Brooklyn & Manhattan Adventures

The weather was so beautiful this past weekend - almost felt like Summer never left. Just when I thought I was ready to embrace the brisk cool air, I'm now wishing these 70F type days would stay a little longer. 

Thankfully, I took full advantage by making my way around New York City this past Saturday with Troy. It was an eventful day that ended with a nice view of the city. Keep reading for the details!

We started the day with some mental exercise with Mission Escape Games. Basically, a group of 10 people are stuck in a room where you need to solve puzzles, look for clues/keys to get out in under one hour. Super fun and challenging! Our group escaped with 12 minutes to spare - not too shabby. 

Since it was located in Chinatown, we head over to one of my favorite ramen places, Bassanova Ramen. I discovered it a while back when I used to work nearby, and I have been a fan since. The broth is a sure winner - it's really flavorful and rich. Yum! 

After lunch, we made our way to DUMBO for the Dumbo Arts Festival, a celebration of the art born out of the neighborhood. We saw a bunch of cool projects, but my favorite is the below: Degrees of Freedom. And then, some more notable pieces that caught my fancy! 

As I mentioned, the weather was gorgeous. We walked to Dumbo park and found this little sanctuary, that made me feel as if I had left the city. It was really peaceful to sit on the rocks and people watch. We watched a couple of kids throw rocks into the water, it was very precious and a total throw back moment.

Ended the night by watching the sunset on a rooftop in Manhattan. Seeing all the skyscrapers light up reminded me how small I am compared to the grand scheme of life, the city, the universe.

And this reminder made me feel both relieved and humbled. Relieved to know that the world goes on amidst our mistake, and everyday is another opportunity do better. (The world will not crash and burn without us!) And all while humbled because despite how grand this world is, I get to be a part of it all. 

Mini Adventure at the Maker Faire

Happy Sunday! 

I felt inspired to put more love into this blog. And so, as a trial run I put together a little snippet around my Saturday afternoon. Troy and I visited the Maker Faire in Queens, and the Bev Lab section was totally Instagram-worthy. 

Basically, we were encouraged to customize our own beverages by mixing juices and flavors. It's meant to push the experiences we have with our taste buds. I didn't get too crazy, and stayed mostly within the juice territory. I ended up making a concoction of peach & ginger, all sorts of fruits (grapes, pineapple, grapefruit), and...chili powder.  

Then, we were able to experience our concoction not only by drinking it, but eating it as well! We froze our beverage with liquid nitrogen. Fun stuff - get a taste with my photos. 


Calligraphy: Be in the moment

Hello beautiful people!

Today's artwork is inspired by this little mantra I've had in my head for the past couple weeks: be in the moment. It is definitely one of those sayings that people, including myself, brush aside because it's been used so often that it's cliche sounding.

But I've since realized something about this saying that brings me comfort whenever anxiety kicks in or when I feel myself worrying about situations out of my immediate control. 

The present - it's all we really have. The past is over, and the future is not here yet. Our moments are temporary, they're fleeting at best. So instead of focusing on what will never be again (the past), and what isn't here yet (the future), we need to fully be and live in the present. 

It's 9PM now, going to make myself a cup of tea. Also, exciting news: starting a new job on Monday!

Watercolor: The day is ending

Today is a sad day

This week's practice included lots of abc's (I am trying out a new nib), and a watercolor session. It was a great outlet, and it kept me busy for a couple hours. I'm happy with how this landscape painting came out. I think I will continue to put on finishing touches tomorrow, and perhaps show an update in the following week. 

I am also running out of black ink. It feels like getting to the very end of a chapstick - super fulfilling. 

Calligraphy: Today is Your Day to Shine

My sunflowers - happy Sunday! 

This is my first week of testing out gouache paint as ink. (Gouache is just a fancy word for paint that is highly pigmented, and finishes as a very opaque color.) I've read from a couple bloggers that the perfect mixture of gouache & water creates a full palette of ink colors. 

Shine on, you crazy diamonds. And have a beautiful week! 

-Carol 

Watercolor: Summer Florals

Hello lovely lady bugs! I've previously mentioned that I'm experimenting/learning my way around watercolors. Here's a quick sketch of florals, inspired by the summer time. I don't love it, but that's OK because documenting it will help me progress forward!

As for learnings: I found it a bit difficult to control my color/water ratio. From my readings, I've learned that layering colors (through water) is essential as it adds texture, depth, and helps bring life to the entire painting.  Another beautiful thing I learned recently is that you should never paint on colors as they are - always mix. Similar to layering, it adds dimension and personality into whatever you're trying to capture. 

I remember growing up and playing with my Crayola watercolor set. Watercolor seemed so simple and straight forward. Now I'm beginning to realize how much technique and skill is involved. I'm excited to get better! 

Calligraphy: Dream on, darling

Happy Sunday again! (Perhaps I should make this a weekly routine.)

Today's calligraphy piece is au natural, aka has not been digitized. I've began experimenting with watercolor, and am planning to ease my way into gouache paint. There's also a bit of ink bleeding here, so may need to purchase different paper too. 

But regardless, enjoy! A simple reminder to keep on going. 


Calligraphy: Sippin' on my tea

Every time I want to get work done at home, I have a little ritual. I must 1) light a candle 2) pour a cup of tea or coffee, and 3) put on some upbeat music. I love doing it because it relaxes me, and gets my creative juices flowing. Anyways, that's exactly what I did today when I practiced my calligraphy! 

I was just casually practicing my abc's and enjoying the moment when I felt inspired to write this. Because usually when you think of sipping on a drink, you won't think of chamomile tea. I loved the irony of it so voila. Happy Sunday everyone.

*Can't take credit for the watercolor background. It is credited to the inspiring DesignLoveFest.

How I Applied Parkinson’s Law for a Happier Life

Recently, I’ve been introduced to this beautiful concept. It’s called the Parkinson’s Law, and it states:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Many people may use this idea to justify waiting till the very last minute to finish a project or assignment. I’m sure most of us have experienced a time where we had a whole week allocated to work on something, but we procrastinate till the very end of the line to get started. But somehow, we still manage to put something together in the last hour. That’s Parkinson’s Law in effect.

Kind of sounds lovely doesn’t it? That there’s a law working in our favor when procrastination is at its finest. However, I’m actually the kind of worker that needs to jump right into a project, lay the groundworks, and get going. For that reason, I actually find the inverse of this law to be extremely comforting.

Knowing that I will definitely finish an assignment in the time I am given means that I do not have to bend over backwards to make something happen. It will happen. Work will be done. Smile, and let it be.

Here’s how applying this newly-discovered concept in my day-to-day made my life a little bit better:

I have freedom from my work.
So a lot of the time, I end up thinking about what work I can be doing and how I can be more productive in that very moment. I have to constantly remind myself that there’s no point getting tangled in a web of “should do’s” if I don’t plan on actually working. Just breathe, and fully enjoy your present!

I can maintain a good work-life balance.
Freeing my mind from work means that I can have a better work-life balance. I can actually enjoy the moments with my family and friends — I can stay in the present, and appreciate the people around me. It’s surprising how many people can be away from work, but their mind hasn’t left it at all. While it’s admirable to be so immersed and passionate about your career, it is much more respectable to have it be only a part of who you are. Your day job should not define you!

There’s less worrying.
At this point, it’s clear how freeing your mind of work means you will worry less. A lot of the times, our worrying is done in vain. The situation we panic over and have night mares about never actually happens. And you can argue that it’s because “I mulled endlessly over it and worked my ass off” to make it that way. I’d like to think that it’s because we always underestimate our abilities to produce good work.

So go ahead and test out this little nugget of knowledge. It’s really just changing our mindset, not about compromising the level of our work. There’s nothing to lose — maybe except for a missed assignment. Just kidding! Everything in moderation and you’ll be just fine.

 

[Share this exact post over at Medium.com]

 

How We're Disconnected More Than Ever In The Connected World

Hello friends!

On my way to work this week one morning, I started thinking about the different ways of communication between people in this day and age. Have you noticed how engulfed we are with our digital space? We're so consumed that it takes away the opportunity to truly enjoy and be present in the real world. It led me to realize how disconnected we are in this hyper-connected world. And it actually reminded me of a quote from the movie, Hitch:

"60% of all human communication is non-verbal body language; 30% is your tone...so that means 90% of what you're saying ain't coming out of your mouth." 

So disregarding the accuracy of those statistics, the idea still holds true for all human interactions. The truth is that what we want to convey isn't in the words we speak. It is in how we say it and the body language that we emit. So how can we truly and genuinely express ourselves if so much of our interactions today are digital? Is there a limit to how deep relationships can run if it is built on the foundation of technology as opposed to face-to-face dialogue? The irony is that the opportunity to be connected all the time actually takes away from our ability to form authentic relationships with the people we meet.

Not only is the balance of our interactions becoming more digital and less real world, but the significance of each moment has decreased in value as well. Let's reminisce a little! When I was much younger, if you wanted to talk to someone you couldn't see, you had to make a phone call from a home phone. It's a commitment really -- you couldn't have been on-to-go, you had to use a home phone, and the person also had to be home. Sometimes you even had to go through a parent before you could get the person on the other line. We never realized this back then but: you had to have wanted to put in effort in order to have a conversation with someone. In a sense, the conversations we used to have signified investment, and nowadays a lot of ours is just a way to pass time for the in-between moments of the day.

Back then, there was also no such thing as "real-time." The concept barely existed. Today it seems like everyone wants real-time: brands are all about creating real-time content, publishers want to be the first to deliver news as they happen, and we have all the tools necessary to keep us as closely connected as possible. So while being connected allows us to have many more interactions, each one seemingly holds less weight and significance.

But hey, in no means am I rebutting the obvious advantages of digital and being connected where ever we go...I work in digital advertising after all. It is however interesting to think about how I can start to be more in sync with my real world, and to try harder in my relationships with people. This means making a conscious decision to not pull out my phone on the subway rides home, and to make time for more meaningful conversations (through whatever means of communication) with the people who matter.


Carol

Time Away From Home: Mexico

Can you believe it? It's almost the end of 2013! It's honestly been a great year - full of small changes, and big life milestones. In 2014, I'm going to try to write more because it will help me be more honest with my feelings and thoughts. It has fallen at the wayside a bit..but I'm going to make more of a conscious effort to blog. 

For me, it's very easy to get caught up in a routine. It's comfortable, and also easy to go through motions without really putting effort to think about

why

we do what we do. So I had the chance to take a mini vacation, and it really helped me to step back from the day to day. The time away from home allowed me to get in touch with nature but also gave me the opportunity to think and reflect. 

Anyways, a photo is worth a thousand words...so I'll let them do the talking here. Here are some photos from Mexico, taken courtesy of my lovely iPhone. 

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En route to Mexico and away from New York City. 

Arrived at our hotel and loving this design.  

My favorite part of the trip: dipping my toes into this refreshing + crisp water.

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Sunset on the beach. If passion had a face, it would look a lot like this.

A visit to a Mayan Ruin. It felt like I entered a time from the past. 

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"If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?"

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I tried to imagine what it could be like to live 300 BC. How different life would be back then. 

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I'm actually quite afraid of swimming in water. But I felt such a fascination for it on this trip. Can you feel fear and fascination at the very same time? 

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"There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it's sent away." - Sarah Kay

The Quest for Knowledge

It's been a while. I'm going to try to jump start this lovely blog of mine because I need some sort of creative outlet beyond my job. 

So, right now I'm officially a college graduate. And surprisingly I find myself missing college a whole lot more than I thought I would. I miss my having all my close friends all in the same vicinity, I miss the little bubble that goes hand in hand with being in college, and I miss learning in the classroom. (All you college kids out there, cherish your days...it flies!)

So college is over. Now I'm officially a working woman at an awesome agency. I remember when I was still in school, and I always wondered to myself...when will the time come when I feel prepared to start my career? Does this "feeling" suddenly just hit you one day? Well, here I am. I don't think it ever hit me, and I feel as if it never well. I've come to this job with a sense of wonderment and a desire to learn. And I think as long as I feel that way with every opportunity that comes my way...I will never feel 100% prepared to do it all. And to me, that's the beauty of it.

The beauty of choosing your career is that you are learning it as you do it. You can either fall more and more in love with your work, or you can begin to despise it. (And sometimes it can be a mix of both, and that's completely okay too.) I don't ever want to feel stagnant in my quest for knowledge and insight. And with that, comes a need for ambiguity, vulnerability, and must I say it, anxiety.

That's my stream of thoughts for now. Maybe my perspective will change a couple months down the road, we shall see.


New Beginnings All Around

In less than a month, I will no longer be a college student.

(Let's take a moment and soak that in.)

Everyone has been asking me questions like: How does it feel? Are you ready for the real world? Do you have a job? Are you scared? And to be honest, I've tried not to think much about how it'll be like to end a chapter in my life and move on to the next. In a sense, I'm convinced it will be quite anti-climatic and after we throw our hats in the air, we will slowly seep into a new routine. I tell people that it's bittersweet, and I guess its the easiest way to say that I'm feeling everything at once -- sad, scared, excited, anxious, and happy.

The reason why I'm writing this blog post is actually because it just hit me that my little brother will begin college in September. I can't believe it's already been four years since I first moved away from home, and fast forward to now, it's his turn to go on this exciting journey. Being the overprotective and eager sister that I am, I started thinking of all the things I would do if I had the chance to relive my college years.

With that in mind, I thought of what advice I would share to all incoming freshmen:

  • Do more of what you love and gets you excited because when you are doing what you love and enjoy, it no longer feels like work.
  • Work your ass off, but always find time for your friends because life is a balancing act. Everyone has 24 hours of a day, and time is what you make of it. 
  • Never live in your comfort zone because college is a time to explore and grow.
  • Heartbreaks are not worth it because...just trust me on this one.

 

What kind of advice would you give for students about to enter college? How about those embarking to the real world? I'd love to know -- share with me!


Carol 

Subscription Based E-Commerce...What's the deal?

In the past week, I've had this interesting fascination with the concept of subscription based e-commerce, or better known as, monthly subscription boxes. If you are unfamiliar with what these wonderful "boxes" are, it is a box of 4-5 goodies sent out to customers monthly. For example, there are boxes tailored for beauty products, doggy treats, and even just women.

So my curiosity about these subscriptions is: where did they all come from? If you do a simple Google search, you are hit with well over 20 different start-ups that market a box. One of which just might spark your interest and get you hooked month after month. I want to walk through different aspects of this "fad" (if you will) that make it so appealing to consumers -- to the point where a number of start-ups are able to sustain themselves by playing in this space.



 People love the element of surprise
Quite simply, people love to receive presents. Subscribing to a box is a guarantee that we will be getting something, but who knows what! And that's the point -- not knowing builds anticipation, which keeps the company top of mind in-between days where we haven't received anything yet. (When will I receive the box? Have other people gotten their's yet? Let me check the forum. Maybe their website will have a spoiler..)



Our mailboxes are starving for some lovin'
I'm sure we all agree, unless you are one crazy online shopaholic. But we rarely receive hand-written letters, or much less, bank statements anymore in our mailboxes. I think a part of us are nostalgic for the good old fashion "I got a care package" feeling. Yes, it's not from our moms, but it is most likely goodies we would have wanted if we knew they existed.


Sometimes we don't know what we want (but we know we want) 
We all want things, but sometimes we don't really know exactly what it is. Subscribing to a box allows us to throw to the winds the hassle of figuring it out, and still getting something.


You also subscribe to a community 
I'll speak from personal experience about the community that circles around a box, and how helpful it is in building your brand. I subscribed to Birchbox, a box for beauty and makeup products, for about half a year. In addition to just receiving my lovely box every month, I found myself seeking other ways to be part of the Birchbox community. I began to read their blog posts, "like" their Facebook sneak peaks, and even follow the team's Instagram to get behind-the-scene shots of the company. And this community is not limited to Birchbox's social networks, it also seeps into beauty forums such as MakeupTalk. I subscribed because I was interested in beauty products, and Birchbox provided a community for such like-minded people to talk about it.


It's extremely easy to cancel (too easy) 
On the sad chance that the box is just not cutting out for you, these start-ups have made it extremely easy and seamless to cancel your subscription. This goes hand-in-hand with how beautiful and simple to navigate most of these websites are.


That sums it up for me! The other interest thing about these subscription boxes is the variety in price points. I've seem them range from $10 - $50. I know that different boxes are targeting different people, but I'm curious to know what the common thread between all the different subscribers is. Maybe it's the reasons I mentioned above, or it could possibly be more scientific than that. I also wonder: is this market saturated with enough start-ups that there is no more room for another?

I'll definitely continue to keep an eye out for this market, and I'm excited to see where it will go!


Carol

Seek and Find Happiness


Another year has flown by, and now we quickly usher in 2013 with all its fresh potential. Reflecting back onto my year, I remember the one and only resolution I made in 2012: be happy. Not to say that I wasn't content with how my life has been, but I knew that there was room to make better choices for my happiness. 

Before I continue, I want to make a side note. For a while I've wondered if this idea of "seeking happiness" was selfish, or "first worldly" even. (Pretty sure I made that word up.) However, a look back into the philosophy courses I've previously taken, I will see that this isn't true at all. It can even be argued that all human decisions are made under the premise that it will eventually bring us this wonderful feeling of happiness. Of course, everyone gets there differently, no way is wrong or right (although I personally think there are better ways than others). And some make goals to reach it, but never do. 

Nonetheless, here are some of the actionable ways I went about to find my happiness. Some may seem simple or obvious even, but it takes time and effort to build such a mentality and actually carry through with it. Hopefully for those of you seeking it, this can help shed a light on how to achieve it for the new year. Enjoy!


1. It is life. Live it.
Most of our lives are spent doing things we should do. But sometimes we need to make decisions based not on what we think we should do or what will further us in our career, but on how happy it can make us. I spent a number of semesters in college literally running from one meeting to another...filling every hour with something to keep me busy and to make me feel more important. However, there is something to be said about making conscious decisions that you know can make you happier. For example, instead of taking an extra class that you dread, register for a class you know you will enjoy. 

2. Make time for yourself.
I always believed that if I was not being productive, I was wasting time. I lived by this notion to a point where I forgot the value of being still and just appreciating down time. I didn't even want to cook my own dinner...it was too time-consuming. But finding time for yourself to relax is not seeking the easy way out. It is understanding that life should not be all about work. We work so hard only to seek happiness for the future, but why do we overlook the importance of happiness in the now? 

3. Learn to say no. 
Quite self-explanatory. Respect yourself enough to be firm in saying no if it is not something you want to do. Prioritize your happiness high enough to say no to opportunities that will spread yourself too thin. 

4. Be kind to everyone. Show gratitude. 
Show kindness, and you will receive it. Show gratitude, and others will feel it. Both are vicious cycles that can make you and everyone around you feel happier! 

5. Surround yourself with good people. 
I know I've written about this on this blog, here and here. But can't stress enough how important it is to treasure good company. Also to realize that sometimes not all friendships are made to last. It doesn't say anything about the friendship; I believe that it is natural and it is okay (do not wallow in it). 

6. Reward yourself. And don't feel guilty doing so. 
Whether it is a shopping spurge or a needed vacation, you should learn to reward yourself for your hard work. And it's not just about the short term gain of that splurge or vacation but the idea of showing appreciation towards yourself. I mean, when something awesome happens to a friend, you go out of your way to celebrate their accomplishments so why not hold yourself to that same standard? 

7. Give back! 
I know there has been many people in my life who has helped me get to where I am today (whether they intended to or not). So I believe that you should extend a helping hand to others whenever you can or when the opportunity arises. I think some people operate under the belief that if they share their wisdom with someone, a bit is taken away from them. That's not exactly true, and in the long run, that way of thinking only limits your potential. 


That's all -- but remember, everything is in moderation. I am a firm believe in hard work, ambition, and giving something all that you've got. So when I say relax, I am not saying, be a bum. I am saying when you've done your homework and you've put in your effort towards something, it is okay to just be and to embrace the present. And when I say splurge, do it responsibly. Also I can't brag to be an expert on the idea of happiness, I am merely sharing my experience and takeaways from this year. Thanks for reading! 

"Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."


Carol 


Three Buckets of Brand Planning

Given that I haven't posted since the beginning of the semester, I can't believe that it's almost the end. It's so scary but exciting to know that very soon my college career will be ending.

This semester I've had the opportunity to intern at Hill Holliday, and it's been a great learning experience. I think it is so important to find a company whose culture fits your own values. Everyone that I've met so far at Hill are talented and nice people who are willing to have a conversation with you if you take the initiative to ask! But there is one specific story I took away that stuck and I keep going back to my moleskin to read. It is the three buckets of brand planning.

There are three things that a brand/account planner must be in order to succeed. (For background on what a brand planner does -- read this GREAT piece of work by Mark Pollard.) With most things in life, they are a simple three: be a sponge, a filter, and a megaphone. 

Sponge
A brand planner must be immersed in culture and trends. I think one of the reasons why I'm drawn to planning is that a prerequisite to the job is to be curious, to question, and to expose yourself to different environments. To be able to draw inspiration from your everyday life and apply them to your job is something that most people don't have the privilege to do.

Filter
When you act as a sponge, you will be inundated with a ton of information. To be successful, a planner must be able to know how to filter. Understand the idea and derive consumer insights from all the noise. Hone in on what the human truth is and be able to tell a story that connects the brand with the consumer.

Megaphone 
What is a great idea if not heard or understood? A brand planner must be able to sell the idea to the creative and account team, and of course, to the client. They must be able to shape the insight in a way that can inspire the creativity juices to flow.


Hope that was helpful and informative! Enjoy the very last month of 2012.


Carol

Perception = Reality

Today in my market research class, we were discussing the idea of perception versus reality, and how the two many not always align. A brand may be successful or a failure because society perceives it a certain way -- whether it may be true or not. My professor then reinforced the idea that in marketing, perception is reality. It doesn't matter what is true or false because the average consumer will always act on what they've been influenced to think. And it shouldn't matter because the goal of a company is to win. And to win, you need to profit.

And sitting in that classroom, I was just imaginatively hit across the head. I have this beautiful image of what marketing and brands can be, but at the end of the day...it is all just a facade? And to a certain extent, I know it is not because there are companies where perception really is the reality. But I also know that there are a lot of companies that skew information, that manipulate people's insecurities and needs. And it makes me question whether this is really the industry where I can be happy to work in.

I just hope to see some more genuine brands out there that can inspire and make people want to be better, while still making the profits in a ethical way. Because I think that we all deserve better. Not in a high-horse for humanity kind of way but in a way where people should treat people with respect and morals. Because yes, companies are run by people and driven by people.


Carol

How to Manage Your Own Expectations

I remember in high school, I was on the train ride back home with a good friend of mine. He was all excited to show me this new "theory" that he came up with. It basically went like this: expectation and happiness have a strange relationship. The greater your expectation, the more extreme your happiness/disappointment is with the result. And likewise, the lower your expectation, the less you will be moved by reality. Through some logic and "math," he concluded that it was in our best interest to never have high expectations but to level them off in order to protect ourselves from these roller coaster emotions.

I replied with, "if two people are in a relationship without any expectations of each other...the relationship will eventually go nowhere. Expectations are necessary risks to make for that potential of happiness." And with that, our conversation ended.

But even after that, I always battled with myself to maintain that perfect balance of expectations. When to hold back, and when to pursue more. It was a very delicate balance and often times, in relationships or in career directions, I would be left disappointed and unhappy. I never thought that there could be another way to view this idea of expectations and reality. But then I realized that at the core of it...disappointment stems from when our reality doesn't meet our expectations. So maybe the issue isn't about our expectations but our perception of reality.

The other day I was reading a book called "Emotional Equations," that talked about just that. We think that reality is set and it's not something that we can change. However, if we think about it, our perception of reality really skews everything for us -- even whether we will feel happy or upset over a situation. For example, let's take the Olympics, most bronze winners are happier than silver medalists. But both athletes expected and worked to win gold so their expectations were the exact same. The paradox lies in the idea of counter factual thinking. Silvers measure themselves upwards and compare themselves to the golds, while bronzes measures downwards to those who win no medal at all. So interestingly, "It's not our expectations that we need to curb; it's out sense of entitlement that leads is to be bitterly disappointed."

In another scenario: normally, we would be happy if we've gotten a 5% raise but if we find that our co-workers received 10%, our happiness for our accomplishment is decreased. Now it's clear that it's not about lowering expectations but about controlling our perception. To me, this leads back to the idea of gratitude. Always be grateful and appreciative to the opportunities and people that we are blessed with. This doesn't mean we need to live a stagnant life where we no longer seek more and more. We should continuously try to better ourselves, but it's just as important to be happy with who we are in the now.


Carol