From Parenting to Parent-Being

“I wish my child had come with a user manual.  Parenting is possibly the most important and challenging task put in the hands of amateurs without any training.  I didn’t sign up for this.  I should have read the fine print before committing to having a child.” 

Those are the words I’ve often heard from parents.  They make me ponder about my own journey as a father over the last two decades – a thrilling adventure packed with excitement, challenges, and joy.

Becoming a parent is easy.  Human beings are biologically-wired to procreate.  No training is required.  What isn’t always easy, is being a parent.  And I believe a huge part of the difficulty is attributable to the over-emphasis on ‘parenting’ and under-emphasis on ‘parent being.’  Let me elaborate on the difference.

 

On Parenting

Parenting is commonly defined as the activity of bringing up a child as a parent, or as described more comprehensively on Wikipedia:

Parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.

Be it an activity or a process, approaching parenting in this way tends to direct our attention to our actions – what we do (and don’t do).   Let me invite you to pause and reflect on the proportion of attention on these three domains of parental actions:

  1. What do you do for your children? i.e. care, provide for their needs, feed, bathe, clean, chauffeur, etc.
  2. What do you do to them? i.e. nurture, love, encourage, guide, support, teach, discipline, scold, nag, control, threaten, blame, criticise, complain, punish, reward, bribe, etc.
  3. What do you do with them? i.e. have conversations, do fun things, play, learn, travel, share experiences, being present, etc.

Which domain do you attend to most frequently? Which domain do you pay the least attention to? And what are the implications of these actions on you, your children, and your relationship with them?

Most parents who have undertaken this ‘self-audit’ found themselves devoting a disproportionately high percentage of their attention on either doing for or doing to their children.  Consequently, they miss out on doing with – which explains the lack of joy in their experiences as parents.

The goal of a self-assessment is not find another excuse to beat ourselves up, but simply to gain awareness of the current reality.  Awareness is the gateway to change.  What matters more is that given this awareness, what would you do differently to improve your experience as a parent?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Do for. Keep to the bare minimum of what your children requires, depending on their needs, maturity, and capability.  Doing too much for your children risks creating over-reliance, lack of independence, and sometimes, resentment when our ‘sacrifices’ isn’t appreciated.  Doing too little risks coming across as uncaring, absent, or even negligent.
  2. Do to.  Give up William Glasser’s ‘7 Deadly Habits’ – criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing or rewarding to control.  Continue to nurture your children by providing the essential nutrients for healthy development and growth – love, encouragement, guidance, and support (LEGS).
  3. Do with.  Be more present in your children’s lives and share more experiences together – play, learn, have open conversations, etc.  Deepen your connection through your presence, non-judgmental and empathic listening, and authentic expression.

With school closures and more parents working from home during this COVID-19 season, new opportunities arise for us to reexamine what we could do more with our children.

On Being a Parent

Becoming a parent is life-changing.  When our firstborn arrived in November of 1998,  I experienced a profound shift in my sense of identity.  I am not just a son, a brother, and a husband.

OMG! I AM A FATHER.  Like most amateur dads, I fumbled my way, learnt rapidly from other veterans and experts, and eventually survived (and thrived).  Given that Sean and Dylan (our boys) turned out pretty fine, it’s safe to say we did OK as parents.  More importantly, we thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

It turned out that raising our children wasn’t as ‘difficult’ as expected.  Instead of terrible two’s, we had terrific twos.  Instead of rebellious teens, we experienced them as sensible, reasonable, and responsible young men. Some said we were fortunate to have ‘good’ or ‘easy’ kids.  Perhaps they were right.  But I suspect, it’s got more to do with our intentional emphasis on being instead of doing.

Like most parents, we face similar challenges too.  But instead of asking ourselves What should we do to get our children to behave in a certain manner?”, we often asked “What do we need to be to bring out the desired qualities in them?” 

For example, many parents struggled when faced with children who tell lies frequently.  The more they punish or discipline their children, the more recalcitrant the latter become.  Most of the time, children lie because they don’t feel safe to tell the truth.  Occasionally, especially older children, may lie to avoid hurting their parents.  The same applies to adults at the workplace who don’t speak up truthfully due to the absence of psychological safety.

So, what do we need to be to bring out the honesty in our children?   Perhaps, a safe space for authentic self-expression.    And that will call forth a different way of being compared to that of a parent who exerts control, punishes, or instills fear in a child.  The former will usually forge a mutually respectful and trusting relationship what makes open and honest communication possible. Conversely, the latter often leads to parent-child conflict and communication breakdown as children shut down.

Let me invite you to experiment with the habit of asking yourself more regularly, “What do I need to be to … ?”

From Parenting to Parent-Being

While parenting (technically) ends when our children reach adulthood, being a parent doesn’t.   Once a parent, always a parent.  Being a parent is about being in a relationship with our children – a long-term relationship that lasts a lifetime.

As you shift your emphasis from parenting (doing) to being a parent (being), I hope you will experience a closer and more rewarding relationship with your children and greater joy in your journey as a parent.

Yours truly,

Kenny

P/S: Interested to explore other topics on parenting (and parent-being)? Reach me at kennytoh1970[at]gmail.com.

 

 

50 Days of Simple Living

Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Simplicity has been one of my major obsessions.

As an undergraduate in the computing school, I had always striven to achieve the best outcome with the least number of lines of code.  And now, at work, I enjoy distilling complex topics into a few core principles.

There is beauty and elegance in simplicity.  It’s no surprise that I am drawn to the work of a Zen monk and Zen gardener.  Despite having decided not to purchase any new book until I am done with a dozen of unread books accumulated from previous year, I couldn’t resist when I chanced upon The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno.

I used to devour books like a hungry teen at a buffet.  But this time, I decided to slow down and pause after every bite.  Exactly 50 days ago, on 19 January 2020, I set out on a #50DaysOfSimpleLiving challenge to fully immerse myself into Shunmyo’s ‘100 daily practices.’  Each day, I shared a couplet on Instagram and Facebook, and tried putting them into practice.

Here are my Top 10 daily Zen practices from 5o consecutive days of experimenting with Shunmyo’s Art of Simple Living and how they have impacted me.

01. Day #11: Try just sitting quietly in nature.  I’ve always loved nature, but have definitely spent a disproportionately high percentage of my life being seated in front of the laptop.  This has prompted me to make time to connect with both nature and with myself more regularly.  It has brought greater clarity of mind and deeper peace in my heart.

02. Day #13: Focus on others’ merits. I’ve been known to be ‘highly critical’ and focusing on others’ merits (instead of faults) has enhanced the harmony and relationship both at work and at home.

03. Day #14: Don’t put off what you can do today.  A perfect remedy for the ‘chronic procrastinator’ in me. This practice had fueled actions to get a few things done, including publishing Let’s Hack Learning

04. Day #17: Be here now.  I’ve known the importance of being present to the HERE and NOW, but certainly haven’t put that into practice enough.  I think I’m more present now, especially when listening to another.

05. Day #24: Do not be swayed by the opinions of others.  A timely advice when faced with a recent dilemma amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.  I learned about decisiveness and the ability to trust in myself.

06. Day 27: Be grateful for every day, even the most ordinary.  Gratitude is indeed a powerful practice found in many spiritual and cultural traditions.  This had deepened the practice that I have observed when experimenting with A Year of Living Gratefully in 2017.

07. Day 27: Make the most of Life.  I am reminded that what matters most is not how long we live, but how we use the Life we are given.  Borrowing the words of George Bernard Shaw, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”

08. Day 34: Deepen your connection with someone.   Deep and meaningful relationships – that’s what I have always enjoyed.  I shall continue to do so, even with those whom I meet only once in my lifetime.

09. Day 43: Discard what you don’t need.  A very practical advice to simplify our lives.  I’m still working on my attachment to certain possessions and past experiences, but already enjoying the space created both physically and mentally from letting go of those that I am able to discard.

10. Day #50. Serve People.  Some friends have asked, “What happens after Day 50?”  Inspired by the words of wisdom from an old friend – “Being in service of another is a mutual gifting,”  I’ve decided to extend this final practice into the rest of the year with a next project: #50GoodHours.

I’m committing 50 hours of pro bono service to individuals seeking coaching, mentoring, or consultancy in the areas of personal development, leadership development, life transitions, and parenting.

If you know anyone or non-profit organisation (any where in the world) that I could be of service to, please have them contact me. Thanks for spreading the word. 🙏

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Why not check out The Art of Simple Living and find out for yourself how Shunmyo’s 100 daily practices could bring more simplicity, calm, and joy into your life?

Decisiveness is about having the ability to trust in yourself

“To go, or not to go?”  That’s the question that I have been wrestling with over the weekend.  As a consequence of COVID-19, all our face-to-face programmes with clients scheduled in February and March have been either postponed or replaced with virtual options, except two.

I was due to travel to Dubai next Monday, followed by Batam, Indonesia in late March.  Dubai will be my first overseas destination since the beginning of the outbreak.  Part of me yearns to return to ‘business as usual,’ get on with normal life, and carry  on with my work in leadership development.   Another cautious part wants to minimise non-essential travel so as to lower the risk of being infected or infecting others.  At present, there are more confirmed cases of infection in Singapore than UAE.  And I certainly don’t wish to be known as the guy who spread the virus to Dubai.

Confused and undecided, I chose the easy way out.   Instead of facing into the dilemma, I expressed my preference for postponement and left it to the client to decide.  Eventually, as the company put in place a ban on non-essential travel and that some participants would be travelling in from other middle-eastern countries, the workshop was postponed.

I was relieved, but somewhat disappointed with my cowardice.  Why hadn’t I just said ‘No’?

Then I thought of one of Shunmyo Masuno’s 100 Zen practices that I had previously shared on Day 24 of #50daysofsimpleliving:

75. DO NOT BE SWAYED BY THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS. The secret to breaking free from confusion … Decisiveness is about having the ability to trust in yourself.

 

This time, I trusted myself, and took courageous action.  I wrote to the CEO of the other client, shared my concerns openly, and recommended strongly to postpone the training in Batam.  I also expressed firmly my withdrawal from the engagement should they decide to proceed as planned.

I’m not going to Indonesia this March, no matter what the latest news or COVID-19 statistics may suggest. And I shall not be swayed by others’ opinions.

I made my stand and felt fully at peace. And the CEO responded shortly:

Dear Kenny,

Our policies are in line.
We just decided to postpone the school 2 hours ago. I will get back to you in the next days with proposals for new time slots.

Great minds think alike.  Looks like ‘business as usual’ is not about to return anytime soon, if it does, at all.

And I learnt my lesson on leading in uncertain times.   As much as rational and well-informed decisions are often preferred, in the absence of sufficient information, we still need to take a courageous stand.  Whether we choose to be guided by intuition or grounded on values, Masuno’s wisdom is worth heeding.

Decisiveness is about having the ability to trust in yourself.

 

 

Give yourself the gift of done

I’ve been pondering about a key lesson from my previous blog: “Done is better than perfect.”  Perfectionism has been one of my longstanding achilles heels.  And I’m known to be a chronic procrastinator too.

I excel at starting new initiatives, but not always finishing them.  There are way too many partially-baked ideas, abandoned projects, and half-written books that I’m too embarrassed to mention.

Enough is enough.  Turning 50 has heightened the sense of urgency to utilize my time and energy wisely and more productively.  Assuming that I live to 100, that’s 18,250 days remaining.  Each day provides a new opportunity to put the knowledge, wisdom, and experiences that I have amassed over the last five decades into good use.

I am reminded of a Chinese saying that came to mind as I was putting Shunmyo Masuno’s Zen practices into action on Day 38 of #50DaysofSimpleLiving

学以致用 (xuéyǐzhìyòng) means “to put into practice what has been learnt.”

 

So, last weekend, I decided to combat both perfectionism and procrastination by applying what I’ve learnt from Jon Acuff in his book FINISH and give myself the gift of done.  Finally, imperfect, but done – I brought closure to one of many half-written books that has been yearning to cross the finishing line for years.  And it feels great to make the first step from being a chronic starter to a consistent finisher.

Here’s the first edition of Let’s Hack Learning: How to become better at anything, faster.  I hope you will find it helpful.  Feel free to share it with others and spread the joy of learning!

What will you finish today to give yourself the gift of done?

Annual Review 49

This day last year, I published an ‘Annual Review’ – a process inspired by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. James has been publishing an ‘Annual Review’ since 2013 (https://jamesclear.com/annual-review) where he shares publicly his reflections on the following three questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What did I learn?

I intend to keep to this ritual at the start of each new biological year.

Today, I turn 50. And looking back, here’s how my 49th year on earth had unfolded.

What went well this year?

  • Work.  BRIDGE continues to provide me opportunities to do meaning work, ranging from helping an asset management company uncover its purpose, launching leadership development programmes for some new clients, developing leaders to do well and do good (e.g. creating a more inclusive and connected community), and bringing government, businesses, and the civil society together to combat the trafficking of women and children (Kalinga Fellowship 2019 @ Delhi). Am also thankful for the support that led to the appointment to BRIDGE’s global board of directors – an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute in a different manner.

  • Family.  Grateful to witness the development of our boys. Sean turned 21, settled well into his undergraduate studies at NTU, and is doing fine in his floorball (his team emerged champions in two major inter-varsity games). Dylan completed his first year of National Service (NS) safely, graduated from Officer Cadet School with a Sword of Merit, and is awarded a scholarship to study at Cambridge. Enjoyed a cruise holiday with my in-laws, attending Henry and Abi’s wedding in Kangar, and gathering with family members in Batu Pahat over Chinese New Year.
  • Marriage.  Relished our daily conversations and companionship, especially during our ‘empty nest’ times on weekdays. With the boys in college and NS, couldn’t find a time for our annual family vacation this year. Instead, we managed to do a few short trips (just the 2 of us) – cycling on Japan’s Shimanami Kaido, viewing the terracotta warriors in Xi’an, hiking The Great Wall, and a ‘disastrous’ holistic detox in Koh Samui.
  • Friends.  Kicked off another year at our annual gathering at Chong Teik and Denise’s home – a ritual not to be missed. This is indeed a year of reunions – reconnected with friends from college days at National Junior College’s (NJC) 50th and Raffles Hall’s 60th anniversary dinners, ex-colleagues from Accenture, friends from Gone Fishing days, and old friends in Beijing, KL, NYC, and Seoul. Immensely grateful for the many well wishes, care, and love pouring in from friends around the world as I was recuperating from a recent haemorrhoids attack which left me briefly wheelchair-bound.

  • Giving Back.  Supported the YWCA’s Empowering Mums programme for the second year and the Kalinga Fellowship convened annually by BRIDGE Institute for the third year.  Completed my fourth annual 10km charity run @ Run For Hope with Bev – running buddy and ex-colleague. Sadly, will have to give it a miss in 2020 due to knee injury.
  • Habits.  At last, managed to sustain two new daily habits (at least so far). The first is to begin each day with a ‘boot-up’ routine – a self-concocted cocktail of various disciplines I had learnt over the years but hadn’t put to good use. Core ingredients include qigong, yoga, calisthenics, aikido, earthing, meditation, and journaling – with temporary abstinence from social media and emails. The second is daily application and sharing of a couple of Shunmyo Masuno’s Zen practices through the #50DaysofSimpleLiving daily posts. Am savouring the morning air more frequently, lining my shoes, and cherishing being alive every single day.

  • Professional Development. Had the opportunity to put the learning from 2018 Presence Foundation Programme (Theory U & Social Presencing Theatre) into practice through a social transformation project with a group of fantastic like-minded souls.  As we set out to unleash the Singapore Soul – learnt a lot from the journey and forged some new friendships too.
  • Spirituality. Finally, resumed my daily walk with God (on most days). Feeling blessed.
  • Meditation. Meditating more frequently now. Appreciate the greater clarity and peace of mind.
  • Travel. Work has taken me to new places such as New York and Xi’an, along with Delhi, Greenwich, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, London, Seoul, and Taipei.  Also enjoyed short vacations with wife in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Beijing, and Koh Samui.
  • Weight Management. Dropped from 85kg to 82.5kg. Still a long way to optimal BMI, but at least, heading at the right direction.

What didn’t go so well this year?

  • Unfulfilled dreams. Began the year with a lofty aspiration of checking off a ‘50 before 50’ list. The first five that I had unashamedly shared last year were: (1) Publish my Annual Review, (2) Post 50 blog entries, (3)Trek the Inca Trail with wife, (4) Publish my first book, and (5) Do at least 100-hours of pro bono work. How did I do? Admittedly, I sucked at following through. Wrote only two blog posts for the entire year, including the last annual review. Renaming it to ‘50 @ 50’ instead – giving myself another whole year to turn as many of the unfilled dreams into reality.
  • Health.  This is possibly the worst year. Went to A&E for acute chest pain and got admitted for a night; added a cardiologist, a urologist, and a colorectal surgeon onto the list of specialists I’m seeing; suffered an excruciatingly painful haemorrhoids attack amidst a holistic detox; stopped running due to knee pain; had a cracked tooth extracted, to be replaced by a dental implant after I get my sinus treated. But thank God, there was nothing life-threatening. It reaffirmed my commitment to take good care for the temple of the soul.

What did I learn?

  • Learning without practice is pointless. As a keen learner and ferocious reader, I frequently max out the library quota and read about 8 to 12 books at a time. However, most of what I’ve learnt often is forgotten weeks or months later. Sometimes, I would re-read the same book as if I had never read it before. What a waste of time. Now, I’ve learnt to slow down, read more deeply, summarise, and actively seek out opportunities to put the new knowledge into practice soonest possible. I also became a big fan of Kolb’s Learning Cycle – learning through concrete experience, followed by reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation.  And the daily posts on #50DaysofSimpleLiving has been a wonderful experiment on putting Masuno’s Zen practices into action.
  • One thing at a time. Focus – this is a recurring lesson for me.  So many ideas, each competing for attention. I’m learning to disconnect from everything and just focus on the vital task at hand.
  • Done is better than perfect. Sheryl Sandberg said this, and it’s plastered all over the office walls at Facebook. I had been a victim of perfectionism for far too long. According to  John Acuff, author of FINISH: Give Yourself the Gift of Done:

    Starting is fun, but the future belongs to the finishers. Developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor to turning chronic starters into consistent finishers.

    Yes. I’m done with perfectionism.  It’s time to let go of this ‘enemy of good’ and be a consistent finisher.

 

Dreams Came True

Yesterday, Sean turned 21.  Being our first born, his birthday also marks our anniversary as parents.  I could still recall vividly, the moment when he first came into our world, and continue to experience the profound transformation since his arrival.

I was no longer the same man.  I was not just a son, a brother, and a husband.  I became a father.  And that meant a lot to me.  My sense of identity and purpose totally shifted.  A whole new world opened up for me – the ‘Wild and Wonderful World of Parenthood.’   Parenting advice and tips were pouring in generously from family, friends, colleagues, and at times, even strangers.  One of the best advice I got from a client which I frequently share with new fathers is:

“When your child arrives, make sure you pay attention to your wife. The baby will get lots of attention from others.”

Fast forward 21 years.  Looking at how Sean and Dylan had turned out, I think I did alright on being a dad, albeit starting out pretty clueless.  Of course, much of the credit goes to my wife, who shouldered most of the parenting responsibilities, whilst I enjoyed most of the privileges – usually as their playmates.

We have both learnt a lot about parenting, marriage, and life over the last two decades.  Parenting is probably the best personal development programme we have unknowingly signed up for.  We had to continuously learn, develop, and evolve as our children grew from boys to men.

When Sean was four, I had a dream of writing a book to capture some nuggets of life wisdom so that we could pass them down to our children.  As with many of my failed or incomplete projects, that book idea was long abandoned … until last week, when my wife asked, “What should we give Sean for his 21st birthday?”

After a few late nights, we managed to pull together 30 ideas which culminated into a little booklet titled: What we wish we knew when we were 21.

At last, a dream came true.  But that was not all.

Over dinner, Sean shared about an impromptu speech he had delivered in class this week.  He was amazed by how well it was received by his tutor and classmates.  The task was to speak about a role model who had inspired him.  And he chose to speak about his dad.  He shared the story of how I transitioned from management consulting to starting a café and becoming a coach, as well as how he learnt about unconditional love through the way I cared for my dad.  The audience were blown away by his heartfelt sharing.

Needless to say, I was blown away too.  Super happy, and extremely touched.   I wasn’t expecting that. But I did secretly harbour a wish that someday,  my children would consider me their role model.

OK, it’s just a speech assignment in class.  But that’s enough to have me feeling as if I’ve won an award for being the ‘Best Dad of the Year.’

Another dream came true.

 

Annual Review 2018

It’s been exactly one year since my last blog. Déjà vu.

In January 2017, I wrote …

OMG! My last post was in January, 2013. And that’s the third post including the auto-generated “Hello World!” when this domain was registered in March, 2011.  Obviously, an average frequency of 0.333 posts per year for the last 6 years definitely isn’t enough to make me a blogger. A blogger wannabe, maybe.

This is the 13th entry since 2011, raising the average frequency from 0.333 to 1.625 entries per year.  That’s a remarkable 488% improvement! And I might have just invented a whole new category of blogging.

Meet Kenny, The Annual Blogger 😊

Clearly, I’ve failed again at keeping up with a previous commitment to ‘blog weekly.’  Another futile new year resolution, along with ‘losing 8 kg,’ and ‘become ironman-fit,’ blah-blah-blah … to the point of ad nauseum.

Yes, I’ve come short again and again. But I’m not giving up. Not just yet.  I’ll stay in the arena and continue to strive valiantly, as Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his famous speech known as ‘The Man in the Arena’ –

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Today, I turn 49.  Inspired by a colleague’s question “What’s your 50 before 50?” … I thought of raising my own game with a little challenge.  I shall go public with my aspiration and publish an ‘Annual Review’ – a process inspired by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, whose blog I’ve been following for past few years. James has been publishing an ‘Annual Review’ since 2013 (https://jamesclear.com/annual-review) where he shares publicly his reflections on the following three questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What did I learn?

Here’re the first 5 of my 50-before-50-list (more in coming weeks).

  1. Publish my Annual Review
  2. Post 50 blog entries
  3. Trek the Inca Trail with my wife
  4. Publish my first book
  5. Do at least 100-hours of pro bono work

Let me start checking off Item #1.

Annual Review 2018

1. What went well this year?

  • Work. BRIDGE continues to provide me opportunities to do meaning work, ranging from helping a new joint-venture company define its purpose, vision and core values, developing leaders to do well and do good (e.g. sustainable packaging for a food company), and bringing government, businesses and the civil society together to reduce sexual violence on women and children (Kalinga Fellowship 2018 @ Hyderabad).
  • Family. Despite the frequent travel, I’m grateful to be able to witness the key milestones for the family. Mei Chin completed her post-grad studies in counselling; Sean became an Operational Ready National Serviceman; Dylan graduated from high school as the Valedictorian; attended my nephew Ricky’s wedding; and I became an granduncle following baby Griezmann’s arrival. Also grateful for Dad’s relative good health.

blog-family

  • Health and Fitness. Glad that I finally recovered from an annoying frozen shoulder and fit enough to resume swimming as well as to complete my third annual Run For Hope with Bev, my colleague and running buddy.
  • Travel. Work has taken me to new places such as Colombo, Taipei, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. Managed to squeeze in two family holidays (instead of one) – a roadtrip in Malaysia and a spectacular yearend trip to Turkey – plus checking off a bucket list after ballooning in Cappodocia.
  • Romance. Still blessed with a loving wife, with whom I managed to enjoy two romantic getaways – Club Med Cherating and Chempedak island.
  • Personal & Professional Development. Privileged to free up from work to attend Presencing Foundation Programme in Fremantle (first time in Asia Pacific region), and get to hang out with some amazing people, including Otto Scharmer, creator of Theory U.
  • Volunteerism. Completed my final term as chairperson of PSG at NUSH High and made some wonderful friends whilst we Makan Together, Exercise Together, Do Good Together, and Learn Together.blog-psg

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

  • Stalled projects. Managed to enrol a dozen ‘gifters’ in project I was incubating, but failed to launch it as planned. To be launched in 2019.
  • Spirituality. Didn’t quite carry out my intention to resume my daily walk with God.
  • Meditation. Took a course on transcendental meditation (TM) but have yet to meditate frequently.
  • Lost. Lost my father-in-law very suddenly, but glad that mum-in-law is well supported by family.
  • Weight Management. Instead of losing weight, I have reached a new height of 85kg. A dangerous trajectory.
  • Health and Fitness. Definitely ran and swam far less frequently than desired.  Losing flexibility too.  Really gotta get my act together and stop the gradual decline.

3. What did I learn?

  • The Beauty of Rituals. I began to pay attention to what we do annually and appreciate the beauty of rituals. Each year, friends from college days would gather for a pot-luck at Chong Teik and Denise’s home to kick-off the year and celebrate the birthdays of January babies.  This has gone on for over a decade. In 2017, the Year of the Rooster, instead of bringing our usual roast chicken, my wife and I started making a 3-dimensional ‘Rooster’ fruit platter.  Naturally, we followed up with a dog and a pig in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Unknowingly, a ritual was created.  We now know what to make at least for the next 9 years of the zodiac cycle.

blog-ritual

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind. As part of our annual family ritual, we practice sharing aloud what we are grateful for the year and create a vision board for the new year.  While I had created a vision board for 2018 had it pinned it up on the wall, I rarely looked at them.  Granted that some aspects of my dreams did come true (i.e. we ended up ballooning in Turkey), most of the items that require intentional actions such as exercise and working on my parenting offering fell totally out of my consciousness and remained as unlived dreams.  I’ve learnt to make what matters more visible – and where possible, keep them in sight by scheduling them onto my calendar.
  • The 5 Seconds Rule. I chanced upon Mel Robbin’s 5 Seconds Rule and absolutely loved it.  Definitely life changing.  It’s really simple. From the moment you have an idea, you only have 5 seconds to take action. Do it right away. Otherwise, it’s gone.  In fact, this blog post is possible because I started writing right away when the idea came up.  Watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2VQ-ZsNr0
  • If you don’t change your direction, you may end up where you are heading. That came from Lao Tzu. I had it written on the café wall (Gone Fishing) in 2002 and have been quoting it regularly when conducting courses on ‘leading change’ over the years. But I definitely don’t heed that advice enough, especially on the direction I have been heading on health and fitness.  It’s time for change.

I find the Annual Review incredibly helpful. Wanna give it a shot?