★ 2020 Readers' Favorite International Book Award Silver Medal Winner ★ What if there are proven methods to prevent you from feeling depleted, anxious, and unsatisfied in times of crisis? Imagine you become confident about your ability to handle stress and pressure, know how to make wise decisions, and find solutions to your problems. From an aspiring actress to becoming a pharmacy professor, Dr. Ivy Ge has transformed her life while balancing her role as a working mother. Using her life lessons as a new mom juggling work and school, she helps you navigate the complexity of motherhood in simple, meaningful ways. Read the reviews from working moms and see how they have benefited from Dr. Ge's real-life examples, great advice, and steps for applying that advice effectively. If you have trouble handling difficult emotions or improving your situation, read this book to discover the answers featured on PBS, Thrive Global, Working Mother magazine, Parentology, and The Times of India. In this book, you'll learn: *How to overcome difficult emotions and make wise decisions *How to handle adversity and overcome your obstacles using your hidden strengths *How to simplify your life and get more done in less time *How to raise self-reliant children and resolve tension in your relationship *How to reverse engineer your life by going from where you want to be to where you are now... and much more. The secret to living your best life is to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
There's a common misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We often feel like we're imposing or not good enough when asking for help. This isn't the case at all. It's actually a sign of strength and confidence to ask for help when you need it, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Asking for help has many benefits: 1. It means you're more likely to get the assistance you need to achieve your goals. 2. Asking for help can build relationships and create opportunities for collaboration. 3. Just the act of reaching out to someone for assistance can help to ease feelings of stress or anxiety. 4. Asking for help can save you time and money. 5. Studies show that asking for help can improve your mental and physical health. 6. Asking for help can give you a sense of control. 7. Asking for help can increase your self-esteem. 8. Most people are happy to help others. It makes them feel good to do so. Helping others creates a sense of purpose and improves life satisfaction. We all need help from time to time, and there's nothing wrong with admitting that you need assistance. So go ahead and ask!
When I started working again after a long medical leave, I frequently saw this male Anna’s hummingbird on the trail near my workplace. It always seemed to appear out of thin air, swooping right in front of me, letting out a trail of happy buzz-whistle-chip sounds before gliding away, its tiny wings fluttering so fast that they looked blurry. Sometimes, it settled on a branch and stayed still while the branch bounced in a gentle breeze. I would stop and admire its tiny frame and vibrant colors. At the time, I struggled to keep up with work demands while still recovering from injuries. Every day was a challenge, a long-held breath. The slow walk on the trail during lunch hour gave me the space and solace I needed. Native American legends often portray hummingbirds as healers or spirit beings who help people in need. Whenever I saw the hummingbird, I would experience a surge of gratitude for the hope and wonder its tiny wings brought me. It lifted me out of a dark corner and showed me the possibilities. After a period of time, the hummingbird disappeared, although I still stop by the branch it loved to rest on. The bird brought me an important message to overcome my challenges. Now, I’ve found my way on this life journey.
Ever seen movies where the hero/heroine desperately needs an escape from the villain chasing after them, only to find a dead end blocking their path? Do you think of a dead end as a test in life? Of course, there are no high stakes like life and death, but the dramatic question remains: what would you do when running into a dead end? Do you throw up your arms and yell about the unfair life, or bury your face in a pillow and cry your heart out? It’s okay to feel emotional about unexpected setbacks. Failure hurts. Once that sting goes away, take action. You have a goal, and you want to find a way to make things work for you. It’s no simple task. You’ll have to improvise, think outside the box, and search for an alternative for the best possible outcome. Schools teach you knowledge; life gives you the opportunities to turn your knowledge into wisdom. Once you’ve handled a few dead ends, you become much more adaptive, resilient, and even more proficient in planning for your next goal.
When a lone gray wolf (OR-93) first appeared in California in February 2021, the news excited scientists across the state. OR-93 left his pack in Oregon and headed south, traveling through lava beds, snowy passes in the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park, into an agricultural field near Fresno, then headed west toward the Central Coast, crossing freeways 99, 5, and 101 — three of the deadliest roads in the country, until he reached Southern California’s crowded suburbs. He wanted a new territory and female mates. His relentless journey ignited a palpable hope to improve California’s biological diversity. Nine months later, OR-93 was struck dead by a vehicle while crossing a freeway in Los Angeles, only steps away from the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch Conservancy. What is the takeaway from this story? Although we can’t control the outcome, we can always give our best shot. OR-93’s remarkable ambition and adventurous spirit made his short life more meaningful than the rest of his pack. Success isn’t measured by longevity, but the experience he amassed, and his influence on conservationists advocating for safe wild animal passages in the modern world. We all have dreams, not all of them can be fulfilled within one lifetime. So we try, and we keep trying, even if our stories end a few steps short of our dreams.
February is a month of love, and food is love. Food nourishes the body and soul. Think about your favorite dish from childhood, the recipes passed on through generations in your family, and the meals you shared with loved ones in your joyous moments of life. I’ve been using a simple, highly customizable, homemade granola recipe [Google “BuzzFeed” + “Best Granola”] for a decade. It makes a very thoughtful and practical gift. They carry the message of love and appreciation across distance, in good times, and in tough times. I first discovered this recipe when searching for breakfast ideas on the go. I had a long commute to work back then and wanted something easy and nutritious to enjoy while driving. I mix blueberries and sliced fresh strawberries in unsweetened yogurt, and keep them refrigerated overnight. Stir in homemade granola when ready to eat the next morning. Add toasted black sesame seeds and walnut bits for shiny hair and memory boost. Even after all these years, it still tastes heavenly. When you take a bite, you can detect the berries’ soft sweetness, the oats’ crunchiness, and the powerful scent of the black sesame seeds. It reminds me to love and appreciate myself, for who I am and what I can do.
How to Manifest a Fulfilling Year Ahead How to manifest your dreams and desires in 2022? The answer is simple—write yourself a letter. List all your dreams and desires, with one item in each paragraph. Fill in the details on how you envision your success feels like, looks like, and tastes like. The more vivid you can describe them, the more powerful they become when you read the letter over the course of the year. Write down the reason you want to realize each dream. Drill deeper into your whys – they are your true motivation to pursue the dreams. Use your whys to guide you to the right decision, to partner with the right people. Knowing your whys and follow them will make your life easier and make you happier. The purpose of this letter is to read it when you need motivation, encouragement, and support. The last step is to schedule the letter to be delivered to your email inbox by 12/21/22. It’s tremendously rewarding when you savor the very words you wrote a year ago. No one needs to read your letter except you. So be honest and be bold. Write out everything you’ve always wanted to do. 2022 is your year to succeed, to break your own record, to make things happen for yourself.
You are your own harshest critic. I bullied myself for years. Everything that didn’t go the way I wanted, I blamed it on myself. I dismissed my feelings because they weren’t the right feeling to have. All this came to a halt when I lay on a gurney inside an emergency rescue helicopter, heading for the nearest trauma center. The horse accident broke me, mentally and physically. For many months, I could do nothing but think. I thought about all those hours I’d put in to achieve the long list of things on my resume. I thought about all the people I’d tried to please and impress. Where were they then? After the sixteen months of surgeries and rehabilitation, I decided I couldn’t wait for things to get easier before feeling good. I want to make things easier for myself. I stop criticizing myself for things that went wrong. I gave my best, and that was good enough. When someone criticizes me, I thank them and walk away. A crooked apple tree still grows apples. When you buy fruits at a supermarket, do you care if they come from a crooked tree? Nowadays, I’m happier because I appreciate myself. Therefore, on this Thanksgiving, I thank myself besides all those wonderful people in my life.
My family visited the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany in the summer of 2016. We took many photos from the nearby Marienbrücke Bridge. At noon, the bridge was packed with tourists. My son was hungry and tired, so we sat against the bridge barrier for a break. A man resting two feet across from us offered him an energy bar. We thanked him. Seeing the three camera bags and a tripod next to him, I asked if he was a professional photographer on an assignment. He said yes. He planned to wait until sunset when most tourists cleared off the bridge, and the golden light illuminated the magnificent castle. “It takes a lot of patience and discipline,” I said. “Yeah, all good things take time. Most people rush about, snap a photo here and there without seeing the details.” I asked, on average, how long it took him to get a good shot. “It depends,” he said. “Sometimes takes a whole day. Sometimes days, even weeks.” “What do you do when you wait for the perfect photo? Don’t you get bored?” I asked. He shook his head. “If you look close enough, everything has its own beauty. Waiting is the process of discovering, one minute at a time.”
Buildings and places often carry sentimental value in our memories. They are the landmarks of our journey through life. Recently, I volunteered at a Litquake event at the beautifully renovated St. Joseph’s Arts Society in San Francisco. It used to be the St. Joseph Catholic Church, a city landmark founded in 1861. The security guard said he grew up in the neighborhood and often saw squatters inside and around the church. I asked him if there were ghosts in the building. He pointed at the main gate behind him. “I’ve never seen one, but I hear this door squeaking open at night when I’m patrolling inside the main hall. It’s so weird.” Not sure if it was a convenient choice, the designer installed toilets where the confessionals once stood. As I washed my hands in the elegantly decorated bathroom, I wondered if the ghosts of the past would wander through the art center, searching for the safe space where they had once spelled out all their sins. How do we preserve history while keeping up with the change of time? Can buildings serve different roles without losing their sentimental value and historical significance? Maybe this art center is a brilliant reincarnation of the decrepit catholic church, offering a unique venue to the San Francisco art scene. What do you think?
Accessing your intuition can bring tremendous insights to your life. Recently, I learned a handy technique to sharpen my intuition from Sharon Anne Klingler, a world-renowned intuitive teacher. These are the rules: 1. Speed is your friend. When you hesitate, your logical mind takes over. 2. Frame your question in a positive way. For example, will I lose my job is a negative question. A positive way to ask the same question is, will I stay at this job? Here's how to practice the technique: First, close your eyes and focus on a simple yes or no question in your head. Do not ask a question that contains two parts. For example, should I move to Seattle or Santa Fe? Otherwise, you won’t get a clear answer. Second, imagine seeing a traffic light in front of you. What colored light do you see? Trust the first color that comes to mind. Green light = Yes; Red light = No; Yellow light = go slow, or not enough information, ask again later. Sometimes, you may see a traffic light switching colors back and forth; it means you need more information to get a definitive answer. You can use this technique over and over again to sharpen intuition. Keep a journal of your intuitive readings and track your progress.
The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing just one letter, and supply a new definition. Here’re some of the winning entries: Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it. Decafhalon: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly. Caterpallor: The color you turn when you discover half a worm in the fruit you’re eating. Now that you've seen the examples, can you come up with a new word that's rich in double meaning?
Life is full of serendipity. Put in the work. Seeds often grow in unexpectedly rewarding ways. Michael Cunningham wrote his best work, The Hours, a 1998 novel about three generations of women affected by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. The book won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and was made into an Oscar-winning 2002 film of the same name, starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore. Michael said, “he was an average American teenager until, at the age of 15, he sought to impress a girl who was reading Virginia Woolf, so he read Virginia Woolf in order to … talk to her – and suddenly realized … there was something beyond bowling alleys.” Years ago, I was assigned to the Neurosurgery rotation in pharmacy school. Fascinated by the brain, I loved every bit of that training, familiarizing myself with various procedures, asking the surgical residents questions, and research articles for them. After graduating, I couldn’t find a hospital pharmacist position. Frustrated, I posted my resume online and took a position at a retail pharmacy. A few months later, I received a call for an interview at a neurosurgical center. The pharmacy director said she was so impressed by my resume that she decided to interview me. A week later, she hired me out of a large pool of candidates.
Happiness isn’t about having everything you want, but everything you need. Why Are Nepalis So Happy? Nepal is a South Asian country with high unemployment rates, poor health care and education. Yet the World Happiness Report 2021 ranked Nepal as the happiest country in South Asia. What makes these poor people so happy? On March 20, 2015, the International Day of Happiness, NPR interviewed a few Nepalis about the meaning of happiness. “Woeser Choeden, 90, has no formal education. In 1960, she fled Tibet to Nepal on foot with her two oldest daughters. Two yaks carried the family food, as well as her two youngest daughters. She has 20 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren." “‘Happiness for me is about contentment, not about extremes of happiness or sadness. I tell my children to embrace the suffering and hardship that comes through hard work. Only then can one truly understand happiness.’"
The new sounds so much more exciting than the old. We can’t help ourselves. Life is short, and we want it all. What is the merit in keeping the old? The old furniture, clothes, routine, or tradition? YouTube and TikTok videos offer endless entertainment to keep us riding the new wave. Someone somewhere is always doing the things we haven’t tried before. How thrilling. Everything becomes necessary, so we feel stressed. We keep buying more new things to deal with the stress. Maybe it’s time to simplify our lives. Get rid of the excess and live with the basics. When we stop buying new things, we appreciate more of the old. We learn to fix things, rather than replacing them. We notice beauty in those tiny wildflowers, and find pleasure in small things. I came across this article about a farm who ate the same dinner every day. He says, “People might think I’m not experiencing new things, but I think the secret to a good life is to enjoy your work… If someone offered me [2 million pounds] to move, I would tell them to keep it. Most evenings I walk right up to the top of the valley. I look down and everything looks small and far away. And I feel like I’m on top of the world.”
When you're too close to something, it's impossible to see the big picture. Think of those aerial images—how different everything looks when seeing them from high above. Put distance between you and the problem. Give a couple of days or weeks to think over. Take a trip somewhere, and the new environment can prompt you a new perspective. Or, speak to someone you rarely consult with. The fresh points they make might surprise you. Mistakes are often made in haste, especially when you want something so bad. The idea of getting that very thing overpowers all reasons. Change the scenery, put some time and distance between that thing you desperately want and your best options, the right decision will emerge. Another thing to remember is, no deal is better than a bad deal. Sometimes, walk away can be your best option.
Our current keyboard arrangement remains the same as the original typewriter, where letters are arranged in a way to slow you down by 75%. It was because if you typed too fast on an old-fashioned typewriter, the keys would get stuck. So, the next time you want your loved ones to change their behaviors, think about the outdated, cumbersome keyboard arrangement you’ve grown so used to. Knowing something is good for you doesn’t mean you’ll do it. All smokers know nicotine is bad, but they like how cigarettes make them feel. To make changes stick, you have to do two things at the same time: 1. Make good habits easier to implement Think of breaking the change down into tiny steps. My son has been doing three hundred push-ups a day for a few years. He started with only one push-up a day. By making a goal ridiculously easy to obtain, you build up confidence and tolerance over time. 2. Make bad habits harder to sustain Research finds simply moving your favorite junk food a few feet away helps curb the urge to snack. Want to eat more vegetables? Fill up your plate with the greens first. When you’re half full, move on to the foods you like.
When I was in eighth grade, our class chose me to be one of the two students running an 800-meter race. The race took place during our school annual Field Day, the biggest event of the year. When the signal gun went off, all the participants dashed forward, except me. I was so nervous; I forgot to run. Someone yelled, “Go!” and I took off. All the runners ahead of me looked like the real deal—they were fast and furious. Immediately, I was intimidated. I tried to run as fast as I could until I tired myself out. Trailing behind everyone, I thought about sneaking off the track and regretted having promised to finish the race and earn that pathetic point for the class. At some point, people clapped, sparsely at first, then more energetically. By then, I realized I was the only one left in the race. My face burned, my legs burned, and my ego was torched. All I thought about was my promise. I crossed the finish line. That was the only time I ever competed in a race, and it was the longest 800 meters in my life. Looking back, I’m proud that I kept my promise, no matter how bad it made me feel.
In the summer of 2020, I had a horseback riding accident, leading to a series of complications and chronic pain. During these long months of recovery, I often felt I couldn’t go on. I had no control of anything. I was miserable. One day, I decided to stop feeling like a victim and began trying out things not limited by my physical condition. One thing I did was to enroll in an online singing class at a community college. The unexpected benefit of singing on Zoom is the students are required to mute themselves. Because everyone’s internet connection speed varies, it’s impossible for the entire class to sing harmoniously together. I sang as passionately or silly as I wanted. No one could hear me. I bobbed my head, exaggerated my cheek and jaw movements on the camera, as the professor led us through lip buzzing, tongue trills, and staircase warmups. By the end of the semester, I not only cured my habitual shortness of breath, but built the confidence to sing in front of an audience. I felt stronger, in voice and spirit. Here’s the music professor’s remark on my performance—Good work, Ivy. You have a pretty, light voice. Your song is very well learned, and your JOY is very apparent. Congratulations!
Last week, I gave a talk on successful strategies to a group of pharmacy students. One exercise we did was to share answers to these two questions: 1. What advice would your 80-year-old self give to your present self? 2. What advice would your present self give to your 15-year-old self? Here’s what I told my group of students: 1. My 80-year-old self will tell my present self to try everything I ever wanted to do. Life is too short to dwell on uncertainties. The worst-case scenario is that you fail. So what? People will forget your failure and move on, and so should you. If people ignore you, that’s okay, too. You don’t have to win every hand you try, as long as you try as many of them as possible. 2. My present self will tell my 15-year-old self not to waste time worrying if everyone else likes me. Learn to love myself instead. Looking back, I wasted all those precious teenage years, worrying about everything that was out of my control. I wished someone had told me then to love and invest in myself. As I got older, I learned to be patient and gentle to myself, look past what I can’t do, and focus on what I still can.
If you put truth in front of a mirror, is what you see in the mirror still true? In an article titled Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects, Nolan Feeney explained that “Don’t blame your face. Blame your brain instead. Selfies sometimes look strange to their subjects because of how we see ourselves in the mirror, (and) how we perceive our own attractiveness.” Aesthetics aside, our fixation on mirror reflections shapes how we perceive ourselves. Whenever things happen to us, good and bad, we etch them deeper into the lines and curves of those perceptions. We believe what we see is who we are. Is the image we see our true self? What we see in the mirror is the reverse of who we are, while our photos are how others see us. Since we're talking about mirror images, how about mirrored experiences? Consider this quote: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ― Rita Mae Brown, Alma Mater Read it a few more times and let the meaning sink in. The underlining message is a bad thing can turn into a good thing (reversed) if you put that bad experience into good use. Plenty of bad things happened during the last year. How many of them have you turned into wisdom?
The Psychology of Money is one of the best books I’ve read on how to get out of the what-if trap. It shows you new ways to look at risks, odds, and the return on investment. Here are a few valuable things I learned from the book: 1. You can be wrong half of the time and still make a fortune. 99% of an art dealer’s collections can be of little value, but it doesn’t matter if the other 1% turned out to be the work of someone like Picasso. 2. All you have to do is to sit tight. “The S&P 500 increased 119-fold in the 50 years ending 2018. All you had to do was sit back and let your money compound. But of course, successful investing looks easy when you’re not the one doing it.” “Endurance is key.” 3. The change factor in long-term financial planning a) Leave room for changes. b) “Accept the reality of change and move on as soon as possible. Don’t make (your) future self prisoners to (your) past, different self.” You won’t know what the right action is until you try it out first. The important thing is to course correct when you fail and keep you going if you get it right.
Our pet fish died. He's been with us since my son was in elementary school. My son named him Bob. Bob was an African convict cichlid with zebra stripes across his body. Years ago, we brought a large fish tank and dozens of beautiful tiny pet fish. Bob was one of them. In a crowd of bright-colored fellows, he looked suspicious and cunning. My son said Bob looked like a bad guy. He was right. Within a month, Bob killed off all the other fish, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies behind. He became the only resident in our large tank for the next six years. Sometimes, I sat on the sofa, watching him patrol around the well-lit tank. He must be lonely, I thought. One day I leaned against the tank to retrieve something behind it, Bob charged at me with such a vengeance that he startled me. Two weeks ago, my son told me that Bob died. He was sad. And the strange thing was, I felt sad, too. We buried Bob in the backyard with a tombstone that my son made. Now, our large fish tank sat empty in the living room, dark without its heater light on. Bob was a vicious fish, and he stayed true to his nature to the very end.
It was my birthday, and I got a pie for the occasion. All these years, I've been going back and forth between ice cream cakes and fruit cakes. After a tremendous last year, I wanted something new for my birthday. So, I got a bourbon pecan pie from Three Babes Bakeshop in San Francisco. It was as delicious as it looked. You can taste the brown sugar and a healthy splash of bourbon. I tried topping my slice with ice cream, but it was better without the addition. Less is more; I should have known. My husband and I watched a movie at home while enjoying the pie. Halfway through the movie, I thought I liked the idea of change already. There is no need to make the change so big and so hard. Build your way up there slowly. Start with something as insignificant as a bourbon pecan pie for your birthday. Surprise yourself with the unexpected delights. It’s freeing to be curious, to do things just for fun, to say ‘yes’ without playing all the worst-case scenarios in your head. The pie made me think of the life I hadn’t lived. All those choices I’d made set me off in a domino effect. Maybe I can start another chain of events, starting with a pie for my birthday.
Do you know January 19 is the “Quitters Day”? That is the day most people likely give up their New Year’s resolutions. Barely two weeks in, I already broke two resolutions I’d planned. One was to practice diaphragmatic breathing every day; the other one was to quit eating so much cheerio. Scientists find bad habits are much easier to follow and give us instant rewards than good habits. To save my failing resolutions, I decided to trick my brain into treating my good habits as those ultra-satisfying bad ones. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Instead of 15-minute practice a day, I only aimed to take one proper deep breath. On day one, I took three such breaths, and I count the extras toward my rewards. As the days went by, I kept earning more bonus points. Stop Eating Cheerios: Instead of quitting Cheerios entirely, I counted out 50 cheerios each day. I ate them one by one, savoring the texture and taste in my mouth. Interestingly enough, I no longer craved for more, and even had leftovers at the end of the day. My Reward: For every 100 bonus points, I earn $10 to spend on myself. Now, at the end of my two-week experiment, I’ve made over $15. There are so many little gadgets I want to buy!
Recently I had a phone conversation with a friend who is a breast cancer survivor. I talked about my experience recovering from a spinal cord injury after a horse accident. We laughed about how illness is the best friendship detector—how some friends couldn’t run away fast enough, while others stuck around, even though we didn’t expect them to do so. We talked about how hard it was to find people who would listen without judgment. Pain is a dark and lonely place. We don’t expect you to bring a cure or solution; we just need your presence, so we don’t feel alone in that dark and lonely place. I posted this question to my Facebook group, and here are some of my favorite answers: What are the stupidest things people have said to you when you’re sick or going through tough times? • “You don’t look sick. (I have stage 4 cancer).” • “When I was going through chemotherapy, I had one person say, "you know you could have used shark cartilage or peach pits." • “My mom passed when I was 17. I was having a tough time, and a 'friend' said, ‘Will you just get over it?’" • “It’s all in your head.” • “God won’t ever give you more than you can bear!” • “Have you googled that?” • “OMG, that happened to me!”
Whether you’re into astrology or reading Wall Street Journal’s financial forecast, you’re waiting for a better year to come. How to make good things happen to you? 1. Know what you want By knowing exactly what you want, you avoid wasting time on goals too small or too big for you. Make a habit of quantifying your wants can help you achieve goals. 2. Focus on what you have People often say, if I could have X, then everything will be okay. Instead, ask yourself, what if I could never have X, what can I do then, and go from there. What you have is enough to get started toward something remarkable. 3. Care less about what they think Most of our stress comes from doing the things others want us to do. We aren’t in harmony with our natural self, thus feel trapped and stressed. Do more for joy and less for obligations. 4. Break it down Never make a to-do list containing tasks that take hours to do. Break it down into 20-or 30-minute sessions. Otherwise, you’ll never get it done. 5. Change is letting go. Identify the expenses, people, or responsibilities that no longer serve you, and let them go. The less burden you carry, the easier it is to change. Letting go is the first step.
The first time I performed for a packed auditorium, I was three years old. I did my poetry recital, loud and proud, not scared at all. For the next twenty years, I was in various performances, from solo singing to choral performances to theater plays. It was clear to me that the older I grew, the more scared I became. My own exceptionally high expectations led to my inability to lose myself in performances. The more time you spend contemplating your own inadequacy, the harder it is to take action. Here are the three simple steps to take control of fear when you’re scared: 1. Focus on your purpose, not on yourself. Remind yourself why you wanted to do this thing in the first place. You will improve given time and practice. Focus on what drives you rather than how terrible you are. 2. Set a tiny goal as the first step. Break your ultimate goal into bite-size micro-goals. This will not only shorten the distance between you and your next goal, but also makes it easier to shift your strategies to accommodate unforeseen changes. 3. Learn from others. Look for people who have lived through the same situation and learn from their experiences. As you gather strategies and action plans for various challenges, you’ll feel more in control.
Worries are the punishment delivered before a sentence. Once you get in the habit of worrying, you’ll live like a caged bird, flying only so far before the invisible string of worries pulls you back. Here is how you stop worrying: One, set a time to worry. Assign 15 minutes each day to worry. Anything about yourself, your family, job, car, house, you name it. Make a list. Next day, open your worry log and cross out those no longer concern you and record your new worries. This will help you identify a pattern of unnecessary worries you carry around. Two, do something about it. When you can’t stop worrying about something, try to identify one thing you can do to lessen that worry. For example, if you worry about the upcoming presentation, run it by someone you trust, and make it better. Three, have a Plan B. Having a Plan B can help prepare you for the unforeseeable future. When you weigh your situation and come up with a Plan B, you not only avoid making hasty mistakes, but also set up a safety net for yourself. Last, remember, you always find what you’re looking for. Focus on the thing you can do, rather than the thing you can’t, makes a big difference in the long run.
We all have so much to do and so little time! The golden rule is to eliminate, automate, and delegate. For the remaining tasks, use these steps to prioritize. Step 1: Which one of your tasks is the most urgent? Do it first. (Think of how the consequence of delaying can be severe, even irreversible) Step 2: Which one of your tasks is the most important for the day? Do it second. (Think of how the cost of incompletion can lead to serious consequence) Step 3. Which one of your tasks is important in the long run? Do it next, but in small doses. (Think of starting small, but do it daily. For example, you need to clean up the garage, instead of waiting until the last minute, set the goal of cleaning for 15 minutes a day only, and do it over the course of two weeks. Step 4. Rank the remaining tasks in terms of enjoyment. Rule No. 1 - Do fun tasks first in short spurts (set alarm for 15-20 minutes per task). Rule No. 2 - Insert a bit-size important task (from step 3) between two fun tasks to prevent stressing out. Rule No. 3 - For difficult tasks, think about them in the shower and watch good ideas pop up like wild mushrooms.
Research shows that being curious can maximize your opportunities and bring you more luck. In our culture, we elevate intelligence and think it’s so important. The reality is intelligence is incredibly overrated. Being curious means exposing yourself to ideas, to books, to places, and to people. Since childhood, the human brain had always fascinated me. When I had a neurosurgical rotation in pharmacy school, I asked a surgical resident to take me to watch an Awake Craniotomy, a procedure performed on the brain while patients are awake and alert. The surgery took eight hours. When the surgical residents went to have lunch, only the attending surgeon and I were left in the O.R room. He asked me to help position the microscope to identify the exact location of a brain tumor. After a while, he began explaining what he was doing, and how he decided where to cut. It was such a memorable experience. By the way, the human brain looks like Japanese tofu, and a tumor looks like spoiled tofu, in case you wonder. When I graduated, I got my first job at a neurosurgery medical center. Because I spent so much time with the surgical team, I learned valuable knowledge to stand out in the applicant pool. You see, just being curious can bring you good luck.
Are you disappointed with how your life turned out? You’re tired, stressed, and anxious. What should you do when nothing seems to work out the way you want? First, acknowledge the fact this is not the time to aim for perfection. You can’t have everything, so focus on the most important things first. Once you get them under control, you can move on to other things. Second, try a new coping strategy. Your old defense mechanism isn’t working. It’s time to learn from others, either from someone you know or admire. If one strategy doesn’t work, try another. Adjust the ones that work to fit your unique situation. Third, make a plan. There’s no perfect plan when everything evolves so fast. Even an imperfect plan is better than no plan at all. Having a plan lowers your anxiety and motivates you to take action. You can always refine your plan as you go. The farther along you are, the clearer everything becomes.
Homeschooling has proven to be one of the most difficult things yet on our 2020 to-do list. Your kids sit in front of a computer with that glazed-over look, as if they had an out-of-body experience. You worry about their future, but nothing you say can motivate them to learn. Now, let’s take a step back and figure out why remote learning isn’t effective. The school's focus has been teaching kids knowledge—the 'what', not the 'why'—the importance of learning that knowledge, or the 'how'—ways to use it in real life. If you want to get kids excited to learn, they have to understand why they are learning it and how to apply it in real life. It doesn’t help just tell your kids they’ll end up living on the street if they don’t study well and go to college. Find a more pertinent way to show them the difference between an educated person and an uneducated one. If you teach them age-appropriate life skills, such as money management, cooking, cleaning, and folding laundries, they'll realize they can change the outcome if they put in the effort. They’ll become more confident in their abilities, and want to do better in other areas, such as learning at school.
My son turned sixteen. For the first time, he celebrated his birthday without me. When he cut the birthday cake with my husband, I was a hundred miles away at a trauma center after being brought in by helicopter for multiple fractures and a gaping wound that wouldn’t stop bleeding. Between the debilitating pain and medication-induced mental fog and nausea, I thought about the future. How long would it take before I could be active again? Would I experience all the negative consequences of this injury the surgeon had told me about? With only one good arm, it was a tedious affair to peel and eat even half of a banana. Between each bite, I noted not just its smell and texture, but also the funny little things about banana that had happened to me in the distant past. Suddenly, all the unimportant things I had pushed aside during my busy career seemed so precious. I wondered how I could have lived this long without missing their presence. The nurse came in and asked how I was doing. I said, “I’m in pain, and it’s a good thing.”
If you’re a mom with school-aged children, you’re likely experiencing exhaustion daily. It’s both mental and physical. You feel powerless in this fight against an enemy you can’t even see. No one has answers for you. You have to search for solutions yourself. The thing is, you can’t use your old way of thinking to solve a new problem. Start with listing things you can still control, no matter how small they are. Use them as the backbone to build your new way of life. Move on to the things your partner and children can help you maintain control. Have a family meeting and talk about everyone’s responsibilities and expectations. Assign projects to your five-year-old, so he/she has a ‘job’ to do while you working on yours. Learning life skills and engaging in creative ‘project’ help prepare kids for real-life challenges later on. The more confident they’re of their abilities, the less dependent they’re on you, and the more motivated they’ll become to learn, even on Zoom. The last step is to dig deep into your strengths and think about a third option (that isn’t all or none) for the things you have no control. Take a walk, or a shower can usually get your creative juice flowing.
Come on, you know what I’m talking about. Everyone feels it nowadays, even the littles ones. Everything we do seems pointless. Why bother keeping trying when nothing matters anymore? True, but not entirely. The coronavirus is a new threat. No one knows how long it will stay, how soon we can find a cure, and how fast we can rebuild what we lost. One thing we do know—is that we can’t use our old methods to tackle this new problem. We need a new strategy to get what we want. But how, you ask? Here’s a hint: study those people, businesses, or institutions that have changed their approach in getting what they want during the pandemic. Instead of swimming against the current, they pivot to go with it. I call this reverse engineering. Figure out their reposition strategies and apply them to your own problem. You’re listless because you don’t see a way out of the maze. Reverse engineer others’ successful strategies will point you in the direction out of the mess. Study, plan, and apply. This is how cars beat fast horses, and airplanes took the sky. The time is changing, and your coping strategies must change with it.
How often do you wish for something to happen, so that you can be smarter, stronger, happier, more successful, and attractive? If only this or that happens… The truth is, that thing will never happen unless you do something about it. “But it’s impossible! It’s too hard! I can’t do it! I don’t have the money, the willpower, or the stamina? I can’t!” Well, you can’t if you never try. Start with something very small that you can do right now for five seconds. For example, clean your room for just five seconds, or do one push-up. Do it every day. You’ll see a big result. It’s called the compound gain. A small thing can snowball into something huge. The key is consistency. As you get comfortable with that small effort, gradually scale up your commitment. That is how people accumulate assets, write their best-selling books, become professional athletes, and be the CEO of their own companies. What is that small thing you can do right now for five seconds?
We make countless decisions every day. From what to eat for dinner to what show to watch on TV, we rely on our gut feeling to choose one option out of all the possibilities. When it comes to making critical decisions, however, we’re stuck. Questions like What career change should I make, or Should I move to another city can torment you for months without a clear decision in sight. Fearing for the worst outcome, our minds are tangled up with all the pros and cons, unable to decide what is our best option. Here are the seven secrets that can help you make better decisions in tough situations. 1. Identify the core problem you’re solving – eliminate unnecessary information. 2. Focus on gaining rather than losing – set your eyes on growth. 3. Know what is important to you – don’t be pressured to follow others’ advice. 4. Aim for good enough – learn to make decisions based on imperfect data. 5. Quantify the pros and cons – use standard criteria to weigh each option. 6. Consider the cascade of consequences – know what to expect from your decision. 7. Evaluate the outcome of your decisions – learn from your past. Check out the entire article at https://www.ivyge.com/decision-making/
Use these two quick markers to gauge your relationship strength. One, how often do you talk to each other about your feelings? Two, how often do you express love and appreciation through intimacy? Too busy to talk to each other? Hmm, I wonder if you have set the right priority in life. If nothing else, this pandemic has shown us how much family and health mean to us. Always put people first, then things. Too stressed for intimacy? Are you aware of the happy hormones flooding your brain during and after sex? Welcome your partner’s inviting hands in bed and take the joy ride together. You’ll feel so much better afterward. If you’re stressed and worried, don’t hide in a corner and suffer alone. Give your partner a chance to show support even if he or she can’t solve the problem for you. Having a frank talk about your feelings builds the much-needed trust in your relationship. By discussing your problem with someone who loves you, you’ll feel less alone and more optimistic to tackle the challenge. In return, express your love and appreciation through intimacy, so he or she will love you more. Deep down, we’re all creatures of feelings. Touch each other’s heart and be touched.
So far, I had made four career changes (Business -> Engineering -> Pharmacy -> Author), and now I'm working toward the fifth one. People ask me, how do you find time to learn new things? What if things don’t work out the way you want? Wouldn’t that be a waste of time and effort? Well, honestly, if something interests you, you’ll find the time. You’ll re-prioritize your life to nurture that interest. Because it makes you happy doing it; feel good about yourself when you get better at it. Will I succeed? I don’t know. It’s the same uncertainty I faced with all my previous changes. So far, my record is good, but it doesn’t mean I’ll succeed this time. I have muscle memories from countless trial and error. I learned to look for patterns, be flexible, kind, and open. We were born with nothing and will die with nothing. It’s the experience that counts. Give your grandchildren a reason to look up to you, round-eyed, in awe. Think of life as a train ride. We’re all heading for the same destination, but everyone sees a different view. Stop looking at life through others’ lenses. Find your own horizon. Make your ride the most splendid and memorable.
Have you lost a job recently or have second thoughts about your current position? Are you too old to switch careers? Do you need another degree to move into a different industry? These are all valid questions. As someone who has made four career changes in different fields, I want to make the process easier for you by breaking it down into 8 steps. 1. Understand your strengths and transferable soft skills 2. Identify various industries that can use your strengths and skills. 3. Go to LinkedIn or social media groups to find people who are already in your desired positions. 4. Study their educational background, credentials, work experience, etc., to identify the easiest industry/position to break into. 5. Ask the insiders for 5 minutes of their time to answer your questions. Offer help and be courteous. At least one of them will help you out. 6. Take free online courses from top universities on sites like edX, Class Central, and Coursera, to boost industry-specific knowledge for a standout resume. 7. During interview, showcase your strengths and soft skills through storytelling. Be likeable. 8. Negotiate additional perks, even if salary is non-negotiable. That is the entire process. Need more motivation and details on the topic? Read my book!
How A Timer (Part) I), A Calendar (Part II), and A Trash Can (Part III) Boost Your Relationship During Quarantine? You’re feeling trapped, anxious, and lonely at home, next to your partner who is equally mad and sad. What if you can win back the love and passion that bought you together in the first place? Clean up the house together! Working with your hands eases mental stress. The process of going through old stuff helps bring back memories of the old times, reminding both parties why they were together in the first place. Deciding what to toss and what to save as a team unites the couple and confirms the common goal of the relationship. Once you clean up the house, you not only rekindle the love between you but also give yourself a peaceful environment to be productive at home.
How A Timer (Part) I), A Calendar (Part II), and A Trash Can (Part III) Boost Your Relationship During Quarantine? You’re feeling trapped, anxious, and lonely at home, next to your partner who is equally mad and sad. What if you can win back the love and passion that bought you together in the first place? Seeing each other 24/7 is way too much exposure. You’ve got to give each other the room to breathe. Divide up your living space into sections; each party takes a section as the home office. Decide on the time and duration of this NO CONTACT period, mark it on your calendar, and stick to it. This way, you both can have a life of your own at home. Next, divide up household chores based on each party’s preference and expertise. Write down who is going to do what, at what time, and keep your promises. If one party fails to do his or her share, there will be penalties - whether it’s a flat $10 each time, or an escalating scale. If you have children, let them be the judge. They’ll get the job done. This way, you are sharing the responsibilities together. Pick one day each week to switch office space and house chores, and appreciate each other’s effort.
How A Timer, A Calendar, and A Trash Can Boost Your Relationship During Quarantine? You’re feeling trapped, anxious, and lonely at home, next to your partner who is equally mad and sad. What if you can prevent your relationship from going bad to ugly during quarantine? What if you can win back the love and passion that bought you together in the first place? Discover how these three items can boost your relationship in this fun and informative three-part series. Set 15 minutes for face to face communication. Really sit together and look at each other. Each party gets 5 minutes to talk about whatever is on his or her mind. The other party can only listen, no comments. When the 5 minutes is up, switch to the other person. When both parties have a chance to speak, you spend the next 5 minutes talk about what each party can do for the other person based on what you just heard. Start small, be specific, if you don’t know where to start, focus on the things you can easily do but often forget. You do this every day, 15 minutes at a time. Within a week, you will begin to see each other in a new light. We all want respect and acknowledgment in a relationship.
For a long time, we train our mind to get more from life—more money, better cars, bigger houses, and expensive schools for our children. We are what we have. That is how others see us. That’s how we prove it to ourselves. Now the quarantine takes away the value we give to these material things. We stopped commuting, and our children learn at home. No matter how much assets we own, our future is as uncertain as everyone else’s. How to find meaning in this new reality? It’s time to stop using material things to give meaning to our lives; instead, we seek meaning within ourselves, in our body and mind. What really makes us happy? What are the things we absolutely can’t live without? It’s time to re-prioritize things, and do the most important ones first, and always. We’re what we believe, what we do, and what we choose to keep in these crazy times. Take care and take it easy, my friends.
Perfection is like infinity, a great concept but impossible to reach. Don't let imperfection stop you from living the life you want. Stop playing all the worst-case scenarios in your head. Start doing the things you always wanted to do. You don't need the entire map drawn out before taking the first step. It's like driving at night, you can only see as far as your headlights allow. as the road extends before you, you find your way to the destination. #artofgoodenough.
Kids need to learn and grow while schools are closed. However, academic learning is NOT the only thing kids need to learn in this crisis. Many of us are anxious and angry. There’re many things out of our control. How to process the negative emotions and still maintain our focus on what we can control? Explain to your kids how you are handling these negative feeling, so they learn to be strong and wise. Teach them how to cook simple meals, how to do laundry, and what is the best way of folding clothes. Encourage kids to be resourceful by thinking outside the box. Include them in the decision-making process on family matters. Listen to their points of view and explain to them why their opinions are sound or not. This crisis gives us the perfect opportunity to start those life lessons. If you're stressed by the economic crisis, include kids in the conversation. Explain to them the value of healthy spending, and calculation of return on investment. There are eBooks on money management for kids that you can check out from the local library to improve their financial literacy. There will be a time when they have to meet such challenges alone. These life skills and lessons are what benefit them in the long run, not algebra 2.
Do you ever wonder why we are getting more and more anxious and stressed out? Why do we do the things that don't matter to us, spend the money we don't have, buy the things we don't need, and impress the people we don't even like? Because we have been chasing after the things we want, instead of the things we need. Needs keep us in harmony with our nature; wants distract us, drive us away from our purpose. It's time to take an inventory of our needs and wants, shed the unnecessary weight, and live simply.
There is so much anger around us nowadays. The invisible and the unknown are changing the way we learn, work, travel, and communicate. We're forced to develop a new routine. We're angry because we lost the order that held our old lives together. We're angry because we have to process things differently when we are not ready. We're angry because we are scared. Fear is our enemy. Learn how to handle fear is the first step to take control of our situation.
With more and more people following shelter-in-place orders all around the world, couples are spending a record amount of time together--good news for some, unbearable for others. Love is a practice, a discipline to focus on the good, and work with the rest. Instead of reacting with anger out of frustration, find out why your partner suffers from extreme anxiety and stress. Talk about their childhood, any event happened in the remote past, unhealed, still haunting their memories. Give each other space to cool down and reflect. Ignore the imperfections. They're always there, you just haven't had the time to zoom in on them. For the sake of your relationship, learn to understand first before criticizing. It won't do anyone any good. Remember, you can't help someone if you don't understand them. So today, practice love with discipline.
After working in hospitals for over a decade, I have witnessed the extremes of human emotions over deaths and second chances. Now the virus is testing everyone's ability to cope with the perceived pending doom, the gut-wrenching uncertainty, and powerlessness. Learn to process your emotions by writing it out. Let words bring clarity to your thoughts. Let constructive thoughts bring forth the actions you need and leave behind the destructive ones. We can't control everything, but we can control our own thoughts and actions. Do you have any destructive thought that serves you no good? Write it down to unload your burden, then toss it away, literally and figuratively.
Most of our troubles are manmade, caused by worry, hurry, and curry. Anxiety turns us against ourselves, traps us in the imagined danger, confines us in the shadow of doom, forever tittering on the edge of control. When we can’t stop worrying, we stop living. Here’s what to do when you can’t stop worrying: the first is a temporary fix followed by a permanent solution.
Do you ever wonder why we are getting more and more anxious and stressed out? Why do we do the things that don't matter to us, spend the money we don't have, buy the things we don't need, and impress the people we don't even like? Because we have been chasing after the things we want, instead of the things we need. Needs keep us in harmony with our nature; wants distract us, drive us away from our purpose. It's time to take an inventory of our needs and wants, shed the unnecessary weight, and live simply.
Do you worry about making a fool of yourself while others look on? Have you ever stopped trying new things just to avoid judgment and embarrassment? Well, it's time to stop taking yourself so seriously. Who cares what random people think when they see you struggle with two screaming kids and a heavy bag of groceries. You do what is important to you. If they judge, they've forgotten their days wearing diapers. Use your strengths and values to anchor your life, not others' opinions.
Every one of us lives three lives simultaneously: public life, personal life, and private life. Your sense of happiness depends on the level of harmony among these lives. Take a moment to reflect on these three lives: which one of them makes you yearn for more?
There are only two types of goals in life: moving toward pleasure or moving away from pain. Those who move toward pleasure know what they want and make efforts to reach their rewards. When they encounter pain on their journey, they see it as necessary before their favorable outcomes. Those who move away from pain live their lives passively, letting fear guide their courses of action. Although they minimize the risk of failure, they’re far from success. Which one of these are you?
We have all faced the internal and external pressure to be perfect. The bar is set so high that it's impossible to reach. I advise new parents to focus on one thing at a time. When you become comfortable with that one thing, move on to the next. Celebrate your small wins. We’ll be parents for the rest of our lives. There’s no hurry to get everything done right this very moment. What matters is you love your children and communicate that love. They’ll love you back. Being a new parent is like learning to driving a car. You know all the rules, but there’s constant distractions - other cars zoom in and out of your line of sight, the pedestrians, the traffic lights, and the weather. You have to learn how not to freeze when something unexpected happens. That takes time and experience. Don’t beat yourself up for something you’ve no way of knowing.
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