The Idea That’s Changed My Life

We’re all living in uncertainties right now, one way or another. We’re all unsure about the pandemic, our employment, our health, our relationships with those we love… the list continues as our anxiety grows.

Over the past few years, I had done my fair share of reflection and responsibility ownership through countless therapy, running, and meditation sessions. I‘ve had a lot of time to talk, think, and sit on my own thoughts with each of these sessions. Over time I created this idea to separate the idea of selves, specifically by following these three shifts in my mindset that inevitably changed my life:

Thank your past ➡️ Own your present ➡️ Prep for the future

The core idea of this is to separate your selves. Who you were yesterday is not the person who you are today, and the version of you today will be different from the person you will be in the future. There is a responsibility to acknowledge all parts of your selves:

Thank your past. Sure, you are who you are because your friends and family’s support, but it’s also because of your privilege, your luck, and of course your own hard work along the way. Before you work on your future, it’s important to show gratitude and acknowledge all the work and accomplishments from your past self for putting you where you’re at today.

Own your present. Now that you’ve shown gratitude and are mindful about your past, it’s time to let it go and move on. Owning your present means taking full responsibility and accepting your present self. Instead of blaming your current decision on your past, shift that responsibility, power, and focus to what you can do right now. You’re doing X because of Y in the past (or worse, that Y had happened to you), you’re doing X because you’re actively choosing to do so right now.

Out of the three shifts in mindset, this is the by far the most difficult one to shift into — one that I’m continuously working on. The core idea is to not give yourself an out and to believe you’re not already holding the keys to living your life. If you’re slacking off, realize that it’s your choice, right now, that you’re deciding to slack off. If you’re staying up late when you should be going to bed, realize that you’re actively deciding to do this — no one else is forcing you not to go to bed. So when you’re tired tomorrow, you know that it was on you and no one else.

Instead of relying on the unpredictable winds to carry you through (and hope that it takes you to the right direction), owning your present empowers you to be the captain of your own ship. There is a lot more to this I can go into, so I might create a separate post specifically on this in the future.

Prep for your future. Your present is going to be tomorrow’s past, so in order to thank you past tomorrow you have to not only own your present, but also prep for your tomorrow, today. The good thing is this isn’t as hard as it sounds! A good example is to cook with the slow cooker. You know you want a wonderfully slow-cooked dinner tonight but it takes eight hours, so you prep ahead of time in the morning. This shift is basically that — doing things now to so you can thank yourself later.

I apply this mindset to all areas of my life whereever I can: Add water to the Brita filter now so I can have fresh water later. Put aside money now for retirement later. Prep for next week’s meeting now (by adding notes into the invite) so future me won’t forget about the the discussion topics or action items in the future.

Now the coolest part is this — by prepping for your future now, you’ll inevitably be thanking your past later. This cycle repeats itself endlessly and over time you’ll have less burden from your past, more ownership in your present, and more outlook for your future. By focusing more on each of your selves separately, they can create a more meaningful impact to your life as a whole.

I didn’t learn about the separation of selves and these shifts in mindsets in any one book specifically, instead I was inspired by countless productivity and other self-help books in order to develop this “recipe” over time. By learning to be more grateful, accountable, and future-thinking, I became the captain of my own ship over time, instead of letting (or blaming) the wind to take me somewhere I felt I didn’t belong.

This was just an introduction to the idea of separating your selves, and I can expand more about each of these three mindset shifts in future posts. In the mean time, I invite you to ask yourself (or comment below) on the following questions to get started:

  1. How can you thank your past for getting you to where you are today?
  2. What decision can you own / what action can you take today regardless of the past?
  3. What can you do now ahead of time to set up for tomorrow’s success?

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Always Remember to Look Both Ways

I see a lot of people grieving for Anthony Bourdain on social media. My friend Mauricio even posted a list of suicide prevention hotlines for those in need. All of this is understandable, and all of this is needed.

Now of course, I don’t know Anthony Bourdain on a personal level, I don’t even really know his background outside of the 2-minute soundbite NPR played the day he passed away. I simply watched his traveling shows, related to the episodes that took place in Hong Kong, and admired from afar. Yet even as a casual fan, I’m grieving for him just as anyone would. I can see that he was troubled yet talented. His writing was sharp, if not confrontational, yet always lied this layer of honesty underneath. And as different as his personality was to mine I couldn’t help but admire the authenticity, the “what-you-see-is-what-you get” persona that exude from every minute of episode of every show he ever hosted.

And as easy as it may be to go down the rabbit hole and pour my heart out, it’s also important to remember and remind myself to look the other way. Anthony Bourdain passed away the same day as the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals. Unlike with Anthony, I’m not even going to pretend I understand anything about sports (I will, someday), but this championship means so much to those in my life and to the Bay Area in general — that even as a non-bandwagon fan I can understand the significance and reason to celebrate. I’m may not understand sports, but I’m not a monster either.

2018 has been a challenging year for me so far, so zooming out a bit, it’s likewise important for me to look both ways when it comes to other aspects of my life. My grandmother passed away the same week as I got my first promotion at work after being there for six years. In attending her funeral in Hong Kong, I missed out on an one-night-only concert in San Francisco from a Hong Kong artist I’ve waited my entire to see (and yes, I do see the irony). But the trip also allowed me to connect with my extended family, especially with my brother whom I haven’t seen in more than five years.

Life is persistently filled with conundrums like this, where I’d read about Kate Spade’s passing and her positive influence to American women an hour before seeing my friend Brian Altano posting a picture of his newborn daughter. Life is also complicated beyond just happiness or sadness, so as much as we want to simplify (if not quantifying) our emotions to what Facebook limits us to a series of Likes, Love, Haha, Wow, Angry, and Sad, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by singularly assigning an emotion to the vastness of our daily occurrences.

So look both way before crossing your daily feeds, because you may not see the emotional truck coming when you don’t. Just as I feel genuine sadness for people passing away, I also try to remember the education or spark they’ve given me to help me grow. Just as I feel down about being unproductive at work, I’d open up my logbook and remind myself all the tasks I’ve accomplished for the day. While it’s easy to focus on the sadness because it’s right in front of you, it’s important to understand that this sadness alone is not the entire picture.

It’s a practice that’s saved my life repeatedly. Through mindful meditation, through writing sessions, through therapy, my daily life involves a constant reminder not just to look for the brighter side of life, but to put in the actual work and find truth amidst the darkest hours. While it’s truly sad that Anthony Bourdain won’t be able to take us along in his travel shows anymore, he has always lit a spark in us the worth of exploration and the value in telling our own stories.

Snoozing Mavericks

During a BART ride on my way home from a long day at work, I was daydreaming for excuses where I could take some down time and escape from all the daily stress in my life. Away from all the stressful projects at work, away from these errands I have to do around the house, and most of all away from these minute things that I know I have to do but totally don’t want to. I wanted a quick break for myself before the holiday season arrives to steal the rest of the year away.

Then something dawned on me, something so ridiculously nerdy that it’s almost perfect. I’m going to start planning for an annual retreat based on the location named for each OS X release. First up: Mavericks, California.

Lone Man at Mavericks, CA
Lone Man at Mavericks, CA

I am fortunate enough to live in California with some of the most beautiful places located right around me, yet I never visit any of these places because I’m either too busy (like everyone else), or they’re places I never think of visiting.

One of the things I really miss from my college days is the yearly retreat hosted by The Women Center. It’s a weekend of relaxation but also it’s an incredible opportunity to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Setting time aside away from everyday life to reflect and set goals is important and frankly, I haven’t done that in a while.

Continue reading “Snoozing Mavericks”

Wake Me Up When Lent Season Ends

It was something that needed to be done. I was constantly on Facebook on all hours of the day. Like an addict I was always making sure I had read everything off my feed and had cleared off all the notifications. And with increased frequency Facebook had became the first thing I reach for in the morning and the last thing I look at before passing out in bed.

Facebook wasn’t a part of my life as much as my life had became specifically planned around it. I had to cut the cord somewhere, so for Lent this year I decided to give up Facebook and social media altogether.

Let Go Continue reading “Wake Me Up When Lent Season Ends”

100w100d: Personal Growth

My new motto.

Day 54: Turning 31 this November, I’m more obsessed with personal growth and progress than ever before. Unlike computers with technical specs or artists with pieces of work that can express who they are, I don’t have a clear-cut answer to all the progress made.

Is my personal growth defined by what’s in my bank account? By my work title? Or is it really, honestly, by the seasons of love?

I’ve been jotting notes and quantifying my life as much as possible, but at the end of the day I just want to be a better person than the beginning of it.