Ep 14: Being Average & Not Knowing What to Do In Life (ft Tai Ling Ling)

Published on Sep 21, 2022

Ling Ling  00:00

To compare  those who are in the position of a jack of all trades to someone who is specialised, I feel really sorry for them. Because it’s basically saying to a fish, you fail at climbing a tree, when actually you’re built for swimming in the water.

Kai Xin  00:17

Hey, friends, this is Kai Xin and you’re listening to the Handful Of Leaves podcast where we bring you practical Buddha’s wisdom for a happier life. Do you feel average, average in a sense that you’re good at a bit of this and a bit of that, but not great at anything in particular? And when you look at people who  ‘made it in life’, people who have figured it all out, people who are celebrated for their expertise, does that makes you question your life? What do I really want? Am I meant to be doing what I’m doing right now? Should I be doing something else? And the more you ask these existential questions, the more stuck you feel. But what if you’re meant to be good at a little bit of everything? And what if not having a clear plan about the future is completely okay. And that’s what we’ll be exploring in this episode.

Kai Xin  01:26

Cheryl and I chat with Ling Ling, who was an engineer, a trainer who has a Master of Science in Psychology, and now back to being a student. A jack of all trades, some would call her, and she’s perfectly happy being that. It is the combination of courage and curiosity that made her walk the nonlinear path with joy. And this episode, we uncover the balance between having a plan and being spontaneous. Knowing what to do when we’re at a crossroad and the clear steps of how to get unstuck in life, you also get an inside view of how to answer this classic question from a job recruiter. Where do you see yourself in three to five years time? Stick to the end of the episode to hear all of our candid answers to the questions. Now, let’s dive right in.

Kai Xin  02:22

 It’s so good to have you Ling Ling join us on this episode. And I believe we can all learn from your very unconventional path and wonderful experience. So today, we have our co-host Cheryl and myself to ask you some tough questions that might get a little personal.

Ling Ling  02:37

Thank you so much for inviting me.

Kai Xin  02:39

Maybe you can share with the listeners. If you were to choose between planning and being spontaneous, which would you choose?

Ling Ling  02:49

Actually, I believe it’s good to be comfortable with both, to be able to plan for things, and to be spontaneous because there are times in life when you need to do the planning, and there are certain times in life when being spontaneous is far better. So to give a personal experience in 2008, which is around the Asian financial or the global financial crisis, it was after some years of working as an engineer and a technical trainer, I decided to switch careers from being an engineer to a psychologist. So in order to become a psychologist, I decided to take my first master’s programme in psychology in the UK. And this particular master’s programme is special because it is designed specifically for people from other careers who want to join psychology field, it’s called a conversion programme.

Ling Ling  03:39

The plan was that at the onset of the financial crisis, after graduation, the financial crisis would be over. And I would then be able to find work in the field of psychology after graduation because in the past, when there was a financial crisis, or there was a recession, it usually takes about a year or two years to turn around. And the programme itself was about two years ago, so I figured, okay, once I graduate, I can surely find something in psychology. But as it turns out, the 2008 financial crisis lasted much, much longer, and it didn’t work out that way. After graduating from my master’s programme, it took me more than a year to find actual work, it was so so difficult to find work in the UK at that time. And not only that, I faced discrimination, I was running out of savings, I worked odd jobs to survive. And at that time, after almost a year of trying to look for work, I really didn’t know what to do. I hit the lowest period of my life. It came to a point where I only had less than 100 pounds in my bank account. And I wasn’t too sure whether I should remain in the UK in order to continue to look for work in psychology or to return back to Malaysia (because I’m from Malaysia.)

Ling Ling  04:56

So at this lowest period of my life I was feeling so stuck. I was feeling really anxious. I didn’t know what to do. But this spontaneous idea that came to mind to go on a meditation retreat. I don’t know why meditation retreat, but I needed to go on one. And I needed to make sure that as much as possible, this could be like a really cheap retreat or a free retreat, if possible because I only had so much money in my account. But thank goodness, we had Google that time. And from Google, it brought me to a website called Goenka Vipassana, and they had like a centre in the UK called Dhammadippa, which is fantastic, because they had a 10 day silent retreat in the countryside of the UK, and it’s entirely donation based. So it’s up to me how much I want to donate at the end of the 10 days retreat, and they provide your own room, as well as food, which is fantastic. Also, with a little bit of searching and a little bit of luck, I found a bus company that was able to provide bus tickets for one pound each way- one pound to get there on one pound to return. So I thought, okay, yes, this is fated for me, I gotta go to this silent meditation retreat. And this retreat introduced me to Vipassana meditation. So Vipassana is a Pali word, meaning insight. So in translation, it’s called Insight meditation. So basically, Insight Meditation is the training of the mind to observe bodily sensations as well as the content of the mind. Because I was introduced to this meditation technique, it really changed my life totally, like, from that moment on.

Ling Ling  06:47

My life gradually became calmer, and more balanced. And even though I’ve met different challenges in life afterward, I had greater confidence to face them and overcome them. So there was that act of spontaneity, allowing the universe or the life to show you paths, so your choices, but also there was that plan of mine, you know, trying to look for work after graduation. So there are times when we need both planning and spontaneity. And you also have to remember that, when you planned plans do not rarely turned out as planned. Because as we grew up, we were taught to plan the days or years of our life. But when we are so focused on our plan, we lose our ability to be spontaneous. And when you’re spontaneous, their incomes, all the other things that are wonderful to like, seeing different connections, being creative, having more fun and having more play in your life. When we’re not spontaneous, we also cut ourselves off from serendipitous moments, all these coincidental connections, meeting random people who could be the best friends or the love of your life, or you could see things in your environment that give you quiet signs that point you down a different direction in life that could probably give you greater happiness, greater love, greater joy.

So to me, you need to be able to plan of course, because that’s how things move forward. You need to complete tasks to meet deadlines, but you also need spontaneity to be able to broaden your mind, bring more fun and creativity, and so on. I hope that answers your question.

Cheryl  08:28

Yeah, I think that definitely answers the question. And I think it’s a very nice balance also because when you’re planning you’re giving yourself direction. And when you’re being spontaneous, you’re not forcing yourself to the stuck kind of outcome that you want. You’re allowing, you know, the world to open up to you meeting new people, like you say, you know, in the beautiful word that you used serendipitously. Serendipity. Yeah. And I was just wondering like so you said after the vipassana retreat, you felt more calm and more balanced? And did you feel like you shifted your personality or worldview in the sense that you became leaning more towards spontaneity? Or are you still you know, kind of very stuck in the middle of like planning and spontaneity?

Ling Ling  09:16

It was a drastic change. It was a gradual change because what the retreat taught me is that it is a daily practice. It’s not something where you know, you take a pill, you change overnight. If you stop practising it, you lose the balance of your mind. I don’t lean towards either planning or spontaneity. I use my own life experiences, as well as gut feeling and wisdom, which is better. For example, right now I’m doing my second master’s programme. I’m studying the psychology of intercultural relations. And of course, I cannot be spontaneous in my data collection, and spontaneous when I feel like writing I actually have to sit down and come up with a plan. And how many articles do I read this week and how many notes do I need to write because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline. But in between those times, because I’m doing this Master’s course, in Portugal, I would also like to explore and experience what life is like in Portugal, so I need to create or plan spontaneous moments where I can go out and understand the culture, meet different people and just experience what Portuguese life has, you know, presents itself to me. Yeah. So you can plan spontaneity, and you can be spontaneous and your plans too, like me suddenly deciding to come to Portugal to do my second master’s programme. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Kai Xin  10:44

I really liked that. I also have a personal experience, actually, all my life, I realised none of my plans go according to plan. Like, I wanted to go to university. In the end, I started a business and because of starting a business, I have more flexibility in time, then I also went on retreats, and meet really great teachers who have changed my life. And yeah, I think it’s really about keeping an open mind to have an overall sense of direction. But at the same time, don’t be too close-minded such that we lose sight of opportunities that are just right in front of us, and meeting you was serendipitous as well because it was my one and a half months trip to Amaravati, which is in the UK that I met a Thai friend, who then became your friend, and then she connected us. If I’m not spontaneous, and you are not spontaneous, we wouldn’t have this competition. So I really liked that it allow things to unfold by themselves.

Ling Ling  11:37

Precisely that is an excellent example, Kai Xin, seeing the way we both connected.

Kai Xin  11:43

Like Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots backward. And I’m also wondering, you know, in today’s society, especially when you go to interviews, people would ask, or interviewers would ask, Cheryl is a recruiter, I’m not so sure whether she asked this question, what would you do in three to five years time? And I suppose that that question has the intention of really understanding whether a person or the potential hire, the candidate has clarity in terms of their career, trajectory, etc. But some people just don’t know. Like, I could tell you five years ago, that I have a particular plan for what I wanted to do five years later, which is now. But has it happened? Not quite yet. So I’m wondering, what is your opinion on this? Did you know what you wanted to do in five to 10 years’ time? And how do you sit with the idea of not knowing?

Ling Ling  12:35

The easy answer is I don’t really know, we cannot predict the future. And I think recruiters deep down, they also know this, but they ask it anyway, just to get a sense of whether this person has their own challenge, has like a career planning and stuff. But I also want to hear from Cheryl.

Cheryl  12:55

No, so the fun thing is, I will usually reject people who give me a perfect answer on what exactly they’re gonna do in five years because that shows that they could be very stuck, and they are not open to adapting to different challenges or different situations. So it’s actually a trick question. You need to have, you know, like, the kind of direction but also you need to have the humility to say that you don’t know and, and you are open to it, but people who are very structured, and this is exactly what I’m gonna do, and I’m like, okay, bye.

Kai Xin  13:22

So I’m quite curious here, like, what would be an acceptable answer? Because if people just say, I don’t know, it can come across as you don’t have your life sorted out.

Cheryl  13:33

I think it’s the way they answer. Sorry, this question is for Ling Ling but just I’m just stealing the spotlight here.

Ling Ling  13:39

I’m curious to find out what the thoughts of a recruiter so if I apply for a job, and I get that, I get that question, and I know how to answer it.

Cheryl  13:49

Yeah, it’s how you answer the I don’t know, right? Because I don’t know could be I don’t know. And I don’t care that that is a huge red flag that this person doesn’t have the kind of zest for learning or self-improvement. But if it’s I don’t know, but I’ve done things, you know, I’ve had the courage to try different things, then that is definitely an acceptable answer, because who gets things right all the time, and companies can’t succeed when they only hire people who have done things the way they have done it before. There will not be innovation and creativity and challenging the industry to be to the next level.

Kai Xin  14:22

I really like what you say about the courage to try new things and Lingling, I know you’ve tried a lot of new things over many years, and your plans keep changing, right? Could you share with us how you have such courage to try new things or when you’re stuck, you don’t know what to do next? What’s your guiding question or philosophy?

Ling Ling  14:41

Actually, every time my career changes, they are done for many different reasons. So sometimes it’s because okay, this particular career path is not working out for me. I don’t feel joy, going to the office feels like a drag and I could feel my sense of emotional and mental well-being, decreasing. So I know I need to do something. So that one was not so much out of courage, it was more out of necessity. For example, just like everyone else, I was told, from a young age you must get a good degree, you get a good job, then you get a big house, you find someone to marry and have kids. Now, I’ve been told this all of us, we’ve been told this, right? So at a young age, of course, I don’t know what to do. And I was persuaded to do electronics engineering as my bachelor’s degree. I did, I chose that degree because I was really good at mathematics and actually enjoyed mathematics. But maths and engineering are different things, as I found out for my degree, so when I did the job, it, it was okay. But it wasn’t something that gave me joy. It wasn’t something that gave me excitement, it became like a daily routine. And I could slowly feel like if I continued on this daily routine of being on this hamster wheel, a part of me slowly like dying. Maybe that’s too much of a word, but it just feels like I couldn’t be myself anymore.

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And then, fortunately, within the department, I was working in engineering, they had after a year as an engineer, they opened three different vacancies. So two of them were manager positions, and one was a training position, an engineering trainer position. At that time, I was still young in my career, I wasn’t so interested in becoming a manager. And I know based on what was being told, I should be a manager, because that should give me more money. But I wasn’t interested, My heart told me yes, training seemed a lot more interesting, I’ll be more excited to do that, compared to being a manager and I followed my gut, I followed my heart I followed where I believe, can give me greater joy. I applied for it, I got it.

It changed my career from being an engineer to one step closer to being a training and development professional. At that time, it was called training and development, it wasn’t yet called learning and development. So through that work, I met so many different people, I had the opportunity to travel internationally to learn from different experts and bring that knowledge back to Malaysia, (I was based in Malaysia at that time,) and train other engineers on all these wonderful things that I’ve learned, all the programmes that I’ve created for them and such. So as I was in that particular role, I did, of course, self-examination and self-reflecting, on why is it this particular job, give me so much joy and excitement as compared to an engineering job, right.

After some reflection, I realised like, I find a lot of excitement and joy, and creativity, when I get to meet people, I get to understand their perspectives, and I get to learn from them. And also to see how their mind works, to see how they behave. So all of that pointed toward psychology. After three years plus of working in this particular role as an engineering trainer, then the financial crisis hit and I thought, “Okay, this will be a fantastic time to switch careers.” It was courage, but it was also out of necessity. And it also felt, right.

Kai Xin  18:19

Yeah. And you turn inwards in order to find what exactly is their motivation. Or it’s not just joy and excitement, but it’s really about connection. It’s about meeting people and learning things. And that is something that you can find anywhere, which I believe is not just our training and development, right? You travel a lot. I believe that’s what makes you travel because you can meet people, also, am I right to assume then?

Ling Ling  18:44

Yeah, so I travel a lot in my life. In my entire life. I lived in eight different countries, Portugal is my country number seven. The other country I lived in was Serbia for a few months last year. And because of this opportunity to live in different cultures, I enjoy learning about different cultures and how people can live very differently, still survive, still find love and happiness, and joy.

Kai Xin  19:11

 And now you’re pivoted into cultural intelligence as your study.

Ling Ling  19:17

That’s one of the things that I’m studying. That’s one of the things I’m also training. I’m a cultural intelligence facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre in the US. What I’m studying is called the psychology of intercultural relations. So I study the cultural values and cultures of different groups of people. But what I also study is how different groups of people interact with each other, different ethnicities, different generations different, just different social groups. And when they interact with each other, what comes out of it. So, it points toward issues that we face now, and that we see in the world in terms of racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination, and prejudice, as a going-to-be psychologist. What is it that I can learn from these experiences? And what is it that I can do to help create a more equitable and inclusive world in our society?

Cheryl  20:14

I really love how you use your experiences and all this knowledge, sort of like you absorb all this and it informs your worldview, and you’re just so curious to learn a little bit more and more. And although I think you’re a little bit hesitant to use the word courage, I feel that courage is an underlying theme that is really driving the way you move. Because speaking from experience, I also understand the complete narrative, right, you know, get the right like finance lawyer doctor kind of degree, and these are the only right degrees you could do. So I was pressured to take accounting as my degree. And all my friends who knew me, like knew my personality, they’re like, Cheryl, you’re going down the wrong path! What are you doing? And at that time, I was very stubborn. I was like, No, I love accounting. It was the only course in my life that made me cry every single day.

I couldn’t get it and I hated it and was just like, What am I doing here? Yeah, so then I switch out also, after that, to psychology as well. And I think from experiences, really courage, because it’s something where everyone around you is not doing, it seems like you’re almost like a failure, right? You know, everyone’s continuing with whatever degree chasing whatever managerial role they’re doing. Whereas you’re kind of like taking a step back and starting from scratch and doing something else. So, you know, in these kinds of situations seems like almost everyone is against you, right? How do you still like, or what do you use to help you make decisions going forward? And how do you still like, convince yourself that, okay, this is the right way to, you know, you turn and go with something else?

Ling Ling  21:49

It can be really hard when your, especially your loved ones don’t support your work. But the thought process that I go through and make this decision is asking myself this question, what is the alternative? And is the alternative better than the possibility of the option that’s presented in front of me or not? So the alternative would be always likely staying on the same path, which I’ve already tried, and I already know that no matter what I do, in my control, maybe it couldn’t be any better because I’ve tried everything that I could, right? And then there there are these other options that are presented in front of me? And then I think to myself, will these options be worse or better than where I am now?

Cheryl  21:49

 But you can never know for sure.

Ling Ling  21:52

No, you never know for sure. So you can come up with different pros and cons lists, you could talk to a whole bunch of people, you can talk to those who have been in their careers and such. But the truth is, we’re all emotional beings. We make decisions based on our emotions, no matter how much we try to patch it up or cushion it with facts and pros and cons list and whatever not. So I remember watching this movie, I think it’s called the Second Best Marigold Exotic Hotel or something like that. And there’s a particular scene in the movie, Maggie Smith, a British actress was in a taxi and was complaining to the taxi driver, right. And she was in a conundrum, she couldn’t figure out what to decide. So the taxi driver says, flip a coin, have the coin decide for you? And then she was like, why flip a coin? And he says, Well, you will already know the answer before the coin lands. So if you’re really truly honest with yourself, you actually know the answer already. And you know, if you go against your true answer within yourself, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to live your life to self actualise. And if you do not know the answer and if you’re not very sure whether to trust your inner answer, it’s also okay. It’s fine. Just stay where you are. You don’t have to make a decision. And when the right pieces or the right information or the right time falls into place, you will know with great certainty Yes, this I need to go. I need to do this. Otherwise, the alternative will be I’m going to spend 20-30 years thinking what if what if, what if, what if what if, and that is just as painful as trying and failing.  Or even more.

Kai Xin  24:21

Personally, I find it helpful to then balance the spontaneous as well as the certainty part here because sometimes when everyone around you are trying to dissuade you from following your heart, if you don’t have a very convincing reason, you wouldn’t be able to deny the adults with much conviction and it wouldn’t be very persuasive. Right? So then we waver. So I guess that’s where planning becomes important because it’s not just all about following our heart and you know, living a carefree life, we want to care we want to plan and it has to be practical. So you know we have to feed ourselves financially, be stable, etc. Not just quit my job because I don’t like et cetera, and live in this very distorted worldview, and I know perhaps a lot of times people are doubtful about our decision to switch path, especially in the Asian context, once you enter maybe secondary school and you choose your specialisation, pretty much your path is set. And it seems like you know, a little bit of everything, but you’re not good at one thing. And when people ask me, “So what do you specialise in? Or what’s your trade? Oh, I’m not sure I’m kind of a little bit good at everything. And I think that’s where it can impair our confidence as well. So I’m going to move into the next theme. And both of you can chime in on what your thoughts are. Do you feel that it is actually okay to be a Jack of all trades? Or do you feel that it’s better to master one domain and be the subject matter expert?

Ling Ling  25:53

Actually, I think it’s really unfair to pit jack of all trades with specialisation to make such comparison because I think you’re really comparing a Durian to a rambutan. I mean, some people like rambutan, some people like durian, right? Because a specialisation requires a specific set of skills, a specific set of knowledge, it’s the same with Jack of all trades, because they have the ability to see connections in different areas. And those connections, bring out creativity bring out innovation, and they require the ability to be flexible and adaptable in different situations. So I think to compare them both is really unfair, and those who are in the position of a jack of all trades, and being compared to a specialisation, I feel really sorry for them. Because it’s basically saying to a fish, you know, you fail, at like climbing a tree, when actually you’re built for swimming in the water. So if you’re a jack of all trades, and you’re being told, okay, you’re not so good enough in this, be confident in your own skills and your own experience to say yes, I’m not good enough in this one specific area.

But I’m good enough to know, that this specific area can connect to other areas, which can bring out something a lot more beautiful, or something more creative, or something more innovative, whatever that is. So an example could be let me think, okay, currently, I’m in academia. And I’m surrounded by people who are really, really fantastic in their research, they’re very detailed in the way that they review journals. And they look at that data and analysis and come up with wonderful findings. But they don’t have the skills, or they don’t have the experiences to share this knowledge in public. So public speaking is something that they’re not particularly experienced in. Whereas like, I’ve also been connected with public speakers, and they’re really great and telling stories and sharing inspiration. But behind those stories, there’s like, where’s the data? Where’s the science? So you can like, I have a little bit of both, I do public speaking, because I’ve been a trainer and a facilitator all this life, but now my interest is moving towards research because I wanted to make sure whatever I share with the world has a scientific basis behind it. So, you can tell me, yes, I’m not the best public speaker, I’m not the best researcher. But with these two skills, I can do something that a pure researcher cannot do, or a pure public speaker cannot do. So it’s not fair, I think to make that comparison.

Cheryl  28:25

Yeah. And I think it’s also really about the self-awareness of knowing what you can bring to the table, what strengths you have, or what weaknesses you have, and really owning that in a sense of, okay, I know I’m really good in my data analytics, and you know, wherever you go, or whatever space you go into, really add value in there, instead of trying to constantly like, look out, oh, I suck at like, public speaking, I shouldn’t be here and like, stuff like that. And I think my perspective comes from in school, I was really into sports, and I was very curious about all sorts of sports, I would play badminton then and after that switch, and then pick up squash, and now there’s, like, volleyball, and then I’ll kind of be just like meh in everything. I was like, I want to try the next new sport out there. And I always compare like, wow they’re so good at basketball! How do they do it? So it always came from a place of inferiority and competition, like within myself, but then I think as time evolved, and as I grew, I realised, it is really about valuing the curiosity that I have for learning new things and going through the rigour of picking up things from scratch, instead of just deepening myself in just one area. So yeah, I think this question can be looked at from different perspectives also, in terms of valuing what you have.

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Kai Xin  29:34

Yeah, and I know sometimes it can seem that we are fickle-minded. If we keep trying out new things people wouldn’t see us as curious people would just like make up your mind, what do you want to do? And Jack of all trades has a very bad reputation. But there are more research studies that show actually having general knowledge can give you an added advantage because I mean, especially in the career space As right things are moving so quickly. In the past, let’s say if both of you were stuck in engineering and accounting, it might be completely obsolete in the next 20 years. So if you don’t have the soft skills, you don’t have skills like psychology, asking the questions for the facilitation, probably connecting the dots will be a little bit challenging. Cheryl I know, as a recruiter, probably you’ve also seen trends, right, that technical role now also has to understand some non-tech stuff and possess some of these skill sets. So I really like how both of you brought in the point that it’s not really about either, or, it’s really, what can you offer and constantly evolve, that’s, again, where the spontaneity comes into the picture rather than being so stuck in our old ways. And I’m also thinking from this aspect, there must be a skill that is timeless or that can kind of allow us to evolve. What do you think that skill is that everyone should possess, regardless of profession?

Ling Ling  31:01

Cheryl, would you like to go first?

Cheryl  31:05

Sure, I would also love to hear Kai Xin’s thoughts on this as well. I think this is, yeah, this is a very interesting question, right? Because I think when you ask this question about the one skill that can help us evolve- It’s a very tricky question because the way humans have evolved has helped us to optimise for survival, but not for happiness. So if we are talking about the one skill that everyone should learn, for evolution, would be for survival, then I think we are social creatures, creatures that need emotional connection, learning to get to know people learning to be resourceful. And connecting with as many people as possible, I think, is very important, because there’s no person who could go into the world alone and survive it, I think. But if I’m thinking about the skill that one shouldn’t have to optimise for happiness, it should be learning to be compassionate and like be skillful and emotionally self-regulating, think that’s the one skill that can help people to go through the ups and downs and uncertainties that life can bring to us. Curious to hear your thoughts.

Ling Ling  32:08

Actually, it’s really, really hard to pick that one skill. The one thing that came really strongly into my mind is mindfulness. And I know this comes from my own meditation practice. But I see how mindfulness has changed my life in many ways. And it can also help in whatever profession you’re in, not just in your life in your profession. Because there are so many benefits. And there are a lot of studies about mindfulness. It can help you reduce stress, bring clarity to your mind, it could help balance your emotions. And we need all of this in the workplace. So when you practice mindfulness, you have clarity of mind. So when you make decisions, you know that the decision you make is not clouded by your own emotions, of fear of anger, of jealousy, or envy, you know, you’re doing it out of clarity of your mind, and in consideration of what’s going on in the environment, what’s going on with other people, and so on. If you practice mindfulness, and you’re working on a task, be it a work task or a daily task. With that clarity of mind and clarity of motion, you can put your focus on the task, to make sure that there are fewer errors and that every action you take is more intentional. And you know, those intentions come from either a place of goodness, sincerity, of compassion or out of ignorance. When you’re mindful, you are very, very clear on why you do what you do. That’s one.

Also, with mindfulness, when it comes to social connections, you become a lot more present with the other person, you acknowledge them, and you’re more open to their perspective to understand what their thoughts are, what their feelings are, in doing so you build a greater connection with the other person, build a better relationship, and encourage, you know, greater compassion for each other. So I think the overall skill, one must have is mindfulness.

Kai Xin 34:47

I really like both perspectives, because you can have one without the other, you can be really resourceful and survive on the planet. But if it is, without compassion is without mindfulness, then what for it will just be such a tough and chaotic life. For me, what came to mind was reflection and critical thinking, I can make up my mind which one is more, but it’s worth the, with the concept of constantly looking beyond the surface and to also taking on the thought that our life is filled with hypotheses. It’s like doing research, right? We shouldn’t go out there just to prove ourselves right. But we should prove ourselves wrong, and take on healthy challenges so that we can constantly improve and evolve. And that’s where, again, the theme of this episode. I think it’s daring to be spontaneous. to go a different path, I think that’s where we see new possibilities, we find new solutions, rather than what is presented in front of us or to us. Yeah, so I think it requires a lot of contemplation and critical thinking, to see what’s beyond.

Cheryl  35:16

I do see a connection between what everyone says, I think it’s packaged in different words, and different probably techniques as well. But I think it all leads to one thing, which is basically increasing the connection to oneself. Right?

Ling Ling  35:28

I think it all boils back to ourselves, right? We must be aware of who we are, what we are and how we operate in the world. And who we are also impacts the people around us and the environment, too. So it’s the interaction between the environment and the self, we can see what’s outside in the world, but if we don’t know what’s happening on the inside, how do you know whether what you do has an impact or not? Or whether it impacts people in ways that are not so great. So it’s that interaction of the inner and outer.

Kai Xin  35:57

Like a feedback loop? Yeah, I know, some philosophers would say our worldview is shaped because of our social interaction. So yeah, that’s beautiful. So to wrap up the episode, as we’re coming to the end, for listeners who maybe are at a crossroads, and if they feel stuck, they’re not so sure whether they should move forward with an unconventional path, or what to do if they don’t know want to do, do you have some advice in how they can get unstuck and lean into curiosity?

Ling Ling  36:29

So if you’re stuck, it’s okay to be stuck. Because it’s a normal experience. Everyone goes through it. In some time of their life, we make decisions all the time. And the level of stuckness can be different, different times if I could use that word stuck in this. So you do what you can do, like based on Kai Xin’s question much earlier about what if everyone’s persuading you to do something else, and but your heart says, oh, I need to do this, there are some practical things you can do. So some of the practical things you can do is come up with a contingency plan. If what you decided doesn’t work, what is the alternative, you can also come up with an exit plan? If you face something that’s really entirely unexpected, how you’re going to exit it with minimal damage? That’s another thing you can do.

You can also think of listing out why is this path really important to you, and share it with your loved ones, because they come from a place of fear. And they worry that if you take a path that is unknown, that is untested, that you will face challenges or difficulties, and they will have to be involved too. So if you show why this is really, really important to you, then perhaps you can persuade them to support you. So that’s another way of of doing this. But if you’ve not reached that level of persuading your loved one, for me, it’s like it’s okay to be stuck. That’s fine. When the time is right, the answer will appear.

Cheryl  38:05

I mean, there’s a perfect answer already. I just wanted to maybe just add on a little bit, not a completely new point here. But I think really leaning on the theme of not sure, or like uncertainty where you know, you think that you’re feeling like this is the worst job in its worst situation. But you never know what happens, right? Moving could be better, not moving could also be better. So really just allowing that gap and space of uncertainty because life is very gray. And I think our world view for good or for worse is always very black and white. But if we are able to start, you know, leaning into the grayness of it and finding the beauty there just allowing it to unfold, and evolve.

Kai Xin  38:47

Well. I do agree, quite similar sentiments. I think it’s the perception around uncertainty and not sure- it comes with fear most times, and I find it personally helpful to get out of my head. Because a lot of times when I feel stuck I’m using not sure in a negative way. What if I do this? Or what if I didn’t do that? And then I’ll come up with 10,000 different reasons why I should and shouldn’t do and I’m like, Oh no, I’m stuck. So which one! Then weighing the pros and cons just makes it worse. So I find getting out of my head to just do one thing can help me feel like I’m progressing, and that in itself makes me feel I’m less stuck. And then slowly I pick up momentum, I get more clarity speaking with people who can be a sounding board, offering different perspectives. And once I consolidate all my data, I feel like okay, I have a contingency plan. I have this set-out, I have both certainty and uncertainty then I would take that bold step. And then whatever comes along the way I’ll just take it with grace.

Ling Ling  39:47

Sorry. I wanted to add something based on what you shared because it reminded me of a Buddhist philosophy that’s been drilled into me over and over again, which is that everything is impermanent. So even though you have this emotional sense of certainty, yes, this is the path I’m on, or yes, this is the path that I don’t want to take, or whatever. It’s based on the information and data that we have at this point in time. We cannot predict the future we didn’t. Two years ago, we didn’t know COVID will happen and all of our plans changed. There are things in the environment and things in the universe that will happen beyond your control, and it will make you consider other things. So everything is not permanent. And your need for certainty and security comes from our deep-seated emotions for survival, for being secure, for being safe. So it taps onto what Cheryl shared earlier that it’s okay to be uncertain. It’s just part of how we are built as human beings. But also know that life is uncertain anyway, it’s great anyway, we cannot predict anything. So it’s also okay. Do what you need to do. Talk to people, and make plans.

Cheryl  41:02

Yeah, I really, I really love your sharing today Ling Ling because I feel that you have a very balanced worldview that is both very harmonious with, you know,  just the openness to the outcomes that come to you, but also not leaning to the extreme of like, you know, just letting go of everything, and just let’s see, whatever happened. You still have that pragmatism, and, the practicality of planning, you know, being very rational about things, which I feel is a very beautiful and harmonious way to view the world and its uncertainty. So I really enjoy this episode. And I hope like, by the end of our podcasts, our listeners, also, you know, along with us in this conversation, feel at least comfortable that they don’t have to know 100% of what they do in life, and have a little bit of the clear steps from the insights that you share on how to feel less unstuck or the stuckedness as you used,  and to be able to find that balance in certainty and uncertainty as well. So yeah, thank you very much for joining us in this episode.

Ling Ling  42:02

Thank you so much, both of you for inviting me onto your show. It’s been so much fun speaking to both of you.

Kai Xin  42:08

Thank you once again for tuning in. If you know of someone who could benefit from the perspective shot in this episode, do hit the share button. Let them know that it’s okay to not have everything figured out in life. Have a general plan, but also allow space to let the unexpected unfold. You can also join our telegram channel and share your perspectives about this topic. In the next episode, we will be learning about how to cultivate a mindset of abundance to get what we want in life. Till then, may you meet with the causes and conditions to fulfill all your meaningful aspirations. And may you stay happy and wise.

About Ling Ling

Ling is a seasoned learning and development professional, a former electronics engineer, and is transitioning into cultural psychology. Ling’s career spans a variety of areas including manufacturing, travel, humanitarianism, and education. Since 2005, she has facilitated and delivered programs in 21 countries across four continents. Eventually, she founded Culture Spark Global, a learning and development company focused on developing intercultural skills for an inclusive and equitable world.

Originally from Malaysia, Ling lived in Australia, Canada, the USA, Singapore, the UK, and Serbia and currently resides in Portugal.

Ling has an MSc in Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and currently pursuing an MPsy in Intercultural Relations in Portugal. She is a member of the British Psychology Society, International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology, and International Council of Psychologists.

Previously, she hosted a popular podcast called Leaders of Learning. Currently, she writes on her personal blog Miss Elle Tea about anything and everything that tickles her curiosity.

Daily, she learns Ashtanga yoga and practices Vipassana.

Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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