Tag Archives: gratitude

The Power of Acknowledgements

Flowers. I love them. When I used to stay in Beijing, the one thing I did religiously every weekend was to make a trip down to the wholesale flower market to buy a big bouquet of flowers for my apartment. Actually, they are for me. I love the sight and smell of flowers. They cheer me up. They remind me of the beauty in this world. They remind to stop rushing around and (literally) smell the flowers. I love flowers.

In the past month, I know of four bouquets of flowers that brightened up six lives. I sent my secretary a bouquet of flowers for Secretary’s Day – as it turned out, it was the first time ever she received flowers. She then sent her mother and sister-in-law flowers for Mother’s Day. I sent my gf a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, in the name of another gf who is now living in India and me.

There was a stretch last year when I was feeling low. My husband sent me flowers to cheer me up. It lifted me out of my malaise and melancholy mood. I was reminded that I am loved no matter what and every time my memories recall that file, I am reminded I am loved. (I couldn’t resist patting myself on the back for cleverly showing my husband my favourite online floral shop some time back. Ha!)

In the lift on my way home, I met a pair of folks whom I believe to be co-workers. The lady’s eyes lit up when she saw the bouquet and said, beautiful flowers, with a whimsical smile. The guy asked if it was my birthday or anniversary or some special day. Before I could answer, the lady added, did he do something wrong?

I laughed then and I laugh now at the memory of that short exchange. I remember I responded: They are from my husband, I was feeling a little down the last few days and he sent them to cheer me up. The woman blushed a little, I guess somewhat embarrassed about her last remark. The guy simply said, Wow.

My passing shot delivered with a smile: you don’t need a reason to send someone flowers. Everyone likes to know he is being appreciated in some way.

Acknowledgement is for everyone, anytime, anywhere. Flowers are but a tool; in my opinion a simple and effective one. You don’t need a reason to acknowledge someone. You don’t need to be a man to send flowers. You don’t need to be a woman to receive them. You don’t need to wait for a “special” day to do so. You could acknowledge someone for no reason and THAT would make any normal day special for the person.

I can think of a million reasons to acknowledge the people in my life but there really is only one that matters: because I can. Like the ones who make my day bearable when it gets tough going; the ones who make me smile; the ones who lighten my work and life loads; the ones who quietly exist in my life; the ones who left a footprint in the years passed; the ones who touched my life in the many small ways that I sometimes do not realise until much later.

It is with hindsight that I saw that the very buying flowers for myself in Beijing was an acknowledgement of my life in this foreign land; a simple acknowledgement of my courage to stay sane despite all the chaos I was experiencing. A willingness to look past the struggles, the flowers were an expression of my gratitude that I was able to still enjoy the simple beauty in life.

My secretary expressed her love and acknowledgement for her mother and sister in law with flowers, a simple act that tilted everyone out of their comfort zones and reminded everybody that something bigger is present, something hopeful and optimistic that is available in life. The flowers I sent was my way of saying ‘thank you for being in my life’. It over-rode my sense of inadequacy in our relationships and was my way of expressing my gratitude that I am blessed by their existence in my life.

Sometimes we forget to count our blessings. Yet, don’t just stop at that. Take it one step further – acknowledge the people for being a blessing in your life in the first place.

Acknowledgement is a simple act of generosity and kindness. When was the last time you acknowledged someone in your life?

P/s: There is another aspect to acknowledgement that applies in the not-so-pleasant aspects of life. I am leaving that for a separate post as it deserves its own space.


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The Singapore future I am living into

(First posted on Friday, 06 May 2011 at 11:19)

I was one of the 30,000 strong present at the Serangoon Stadium last night reciting the Singapore pledge. It is one of the most moving experiences I have experienced in all of my 37 years of existence, 35 of which were spent in Singapore.

We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society based on justice and equality,
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.

I am creating the future Singapore Leadership as a POSSIBILITY. Not a wish list, not a criticism of what is not working now, not a maybe, someday phenomena. This is a future that exists as a realm of possibilities. It is this future that reaches into our present that gives us courage, hope and power.

The Singapore future I am living into:

You are a team of individuals who are capable and visionary. You are also compassion, empathy and courage. It does not matter which party colours you don for you are, first and foremost, serving the people of Singapore and the nation. You are a stand for the collective good of this nation. Inside of this, there is room for different voices. You respect diversity in ideas and opinions. You listen FOR what matters most to Singaporeans and Singapore. You are united behind Singapore and its people.

You are the People, and the People is you.

As a result, Singaporeans are united in spirit and action. We take responsibility for our lives with courage and resilience, come what may. We are behind You. We are your partners in creating a home we can be proud of. We are distinct in the roles we have to perform, the duty we each have, but we are not separate. We are ONE for this country.

Let the world bear witness to the birth of a nation that everyone wants to emulate for all the right reasons. We are bigger than we think we are or can be, this little red dot we call our home and country.

Anything is possible, Singapore. ANYTHING.

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No dilemma

(First posted on Facebook on Wednesday, 04 May 2011 at 23:07)

Every morning, on my bus journey to work, I will be greeted by a beautiful stretch of Singapore encapsulated by the now transformed (and still transforming) Marina Bay. Without fail, it tugs at the corners of my mouth and heartstrings.

This morning, with a preoccupied mind, I stared out of the window on the bus and there it is again. I was overwhelmed by a gush of pride, joy and excitement. There was one other time I felt the same rush of emotions – the day I landed in Singapore, returning home for good after spending two years in China.

I can’t explain the emotions rationally. They just took over and tears stung my eyes. This is my home.

I have been totally absorbed in the GE fever in the past week. It was all very exciting in the beginning. The awakening of a nation that seemed to have been in a slumber for so long. Things that historically have not moved are now moving. I attended rallies and got swept away by the social media tsunami. I got drenched in the outpouring of discontent, frustration, anger and fears of Singaporeans. I felt every bit a Singaporean.

I feel enormous anguish over the ruling party’s seeming lack of compassion, complacency and arrogance. I do not expect perfection but crave for accountability and a moral code that is inclusive and humane. I am 100% against demands that will turn Singapore into a welfare state, one which removes the need for one to be responsible for one’s own life and encourage unhealthy dependence on state to provide, but am all for a more humane and compassionate society. I am stung by the unfairness of the GRC that has deviated from its original purpose. I am disturbed by the blatant lies and shallow politicking all round. I hate politics – it has the ability to turn perfectly decent people into scheming monsters, to blind people from what makes us human.

I am humbled by the raw desire to serve the people demonstrated by some candidates in both camps. I cried my eyes out while watching videos of old folks who fell through the cracks of Singapore highly efficient system, and read pleas from a 20-year-old Singaporean and comments from Foreign Minister George Yeo and star representatives of the Opposition broad.

The intensity was never going to be sustainable and this morning, I felt it. A quiet that settled over me as the bus cruised along the Benjamin Shears Bridge, when my eyes met once again the expanse of Marina Bay.

In the quiet of the night, I sat down to type this note. Cutting out the noise, I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am living the life I live in Singapore. If I had the privilege to vote, I know exactly who I will vote for. There is no dilemma. My choice is clear. I love Singapore.

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My Valentine

A friend posted on her FB yesterday asking if married couples (those who are married for a while) still celebrate Valentine’s Day.

My husband and I have no specific plans to celebrate this day except to spend time with each other. We talked about it but the conversation was brief. It’s not that we don’t celebrate our love. We share the view that we don’t need to wait for a specific day to show our love for each other; and the display of our love doesn’t come in the form of bouquets of flowers, expensive meals, gifts or doing anything out of the ordinary.

Now, I am not saying I don’t like flowers, gifts or my husband doing something ‘special’ for me. Come on, I am a woman! I do like superficial things like that, really.

I am saying we don’t need a reason or a special date to show we love each other.  

This morning he woke me up with a kiss as usual. As my eyes struggled to open, he greeted me with a smile and pointed to the dresser table. A present! Happy Valentine’s Day darling, he said. I smiled and thought, GOSH, he got me a present. In that moment, I am so aware of my husband’s love for me. I reached for him and gave him a kiss, hug and a big smile. It doesn’t matter what he bought for me; it was the way he was being with me. And BEING cannot be bought or faked.

My husband is my alarm clock. He wakes me up with a kiss every morning. He wakes up early so I get to sleep in. He would get ready for work then come wake me so I have the bathroom and room to myself to get ready for my day. He would kiss me goodbye when he leaves the house before I do. He romances me every day.

He makes me laugh. He laughs with me. He supports my choices. He listens and demands the same of me. He shares his life and dreams with me. He gives me room to be me. He loves me for who I am. He loves me for who I am not. We bring out the best and worst of each other. He apologises when he makes a mistake. He gives me room to apologise when I make a mistake. He watches chick flicks just because he wants to. He would record a show he likes on TV so I get to watch it too. He sent me a bouquet of flowers just to cheer me up when I am having a bad day. He indulges me and thanks me when I indulge him. I am me, he is him and we are us.

I have never felt more loved by a man in my life. His generosity, humanity and passion for life provide me a safe space to just be. Valentine’s Day reminds me to not to take him for granted.  I am deeply grateful for him giving himself to me everyday, in his own way. That’s the best gift I can ask for in a husband.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Emril. Now, where are my flowers?

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Falling in love with the East

This morning I took my new bicycle out for a spin along East Coast Park with my mother-in-law (with her new bike) and Emril. We covered approximately 23km over 2 hours. My butt hurts as I sit on the sofa typing this but I can’t help but smile at the mini excursion we did.

It is the first time I experience the “real” East Coast living. Emril and I moved in with my in-laws as we wait for our new home to be ready and we are now 5 minutes away from the sea. I have been driven up and down the East Coast Parkway expressway (ECP) as I travel to and fro the airport. I always loved this ride for the trees and plants that line the roads (including the middle section). However, the view on a bicycle is completely different.

We started late by most people’s standards (7.15am) but early enough to enjoy the park without having to navigate the crowds. It was fantastic to see senior citizens in groups practising taichi, qigong and dance. It was also fascinating to see so many tents being pitched on the beach – waterfront living made accessible. I mean, there were literally at least 100 tents – I started to count and stopped at 46 when I realised that there are many more. It was great to see families, friends, middle aged couples and children embracing an active lifestyle through cycling, walking, roller blading or jogging.

For the first time, I also noticed how beautiful the park is. I saw canon ball trees for the first time, with the gorgeous flowers and canon ball-like fruits. At one point I stopped, mesmerized by two stunning flame of the forest and their sheer natural beauty.

It is not the first time I’ve cycled in the East Coast yet it felt like it was the first time I SAW it for what it has to offer. I begin to see why people who stay in the East love the East. I think I am falling in love with it too in a quiet sort of way, an oasis in the midst of Singapore’s urban city persona. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Thank you Emril for sharing this part of your life with me. The cycling, East Coast and your family. It’s been an interesting passage of time the last 12 hours; I visited my childhood playground in Geylang less than 10 hours ago and then I was on a bike discovering my new habitat.

Who says Singapore is boring?


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Christmas murmers

A few friends asked me for hints on what I want for Christmas. A few asked my husband for ideas who in turn asks me. So I thought I will put a list together. If you see this, good for you. If you don’t see this, good for you too!

1. A jade bangle (done)

2. A pair of dumbells (done)

3. A skipping rope (done)

4. A earring tree (done)

5. Macbook Air 11″ (done)

6. CD by Joseph McElderry (done)

7. New clothes that fit me (done)

8. Book: Travel Photography by Insight Guides

9. 2in1 book: Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Oprah book club)

10. Any travel book including travelogues but not Eat, Pray, Love as someone already gifted that to me

11. Any music CD except Michael Buble and Josh Groban – I have most of their CDs already…

12. Cookbooks for healthy, easy to cook meals

13. Anything that is handmade

14. Anything that reminds you of me

15. A call to say hello

For completeness, what not to get for me:

1. Food of all kinds (unless you are cooking!)

2. Clothes (I really need to try them cos I may not be the same size you remember me)

3. Shoes (I will wait till I have my own place again or else I would have to sleep with them in bed)

4. Perfume

Or how about, surprise me??

Enjoy this beautiful time. The get-togethers, the laughter, the shopping, the quiet reflections of the past year. I count my blessings that I receive gifts every single day, though sometimes I don’t even realise it. I am grateful for all the old friendships that grew, new friendships forged. I am immensely thankful for being alive and kicking, for being healthy, for being happy, for the peace of mind, for many a good night’s sleep; for the presence of mind and spirit to enjoy the people and things in my life, and not rue what I have missed or wished I had. For the people I get to miss and those who miss me.

This year is no better or worse than the yester years. It is what it is, and it is what it is not. This is my life and I intend to celebrate it with gratitude and humility. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year to all of you who read this.

Love, Joanne Sofia

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I am such a scrooge

Being empowering is something I’ve always wanted – to empower people around me to be the best they can be. Over the years, I have had different appreciation of what empowerment means, what it looks like, what it takes.

For most of my life, I experience empowerment to be “telling someone what to do and giving the person space to do it”. First and foremost, I must have the solution to whatever the person is dealing with. Then I posture myself in a way that allows me to tell/advice the person how to do it. Finally, allowing the person to actually act on my wisdom/suggestion/advice without me trying to do everything myself.  This particular view of empowerment leaves me feeling that I have to be Miss Know-it-all and Solve-it-all.

This form of empowerment, at some level, propels me to seek for every solution possible, within the realm of what I know. I became pretty good with solving problems. However, every now and then (which is quite often actually), I hit a wall. I draw a blank. I don’t know what to do, don’t know how to respond to a problem. I get totally stressed out about not knowing what the next step should be. If I didn’t know, how could I empower others??????

Since I took on being a coach in a leadership training program last year, I truly begin to experience empowerment in a new way. There is no right or wrong way to empowerment per se. Yet the way I have experienced it in the past year or so have left me with a whole new sense of freedom to be with people the way they are and the way they are not; with a brand new perspective to how great people can be when real empowerment – not domination – is present.

As a coach I saw for myself a few things that, when distinguished, opened up a whole new world for me:

1. My previous way of being empowerment was coming from my fear of being insecure and inadequate. If I didn’t have answers, what value do I bring to this world? A long-time, entrenched fear that I need to prove I am good enough at every chance I get or I am nothing.

2. I was trying to fix and change things, to become some way I want it to be. If it wasn’t the way I think it should be, any other way would render me pretty useless wouldn’t it?

3. Resistance, resistance. I resist the world the way IT IS NOT as it did not fit my view of how it should be.

4. I was trying to empower others when I would not empower myself. I mean how empowering is it for me if I do not allow myself to make mistakes, if I constantly beat myself up for being imperfect?

I get it. It is soooooooooooo clear. It was all a pretense – me wanting to empower others. My focus was on how I survive my perpetual doubts over my worthiness; yet I pretended that it was about others. And I have been wondering why empowering others never comes easy to me, no matter how hard I try. I was at war with myself: pretending to be empowering others when I am really only interested in how that makes me feel about myself.

I am such a scrooge. Not only was I totally not generous with myself, I was unable to be generous with the people I claim to want to empower. Instead of giving them space to just be themselves, create space for their greatness to show up, my focus was validating my existence by me providing as many answers as I can in life.

In fact, I now see very clearly that empowerment is all encompassing, not a single dimensional problem solving process. 

Generosity is like the front and back of our hands – if I am not generous with myself, I can’t be generous with others. If I can’t live with my mistakes, I cannot tolerate other people making mistakes. If I cannot appreciate my own greatness, I cannot possibly see the greatness in others.

Empowerment is now to me an act of generosity to self and others. Giving myself permission to make a difference to others given all my imperfections. Giving others the space to keep growing and defining their own greatness, in areas of their life that matter to them and are important to them.

Thank you Landmark Education, for giving me a whole new way of living my life, for experiencing myself and humanity. Thank you for empowering and enabling me to live my life with peace and power. I love my life!

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