Life is Real. What You Give it is What You Get Back

“life is real. Hindi siya nagsisinungaling. What you put into life is what you get back. How you will react to it and shape it becomes what you will experience. What you need to do is to be true to yourself and to others. Do not come into life expecting that you will be happy when you always get your way. Life is meaningful and well-lived when you keep adjusting…growing…reconnecting

Life does not choose victims. For the most part, you are the victim of your decisions and choices.

It is with that mindset that MJ —-who came from a difficult life situation —got herself into the L’oreal Home Beautician School for women. She chose the hard road of earning a living while going to school and helping provide for others. It is such an opportunity to work with women who believe that they create their own lives by taking responsibility for their God-given freedom. They work in faith, with hope, and an undying belief that life will be fair to their efforts.

The world has hope if only for such women.


What Does Resilience Look Like?

As my practice continues to grow, I find life’s questions being answered an experience at a time. This hodge-podge  of momentos are the answer to the question, “what does resilience look like?” the bottled strawberry jam is from women who are creating new lives by finally getting that college degree; the golden toy horse came from a mother who reconciled with her family; the owl case is a project from my cancer survivors group; the roses from a cancer survivor who learned how to forgive before she passed away; the antique lamp is from a lady who sold things she loved to put food on the table, and the oil lamp is from mom and dad who have weathered 50 years of marriage and still hold hands.

I am thankful for all those who have enriched my life and taught me to look forward despite things seemingly falling all around; Those who have taught me that life does not stop when things don’t go my way; that there is beauty and wellness and joy even when it is impossible to see; that there is always happiness to give even when things are rough.

As I move forward in my career, I bring with me the power, grace, kindness, generosity of those who have shared their life with me. May their resilient spirit together with our own continue to propel the world and override defeatist thoughts.


It is When I Began to Dream that my Life Began to Change

“When I was living without any goals and not facing my challenges, I had a comfortable life. But it was a joyless life —-yes, I had food, clothes, gifts handed to me  —-but I had not worked for these using my talents, capabilities. Well meaning people gave them to me thinking I would feel happy, loved, cared for. They did for a moment, but the happiness was short-lived. I did not develop my personhood, my talents…and when life threw me a curve ball, I felt incapable, unable to cope with the demands of life. I coped by avoiding responsibility, ducking out of life —-my life’s focus was on how to avoid problems.

After the program, I learned to be solution focused,  I choose to face my problems and strive for more in life. Unlike before, where money and the security it brings drove me, today it is my dreams and hopes that fuel my drive. My vision for the future is what makes me get up in the morning and go for life.

It was when I gave myself a chance to dream that my life began to change.” —– Djakira

Working with the youth to develop resiliency and self-efficacy in times of challenge has been a very rewarding part of my practice.  To watch them metamorphose into capable, honourable leaders of their own lives is why I came to do therapy work. To witness first-hand the indomitable human spirit is worth waking up for and lacing up those work shoes even on a stormy day.


Training on Resilience Through Mindfulness with Dr. Greg Lang of Singapore School of Positive Psychology

Mindfulness is often an under-rated and overlooked methodology for building resilience. Mindfulness requires us to be at the present moment — identifying our current resources: skills, people who can help, positive elements in the current situation, connection to character strengths.  Staying positive is key to surviving a tough situation intact.


Run Wild!

Yep, that’s about the size of it! A visual illustration of Albert Bandura’s Theory of Self-efficacy.  The belief that you have the capacity to succeed at the goal you pursue. The feeling of motivation, abundance, sense of being carefree and liberated to just do things and see it all like a game, the sure-footedness that you can easily win just by having fun with it. the earnest engagement, the laugh-out-loud verve for life. This childlike engagement is the source behind every success.


We Are Each Other’s Fairy Godmothers

Its 10PM  and am coming from a long work day. I chance upon a Mary Grace’s fruit cart. Who sells fruit with a wide grin on their faces at 10PM at night? beckoned by the smile, I approach to buy a couple of mangoes and bananas. As Mary Grace weighs out the produce, we get to talking about our day. I tell her  of the cases I worked and she shares with the reason for the spunk after a 12 hour day on the street. ” I am funding my dreams, she said. If  I don’t stand up for myself, believe in myself, and take risks in life, I will live without having fulfilled my God-given potential.  Ako lang, at ako ang makakatuwid sa buhay ko. Para sa aking sarili at sa aking dreams, wala akong tatanggihim na trabaho.  Sa ilang oras kong pagbebenta abot-kaya ang panggarap. Konting sacrifice, konting timpi. Walang pili. Focus lang one step at a time.”

Mary Grace bagged up my purchase and I am reminded once again the importance of dreams and believing in them.  And how, with every gesture of kindness and generosity and simply making time to chat, we are able to help others reconnect and reach for their dreams.  I paid Php 45 for a couple of fruits and a tuition fee for a life class. Mary Grace, wonder woman.


Can You Do More?

Am at the final track of finishing out the a program on “Working with Negative Cognitions in the Workplace”. The material is about creating an evidence-based intervention that assists women in dealing with negative thoughts that hinder their self-efficacy at work. Why is self-efficacy key to success at work? because self-efficacy is about how confident we are that we will be able to successfully achieve our goals. When we believe we can be successful, we set higher goals, engage more complex tasks, take more risks, develop more creative solutions to problems.

We need to be self-efficacious when we design and pursue our life purpose. As luck would have it, pursuing a life purpose is often fraught with challenges, setbacks, and requires getting ourselves out of our comfort zone. We cannot fulfil our life purpose if we feel we are not good enough or not worth it. We cannot push ourselves past the limitations the world sets for us if we feel that we are incompetent. Building self-efficacy is lifelong work. Our strength of self-belief is not solidified by a pat on the back or a single success. Self-efficacy is the result of going toe-to-toe with ourselves and others constantly —continuing to achieve over long period of time, standing up again and again after failure, trying out new things and ideas, continuous learning . To lead in a man’s world against misogynistic ideals takes inner strength and equanimity too. Kudos to all the women who stand up for women, therefore making gender equality more reachable for the little girls today.


Coaching is Not Chatting. Coaching Founded on Quality Assessment Brings In the Results

In the helping profession, specially for mental health practitioners, tools for assessment make the insights richer, the work more fruitful, the solutions more to-the-point. A professional tries to limit bias, identify underlying issues, get quality data on strengths, competences, capabilities. Because everyone naturally wants to look good, plays to his best side, garnishes accomplishments, the assessment provides reliable and valid data for which the best treatment plan can be developed. There are a variety of tools available —one simply cannot get a test from facebook and self-administer. The professional is in charge of making sure that the tool can give reliable results, and more than that, give a well-rounded customised analysis (not machine generated), suited to the client. Assessment done properly limits subjectivity, identifies motivations, makes the intangible tangible, provides insights which are otherwise unreachable, evaluates learning. An analysis is not just test scores. it is a combination of the clinical interview, the practitioner’s professional diagnosis, and all other elements that a test and machine cannot score but are very relevant.

The professional’s program then builds in the support by building strengths, lifting sagging spirits, finding areas of confidence and achievements that clients in the throws of crisis forget or minimize. And then, the challenge to move the client to step out of their comfort zone or fear —try again their hand and rebuild self-efficacy lost.

This is where the results come in. Bake in learnings with Consistency, Constancy, Calling out fears, Engaging, Pushing them forward. Working with positive stress. Having excellent listening skills, a good handle on the theories, then combining them with insight from within. This is why 75% best-in-class organizations directly attribute changes in revenue to their assessment strategies. (quote from Center for Creative Leadership). A seasoned and reliable coach uses these tools and does not do guess work.

*Image is borrowed form the leadership development framework of the Center for Creative Leadership.


Five Spoons of Sugar to Balance 1 Teaspoon of Salt

Thats how much positive feedback we need to give before we provide negative feedback. The human ego is just so frail, and self-esteem as well as self-efficacy is fledging that we constantly have to build each other up. Besides, in an interaction with people, there is no hard and fast ‘that is wrong’ or you are wrong—wrong is circumstantial to culture, opinion, values, what we believe should happen, and god forbid, ‘because I want it that way and I am paying the bills.’

Feedback is often the vehicle to create change. And so, self-awareness and empathy for the other are essential in providing that feedback. Given the subjectivity of feedback, we are erstwhile to be gentle in giving feedback. how? 1) focus on the good points —bias for open-mindedness and understanding self-motives. 2) be kind, listening rather than judging. Never be a jerk by pulling rank. 3) because by our nature, we are biased and can never see the whole truth, then give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Feedback is hard to receive and hard to give because it carries so much responsibility and soul-searching to do so.


A Healthy Thoughts, Happy Life

Having worked with so many folks, I have come to place great value healthy thoughts. Thoughts dictate how we feel, behave, and act in all situations. They have the power to make us feel bad, forge new friendships, go for a promotion, form alliances, engage in new projects. If only we can have better control over the way we think, we would be so much more in control if our world.

Alas, the thoughts at our core, are so imbedded they are impossible to reach. Yet, like the boo-boo under the bed, they have control over our lives not just our sleep. Have the courage to work them out, face them in the light. Only through the battle can you overpower them.

Will the journey be worthwhile? A resounding YES because When you peel off the layers, embedded at the core is there is always the warmth of love. It just got misplaced by life’s trials along the way.

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Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

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