Month: January 2016

Unearthing Your Values

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So in the previous post, we spoke about defining our personal values so today we’re going to delve deeper into the topic. To figure out our personal values we need to answer the cliched question of who we were before the world told us who we should be? And that’s not easy. It requires taking a very deep look into our lives, rummaging through the closets in search of any hidden skeletons, opening doors we’d rather pretend they never existed. We’d need to look deep and search for two things in particular; the crossroads and the non-negotiables.

The crossroads 

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
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The crossroads are those life-altering moments where we chose one road instead of another. While there might be many crossroads in our lives-and some might be major mistakes we wish we could undo-there are others that felt right the moment we were taking that first step. Maybe society tried to tell us we were crazy to make the choice we did, and yet we knew deep in our hearts it was the right choice, and eventually things turned out all right. So look at those moments and try to unearth the values driving those decisions.

The non-negotiables

These are the little rules and regulations we’ve set for ourselves in our work, life, relationships…While some of them might be inherited from society and need to be modified or upgraded, there are some that resonate with our very cores. d regulations. We might not have explicitly written them down, but we have them lying somewhere in the back of our minds.

Maybe they sound something like,

“People come before things.”

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

And most importantly, “Thou shall eat a banana every day of your life.

The non-negotiables usually direct you towards the values you most likely embody, and if they don’t – like the banana one – maybe they need to be removed from the list.

Some people might want to do this hunting-for-personal-values with a friend or a family member, and that’s actually good as it helps create harmony between friends and family. However a couple of things that need to be noted are:

1) Your personal values must be yours, not theirs. Don’t put something on your list just because it’s on theirs. Also back every value with a personal story to show it’s something you care about.

2) Because it’s deeply personal, and it might require you to open up the deepest part of your soul, and be vulnerable with somebody else, don’t just trust anybody with this exercise. As Brene Brown advises, “Only share your stories with the people who earned the right to listen to them.”

I remember when I first heard that line, it baffled me. I wondered, “How does somebody earn the right to listen to your stories?”

After perusing a lot of Brene’s work, I came to realize the answer is simply, “Look at how they react to your not-so-important stories at first. If they react with judgement, sarcasm and apathy, then they probably do not deserve to listen to your deeper stories. The reaction you’re looking for from others is usually empathy; someone telling you, I have been in your shoes – or I can imaging being in your shoes – and I totally understand.”

Then there are others who might do this exercise alone using the writer’s best friend and worse enemy; a blank page. You might start unearthing your values using prompts such as answering the following questions:

  1. What did you enjoy doing as a child?
  2. Describe a person you really admire. Why do you admire them? What qualities do they exhibit?
  3. If you went to Hogwarts, which house would you have found yourself in and why? Alternatively, if you were in the fictional world of Divergent, which faction would you have been in?

Whether you’re doing this exercise alone or with a friend, the steps are simple;

    1. List down your value  – e.g. kindness 
    2. Explain why it’s important for you –e.g if people were more kind, the world would be a better place so I want to start with myself
    3. Back it up with experiences from your life that show you embodying the value – e.g. the last time I showed kindness was when I helped that person with something
    4. Brainstorm ways of exercising the value everyday – e.g. get ideas of doing kindness from websites like

Feel free to share your personal values in the comments section below. Like this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook

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3 ways to SWOT-V analyze your life

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When it comes to personal development, the main goal is not always to be better than the person next door — though that’s not always so bad. The main goal is to become better than we were yesterday, and in order to do that, we need to know where we were yesterday and where we stand today. Conducting a monthly or quarterly SWOT analysis of our life is always a good idea, because whether we decide to change ourselves or not, things change around us.

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different”-C.S. Lewis Tweet this

In business terms, a SWOT analysis is when we measure our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. To apply it to our own life, we need to ask the following questions:

1.What are our personal strengths/weaknesses?

It’s not always easy to find our own strengths and weaknesses. As humans, we tend to view ourselves differently than how others view us. So it’s always best to seek the help of others. Whether it’s a therapist, a personal coach, close friends and family, the more people we ask the better. One or two strengths might start appearing more than once and we would need to focus on those.

“Friends are the mirror reflecting the truth of who we are.”Tweet this

Tip!: Sometimes people who piss us off the most are the ones who are most honest, so don’t discount their answers.

Once we know our personal strengths, we need to brainstorm ideas of how to capitalize on them in order to advance our careers and personal relationships. When it comes to our weaknesses, we can either choose to work on them when they’re acting as barriers to our progress or we can choose to work around them and ignore them if they don’t hinder us that much. The main idea is to be aware of them and fine-tune our lives to better use our strengths and dampen our weaknesses.

2. What are the opportunities and threats that exist around you?

The opportunities and threats we face deal with our environment; they could be the people around us or the company’s hierarchy. Change comes at a price. People around us might not like it. They might start talking about how we’ve changed and how they don’t particularly like the new us. Why? Because stepping out of the comfort zone threatens them somehow. So it’s a given that when we start making progress, we might need to shed a few relationships along the way, but that’s okay, because every space somebody leaves empty gets filled by someone better.

3. Finally, what does the V in ‘SWOT-V’ stand for?

The V stands for our personal values that define the important things in our lives. They help us look at the big picture and prioritize every aspect of our live. Possible values could be courage, honesty, loyalty, integrity, family. To know your values you might need to sit with yourself and look at life-altering moments in your life that felt right, and ask yourself, “Why did I make that particular choice?” The undercurrent of an important value may be lying beneath that choice. And another less obvious way of discovering your value is to figure out what makes you angry with passion. For instance, one value that usually inspires a lot of anger is injustice.

So if you’re trying to figure out your life right now, take the first steps to SWOT-V analyse your life.

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Can you feel your neurons dying? Here’s your fix…

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book-759873_1920.jpg“So what’s the last book you’ve read?”
I’ve been asking my friends this question and the answers have been disappointing so far. Many of them can’t even remember because it’s been soooo long. And this seems to be a rising problem. Among all the excuses that are given, you can hear the last sighs of those dying neurons as that viral dog video gets replayed and replayed and replayed…

So I’m writing this for all the non-leisure-readers out there; I know most of us do read during the day. We actually read a lot; 140-character tweets, facebook statuses, youtube comments…But we need a change of reading materials.

The time has come for us to renew those library cards or join a book club or simply pick up a book instead of a magazine at the airport store. It’s time to walk into an old library, breathe in the musty air, savor the silence, pick up books with enough dust to tickle our nose and make us sneeze as we crack them open. It’s time to lower our voices and raise our minds.

Why is reading so important, you might ask? After all, you’ve done enough reading to last you a lifetime while you were at school. Well, here’s where you’ve got it wrong. You haven’t done enough reading to last you a lifetime. What you’ve read in school is not only a drop from the ocean of knowledge available out there, but it’s also a drop that’s neither representative nor fun.

Reading opens up your mind to new ideas. It introduces you to ghosts in the sense that you get to read the thoughts of people who have died a long time ago. It’s a time-traveling machine that teaches you of how life used to be back in the days. Some of the ideas you meet among those pages can improve your character, your careers or simply your entire life. And it’s a process that activates those brain cells you’ve been smothering with youtube videos.

While reading tweets and articles shared on facebook isn’t always bad; it’s just too random. Instead of proactively selecting what information you’re going to feed your mind, you’re giving that power to someone else and if they want to stuff it with ten reasons a shawarma is better than a burger, then they’ll do just that.

So be proactive in your reading material, and go for books that will make you smarter, and help you improve your life. Here are some ways to cultivate a reading habit:

  1. Download books into the kindle app on your smartphone. Since you’re always reading on your smartphone as you wait in line or at the traffic lights, this will help you read books in tiny chunks.
  2. Subscribe to You can listen to audio versions of the book while you’re doing something else like working out at the gym or doing house chores.
  3. Stop reading when a book is hopeless. Sometimes being in the middle of a book that is difficult to read or is irrelevant might stop us from moving on to a better book. Because many of us are wired to hate the idea of ‘quitting’, we would rather trudge along than quit and by trudging along, I mean looking at the book on the bedside table from afar every day hoping the information will transfer to our brains through osmosis. In that case, just call it quits and move on to the next book instead of staying in a state of limbo for a long time.
  4. Read actively. Annotate, summarize and write out your favorite quotes. Interacting with text in this way makes you more likely to remember it. Draw mind maps concerning ideas from different books. Exercise your cognitive skills through pleasure reading for some of those neurons might definitely need CPR.
  5. Read at the same time every day. Whether it’s the first — or last — thing you do every day, once you’ve developed the habit of reading, it’ll be hard to stop. Think of all those fathers who read the newspaper at the breakfast table every day (or every Sunday) and you’ll get the picture.
  6. Get a reading partner or join a book club. Use social pressure to your advantage. With a reading partner or a book club, you’d have a deadline and a good conversation to look forward to. Don’t be one of those book club members who just show up for the food…
  7. Cheat. If you really, really don’t have time to read, then read articles and listen to podcasts that discuss books. Whether it’s NPR books or the Read to Lead podcast, at least it’ll help you become a more interesting conversationalist during parties.

But try to make cheating your very last resort because it’s a short cut that wouldn’t benefit you as much as the real thing. And remember,

If you don’t have time to read, then make the time to read…your brain cells are counting on it.. Tweet this

So what book are you currently reading?

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