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Emotional Intelligence

8 types of bad students

8 types of bad students

Our grades are coming back soon, and we all know what this means… Time for some serious reflection. If your results are less than optimal, it is highly possible that you are one of the 8 types of “bad” students listed below.

1. The perpetually late student

For some reason, this guy is always at least 5 minutes late, whether the class is at 8am, 12 noon, or 3 in the afternoon. That is not to say this student cannot be bothered –every time he is late, he rushes into class with ruffled hair and an apologetic look. But the next day, oops, he does it again. Why he is always late will forever be an enigma. But in the meantime, too bad, he is missing out. Everyone knows how all the important announcements are at the start of the class.

2. The dreamer

This guy is forever thinking about irrelevant things – what’s for lunch, which L4D strategy to use, how the girl sitting in front is so cute – and forgetting that he is in class. The only time he wakes up is when the bell rings and it is time to go home.

That’s when he becomes an annoying little prick.

“What did the teacher say ah?”

“We have homework or not?”

“Can someone lend me your notes? Please? Please?? PLEASE???”

3. The literal dreamer

This guy takes day-dreaming a step too far. Perhaps he slept at 2am playing DOTA into the wee hours. Perhaps he stayed up mugging in his closet. Whatever the case, it is easy to identify the literal dreamer by the gentle bobbing of his head, the suspicious glint at the corner of his mouth and…

“Benjamin Tan, how dare you fall asleep in my class!”

…The enraged howl of your Math teacher.

4. The doodler

This guy tries his best to take notes. But his pen seems to have a mind of its own. Before long, a parallel universe is birthed on his Physics textbook.

5. The tech savvy guy

This guy knows the pitfalls of taking notes with pen and paper (see number 4). Besides, he types faster than he writes. So he uses a laptop and a phone instead.

No one told him that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. First, Whatsapp gets him distracted. Next, Facebook shuts his ears to the counsel of his Literature teacher. Then, Instagram leads him astray into the land of social media, from where there is no return.

That is until the bell rings at 12 noon. Who can resist the taste of food and freedom?

6. The big mouth

This guy knows that he loves to talk. And he won’t take “shhh” for an answer. No amount of death stares and death threats from the teacher can get him to shut up. Finally, exasperated, the teacher sends him to the back of the class.

Oh dear God, please let me stop hearing things.

One moment of silence for the teacher please.

7. The robot

This guy is hardworking and obedient. Even if you ask him to write “Miss Tan is the best and I love her class” 1000 times, he will do it obligingly. His only problem is that he doesn’t know how to think.

Guess what, he wasn’t trying to be funny.

8. The worrier

Seriously, this guy takes things too seriously. To him, every test, every lab practice, every presentation is like the end of the world. He keeps his asthma tube at his sight, because chances are, he is going to have a breakdown soon.

Even 2.4km gives him butterflies in the stomach.

If any of the above characteristics had you sheepishly grinning, “that’s me”, congratulations. At least you know what part to improve about yourself now.

 

The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

The quiet heroes that Singaporeans take for granted

It's not a secret that we Singaporeans are constantly on the move. Be it working long hours to shuttling the kids from school to tuition to music lessons, the only time we get a break in our hectic schedules is when we're stuck in traffic or in squishy public transportation.

The majority of us are usually so caught up in our busy lifestyles that we fail to notice those who tend to make our lives easier. These quiet heroes are working jobs that ensure that our society functions smoothly. They are normally so quiet playing their role that we don't even realise they are there doing the amazing work they do until they are not there and we suddenly realise how inconvenienced our lives become.

Let's pay tribute to 4 of these unsung heroes.

1. Cleaners

Year after year, our city is lauded by tourists and other countries as clean and green, a garden city, or most recently, a city in a garden. And yet, the ones really responsible for maintaining this pristine cleanliness go relatively unappreciated. Who are they? The cleaners, of course. 

Whether cleaning the toilets, sweeping the streets, or clearing up after you once you're done with your meal at the hawker centre, they are the ones who work tirelessly for long hours to uphold Singapore's squeaky-clean image.

It's rather saddening that a majority of our cleaners are of the elderly generation. It's such a difficult way of earning a living, that we as considerable citizens should play our part by disposing of our litter in a proper way, and clear our own trays after we are done eating to do all we can to make the lives of our cleaners easier.

2. Nurses

I applaud nurses. Not only do we often not see the contributions they make, they are pretty much the backbone of the medical community. Disagree? Let's see those doctors and surgeons handle a full day of work by themselves then. 

Not to discredit the works of your family GP or neighbourhood dentist, but this article is about quiet heroes, and while Dr. Tan may be the one explaining your medical conditions, it's the nurses who are often to one tending to your wounds, dressing them, and distributing your medication.

Furthermore, they are subjected to 24/7 working shifts to ensure that patients can receive immediate medical treatment when required. And trust me when I say that cleaning up of faeces is largely part of their duties. So the next time you're at your annual dental checkup or at the clinic "keng"-ing an MC, don't forget to say thank you to the nurses working there. 

3. Bus Drivers/MRT Station Staff

Admit it - when was the last time we genuinely smiled or thanked our friendly bus uncle whenever we boarded a bus? Or when was the last time we acknowledged the auntie with the lit baton standing at the MRT station platform to guide commuters during rush hours? We were probably too busy trying to rush for that empty seat that it simply slipped our minds. 

Bus drivers and MRT staff work long hours, on both weekdays and weekends. They even work during public holidays just to ensure that we have a functioning form of transportation. Most of them are simply trying to earn a living and even so, they are at times faced with verbal or even physical abuse by commuters.

We should never assume that they have it easy - for bus drivers to drive the same routes day in and day out (can you imagine driving from Woodlands to Changi Airport over 10 times a day?!), or for MRT staff to work those long hours dealing with multitudes of commuters. The least we can do is to say thank you, and to be a considerate passenger. 

4. Construction Workers

Here in Singapore, with every turn of a head, a swanky new shopping mall pops up. We tend to overlook the people who literally built that roof over our heads however -  the construction workers. 

In a 2014 census, there are 1.32 million foreign workers in Singapore and a bulk of them work in the construction sector. Because of this, construction workers are sometimes placed in a negative light and ostracised by Singaporeans. It's easy to judge and stereotype, but a lot harder to put ourselves in their shoes. 

We often see them working relentlessly under the hot afternoon sun, simply to ensure that the roads, buildings and even the scrubs by the side of the roads are completed. They often work for little pay, and from what they earn, most of it is sent back to their home country to raise their families. 

These quiet heroes in Singapore aren't always appreciated for what they do, but they are the ones who help make our lives a whole lot better. So the next time you come across a construction worker or two, show them some kindness and recognition. Whether it's giving them a simple smile or buying them a cold bottle of water as they work in the sweltering heat, all these little kind acts will be deeply felt. 

How to network like a pro in your first job

How to network like a pro in your first job

As uncomfortable as it can be to hear, the truth is that good grades and skills are not enough to enhance your career prospects. Believe it or not, learning to network well is just as important to your career. 

Just think about how you got your first job. Some of you probably mass sent out 200 of your resumes hoping for at least 10 replies, but most of you would have likely gotten it through a friend or a relative. Through a connection.

If one of your "contacts" gave you that job "lobang", that's you experiencing first-hand the power of networking. Here are 4 networking rules that might give you a boost in how you network at work.

1. Learn to listen

It's been scientifically proven that not only do we love talking about ourselves, but we love oversharing too. When it comes to networking with others in your job, it might be a breeze for some people to waltz around a room during a networking session to share all about yourself, what job you're in, and of course, how great you are. 

That pretty much guarantees any chance you had of leaving a good first impression. It doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about yourself, but it does mean that we should learn to listen more to what the other person has to say, and there you have it - an attempt at a productive two-way conversation that may just lead to building a long term connection that can benefit you both in your future career paths.

2. Only attend networking events related to your industry

Maybe you're an executive in a bank hoping to meet other professionals in the finance sector. You enter the event, only to realise that it's filled with people from the advertising industry - unless you have a keen interest in great copywriting, it will probably be a challenge to network effectively. 

If you can’t really understand what the other person is saying because he works in an industry that’s completely unrelated to yours, there's no point in sticking around to try too hard to make a connection. Try to select events that are in line with your primary objective.

Whether you're looking to learn from more seasoned professionals, looking for new career prospects, or simply to meet new and interesting people who are in the same field of work as you are. Talk, listen and connect not just with other networkers, but also try to help fellow networkers connect to other networkers too.

3. Don't oversell yourself

Networking isn’t about saying “hello” to random strangers at an event and giving out your business cards as if you are a flyer distributer at an MRT station. Too many people go into networking events with the mentality that they should ‘sell’ themselves. When in fact, it’s about building relationships, and possibly friendship outside of work, with people who can help enhance your career through advice, partnerships, and potential job connections. 

Networking should be about building genuine relationships with people, not about seeing everyone you meet as a possible business prospect that needs the product/service you’re hawking as part of your job responsibility. 

For a start, stop trying to oversell yourself and start trying to have a real conversation. Be more proactive in asking people questions so they are comfortable enough to open up to you. And if you’re looking for a job, don’t blatantly ask for job offers. Talk a little bit about your skills and what you are good at in a job. The person you’re talking to might not need your skills yet, but he might down the road. You may also get referrals too if he happens to think of you when talking to someone else. This all hinges on leaving a good impression. And the best impression to leave is always one of your true self. 

4. Don't forget to say thank you

Two simple words can make a world of difference when it comes to your career and whether people will have a good impressions of you - Thank You. It's a common courtesy that shows both respect, and gratitude, to the person you're talking to.

And it’s something you should definitely be doing often if you want to be a power networker when kickstarting your career. People appreciate when you remember them, and they’re more likely to remember you as well. This will pay off in the future.

After meeting someone, it’s always good to send that person an email, a text, or even a phone call to let the person know that you appreciated meeting them. By giving someone you met a follow-up thank you, it opens up not only doorways to building upon that initial relationship you created when you first spoke and exchanged business cards, but also building up trust.

A good tip on how to easily remember someone you just met at a networking event? Write down 1-2 memorable notes about that person on his/her name card after meeting them. It should be things that struck you most about that person while you were talking - personal bits of information such as hobbies, pets, or work related skills such as interesting job they've worked on or overseas experience. This will make it easier to recall someone you met, as well as give you something to ask about when you compose your thank you.

How do you stay happy when you feel like giving up?

How do you stay happy when you feel like giving up?

What’s making you unhappy?

You were happy before. But now going through life seems like a dreadful chore. You feel disengaged and bored at school. You don’t want to leave this damaging relationship because you still want to make it work. You know things can get better but you don’t know where and how to begin.

Being unhappy is no good for you and the people around you. No one wants to be around someone who’s unhappy with themselves and neglects their responsibilities. And your loved ones definitely hurt when they see you hurting too.

Change begins with you. We present 6 actionable steps that we hope can be taken right at this moment to start being happy.

1) Start your day off with something to look forward to

How your day starts determines how the rest of your day goes. Have something to look forward to whether in between or at the end of the day. Something that keeps your mood up and excites you. Some examples are attending a class you’re passionate about, reading a book, meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while, or simple things such as eating your favourite food, visiting your grandparents, or giving a relative a call.

One thing you should constantly remind yourself is, you don’t need other people or material possessions to make you happy. But don’t get us wrong. Spending time with your family and friends is something you should look forward to and can help you stay happy at work when we possess relationships out of work we can count on.

However, placing your happiness in the hands of another and expecting them to make you happy does not work. You’re in charge of your own happiness. You know yourself best. So, start filling up your day with little things that make you happy.

2) Set goals, and focus on one thing at a time

We should set goals to accomplish things in life - our dreams, our achievements, our responsibilities. It could be to ace that group presentation today, complete writing that report, or being consistent at the gym.

We need to establish daily, weekly, or monthly goals. Our goals provide us direction, help us to look forward, keep us motivated, happy, and enable us to evaluate our performance gradually. When we’re focus on completing a goal, we feel challenge and put in our best effort to achieve it. We need to find meaning and purpose in our life to pique our interest and curiosity. 

All this is important so that we do not find ourselves stuck in a repetitious cycle of doing things that doesn’t help us to grow. This is what causes you to feel emotionally and mentally disinterested at what you're doing. 

3) Create a playlist to boost your mood

This depends on whether you can concentrate on the things you're doing when listening to music. Most of us listen to music when we’re on the MRT, when we're studying or at work, and even when we sleep.

Music enhances our mood and is capable of making us happy. Most of us don’t live alone, and there’re all kinds of conversations, phone calls, and distraction that can get overwhelming. That’s when you need music to help you lay off the distractions and outside noise.

People also listen to music to manage their moods and create a barrier from their external surroundings. It can be helpful, depending on what you choose to listen to. Our brain is constantly trying to process new data; therefore, you may want to avoid any new music when you’re dealing with a project with an upcoming deadline because your brain is unable to focus. Therefore, listening to familiar songs can do wonders for helping you concentrate.

4) Stay away from gossip and drama

As much as we can, we need to learn to step away from gossip and drama that surrounds us. Unless it involves you directly, it saps our energy and leaves us more dreadful than before. It does nothing but cause us temporary satisfaction when we hear of what befalls others, but ultimately, the outcome is pointless and does nothing to benefit our lives. This is unhealthy.

Politics exist and happen everywhere – whether in school, in the office, and even amongst friends. There’ll always be someone or a group of people involved in gossiping and stirring up drama. You may not prevent it, but you can choose to step away. While it may seem entertaining or refreshing to hear something juicy, it doesn’t do you any good. Plus, it can often make you seem untrustworthy in the eyes of others.

5) Start a side project

Do you want to spend the rest of your life building the dream of someone else? No.

You have dreams you want to fulfil. You may not have what you need to fulfil them now, but you can constantly work towards it. What you choose to do on an everyday basis will never fail you. Remember that.

Pick something you are interested in, and work towards developing it into a potential career. Even if it doesn't pan out, at least you have created a hobby out of it, and most importantly, you have enjoyed it. 

For instance, if you've always wanted start an online leather-crafting business, you can start by setting aside a portion of your allowance/salary and spend it on courses or training to understand more about the techniques of working with leather. With that, you can start small and slowly boost your business.

When you have a side project to work on, it motivates you to work harder and push yourself out of your comfort zone. This thought process not only helps you to perform better at work or in school, it also helps you to develop into a better person as you move towards your dreams.

4 ways to tell if you have an Instagram addiction

4 ways to tell if you have an Instagram addiction

While 'Instagram Addict' is not an official medical diagnosis (although it does make a cool superhero name), there are increasing studies showing that Instagram can be addictive and carries several potentially long-term harmful effects.

Of course, no one knows for sure whether they have become addicted. Millions of people log onto Instagram every day with no harmful consequences, but here's a checklist of 4 ways to tell if that 'tap to like' has developed into a full blown problem for yourself or someone you care about.

Note: these suggestions are NOT medical advice, and you should consult a doctor if you think you (or someone you know) may have a genuine physical or psychological addiction. 

#1: You constantly check your Instagram Feed throughout the day

How many times do you refresh the app each day, hoping to see more hearts on your recently uploaded photos? And how many times do you scroll through your feed each hour, giving yourself FOMO over what everyone else on this planet is digitally up to? 

There's nothing wrong with looking at Instagram every day. But if you're using it excessively, that's where the cause for concern lies. A good tip to follow if you're still studying is: After excluding study-related computer usage like typing a Word doc or preparing a Powerpoint presentation, your total screen time should not exceed three hours per day. This includes watching Youtube videos and texting.

You can also choose an allocated time of day you will log onto Instagram. For instance, allow yourself half an hour in the morning browsing while you're travelling to school, and another half an hour in the evening. Set a timer on your phone and stop when the alarm buzzes you that it's times up. 

If you're finding yourself scrolling through Instagram for hours on end and snoozing the alarm ten times, it may be time to go cold turkey.

#2: Instagram is causing you some emotional issues

You take a photo in a picturesque overseas location, in your outfit of the day, complete with dreamy look and wind-tossed hair. Then you post the picture on Instagram, complete with humblebrag caption of: "Bali’s wind is seriously too strong. Now my hair is all messed up”.

Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

Only 22 likes?! *DELETES PHOTO*

Instagram can start out nice, then quickly spiral into something nasty. It’s like a little window to the world that you can hold in the palm of your hand. You can sit by it after a long day at school and watch all the interesting people pass by — scrolling through your feed, liking photos, exploring hashtags, following new people, and generally taking it all in.

Then before you know it, you start feeling jaded about your own life because of all the exciting photos you see on Instagram. It starts off small, like a wistful sigh looking at all the exotic locations or food, and then it slowly builds up into "her makeup skills are so on point, why can't I be as pretty", or "I wish I had a body like that. I bet all the girls will flock to me if I looked that ripped with that 6 pack" and you feel like you cannot measure up.

Have you felt any of that happening to you? If you do, perhaps it's time to set your phone to airplane mode and distract yourself in healthier ways like reading a book or watching a movie with friends who love you for who you are right at this moment. not for who you might become.

#3: Instagram has become your daily priority 

Here’s when I knew my love for Instagram had morphed into an addiction: Instead of paying attention to my boyfriend over dinner, I would immediately reach for my phone once the food is served and tap my Instagram icon. My boyfriend is a techie too, and I started to notice that we would often end up spending our date nights together with our phones instead of actually interacting with one another! I found this to be really sad, and knew something had to be done. 

Now I have a 'zero checking Instagram' policy when I'm with other people. The ideal thing to do when you’re in any social situation is to not be on your phone at all, but nowadays it's unavoidable. The max I will go is to quickly snap a photo to be posted later on. That's fair game, right? 

I just try hard not to sit there and scroll through my feed when I’m hanging out with other people. Most of all when I'm with someone taking me out on a date! 

#4: Instagram is bringing out your dark side 

Sometimes I become bothered by the way Instagram can bring out my uglier side. I often have knee-jerk reactions of judging another person's photo, and if my fingers type a little faster than my brain can think through, I end up typing a comment that can actually be hurtful before I catch myself and frantically delete while cursing myself for being such a troll. 

Whether it is posting comments that hurt others’ feelings, posting up pictures that paint a false lifestyle, or even getting a little too nosy with other people’s lives, if you feel that Instagram is causing you to become someone even you won't want to be friends with... it might be time for an insta-hiatus. Quit Instagram for a week to detox, and then try again after setting some boundaries for yourself about what you won't do on the app. 

6 ways to increase your persuasive powers

6 ways to increase your persuasive powers

Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world.
— Thomas Carlyle

Persuasion is power. Almost everyday of our human lives and social interactions are made up of attempts to influence others to see things from our point of views. 

Persuasion is not a bad thing until it crosses the line into becoming manipulative and exploiting others into doing things against their will or that they are uncomfortable with. We're talking about persuasion that when put to good use can win over and inspire others.

Here are 6 ways we can learn from to increase our persuasive skills in today's competitive world. 

1. Reciprocity: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

We generally dislike feeling indebted to others. The principle of reciprocity states that people naturally feel obligated to pay back their debts. We feel the need to give back to those we have received favours from. 

A study done by Dr. Robert Cialdini found that by approaching people in public to answer surveys, asking people for

Interestingly, using norms of reciprocity to get what you need from people can often be more effective than using money. To support this statement, my field of work requires me to gather data informally by approaching people in public to answer surveys and I’ve often found that asking people “for a favor” to complete surveys is more effective than offering people $5 for their time to do the same surveys.

Reciprocal norms are thus extremely powerful as a means to persuade and influence people. Give first and the other party will most likely do the same. 

2. Certainty: Being assured by others feels good 

Uncertainty is a scary feeling. We don’t like feeling unsure of what to do. One way people reduce this feeling is to observe what other people are doing. There is a saying, "There is safety in numbers" - if you are doing what the majority of people around you are doing, you're less likely to be singled out and judged.

Imagine you are in a new country and unsure of where to have dinner at. You see that Restaurant A has a longer queue than Restaurant B. Most of us will be drawn to Restaurant A simply because we perceive it as have better food due to the long queue. 

How you can apply this to your life is when talking to someone you'd like to persuade, it helps to tell them what other like-minded people prefer, or to reassure them that their decision is the "right" one as other people have also done the same. You may find yourself having an easier time getting them to listen to you. 

3. Authority: Being assured by someone important feels even better

People have a tendency to obey authority figures. Somewhat similar to point number 2 above, when people receive recognition from someone important like an expert or respected leader, it becomes another way for them to validate their point of views so that others are more likely to listen to them.

When trying to persuade someone, it helps to engage the help of someone of authority to validate what you're trying to say. It could be a professor or expert in the topic that you're trying to pitch. I'm sure these people are more than willing to listen and offer some excellent advice most of the time.

This will give you a certain trustworthiness as you're basically "borrowing" their persuasiveness instead of just banking on your own. 

4. Consistency: People want to follow through

Humans have a deep-seated need to be seen (and validated) as consistent. Once we commit to something or someone, like making a promise or signing a contract, we’re likely to follow through on that commitment.

In the mid-1960s, psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser decided to explore the “foot-in-the-door” technique. This is a popular sales tactic where you start off by asking the customer to fulfil a small request that's usually very easy to agree to. Once that has been fulfilled, it is usually easier for the customer to agree to a larger request later on. 

The psychologists asked some homeowners if they would agree to place a large signboard on their front lawn stating "Drive Carefully". Only 17% of the people they asked agreed to it. However, another group of homeowners were first asked if they were willing to stick a small sticker on their window that reads, “Be a safe driver” (which almost 100% agreed to). Then, two weeks later, they asked the homeowners whether they can place the large "Drive Carefully" signboard on their lawn. A whopping 76% of this second group agreed! 

What does this tell us? 

The “foot-in-the-door” technique exploits our fundamental human need to be consistent. This consistency effect is stronger when the promise is made publicly or in writing, because now there are consequences to breaking that promise. You can apply this technique personally when persuading someone by requesting for a small favour and then slowly building it up to a bigger one.

5. Scarcity: Supply and demand

Scarcity is defined as the image of certain things becoming more attractive when people think that there is limited availability. The harder it is to get something, the more valuable it gets. 

People often use scarcity to gauge whether something is valuable and worth their time. This is why you hear about Singaporeans queuing for over 7 hours for Hello Kitty charms simply because they exist in limited quantities. FOMO! - Fear Of Missing Out. Humans hate the idea that they are missing out. Of course, I prefer the local term 'kiasu'.

How you can apply this in your life is to be strategic about advertising your availability. Emphasise the scarcity of your time to inflict urgency to others. It may just help you to persuade others to listen to you better due to your high demand. 

6. Likeabilty: The more you like someone, the more you'll listen to them

This one is a tough nut to crack. Obviously, we can't expect every single person to like us. But the principle behind this technique is to focus on making yourself likable and work to cultivate a positive image of yourself. It doesn't mean to flatter other unnecessarily or to become fake about it. 

There are many ways you can compliment someone sincerely, such as thanking them for playing their part in the group project, congratulating them for an accomplishment, or even on an outfit which you find stylish. We’re attracted to people who make us feel good about ourselves and most importantly, if they are willing to co-operate with us. 

Ever had someone you don't particularly like in the same group as you are? As long as you know that person is willing to cooperate and contribute his part in the group project, it can make you appreciate him more as you get to know him better. Take the perspective of the other side by working to find a common ground and signal a willingness to work together. 

That may work wonders in making you a genuinely likeable person.

Leadership lessons from a shirtless dancing guy

Leadership lessons from a shirtless dancing guy

You have heard a lot about leadership from different sources and different people. But have you taken any leadership advice from a shirtless, dancing guy? Let us watch a movement unfold in 3 minutes and dissect the important lessons that a shirtless, dancing guy can teach us.

So what are some important lessons we can take away?

1. If you have a vision, dare to make a difference

The shirtless guy wanted to see people around him dancing, instead of lazing around on a bright Sunday afternoon. So what did he do? He started with himself, dancing away passionately, regardless of the weird stares that people gave him.

2. If you want to make a difference, make it easy for people to follow

You have a vision in your head. How do you get it across to others? Perhaps, you can use a thousand words to inspire and to challenge. Or you can just get to doing things, which was what Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the shirtless guy in the video did, because action speaks louder than words. Either way, help your followers know what they are expected to do.

3. If you have people following you, know that your followers are as important as you

Yes, you may be the one representing your team on stage to receive a medal. Yes, you may be the one everyone consults to see whether a plan is workable. Yes, you may be the one the juniors look up to. But don’t you get a big head. You are where you are today because people voted for your promise; people decided to entrust their future to your vision. Never forget that.

4. If you are a follower, know that without you, the movement will be one person less

And when there are only a few people in the movement to begin with, you role is indispensable.

Many a times, we look to a movement and only see the leader. We only see the brain of the vision. We forget that without followers, an idea cannot become a movement; without followers, the leader is only a lone nut. And out of all the followers, the first follower is the most important. If the leader gave birth to the vision, then the first follower is the mid-wife that brought it to this world. He was the one who first stood by the leader. The one who joined hands with the leader and gave him all the encouragement and reassurance to labour for his vision.

5. But with you, the movement will only be one person more too

Of course your presence is important when there are only a few people to begin with. However, it is annoying when someone acts like he/she is part of the “in crowd” and makes a big fuss out of it.

Once an idea has gained momentum, it is no longer risky to be part of the movement. There are too many people for you to be ridiculed if the movement fails. And if it succeeds, well, you will be ridiculed for not joining. What is there to gloat about when you are just sitting on the fence until you see which side is clearly more advantageous?

And the key takeaway for today… Leadership is over-glorified. All our lives, our schools have been training us to be leaders. As if we can all be leaders. If you really, truly, care about something, go and find a leader to follow. Society needs 10 successful movements consisting of 1 leader and 9 followers way more than it needs 100 lone nuts parading the streets.

Do you like what you see in the mirror?

Do you like what you see in the mirror?

From the diet pills craze in the 1960's to the Atkin's Diet restricting carbs in the 1970's to the extreme endurance events of the 2000's. People have long inspired to change their body size throughout history. We are always looking for a way to slim down and tone up. 

When you look into the mirror, do you like what you see? 

Body image in the age of social media 

Now more than ever with Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, we have newer and more critical ways to compare ourselves with others. More specifically, to compare our bodies with other people's bodies. 

Thanks to an array of free photo editing apps, we also have the power to alter our looks. We can now cover up pimples, make our eyes bigger, our complexion glowly, all with a swipe of a finger. All these tools can be a lot of fun, but they can become deceptive as well. Everyone on social media has become hotter, thinner and completely unlike their real self. The danger happens when some people become obsessed for hours over the "perfect" selfie to post on Instagram, or when filtered Instagram feeds become reality to them. 

A toxic mirror

Psychologists have found evidence linking social media usage to unhealthy body image issues such as a drive for thinness, narcissism, and self-objectification in teenagers. This doesn't mean that being on social media will cause these problems, but there is proof of a strong co-relation between them.

Don't you think you want a certain amount of likes on the photos that you post? I've been guilty of deleting a photo which didn't get the number of likes that I wanted. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are giving young people the tools to earn approval for their looks, as well as to compare themselves to others nowadays, and it will be good to catch yourself and pull yourself back when you feel that you are treading on dangerous grounds. 

Ultimately, these are virtual approvals which should never mean anything to us. The only approval that matters are those of your own, as well as those of your loved ones. 

A clear line between a 'like' and your self-worth

Insecurity always stems from comparison. I try to avoid comparing myself, my work, and my image with others. It's hard sometimes when all I see when my Instagram feed is flooded with toned bodies in bikinis frolicking in exotic locations. But one thing that always boosts my confidence when I need it is to stay positive and true to myself.

One thing you can do with close friends is to write everyone's names down on individual pieces of paper. The paper is then passed around and everyone take turns writing down what they genuinely like or appreciate about that person. But all anonymously, so no one knows who wrote what. 

For example, if Jason's paper comes my way, I will write down how I like that he love animals and spends his holidays at the SPCA with the strays. I also think he is tall and plays basketball well. When Sue Lynn's paper comes my way, I can write down that I think she looks pretty without makeup on and I love her sense of style. She is not fat so I hope she stops thinking of herself that way. 

When you produce positivity, positivity tends to come back to you. Another step that we can take towards creating a more positive body image for ourselves is to unfollow the Instagram/Snapchat accounts that create an unrealistic expectation for our lives and our looks. We can't all be Kardashians, can we. And start following more body-positivity accounts. Some accounts to start with can be @nadiaaboulhosn, @aerie and @Proud2BMe

With more and more body-positivity accounts and movements gaining momentum, I think it's only a matter of time until our universal definition of beauty is replaced with a broader idea of beauty. Not one that is dictated by the media. 

Now more than ever, a good old-fashioned "I love you just the way you are" as you look into the mirror may just be what we all need.

We have way less facial expressions that we think...

We have way less facial expressions that we think...

One of my favourite things to do is to sit at a cafe (best if it's a corner seat) and people watch. It's astounding what one can learn simply from a person's body language and facial expressions.

When it comes to facial expressions, we like to think that we humans win top prize for most number of expressions created. Most of the time, my cat has only two expressions - bored and annoyed. And when it comes to facial expressions, we like to think that we are pretty good at reading what other people are thinking or how they are feeling purely based on expression too.

If you happen to have Resting Bitch Face, good luck. 

If you happen to have Resting Bitch Face, good luck. 

Make a wild guess. How many facial expressions do you think humans are capable of? If you start counting, you’ll probably come up with some like happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, surprise, confusion, hunger, boredom, and impatience.

According to psychology professor Dr. Paul Ekman, there are only six facial expressions which are considered distinct expressions. They are anger, fear, surprise, happiness, contempt, and disgust.

Six doesn’t seem like very much at all! But the University of Glasgow took this even further by challenging Dr. Ekman's theory with the idea that humans are actually only capable of four facial expressions. They suggest that disgust and anger should be counted as one expression, as well as fear and surprise.

Guess this movie should be labelled under the 'Documentary' genre?

Guess this movie should be labelled under the 'Documentary' genre?

Our facial expressions don't happen all at once, obviously, so how researchers came to the conclusion of four expressions is by a time-lapse examination of how how, when, and which facial muscles were activated for each different expression. They found that disgust and anger, as well as fear and surprise, started out the same way.

Disgust and anger both started with one key element -- a wrinkled nose, that then evolved to differentiate one expression from the other. Fear and surprise both started with both eyes widening.

All this happens in milliseconds. But when it comes to human survival, a split second can often make all the difference between life and death. Early humans have long relied on their reflexes to keep alive, and at the core, I guess that's what facial expressions are all about. Giving them that split second longer to survive.

This can also be applied in our current daily lives. Knowing what to look for may give you an added advantage when it comes to telling whether someone’s lying, picking up on a fake smile, as well as diagnosing potential mental health issues.

While it might seem as though people are capable of a wide range of facial expressions, now we know we only really have four: happiness, sadness, fear/surprise, and disgust/anger. 

4 effective techniques to overcome your fears

4 effective techniques to overcome your fears

Almost every person has some form of fear or phobia. A phobia is a type of extreme fear and anxiety towards an object or a situation in which the person will go to great lengths just to avoid.

From closed-in spaces to heights, dogs to flying cockroaches, there are phobias of all kinds - and many of them are irrational. You may be able to bungee jump of the world's tallest bridge with ease, but break out in a sweat panicking when faced with public speaking. 

boo.

boo.

No one knows just what causes fear and phobias. They can start at childhood and disappear over time, or they can suddenly be triggered by a traumatic experience late in adulthood. So what can we do to prevent our fears from interfering too much with our lives?

Here are 4 types of mental techniques that can be used the next time you're seized by fear and want to crawl into the nearest corner to hide.

1. Create a "fear ladder" and slowly climb up it

Creating a fear ladder is a great psychological method to break down all the fear-related things that make up a fear, and then slowly tackle them in bite-sized pieces.

For example, Vanessa is deathly afraid of dogs. She tends to avoid places where there are dogs, such as parks or beaches (even though she used to love going to Sentosa beach on the weekends). She will cross the road or turn around if she sees someone walking with a dog. Vanessa's goal is to be able to be near dog with excessive fearing.

First, she will list down all the things that she's scared of regarding dogs and rank them 1-10 from least scary to scariest. Then, she can start organizing those fear items in a ladder format. The least scary item goes on the bottom rung, and every item has its own rung all the way up to the scariest item at the top-most rung. It will look something like this: 

Vanessa will then tackle each step on the fear ladder in her own time under controlled exposure to dogs, until she is comfortable enough to finally be able to pet a large dog that's off-leash.

Once she has completed the fear ladder and can tolerate being around dogs, she can start a new ladder tackling other fears she may have. You can print out a blank fear ladder template here and start overcoming your own fears too!

2. Be aware of your own mental exaggerations

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When under stress or pressure from fears, no matter how irrational, the human mind will start exaggerating the danger so as to speed up the fight or flight response. This is why when you are afraid of something, your palms go sweaty and you may even feel like fainting.

For Vanessa and her fear of dogs, one of the mental exaggerations would be that all dogs are scary and will bite her, especially the larger ones. By being aware that she constantly thinks this way, she can prepare a response to counter this such as watching youtube videos where big dogs are behaving gently towards young children, or if she has friends who have children as well as own a dog, she can take a trip to their place to see how the dog acts around the family on a typical day.

Being aware of your own mental exaggerations and having a response for each of them will help to assure yourself that the situation you are experiencing fear in is not as dangerous as you think it is. 

3. Arm yourself with facts that will help minimize your fears

Similar to the previous technique of having a response for each of your mental exaggerations, this is taking it one step further by arming yourself with solid facts to counter any irrational fear thoughts you may have.

This is especially helpful if you fear a situation that is unavoidable, such as fear of flying in planes. Sooner or later, you are bound to sit in one when travelling, so it helps to prepare yourself mentally beforehand by reading up on hard facts to dispel the fears and help ease your discomfort.

Fact: Air travel is the second safest mode of transportation in the world. It is second only to taking the elevator! Fact: Your chance of being in a plane crash is 1 in 11 million. Fact: The most dangerous part of your trip, was actually taking the taxi to the airport. 

4. Learn simple relaxation techniques

By learning relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises, they can be used as a coping mechanism for when your fear is causing serious anxiety or triggering breathing difficulties. 

A simple breathing exercise is to you breathe in and out in sequence to the numbers as you count to 10. Breathe in '1'. Breathe out '2'. Breathe in '3'. Breathe out '4', and so on. 

Another immediate way to stop anxiety from rising is to consciously relax your body from head to toe, focusing on how your muscles are progressively relaxing. Think about your blades of hair softening, to your scalp, to your forehead, and so on -- all the way till you reach your toes. This technique helps to shift your mind's focus away from your fear at the moment, so your body can stop being tense and start to relax.

Try either one of these methods out the next time you feel thrown out of your comfort zone. 

Should we be concerned about the Selfie Culture?

Should we be concerned about the Selfie Culture?

I literally had to sit my boyfriend down and explain to him why it was important for me to Snapchat the new and interesting things we experienced when travelling overseas.

He was growing annoyed with the way he always had to wait until I had snapped a photo of the food we're about the partake, before getting to taste it. Or the way he would turn around to excitedly talk to me about something beautiful that was unfolding before our eyes, only to see that I was looking at it through my iPhone's camera lens instead of savouring the moment for what it was.

Me. All the damn time. 

Me. All the damn time. 

I understood where he was coming from. But could he also see my point of view? Snapchat-ing has become a way for me to compile travel diaries of the places we went to, as well as to share them with close friends. I showed him a compilation of snaps that made up an entire week of our trip to Osaka, and I could see him appreciating the memories re-unfolding before him again.

We had managed to reach a tentative compromise.

The selfie culture

The phenomenon of constant photo-taking or video-taking with a phone is something that occured only within the last decade. While it’s debatable when holding out your phone to take a photo of yourself became a ‘thing’, in 2013, ‘selfie’ was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.

It's defined as  “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." With over 200 million users on Snapchat, and over 600 million on Instagram, more and more young people are using selfies to communicate with each other.

And it’s not just to communicate, but every moment, mundane or not, seems to need to be captured, just in case. Sometimes I find myself thinking in squares when I'm taking a photo because I want to use it as an Instagram post later. I know of certain friends who carefully edit and curate their selfies, posting them at certain times of day – and making sure it is not too frequently or infrequently - in order to get the right number of likes.

I also know of certain friends who will delete a photo they have posted just because it doesn’t get likes quickly enough. Is all of this really necessary? Should we be concerned about the long-term effects?

What are the dangers of the selfie culture?

Branding yourself is not a new concept. However, branding yourself with a certain image that you want the world (or your followers) to see is the new form of personal branding.

Someone might only post photos with white backgrounds, or of a certain filter, or perhaps within a certain pantone colour theme. Selfies often are captioned with poems or song lyrics. Sometimes, the more elusive and random, the better. I guess there's nothing wrong with all of these. I would argue that it only becomes dangerous when a lot more of our time is spent capturing moments rather than living life and enjoying moments.

The danger of this selfie culture is the constant comparison game. Even though the majority of millennials are doing it, most still fall victim to comparing themselves to the picture-perfect-fantasy-life that others are portraying. Or worse, that the media is flooding us with. The power of these social connections, can give you a high when you receive positive reinforcement, and a low when you seemingly don’t. Comparing the number of likes can then become a slippery slope leading to potential issues such as depression and self-harm, low self esteem and narcissism.

So what is the solution?

Change your mindset from Dependence to Independence. Instead of trying to get a rush of connection, power, and self-worth from how many people like your photos, find a different way that puts you in control.

Find your experience of connection by forming deep, real bonds with people who genuinely care about you, and that you care about too.

Find your experience of power by pushing through your fears and challenging yourself by not posting anything on social media for 24 hours. I started this as a kind of dare to myself, but slowly found that I was relishing the offline moments and now have managed to wean myself off constantly checking Facebook and Instagram every few hours. 

It's not about never taking another selfie ever again, or shutting down your social platforms. It’s about filling those desires in other ways (in real ways) so you no longer need anything from selfies. And their importance diminishes.

What to say to nosy people

What to say to nosy people

We've all been asked rude questions in our lives. It could be from strangers, acquaintances, or even by close friends. (Just because your best buddy is asking an uncomfortable question, doesn't mean that you are obligated to answer) 

Although everyone slips up now and then, like saying congratulations to someone whom you thought was pregnant, but she's actually just fat... Some people seem to relish being nosy in every aspect of your life.

Although it's tempting to scream "Mind your own business!" in their faces, here's how to respond to rude and nosy people with grace and tact:

1. Give them the benefit of doubt

People are often unaware that they are exhibiting poor manners. But even if they know what they're doing, you should never stoop to responding to bad manners with worse manners.

For example, if someone asks if you've gained weight recently "'cos you look fatter", it's a terribly insensitive remark, but respond with smile and say, “I’m feeling wonderful. How about you?”

The tone should be even and not sarcastic. That should get the point across that you don’t want to honour a rude question with an answer. If possible, just laugh without answering the question and then change the subject. 

2. As much as you can, be prepared with responses

For times when you may have no choice but to find yourself in a hot spot of being asked awkward questions, such as being the only single person sitting at a Chinese New Year dinner, you need to arm yourself with some answers. Even if it’s a question that's asked with good intentions as they want you to be happy, hearing it over and over will make you anything but happy.

As soon as you're being interrogated by that rude auntie you've been avoiding the whole time about when you're going to get married, prepare several responses to handle her. You can choose to give them the answer that are looking for such as, "I would like to, but I haven't found someone to spend the rest of my life with yet.", or with a joke such as, "aiyah, I haven't found someone that is as pretty as you yet!"

If you are emotionally prepared to handle the questions from nosy people, it will help greatly in preventing yourself from feeling frustrated or being caught in a spot. 

3. Set boundaries

There is such an abundance of rude questions, not to mention people who ask them, that you could spend all day thinking of sarcastic responses. Instead of wasting your valuable time, have a few standard replies that work in a variety of situations, but more importantly, set a boundary for yourself.

As long as the question involve certain topics that you are uncomfortable with answering, decide to not respond with an answer at all. This is usually a last resort method, but by ignoring that person, it lets them know that you consider them rude for asking such a question.

If it's a close friend, you may want to respond seriously and transparently in hopes that he/she will not ask you those questions again. Pause, smile, and say, “Did you really just ask me that? Why would you ask me such a rude question?”

If that person is someone important to you, and sees you as important too, it will help your friendship become stronger by talking it out. 

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

From breathing in lavender-scented essential oil, to going for a kickboxing class to work out your pent up frustrations, and even sleeping with a weighted blanket to help relieve insomnia -- there are a ton of ways to help relieve stress, but they all seem to cost a pretty penny. 

The good news is that we have some science-backed ways to help you lower the stress hormones in your body. The better news is that they are all free, and can be practiced in the comforts of your own home. 

What are stress hormones, anyway? 

Stress hormones are also known as cortisol. They are hormones produced by the adrenaline gland and influences our immune responses, metabolism, and blood pressure as part of a "fight or flight" survival mechanism that the human body naturally created to give us the energy to survive in stressful situations.

In today’s hectic world, we are dealing more with emotional stress rather than physical dangers. But our body can’t tell the difference so it continues to tell cortisol to do its job. If we don't manage to deal with stress and lower our cortisol levels, having constantly high cortisol levels can deprive us of sleep, lead to weight gain, and cause various immunity and digestive problems. Here are some simple hacks you can apply to reduce cortisol levels and feel better:

1. Sleeping an hour earlier can reduce cortisol levels by 50%

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There's a reason why your parents nag at you when they check in on you at 12am and you're still up youtubing away. The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated as it goes a long way in improving the quality of your life.

A study conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany showed that helicopter pilots who slept 6 hours instead of the recommended 8 hours had an increase of 50-80% in cortisol levels. If, however, for some reason you don't manage to get enough sleep, try to take a nap the following day. It can work wonders in bringing your cortisol levels down as well.

2. Drinking black tea can reduce cortisol levels by 47%

Tea time! What's popularly seen in movies and tv drama series as the time old ladies sip tea and gossip about the neighbours. It's no wonder those old ladies are living to a ripe old age, researchers from the University College London conducted an experiment over a period of six weeks where a group of volunteers was given 4 cups of black tea every day, while another group was drinking plain water. 

Both groups were given stressful tasks to complete, and while they recorded similar increase in cortisol levels, those who drank black tea had 47% lower cortisol levels an hour after completing the tasks. Those who drank water had their cortisol levels decreased just 27%.

So pick your favourite time of the day when you can be on your own, make yourself a cup of Lipton black tea in the kitchen and enjoy the silence. Try to make this your daily habit.

3. Listening to soothing music reduces cortisol levels by 66%

If you're not a fan of tea, I'm sure you are a fan of listening to music. We all know that music can stir up emotions in us, but did you know certain genres can evoke more positive emotions and lift our spirits? We can all benefit by using music as part of our stress-relief therapy.

A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information explored the effects of instrumental music during a surgery procedure, and proved that soothing music helped the patient reduce cortisol levels by up to 66%. The types of music that are the most effective are instrumental music such as classical, soft jazz, and sounds of nature. 

So, whenever you feel like you are going to explode, plug in your earphones and play some music. It helps to create a "I’m-not-going-to-freak-out" playlist on Youtube or Spotify, and make that your go-to music when you need to unwind. This is a good channel to start off with. 

How to handle an awkward conversation

How to handle an awkward conversation

Whether you're tasked with addressing a classmate's lack of personal hygiene (and use of deodorant), or your friend's pet cat just died and you're at a loss for words on how to console her. Awkward conversations are really uncomfortable.

They are also inevitable in life. Sometimes, you need to face them head-on, even when it's uncomfortable to do so. Here are some ways to make an awkward conversation less awkward:

1. Avoid strained silence 

Studies show that it takes only four seconds of awkward silence to skyrocket your anxiety levels during a conversation. The higher your anxiety levels, the more tongue-tied you'll be too.

If you're planning to approach someone for a tough talk, plan what you're going to say in advance. Knowing what you need to communicate across can help you deliver your message in a way that will prevent as much awkward silence as possible.

2. Acknowledge your discomfort

Denying your discomfort can sometimes cause you to come across as insincere. If you start realising that you're fidgeting too much and averting eye contact, let the other person know that you are uncomfortable by simply saying, "Sorry, I'm a little uncomfortable bringing this up."

Especially when the setting is a difficult one, such as offering condolences for the death of a loved one, or approaching a school mate to rebuke him/her about not pulling their weight in the group project, acknowledging your anxiety can help. 

3. Speak privately 

If you know that what you are about to say to the other person may be awkward or result in some intense emotional response. Please do not hold an impromptu conversation in the corridor when you happen to pass by the person.

Instead, suggest to meet in a private setting where no one else can overhear. This can be a room or a quiet corner. And if someone else brings up an awkward subject first in a public setting, you can suggest holding the conversation elsewhere.

4. Be polite, yet direct

This advice is more for when you are about to say some harsh words to someone. Soften harsh words by being thoughtful about how the other person will feel or respond. Instead of saying, "John, the other students say you smell damn bad leh!," soften the blow by saying, "What I'm about to tell you might be a little difficult to hear." This gives the other person a minute to emotionally prepare for what you're about to say.

At the same time, while it's important to be polite, don't soften your words so much that your message gets lost. Going around in circles will only add to the other person's confusion about what's really happening.

5. Listen

After saying your part, don't forget to listen. Give the other person a chance to process what you've said, and be an active listener by offering any clarifications on parts that may have been misunderstood.

Also be prepared for the other person to experience some intense emotions. This can range from from embarrassment, sadness, or anger. Unless the person becomes violent, be ready to help the other person process those emotions for a bit.

5 ways to survive a tough time

5 ways to survive a tough time

In life, you are going to experience moments of memorable joy i.e. the first time you rode a two-wheeled bicycle all on your own, your first kiss... and there's also going to be moments of unspeakable difficulties i.e. the first time someone close to you passed away, or going through your parents' divorce. 

When trying to get through tough times, the goal is not to pretend to be happy for others' sake. But instead, to navigate through it with the healthy balance of letting the grief come and then slowly recovering from the hardship. Here are 5 ways you can help yourself, or a loved one, recover from a difficult time:

1. Give yourself the time to recover

Allow yourself space to be sad. Most of the time, society expects us to put on a mask and carry on with life so as not to affect others around you. But doing that can be extremely harmful to your emotional wellbeing.

Give yourself the time to grieve, but don’t let it consume you. Set a time limit for yourself. When I was getting over my first break-up, I think I probably had a week of being upset, and then it was time to get up and move on. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Surround yourself with people who can help you move on

I want to stress that people who can help you move on does not mean getting drunk in the club and hooking up with the first person that makes you feel better. 

What can help tide you through difficult times are trusted friends who will rally around you and remind you of your worth. This does not only mean comforting words and shoulders to cry on, but they can also help to distract you from wallowing in your emotions by just being around

3. Do things that make you happy

On the road to recovery, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to give yourself some self-love. Find the thing that gets you through the hard days. It does not need to be a new hobby or something that is time-consuming, but whatever can bring you that little bit of joy to motivate you.

For me, it’s drinking a hot cup of tea in the evening after work, with a book in my hand and my cat in my lap. What's yours? It can be playing basketball with friends after school, going to watch a movie on your own, or treating yourself to some chocolates (the good brand kind!)

4. Keep the hope alive

Following the death of my best friend, knowing that I will one day see her again helps me overcome the sadness. In your mind, you know that it is not the end of the world. It's the having to take the effort to remind yourself of that again and again so that your heart can slowly mend. 

Whether you're getting over a break-up, or struggling over a close friend's betrayal, these are things that had happened and there is nothing we can do to change it. What's most important is to have hope that you will find love again, and there are people who genuinely care about you. As long as you have even one person who loves you, you are for extreme importance. Bonus: Your parents makes two people who love you :)

5. Let the tough times guide you

It’s okay to have setbacks and to feel heartbroken or devastated or sad.  You don’t need to feel ashamed or horrible about yourself because of feeling all those emotions. Ask yourself, "Okay, that’s just part of life. What can I learn from this and where do I want to go from here?”

We are only at the start of the year and I'm sure all of us have goals for 2017. It can be study goals, money goals, travel goals, so let the tough moments guide you into learning more about yourself and your feelings along the way.

4 ways to make faster, better decisions

4 ways to make faster, better decisions

Whether you are a tertiary student or university grad about to enter the working work for the first time, the ability to make good decisions is a precious skill to own. It's a skill that inspires confidence in your abilities, and as you grow older, will result in you being more self-aware and efficient. Here are 4 tips to help you kick-start the process of making smarter decisions:

1. Intuition is part of your decision making

Singaporeans in general love to do things "by the books". We like to honour thinking, while pushing emotions to the side. But studies in neuroscience have shown that intuition is an essential part of thinking. You have probably seen it a thousand times in movies where the protagonist has to choose the best course of action to get out of a tricky situation before the bomb goes off or the pretty woman dies. The solution just comes to them from somewhere in their subconscious mind.

The truth is pretty similar to that. Your brain stores bits of your life experience in folders, and the ones you rarely use are in folders covered with cobwebs stored in the back. When you get a nagging gut feeling, it's your intuition trying to recover information from those dusty folders and letting you know. We have to learn to let that information in by quieting the loud, logical voice in our mind, and allowing the quiet whisper of what you feel do the speaking.

2. Gather information, then take a break

It's not a coincidence that the best ideas usually pop up at the most inconvenient times, such as when you are drifting off to sleep or in the shower. When our days are crammed with activity, the brain gets exhausted. It's only when we're in a situation that doesn't require much brain power (i.e. shampooing our hair) that our brain can actually wander.

Next time you're faced with making a complex decision, review the information and gather input from the right people; then take a brain break. Do something that will distract your mind. If you're struggling with a particular essay topic for example, read up on the information and talk to your course mates or even the professor; and then take a walk to the canteen to get a snack. Your brain will continue to work on the problem during this downtime, allowing it to come up with incredible thoughts. Which can lead to incredible results.

3. Be wary of over thinking things

Ever had a group project discussion with your classmates and these phrases seem to pop up: "This is taking up way too much time", "We've covered this point already" and "We're making things harder than they should be". If so, they are clear indicators that you guys are overthinking the problem. 

When this happens, take a step back and re-evaluate. Being aware that overthinking is happening is the first step in putting an end to it. Start over, and if it still seems like the discussion is getting nowhere, reschedule the session for a later time or another day. Stewing on a problem without solutions for long periods of time isn't productive anyway. 

4. Start exploring your gut feeling

Gut feeling is similar to intuition, except where intuition is helping you to dig up old forgotten information stored somewhere in your brain, gut feeling usually helps you identify whether you are feeling fear. They also usually occur when a split second decision needs to be made. 

Once I was about to try bungee jumping in Thailand. As I was contemplating doing it, I kept asking myself “What’s bothering me?” and “What’s doesn't feel right?”. These questions were helping to coax my brain to identify whether I was feeling fearful about the idea of jumping off a cliff with nothing but a cord attached to my legs, or because of some other underlying reason. My friends kept encouraging me to go for it, but I somehow felt uneasy about it and I decided against going for the jump. A little later, we found out from another group after us that one of the cords had snapped. It may not have been the exact cord that I would have used but I was glad I made that decision.

There will be times when you are feeling uncomfortable about making a decision and you can't think of a rational reason. During those moments, just follow your gut. 

6 happiness hacks to know going into 2017

6 happiness hacks to know going into 2017

A brand new year is almost upon us, and it can either fill you with excitement at the thought of all the new things you are going to experience; or it can fill you with dread at the thought of all the new things you are going to experience. 

It's all about choice. Yes yes, we get that life can be really hard. Here are 6 ways to help you make the conscious decision to stress a whole lot less and generally be happier in your everyday life in 2017.

1. Be kinder to yourself

Seriously,  stop being so hard on yourself. You may already be facing pressure from school, your parents, even comparing yourself with peers. The last thing you need is to be tough on yourself too! Decide to love and support yourself heading into this new year, and choose to not be super critical of the way you look, the number of likes you have per Instagram post, etc.

The best way to start this is to be 100% honest with yourself. Ask yourself, would you treat yourself the same way as how you would treat your best friend? Or set expectations on yourself the way you would to him/her? Probably not, so maybe give yourself a break once in a while when it comes to comparing yourself to others. 

2. Find healthier ways to cope

If you tend to deal with stress, rejection and frustration by downing an entire jug of Long Island Tea at Zouk before dancing up a storm and then end the night by puking all over yourself, or by bingeing on a Double McSpicy followed by 20 more McNuggets while watching Netflix for a week straight... then perhaps you need to change things up. These coping mechanism are not going to help your happy levels.

If your 'coping' leaves you feeling out of control then you need to replace it. Sure, you can head out for a couple of drinks with your friends or spend your Monday night watching cat videos on YouTube instead of going to the gym, but there needs to be a limit. If you head straight for the alcohol when things go bad, this can set you on a road to disaster.

Try and replace them with healthier alternatives. If you find the need to pound on something, take up kickboxing or set your feet to pounding the road by running. Sweat the frustration out. If you're more the unwinding type, take your mind off the stress with yoga, cooking, or just zoning out and not thinking about it (also known as meditation). 

3. Don't be alone

Speaking of coping mechanisms, another thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to feel like you need to journey through life alone. When you're feeling down, it can be a lonely place. Why not make it a place where you can talk to someone you trust and that you know will be honest with you without judging you.

Alternatively, you don't even need to talk. Often by being around some trusted friends who understand and accept you for who you are, it's enough to lift up your spirits and take your mind off the negativity. 

4. Tidy the hell up

Studies have proven that physical clutter can negatively affect how you concentrate and process information. So when you're feeling stressed out, the environment around you can actually be contributing to it even further.

So, if your room looks like a clothes bomb exploded inside there, or if your desk is like one big ball of paperwork nightmare, then maybe it's time to throw yourself a huge clear-out party and get rid of anything that you don't need and don't absolutely love. Your brain will thank you for it. 

5. Practise mindfulness

No one is expecting you to read this post, and suddenly come out the other end as a total meditation pro and yoga convert. But perhaps just take a long bath and read a book instead of checking Instagram every 15 minutes. Mindfulness simply means to start taking more notice of the present, being thankful of the past, and to not constantly stress about the future or things that should have happened. 

It does not mean to fool yourself into thinking that everyday is all rainbows and unicorns, it simply means to stop dwelling on things that are making you unhappy. In fact, if you take 5-10 minutes out every night before you sleep to take some deep breaths and not think of anything, it can improve your concentration and heart health by up to 40%!

6. Don't forget to think about the little things

It's easy to remember the saying, "everything that can go bad, will go bad" when things don't seem to go your way. It's times like these that by forcing yourself to do some reflecting, it can actually remind you of the many things in life that you can be thankful for. Pause for a moment and take some time to list 3 things that you enjoy in your life.

You may not have gotten those results you and your parents wanted, but you still managed to get into the course you wanted. You may have broken up with your gf/bf, but all your friends rallied around you during this time to let you know that you deserve a lot better. Every morning, the kopi auntie remembers your order without you even needing to tell her. These are all little silver linings in the dark clouds that we can be thankful for. Of course, this can be harder than it seems when you're actually feeling like crap, and you might not be able to do it all the time, but I highly recommend giving it a go.

Complaining less

Complaining less

Complaining is the national pastime in Singapore. We complain about the weather. Too hot. The cost of living. Too high. The education system. Too stressful. The public transport. Too crowded. The only thing we do not complain about is the food (after all, who complains about Michelin starred chicken rice?)  

However, sometimes we complain so much that we go about life with a frown which no amount of gracious deeds, kind gestures and good food can lift. This is bad for both your own health and those of the people around you. Research has shown that when we complain, our brains produce stress hormones which break down neural connections in areas used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. Additionally, by dwelling on the negative side of things, our dissatisfaction with life also increases. This does not just stop here; misery spreads. By complaining, you also make people around you more negative and more prone to stress related problems.  

If you are convinced about the need to cut back on this national pastime of ours, then here are a few tips to aid you along. 

1. Observation versus complaint

There is nothing wrong with stating an observation. If you say “It is hot outside”. That is just the truth. But when you are frowning and fanning yourself impatiently, all the while seething “Why is Singapore so hot? I am sweating so much. I hate this place!”, you are most likely complaining. Remember, it is not what you say but how you say it that turns an observation into a complaint. 

2. Turn your dissatisfaction into action


Do not just sit around moping, whining and seething. God did not just give you 2 eyes, 2 ears and a mouth. God gave you a pair of hands too. And if something is bothering you, think about what you can do to improve the situation. After that, actively take charge of your life. 

Recently, there was a bird which will start cawing at 6am and brusquely wake me from my sleep. The first few days, I cursed that bird in my dreams after moving to another room to continue sleeping. But eventually, I wrote in to the town council (nicely) to reflect about the bird nuisance. As of now, they have already tracked that bird down to a particular tree and I believe that very soon, the annoying bird will be bundled to the zoo (muahaha). 

3. See the positive side of things


Every cloud has a silver lining. Every half empty cup is half full. When you are fixated on how badly things are going for you, force yourself to see the brighter side of things by using the “but-positive” method. 

“The train may be crowded, but at least it did not break down.” (phew)

“School may be boring, but at least I have friends who are all in this together.”

“My parents may be naggy, but at least they give me pocket money…” Oh come on, surely your parents deserve more credit than this? What about all the times they stood by you when you were sick, sad or smelly? What about the love, attention and time lavished on you? Surely you can find more than just one positive about them?

To quote Tom Wilson, you can complain because roses have thorns. Or you can rejoice because thorns have roses. 


4. Separate yourself from chronic complainers


If there is one thing more harmful than second hand smoke, it is second hand complaining. At least when it comes to your emotional health. Friends who are negative will cause you to become negative too, without you even realising it. Help your friends to become more positive by getting them to see the better side of things. If this is easier said than done, then it is time to keep some distance between friends who are overall nice people, but who just complain too much. 

Remember, like attracts like. Think positive, and positive things will happen to you. 

3 ways to cope with failure

3 ways to cope with failure

I failed. Parents hate hearing these two words.

You failed? Students hate the consequences that follow these two words.

In our society, there is a stigma attached to failure. When a child fails PSLE, his parents feel ashamed to even get out of their house, let alone bring their kid to their relatives’ house during Chinese New Year. When a student runs for an ex-co position and doesn’t get it, her fellow peers gossip and malign behind her back, especially if she isn’t that popular to begin with. Because of such a social climate, it is no wonder that people tie their self-worth to their ability. There is no room for error; there is no time to cut themselves some slack. Once they fail, it is the end of the world.

Or is it?

Although it may feel like it, failure is not the end of your world, and definitely not the end of the world. Here are 3 steps to help you cope with failure.

1. Be nourished by failure. It helps you to grow

You can’t fail if you are only doing stuff that you have already perfected, such as watching TV on the couch while getting spoon fed by your mum. The fact that you failed is a testament that you have stepped out of your comfort zone, and tried something that you weren’t good at. Good job!

Had you succeeded, it will be a sign that this thing is getting a bit too easy for you, and that it is time to move on to something more challenging. But most of the time we humans are lazy. We see that we have succeeded—going from being spoon fed to eating on our own—and we tell ourselves, good job, you have arrived. Then we spend the rest of our lives watching TV on the couch, proud that we can feed ourselves.

But when you fail, you hurt, like having a needle shoot out from the couch and pricking the most tender part of your butt. Ouch. This needle causes you to reflect. Where did this needle come from? Why did it suddenly appear? Has this needle been festering the whole time?

Have I been complacent in my studies? Was I not hardworking enough? Or was my goal too ambitious at the moment? Maybe I should improve myself more first before tackling this challenge again? Failure leads to reflection and reflection helps you to know where and how to improve. From this whole ordeal, you will emerge stronger, taller and wiser.

2. Wait! Make sure you learn from your mistakes.

The tendency for humans to go easy on themselves is so prevalent that it also applies to failure. Before you tell your parents that failure is unconditionally good and they should embrace every single failure of yours, let me qualify by saying, failure is good, so long as it does not become a habit. That’s right, every failure should be a new experience and from every failure, you must take away at least one lesson.

To illustrate this point, let me tell you a story.

One day, Billy the buffoon was walking past a travel agency when he saw a sign that said “Want to go on a cruise? Only $1,000! To be paid in cash”.

Billy the Buffoon thought to himself that a cruise would do his health good so he went to POSB, withdrew $1,000 and brought it to the travel agency. Right after he handed the travel agent the cash, he was knocked out cold.

He woke up floating on a barrel down Singapore river. Another guy floated past him and asked, “Do you know if meals are provided?” Billy the buffoon looked at him, smiled the smile of a seasoned veteran and told him, “Last year they didn’t provide any meals. This year should be no different.”

Are you going to be like Billy the buffoon who never learns? Because if you are, then scrape step 1. You are better off thinking that failure should be avoided at all cost.

3. Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo

If you, on the other end, exist on the other end of the spectrum and are too harsh with yourself, then know this: failure may be able to shape you and mould you, but it will never define you.

When a tree is fertilised, it is piled with dirt and filth. The compost may smell bad and look bad at that moment but eventually, the filth gets broken down into nutrients and helps the tree grow. The compost disappears and what remains is a taller and lusher tree. No one looks at the tree and goes, oh just 275 days ago, this tree was covered in shit and smelled like shit. Similarly, whatever is past is past. Do not live as if you are still living and breathing failure.

Life is a journey into the unknowns. Sometimes, you will see marvels and experience wonders. Other times, you may fall prey to misfortune or slip up so bad that you are just inches away from the edge of a cliff. However, all these moments are valuable. Years later, when you look back, you will identify these experiences as the moments when you grew teeth, gained muscles and sprouted wings – to journey the tough terrains of the earth.

3 things you MUST NOT fail to do on the last day of your internship

3 things you MUST NOT fail to do on the last day of your internship

Yes yes, we know that while some of your friends were backpacking across Europe during their school holidays, you were interning your heart out at KPMG in your brand new G2000 blazer. Life isn't fair. But you can be sure that the skills you learnt during this time will benefit you for years to come (especially when you finally embark on your own whirlwind Europe tour)

So now that your internship is drawing to a close, how do you set yourself apart and be remembered for all the right reasons? After all, interns are a dime a dozen. Here are 3 things you must do on the final day on your internship.

Pen a thank you note to your bosses and mentors. 

You read that right. Write, not email. It's basic courtesy to send your bosses, liaison officer and work mentors a thank you note when you leave (even if all you did was photocopy stuff and do Starbucks runs). By making the extra effort to physically write those notes, it serves as a little reminder that hey, you exist; and you were grateful for the time spent in the company.

While you might think you're helping the company tons with your extra pair of arms in return for a pittance, in most situations, the company has put in a lot of effort in coaching an otherwise clueless intern too. 

Exchange contact details with your colleagues.

And of course, make sure that it's with the ones you got along well with. It could be that business analyst you had countless stimulating conversations with by the photocopier, or those employees in the Finance department that you hit it off with during the company's annual D&D.

Take the time to pop by to say goodbye (preferably with some chocolates too) and exchange numbers/emails/Facebook friend requests. These are all valuable contacts that you should take with you when you leave. Every once in a while, make the effort to keep in touch. A simple "Merry Christmas" greeting, or "Let's catch up for coffee" will help in preventing you from being forgotten along with all the other interns. 

Update your resume

All the valuable skills you may have picked up during your internship is enough to serve you well into the rest of your life. While your brain is still fresh with information, and you've yet to return to reality (believe me, classes, exams, partying, is going to make you forget...) update your resume right away.

Even if there isn't an urgent need to send out your resume, you'll be able to remember all the details of the projects you have helped with, as well as the exact figures of those projects -- the sales quota your team managed to hit, the number of impressions on the article you wrote, etc. These fodder for your resume makes for more convincing details if you do it right away after your last day.