What’s your path to love?

A recent newspaper article featured a Singapore-born man’s dating website in which wealthy male members bid cash for attractive female members for dates. Pictures include scantily dressed women in sexy poses.

I don’t write this in a judgmental way. I feel compassion for this businessman, even if I am uninspired by his work. However I hope that we can use wisdom and good judgement in looking at the impact of actions such as these. 

“It may seem materialistic for a woman to find a rich man, or shallow for such a man to flaunt his wealth but that’s the way the world works“, the man told The Sunday Times.

My response to him would be: How do we want the world to work? And how can we create business or systems that inspire new, more fulfilling ways of being?  You seem to have the money – how could you?

The business owner says he started his business because of “his own frustrations with dating”, alluding to the fact that he had no dates when he went to school in Singapore.

I would say to him: “I’m sorry you didn’t date at a time when it probably felt natural to. I’m hearing some pain.  When we are hurt though, it’s important for us to heal our wounds so we don’t inflict them on others.  How much do you love yourself? What are you encouraging in the world through your business? What would you like your legacy to be when you die, and even now? What are you role-modelling?”

However my main reason for writing this is to engage people who are interested in creating a world that is very different from what this businessman is creating; a world in which our relationships help us grow into better human beings, serve others and experience a deep love for ourselves and others. 

If you are keen on dating for such a meaningful partnership, there’s a very important book, “Soul-dating to soul-mating” as well as articles by one of the authors. Even if you’re already in a relationship, I believe that this book could help to bring your relationship to a new level.

Another excellent resource to help us use our relationships as a means of personal growth is “The Heart’s Wisdom”, which has lots of personal sharing by the authors. They also have an online archive of useful articles on various issues couples may face challenges on. Here’s an excellent interview with the couple.

Such authors offer guide-posts for our paths to love. They also offer some role-modelling in a world where we may not have many role-models for the kind of relationships which inspire us deeply.  We would also benefit from looking at the kind of beliefs and dialogues (with ourselves and others) we have about relationships. Do they inspire us towards new possibilities and remind us of our higher potential to be better human beings or keep us entrenched in “how the world works” right now? There’s often talk especially for women to have low expectations of men because “men are the way they are”.  

Here’s to breaking free towards relationships that nourish us and help us become better, happier human beings…

Thanks for Serving Me!

I like to receive positive feedback when I have done a good job. If you do too, can we give to others what we want ourselves?

Did a waiter/someone in the service line serve you well? Why not fill out a feedback form with some positive feedback and spread some happiness? Or drop a quick note to the company? There’s certainly a time to point out poor service constructively but how could we shift more attention to what we want more of?

Father Bruno Saint Girons and I filled out the above feedback form together at a cafe. He said Alex, the waiter,  gave him a big smile after reading the feedback. :) I asked him about gratitude in the Catholic faith and he said “Eucharist” which is the word they use for the mass means “thanksgiving” in Greek. He encourages people to give thanks in their prayers. What does your faith say about gratitude and how do you practise it everyday?

We don’t have to die to leave our legacy. We leave it everyday in many ways, which impact others. What is your legacy when you leave a place?

Video: Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself

Actress Thandie Newton gives an inspiring TED talk that guides us to an exploration of who we really are, our Essence and Connection.

I admire her open and authentic exploration of her own journey from hopelessness and confusion as a child of mixed parentage in a white neighbourhood to the self-aware and compassionate woman she seems to be.  

When are you in touch with your Essence so you can see what Connects you to others and the divine?

Space as luxury

Saw this in an ad for a condo…and I thought, “Yes it is, though I would say the real luxury lies in another kind of space…”

We could live in spacious places yet cram our lives with doing, doing, doing all the things on our to-do lists, and never feel contented or nourished at a deep level.

Or we could take a moment to intuit what’s really important. What would we do if we had six months to live? Make space for that first. Drop what’s not needed. Sit in an open space of nature and let it heal and soothe in its quiet, restorative way. Open up space for more being than doing, for more inspired, reflective and creative thinking…and perhaps even epiphanies. And importantly, to explore our inner space to see if we really love who we are becoming and what we are mostly spending our lives doing.

How could you invite the true luxury of Space into your life?

Discover Your Strengths

Many of us grew up in a critical environment and a society which looks at what we don’t shine in compared to what we do. And we do that to ourselves to. Scientists calls this a “negativity bias”. It means we are built to look for what may cause us harm. It’s a protective mechanism.

However we don’t always need to use this mechanism. It’s possible to look at what’s working; what’s beautiful in us and others and make best use of that.

Having personally benefitted from learning about my strengths, I became a strengths practitioner and now strongly recommend people to learn about their strengths. It’s one of the most important ways of discovering your Calling in life.

I recommend taking the premium version of Realise2, a strengths survey.  It shows five families of strengths – thinking, relating, motivating, being and communicating. To supplement that, I’d recommend the VIA Character Survey, which shows you your character strengths. Having a debrief done with a strengths practitioner is really much more useful that doing the test and interpreting results yourself. But in case you don’t do the debrief, here are some notes to support you.

  • Familiairise yourself with how Realise2 works. The notes below will only make sense if you do this first.
  • If you want clues to discover your Calling, look at the Realised and Unrealised Strengths in your Realise2 results. Which of these really speak to you, and call you to bring more of them into your life and work?
  • Strengths can be overused. More is NOT better. Wisdom researcher Barry Schwartz actually calls Wisdom the master strength because it helps you use the right strength, at the right time with the right person.
  • Do have a look at your learned behaviours to see if any of your strengths had been overused and ended up draining you. Or perhaps a certain strength only drains you in a certain context but could really energise you in another context. For example, technical writing may drain you but creative writing may energise you and could very well be part of you discovering your Calling. So don’t write off learned behaviours completely! It needs careful investigation.
  • While weaknesses are meant to be minimised in the Realise2 model, sometimes a weakness is a “hole in the ship” as Dr Robert Biswas-Diener said in a talk in Singapore. Such weaknesses would of course need to be developed.  For example, if you have Compassion as a weakness, I would certainly encourage you to develop that and not minimise it. There’s lots of research to show that compassionate people are happier.
  • One key difference between Realise2 and VIA is that Realise2 measures how energising it is for you to use a strength whereas VIA doesn’t include this element. So in Realise2, if you are very good at somehting but it drains you, we would call that a “learned behaviour”, not a strength. So when interpreting your VIA results, do ask yourself if your top strengths actually energise you.
  • People change and so will their profiles. In fact, trainers at Realise2 advise that you take Realise2 every six months. (Trainers at VIA say the profile is pretty stable through life except if there are major life events.) If you’re using such surveys to do long term planning or discover your Calling, ask yourself which strengths are pretty stable, and can be part of such long-term planning.

If you think you and your colleagues would benefit from strengths debriefs, learn more about my strengths work at organisations. Contact me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg to explore further.

I also do individual sessions when time permits.

Enjoy using your strengths to be of service to the world! :)

Video: Undercover Boss

Imagine what would happen if leaders went undercover in their own organisations with the intention of finding out what REALLY happens.

That’s what happens on “Undercover Boss”, a reality TV show in which bosses pretend to be entry-level/front-line staff in their own companies. It’s an exercise in empathy, appreciation and truth-seeking and truth-speaking, all of which I believe are important for leadership. (Yes, I admit that people behave differently when the camera is in front of them but don’t let the imperfections prevent you from appreciating the essence of this show.)

The bosses discover the difficulties faced, the strengths with which their staff members handle them, extraordinary service, family/personal challenges faced by staff as well as behaviours that lack integrity.

Watch this, and encourage your boss to....:)

I wonder how CEOs and other leaders in Singapore would be transformed if they became construction workers, salespeople, cleaners etc for a day…

I wonder how they would feel seeing the level of alignment between their company’s vision/mission/values statement and what is practised. Or between their own spiritual values and what is practised.

How much Truth do you/your leaders expose themselves to? (Thanks to Delta7 for creating these images for everyone to use!)

Literally going undercover may not be practical in many circumstances but there could be variations to it. They could:

Make surprise visits or ensure that a trusted team does surprise visits/inspections etc.

~ Become a mystery shopper.

~ Surround themselves with people who are courageous enough to speak the truth about them or the impact of their decisions on the ground.

~ Visit “Dialogue in the Dark” in Singapore, an experiential activity in empathy. Extend the learning from that to empathy in the workplaces or other areas of life.

~ Learn about leadership styles which emphasise self-awareness and self-reflection, and the impact of one’s actions on others. A few books that handle this in different ways are “A Hidden Wholeness” by Parker Palmer,  “The Leaders Way” by the Dalai Lama and international management consultant Laurens van den Muyzenberg and “Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney on the Jesuits.

~ Be guided by role-models who emphasises pursuit of Truth, integrity and listening to one’s conscience.

~ Slow down and really observe yourself. At the end of each day, reflect on  where you appreciate yourself, where you could have done better etc.

~ Slow down and really observe people. Master the art of spotting people’s strengths and positive actions and appreciating them meaningfully (which may not necessarily involve expensive gifts like sometimes it does on “Undercover Boss”). Here’s a useful resource on spotting people’s strengths.

What are other ways that leaders could seek and witness truth and experience empathy? How could you implement any of these ideas where you work?

I believe we are ALL leaders so although this post is aimed at formal leaders, if we all embraced truth, empathy and appreciation in our lives, we would see our world flourish sooner.

Catch “Undercover Boss” on Sundays at 10pm on Channel 5 in Singapore or watch clips on you tube. Here are a few clips:

CEO discovers safety hazards.

CEO reveals identity and rewards staff.


Event: Facilitating Transformation

Doug O'Loughlin, facilitating our transformation.

Watch out for Organisational Development expert, Douglas O’Loughlin’s hit workshop, “Facilitating Transformation” based on his book, “Facilitating Transformation: 12 Strategies for Creating Extraordinary Breakthroughs with Groups” I went for it last year and loved it.

My favourite strategy is to be intentional. Doug writes: “Being intentional means having our hearts and mind aligned with what is possible in the sessions we facilitate” and quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A good intention clothes itself with sudden power”. If you think that sounds pretty similar to having objectives, think again…and read the book or attend the workshop. :) 

Alexandra Hsieh, expressing her enjoyment of the two-day journey we took together.

I also asked two others who attended the workshop for their thoughts on the workshop:

Angela Koch of invitro said that what was most powerful for her was Doug’s presence. She appreciated his ego-less presence and his authenticity. He was “just himself”.  She also said: “In terms of the strategies, number 12 was the most powerful. BRING YOUR WHOLE SELF TO WORK.  For me it meant that no matter what tools and techniques I master, ultimately it is ME that I bring to a facilitation session. That I don’t need to try be a “better me” or “more skilled me’ but just be “fully me”. This had such a powerful impact on me that I wrote a cheeky note to myself on my wall, see photo attached.”

Angela's reminder to herself from Doug's workshop: Be authentic

Chui, another participant shared how the workshop had impacted her personally and professionally:

I remember that on the same day after my workshop, my nephew who is about 10, was at my place. He usually likes to talk to me when I’m home, but I’m always too tired to be listening to him actively. On that day, I told myself to listen and engage with him. At the end of the day, he taught me how to play chess and I had a game with him! A meaningful way to start the transformative journey. 
I have used a few tools and techniques that Doug has shared with us like Learning Partner, Ice-breaker, Quality of Conversation, Celebrating with Choice of “H”. They really worked well with the participants by engaging them with the right intention.
I have also made an effort to connect with the participants during breaks, I realised that knowing them at personal level did not drain my energy. Instead, it re-energised me each time! 

Although facilitators would benefit from this workshop, I feel that other catalysts who enjoy enabling positive transformation in their own communities of influence (however small) would also be able to get alot out of it, along with leaders who would like to enable transformation.

Sign up with Facilitators Network Singapore.

Related: The Power of Facilitation

Here are some articles by Doug on organisational development.

The walls of the room were plastered with inspiring posters...and made us think of how the physical environment could remind us of what is important.

Better World Books

Excited to share something with you all!

FREE shipping on books + Part of money goes to literacy projects around the world + every order from Mishawaka is carbon-balanced + company is a B corporation (corporations which use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems) = a consumer who is happy her money is going to something Good.

If a book is not available locally, I now buy from betterworldbooks! Join me in supporting businesses which are conscious of their social and environmental impact?

Watch videos of Better World Books and their social impact and environmental impact.