On describing emotions, many researchers accept the theory put forth by psychologist Paul Ekman that our brains project six basic emotions: sadness, happiness/enjoyment, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. Ekman has put forward two additional ones, guilt and shame.

When I pondered over the overwhelming 1:5 of our brain naturally veering towards negative and destructive gloom-doom emotions. It is no wonder that in this age of high intelligence and AI, we are also seeing the most depressed generation.

Positive emotions such as joy and happiness are just as real. Father of Positive Psychology Martin Seligman championed this field in 2000. Why did it take so long for positive psychology to be accepted by mainstream psychology. Certainly courage was displayed by him and his unknown sponsor to propose a field of research so valuable and so real.

Which reminds me of the joke. If you cant see or touch something, does it exist? How do you prove it exist? Herein lies the difficulty of research and science.

Why is this the most depressed generation? We have lost the language and the fluency practiced by poets and faith based organisations. Our social constructs are gripped by what sells and what the brain is naturally inclined towards – the negative. Is it any surprise that wars, guns, fights on roads and in public transport fills the news.

Just like music needs a repetoire of tones, we need to understand the repertoire of emotions that we have lost. For my own health, I want to develop a fluency of the positive emotions.

In psalms, we read about awe.

In stories like Arabian Nights, we learn about curiosity, how a good story saved the life of a young bride.

In Aesop’s fables, we learn about wit and positive reflection. Aha!

While sadness, anger and the other destructive emotions are useful guides, we need to intentionally seek what we have lost.

Celebration of a bountiful harvest. Families coming together to share a lamb too big to eat alone. Sitting by a fireplace to reflect on memories.

What are positive emotions that are important to me?

Can they change the lens I see the world or even the future?

Lens of hope and faith

Lens of joy

Lens of compassion and lovingkindness

Lens of awe and wonder

Lens of creativity

Lens of gratitude

Paul, the philosopher of love, names them fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control.

Do you get defensive when hit by harsh remarks? Or unfair comments? Anger boils inside of me when I receive a negative comment. This happens regularly especially as elders in my family are often verbally abusive.

The late USA Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has this wise advice, “tune out”. She was first given the advice by her mother in law, on the secret of a successful marriage. Tune out unkind and thoughtless words. Ginsburg was reported to have advised that she has applied that to all her work relationships. “It helps to be a little deaf”.

If you’d like to find out your boundary style, head over to terricole.com

I resonate with all the boundary styles Terri Cole described, and exhibit different styles with different people. Probably I’m a chameleon.

If you’re like me, and finding your style is not useful, a quick triage is to ask, what is this person’s relationship to me? Does this person have my interests at heart, e.g. my husband who cares for my wellbeing. Is that an area of my responsibility?

Does this person have a good track record on the subject matter? Is there something I can learn from how they handle the situation?

If the answer is no, tune out. Send breathes of compassion to ease their suffering, from their own guilt and shame. The tree of silence bears the fruit of peace.

A client of mine was fuming with guilt and shame when an acquittance criticised her for not doing more for her elderly parents. She was so consumed by it, even though she realised this acquittance was someone who had a miserable track record in the very area she was criticising others for.

The other person has the freedom to say whatever they want to. You have the freedom to choose when and how to respond. A wise mentor advised me “Be a cheerful giver. Give until you stop being cheerful. If its only 10 cents, that’s fine. “


  1. Tune out the harsh comments.
  2. Inhale perfume breathes from your belly
  3. Pause. Blow out breathes of compassion.

My favourite mindful breathing techniques, Alphabreaths. Thanks to Audrey of C3 for recommending this book.

Why wake up one hour earlier than usual?

Is there an ideal waking time? For me this is 6am. Even when I do not have an early appointment, I found it beneficial to wake up at the same time everyday and follow a routine. This year, I’m working towards 530am.

What should I spend my time doing?

-Carve out personal space and set boundaries.

-Reflect on the day before.

-Understand how my brain works.

-Reflect on the day ahead

-Reflect on future

-What 20% of my activities may yield 80% results in future?

-What may I stop doing?

-How can I use constraints to my advantage?

-What are my hypotheses about the future – and how do they inform my actions today?

(Many of these reflective coaching questions are found in books by management guru Peter Drucker.)

First they are made, then they are born. Whats the difference?

Made – little moments create opportunities

Born- pre-fixed idea of what a leader looks like. Can be developed. Skills which we can pick up.

Algorithms at recruitment

When we follow a pattern, subconscious idea of what a leader looks like, we are saying that a leader is born.

In many Asian villages or kampungs, doors have no locks, there are no fences. Relatives come and visit at any time, sharing laughs and sorrows. If you are a young person growing up in these communities, there is no social media to distract you, and you’re never alone.

There is also no time or space to call your own, e.g. to study or do your homework, especially if your parents do not share these values.

A social worker once shared with me, that a story she has seen with youths joining gangs, is not about lack of discipline. But a young person craving for approval or acknowledgement, but not finding that at home, runs into groups that give approval for the wrong reasons. The attachment is so strong that many find it hard to break these ties.

Not every child suffers from that, as our inner wiring can be different. Those who honor social rules are usually more susceptible. Some follow external rules. Others love to break rules.

There are times when others know better. When we have a blindspot or have less information. Have you gone around looking for your handphone with no avail until someone volunteers to ring your phone. There is a gulf between confidence that comes from experience vs ignorance is bliss.

Are there things that matter to you?

What are some boundaries you need to set? Over your energy, time, inner space, outer space.

Experiments show that those who do not know how to say no, experience “learned helplessness”.

What are some boundaries you can set to guard what’s important to you?

In a survey I conducted, one of the top responses is boundaries on social media time. lol. Down the rabbit hole.

Boundaries on time. Setting aside time to figure out what’s important to me.

Boundaries on energy. Expectations from those who ask a lot from us, but not willing to give. In Adam Grant’s language: Takers. They are not toxic, but always expecting to be cared for. Have a “time-out”.

Boundaries on inner mental space. Our own ruminating thoughts.

Boundaries on emotions. Our own emotional addictions that pull us. Addiction for social approval. Addiction to complain. Addiction to blame.

Benefits of Boundaries? What can we do with the time, energy and space we get in return?

#learnedhelplessness #victim #boundary

One day, two monks were on their way back to their hermitage when they came to a steep downhill slope. Both monks noticed a young lady who was afraid to climb down that slope. The elder monk reached out for the young lady’s hand and supported her safely down the slope.

After walking for a long while, the younger monk turned to the elder monk and said, “Brother, today you broke our hermitage’s most important rule of not touching a woman. ”

The elder monk replied, “I’ve sent her off, why are you still holding on to her?”

This story is often used as a parable to teach “non attachment” of thoughts. Importantly, its also about the importance of how to differentiate between social rules and religious rules. Rule of not touching an opposite gender is good in itself, to establish boundaries against sensual desires. But a more important rule is differentiating between helping those in need versus following religiously to a social rule.

Lest we laugh at the younger monk, age doesnt matter in this story,

Many institutions of faith have similar stories about religious rule vs moral rules. In Jewish texts, David ate holy bread to fill his hunger, on the run from King Saul. In New Testament, Jesus healed the sick on a Sabbath, which is a holy day of meditation and non activity.

Intentions of the heart is the common thread in these examples. Do we focus on goals for the greater good or do we let the fear of what others say about us take over.

What is the other monk’s real concern in this story? Rules of the hermitage? Safety of the young woman? Safety of the elder monk?

Unfortunately, in life, we navigate these mines that entrap us. If we care too much about social approval, we will not move towards values that matter. Our concerns reflect what matters to us.

Before you go around breaking any kind of rules, make time to discover values that matter to you. Importantly, like David of the Jewish texts, find others who share your values (1 Samuel 21:6). If you are in a position of influence, then take time to educate those who need enlightenment. Sometimes, it can take centuries.

#untangle #lovingkindness #meditation #Zentangle #mirrorinourheart #reflection #socialrules

Recently, I wrote about the inner critic inside of me, how everything seems to be “against me”. This is often described as a victim complex.

The first level of consciousness, all these unending crisis happening “to me”, being the primary care-giver of my parents and not knowing what to do with their health crisis.

The second level of consciousness, I realised is that in my communication, I started to talk like a “superman”, I rushed to do this and I called this friend in the medical sector.

The third level of consciousness, is when I realised that all these resources are made available through me. Ultimately, I’m only a vessel of life. My parents need to make their own choices, and with the resources that the Divine God and supernatural forces provide, we are here to serve.

There is a fourth level of consciousness, “As me”, where we experience one-ness with the universe and all creation, to be able to see life and death as part of the rhythm of life. I’m not there yet.

Which level are you right now?

Who are we to not ask for more talent and more resources? Author Marianne Williamson was quoted as saying “Your playing small does not serve the world. As we unconsciously let our light shine, we give others the permission to do so.”

We dont own these resources, but they are made available to us, so that they can be used, through us. If the road is blocked, dont blame yourself or the circumstance.

Another author, Paul of Tarsus reminds me, I am loved, and nothing can seperate me from the love of God. Perhaps thats what level 4 consciousness is. To be grateful, and give thanks for the love of oneness.


Recently, I took part in an art jamming session organised by my local faith community. We were provided materials such as a canvas, and paint-brushes. The theme was a place of beauty and we were invited to bring a photo of what we will paint.

What surprised me as I started painting was the voice in my head, as I compared what I was painting, with what others were doing.


I regret painting this garden, too much detail work.

I’m not going to finish this in time.

Why didnt I choose to paint landscape with broad-strokes like everyone else.

Self Compassion:

Immerse in a friendly community where you can ask for help. Someone gave me friendly advice, paint the background first. Use a sponge.

I also listened to the useful advice of my inner critic – painted broad strokes

Remind myself to have fun, was my mantra

Walking around to other jammers and praising their work, also invited encouragement to mine.

Conclusion: While I may not be an emerging artist, I was impressed that I completed the piece in 2 hrs and didnt give up. My ROI: fun.


Cultivate the garden of your soul. Breathe in fragrance of the garden and breathe out compassion.


Like most people, I struggle to wake up early.  Reading LifeHack about how CEOs wake up at 4.30am and hit the gym did nothing for me. Are all successful people “early risers” or larks? There are successful owls too – Winston Churchill as pin-up poster boy. He led Britain to victory in two world wars, and was an accomplished writer and painter.

This year while teaching a class on Motivation theories, I am reminded of my Malaysian students who turn up for my 0830am class – on time, sometimes even earlier than me.  They cross the immigration border every morning, instead of living in expensive Singapore, while others saunter into class at 930am, if they even show up.

Intuitive-Feeling NF

As a Feeling person, I am inspired by these Johor Bahru students. For these students, I come to class early and want to be a happy teacher, not one with morning “peevishness”.

Coming from a “Shame” culture, knowing that many successful CEOs wake up early, does nothing for me. I feel ashamed of my inadequacy. And then guilty, because I’m a mixed up bag of a globalised Asian steeped in western education.


As an introvert who lectures 30hrs-33hrs a week to class sizes of 45-100 university students, the last thing I want to do, after work-hours is to be with other people.  I’m exhausted from standing and speaking and responding to questions. After class,, more one-to-one time with introverted students who need more space. This overstimulation creates stress hormones which must be rid of.

 #1 Get rid of the negative toxins

Getting up early starts the night before. I hit the gym and exercise away the negative toxins. If I go to bed immediately, my brain will process all the over-stimulation of my senses from the day’s class. Studies have shown that introverts have a shorter neural pathway to the brain, they are stimulated faster than extroverts. Watching movies over-stimulates my senses. I read light relaxing materials.

Don’t ruminate. “F” are concerned about relationships. Stop going over the day’s events. If a thought comes up, Oh did I say something stupid in class. I stash such thoughts away, or I send positive thoughts towards that student.  Bashing myself up is not going to make me a better person.

#2 Ring-fence your time

As a Feeling person, its natural to want to attend to others first and my responsibilities. Its anti-social to want to go to bed early or not go to that dinner party with friends. I feel guilty for  not turning up for dinner with friends the night before an 0830am lecture.

Now I give myself permission to be selfish to spend “Me” time. Time for yourself is motivating for introverts. Waking up early gives me an hour, my best time to do something creative before showing up for work.  I have responsibility to the 100 students I’m meeting at 0830am and 12pm. They deserve a teacher who’s energetic, not one grouchy from lack of sleep.

#3 Set your alarm 

I’m a weak J. I’m not spontaneous. I work better with structure and knowing where I’m heading.  With a good nights rest, I wake up at 6am. The alarm goes off. If I’ve given my body at least 7.5hrs sleep, and set an alarm, my body wakes up slightly before the alarm goes off. If I tell my body the night before, that I’m waking up at 6am and mentally rehearse what I’ll do when I’m awake. First I drink coffee, then 2 cups of warm water, my breakfast at a coffee joint and I write one page…

Now I stop procrastinating. Most mornings, I don’t allow for snooze.  If I’m very worried over something and wake up at 3am, I get up and stop lying in bed. Either I meditate or write down what I can do about the situation. Lying in bed replaying the event is worse for me.

I discovered from a Traditional Chinese medicine book long ago that the ideal time to sleep around 10pm when the body is healing the large intestines and wake up between 5-7am.

This has worked for me especially where bowel movements is concerned. Drinking two glasses of warm water helps me kick start my day.

As an Intuitive, I draw meaning about my life’s situation and how time management can help me towards life purpose and leading a more meaningful existence.

What’s your MBTI?

[This article was first published on 21 Jan 2016 on wordpress.]

The last 2 years have seen tremendous upheaval in all aspects of life.  With the COVID-19 imposed physical distancing and abrupt shift to mandatory remote work, organisations have no prior experience or thought-through policy to manage remote employees. Many were forced to experiment and adapt HRM processes on the go.  

What type of leadership is required for the Pandemic transformed new workplace? What kind of leaders are needed? What is the role of a leader that remains unchanged? What is the role of a leader that needs to change?

a) More than ever, leaders need to articulate an inspiring shared vision of possibilities. With much changes in a VUCA world, a leader does not command commitment but recruit people who want to be part of this shared vision.

This starts at the recruitment process of recruiting a leader who wants to get others involved in the process of seeing beyond today’s challenges and uncertainties and contribute to a brighter future.

b) Selection – Hire people with diverse backgrounds, but with “cultural complements”, and embrace the espoused values, not just people you find likeable. Observe how the leaders behave, not the values they talk about.

c) What behavior gets rewarded? During performance Review and goal setting, how are behaviors assessed? Is feedback shared consistently? Is the feedback weighted based on the status of the speaker? Does the leader build trust in organisation? During performance appraisal, are there clear behavioral standards? Or is this a political and fear-based environments.

d) Developing. What is the employees feedback with regards to professional development, feedback assessments, or engagement surveys? Do they believe that these are irrelevant, do they tie back to what the organization actually reinforces and rewards. Is there a “safe learning environment” to help employees grow?

e) Does the leadership “encourage the heart”? Kouzes and Posner (2017) and appreciate their contributions? Does the leadership celebrate the values and victories and create a spirit of community.

f) Reward and Recognition.  Fairness and Equity seems a big concern with the Gen Z. Do leaders maintain high expectations about what individuals and teams can accomplish? What is the criteria to become a manager, director, vice president? What are the expected behaviors that earn a person said title? What technical and leadership skills are needed? These are all expressions of culture and values, but too often they are perceived as random.

Do leaders celebrate values and victories? These celebrations are not only about achievements, but even entrances and exits or promoting workplace altruism. Leaders do not need a title. They can be from all levels of the organisation or those who are encouraged to exercise personal leadership. By enabling this shared responsibility, leaders set the tone.

For more ideas on how other organisations conduct performance appraisal: Others