Accept and love yourself

flowerA flower blossoms under the sun. It shines and is happy with itself. The green grass waver in the wind, embracing the earth and sunshine. Nobody give them attention, but they are happy where they are. A tree stands there silently for many years, a deer crosses a valley gallantly, and a toddler waddles with giggles. None of them question their own lovability. Their existence is the manifest of love, God’s love.

Each of us is a still a child, in God’s eyes, and we are worthy and lovable as we are. Our lovability cannot be questioned, judged or withheld.

We may make mistakes. But that mistake does not make us less lovable. Our achievement in life does not make us more lovable either. In our core, and in every person’s core, is our lovability that cannot be added or reduced.

If you have made a mistake, guilt may prompt you to reflect and change your action next time. But this guilt should not make you lose respect for yourself. You are not your mistake. Thus the notion of “sinner” in Christianity is very profound. We are not perfect and we admit that. We ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness. We ask for a chance to redeem, so do others.

When we accept our imperfectness, we accept ourselves. In this state, we start to flow with life. We no longer have a “perfect” destination, we can expand our boundary much larger than originally imagined. We grow faster and without inhibition. We become truly creative because we believe in experimenting and accept possible mistakes.

Accepting ourselves is equivalent to loving ourselves. When you love someone, like a mother loves a child, you accept their shortcoming as a complete package. You believe, hope, work with, and trust that person. You embrace their humanity, including human weakness, and accept them completely. Sometimes it is easy to invoke such love for our family members or friends, or people from the same race. It’s spiritual awakening when we extend such love to all human beings, regardless race, gender or others things dividing people.

In a loving state, you are completely at peace. You have no need to argue with the universe, and it is never wrong. You completely accept others as who they are, and you completely accept yourself. This is what we call the “perfection” of God.

Loving yourself brings an exquisite feeling that can hardly be conveyed by words. It is like a rose blossoming in your heart. Its beautiful pedals start to open up. You feel healed and immersed in unspeakable warmth. You feel like coming to home, resting at God’s nest. His all-encompassing arms embrace the universe around you. You are safe and taken care of. There is no place to go any more. You may have wandered around, believing you are on a journey. Now you have come home.

Being at home, you can play like a child again. You can explore and make as many mistakes as you want. God is always loving you and that love is never withheld from you. Whenever you make a mistake, you admit and correct it right away.

For the same reason, you trust others too. You trust their good intention and their search for joy and love. You have less need to correct others or “advice” others as they have their own path and God’s love shines on their way.

Given that you completely love yourself, you no longer seek approval from others. You no longer interact out of the need to seek love or acceptance. Fame does not interest you any more, as fame is just recognition from others, people who you don’t know. Thus you become truly humble as you have no need to show off to anyone.

You feel completely loved in your own world, and you are fully validated by your own acceptance. Thus you become easy going, giving, and fluid with life situation happening to your spouse. When his/her work becomes his top priority, you support that. When his hobby becomes his obsession, you support that. You are fulfilled and you don’t need another person to fulfill you. Thus “playing at level 3” is not an artificial effort but a natural by-product of giving and sharing love. You have become complete, and you can now affirm others.

You made a “mistake” when you chose a less optimal path, and you can now do better. But you made the best choice given what you knew at that time, and that was the right choice. You completely accept your past, and other people’s past. There is no “forgiveness” but acceptance and love. You send the past “you” love, and you send the past people appearing in your life love. The new you  is more capable and wiser, and you will make better decisions, with love.

Then every moment is perfect, as perfect as the universe can be. Relish this moment, and bring joy to this moment. What you have now is the best for you.

You also become less dogmatic or deferring to authorities. You evaluate everything with a beginner’s mind and ready to question anything. You are irreverent to any existing beliefs. You seek original truth. You lose the need to prove yourself, and you are already complete. You are as perfect as God makes you, and as imperfect as a child that needs to learn and grow. You maintain absolute confidence in your self-worth, and have full permission to explore life.

You interact with similar energy and you stay in your own world comfortably. You don’t have to go anywhere. In this state, you energy is aligned with people who are like you, and you gain more momentum when moving forward. You lose the fear of rejection. Others are adults who have their own opinions, which are imperfect as yours are.

You throw yourselves into creative endeavors without worrying too much about the future. You become less rigid on where you have to go, or how to get there, even though you still have clear goals and clear ideals.

Peace is with you wherever you are. “You are beautiful, lovely and precious”. Contemplate these words deeply.

You have arrived. You are home, at God’s home.

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Regular Exercise

The amount of exercise we need each day is the following:

1) 30-minute walk

2) 20-minute cardio exercise
3) 5-minute stretch    4) 5-minute muscle training

Normally we only talk about aerobic exercise, which is good for our heart. But weight lifting that builds our muscles is equally important. It is the quickest way to burn fat away. Stretching increases our flexibility and helps to avoid injury.

The power of commitment

As I sat at my desk starting on my hour of “total research”, I signed. I committed myself of devoting this hour completely to research problems. That means no email, no chatting, no personal matter, and no other worries such as applying for funding etc. This commitment forces me to devote all my attention to one problem, and give my all to it. In this total dedication, there is no self. In this total dedication, difficult tasks become easy because I put my mind to it. At the end of the hour, I felt proud. I have accomplished something and have made productive use of my time. Even though the progress is not as great as I wished, I was moving forward.

If commitment is so good, why don’t we make more such commitment? Why not commit 3 hours or 5 hours to “total research”, or to another task? I worry about interruption. Sometimes there are meetings, and that disrupted my promise of devoting my time to one task. One solution is planning around the meeting.

Another worry is flexibility. If we commit all the time to certain tasks, we have little time left for exploration or surprise. Maybe we can always leave 1-2 hours each day for pure exploration.

In general, the more we commit, the more productive we become. It enables full concentration and clear deadline. It is a magic way of getting things done.

Productive joy

Anthony Robbins once said, “Everyone wants to feel happy. The only thing separating the successful and unsuccessful people is how they derive their happiness.” A person can seek happiness in drug, alcohol, food, or indulgence in sex. He can also seek it in watching TV, news, or sports. He can also seek it in raising a child, talking to friends or participating in local activities. The most successful people seek joy in their work: Be it building a product, writing research papers, or campaigning for office. They are the lucky people who found joy with their daytime job, and they get paid for doing what they love to do.

Successful founders like Michael Dell, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created their own fun career from college years, and never changed it. Same thing can be said about Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Page (Google) and Jerry Yang (Yahoo!). Their success gave them deep joy and expand their ability to bring more joy in their work. The precondition of such upward spiral is continuing success. If Bill Gates did not get his order from IBM, he would not enjoy his software giant today. If Jerry Yang cannot deliver higher growth from Yahoo! in the coming year, he will be soon out of his job. For a professor who wants to do frontier research, he needs to get big funding. Without that, he will soon perish.

Therefore enjoying a productive life is not a personal affirmation, but an interactive process with the your environment. You have to go though a competitive process to prove your passion and talents. Once supported with resources, you have to keep delivering what you promise. Only then you have the luxury of enjoying what you do.

Being productive means achieving success at every step.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw

This habit is about daily renewal in 4 areas: Physical, mental, spiritual, and social/emotional.

  • Physical renewal means daily exercises.
  • Mental renewal means planning, learning, reading, and writing.
  • Social/Emotional renewal means practicing Habit 4, 5, and 6 every day. What is emotional renewal? What is social renewal? Does it mean talk to people who are close to us, and renew the tie?
  • Spiritual renewal means daily reflection on our life purpose. It also means connecting to great people or literature that are inspiring.

Habit 6: Synergize

To synergize is to create a higher alternative among all parties. It’s the outcome of win-win solution. It enables everyone to express themselves, to be creative and bring passion to the whole team.

Covey talked about the tension between driving force and restraining force in an organization. If we want to change the organization, being a driving force ourselves is not enough. That’s because the restraining force will push back and the change is hard to achieve. Instead, Cover suggests we should ise Habit 4 (win-win), 5 (seek first to understand, then to be understood) and 6 (synergize) to unfreeze the restraining force, to loosen them up, and create new insights. Instead of pushing back, we transform those restraining force into driving force, and they become an important part of the solution. How power this is!

Synergy is team work, and the development of unity and creativity with other human beings. It’s a powerful force for change.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Before influencing others, we have to understand them. Understanding means looking at things from their paradigm, even if it is different from ours. It forces us to be open-minded.

To reach another person’s heart, we need to be an active listener. We need to be able to reflect the feeling and content back the speaker, so that the other person feels fully understood. This gives the other person the “psychological air”. By careful listening, we give respect and approval to others. Being able to reflect the person’s feeling and context is a powerful skill. It allows the person to open up and we can get to the deep root of a certain problem. It is the only way to persuasion.

Habit 4: Think win/win

In human relationship, the best outcome is win-win. It is different from win/lose where you take advantage of the other side, or from lose/win where you give up to the other side. The win-win solution requires us to treat human relationship as collaboration instead of competition.

It takes compassion to want others to win. It takes courage and assertiveness to want ourselves to win. If we can consistently practice these two sets of characters, we will create a richer life for us and others.

A win-win outcome depends on several factors: (1) Emotional bank account. You have built trust in another person by consistently give help, respect and appreciation. (2) Clear communication. All expectations are stated open, on the table, and be understood by all parties.

Covey talked about a remarkable story where a corporate training program shrank from 6 month to 5 weeks, and results were much better. This is all about setting clear expectations, clear reward, and enable the trainee to define their own ways to achieve their goal. It’s a 5-step process:

  1. Desired results;
  2. Guidelines (Qualify results with certain parameters);
  3. Resources;
  4. Accountability: performance standard and ways of evaluation;
  5. Consequences: reward structure.

When all these steps are in place, we can motivate people to achieve remarkable things.

Habit 3: First things first

The rule is simple: Put your energy on things that are most important to you. In other words, work from your priority list and always start with item #1.

Why don’t people follow this simple rule? One reason is that they have not thought through their priorities. It seems to them all the tasks are equally important. This makes people feel overwhelmed. To overcome this problem, we have to step back. It is absolutely crucial to identify our major goal and our priority. We have to look at a larger picture, to have perspective before we can move on. “But I am so caught up with my tasks,” a business owner may protest. This is not an excuse. Running business without priority set will lead to low performance and ultimate failure. If you don’t have a priority list, create it now. Don’t move until you have such a list.

Another situation is that people know what is important, but they feel the task is too difficult. A thesis that requires a lot of research, a phone call that requires a lot of courage, or a meeting that requires a lot of preparation are such examples. Many people dive into distraction in order to avoid the task: movies, chatting, surfing, playing games, or anything that can get their minds off the task. This is so-called “procrastination” syndrome. To over this problem, we need to break the task into small and easy-to-do chunks. The task doesn’t have to be fun. As long as it is easy, you will most likely do it. Once you get into a routine, the task is so effortless that you think it is fun. For me, I successfully started running in this way. Running 2 miles seems so hard to begin, but I tell myself: I will just run 10 steps, and then another 10 steps. Now I run 3 miles a day without much difficulty.

The best solution to alway adhering to “first things first” is having clear visions. When we visualize our goals, we get motivated and will not forget our priorities. Given that our goals are so vivid, working on our priority list becomes exciting. We feel fulfilled along the way.

In the chapter, Covey all discussed how to be an effective leader. This comes down to 5 steps:

  1. Create desire results. Such results are shared between the leader and the follower
  2. Create guidelines. Think through the basic standard that has to preserved when achieving the goal. Point out failure path (what not to do). But give people the responsibility of figuring out “what to do”.
  3. Resources. Discuss resources that exist and the person can draw on.
  4. Accountability: Discuss and agree on criteria for evaluation
  5. Consequences: Specify reward and penalty for different results.

Covey applied the above steps to manage his son’s yard cleaning task. His son felt so proud and did an excellent job.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

This habit is about having goal or vision. If you want to achieve something, you must know clearly what you want. Note that it is about what *you* want, not what other people want or what you are *supposed to* want.

It takes courage and deep soul searching to know what we really want. When we are scared, it is very easy to settle for a goal that is a temporary fix. We thought we want this thing, but instead it is just an escape from something really good yet we believe hard to achieve.

Therefore the first step is getting rid of our self-limiting belief. Whatever we can think about, God will provide. For example, what kind of work really excites you? If you can make the wildest wish and it will be granted, what will it be? Sometimes it looks “silly” or impractical to ask for our deepest wish. The gap between our current situation and our wish may seem so large. The truth is, this gap will gradually close over time. But we have to hold our goal clearly in front of us in order to move close to it.