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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100w100d: Everything is Everything

Day 61: Growing up, people who know me would describe me for the longest time as bitter and emo. I was extremely insecure growing up, constantly downplaying myself and settling on the negative side of things — that way I wouldn’t be as disappointed when things fall apart. And things often did.

But then something happened: I got tired of being afraid and from constantly looking down. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that negativity is nothing but unproductive and that drama is best left in movies.

Lauryn Hill said it best in ’98: Develop a negative into a positive picture.

100w100d: 50%

Day 50: I’m officially at the halfway point of my 100 Words for 100 Days project, which was initially inspired by my friend Stephen when he was telling me about his daily writing project at the time.

It’s been taking a bit longer than I thought it would since I started back in May. But instead of being all half-empty about it, I’m actually pretty excited to keep planning ahead in order to wrap this project up by end of the year.

Keeping at precisely 100 words per post, this project is not unlike an Instagram of my daily thoughts in words.

100w100d: Habits

Day 46: I’m fascinated by how habits get started. Humans may be creatures of habit, but our minds are actually designed to always choose the easier route (to keep us safe) unless that work provides pleasure or reward.

I’ve been trying to start a gym routine for years with little success. I would go on for awhile only to stop for one reason (excuse) or another. Guilt would eventually set in and I’d begin the whole process again…

The logical step is to connect working out with a reward, though my mind is already saying “let’s just not go”.

Shut up, brain.

100w100d: High School Days

My High School Homies

Day 44: It’s been thirteen years since I graduated high school, and from time to time I still wonder how I managed to pull it off. With seven diverse subjects , all with its own daily homework assignments, projects, and demands on top of all the “optional” extracurricular activities, it’s easy to forget how much work you have to endure as a high school student.

Nowadays, I’m working full-time at a job with unpredictable hours, but in many ways it’s still easier (and more straightforward) than my life in high school. It serves as a good reminder whenever complacence slips in.

Keep going

100w100d: Killing It

IGN

Day 21: As E3 approaches, I naturally find myself doing increasingly more things at work in order to get everything out of the way before the biggest gaming convention of the year fills up my schedule next week.

The silver lining is that for once I’m confident enough to say “I’ve seriously been killing it.” There’s been countless things that’s been stuck in my to-do pile for months, and only this week was I able to finally get them off the ground. The feeling of accomplishment doesn’t come easily at IGN, so when it does, I’ve learned to best enjoy the moment.

Learn to Fall Down (so you can get back up)

Red Maple LeafI was halfway done with the week’s blog post on how to be awesome at your job by following your passion when my company announced a massive lay off on Thursday. The move wasn’t a surprise since the CEO mentioned it would be coming some time this month, but that didn’t mean it was anything less than a heartache to see my Twitter feed, to see the people I love, admire, and adore, to see the people I consider Family, leaving goodbye notes to announce their departures. Leaves were falling as the tweets came in one by one, and there were so many leaves on the ground.

I was spared from the lay off, but I was visibly shaken and suddenly my still-in-progress blog post read like the most distasteful, gloating piece of shit a human being can ever write. I couldn’t keep writing and thought I was a complete hack and a cheat. Who am I to write about productivity or to pretend that anything I do can actually help people? The guilt also seeped in, at the fact that I made the cut and should be thankful when so many people had it worse than me. They’re the ones who were affected, not me, so who the hell was I to victimize myself, who gave me the right to be upset, who gave me permission to say anything at all? I fell into a dark place and I was desperate to climb back up, only to slip further as I felt increasingly voiceless and powerless to change anything. Continue reading “Learn to Fall Down (so you can get back up)”

Stop multitasking, start planning

Bodum French PressWhen you watch television, how many of you actually sit through to watch all the tv commercials? Probably not many of you. Instead, you’d most likely use that time to walk around, check your phone, or even make a quick trip to your bathroom. If you’re quick enough, you might even post a quick tweet on your phone or even stop by the kitchen to grab some snacks before the show comes back on. And in many ways, productivity can work pretty much the same way.

Instead of doing one thing at a time, we tend to get more done if we combine some of the similar tasks together.

For example, I like to start my day at work by making my own cup of coffee every day with my french press. It’s not that I’m a coffee snob or that my coffee stash is any better (despite what my colleagues may think), but more so the fact that it’s been my morning ritual for years to getting ready for the day’s work. Problem is, the hot water switch needs to be turned on every day and it usually takes a minute or two before the water is fully heated up.

I could come into the office, drop my bag, grab my french press, head to the kitchen and turn on the hot water switch. But then I’d just be waiting there for the water to heat up. Or, I can easily shave off that extra minute if I head to the kitchen first and flip on the switch before going to my desk. By the time I drop my bag, turn on my computer, and return to the kitchen, the hot water is all ready to go.

It’s multitasking at its core, and we intuitively do this every day. In fact, it’s so simple, you might wonder why I’m even writing about this. Duh! Everyone should know this, right?! Continue reading “Stop multitasking, start planning”

From planning to action: What do you want to do today?

Back in the ’90s when Microsoft first launched Windows 95, they also launched their first global ad campaign with the Where Do You Want To Go Today? slogan to help build awareness of the then-brand new “Start button” feature. The Start button was a breakthrough concept for Windows users back then, to be able to navigate all the games, programs, and settings from one single place, but so was the slogan. Where do you want to go today (and Microsoft can take you there)! It puts you, the user, in the driver’s seat and the slogan empowers you to explore all the possibilities, possible only with Windows 95.

Microsoft - Where do you want to go today?

I have a similar saying in terms of productivity: What do you want to do today? And no, it’s not about making sure you get active and go outside a play. (Michelle Obama is already pretty good with telling you that!)

Like Microsoft’s slogan, this saying not only places you in the driver’s seat to pursue your goals, but it also encourages you to take action today. I’ve mentioned it before when I was highlighting the Everest app on iOS, but the best plan to pursue your goal is to work backwards and break it down into smaller, concrete steps. Concrete steps you can take today. Continue reading “From planning to action: What do you want to do today?”

Hold up, what exactly is productivity?

What is productivity to you?
What is productivity to you?

Okay, stupid question time: What exactly is productivity? I’m looking up the definition in my dictionary (or protip: just triple-tap on the word in Mac OS X Mountain Lion), and it comes up as the following: the state or quality of producing something. Well thanks, captain obvious. Even if you dig a little deeper and look up the word “produce”, it would simply say: make or manufacture from components or raw materials. So if you put the two definitions together, you may think that productivity is “the effectiveness of making something”, right?

Now, another stupid question: What is creativity? This question seems a lot easier even though “create” also means “to make something,” because most people can identify the difference between “create” and “creativity.” The general consensus is that everyone can create, but not everyone has creativity. “Yeah, I can draw a picture, but it may not be very good. I’m just not very creative.”

Can you imagine if someone at work try to use the same logic and say something like “Yeah, I can do my job, but it may take a while. I’m just not very productive.” That person would get fired pretty much instantly! So when we say we want to improve or boost our productivity, we first have to figure out what that even means. Does it just mean working faster? Doing better work? Continue reading “Hold up, what exactly is productivity?”

Introducing Everest, a productivity app for iOS

Everest iOS App LogoWe’re in the middle of January and a lot of people are still working on what they want to achieve in 2013. For me, it’s to re-activate this blog and publish a new blog post once a week.

My friend Rod recently told me about a project he’s been working on. Combining a reminder, a to-do list, and a social network, Everest is a productivity app for the iOS that aims to help you live your dreams and achieve your goals.

I still remember this line (I tend to pick up sayings and re-adapt them as life lessons) from this episode of The Simpsons where Bart was helping Ms. Krapappel set up a muffin store so he could avoid confessing to her he was the reason why she got fired. Through The Answer, a spoof of The Secret, he suggested to “break your dream down into smaller wishes, then break those down into wish-able actions.” Everest helps you do exactly that. Continue reading “Introducing Everest, a productivity app for iOS”

Productivity starts with being grateful

Ever since I was little, I have this habit of picking up these one-liners, these little sayings from songs, tv shows, and movies that end up sticking with me for life. From Spiderman‘s infamous “With great power comes great responsibility” to the countless Louis C.K.’s memorable quotes in Louie (my favorite one so far has to be “The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough”), there are moments where I would say to myself: Remember this. This is important.

So the other night I was catching up on my podcast queue, and this little gem showed up from The Suze Orman Show. Continue reading “Productivity starts with being grateful”

2013 is motion.

Red Maple LeafLooking back, I only did okay with the resolution I’ve set in my 2012 is me post. In becoming more honest, I was at the risk of being less agreeable in exchange to be more transparent and better speak my mind to those around me, but it has paid off well and I’ve personally grown stronger because of it. Not only that, but my relationship with my friends and family has gotten closer as well, to which I’m proud and very grateful for.

My other resolution — be okay — was a much grayer area. How exactly do you define okay? If I’m grateful for the things I have in my life (which I am) but was having a crappy day at work, is that okay? We all have ups and downs, but this open-ended resolution has me convinced that my future resolutions and goals need to be quantifiable and measurable. Lucky for me, I’m a huge data and analytics nerd, which will help me as I explain more in a future post.

Be a maker — I must admit I fell off the wagon on this one. Part of it was (and is) because of my work at IGN. The work hours vary wildly each week and my travels (especially during conference season in the summer) constantly provide amnesty for my laziness. But a much bigger part is also this insecurity that my work is just not good enough. I felt that my writing isn’t good enough, my topics aren’t interesting enough, and worst of all, this very goal isn’t important enough. As a result, all my ideas and attempted drafts were thrown by the wayside one way or another.

So what does that mean for 2013?

Continue reading “2013 is motion.”