Ask And You Shall Receive

[blockquote source=”1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)“]This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.[/blockquote]

Anything You Want
I’d always remember this incident. It was during my Junior College days, where I had to purchase a personal computer for my assignments. Thinking back, must I really have to have a personal computer? The answer was no, but it would be a plus. I wanted one because my friends all had nice looking graphs and charts in their assignments. And I didn’t want to lose out just because my assignments didn’t look as impressive as theirs. Never mind about the content, but looks count.

One problem after another
So my friend and I visited one of those trade shows where I picked up several brochures on the latest and greatest PCs. But there was one problem, I didn’t have any money and hence I needed to get the cash to pay for it. When I found out that I could buy one on hire purchase, rather than cash upfront, I jumped at it. But I needed a guarantor for the hire purchase. Naturally I approached my dad to be my guarantor. But there is another problem. You see, the guarantor has to meet a minimum income requirement. And my dad didn’t meet the requirement. We then approached a cousin of mine to be the guarantor but he disagreed. So we are back to square one. Despite all these problems, I still wanted the PC and my dad knew how much I wanted it. So, he did what any father would do, get the son his PC no matter what. He drove me half way through town just to withdraw cash from an overdraft account. It was not until several years later that I learned that my dad didn’t have the cash but he really wanted me to have the PC and so he borrowed from the overdraft account, incurring interest from that very moment.

Now that I’m a father
I am now a father myself. And I now understand the why he did that, despite knowing the significant cost involved. I would do the same for my children, although I might use a different approach. Nonetheless, if we know our children need something that will enable them to advance in their work or career, we would do whatever it takes to make that happen for them. Perhaps, it was because we never had the opportunity back then and we don’t want to deny our children. Or it could simply be a case of parental love. We just want the best for our children.

Millennials are a different bunch
Lisa Earle McLeod’s post on the Millennials she touched on the issue of how a “childhood of household prosperity has created a habit of adult indulgence“. What’s even scarier is that the data showed that “Millennials are shopping 25-40% more than the average consumer“.

Consumerism
And while we want the best for our children, are we being foolish in fueling their wants by not only showering them with toys, gadgets, and designer wears from a young age, but also being ourselves an example of consumerism?

Creatorism
At the other end of the spectrum is our ability to create – creatorism, I’d call it. Years ago, you’d need to be a literary before you could ever think of publishing a book. Now, anyone can publish a book; if they chose to. There are options available now that were unthinkable in the past. Self publishing and assisted self publishing are avenues available to you and me to get a book out.

Power of Influence
If writing a book is not your thing, then you always start a blog, or simply use Facebook or Twitter to broadcast your ideas and influence others. An example was this article that precipitated my wife’s decision to get another baby carrier and stop using the one we currently have. This illustrates how an article like this can influence my wife’s decision on dumping the Baby Bjorn Carrier and to buy an Ergo Baby Carrier instead.

Our Heavenly Father
If our earthly fathers would go that distance just to make sure we get what we need, think what our heavenly Father can and will do. However, our heavenly Father is all wise and all knowing, hence it would only be matters that are in alignment with His will.

Therefore as we journey into the new year, let us remind ourselves on aligning our work to His will.

Prayer
Father, we know that You hear us and that You would grant us anything we ask for in Jesus’s name.  We ask that You will give us the courage, strength, and wisdom to create the body of work that will enable us to fulfill our purpose and to be the person that You wanted us to be.  In Jesus name, we pray, Amen.

Stay True To The Message

[blockquote source=”1 John 4:4-6 (NIV)“]You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.[/blockquote]

Body of Work
As I create the body of work that (a) enables me to spread the message, (b) makes the best use of my gifts, (c) earn a living; it is sometimes tempting to skew the work towards what’s popular and accepted. Arguably it would be an uphill task to sell works that nobody wants.

Sometimes it can become an issue of: the work is unpopular but it is absolutely necessary for people to embrace it. Hence do you:

  • bend your message so that it is more palatable for the masses or
  • do not compromise on the essence of the message but find a way to deliver it?

The first instance seems to be selling out. Just because it is tough for people to accept the message, hence we soften it or bend it such that people will embrace it but the impact is being compromised.

The second instance would be the right way to do it. Stay true to the message but deliver it in such a way that it is easier for people to accept.

Not Selling Out
Make no mistake, the second instance is not a compromise. It’s about getting into the state of empathizing with the audience in order to pitch the message that directly address their needs; or even latent ones.

The framework that I use during my coaching session is that of listen, learn, lead.

Listen
Some people hear but they don’t listen. We hear all sorts of sound at any given time. Right now, if you pay attention, you’d probably hear the wind, the sound of the birds, maybe the crickets, or the waves. Depending on where you are, there are so many sounds that you hear. But your mind is able to shut out most of these sounds because it is not something that you are paying attention to. The same with conversing with another person. You may hear what they say, but are you really listening? It turns out there are some tools and strategies available to engage in active listening. One is to pay attention to the predicates. In other words, pay attention to their choice of words. Do they use words that are highly emotional? For instance, someone may tell you that each time I get into a goal-setting session, I feel the stress that comes with the amount of work I have to deal with.

Learn
Two people may experience the same incident but can relate to it very differently. And that’s to do with how we interpret the experience. How we interpret is based on our perception and background. It is our internal stories that make up the context with which we interpret any experience. To learn how someone interprets the given experience, you have to ask questions. These questions should aim at disciphering what their beliefs are about the given experience. Their beliefs, rightly or otherwise, are the guiding principles with which they evaluate the experience. And you’d need to understand these rules in order to lead them.

Lead
To lead is basically to influence others with integrity. You want them to take action because it is the right thing to do, or it is good for them. But you need to know how to lead them. Now, people won’t be moved to take action if there are too much uncertainties. Therefore, the key is to reduce the amount of uncertainties or to manage it in such a way that they would find it acceptable to undertake the action.

Stay True To The Message
Learning from today’s verses, we must stay true to the essence of our messages. Not to compromise.

Pray
Father, as we strive to deliver the truth, please guide us in the way we should listen, learn, and lead others in the ways moving forward. In Jesus name, Amen.

Do Not Bring Your Greatest Work To The Grave

[blockquote source=”1 John 3:23 (NLT)“]And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.[/blockquote]

Planning Ahead
It is the time of the year again. To kick-start the planning sessions in preparation for the next lap. This next lap is going to be taking me to a whole new level of greatness, where I will be sharing the message with the whole world.

The Message
The message that I’ve been working on in the last few months is this: Create an Engaged Life  – Learn, Live, and Lead by focusing on Jesus everyday.

That’s it! That’s the message that has been in my head for a long while. At first, I had this sense that God is calling me to do His work. My initial response was that I do not know what does that look like and what does it entail? I thought I had to figure out what I am to do, then go about doing it. Then it struck me that I’ve got it all wrong. It’s not about searching for that elusive purpose in life then start pursuing it.

Do Not Bring Your Greatest Work to the Grave
That idea of “find out who what our purpose is and then work at it” is a lie. If you read Steven Pressfield‘s War of Art, in the chapter “Authentic Self” Pressfield wrote:”Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.“What’s troubling is that some of us spend our lives “finding out who we should be”, rather than “finding out who we already are”. We may end up searching for that ideal job, ideal mate, ideal situation that will enable us to be truly who we are. And so we waste our time doing mediocre work thinking “if only I am in that ideal job, I’d would be able to unleash my creative talent to produce great work”.With that attitude, we waste the opportunities that are available in the current circumstances, as we are blinded because of misguided focus.And so the antidote to that would be this as quoted in his earlier chapter

[blockquote source=”W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”]Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.[/blockquote]

In other words, do not bring your greatest work to the grave. Choose to start now. Choose to Die Empty, as suggested by Todd Henry.

Believe – It’s More Than An Intention, It’s an Action
The central idea to the message is that every Christian should first and foremost believe in Jesus Christ. However believing doesn’t only meant simply saying that I believe in Christ. In fact, many people believe in Jesus, even non-believers. So what does it mean to believe in Jesus? To believe means to pattern your life after Christ’s. And if we live like Christ then it would mean that we will “love one another” (John 13:34). [Credit: The One Year Bible Companion]

Call to Action
Brothers and sisters, if you’d like to help me spread the Message, please drop me an email at poem [at] tanmelvyn [dot] com and I will keep you updated on the series of events that will be revealed in the coming weeks.  Thank you and God bless you.

Prayer
Father, please forgive me for I have sinned.  In the days going forward, I want to believe in Jesus and will commit my faith everyday by focusing on Jesus in learning the truth, living the truth, and leading others to do the same. I pray all these in Jesus name, Amen.

Your Identity Could Be Hindering Your Achievements

[blockquote source=”1 John 3:2 (NIV)“]“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”[/blockquote]

Did You Achieve Your Goals?
Are there goals that you’ve set for yourself this year but you didn’t achieve it? If you are like me, you probably have a few. This year for me, most of the goals that I didn’t achieve are in my professional domain. And as I examine the reasons why I didn’t achieve them, I notice a specific pattern.

Based on this pattern, I decided to cross check to see if the converse was true for goals that I had achieved this year. And the check turns out to be accurate. Those goals that I have achieved were largely in my personal and people domains. Perhaps some background to provide sufficient context to what we are discussing here.

Identity in the Professional Domain
For the few years before my first child was born, my primary focus was on building my consulting practice. In fact, back in 2007, we set an audacious goal to capture at least 50% of the school market in Singapore. We worked really hard and achieved it way before the deadline of 2012. We crossed that milestone in just three years in 2007. At that point in time when we set that goal, we weren’t even at the 10% mark and hence the goal was certainly a stretch. But stretch though it may be, we achieved it nonetheless.

When we reached the end of 2012, one of my partners told me that he wanted to seek partial retirement to focus on his work with schools in less developed countries. He went on to consult for, run, and manage several schools in Thailand and Myanmar. As for me, I have achieved quite a number of significant milestones on the professional front, while at the same time became a dad in 2011.

Change of Identity as You become a Parent
Many of you may be able to identify with this, but the moment you become a parent, your perspective changes. Things that were important previously become back-burners now. Others that were furthest from your mind became extremely important.

For example, goals in my professional domain were my primary focus before the birth of my child. Now, goals in my personal and people domains become a top priority. Previously I would not even bat an eyelid to stay up late to work. Now, getting sufficient sleep and waking up early before the kids wake up are my most important priorities.

What happened was not just a simple shift in terms of perspective. What’s deeper than that was my identity. And to further reinforce that identity change was the birth of my second child. Previously I could still get away with some parental duties as my wife can handle our son, now with another child, we both have to fulfill our parental duties simultaneously.

Identity Filters Your Every Activity
The change in my identity caused me to filter every single activity through that lens. In fact, it became the primary force to guide me in my decision making process. For instance, hanging out with friends to chat and chill out was previously acceptable as it was a form of unwind from my professional work. However, now it would be a huge opportunity cost because I could use that time to either catch up on work or to get to bed early.

While this explains why many of the goals that I didn’t achieve fell in the professional domain, it is by no means an excuse for the lackluster performance in that area.

God’s Identity is to Love Us
You see, a change at the identity level can dramatically shift our thoughts, which in turn affect our actions, and consequently our results. Just like the verse today, it is not that we love God so that’s why He loved us. But in fact, it’s because God loves us first. He loved us regardless of who we are. Whether we are nice or not, He loved us and will forgive us. He does it is because that is His identity. It is His nature. That’s how He is.

Application
Therefore, our application of the concept of our identity here today will allow us to critically examine whether our identity is helping or hindering us in our lives. Do you, like me, have a conflicting identity for the different domains? Or if you have a shift in your identity, will that identity lead you to be in conflict with your behaviors in the other domains?

There is a possibility to achieve alignment in all three domains by that single identity that you have. You would just have to ask yourself some of these questions in your review:

  • List the frequent activities that you carry out over the course of this year. Remember to list activities from all three domains; personal, people, and professional.
  • Group these activities into some broad categories, for example exercising once a week and eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis would fall under the “body” category. Activities such as send marketing material to prospects and research on new area of work with the schools would fall under the category of “business development”
  • For each of these broad category, identify the reason why you chose to engage in the activities. For instance, under “body” my reasons will be to achieve a more balanced diet and to stay healthy. The category of “business development” would have reasons of growing the business and deepening the scope of work provided.
  • After you identifying the purpose, the next step is the most critical step; and that is to identify the identity or role that is required to carry out the activities in that category. For instance, under “body” the identity would be a responsible parent – because a responsible parent would not only take care of his health but would also lead by example in establishing healthy habits. For “business development”, the identity would be a strategic businessman – because a strategic businessman is one who identifies potential areas of business for expansion.
  • The next step is then to ask yourself if any of these identities conflict. In my case, the responsible parent and strategic businessman are in conflict. Because if I am a responsible parent then I would allocate my time to be with my children and not put that time into developing new business.
  • The last step is to reconcile these conflicts by either aligning them – for instance, a responsible parent is one that strategically expands his business so as to provide for his family. Alternatively, you could end up creating a new identity altogether. In my case, I could create “a go-to guy for leading an engaged life”, which would mean that my role is to help people create a purposeful life that engages others through contributory growth. In this new identity, I no longer struggle to reconcile the behaviors but what I’d need to do is to establish if and how those activities are aligned to this new identity.

Question: what are the identities you hold in the different domains of your life? And are they in alignment or are they in conflict with those activities that you must engage in in order to achieve your goals?

Prayer
Father thank You for Your unfailing love, because that’s who You are. Father help us achieve that alignment in our identities in the three domains of our lives but most importantly guide us to shape our identity into who You have intended for us to be. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Giving Others The Benefit Of The Doubt

[blockquote source=”1 John 2:9-11 (NLT)“]If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.[/blockquote]

Picture This…
Imagine working for a boss who demands that everything pass through his hands before you send anything out, even emails to clients. Imagine having to comply with the endless, and sometimes mindless, rules and policies that makes you wonder if your creativity is valued. Imagine reporting to your boss every single task, meeting, conversation you have with a prospect or client because “he needs to know exactly what went on (or wrong)”.

Imagine that
You’d probably think that the boss is a control freak and does not trust anyone. If you thought that way, you are right. And that’s exactly how I was if you’d worked with me during the period 2002-2005.

Reasons for Being a Control Freak
The reason for those behaviors (and insecurities) was because of the episode that I’ve had when I was working with the dot-com company from 1999-2002. I trusted the person who recruited me so much that I pretty much told him almost everything about myself, only to have him not only abuse my trust but also preyed on my pride. At that moment, I blamed him and everything that he did. I was sore and felt cheated of the best years of my life.

As a result of this, the mental model was this: if you trust someone too much, you’d get hurt. So what would you do? Of course, you set up a barrier and that becomes your view of the world and that would be how you’d operate.

If you knew about this background, how would you feel about me now? I’d think that most people would understand why I behaved that way. I said “understand”, doesn’t mean you’d agree with my actions but at least you’d understand. However, there’s no way you’d find out about this because, remember, I do not trust you. In fact, the person that I really do not trust is myself. Because I once trusted my judgemental of another person and decided to trust in him, only to have things turned against me and hence proved to myself that I really shouldn’t have trusted myself.

Most Visible & Least Visible
I want to relate this personal experience to help us understand, as well as to remind myself, the concept of “least visible” and “most visible”. Every person has a “least visible” and a “most visible” part of him. My actions of distrust and being a control freak are “most visible”. These are the behaviors that you’d see if you worked with me. However, what you don’t see, “least visible”, are the pain and frustration brought about from the experience. Why “least visible” and not “not visible” is that if you took time to examine the behaviors closely, you might be able to guess what’s the cause of it.

Two Worlds
Tony Robbins said that for every human being we have two worlds. The internal world and the external world. When both worlds are aligned, that’s when we’d be happy. But when those two worlds are not aligned, that’s when we get upset. And as human beings, it is our innate need to want to see alignment. For instance, because of my internal world, which is “least visible” to others, it resulted in a range of behaviors that I’d manifest in the external world, “most visible”. And I’d strive to have my external world be aligned to my internal world. That’s why for people who have deep insecurities, externally they would always want to control others.

However, because all you’d see is the external world, which is “most visible”, hence you’d in turn try to reconcile the behaviors with your own internal world, which is “least visible” to me.

So why would we hate another person? For the record, I hated that person for a good while. But after sometime, I recognized that the more I hated him, the more I’m giving him control of my life even though I no longer worked with him. And besides, I need to trust myself again, if anything.

Benefit of the Doubt
Brothers and sisters, we all have our stories, our past experiences, our wounds. But so does everyone else. The first thing we can do for each other is to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. I think we’d all appreciate it. The second thing is to be able to empathize with the other person. Try seeing things from their internal world. The third thing is to love one another and help each other break free from those stories, those past experiences, those wounds that created the bondage. And the most important thing of all is to always remember that we are all children of God and that although we are all traveling on different paths, we’re all headed for the same destination.

Prayer
Father we ask for You to empower us to forgive one another like how You forgave us. LORD, we ask that You guide us in helping our fellow brothers and sisters break free from their bondage and to walk in the light. We pray all these in Jesus name, Amen.

In The Absence Of Light, We Live In Absolute Darkness

[blockquote source=”1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)“]This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.[/blockquote]

Dark Side
There was a time when I thought that to be successful, all one need to do was to work smart, be always one step ahead, and be always ready to bent the truth, if need be. After all, how many people can tell that you are lying. So lie and make false claims as the need arose.

After a while, it became a matter of whether how audacious a lie you can tell. And the more audacious it is, the better it is. Soon, everything becomes a lie and before you realize you wonder if you are even real.

Darker Side
The worse is, after gaining some success, you began to guard the turf and play defensive. And then you start feeling that you can trust no one else because someone who knows the truth might just tell it all. And hence, you began distancing yourself from everyone. Eventually, it becomes so deeply entrenched that your entire identity becomes a figment of your imagination.

Been There
The truth is I was once in that position. And when I realized it, it had became so bad that you no longer have anymore friends, even the people who were closed to you start staying away from you.

Sometimes in life, such encounters could bring out the worst, sometimes the best. For me, it was for the better. I immediately stop operating from incognito and began to be open and transparent about what I do and how I do it.

Encounter with God
We need to be aware that an encounter with God could help transform our lives so we no longer live in spiritual darkness. We do not rely on our own will, but do the will of God and all will be answered.

Question: is there an aspect in your live that you’ve been living in spiritual darkness? Would you repent and seek God’s help to bring the light into your life?

Prayers
Dear Father. I seek Your forgiveness for all the sin that I have committed. May Your light shine on in my life and allow me to live in fellowship with You. In Jesus name, Amen.

Guided By The Word, Daily

[blockquote source=”Psalm 119:133 (NLT)“]Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil.[/blockquote]

New Year…
Going into a new year always bring about an excitement. It is time to start anew or to re-start plans that were aborted in the current year. And the same can be said of spiritual growth. Each day presents a whole new set of challenges and temptations of every possible kinds. Whether it be directed at us or self-induced.

Especially for those of us with kids, the very thing we tell our children to not do, we sometimes do the very thing ourselves. I need to remind my two year-old son to not raise his voice and yet I do that myself.

It can sometimes become really discouraging when you thought you’ve tried your very best, only to realize how miserably you’ve failed.

…New Plans
As we move into the new year, it presents great opportunities for us to explore how we can step ahead and do the work. However, let us remind ourselves that we will be faced with challenges ahead. This is not being negative. This is being realistic.

His Word, Everyday
And to enable us to press on, even when times are challenging and even when the temptation is great; we will need to rely on God. And what better way then to rely on His word to help guide us as we move into the new year.

Question
Brothers and sisters, would you join me for a commitment to focus on Jesus for the next 365 days of your life? And let the word of God guide us daily in our journey ahead in this coming new year.

Prayer
Dear God, as we journey into the new year, please guide us so that we will be able to overcome evil and bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

H.A.B.I.T.: Five Steps To Breaking That Habit

[blockquote source=”2 Peter 2:20-22 (NIV)“]If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”[/blockquote]

Actions and Behaviors
As we review our achievements for the year, we must also pay attention to our actions and behaviors. What we do, or not do, has a direct consequence on our outcomes. If we run everyday, then the likelihood  of becoming healthier is higher than if we ran only when we felt like it. Some goals can be achieved if we take specific actions on a consistent basis. Unless those actions are fueled by a set of behaviors that comes naturally, oftentimes we would have to engineer our behaviors to support those actions.

My Experience
Take for example, I wanted to be fit. And to be fit would not only mean achieving a specific BMI but I would have to feel energized too. There is no point I exercise myself silly and reduce a significant amount of calories just to meet the BMI, but feel drained most of the time. Therefore, feeling energized is also a critical element for fitness.

To achieve that high level of energy, I would need to identify a list of behaviors that will:

  • Enhance my energy level – do more of it
  • Drain my energy – eliminate these

Sounds simple. But do not be fooled by its simplicity. Because it is deceptively simple to understand but tremendously difficult to do.

Positive Behaviors
The first list of behaviors (those that enhance my energy level) are not something that I have been doing regularly, if at all. What goes into this list includes:

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Drink more water
  • Eat more fruits
  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Exercise regularly

Make It A Habit
As a result, I had to find a way to install these behaviors in my daily life such that these becomes habits. Why habits because when something is a habit, you do not even need to think about it but you would do it anyway. For instance, brushing your teeth in the morning is a habit (I hope). Taking a shower when you come home is a habit. These are behaviors that you would do without even needing to plan or remind yourself to do it.

Negative Behaviors
While in this case, habits can bring positive impact on your life; there are also habits that have negative impact. And these are the second category of behaviors mentioned above (those that drain my energy level). To achieve a specific BMI and to feel energized, I’d need to eliminate (or at least minimize) these behaviors:

  • Smoking
  • Staying up late (sometimes just simply staying up late)
  • Consuming excessive amount of caffeine drinks (such as coffee and tea – even at late hours)
  • Consuming a significant amount of food before or close to bed time
  • Taking long naps
  • Mindless surfing on smartphone just before bedtime
  • Waking up late in the morning

Habits can shape your Identity
As you can tell, these behaviors will have negative impact on my desired BMI as well as energy level. But more importantly, these behaviors have become habits, where I do not even have to consciously think about doing it (I just do it). Worse, some of these habits have been so deeply ingrained that they have become part of my identity. For instance, I would tell people that I’m a smoker. I would say that I’m a night owl or I’m not a morning person.

Now, to reduce some of these behaviors are difficult, to eliminate them would almost be impossible. For instance, for years I’ve struggled to quit smoking. The first time I’ve had some success was when I did the exercise in Tony Robbins book, Unlimited Power. However, through a series of ups and downs, I went back to smoking again. And this time more intense than before.

This time round, I’ve had much greater success; with the exception of one relapse, I have been smoke-free since January 1st, 2013. Did I still think about smoking, yes, during the first four months. Now, the thought of going back to it is just unthinkable.

Sin
Smoking, just like sinning, is a habit that some of us have grown accustomed to. Worse, some of us have even allowed it to infiltrate into our identity. Take for example, I get angry easily. I get angry when things don’t go my way or when I can’t have things my way. Either way, I’d be pissed. Anger is a sin. Even if you don’t think it is as harmful as adultery, it is still a sin nonetheless.

Break that H.A.B.I.T.
And as true follower of Christ, we already know the way we have to conduct ourselves, but if yet we succumb to sin over and over again, then we are truly worse off then before. Be warned, sin is real and it can take over your life. So in order to combat sin, we need these five key steps.

H is for Honor God
Sin is the work of the devil. Whether it is smoking, telling lies, adultery, or denying God, these are all sin. And to think that we ourselves are armed with the power to counter the evil one would be to think that you can win a fencing match by using a matchstick. Truly, the tools that we have are just like matchsticks against the evil one. Therefore, the first step to eliminate it is to honor God. To humbly seek God’s help in this battle.

Question: have you prayed to God and asked for His help?

A is for Attention
Next, you have to pay attention to what you want. Trying to eliminate a bad habit by thinking about doing it less is like trying not to think about the pink elephant. Because the moment that thought cross your mind, all you could picture is simply the pink elephant. So identify a positive habit that you want to install or a positive outcome you’d want to achieve. For instance, to quit smoking, my attention was not “Quit Smoking”, because if I do that, all I’d think about is “Smoking”. Instead, I focus my attention on what I wanted. Hence, my attention was diverted to “being healthy, being energized”.

Question: what are the positive outcomes or habits do you want?

B is for Behaviors 
Tell me what you do each day and I’d tell you if you will become successful. As our daily behaviors are the building blocks of our future outcomes, we must then identify the list of behaviors that are associated with the positive outcome that you’d want to achieve in the preceding step. For me, I wanted to be healthy and to feel energized; so I identified a list of five behaviors that I would commit to on a daily basis. The five behaviors are eating fruits, vegetables, drinking at least 7 glasses of water, exercising, and getting sufficient sleep. Full disclosure: I do not always fulfill these five behaviors everyday, but since I’ve made it into a habit, I now factor that into my life. For instance, we order pre-cooked meals five times a week and so we ensure that at least one of the dishes is a vegetable.

Question: what are the behaviors associated with the positive outcome you want to achieve and how would you structure these into your daily life such that it becomes almost automatic?

I is for Identity
This is a critical step. Unless you shift your identity, the behaviors you’ve identified in the previous step would not be sustained. For instance, if I do not shift my identity from “late owl/ not a morning person” to “early riser”, going to bed early would be a struggle. True, in the initial phase it was tough. But once I’ve made that shift in my identity, it became almost natural. If you’re having trouble changing your identity to a positive onen, or at least one that is congruent with the outcomes and behaviors that you want, just remember this: God didn’t made you a loser, as someone who tells lies, as someone who is lustful, as someone who cheats. God made you in His likeness.

Question: what’s the shift in your identity that must be made so that it is congruent with your desired outcomes and behaviors?

T is The Cross
Remember that we have a High Priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way, just as we are, and yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, focus on Jesus each day, and ask for His help in this battle daily.

Question: have you asked Jesus for help?

Live it Back to Front
Once you’ve completed the five steps listed about, from H to T, now you’d have to live it from T to H:

  • The Cross: focus on Jesus, ask for help;
  • Identity: be the person that God wants you to be – make that shift in your identity;
  • Behaviors: commit to a set of replacement behaviors on a consistent basis;
  • Attention: pay attention to the desired outcomes;
  • Honor God: Honor God in all that you do.

Prayer
Father we pray that You guide us as we combat sin and reclaim our identity that You have intended for us to be. In Jesus name, Amen.

How To Become The Person That God Wants You To Be?

[blockquote source=”2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)“] In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.  The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.[/blockquote]

Goals Setting
It is the time of the year again, where we review the achievements of our goals this year and plan for new goals for the new year. And to guide you along, I’ll like to introduce to you the concept of be-do-have. But first, let’s examine the current thinking many of us embrace when we are setting goals.

Current Thinking: Do-Have-Be
The current thinking, this applies to me until very recently, is this. We craft a goal, say “to earn a personal income of $1 million this year”. After having written the goal, we then decide what are the actions that we must take in order to have what we want. Then we think that when we achieve the goal, we then become a millionaire. 

To break it down, we are essentially setting goal in the following sequence: want ($1 million) -> do (actions taken) -> have ($1 million) -> be (millionaire). In other words, we are saying that until we “have” then we can “be”. But that’s the problem. To be a millionaire, you’d need to think like one and act like one, not the reverse. You cannot act like one if you do not think like one.

Problem is…
Now, imagine that you sell widgets at $100 a piece. In order for you to make $1 million, you’d need to sell 10,000 pieces. However, if currently you are only able to sell 1,000 pieces a year, you’d need to ramp up your sales by 10 times in order to achieve the goal. Here’s the chance to ask yourself, what are your beliefs and mindset about increasing your sales by tenfold? Some may think in order to do that you’d need to sell hard. And you maybe concerned that people might see you as a sleazy salesperson just trying to make the sale. However, how would a millionaire think? He may see it as an opportunity to bring his widgets to a larger audience, where more people can benefit from it. These two very different mindset would translate into very different set of actions (energy and communication). 

Be in order to Have
Hence, many of us have reversed the order thinking that only when we “have” then we can “be”. But in reality, we must first “be” before we can “have”, hence behave.
This realization is especially important in the spiritual realm. Many of us think that we must first “have” a clear sense of our purpose so that we can “do” what it takes to achieve the purpose and then to “be” the person that God had intended for us. Again, we have reversed the order! 

From today’s reading, it is very clear that we must first “be” the person that God had intended for us, so that we can “do” whatever it takes based on that frame of mind, in order to “have” the sense of fulfillment in life.

What God Wants You to Be
So, what kind of person does God want us to “be”? God basically wants us to be the righteous person who would “do” God’s will. Question: starting today, how can you become the person that God wants you to be?

Prayer
Father we pray that as we struggle to be the person that You intended for us to be, please deliver us from the enemy and the temptations. In Jesus name, Amen.

G.I.F.T Your Gifts

[blockquote source=”1 Peter 4:10-11 (NLT)“]God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.[/blockquote]

What are your Gifts?
As we draw near the year’s end, it is worthwhile pondering over a few things. One of which is this: what are your gifts?

Everyone has Gifts
Everyone of us have gifts. Some of us are gifted in writing. Others are gifted at storytelling. So, how are you using your gifts?

G is for a Good Cause
As a consultant, one of the tasks that I am hired to do is to solve problems. That said, one could simply use this gift to benefit oneself, or you could choose to use it to benefit not only yourself but also the betterment of others. For example, I use my gift in problem solving to help schools in Singapore become more effective. Not only does it allow me to make a living, it also enabled me to make an impact on education. As a country whose only resource is people, our future very much depends on how well equipped are our people to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Question: how have you used your gifts for a good cause?

I is for Inspire Others
Over the past six months, I have greatly benefited from the works of many gifted individuals. Todd Henry – being a creative. Jeff Goins – being a writer. Michael Hyatt – being an intentional leader. These gifted individuals have each produced a body of work that not only demonstrate their capabilities, but have also made their work available to anyone who wish to pay attention to. Their blogs, podcasts (many of these are free), and books have inspired thousands of others, like me, to not only do our work more effectively, but also inspire us to take our work to the next level.

Question: how have you used your gifts to inspire others?

F is for Frequent Use
When Livescribe introduced Sky Wifi Smartpen that connects with Evernote, I bought it immediately. The need to physically connect the pen to my computer in order to transfer notes to my Evernote account was a pain for me. After I received the new pen, the old Echo Smartpen got the cold storage. One day, I decided to bring the old Smartpen as a backup for one of my trips, but even after charging it overnight, the pen just simply won’t power on. The old Smartpen is dead! Our gifts are the same. The more we use it, the better we become. Conversely, if we do not make frequent use of it, we will lose our edge. Overtime, we may even feel inadequate about our gifts altogether. Consider scheduling time each day to make use of your gifts. Still, even with scheduling, there will be times that you will not use it. That said, unless you make a deliberate effort to make use of your gift, it is left to chance. Or in other words, it will be dependent on the external environment to determine whether you get to use your gifts or not.

Question: how do you factor time to make frequent use of your gifts?

T is for Transform Others
If you have seen the movie, Transformers, you’d see cars turning into robots. To be transformed means to be changed. These changes can be in physical form (from less fit to being fit) or it could be in behavioral form (from a disempowering habit to an empowering one). Each year, I make it a point to invest in my own professional development. This year, the investment was in a Tony Robbins program to transform several areas of my life. Some noticeable changes made would include being an early riser, eliminating my disempowering thoughts, and sharpening my questioning techniques. These are some of the critical areas in my life that are encumbrances to my success. Having eliminated these encumbrances will allow me to take my life to a whole new level. Use your gifts to transform others.

Question: how can you use your gifts to transform others?

Prayer
Father, thank You for the gifts You’ve endowed us with. May we use our gifts to bring Glory to Your Name and to bring cheerfulness to others. In Christ name, Amen.