3 Steps to Better Thinking

[blockquote source=”Romans 12:2 (NIV)“]Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.[/blockquote]

With a new beginning comes new hopes. With new hopes come new dreams. With new dreams come new goals. With new goals come new actions. With new actions come new habits.

Does it stop there? Some may say yes, but I will certainly say no.

Habits are essentially a manifestation of our inner beliefs and mindset. We can want to change a habit and possibly be successful for a while. But unless we change our thinking, we will fall back to our old habits.

Possibly the easiest way to discuss the above is this. Say, there is a footpath that has been paved that you should take when walking from your house to the main street. However, that footpath is somehow out of the way for you, hence instead of using that footpath, you walk on the grass patch. The initial few days when you walked on the grass patch does nothing to the grass. But with continual stepping on the grass will cause it to die and soon you will find a footpath being created by you.

Habits are just like that. Habits are essentially actions that we take when faced with a stimulus. Say, whenever we are stress, we start throwing our weight around. The first few times when we do that, it seem kinda odd, and we’re probably embarrassed about it afterwards. But overtime, whenever we become stressed (stimulus), we start screaming and shouting (actions). After while, we probably even get used to it. So much so, that the next time we become stressed, even without thinking, we start screaming at the top of our lungs!
Over time, such habits are formed. Just like that brown footpath you’ve created.

And why is it so difficult to change our habits? Well, our brain tends to take the path of least resistance (like that paved footpath is “out of the way”), so we just blow up whenever we get stressed up.

Then, how do we change our habits? What can we do?

There are some practices that I have come across that worked for me. And I’ll like you to give it a shot to.  Essentially there are three steps that we need to take. (Caution: It is not easy, but certainly very possible).  The three steps are:

  1. Pause
  2. Ask questions
  3. Change your thinking

Firstly; practice “pause”. Which means, the next time when you know you are going to act up; pause. During my NLP course, our trainer made us wear our watches on the other hand. For most of us, its the left hand, so we wear it on the right instead. And from time to time, he would ask for the time. And instinctively many of us will lift up our left hand, only to remember that we have switched sides. That brought about lots of laughter but also a reminder for us to, pause, and then lift up the other hand instead. Some other variations of this practice is, if you have always brushed your teeth with your right hand, then for the next few days, try brushing with your left hand. You will find that your brushing goes haywire and what used to be a five minutes ritual can turn into a ten minutes agony.

Secondly; practice the art of “asking questions”. In other words, if you have always been doing things a specific way, ask yourself questions like, “how would it be like if I change the way I approach this?” or “what are other possible ways to approach this same issue?”. Some people practice this by asking themselves what other possible routes that they can take when driving to work. Of course it might not be possible for us all, but you get the idea. Next time, before you walk into class, ask yourself what and how can you do differently to achieve the same results or even better outcomes.

Finally, practice the art of changing your thinking. This is probably the most difficult of the three. But it is definitely worth it. John C. Maxwell talked about the 11 new ways of thinking that will change your life in his book, “Thinking for a Change” (affiliate link). If you haven’t read that, I strongly recommend it. One of the most important reason to “change your thinking” is because a change in thinking brings about huge systemic change. In fact, in my training as an economist, we always learn about different models and with each model, there are a specific set of assumptions. It is therefore, important, for us to know what those assumptions are because if we don’t we wouldn’t be able to explain why economic agents behave in a particular manner.

These three practices, if we follow it religiously, we will definitely see dramatic changes in our lives; for the better of course. I have been thinking about this blog and how I need to re-invent it to provide value for my readers and one of my starting point is to change the way I think about blogging.

Let me know what you think, and if you have suggestions or better ways of sharping your thinking skills, we’d like to hear it!

Is a leader also a follower?

[blockquote source=”Philippians 4:13 (NIV)“]I can do all this through him who gives me strength.[/blockquote]

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To be a leader, one must have followersThat said, it is also my firm believe that in order to lead, one must be a good follower.

There’s nothing wrong with being a follower, as unless we can first learn to take instructions from others, follow those instructions, execute it well; there is no chance we can become a leader.

Why is that so?

Let’s first look at the definition of “follower”. It simply means that this person is able to follow instructions, paths, ideals, and even rules in a precise manner. Of course I trust you are discerning enough to distinguish the difference between good leaders and the rest. Good in terms of moral, in terms of values, in terms of character, in terms of principles.

As we become a great student of others only then can we fully understand the behaviors, strategies, beliefs, values, and most importantly their mindset. Once we can understand all of that, and able to execute it like the masters, then we can start exploring other, better, faster, more effective, more efficient ways to reach a goal.

When we do not first even understand all of that, how can we then test the limits, explore other options, examine (re-examine) the mindsets in which the leaders held so dear.

Granted they must have experienced or understand the success formulas or they won’t be able to lead others. Besides, we are not just talking about being able to achieve goals some of the time or only when certain conditions exist. We’re talking about individuals who are able to engage (read skills) others with integrity (read principles) to consistently (read, almost always) achieve a common goal (read, not for one-self alone).

Such individuals (I certainly hope you are one, I work hard to be one each day and know that I am succeeding each day with God’s grace) are continually on this journey to become better both internally (live by those principles each day and do the best to live it despite whatever is being thrown at her) and externally (engage others with integrity – not for one-self alone and to achieve a greater goal together because succeeding alone is lonely) each day.

And with each day, if we align to the our purpose in life, whatever that might be (as long as it’s good – for definition of good, see above), we are following those principles so that we can lead.

Father I pray that my heart yearns for You and that I will follow You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

How To Make Gratitude A Part Of Your Life

[blockquote source=”Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)“]One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.[/blockquote]

One day, when I was about six years old, my cousin brought me to a movie. We decided to hit the snack bar for some popcorn. I then noticed that he said “thank you” to the guy after he paid for it.

I was surprised by what he did!

Asking him, “why did you have to thank him when you are the customer?”  He laughed and said, “hey, it’s nice to be polite and besides it doesn’t cost you anything to say thank you. Furthermore, it might just make his day!”

Those words have such a huge impact on my life.  Now, I make it a point to express my gratitude whenever I can.

And I have not been able to thank God enough for all that He has done for me, is doing for me, and will do for me.

How can you make gratitude a part of your life?

I’ve made expressing gratitude as part of my morning ritual. The first part includes thanking God for what He has given and blessed me with. The second part is to thank God for all my goals and aspirations. Additionally, I also ask for God’s help and guidance for my goals.

Dear Father, I thank You for all that You have done for me, all that You are doing for me, and all that You will ever do for me.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Unfailing Love

[blockquote source=”Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV)“]When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.[/blockquote]

Back in 2001, when the dot-com company I joined went bust, I felt like the world had come down on me.

You see. After my graduation, I got a job (through my professor) as a government employee.  My role was simply to peruse through massive amount of research papers and then synthesise the information into a management alert that would be circulated to my bosses every week.  The job paid well, I had even built up my influence amongst the top ranks; simply put – life was good.  Then I was approached to join a dot-com company.  The main motivation for joining – share options.  Essentially it was the idea that if (and that’s a big if) the company went public or get bought over, I would be extremely wealthy!

I still remember that fateful night, where I was still in office past 10pm, and my colleague called to tell me that the Twin Towers had been struck!  That event brought about a chain reaction and soon, our funding ran out.

That had to be the lowest point of my life!  I had only fifteen dollars in my savings account and the minimum amount one can withdraw from the ATM was $10.  However, the bank required a minimum balance of $10.  As I did not have any money in my wallet, I had to go to the bank; just to withdraw $5.  I could still remember the shocking look on the bank clerk’s face when I submitted the withdraw form for $5.

Looking back, I now see the unfailing love of God that supported me at the lowest point of my life.  And because I humbly prayed to the Lord, was I able to pull myself out of the rut and start all over again! (Thank you Rory for the message).

Dear Loving Father, thank you for Your unfailing love and Your consolation of my weakened spirit and depressed heart.  In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

The Gladness of Heart

[blockquote source=”Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)“]This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.[/blockquote]

For the last eight years in my career, I have made some significant breakthroughs which had enabled me to enjoy some of the luxuries in life that I can only once dream of. And while there were significant amount of effort put into work, I am rather grateful for the entire experience and how I became closer to God.

This is the kind of life that we want to be living, where gladness of the heart is what occupy our mind and that everything we do, we do it for the will of God. And with the work we do, come the wealth we gain. But we should not focus only on the wealth and possessions, but on the work that we do that will enable us to experience and appreciate God’s gift.

Dear LORD, may I be happy in my toil that is a gift from You and may this gladness of heart occupies me in my days ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hello? Are you too preoccupied?

[blockquote source=”2 Corinthians 12:10“]That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.[/blockquote]

For a time I was really getting ahead of myself.  Things were going really well that I began to think that I am invincible; that I could do no wrong. Then one obstacle appears after another; and soon it began to slow me down.  It was only then that I realised that, for the longest time I have been so self-sufficient that God has little place in my heart.  It was only then that these obstacles humbled me and reminded me of the need to keep in constant contact with the Lord.

Many a times, we are either too caught up with our successes or too depressed with the circumstances that we forgot that our Father in Heaven is waiting for us to connect with Him.

Dear Father, please forgive me for I was too preoccupied with other matters, where I should be keeping in constant contact with You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

BLT – Believe, live, teach

[blockquote source=”Isaiah 6:9 (NIV)“]He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’[/blockquote]

I once saw an ad that said “millions more cars will be sold over the next few years”.  My first reaction was “wow”!  At the bottom of the page it said, “if you are thinking – oil futures – we want you”.  Obviously I was not the right fit for the job, for my mind is not attuned to it.

Isn’t it the same when it comes to God’s message?  I sometimes hear His instructions, but I either chose to ignore it or I just do not understand it!  For instance, God has told me to “get out of this industry”, but my immediate response was “but what do I do?”

To be able to understand just even a fraction of God’s infinite wisdom, we need our mind to be attuned to it.  To do that, the most important thing to do is to believe.  When we believe we have the right mindset.  However, just believing alone is not enough.

If we look at the verse again, we see the word “GO“.  God instructed Isaiah to go, to move, to take action, to live out His instructions.  Hence, we will need to take actions, we need to keep moving.  We need to go and live out His instructions!

And based on the learning from the experiences by living out His instructions, we should then go out and share with others, just like how I am sharing with you, as this further helps me reinforce my own learning.  Remember the saying, “if you want to learn something, teach it”.

Father I pray that I will understand and perceive Your instructions to me so that along with that I am able to share with the many people who would visit this site and help them strengthen their faith in You.  In Jesus name, Amen.

How does your attitude affect your results?

[blockquote source=”Matthew 5:5 (NIV)“]Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.[/blockquote]

In our current culture, we were told that to be successful one has to assertive.  You need to go out there and make it happen.  I did follow that mantra and it worked for a while, but it was not sustainable.  Soon people start avoiding me.  They stop giving me feedback.  And very eventually I find out that I am all alone.

The verse above appears to be rather counterintuitive, yesterday in church, Rev William Wan provides the 3As to being a person who is considered “meek”.  Well, first things first, being meek does not mean being weak or soft.  Rev Wan reminded us that both Moses and Jesus were considered meek, but by no means were they soft nor weak.  The 3As are as follows:

  • Attitude: What is your attitude when you are faced with an adversary?  Do you get stressed up and start shouting at others?  Or do you view that adversary as an opportunity to grow?
  • Altitude: If I choose an attitude that is negative, then I will sink.  But if you chose a positive attitude, it will enable you to rise above it all.
  • Action: The quality of our actions depends on the attitude and altitude we are at.  If I have a negative attitude and it sinks me down, then my actions are going to be rather ineffective or perhaps even destructive!  If you chose a positive attitude and rise above it all, then your actions will be more effective or perhaps even constructive!

Dear Father, thank you for giving me the power to choose; to choose a positive attitude so that I can rise above it all, and take the quality actions that enable me to fulfill my purpose.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Giving generously

[blockquote source=”2 Corinthians 9:6“]Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.[/blockquote]

When we started our consulting practice in 2002, our approach was to give as much value as possible to the schools we were serving.  I must confess that because of that approach, we have been blessed abundantly.

In re-inventing this blog, we would also want to adopt the same approach here – providing as much value as possible generously.

Dear Father, help me give generously with a cheerful heart, like how You give us Your only son.  In Jesus name, Amen.