Thursday, December 30, 2010

Everyday lifestyle

Too often, we see advertisement about that quick new diet, new regime that claim that it'll change the way we live our lives to make us prettier, happier, and more satisfied.

Yet when you really think about it, will we really be prettier, happier, and satisfied?

Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't, but how long does it really last? How long can one maintain one's weight at this stage. What you'll find that it only provides short term benefits and doesn't or isn't something that necessary lasts a long time as you will find it will be challenging to maintain the appropriate discipline or that there may be side effects.

However, rather than focusing your effects on taking shortcuts to achieve short terms gains such as this, I believe we should focus on changing aspects of our lives for the long term in ways that we will always enjoy and love. Because when you think about it, there are simple and easy things that you can incorporate in your life that will yield benefits without you trying too hard, so that it becomes part of your everyday lifestyle.

Here are some examples of things/ activities that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to keep you healthy:

Exercise

  • Stairs - Take the stairs where possible especially when only go up a couple of levels. An easier task when going down rather than up. 
  • Getting off the bus stop one stop early - Consider getting off the bus that one stop earlier. If you think about it, it's generally a block or two more that you might need to walk, but you'll be able to explore a new part of an area you probably won't have seen before.

Nutrition

  • Eat nutritional over not as nutritional food - Use your commonsense and understanding of what would have more vitamins and minerals. For instance, a over a hamburger would generally have more vitamins and minerals than a hot dog due to what's normally in a hamburger (i.e. lean/ minced meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese) vs a hot dog (i.e. sausage, bread, cheese). Of course, having neither at times may be the better decision but if you had to choose between the two than I'd say take the one that comprises of those vitamins and minerals that will keep you healthy. See nutritional value for more details.

Measures such as these may seem small, but incorporating them into your everyday lifestyle is often what allow you to find the time to fit exercise in and actually feel like you're not just exercising or eating healthy for the sake of it. It's more than that and allows you to achieve something else in your life at the same time...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Living up to 'expectations'

Each of us have had expectations put forward on us at some point of our lives, and sometimes we feel as though we have been expected to undertake some of the most challenging feats of our lives.

Yet amongst it all, we generally don't realise the effect that these expectations can have of us. For example, back in your high school years, if you weren't expected to get high marks, than would you have achieved some (or all) of those high marks you achieved? If you weren't expected to finish high school, would you have finished anyway? These are some of the questions that can be asked to determine how motivated you were to actually learn and socialise rather than simply undertaking activities as it was expected of you. Would you simply complete the task and leave it at that? Or would you go above and beyond the task at hand? Would you achieve the latter if you felt as though you had potential to do more?

Well, recently I came across this interesting concept called the 'Pygmalion effect' that discusses the effect that expectations can have on people. Basically it desires some of the possible effects of 'expectations' and can give you insight into why you find people behaving the way they do and what drives them to go that one step further.

The Pygmalion effect is when people tend to live up what is expected of them and they to do better, when treated as though they're capable of more.

So when someone expects you to finish just high school, you'll finish it, yet if they have encouraged you and made you feel like you can do more than that, then you'll not only finish high school but you'll complete it with flying colours, perhaps even going the step further and seek to undertake the next challenge - going to university.

That is in essence, the effect of the Pygmalion effect.

Expectations fall upon us not only from others around us but from ourselves, and sometimes that is the hardest expectation to overcome of all. Yet realising how expectations can affect us so hopefully helps you to understand how to set realistic expectations on oneself. If you've ever done goal setting before than that is simply a form of setting expectations on oneself, and one of the suggestions they give when setting goals is to make sure that it is realistic and that you feel like you can achieve the task. So if we can manage our self expectations of ourselves, we can improve our self confidence. If we believe we can succeed and contribute, than our own thoughts rise to allow us to bring us to reach our goals and encourage ourselves to exceed them...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The responsible citizen

‘Responsibility’. It’s a strong word, and even dreadful to some, but what does it mean to be responsible?

Dictionary.com defines ‘responsible’ as having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable; capable of rational thought or action.

So that mean being responsible is undertaking rational actions right?

Well the other day I saw someone exhibit a clear display of responsibility. Someone who if you saw downtown at the local pub you’d might think twice and assume that they weren’t the type to do so but I’ve find that people will always surprise you. Given the right situation, people can exceed your initial expectations which is why they say looks can be deceiving and that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Well this situation was just that. So there I was waiting at the local train station, and nearby there was this empty beer bottle sitting there on the train platform – sitting really close to the tracks. It wasn’t rolling or anything but it seems as though it has been sitting there for a while. Perhaps even the night before, but since I was at a manned station maybe not that long, but still, I’m assuming a couple of hours at the least.

Anyways, there was bloke probably in his mid 40s, tattoos and the like, the typical bloke you’ll probably just be extra cautious of and seek to not look at him in the wrong way... Well, he just casually picked up the bottle and threw it in the bin (the proper recycling bin by the way) and walked off as though there was nothing of it.

I just thought it was just surprising to witness someone doing that, particularly someone unexpected, as it must have been ignored by so many other people.... He acted in a responsible way, unlike many others who you generally hope would in similar situations. Perhaps it was having no fear of the bottle as the others may have, fear of germs, the perception of others etc.

Well, the moral of this story is never judge a book by it's cover as you never know what to expect from people, as I always find, people will always surprise you! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Those jolly old Christmas cards...

It's that time of year again, a time of rest, joy and time with friends and family. That is, it's Christmas time!

I'm generally not much for presents, but I do find that there is something that I particularly enjoy and that is giving and receiving Christmas cards. Now I hadn't given and received one for years (around primary school) but it wasn't until about a year ago when I received a Christmas card from my fellow Lions club members that I remembered the feeling that was.

I'm not too sure what it is about it, but it's the simple act of taking the time to think of and write kind yet simple words that seems to be able to lighten one's day. So this year I made sure I have written my cards and made them as thoughtful as possible. It can be quite surprising how a gesture so small and simple can have such an effect, yet it's effects can be quite 'priceless'...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Some of my favourite quotes

I'd thought I'll share some of my favourite quotes with you. Someone once told me that these can also be called  'affirmations' (positive statements), if you find them as words or phrases that help inspire and motivate you, as it does for me at times. I learnt most of these during my uni days when I studied philosophy as an elective. I hope that they serve you as well as they have served me. If you're looking for some context, I do mention these in my posts from time to time (which you'll find tagged as 'quotes').


"If we only do what is required of us we are slaves, the moment we do more we are free" - Cicero 


"Experience suggests that though we cannot do everything, we can always do something!" - Douglas J. Soccio


"a person is nothing else but what he makes of himself" - Jean Paul Satre


"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is" - Erich Fromm


"Reach what you cannot!" - Niko Kazantzakis

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Basic introduction to meditation

I picked up this meditation book the other day called, "Journey into healing", which I found described how to meditate in a very easy to learn way. I'd thought I'd share it some of their tips as well as my own. I hope you find it useful, particularly if you were thinking about meditating or trying again if you haven't been able to successfully meditate yet, as it can be a bit tricky to get started.

How to meditate:
  1. Find a comfortable place to sit - You can start by sitting comfortably in a quiet place where you will have a minimum amount of disturbance. Some people find it easier to lie down and meditate you can do so also but you’ll need to make sure you don’t fall asleep. Later on with practice you may find that you may be able to meditate anywhere.
  2. Close your eyes – While closing your eyes is not essential, doing so will help you to stay focused as you will won’t be tempted to observe possible distractions.
  3. Observe your breathing – Observe your breathing while trying not to control or alter it in any conscious way. 
  4. Gently keep your attention on your breathing – Now as you keep doing this you will notice that your attention drifts away from your breathing and you are thinking about other things or listening to noises around you. When you notice this, gently bring your attention back to your breathing. 
  5. Meditate and come back to normal slowly - Once you’re comfortable for the duration of your meditation, say 10-15 minutes. Spend another couple of minutes allowing yourself to slowly come out of the meditation and open your eyes fully.
Possible outcomes:
When meditating you may find that one of the following occurs: 
  1. Feeling of boredom or restlessness and your mind may become filled with thoughts –  This may indicate that there are deep inner stresses and emotions that are being released from your system – as you meditate you may find it helps you to begin to clear them from your mind and in turn, its effects on your body. 
  2. You may fall asleep during meditation – This may mean that you need some more rest.
  3. You may slip into the “gap” -  This is when the breath becomes very settled and feels more comfortable, and you have found that you’ve slip into the gap between your thoughts. You may find yourself unaware (blocking out) sounds and the world around you. This is where you want to be as your mind is free from the general everyday disturbances. 
Next steps:
  1. Practice often - Once you feel you've mastered the initial step of meditating you can start meditating more regularly and for longer, and may find that you feel much calmer and relaxed as a result. Some people suggest that you meditate twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. While this is great, please make sure that you are generally enjoying the benefits of meditating and that it doesn't become a chore (otherwise, like most things, you may find it ineffective for you). 
  2. Use techniques to enhance your meditation - There are different postures and gestures that you can use while meditating that simulates different aspects of meditation, this includes changing the way you breath (such as breathing more from your upper chest, or deeper breathing). I'd say try as many styles as possible and then select the few that you are most comfortable with. 
  3. Meditate in a way that's comfortable for you - I sometimes meditate in the full lotus position and often create a chi energy ball (see chi bending), but not always. Sometimes I meditate in the half lotus position, or even while just sitting down on the bus or on the plane, essentially when I may be feeling anxious. With practice and concentration, you'll find that you can meditate anywhere and anytime you wish. 
  4. Learn more about meditation - As mentioned earlier, I read "Journey into healing: Awakening the wisdom within you", by Deepak Chopra, as I am always looking for ways to improve and learn how to do things differently. I would encourage you to do the same and find what works best for you, whichever way, just make sure you enjoy it :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Experience suggest that while you cannot do everything, we can always do something

It seems that wherever you are, there is always someone or people out there who are seeking or in need of someone to help to them. And while it is easy to say yes at times, one has to wary of how much one can offer and how effective you can be in helping them out.

As you may find that you may be biting more than you can chew, nonetheless, they need all the help they can get right? The answer is yes and no, and only you are really the best judge as to how helpful you can or may be to someone and/or group. As it depends on your skills, capabilities and the type of help that is being asked or seems that you are able to offer them.

What I have found that sometimes, although difficult, is that sometimes you just have to say 'no'. Now saying 'no' is not always easy, as the causes, initiatives and projects out there can seem so worthy, yet what I have come to realise is that you can't do it all. Sometimes saying 'no', just as you need to go beyond the sake of doing something for the sake of doing something, and doing nothing for them may allow them to instead find someone perhaps more appropriate (not that you aren't but you may not as readily available or committed as they require).

For yourself, judging too many things can become difficult, you may find too many things clashing and you're being unable to make commitments here in there, needing to sacrifice things here and there and potentially finding that you've burnt candles at both ends which may lead you to burn out - something you'll need to be very careful of. 

When you realise and/or know that you're starting to loss your effectiveness then sometimes you may find you may need to take a breather. It's almost like taking a holiday from work/ study at times, particularly since you may find that you can't help others until you've helped yourself. So if you're burnt out, then it's very difficult to help yourself let alone others. The only solution for that is rest. 

Anyways, essentially what I wanted to say was that you need to be mindful of what you may want to support and help out with, sometimes it's best to say no. And since there are so many possible initiatives and projects out there to support you need to find the one that fits your skillset, knowledge and interests best. Prioritise, sometimes try out and see what you like best and make whatever you do worthwhile and focused!

I will leave you will another one of my favourite quotes, and it refers to understanding that while we all would love to do everything in life, we can only really do some. But you can focus on certain things at a time then change them, just not all at once. 

"Experience suggest that while you cannot do everything, we can always do something" - Douglas J. Soccio

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beyond doing something for the sake of doing something...

We often live very fast paced and busy lifestyles, always going to work/ school, catching up with friends, running that odd errand here and there. Sometimes doing things back-to-back and neglecting sleep. It just seems expected of us.

We are always making choices, sometimes very simple other times, quite more difficult. From the simple choices about what we want to eat, where we want to go, how we undertake that piece of work, should we be reading this blog or not, etc., to the difficult decisions about whether to accept this job offer, propose, etc.

Yet amongst all these choices, where we can find ourselves stuck for choice, as we often focus on needing to doing this and that - doing something. Yet in reality, even though we each live busy lives sometimes we whether we realise it or not we can stop and actually do nothing, if we want to...

Just as you often would do with your emails. Because if you think about it, when someone sends you an email, you may briefly skim (read) over it and then you decide how you'd like to act. You can choose to reply, reply to all, forward, delete, flag, or as simply do nothing. Sometimes do this subsciously without even realising it, or even just because we forget as we want to read all new mail and then it simply gets lost in the mass of emails we have.

So when you reach a moment when you need to make a conscious decision about something, what you may find is that stopping and doing nothing may be the better choice in that situation. As inaction may be the better course of action, then doing something for the sake of doing something (as our general habitual feeling may be to do so).

While I'm not saying that doing nothing is always the best course of action, it is something good to keep in mind as another option (choice) when you need to make a conscious decision...

Calendar of cultural and religious dates

Ever had a friend or colleague that suddenly has to take a day off work, can't do this or that or needs to take care of something after work/school? Only to find out later that it's as they are having a religious/cultural period like Lent or Ramadan.

Well here's a useful website that may come in handy in giving you an insight and heads up on the national cultural events and holidays that come up that you may not be aware of. The great thing is you can sort it by month, event, and country/ event/ festival.

Here's an example of next month - December 2010.


DecemberBack to top
1 WedNational DayCentral African Republic
1 WedNational DayRomania
1 WedChanukah - Festival of Lights +Jewish
2 ThuNational DayLaos
2 ThuNational DayUnited Arab Emirates
5 SunThe King's Birthday AnniversaryThailand
6 MonIndependence DayFinland
7 TueMuharram (Islamic New Year) +Islamic
8 WedImmaculate Conception +Christian
11 SatNational DayBurkina Faso
12 SunJamhuri DayKenya
16 ThuNational DayBahrain
16 ThuNational DayKazakhstan
16 ThuAshura +Islamic
17 FriNational DayBhutan
18 SatNational DayNiger
18 SatNational DayQatar
18 SatInternational Migrants Day +United Nations
23 ThuEmperor's BirthdayJapan
24 FriCarols By Candlelight +Festival
25 SatChristmas Day +Christian
26 SunBoxing Day +Australia
27 MonWoodford Folk Festival (to 1 Jan) +Festival
31 FriNew Year's Eve +Festival


The link is http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/a-diverse-australia/calendar-australia/

Another good resource is http://www.edna.edu.au/edna/go/events

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teens left behind by economic recovery...

How Young People are Faring (HYPAF) is the pre-eminent national report on the learning and work situation of young Australians. It's been written by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), and reveals that young people continue to feel the negative impacts of the global financial crisis, despite Australia’s economic recovery overall.

Here are some highlights of the report which shows that:
·         for 15 to 19 year-old males, the level of ‘disengagement’ rose from 15.3% to 16% in 2010;
·         the unemployment rate for teenage males not in full-time education rose from 18.2% in 2009 to 18.8% in 2010, this compares with the current adult unemployment rate of just 5%;
·         the number of teenagers starting apprenticeships and traineeships dropped by more than 15,000 between 2008 and 2009, with two thirds of these being in male-dominated trade occupations;
·         the teenage unemployment rate fell slightly from 18.5% in 2009 to 17.9% in 2010, but remains well above the 12.2% level seen before the financial crisis in 2008;
·         almost one quarter of 20 to 24 year-olds are not engaged in full-time work or full-time education in 2010, a slight improvement over the situation in the previous year.

Dr Lucas Walsh, Director of Research at FYA, said, “This report tells us that while Australia leads the global economic recovery, there remain far too many young Australians who don’t reap the rewards of education or employment. It can take 15 years for the teenage unemployment rate to recover from a recession, so urgent action is needed to make sure young people benefit from our current economic growth.”

“Teenage males have been hit particularly hard by the ongoing affects of the financial crisis, with a spike in unemployment and a drop in apprenticeships,” Dr Walsh said.

A copy of the 2010 report is available for download at www.fya.org.au

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Overcoming life's challenges

Life brings challenges and obstacles onto each of us that can seem quite overwhelming at times. Through the process of reflection and self-assessment, I believe each of us has the potential to grow in own unique way. So instead of just seeing challenges ahead of us, these challenges should be seen as opportunities to put ourselves outside of our comfort zone and to realise own true potential. When we do that, we transcend ourselves!

I hope that gives you a different perspective in life!

Credit cards can be your friend if used wisely...

Have you noticed the banks pushing out their debit card products more and more of late? Well they say "cashflow is king" and with the credit becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive to come by it's no wonder the banks are encouraging customers to use debit rather than credit.

That is, since you're using your "own money" to purchase goods and/or services rather than "borrowing" the banks money the banks will have more money to lend, and consequently do not need to borrow as much from the international credit market (as while deposits from individuals and businesses do account for money banks lend out, in Australia they also need to borrow money from overseas as well).

The keyword here is "borrowing". Whenever we do use our credit cards we are borrowing their (the banks) money for the hopefully (if you choose your credit card plan appropriately) period of 55 days interest free. If you think about it, you get to use and borrow up to whatever your credit limit is pay the bank back 55 days later. So while you are "borrowing" the banks money to pay for goods and/or services today you can also be earning interest on the money you would have otherwise already given up if you used your "own money" via your debit card and/or cash.

For example, say I spent ("borrowed") $1000 on my credit card for a new TV. Then I have 55 days to pay back the $1000 to the bank, but in the time, my $1000 sitting in my high interest saving account is earning interest on that $1000 earning say if 5% p.a. interest rate a little over $5 for the 55 days.

In contrast, if I'd my "own money" used cash or a debit card then I would not be able to earn the interest ($5 in this example) that I would have earned from a 55 day interest free credit period.

While the benefits aren't terribly enormous in this example, over a period of time it does all adds up. Enough to make banks change their strategy and focus on promoting debit cards rather than credit cards. In business, "cashflow" truly is the king, since you always need to remain solvent (cashflow positive) to continue operating and this means that paying back lenders and bills in time to avoid late fees, interest, remain solvent etc. is important.

What's important to keep in mind that taking advantage of credit cards does require strong discipline and self-control so this is probably not for everyone. As there is potential to spend beyond your means and borrow more from tomorrow to pay for today. This strategy puts you in "temporary" debt so you must stay within your own bounds and know your limits and not extend your normal spending habits. Please consider this carefully and seek further financial advice as required.

So if you use your credit cards "wisely", they can actually be your friend...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles starts with just one step

Too often we want to have all the right information, the right things around and available to us to use here and there. But at times that may not be possible, or if it is, by the time you have it, it's too late.

This idealism may be due to a tendency within us to be perfectionalists, but sometimes always thinking that it's not the right time now, I'll start it when I have it all, can be all that holds us back from actually carrying out the task/ initiative. Having done say 80-90% of something is generally always better than have done nothing at all...

So even though today may not seem like the ideal day/ time to start, tomorrow may not be either! And every step counts, so why not start your journey with that one first step today :)

"The journey is the destination" - Buddhist proverb

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still 'all in the mind' a year on...

A year later, and it seems that it still is 'all in the mind'. As the desire and the will to complete a potentially heartbreaking 50km was embarked by over 500 runners and walkers only a couple of days ago. All the while, the weather throughout the day had been forecast as gloomy and horrible.
One wonders how, knowing this, these individuals still awoke from their warm cosy beds and found themselves trekking through the endless hills and the open plains which scattered the paths before them. ponchos and umbrellas were the norm as the clouds emptied it's contents onto them.

Yet through it all, with the kindness of the Upstream Foundation, checkpoints were plotted along their paths, offering salvation to these runners and walkers. Fruit (oranges and apples), water and cheers set these individuals, groups and families on towards the end.


But the end was not without it's last challenge, for beyond the main course and the only thing left between them and final salvation, warm and comfort was but one last steep hill for each runner/ walker to overcome and so they did. And these salvations included hot foods, drinks, toilets, massages, and comfort from family, friends and many fellow runners/ walkers.

Yet beyond the event itself, this great fun run raises money for several organisations and these include Camp Quality, The Leukaemia Foundation, Entrust Foundation, Leprosy Mission Australia, and Samaritan’s Purse :)

Some swimming tips

Just been going through some core swimming principles and that I think you may find handy. 

'Hand out of a pocket' concept - When swimming freestyle (frontal crawl), it can be useful to think of the idea of taking your 'hand out of a pocket' after each arm stroke. To assist in remembering the best technique for this. 

Backstroke with eyes closed - After mastering the backstroke, you can try to swim backstroke with your eyes closed to perfect it further, as your eyes can mislead you so it'll encourage you to trust your intuitions more while backstroking. 

Some physics principles you may want to keep in mind: Newtons Law of Motion and Bernoulli Lift principle, 
  • Where the former (Newtons Law) is about your arms and legs creating the 'external force' that moves your body through the water (since the Newtons Law of Motion refers to an object remaining  in a state of rest or uniform motion (constant velocity) unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force). 
  • While the latter Bernoulli Lift principle refers to an object will always travel from an area of relatively high pressure to an area of relatively low pressure, thereby causing eddy resistance from the space left behind (e.g., after you swing your arms/ kick your feet).


Focus on the basic foundation, i.e., maintaining a good head position and constant kick
"One of the best things a teacher can ever do for a student is to establish a streamlined, high body position...developing a good head position and constant kick - [is] the essence of the desired position...adding arm movements and breathing patterns before this fundamental technique is mastered, may greatly reduce the chances of achieving efficient stroke skills down the track" - Ross Gage, CEO of Swimming Australia