Tag Archives: attitude

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Everyone Functions Differently

  • I am the son of Chinese families. The first half of my childhood I lived in China, and the other half in the United States.
  • I am an introvert. I enjoy staying in more often than going out.
  • I am probably somewhere between an ectomorph and a mesomorph. It takes more effort to gain any muscle mass.
  • I care a lot about my health. I listen to my body, I eat as cleanly as I can, I make time for exercise, and I make sure I get enough sleep.
  • I am a visual person, definitely more so than verbal or auditory. I enjoy watching a movie more than reading a book or attending a concert.
  • I consider myself a mix of left- and right-brained. I love when things are organized, logical, and methodical, but I also enjoy being different, innovative, and expressive.
  • I probably have color-graphemic synesthesia, where I associate each number and letter to a color. For example, the letter E is solid brown, and the number 2 is a warm yellow.
  • I am fascinated by languages, their history and grammar. I’d love to learn and be fluent in as many as I can.
  • I am a man of science. It comforts me to have something I can absolutely depend on in life: the objective laws of physics and math.
  • I am fascinated by new technologies and I embrace it for how it can improve the world. I am still waiting for a mind-powered virtual assistant.
  • I save as much as I can for retirement. But I also make sure I can live happily now.
  • I am an optimist. I believe that living with a positive attitude has a higher chance of success and happiness.

The specific combination of these things (and more) make up who I am. One change would mean a slightly different approach to life, would lead to different decisions and consequences, and would therefore create a different person. There are a lot of combinations possible, and more than seven billions of them (unique ones) exist in the world.

Everyone has their story, their motivations, and their philosophies. They often do what they think is right for them, but it may be perceived by others as wrong. While the concept of right and wrong is a much larger philosophical discussion, the fact remains that everyone functions differently. The more of us who can understand and become conscious of this, the more peaceful, I believe, and less conflicts our world would get.

But then again, that’s only what I think; that’s how I function.

See

4, 10, 18, 21, 25, 28, 29

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The Serenity Prayer is For Everyone

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” –A version of the Serenity Prayer

I’m not religious, nor am I in AA, but I find this quote very valuable in my life.

Serenity

Before I discovered this quote, I thought I could do everything, and that I should do everything. I thought that I could make the world a better place if I solve everyone’s problems for them and give them advice before they had to ask. I thought that if I could dissect past incidents of rejections, failures, and embarrassment enough times and replay them in my head in different ways, I could suddenly find a nugget of validation that would turn the story around in my favor and vindicate me. I thought that if I was more skilled, more hard-working, with the proper tools and correct time estimates, I could always complete everything perfectly and on time.

But over time, I realized many things:

  • Because I know how to solve my problems better than other people do, other people would likewise know how to solve their problems better than I do. Therefore, it would be intrusive to get in other people’s business without them asking.
  • Until a time machine is invented, the past is permanent; whatever happened happened. I can either dwell on it and feel helpless, or learn from it and do better next time. And experience proves that doing the latter is more productive and more healthy.
  • Since 1) some things in life matter more to me than others, 2) some things require a higher standard of quality than others, and 3) the amount of time that I have left in life is less than the time it takes to do these things at the same high standard of quality, logic and math would prove that I simply cannot do it all. Therefore, I must choose and prioritize by what is important to me and what needs to be done well. Everything else, I will only give enough attention to get the job done to keep things going.

In addition to other people, the past, and limitations of everyday circumstances, I also realized that I cannot change biology and genetics, the weather (short term), laws of physics, time, and death.

Courage

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, the combination of becoming more independent as a young adult and soaking up all the empowering messages from successful people like Oprah led me to take more control of my life. From my mind to my body, I examined every part of my life that I could improve so I could increase my chances for success: my attitude (always try to find the positive in situations), my emotions (identity the root causes of my feelings and neutralize them if they’re hindering me or recreate them if they’re helping me), my health (eliminate as much processed foods as possible, isolate foods that upset my body, and make time for exercise), and my actions (be aware that I, and only I, always have the power to decide what I do next). In just a few years, all of these realizations physically and psychologically transformed my life.

I used to be very rigid and stubborn, but since it dawned on me that the only thing I can change and have control over is myself, I actually became more flexible and forgiving when responding to any external force in the universe, including and especially other people.

Wisdom

At the same time, I admit that there still remain parts of the stubbornness (or “determination” depending on how you want to put it) that makes me me. I’m still figuring out where to draw the line between things that I can and cannot change. My exercise routine, for example, has evolved over the years as I learned more about the science and techniques on fitness. But even with the best routine, how likely will I reach my goals? Are my goals aligned to what I’m physiologically capable of? Are their limitations to my body type and genetics that make it more difficult?

Also, I am aware that I cannot change time, but I still have the tendency to underestimate how much of it I need to get things done. I often have a backlog of things I wanted to complete, if only I had enough time. But whenever I do have a chunk of time to myself, I often procrastinate and put it off, especially if the tasks seem difficult. What sort of mental and behavioral changes do I need to make so I can feel like I am doing everything I’m supposed to without feeling behind? Should I improve my working habits to minimize procrastination? Should I make peace with the fact that many of my backlog items will forever stay in the backlog, and that I should drop them?

Finally, I still want to make an impact in the world by changing everyone’s lives for the better, but I want to avoid intruding into other people’s business. When I see someone having a difficult time, regardless that they’re a friend or stranger, I quickly think of ways to help them, or at least how I would like to be helped in that situation. But who am I to judge someone’s state of being or their story based on the few seconds that I’ve witnessed, even if it’s someone I know? I know there is a right time and a wrong time to offer help, but I’d like to be better at knowing when exactly that is. It depends on the person, as well; some people readily welcome help, while others are more sensitive to being perceived as weak or would prefer to figure things out on their own.

I suppose I could initiate a dialogue and begin a relationship with the person, get a better understanding of their situation, and then offer help as necessary. That is probably where I need to improve my interpersonal communication skills. Maybe then would I know how to tell the difference between people learning to be self-sufficient and people needing help.

See

6, 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 26.

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Positivity Frees Me to Live My Best.

First Big Failure at Positivity

I began my freshman year of college with the goal to be happy in life. I even posted a handwritten sign in my new dorm room that read, “Be happy.” with a smiley face on each side. It was mostly a well-intentioned goal with very little strategy to achieve it. I thought that just thinking those two words was all I needed to achieve a happy life. But after months of doing that and failing again and again, I fell into some type of self-diagnosed depression that took me a year and a half to fully get out of.

A More Practical Challenge to Be Positive

In my post-college job search, I came across the advice to always communicate to potential employers in a positive manner, both in writing and in speech. This seems very obvious now, but it felt like a radical idea then. To turn any sort of potentially negative thing about my job history or competence into a positive trait felt game-changing. Sure, it was difficult at first to shift my thinking. But by learning to catch myself every time I had a negative thought and turning it around, I was able to naturally apply this thinking in both my professional and personal life. Now whenever I encounter a difference in opinion with someone on a particular topic, I can more easily stay open-minded, avoid immediately defending my side, and try to understand from their point of view.

Changing Habits

When I was in middle school, I learned to be sarcastic and loved using it as my humor of choice. But since I was also very literal and logical, people sometimes confuse my sarcasm as my real feelings, especially in online conversations, so I came off as serious or arrogant. I struggled with this well into my twenties until I decided, as part of my goal to think positively, to stop using it in most of my jokes, and to reserve it only for people I am very close with and only when it is completely understood that I am just joking and that I mean well. As a result, I feel that the relationships with people around me are healthier, especially when they are free of worries that what I say may be misunderstood as insults or destructive criticism.

Avoiding “not”

In recent years, I also made my best effort to dramatically reduce the use of the word “not” (and “no”, “nothing”) from any sort of serious, professional, formal, or “recorded” forms of communication. I did this partly because when I reread work emails, I sound like such a downer, simply because of all the “not”s! I know that “not” can still be used describe something positive and that there are other ways to be negative than using “not”. But to me, it’s an effective exercise to pivot negative ideas. Sure, it may take more time and words to circumvent around the idea to avoid using “not”, which is why I still use it when I need to communicate quickly, but the practice is paying off as I’ve gotten better at communicating more positively and constructively over time.

While I want to say that every post of A Number of Things is free of the word “not” and any of its variations, I noticed that a few of the earliest posts as well as 9 used that word many times. (To be fair, I wrote 9, along with 7, 8, and 10, during my Little Big Trip around the world, so I had less time to “positivity filter” what I wrote.) Still, I wrote the rest of the posts with a very active effort to stay as “not”-free as I can. “Don’t Reinvent the Wheel” from 13 is an exception because it’s a common phrase. I actually thought about “positivizing” it but that would go against the very message I wanted to express; I would be reinventing the wheel.

On Positivity and Negativity

Of course, there is plenty of bad things happening in the world. But there are also good. To quote one of my favorite movies/series, The Matrix Revolutions, when the Oracle tells Neo about the antagonist Smith, “He is you, your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out.” There will always be bad things where there are good things.

Assuming we want to be the good, the question becomes: how do we want to interact with the bad? By villifying, mocking, and attacking the enemy and rejoicing at their failures? Or by showing through example that positivity does more people more good? This may seem too idealistic for global human crises in today’s world, but is it better to think more like “an eye for an eye”?

To illustrate this point, this video came just in time. This is my favorite Super Bowl commercial this year:

See

1, 3, 6, 9, 10, 12 17, 22.