Posts Tagged ‘Choice’

“Just” me!

Oct 15, 2010 // No Comments » // Change Initiation | Conversational Circles

© ConversationCircles

© ConversationCircles

Hang on! Before you begin to think that I am blogging about ‘Just Me’, think not. I am sharing my learning about “Self-Justification” and probably an important lesson for you too.

Recently, I was intrigued by this simple yet truly great word – JUST.

We use this word ever so often; we use it as adverb such as just now, just do it or just a moment ago etc. We also use it as an adjective such as: this is a just cause, a just reward or punishment and deserving of a just retribution etc.

But it is not the word uttered or use outwardly that intrigued me…but the manner in which we use it inwardly, silently or even unconsciously that amazes me. For example, suppose you are in a long public-train ride and got yourself a comfortable seat besides one that is meant for the elderly; at one stop, the corner of your eye spotted someone that might need your seat more than you do. Now, I guess that the most immediate response from your heart will be to choose to let up the seat for the someone; but here’s how we may often choose to response:

  • The person on the seat meant for elderly should give up, not me!
  • What if the elderly may not need the seat as he may disembark at the next immediate station?
  • I am not alone in this…why should I?
  • What if the elderly reject my offer? This was what happened when I did the last time…
  • This is a long ride for me. I am as legitimate as anyone in this train to the seat, why me?
  • What if…

You see, we have this uncanny ability to JUSTIFY our own choice of action/behavior that is in contrary to our organic response or intention. Our reservoir of logical reasoning that camouflage our heartfelt intention is mind boggling and often disengaged us from our true way of being with others. Worst of all, the habitual “way of engagement” would become our wrong sense of being with others so much so that we deceive ourselves into believing that we are JUST in our own action.


Last Sunday evening, it was my turn to read bedtime story to Eiffel (our three year old boy). Having just got back from a training assignment on board a cruise ship for three days, I was really tired and was quietly hoping that Eiffel will pick an easy reading and possibly a book with the least pages…To my horror, almost like he wish against my hope, he picked one of the heaviest book from the shelf titled “Around The World in 80 Days”. As I was struggling to stay engaged throughout, for a few times when he wasn’t paying attention, I craftily took more than a few pages at once as I flip the page, and every time I did that I pretend to narrate the new page with exaggerate tone and expression to cover any trace of “fast-forwarding” the pages! Eventually, if not for my clever endeavor I would not have finished the book in half the time – though not rightly so but I am JUSTIFIABLY tired! – a self-justified exclamation even before I went into Eiffel’s bed-room.

“Ok Eiffel, what does it mean when we come to this page of the book?” holding the back cover of the book high up and trying to conceal my yawning…

“it means the end…” Eiffel’s mumbled unwillingly.

“Yes, it means time to sleep and papa will say a prayer for you now. Close your eyes…” I was urging him hurriedly.

“But dad, why is it the story is so different from the one that mommy read to me the other day?” Eiffel asked unwittingly.

“Oh…Mommy read Around The World..?” I gestured at the book cover nervously.

“Mommy’s story has India, Hong Kong and…”. Eiffel was peeling off my self-deception innocently.

Justly, my deceit was exposed. But more importantly, I have learned an unforgettable lesson from our three year old boy about my way of being with others beyond my action or behavior – and my self-justification.

Points To Ponder:

  • The last time when you chose to not respond to your innate calling but act in contrary, how does that felt?
  • If you felt justified acting in contrary to your organic responsiveness, how would you think others might respond to you?

Have you ever Complain?

Sep 29, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Change Initiation

I once read an observation that our (Singaporeans) favorite national pastime is to complain – an act of expressing dissatisfaction, uneasiness, censure or resentment. It went on to comment that we are so superior and advance in its practice that if it is inducted as an Olympic sport we would be at the medal podium every four years…Hahaha, I kind of supported that observation as I realized that I am quite competent at this art form but might not be any where near the level of many other ‘national athletes’ in our midst.

I was at the train station 2 weeks ago and heard a pleasant (depending on your taste) jingles that remind commuters about the on-coming train towards the platform. The jingles is easy to remember and has a nice rhythem to it but maybe due to the quality of the audio system, I was desperately trying to understand the words…but I think it goes like this:

Train is coming, train is coming, train is coming,

Please start queuing,

and Love your ride!

Just a few days after the jingles went public, complainers in all national and age groups scrambling for platform to showcase their prowess. From press to cyberspaces, workplaces to food-courts, many were performing at the highest level in complaining about the jingles without any hint that they need stretching or warm-ups before launching into a 9.0 difficulty of maneuver…I was unimpressed.

Like any sports, complains does attract its fare share of commentaries. I must say that some commentaries does bothered the line of becoming the complainers of the complain depending on the commentary objectivity and purpose. But I guess this is where the eco-system of the public forum feeds itself;

  • The complainers requires something to complain,
  • and they will need a place to exercise the complains.
  • The public media provide the space for the complains,
  • because it is in the public domain, it also invites commentaries about the complains.
  • The complainers read the commentaries that was fed by their own complains,
  • and the media generates interest and eventually business activities.

Interesting. But it sets me thinking about our innate desire to complain; why would we do that? I would like to share with you about my thoughts here:

  • I complain because I am dissatisfied with someone or something.
  • I complain because I am uneasy with someone or something.
  • I complain because I want to call attention to what I am thinking and feeling.

We can perpetuate from the above and dwell deeper into this national sports. Any complains?

Point to Ponder:

1. What are we really complaining when we do just that?

2. What if we turn ourselves to the subject of the complains first…will the complain even materialize?

Life in four-twenty – Which stage are you in?

Jul 29, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Change Initiation

Picture source: Life by Kerbbi via Flickr

Picture source: Life by Kerbbi via Flickr

A recent UN released list of countries by life expectancy rated Singapore’s overall life expectancy from birth is at 80 years old. I thought that’s quite a long time to live on this earth – Well, depending what do you do with it!

A conversation I had with my mentor some years ago enlightened me about how I can choose to see my life in different stages, hence how I might be able to use it purposefully. Here are the four stages of twenty years I have learned:

Learning – The first-twenty (Birth to 20 years)

Without doubt the first-twenty years is the time we spend most in learning. This is not to say that we don’t learn after this stage, in fact lifelong learning is what keep us going throughout our life time. But we do spend the most time at this stage learning from school, our parents and friends. We experiment with our growing up, our potentials and interest. We learn via our physiological, psychological and social changes largely during the first twenty years or so. We are at our most rebellious,  we fall in love, we learn about friendship and camaraderie. We learn a lot about our fear, like and dislike, values and faith etc. For men in Singapore, I guess the learning would probably peak when we are enrolled in National Service which is a very steep learning curve for most of us.

Building – The second-twenty (21 to 40 years)

Physically and mentally we are probably at our best in the second twenty years. In Singapore societal norm, many of us will starts our career in our early or mid-twenties depending on your academic route. As we embarked on our career choice, this also could be a time for many of us to be involved in some form of serious relationship especially so when we begin to find our financial independence. I sensed that many of us will faced lots of uncertainty in the first 10 years of the second -twenty. We may move from one job to another, we might faced disappointment in our relationship (hence, emotionally we may lack maturity). Most of us would get married in late twenties to early thirties. Building relationship, family, financial prowess, home, career and I think this also could be the critical twenty years that we shape our idiosyncrasies.

Extending – The third-twenty (41 to 60 years)

Some says that life begin at forty. I am at this stage at the moment. I sensed that it got a lot to do with how we managed our second twenty. For me, its kind of a catch-up as I somehow lost focus in my early twenties. At this stage, we begin to extend our career to its full potential (and income), we also begin to extend our family tree, have more children, and for some lucky ones grandchildren. For some, we might also begin to experiencing some body-aches and health scares. We begin to see the importance of extending our life span so that we may enjoy the fruits of our labor. At this stage, we tends to extend our knowledge, experiences, know-how; both at work and social spaces. We begin to take on roles such as managers, leaders,  elders, mentor and coach. Some may spare no efforts in extending their reputations, titles, expertise and so on…

Giving – The forth twenty (61 to 80 years)

This is the season of giving. A time to contribute back to the place/people you have so benefited from…But don’t get me wrong, we ought to be giving at any stage of our life in any way we can. But there are so much to give when you begin the final twenty; your time (for those who are very successful career wise in third-twenty), your experiences and knowledge, your money (yes, you can’t take it with you can you?). What else? Your advice and positive influences…and many would argue that that is why our Minister Mentor would continue to be an valuable asset to our new generation of leaders.

I begin to realized that managing each twenty with care is so critical to how well we can best serve our purpose. For example, if we do not spend our energy and focus on the first twenty in learning, we may need to do catch up in the second twenty and what may not have fulfill in the second twenty might have to play catch up in the third-twenty and so on so forth…

Which twenty are you in right now?

What is your purpose in life that makes the present twenty clearer to you than ever before?

The Past that Changes the Future

Jul 09, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Change Initiation

Picture source: Past, Present and Future by hazevi via Flickr

Picture source: Past, Present and Future by hazevi via Flickr

A quote by a Hong Kong film veteran Suet Nei, in her 60s, on the need to count your blessings caught my attention…

“At 50, you may die any year. At 60, you may die any month. At 70, you may die any day. At 80, you may die any moment.”

Two years ago, I was facilitating a program in Guangzhou, China and begin the class with a question:

“How many of you believes that your past shapes your future?”

Among the twenty participants, many hands were raised and I drew two big circles on the whiteboard representing the past and future. I asked again:

“Do you think you can change the past?”. A firmed “NO” rang across the class and someone immediately responded:

“But we can change our future!”.

“How? May I ask?” as I sensed that they are getting it… “By changing the present!” most nodding in agreement and smiles.

“How can you change the present?” I persisted and sensed participation and learning.

“By making informed CHOICE to the best of our ability…” came a firm reply by a lady (Ms. Gan Xi) whom I still remember her name till today as she help me to learn more in-depth about the very concept.

“Tell me more…” I invited her as I sensed her enthusiasm.

She continued: ”In fact, by making informed choices in the PRESENT which impact and shape our destiny, in a way it shapes our PAST in the PRESENT because all the decision that we made now will become PAST…therefore, in a way we are ‘changing’ our PAST for the FUTURE. Though we can’t ‘change’ past PAST, but to large extend we can begin shaping PAST in the PRESENT to determine the FUTURE.”

The class went on to deliberate the concept in a conversational circle and I was so pleased that the concept introduced in ‘static’ form was taking a ‘dynamic’ direction in their sharing.

Are you making CHOICES now that might change the PAST for the FUTURE?


Why Am I Here?

Apr 30, 2010 // No Comments » // Conversational Circles

Picture source: Sheri Madrone via Flickr

Picture source: Sheri Madrone via Flickr

For those have been into local news and current affairs; I am not about to promote our President S.R. Nathan latest book launch of the same title of this blog. The title caught my attention while watching last evening news bulletin  and I thought “Hey, that’s one of my favorite question in conversational circle check-in and I wonder what’s S.R. Nathan thoughts about that…”

Back to the question. I always find it fascinating to listen to participant’s thoughts when confronted with this question: “Why Are You Here?”. You see, there is a fundamentality to this simple yet thought provoking question when asked. From the most simplistic respond of “I am here because I was told to be here.” to “I want to be here to know what I don’t know.” There are so many layers of thoughts and desires that unreeled underneath compliance, willingness and making choices.

But the purpose of asking this simple yet thought provoking question is not about unveiling the thoughts and feelings of the respondents per se; in contrary, the question may help them ask and seek their deepest most desire of their purpose in many things they do in life.

Hence, the next time when you are facilitating a conversational circle and trying out “Why Are You Here?”, ask with your heart and with more practice, I am sure the heartfelt asking may arouse heartfelt connection.

Happy asking.

What’s in it for me?

Apr 06, 2010 // No Comments » // Change Initiation | HR Insights

Picture source: Pulitzer prize winner_Kevin Carter

Picture source: Pulitzer prize winner_Kevin Carter

Many have heard the story of this Pulitzer prize winning picture “The Vulture Photo” and of the late Kevin Carter; a South African photojournalist whom by framing this fateful picture in the South of Sudan in March 1993 won the most coveted prize for photojournalism. Two months later, he committed suicide apparently was overwhelmed by the paradox of joy and guilt – many have asked him the question about the fate of the starving girl in the picture…and he has no answer to it.
His suicide note reads: “The pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist.”

I wonder when he was there with the girl (and the vulture) did this question come to his mind (WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME [to help]?).

“It found that only 19 per cent of Singapore workers are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them while the remaining 81 per cent show only a little or no ‘discretionary effort’.” – The Straits Times, 26 March 2010.

It didn’t come as a surprise for me when I read the above on ST online breaking news headlines. “What’s in it for me?” – A question that seems to bog the minds of employees across many industries and apparently at many levels across the organisation.

Of course, the question can be disguised from the fundamental concerned, such as:

What’s in it for my job/role/performance?

What’s in it for my promotion/career/livelihood?

What’s in it for my company so that my job/role/performance will..?

What’s in it for us so that my promotion/career/livelihood will be..?

Are your people ready for commitment? Are your people stopping at PRODUCTivity or stretching towards VALUEtivity?

The Paradox of Choice

Apr 01, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Conversational Circles

Most(Czech for ‘The Bridge’) is one of the most powerful film I have watched in recent time.

I was thinking about the paradox of Choice, and almost immediately I recalled this movie I watched some years ago…

This movie is a beautiful Oscar-nominated movie and winner of many prestigious film festivals. It tells the story of the close relationship between a bridge operator and his young son and the fateful day when both try to off an impending rail disaster. A steam train full of hundreds of passengers are unaware of the danger as they head towards an open drawbridge. Most is both a heart-wrenching and glorious story that portrays the greatest measure of love, sacrifice, hope and forgiveness known to man.

In my programs, and in conversational circles we shared many times the notion of choice. Having “NO CHOICE” is one that often being discussed. In my previous blog-post titled: ” Empower your people…Challenge by Choice“, I argued that by saying ‘no choice’ we are merely taking a ‘victim’s posture’ which may have the by-product of blame and haplessness.

Remember, ‘No Choice’ in itself is a choice.

Watch the movie, you have a CHOICE!

Empower your people…Challenge by Choice

Mar 23, 2010 // No Comments » // Change Initiation | Conversational Circles | From The Inside Out

Photo source: Flickr_Steve.portigal

Picture source: Steve.portigal via Flickr

This is brilliant: if you dirnk, you have a CHOICE – take a taxi ($20) or take a cop car ($1800). Like “click it or ticket” they set up law enforcement as a situation where you are making an informed choice. I think this elevates the community member in the dynamic. Plus, this car is just a fantastic visualization of the two different vectors in that choice. Taxi married to cop-car.

I have been attempting to write about this topic for a while but I was concerned of both the philosophical and psychological implication of its meaning…nevertheless, I CHOOSE to take the risk. So do give me your two-cents worth of thoughts if you think that I don’t make any sense.

The first time I paid attention to the meaning of CHOICE was when my mentor said: “Do take a deeper understanding to the meaning of the word ‘Choice’ for the well being of your life. It may be one of the worthwhile life pursuit after-all”. During my tenured at Singapore Training & Development Association, we used the phrase “Challenge By Choice” as a way to encourage adult learner to be responsible for their choice of action and involvement in their learning. Even then, I wasn’t very sure what it really means…

  • “the challenge is introduced unto you from the outside and you have to make a choice to be subjected to it or not.” or
  • “the challenge is re-introduced by you from the inside and you make a choice to be subjected to it or not.”

I gave some thought to this lately and here’s my observation. In the former scenario, the common responses are ” Oh, I have NO CHOICE but to accept…” or “This is not what I am looking for but I’ve got NO CHOICE…” –  The common post-decision reactions are of blame, haplessness. In the latter, a likely response when people ‘re-introduced’ the challenge intrinsically and make a willful choice on it tends to take ownership of its implication and responsible for its outcome. A common post-decision reactions are usually of ownership of control, pride of trying and learning to take risk etc.

Some years ago, I was tasked to run a workshop for new employees to help them understand the importance of “responsibility”. At that time, I wasn’t sure how a three hours workshop can help young adults to ‘become’ responsible for their action, learning and development; but after much thought I decided to give it a try… I remembered the session started with the participants strolling into the classroom randomly and about a third of them were late for the 8.30am session. By 8.50am, most were seated chatting away with laptop computer up (they seems busy checking emails) and some even sipping coffee and having their breakfast. I stood silently right at the front of the room throughout and observing with keen interest of their actions. By 9.00am, most were alerted by my silence and I thought it was that silence that jolt them into their consciousness. When the classroom came to a complete mute, I asked:

“Why are you here?”

It takes another couple minutes of silence before someone bravely responded: “WE are here because we are told to do so.”

“Thanks for being brave and taking action to respond for the rest. But why are YOU here?” I asked firmly with my eyes fixated on him.

“Umm…I think I am here…because…I have NO CHOICE! The email indicated that the attendance is compulsory and failing to attend will result in having to report to my manager…” he continued bravely with his reasons and garnering some supportive nods and ‘yeses’ from other colleagues.

I sensed a good opportunity to introduce the concept of CHOICE and asked: “If I give you permission to return to your work-station if you CHOOSE not to be here, and promised that I will take full responsibility for your omission from this class, what say you?”

Surprisingly, that reply brought laughter aloud from the class as if they thought I was joking. I retorted firmly: “That promised goes to everyone in this class, if you are not able to take RESPONSIBILITY and make a CHOICE to be here by your will, then the next 3 hours will be a waste of your time and mine.”

No one leave the class that day. We had an enjoyable three hours (or less with an indicative introduction to the workshop).

I know that you prized and valued the opportunity to be self-determining. To be able to make choices.

When was the last time you said: “I have NO CHOICE!”?