the other baggage I carried with me. I settled into the freedom that lightness brings. I wandered the hills. Unencumbered I moved for several days from place to place. When my bags were finally located, having spent some time in Honolulu, I wondered why I thought I needed all that stuff in the first place.
The women referred to by 19th-century writers as ‘traveling ladies’ were often romantic dreamers, going off into the wilds or in search of ‘the spirit of the East’. Women who were explorers in the early 20th century were a different breed—goal oriented, directed toward scientific enquiry.
The women of my generation are also explorers, although our field work is of a different sort. We pioneer in uncharted emotional terrain—entering new professions, living with or without husbands, bringing up children alone, choosing a career and the single life. Or any combination of the above.
What we bring as we forge ahead tells a lot about who we are. A large part of independence is learning to carry out own weight. As long as women ask others to take care of their physical or psychic luggage, we will always be searching for emotional porters, not the equals we say we desire.

Though an arduous process, over many years and via many mistakes, I have tried to shed luggage as a snake sheds skin. With each journey I bring less. I gain more. In clothing I have acquired less burdened by the weight of self—the self I had opted to journey with. And I’ve learned what every traveler needs to know along the way: scream if you must, smile when you can, and travel light.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Be yourself

To live a happy life, we need to learn to be happy in our own skin, and stop trying to be someone else. You are unique, and that's what makes you special. =)

Set yourself free by learning to forgive

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." ~Buddha

Do you feel angry at yourself? Or someone else? Do you feel uncomfortable with something that has happened, something you think was not fair, such that you may feel angry and resentful at the world/fate that it actually happened? Do you blame yourself or the other person?

It is time for acceptance and forgiveness. What was done has been done, and what was said has been said. You need to accept that some things happened for a reason, whether it was fair or not. Maybe you or the other person was emotional at the time, maybe you/he/she thought it was the logical thing to do then. In any case, it happened. And there really is no benefit, psychologically or health-wise, for you to be holding on to the past and being bitter about it. You also cannot escape from the problem (as so many of us often do) by sweeping things under the rug, thinking it will pass, while knowing very well that, somewhere at the back of your mind, the anger is festering, prowling like a tiger waiting to pounce upon the slightest provocation. And you know it will, because it will subconsciously affect your behavior and your reactions to that person, or situations that remind you of that very event.

Being unable to forgive will only increase your discomfort, sense of guilt, and resentment. 
Being able to forgive demonstrates strength in character, and lifts the burden off your shoulders. How much mental baggage can one person carry?


“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Someone wronged you. Maybe they treated you thoughtlessly without your feelings or best interests in mind. Or maybe they hurt you with full awareness in a moment of anger or frustration.
Your pride’s bruised, and your expectations destroyed. Why should you extend compassion to them when they didn’t offer you the same? Why should you reach out to them when you’re not the one who was wrong?
You could easily come up with a laundry list of excuses to stay righteous and unyielding. Unfortunately, no one benefits when we fester in anger, bitterness, or negativity—least of all, ourselves.
It takes tremendous fortitude to acknowledge we all make mistakes and let go of our pain. The alternative is to hold it close to our hearts, where we can feel right and hurt over and over again.
The Buddha said that, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Put this way, it makes a lot of sense. We can’t possibly feel better if we choose to hurt ourselves. And yet it can still be so hard to forgive and move on.
Psychologists suggest we don’t do anything unless there’s a payoff in doing it. We’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; we’d only cling to a hot coal if we feared a worse pain in dropping it.
But that’s the thing: We can’t possibly know how it will feel to let go until we muster the strength to do it. We can’t even fathom the transformative and healing power of forgiveness until we challenge ourselves to embrace it.
Many times, it will be a challenge—perhaps the greatest we’ve ever known. It might take time, and it might require a sense of compassion we don’t feel someone deserves. Regardless, we deserve that relief.
In giving it to ourselves, we may finally feel the peace to consider that someone else does, as well.
Not all relationships can be healed, but all pain can transform into healing. That means it’s up to us to decide whether it’s time to let go of the person, or let go of the story that keeps us in anger.
It’s only in doing what we need to do to forgive that we’re able to set ourselves free.


Forgiving is accepting what happened. Though it does not mean that you force yourself to acknowledge that what happened was right (it probably was not), it means that you give yourself/the other person a second chance. It means that you acknowledge that we all make mistakes, but we can all learn from them and improve. 

In the words of Reverend Bruce Goettsche, in his sermon on “Forgiveness – Letting Go of the Hurt”:
“Forgiveness has taken place when we can honestly seek good for the other person. It is when we make an effort to restore a relationship rather than avoid the relationship. Forgiveness has taken place when past actions no longer hold a present bearing. Forgiveness is real when hate is replaced by love.” 

And replacing hate with love is, according to Matthews 5:44 in the Holy Bible,
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

How do we start to forgive? 
It may help to stand in the other person's shoes to understand their point of view. 
You can also write down what you feel angry about on a piece of paper, and reread what you wrote. Sometimes this simple act helps you realize that what seemed like a big deal, actually was exaggerated in your mind. 
After writing it all down, close your eyes and focus your intention on the act of forgiveness. Re-experience each item in your list, feeling forgiveness in your heart rather than reliving the anger. Imagine how good it will feel to allow each item to slip away and no longer affect your life. Imagine what it will be like when you’ve finally forgiven each event that made you angry, and that anger drops away from you like a weight you’ve been carrying too long. Imagine that a healing light is flowing from the center of your being and flooding that scene with a rosy, golden glow. Imagine the healing light wrapping around the memory and bathing it with the cool sweetness of forgiveness.
Spend as much time with this step as necessary, until you can look on that memory with compassion and acceptance rather than anger or other strong feelings. 

Now, set yourself free and move forward in your life.

Additional thoughts:
If you are angry with someone else, ask yourself this: Are you sure you had absolutely no part to play in the conflict? Are you sure that you did not have prior assumptions about the behavior of the other person, which affected your attitude toward him/her/the matter at hand? (Are you also under some victimized mindset?) As the saying goes, "It takes two hands to clap", both parties often contribute to conflict; our reactions to each other's words, body language, etc. can create a chain reaction leading to displeasure. Sometimes the other party did not have the intention to hurt, but if you come from the standpoint that they do, this can really lead to a negative outcome. Understanding this, and coming to terms with it, as well as re-evaluating your assumptions, is key to the path to forgiveness. Blame not yourself nor the other party, just accept that it happened, and make an effort to prevent future incidences.

Think good thoughts

To live a good life with a healthy mind, I encourage you to:
  1. Be positive.
  2. Be confident in yourself.
  3. Think kind thoughts.
  4. Think well of others.
  5. Be grateful for what you have. Be appreciative.
  6. Continuously improve yourself by learning new skills.
  7. Be curious and young at heart. Our age should not quell our thirst for knowledge and fascination with life.

It's just my own philosophy, but let's also think about how to make the world a better place =)

Good night, everyone!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Put those sad thoughts away

As I mentioned in an earlier post, several friends of mine are undergoing a period of grief and loss. One of them recently asked how to perk up emotionally and keep the sad thoughts at bay. I shared these tips with her, and thought it might also help whoever needs it too. 

Tip #1: Allocate a specified amount of time each day to allow yourself to grief. 
During this time (it can be 30 min, an hour, etc.), allow your mind to wander into the painful thoughts, cry if you want to. By not suppressing the sadness, you help to prevent it from surfacing throughout the day. More importantly, it makes it less likely for you to dream about it (dreams are sometimes the result of subconscious desires and thoughts suppressed during the day). 
**Some people drink. DO NOT DO IT. It does not make you any better.**
Outside of the allocated time, make sure you focus on happy, positive thoughts and productive activities. 

Tip #2: Try folding origami. It can be paper stars, cranes, anything. 
From personal experience, it kept my hands busy (I'm naturally restless), and allowed me to hone into my thoughts. Origami folding time became my private time to think. At first, my thoughts would be clouded with sad, negative ones. Eventually, they gained clarity, turning into rational, positive ones instead. By the end of origami time, I felt at peace with myself. 
Furthermore, origami paper is inexpensive, and therefore a much more guilt-free outlet than retail therapy. The cute patterns and bright colors also help to improve your mood (compare staring at colorful objects versus grey, dull ones)!

During the darkest hours, these two exercises had helped me put my sadness away, both mentally and symbolically. If you think it might work for you too, please do give it a try =) 

Other ways to make yourself feel better would be exercising. Exercise helps pump endorphins through your system, raising your mood. Or learn something new! When you keep your mind occupied, you have no time to be sad. The sense of accomplishment will help too.

And let me know if you have other tips to share, we can all make a positive difference to someone else! ^_^ 

P.S. Ag, this post is dedicated to you <3

Be brave!

Keep trying and have faith in your abilities!
Here's an upbeat song to start your day! ^_^

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Nothing is impossible

When faced with difficulties, we often give up. We think to ourselves, "It is simply impossible to succeed!"

Well, watch this video!

Nothing is impossible. =) Challenge yourself. 

Follow your heart

One of my favorite Disney movies is Mulan. Not just because she is so strong, personable, and smart, but because of the underlying message to the whole movie: Follow your heart!
When you follow your heart's wishes (within reason, of course), you will be able to set about anything with conviction and strength. 
So, next time you are at a crossroads, after writing down all the logical reasons for each option, let your heart make the final decision. You'll be more likely to succeed. ;) 

Look forward, not back

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” ~Alice Morse Earle

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

What makes a woman beautiful

It saddens me whenever I hear a girlfriend say that she is ugly, no one will ever love her. It saddens me more when, even if I tell her, "Babe, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.", she doesn't believe me. Girls, even if you don't have a supermodel body or perfect ratio looks, your inner beauty shines through. And that's what makes you beautiful. That's what makes you worthy of love. Everyone is born with imperfections, but these are as important as your perfections in making you the fabulous person you are. I hope that every woman who reads this takes the courage to realize their little perfections, accept their little imperfections, and finds confidence in her own beauty. Even if you don't have a knight in shining armor lavishing love on you, you have friends and family who love you for who you are. 

I came across this article lately, about what makes a woman beautiful. I am copying it here, and I hope that you recognize where you stand, and what you can improve upon to become a more beautiful woman. It is never too late to make positive changes in your life. =)


Her Passions
Passionate people are the happiest people, because they’ve figured out what drives them in life, and they care enough to pursue those goals.
When a woman is too preoccupied with saving the rainforest or fighting for minimum wage reform or being a boss in the corporate world, she doesn’t have time to fret about what goes onto her face.
But it isn’t the day-to-day work that makes her blossom — having a sense of purpose and being strong enough to pursue it makes this woman a special type of attention-grabbing beautiful, because you can’t help but be gravitated to her presence whenever she walks into a room.

Her Compassion
Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, and someone who cares more about others than they do themselves is truly a pretty person.
It’s not easy to put others over yourself, to be able to empathize with individuals you’ve never personally encountered.
But the sign of a truly beautiful person is that you can look past other people’s façades, and relate to them on a deeper level. With the ability to empathize, a woman doesn’t have to be made up to make a real and meaningful connection.
It almost doesn’t even matter what she looks like — she exudes an attitude that lets others know she understands them.

Her Mind
George Clooney’s recent engagement to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin has proven to the guys what my fellow females have known for a long time — smart is sexy.
When a woman can hold her own in a conversation or debate, or can come up with creative solutions to her company’s business problems, she doesn’t need to rely on the superficial to make her feel beautiful or accomplished.
Her words create a better impression than the most flawless look could ever achieve. This woman is beautiful because she’s rendered you in a state of awe with exactly the right asset.

Her Fun-Loving Spirit
If a woman won’t go skinny dipping because she’s afraid of ruining her carefully-crafted bedroom eye look, then she’s simply another example of someone with mixed up priorities.
But the woman who doesn’t wear makeup is fearless and unafraid to embrace much of what comes her way.
Jumping at every opportunity and challenge is only made difficult if you constantly have to be made up. A beautiful woman is freed from these constrictions, and free to let her fun side take over at every whim.
When smiling ear-to-ear at the prospect of yet another spontaneous adventure, women are beautiful, even if they’re barefaced.

Her Resilience
In the face of tragedy or tough situations, some women rise above, or even just simply make it through. These experiences — while harrowing — impact the people we eventually become.
Besting these situations makes women beautiful because the knowledge that we can overcome means we’ll be stronger, more confident and self-assured.
Sad eyes or worry lines aren’t issues that need to be fixed with cheery eye shadow colors or Botox injections.
Rather, they are reminders of what women have been through and conquered. That’s a type of beautiful that can’t be faked with makeup.

Beauty isn’t about being perfect — it’s about being yourself. And you don’t need any makeup to let your personality come across.


To add my own thoughts to the list: kindness, contentment and confidence.

Be nice, girls.
"You may be pretty and you may be talented but no one will remember that if you are mean." -- Katie Holmes. 

Be happy and thankful of what you have. Materialism only satisfies you for a brief moment. Appreciation of the small things in life spikes your brain with happy hormones for longer. Happiness gives you a healthy glow.
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." -- Oprah Winfrey

Confidence can really accentuate your inner beauty, so be proud of what you have!
"Confidence isn't walking into a room with your nose in the air, and thinking you are better than everyone else, it's walking into a room and not having to compare yourself with anyone in the first place."

Finally, remember that just because you may be different from the rest, doesn't make you any less beautiful! Simply be yourself!

*90's flashback!* Since Backstreet Boys are performing at Shoreline Amphitheater this weekend, what an apt time to insert their song here =p

Be patient

Our modern-day life rewards instant gratification and makes everything happen so quickly, sometimes we find ourselves stressing out and losing patience with the more long-term events in life. "Why can't I learn this new skill in 10 min?" "Why can't people see what an amazing person I am, right after they meet me?" "Why have I not climbed up the corporate ladder yet? When will I earn my first million?" "I wish there was some way to find out what my future will be like."

I recently came across this quote :
"Stress makes you believe that everything has to happen right now. Faith reassures you that everything will happen in God's time."
Whether you believe in God or not, I do think this quote holds true.

Life is so unpredictable, and some of the finer things in life do take time to develop. For example, friendship, trust, love, skills to the point of mastery. What good does it do for you to stress out over the lack of visible progress? Getting frustrated is not going to help you progress faster. In fact, quite the contrary. Isn't it better to be calm, do the best you can in that moment, and enjoy the process?

What will be, will be. As long as you have a good goal, and work toward it with fervor and intent, you will eventually become the person you want to be. You also need to accept that circumstances change with time, so be flexible with that too. There is no point worrying (if you are vain, think about the wrinkles!). 
Life is hard enough, please don't make it harder for yourself.

As Yoda once said, "Patience you must have, my young Padawan".

^_^ Happy midweek, everyone!

p.s. Whenever I stress out about my future, I sing this song to myself. Enjoy! =)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Stanford Duck Syndrome

Every felt like you were the only one among your peers who is stupider than the rest, and has to work harder than everyone else to achieve what they can?
In Stanford, we have a term called the 'Stanford Duck Syndrome'. Here's the illustration:
You see everyone else (the ducks) bobbing casually on the water, chilling out, having a good time. But you don't realize that under the water, the ducks are paddling like mad with their feet trying to move forward.

Next time you feel a lack of confidence in your abilities, or that you have to be more diligent than the rest, remember that all is not what it seems on the surface. Everyone has their own problems, just that they don't show it. So, just do the best you can, and stop worrying about how other people may be coping better, because they are having a tough time as well!

Lean back and live the life you yourself want

Often, we feel the need to live up to the expectations of our parents, of society. But is that the kind of life we really want? Does it make you truly happy? Is it who you really are? Or even, is it pushing away what would have made you happy?

It is a difficult topic to discuss, so I am going to use a personal story as an illustration.

For a long time in my life, I thought I wanted to get married by 25, plan for children by 28, get a house by 30. Therefore, when I was in my last relationship, I had that timeline at the back of my mind for a long time. As you can guess, it made me anxious when I realized I could not meet this timeline and 'expectations'. This anxiety, directly and indirectly, contributed to many of the conflicts I had with my then significant other, and was probably a major contributing factor to why he eventually left. 
Sometime before that fact though, I came across this article, and this excerpt spoke especially to me:


Stop following “timelines” or “milestones”.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”– Joseph Campbell

Get married in your mid 20s, buy a house in your late 20s, have a baby in your late 20s and early 30s, and the timeline moves along. That’s what they say right? The reality is you don’t have to get married, you don’t even have to have a baby if you truly don’t want to. Before I explain this any further, please know that I am not against any of these. Because I would love to have at least one child one day and if I, one day, decide that marriage is for me it would be because I found the right one who I connect with in all levels. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, everything. And more importantly, that it feels right to me. To my heart. To my soul. My point is, it’s very important to listen to what you inner voice is telling you. And if it’s telling you that kids aren’t for you, that marriage isn’t for you, listen to it. You are probably meant for a different path in life, one that stays true to your purpose here on this planet. Don’t get married because your parents want you to, or because you’re in a long-term relationship and you might as well tie the knot, or have a baby because you’re a woman and that’s what you’re suppose to do, or because you’ve hit that “milestone” and you feel like you need to, or because you need a man to make you happy, or because your peers are all getting married and you don’t want to be left out. You don’t have to hit these societal milestones and timelines and you sure don’t have to plan your life around it most especially if you don’t want to. Create your own life.

I don't know why or how, but just reading that excerpt suddenly jolted me into the realization that what I thought I wanted all along, were not my own desires. 
I remember simply sitting in my chair, wondering why I wanted to get married by 25, or have kids by 28, and could not come up with a single reason of my own. Except that, that was what my mother did, and my family and friends were often questioning why I was not settled down, and I thought my family expected me to. I realized then that all I wanted (and still do), is a man to love me for who I am, someone I care for and hold my hand even when I am 80 and not pretty anymore. As long as we were happy and loved each other, who cares when we tie the knot? We will be supporting each other all the way anyway, enjoying each other's company, and building a life together. Did I even want children? This is going to make my family upset, and I apologize for disappointing them for this confession, but my honest answer is, I really do not know. I am just not ready for it, and I don't know when/if I will. 
I remember feeling so stupid at that point. This whole thing that eventually broke down my relationship, I did not even want it myself. I only thought I wanted it because someone told me it was the right thing to do, that it was good for me, that if I didn't achieve it, there was something wrong with my relationship. If I had more clarity about what I really wanted, and had the courage to stand up against others' expectations, I would probably have lived the past few years differently. Mentally and behaviorally. More happily. But my enlightenment came too late, as the damage was too much to repair (how do you convince someone that you now don't want something that you had been insisting on for so long?).
So please, don't make the same mistake as I did.

I have moved on and forgiven myself for all this prior lack of clarity had done, but I hope that this glimpse into my inner life helps to make you question where your true calling lies. 

Ladies, do you really want to have a baby and have that fairytale wedding? Are you pushing away a perfectly good man just so that you can do what society deems is right?
To the general reader, are you on this career path because you want to, or your parents really wanted you to? Don't get me wrong, it is OK (and respectable) to follow your family's wishes. I know a fabulous girl who did her PhD because her grandfather wanted a doctorate in the family, but she found her own path and interests in her field of work (while pursuing other loves), and fulfilled both her grandfather's and her own expectations. So the real question to you is, does what you do make you happy and leave you feeling fulfilled at the end of the work day? Does it make you jump out of bed in the morning, excited to start a new day?

I wholeheartedly wish that you will be able to find, within the depths of your heart, the kind of life you truly want for yourself. And that you will have the courage to rise up against the tide, if required. And then lean back, relax, do the best you can, and enjoy the ride that life is.

I understand that many of us will fear disappointing our family. But know that our family loves us unconditionally; yes they will be disappointed for a while, but they will eventually support us, because at the end of the day, they just want the best for us: to be happy. 

As for societal expectations, do you really want a crowd of people ruling what you do with your life? Most of the time, people don't even remember what they had said, 5 min after they say it.

All it took for everything to click was someone telling me it is OK. And now, I am telling you this: It is OK. You will be OK.

Good night, everyone. 

Celebrate little victories everyday

The past few months seem to be a time when many of my close friends are having trouble in their work and personal lives. I dedicate this post to them (you know who you are *hug*).

If you are going through a difficult time in your life or at work, you probably feel like you will never get out of that rut. As hard as it is to believe, there IS light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long the tunnel is. It is a long and arduous process, but there are ways to help make the journey easier. One of them is to celebrate little victories everyday.

For example, if you have a huge project to complete at work, or even just overcoming personal challenges (e.g. new personal exercise goal), break the tasks up into bite-sized pieces -- small goals that can be completed within a span of one, or a few, day(s). It may help to have the to-do list printed as well. As you achieve each goal, cross it out on the sheet! Imagine how satisfying it feels! This can also help to refresh your mental stamina after each task.

The same concept applies to getting through a difficult time in your personal life (feeling lost in your direction, heartbreak, etc.), though not for the purpose of satisfaction, but in raising your happiness and contentment level. You need some way to move past the sadness phase, and start enjoying life again. To do that, you can try the following:
  1. At the end of the day, write down one thing that you appreciated over that day. (a stranger's kindness, a nice cup of coffee, a good book, a warm gesture etc.) This will help you remember that life isn't all gloomy, and there is a bigger, and kind, world out there.
  2. Make yourself appreciate, smile, or even do a little victory dance, whenever something good happens, no matter how small. This can include finding the last parking spot, making a surprisingly nice omelette for breakfast, finding an empty line at the cafe, performing well at a task at work. In short, anything you can find a reason to celebrate! Make little climbs up the happiness ladder.
  3. Force yourself to simply smile. There is a psychology study that has shown that a forced smile, though ungenuine, can subtly affect your subconscious to uplift your mood. So, fake it till you make it.
And of course, spend time with people who care for and support you, no matter what happens =). Celebrate those people as well, and you will feel happier and more content too.

Hope this helps you feel better!

Monday, 19 May 2014

It is OK to be afraid

I was helping a friend with a particular fear today, and thought that I could pass on the same advice as well.
This is what I told her: it is OK to be afraid of something. We all have our own fears, but that does not mean we are weak. All that matters is that we conquer that fear eventually.

Good night, everyone, and have a good week ahead =)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Don't judge a book by its cover

Often, we judge things and people for how they appear on the surface. We forget that everything has a story, and only when we know that story, can we really understand, and know, how and why they appear as such. Sometimes just that simple knowledge is enough to turn your opinion around; so next time, before you are critical of something/someone, I hope you take a moment to first wonder if first impressions are really true depictions of what they are. 
Believe in goodness and you will find it.

Just sharing with you the story below..

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.
It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.
Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.
Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.
Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."
(For those unaware, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

"Believe in Angels, then return the favor."