Understanding Acceptance

“The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.” — Charlotte Brontë

It is often the case that we fall under the illusion that we are ourselves exceedingly complex, and far more so compared to others, who appear to us little more than open books. In conflicts, this translates into “You can never understand!” and other similar sweeping statements.

Partially, this arises from the simple fact that we know ourselves best, because we understand our motivations and how they are linked to our actions. Motivations which are not apparent to others, although they like to think otherwise. Therefore, it only comes natural that we find it irksome and rage-inducing when others make attempts to project their opinions on us and impose incorrectly their views.

Ironically, even though we do not like it done in reference to us, it does not deter us from making attempts at claiming a complete understanding of others, from imposing judgements about them on them. This forms the basis for today’s article, which is about how to understand others better, and how to avoid forcing ourselves on them to create a better overall environment to work and play in.

As might be expected, the first step we need to take to achieve this is to come to terms with the fact that we do not know everything, if anything, about a person (apart from ourselves, of course). This is because it is only when we are able to do this that we can accept others for who they are and become able to see past our expectations of that person. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be achieved instantaneously. After all, it involves breaking free of a mould into which our thoughts have been led to grow to fit for years. Thus, it requires constant reminders to help ourselves grow accustomed to the idea. Nonetheless, this does not make it unachievable. It simply makes it all the sweeter once it has been accomplished.

Then, because we are ignoramuses where others are concerned, it becomes a necessary part of it to communicate. Communicate everything as is necessary. Even if it is just idle talk and platitude, some communication is better than none, for each additional insight gained into the other person’s life is an opportunity to prevent misjudgements from occurring due to a lack of understanding of that person.

Ultimately, the point is that we need to break that foundation in today’s society which is clearly built on judging others and imposing our views on them. Remember, no person is ever stupid. If ever you think that a person is stupid, then the issue is that there needs to be a shift in your mindset, to not only become more accepting of others, but to understand that others are not as two-dimensional as they are made out to be in our heads.


About the Fascination with Procrastination

“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” – Charles Dickens

Procrastination. The bane of all our lives. Frankly speaking, I have been procrastinating to get this article written, and have had to literally force myself in front of the computer to do it. Well, to get on with it.

Something which annoys us to no end when we know that we need to sit down and focus on the task at hand, procrastination can make or break a team. Think about it: all that last minute rushing to put things into place, all that panic which ensues, most of the time it is attributable to procrastination, and can be avoided. But how? Most of the time it requires a fair bit of discipline to overcome the barrier emplaced by procrastination, discipline which many of us are unable to muster. Thus, here are some tips to help liberate you:

  1. Encouragement. Especially relevant whether working alone or in a team, encouragement can provide a good dose of motivation, which gives one the determination he needs to complete a task. So in a team, encourage each other periodically. Express your faith in the other person’s abilities. If working alone, while tougher, it is still possible to encourage yourself, by telling yourself not to give up.
  1. Organisation. Sometimes, procrastination occurs simply because we are not organised enough. Instead of looking continually at the final goal as what must be achieved, which can seem intimidating, set smaller, achievable goals. You will feel happier and more motivated when you achieve these milestones you set for yourself. Also, take some time to organise your thoughts, to plan what you need to do. Going in with a plan helps prevent procrastination by giving a clear direction towards which you know you have to work towards.
  1. Reward. Sometimes, the best motivation we can give ourselves is the promise of a reward when we complete what we have to do. Such rewards can take the form of anything. If you like sports, tell yourself that you’ll give yourself an hour after you complete what you have to do, or if you like food, pizza or ice cream. By promising to reward yourself with something you enjoy, you effectually motivate yourself to complete the task faster, which stops you from falling into the pit of procrastination.

Not to say that procrastination is all bad. Sometimes the most marvellous things happen when we are in the midst of procrastinating. For instance, because we are not doing what we have the opportunity to distance ourselves from what we have to do, there may be a much-needed creative spark which comes to us in the midst of all that procrastination which comes in the form of a solution to all our current problems. Moreover, if under severe stress, procrastination can help by giving an outlet for that stress, enabling one to relax and think more clearly.

However, more often than not procrastination simply impedes progress, and should the case be as such, hopefully we have given you the information you need.

Lily of the Valley

Why Should We Forgive?

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”— Charlotte Brontë

Falling out with friends and family; making the acquaintance of people whom you just cannot see eye to eye with. These are all part and parcel of daily life. But what do we do when we find ourselves caught in such positions of conflict? It is easy to be angry, become enraged, and let ourselves be ruled by our seething emotions, where we become marionettes to mere chemical impulses. Yet, simply because it is easy, does not mean that it should be done.

What we can do and should do is to look the other way instead, and turn the other cheek: just because we disagree with someone does not mean that it is necessary to start or prolong a conflict.

In fact, if we think about longstanding feuds such as those which have occurred between families for multiple generations, most of the time we find it to be the case that the participants do not know the history behind the feud. They get embroiled in it simply because of a shared history; it is just one of those things they are a part of. Nonsensical, is it not? Similar to saying that we should hate the Japanese or the Germans for the atrocities they committed during World War 2, even though the people of today have had nothing to do with it.

Granted, to accept wrongs, to take blow after blow without ever retaliating, is too much to ask one for. Thus, instead of asking one to tolerate all wounds inflicted on him, it is more practical to ask him to tolerate to the extent that he is able to.

Not to say that anything goes beyond that threshold of tolerance, but rather that if the conflict does escalate beyond what is bearable, or that the person just seems to have a vendetta against you, then perhaps it is time to rethink the relationship with that person. Perhaps it is time to break off all contact with that person.

Yet even after we no longer have anything to do with that person, such is the irony of life, that we cannot forget about that person, and we are left with such deep impressions on our hearts and mind, that a single reminder of that person will leave us spiralling in descent back to the horrible experiences we have had in the past.

Thus, there is a need to forgive whatever wrong has been done. This comes naturally with time and distance — the longer we are apart from the person, the easier it will be to forgive and even forget that person. However, in the case where we still come into contact periodically with that person, then forgiveness only happens when we choose to make it so.

To facilitate the process, it is useful to imagine that the person regrets what he has done, to have lost a friend, a confidante. Or, we ourselves can be the catalyst, by realising that nursing grudges, pampering hatred, is little more than a redirection of our energy, energy that could have been used more productively.

When talking about teams, it is the unfortunate truth that we often do not have the chance to choose our teammates, which means that in the event that we are grouped with someone with whose ideologies ours fail to coincide with, then it is necessary, if common ground cannot be found, to learn to forgive. After all, our time is limited. So what is the use of fostering thorns and letting our emotional wounds fester?



Pride: Overcoming the Overwhelming Tide of Emotions

“Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” – Emily Jane Brontë

Pride in moderation. It is perfectly normal to find delight in our achievements and in the achievements of others. But pride can be blinding: allow that sense of satisfaction to grow unchecked and it can become the debilitating disease of egoistic pleasure, where we take pride in ourselves; call it Narcissism if you will. And the most widely-known example of such unrestrained pride: Lucifer, who did not end up in a very desirable situation, I should think most of us should agree.

Thus, to heed by Lucifer’s lesson, it is necessary for us all to possess a degree of humility. But not in the modern sense of the word which is a grotesque disfiguration and the opposite of its original meaning. Instead, when we refer to possessing humility, we refer an inhibitor that stops us from getting ahead of ourselves, from allowing that pride to overrun our consciousness.

For instance, constantly reminding ourselves is that there is always someone better than us: the Chinese proverb, 一山比一山高 ( yi shan hai bi yi shan gao), which roughly translates into ‘there will always be a mountain taller than the last’ aptly encapsulates this idea. By telling ourselves this whenever we accomplish something, we can thus moderate swelling emotions.

Yet something intangible like the above can only do so much, and in the event that we are overwhelmed by our emotions, we need something tangible to keep us rooted in reality. Thus, while the past may hold many memories which we are not proud of, it is good to keep at least some relics from it, to not only serve as indications of our progress, but also to serve as reminders that we once had humbler beginnings.

Ultimately, there is a need to have an awareness that success and failure, like light and dark, while appearing to be contrasting forces, are in truth dependent on one another. One cannot exist without the other. Thus, successes are like failures: just part and parcel of life. As much as we love them, to be ruled by them is to give up our fundamental free will as our choices become dictated by them.

Extending this concept to the team level, take some time to celebrate together when your team achieves something. It works wonders for team camaraderie because there is a shared sense of achievement. However, do not let the team as a whole become complacent simply because it has faith in its achievements. That hinders progress, and can even lead to regression. Thus, be proud, but not too proud.


Turning Things Around: Breaking Free From the Cycle of Doom and Gloom

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” There are many idioms, proverbs, and sayings, all of which support the idea that compared to the good, the bad invariably has a greater hold over us. In the study of Psychology, this notion is supported by the concept of Negativity Bias, which states that the brain is naturally hardwired to have a greater sensitivity to unpleasant experiences. Thus, trying to look for a silver lining in the midst of a catastrophe is not as simple as we sometimes make out to be. Neither is trying to look on the bright side of life when things go wrong.

However, when in a team there is nothing worse than letting an obstacle pull you down. It takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch, and simply allowing that negative situation – whether personal or work-related – to influence your actions can mean disaster for the team. Thus, it is imperative that we are able to remain positive even when adversity rears its ugly head. This is possible, provided that we make several realisations:

  1. We are not alone. Oftentimes when we feel under the weather for whatever reason, the first thing that we feel is an excruciating sorrow that stems from the perception that we are alone in this world and that no one will ever understand our situation nor know how to remedy it. Unfortunately, or rather thankfully, this is false, and the reverse is true. There is definitely someone who has gone through what you are going through and has felt what you are feeling. There may even be someone going through the exact same experience. It does no harm to seek advice from such people. Their words will be enlightening and will see you through your crisis.
  1. Whatever challenge we are facing, it will come to pass. Nothing lasts forever, everything is transient: all joys, but also all sorrows. It is thus needless to say that brooding over something, imagining what could have been, thinking about what could have been done, is nothing but energy being wasted. Instead, try channelling that energy into thinking of a solution. A low is nothing more than an opportunity for creativity, for innovation.
  1. A person is not defined by his failures, just as he is not defined by his successes. It is a slippery slope down when we are feeling at our worst, as we tend to find ourselves caught in a cycle of hopelessness, as though Providence is against us, as though we have been forsaken by the universe. However, for everything wrong in our lives, there are just as many if not more that are right. Got your ideas rejected over and over again? You still have your family, your friends, your hobbies. That sense of futility is secondary in the great scheme of our lives, and there is no need to stay trapped by it.

So for those of you who feel down, fret not. Things will turn around soon enough. You just have to take the first step and realise that there is nothing is ever truly futile. And trust us, from experience we know that your team will appreciate your efforts.


Observe the Magic Around You

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – William Butler Yeats

Look around you, what do you see? Nothing particularly interesting? Think again. Even in the doldrums of the mundane and commonplace, there is something that you did not see before, that you did not notice before, but that you would have, either in retrospect, or with a second look.

In a seasoned team, members tend to take each other for granted, and tend to be under the impression that their teammates are little more than open books. No surprise there. Unfortunately, having such a mentality can be counteractive to a team, especially where members begin to think that their understanding of a person is so complete that they can make decisions for that person.

There is a need to realise that humans are all complex beings, and that our understanding of another person will always be incomplete (unless you are a mind reader, of course), since our knowledge of a person is based on what we see and hear, which gives only a fraction of the complete picture – people are adaptive creatures and portray different selves depending on the situation.

To know a person inside-out, or outside-in rather, is thus nothing less than a Sisyphean task. However, it is not impossible to obtain a fuller picture of a person. All it requires is a person to expand his faculties:

Look, it is okay to watch that person, provided you do not stalk. We are all of us inquisitive, so let that scientific curiosity loose, and observe. Mannerisms and body language, the way he interacts with others and reacts to situations or words, a lot can be learned.

Listening to gossip about a person, especially malicious gossip, is something you should avoid. The only thing that gossip achieves is influence over your impression of a person by creating a false image. Whether that image is good or bad is inconsequential. However, what matters is that gossip prevents the formation of an accurate understanding of who a person is by creating ‘noise’ that is difficult to block out.

Thus, listen to the person of interest instead. After all, people like to talk about themselves. Give that person a chance, and he will reveal a lot about himself to you, even if he is introverted. This is the best way to learn more about a person, and you never know but something he shares with you may come as a pleasant surprise to you.

Last but not least, talk. It is good and all to want to be a quiet observer, but frankly, people want to know more about you just as much as you want to know more about them. It is a reciprocal kind of thing. You need to contribute as much as you want to learn. Plus, the team would benefit from knowing more about you. Of course, try not to make every conversation revolve around you. No one other than yourself would appreciate it.

So look, listen, and talk, and you will be able to learn things about someone you never thought you would ever know. In addition, it would help you avoid being found at a crossroad, not knowing what you said to offend a teammate, and how to reconcile with him, although the reverse is true too.

Power & Control

Power and Control – When Enough is Enough.

What do you think of when you hear the word “leader”? Famous leaders of countries like Julius Caesar or George Washington? Brilliant military generals like Napoleon? CEOs of multinational companies like Bill Gates?

Fortunately, you do not need to be ‘great’ like the above figures to be a leader. Leadership comes in many forms, and can be found in many places. That said, the responsibilities of a leader remain largely unchanged: a leader has to motivate his teammates to scale greater heights than they could possibly achieve as individuals.

Ironically, a team leader is unlikely to have power over his teammates in the same way a king would have authority over his subjects. Thus, some would say that the team leader has a tougher job, because not only does he have his own job to do, he must also lead his team in the right direction. In addition, he is the held liable for his teammates’ actions and mistakes.

But is it a bad thing that leaders do not have absolute power? What if a team leader did have complete control? Chances are, such a leader would be overbearing, and micromanage his teammates, forcing them to do and redo tasks until they meet his ludicrously high expectations. Such leaders make others feel unneeded and unwanted, and inhibit the growth of ideas. Thus, rather than a mass of ideas brimming with potential, everything ends up revolving around the leader, and creativity is stunted as people become afraid to voice their opinions and simply slave over their assigned tasks.

What if the reverse were true? In contrast, a leader who is too lenient may appear weak and lackadaisical, which creates other problems – because that person may be viewed as a pushover, or otherwise unqualified, the team may eventually lose confidence in the leader, and the team would lose its direction, and work less diligently and less creatively. After all, without a person with a strong will who can make tough decisions and resolve conflicts, the team will inevitably be set adrift into the hazy ocean of uncertainty.

It is therefore necessary that a team leader balances being authoritative and lenient when carrying out his duties. However, what then is the ideal balance? We would compare a good leader with a willow tree- flexible like the trunk of a willow tree, able to adapt according to his teammates’ needs, yet strong like its roots, able to be firm when necessary. Like a willow tree, such a team leader would be able to ferry his team through tempestuous times.

Though it is not easy to strike such a balance, which often involves a great deal of trial and error, with time and experience it can be done. If anything, the process can be accelerated through the use of team building activities, where real life challenges are simulated in a safe, controlled environment. So fret not if you are not the perfect team leader. Take every opportunity to learn, and be sure that in time you will soar and excel.




Lies and Deceit and the Journey to Self-discovery

“This above all: to thine own self be true” is probably the most insightful utterance made by Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ironically, Polonius as a character is hardly true to his own self, and typically bends his will to concur with the opinions of others, as occurs in the following absolutely hilarious dialogue between him and the titular Hamlet:

HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

POLONIUS: By th’ mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed.

HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel.

POLONIUS: It is backed like a weasel.

HAMLET: Or like a whale.

POLONIUS: Very like a whale.

By now you might be wondering: what exactly is the point of all this? To keep it short and simple: whether in the workplace, at school, out with friends, or even at home, the hard truth is, very rarely do we portray ourselves as we are in the absence of people.

This is natural, as people adapt themselves to the situations they are in. This adaptive quality is part and parcel of being human. However, the problem comes in when we change ourselves just to make ourselves more likable to others. To accomplish this end, the tendency is to create entirely different lives for ourselves as we weave fictitious ‘truths’ to hide what we feel are our inadequacies. This is toxic to any relationship, as the lies eventually grow larger and proliferate, eventually becoming a monstrous agglomeration that cannot be controlled. At least till light is shed on the truth and the entire structure comes crumbling down, and people develop a distrust of the architect.

Thus the importance of ‘to thine own self be true.’ By being true to ourselves, we eliminate the possibility of lying to others just to make ourselves look better. While difficult to achieve, the benefits that we reap from so doing cannot be discounted. As we believe that to accomplish this primarily entails gaining a greater understanding of oneself, here is some information you can use on your journey towards self-discovery:

  1. Understand and appreciate your flaws. Each person has a unique set strengths and flaws. However, a person only truly understands himself inasmuch as he is aware of his flaws, however debilitating they may be. This is because ultimately what defines us as who we are is not what we can gain recognition for, but what we believe can potentially lead us to ruin.

People often talk about strengthening weaknesses and possibly turning them into strengths. However, this is wholly unnecessary. We believe in the view that focussing on strengths leads to a much more productive life, as should we focus on strengthening weaknesses thereby neglecting what we are good at, we become jacks of all trades and masters of none. The key then is simply to always keep these weaknesses at the back of the mind when undertaking tasks or assignments. In this manner, we know how to avoid them destroying us without having to conjure falsehoods to cover them up.

  1. In line with the above point, reflect. By this, we do not mean to look at yourself in the mirror and admire your body. Instead, we mean to think about the way you handle situations and your reactions to what is said and done. Take note of how your behaviour in social interactions could be improved and resolve to stop yourself from succumbing to habits if you recognise them as something that will not be of benefit to you. For optimal results, put aside some time daily, in the morning or at the end of the day, to reflect on your experiences of the day (if in the evening) or the previous day (if in the morning)  to carry out these reflections. In time to come, you will gain a greater understanding of yourself, and come to be more comfortable with who you are as a person, making it easier for you to be true to yourself.
  1. Lastly, communicate. While it is possible to mitigate one’s weaknesses by one’s sheer willpower, it is better to let others know about them so that there is an awareness, which empowers others to help you when you need assistance. It also indicates that you trust others, and inspires trust in them, as you show them that you do not fear them seeing you in your most vulnerable.

Being able to be comfortable in your own skin is vital in optimising your performance in any social setting. The key is not to avoid situations that make you feel awkward and prompt you to resort to deceptions to make yourself feel comfortable, but rather to garner a greater understanding of yourself so that you have greater confidence and believe in yourself when caught in such situations.



Team Building & Sustainability: Going Green

Team building tends to be a one-off thing, held once a year usually with a different vendor from the previous year. But that’s not what matters here. With team building, events are usually resource intensive, partially because of their tendency to be large-scale events (i.e.  Dinner & Dance), partially because they are held irregularly, which drives the perception that they are harmless.

However, with Global Warming and Climate Change taken into consideration, nature is suffering for our actions, and such practices with short-term focus are no longer sustainable. Thus, there is a need for team building to adapt to the zeitgeist and adopt sustainable practices. Here are some tips to make your team building greener, and more sustainable:

  1. Cardboard and paper frequently feature in such events. Worse yet, they are used in bulk. Why not think of Alternative resources that can be used? Plastic, while not exactly the most environmentally-friendly due to its being a non-biodegradable material, is possibly one of the best materials to use, because they can be re-used in future events, especially if the activity involves some form of construction.
  1. If paper and cardboard has to be used, and the nature of the activity means that it can only be used once, Recycle instead of throwing it away! Granted, transporting the materials may be quite the hassle, but consider this: what is more important, your convenience, or the state of the earth? The same applies for mineral water bottles. And in the case of leftover water, you can even water the surrounding flora with it before tossing the bottles into the recycling bin.
  1. Moreover, if possible, Conserve. If that means that teams have to work with limited materials, so be it! While a lack of resources is not exactly a good way to train one’s creativity, it does teach one to be more resourceful, which is a crucial part of being sustainable.
  1. Lastly, Sophistication. One way by which we can reduce the resources needed to organise and carry out team building events is to incorporate technology into such events. By making use of technology, it is possible to eliminate the need for materials such as paper entirely from such events, which is a great boon for the environment.

If ever you are lost and do not know how to run greener, more sustainable practices in your team building events, fret not! Think of sustainable team building as a rainbow. They make us happy, and they come in ARCS.

Know of how to make team building practices even more sustainable? Leave your comments in the section below:



The Importance of Saying No

If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to reject others, fret not, for you are not alone. Many people face this problem. However,  whether because of the guilt that is felt when rejecting others, or because of the need to be polite and a good person, being unable to say no, having an obsessive desire to please everyone, can be detrimental to one’s mental and emotional well-being – physical too, if it is not addressed in time. Why? An inability to reject others inevitably leads to one being swamped, buried, by commitments, most of which cannot be fulfilled. And if left unfulfilled, one’s reward will be nothing less than ire from those who were promised a job done. Learning to say no is thus essential if one does not want life of stress, burden, remorse, and resentment.

In a team, learning to say no is especially important, as accepting superfluous commitments may lead to the neglect of other vital projects which the team has under its wing. Thus, here are some tips for you to help you say no:

  1. Keep things organised. One of the main reasons why people fail to say no is that they fail to realise what commitments they have already made and to whom. Thus, to mitigate this, it is always good to keep a calendar or schedule ready at hand, where every commitment is recorded on paper in pen. By being organised, and keeping track of one’s commitments, it makes it easier when someone makes a request to say “Sorry, I have this-and-this to do for so-and-so on this date, and I really can’t help you.”
  1. Say ‘No’ without saying “No.” ‘No’ may in and of itself be a complete sentence, but it leaves listeners feeling bitter and dissatisfied – which is where the guilt of rejecting others stems from. Thus, to prevent this from occurring, offer alternatives. For instance, try scheduling the request in, but at another date and time as is more convenient for you. Check out this website for more ideas on how to reject requests graciously.
  1. If necessary, practice! Rejecting a request can still be difficult even if one has completely valid reasons to do so. Usually, it has to do with personal inhibitions. Whether because of lessons inculcated from young, or because of societal values, it is helpful to break free of these inhibitions. The easiest method by far is to practice. Use a mirror and say it to yourself; do it in low-risk circumstances such as when a street vendor approaches. Do it as often as possible and you will be prepared for the next time you need to reject someone.

Remember, life needs balance, and learning to say “No” not only keeps stress at bay, it helps to prevent the fruition of unrealistic expectations.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below.