let's think together in order to act better

Psychology of feedback

flowers for Rolade

Our highly competitive world requires good and service companies, organisations and employees to improve constantly to stay on the top of their game. Giving feedback, which is information provided regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding, is part of this “room for improvement” business.

Employees undergo appraisals periodically. Clients and customers have access to online reviews. During a birthday dinner party last June 15, I sat next to a lady who advised me to get into our city government’s website and expose my displeasure with their inaction regarding the pigeons’ invasion of my neighborhood that has caused financial and health anguish.

Since we are all either employees, employers, consumers, clients, or mere citizens, we do give or/and receive feedback regularly. As well, we get and give remarks, comments and advice from our family and friends, which are actually receiving and providing feedback.

Realistic Optimism - Every ending has a new beginning

Last July 8, I attended a retirement party; and like most farewell gatherings, it was filled with joy and sadness. The honouree was a gentle, kind and caring person who had helped many people, including me. There were always cakes and sweets on her desk for anyone who needed a boost on a hectic day. I often had it out of ‘gourmandise’ (greed). I miss her and her chocolates, and it’s strange not to see her grin anymore.

Everything has an ending; however, this ending has also a beginning. Today may be your last working day, but it’s also an opportunity to start something you have been wanting to do for a long time, such as going to the gym, reading a book, jogging, travelling or relaxing on a sofa or hammock, etc.

The passing of time is inevitably fast that no one is far from any ending. Most situations that herald the end of something, like retirement, retrenchment, graduation, leaving home, holiday, relationships, entertainment or sporting events, mean ‘change.’ The majority of people are anxious about changes because of fear of a possible loss, uncertainty and anxiety (though 90% of these worries don’t happen). We should consider the end of any event or situation as a change that has a silver lining even when it looks sombre.

With any change, positivism is the key. Our thoughts, emotions and feelings affect our body. While positive thoughts and emotions encourage calmness and physical activity, negative thoughts inhibit peace and efficiency. Positivism involves restructuring our perceptions and thinking process so that any problem or negative situation, such as change or end of a situation, is accepted as having benefits or as a stepping stone to something better. After all, change is the only constant in life.

Not always whiter and greener

My friend’s daughter always complains about the heat in Brisbane and has said to me how she would love to live in cold Europe. She doesn’t like her air-conditioned car and looks forward to skiing. My Belgian acquaintances find winter miserable and think it is a paradise to use the outdoor swimming pool and visit the nearby beach any time you feel like it.

A former neighbour recently confided to me about unmet expectations in her new job. She described in detail her uneasiness working with native-English speakers (she’s French) which, ironically, was one of the main reasons why she left the Francophone working environment (i.e. she wanted to improve her English by speaking it every day).

When I visit Singapore or Philippines, I observe smilingly women snuggling under their umbrellas not necessarily to prevent from having skin cancer but to avoid getting browner/darker. In western countries, however, men and women spend a lot of time and money trying to get tanned as it is considered good and healthy looking.


Long life to Shidōkan!

Longue vie au Shidōkan!

Cette année marque le dixième anniversaire de Shidōkan, club de iaido à Libramont, en Belgique, fondé par d'ardents disciples de Ogura Noboru Sensei, Gérard (Gési) Simon et Gérard Gatelier. Maintenant, le club entretenu avec succès par Gatelier et d’autres. Beaucoup de membres consacrent une bonne partie de leur vie à la pratique et à l’amélioration de leurs techniques de iaido et la connaissance des aspects philosophiques afférents à la discipline. Une personne, par exemple, fait chaque semaine 120 kilomètres de route pour aller pratiquer, tandis qu’une autre personne pratique près de 6 jours par semaine, gardant un jour libre pour que sa femme puisse le voir!

Je me demande ce qui est si fascinant dans le iaido (s’entraîner pieds nus dans un dojo pendant des heures). Une personne m’a dit que c’était "la poursuite du bien-être, celui qu’on gagne et celui qu’on partage."

(Lire la suite...)


I am a great believer of reliability and consistency, so when my website became un-operational for 3 weeks, I became annoyed and impatient. I didn’t expect that renewing the registration of my domain ( through a different company would take time. I spent useless hours trying to speed it up by using live chats, help buttons, etc. for the reason that I had always published an article in the first week of the month and was so frustrated that this had changed.

I delayed grocery shopping, postponed appointments, cancelled cinema outings and prepared dinner simply and quickly in favour of trying to put this website online. After so many hours spent fiddling with the computer, logging on/off, I decided to stop bothering my service provider. (Hopefully, the delay did not disappoint my wise subscribers and readers).

I wanted instant result though I was already told that it would take between 5 and 15 days. My parents brought me up to be patient and be gracious when waiting. But, have I changed? I hope not, and it was just a rare occasion when I thought that impatience was necessary to cope with our current high-speed, information-loaded society.

What did I feel during those 3 weeks? I was irritable, tired and tense. Some people have reported feeling angry, stressed, sick and detached from their relationships when they are impatient. So, why are we impatient? .. because we want instant gratification, which is evident everywhere these days.

There are passes that enable us to jump queues in cinemas, nightclubs, supermarkets, etc. When you post something, there are choices for one-day, 3-day, 5-day delivery or normal one. Quick leisure and fun activities, e.g. games on iPhone, are more patronised than chess and other board games.

Generally, patience equates to healthy and successful career and relationships. ...

Lying vs Optimism

There have been fascinating comments, especially through Facebook, on my previous article on lying to others, e.g. lying doesn’t equate to absence of love, many parents lie to make their children behave better, and men find it more difficult to deal with lying and liars than women (about 75% of men apply for divorce due to their partners' extra-marital affairs; 75% of women forgive their unfaithful husbands and stay married).

We have excuses for lying to others (refer to previous article), but why do we lie to ourselves (Psychologists call this self-deception)? Self-deception, i.e. not acknowledging the truth about ourselves, can be conscious or unconscious. For example, an employee is consciously lying to himself when he takes a day’s sick leave once a month and stays at home in his pyjama behaving like he has colds (he has convinced himself that he doesn’t lie to his employer and that he has the right to these 10 days/year sick leave). Some managers lie to themselves unconsciously to boost self-esteem and self-confidence; for instance, they believe they are more skilled and knowledgeable than what they really are in order to be respected and admired.

Last month, our family doctor reminded me that I should have a regular physical activity (in addition to sufficient calcium and Vitamin D) to prevent osteoporosis later on. I told her that I do an hour of Zumba every Thursday and another 3 hours of gym exercises per week (in which I added the almost one hour of walking to/fro). I didn’t lie to her as walking is a form of exercise, but I felt like did to myself because I would like to be in the gym for 3 hours per week but couldn’t due to other commitments. Meanwhile, I’ve a friend who maintains that she has only coffee for breakfast, doesn’t snack and blames her extra weight solely on genetics instead of admitting the truth that she has always have a second serving of food for lunch and dinner.

Philosophy of Lying to Others

After lying for many years, on 18th January 2013, Lance Armstrong (7 times winner of Tour de France) admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

What is lying? It involves giving information you know is untrue for the purpose of misleading or deceiving someone or an organisation. Why do people lie? Some of the reasons why we lie are: to save one’s reputation; to try to salvage a situation; to minimise consequences of bad decisions or actions; due to a low self-esteem and psychological-related issues, such an unhappy childhood; to hide unacceptable behaviour or an embarrassment; and to exploit someone’s trust in order to achieve a selfish end.

Is there such a thing as lying for a good reason, like “White lie”, -- not intended to harm the person being lied to but instead to do the opposite, which is to make him/her feel good or save her/him from a forthcoming emotional catastrophe?

We all have heard about “big and small” lies, and that the former (e.g. case of L. Armstrong) is wrong but the latter is not. An example of a small lie is a parent telling his child that there’s no more chocolate when in fact there are some in the cupboard. Why doesn’t a parent say “You’ve enough and can’t have more because eating too much chocolate is not good for your health”?

Opinion and Decision Making

I’m writing this at La Bresse, a skiing town in the north-east of France, while waiting for my husband and sons to descend from the slopes so that we can have a late lunch together. From time to time I glance at the constant queue of skiers at the automatic machine and “caisse” (where you pay your half or day pass). An hour ago, a male staff came and advised the waiting men and women that there’s another automatic machine at the other side of the building next to the restaurant. No one moved and it’s because either they didn’t believe him or thought that the situation next to the resto could change any minute and the queue would even be longer.

Why did they decide not to go to the other automatic machine which didn’t have a queue? Every day we decide on food, clothes, words, what to do with whom, where and when, etc. We make decisions on matters that range from simple routine to usually significant issue. Generally, our decision making is a product of our intuition (what we feel and believe is right at the moment), experience (heuristic approach) or knowledge (acquired from learning, objective information from experts and experience).

For nearly a month now, the French media have been having a party reporting on the immigration of its world-famous actor, Mr. Gerard Depardieu, to Belgium where taxes are lower than in France. Some French nationals have the opinion that Mr. Depardieu should be strapped of his citizenship as it’s unpatriotic to deprive your country of its needed financial resource at the time when it needs it most. Such an opinion is subjective with moral and philosophical dimensions, which is not shared by the majority of the residents.

Why do you work? Are you happy in your job?

Worthiness of employment (job) and work “Que gagne-t-on en travaillant?” was one of the philosophy questions in last Monday’s Baccalaureate (high school diploma) French exam.

When I was in Australia, I often heard people whinging about neighbours and acquaintances who received unemployment benefits from the government but were too lazy to work (known as dole bludgers). Some people enjoy working but dislike their job. Working is not synonymous with employment (job). Work is any activity involving the use of effort to achieve a goal, such as to repaint the house or to earn money. A work may not be a job but a job requires working.

Job, e.g. teaching or bus driving, is specific referring to a particular employment. Repainting your house during your free time is work but not your job (employment), which can give you satisfaction and joy. Work can sometimes be un-enjoyable also that’s why we often describe it as the opposite of play, e.g. cleaning toilets at home.

Back to the French philosophy question: what do you gain by working? by having a job? I hope that our French high school graduating students, after 4 hours of writing about this topic under the watchful eyes of Education Departmental staff and detectors, acquired a more positive attitude and behavior towards work and employment in the midst of a bleak economic reality. What happened to our ‘Right to Work’ philosophy, “Just Wage for Fair Work” ethics and socially-responsible business model?

Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave


Chapter 1

Intelligence that Matters
The Big Questions
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, How Intelligent Am I?
Meaning and Evolution in Thinking
Views Regarding Giftedness
Significance of Giftedness

Philosphy lesson from a 15yo

Last night on our way home from the motor show in Geneva, my son & husband and I had a sudden discussion about philosophy, which was ignited by my expression of pride that the former has been chosen to represent his school in the national high school competition in philosophy. My statement "philosophy is an explanation, literature is a fascination while sociology is finding solutions" led to arguments on what's philosophy and when it's not. We debated on the role of religion, difference between faith & confidence, knowledge & wisdom, and scientific & non-scientific proof. I was humbly reminded by our son's brief history of philosophy, i.e. Greece ... before the birth of Christ... Socrates, Plato, Aristotle... and he even mentioned Feng Youlan. He recommends the book, "Sophie's World". Just before we parked our car, we all agreed that when talking about philosophy, the method or process is primordial. We live in a planet where there are always questions and without answers to these questions, there's no knowledge - which is the basis of our actions.

Les conseils du 8ème dan Ogura Noboru sur le Iaido: de la maîtrise technique au développement spirituel

Ogura sensei

Gesi est un de mes amis belges. Il a 71 ans et a survécu au cancer. Il possède deux ceintures noires en Judo et en Iaido où il est 5ème dan.

Le professur de Gesi est Ogura Noboru Sensei: 8ème dan en Iaido, 7ème dan en Kendo Kyoshi, et consultant pour la All Japan Kendo Federation. Bien que Gesi soit un grand fan de la culture japonaise, sa maîtrise de la langue japonaise est relativement limitée, et donc, dès qu'il écrit un poème ou une lettre pour son Sensei, il me demande de la traduire. C'est ainsi qu'il m'a été donné de connaître Ogura Sensei depuis plus de 7 ans, via correspondance.

Cette année, j'ai eu la chance de rencontrer Ogura Sensei en personne pour la première fois. C'était à Versailles, près de Paris. Malgré ses achèvements remarquables, il est une personne humble, polie et enjouée. Energiquement, et pendant les trois jours consécutifs de la rencontre de Versailles, il a enseigné donnant des explications détaillées et faisant de temps à autres des commentaires humoristiques, mais jamais blessants.

Il est, sans l'ombre d'un doute, un grand pratiquant de Iaido et un excellent professeur, mais en parlant avec lui, j'ai également pu me rendre compte qu'il un philosophe sage et averti. Ce qu'il m'a dit était à la fois si simple et profond, et pourtant (et regrettablement), il n'est pas simple de le traduire. Durant les conversations avec lui, je me suis souvent sentie "mottainai" c'est-à-dire un peu coupable de garder pour moi tout ce que j'entendais, aussi je me suis dit que je ferais mieux de traduire et de partager ces enseignements avec d'autres.

Pour Ogura Sensei, celles et ceux qui quittent le Iaido à la suite d'un échec lors d'un examen de passage de grade poursuivent peut-être un mauvais objectif. Bien sûr, il est crucial pour les disciples de travailler dur, en essayant de gagner la maîtrise des mouvements physiques et de passer les grades, mais le Iaido est bien plus qu'une suite de compétences techniques, me fait-il remarquer. Dit simplement, la valeur essentielle et fondamentale du Iaido est avant tout dans le développement personnel afin de devenir un être meilleur, ce qui implique un engagement au quotidien, de l'ardeur et de la persévérance. L'essence du Iaido, c'est-à-dire l'esprit du mononofu (qui signifie "tout ce qui a un rapport avec être un samurai”), c'est d'acquérir un esprit harmonieux et d'apprendre le respect et la considération envers les autres.

Kenzaburo Oé and Amartya Sen's Capability Approach

I was a bookish girl (or bungaku shojyo in Japanese), especially I was a fan of Kenzaburo Oé in my adolescent years. Oé was so cool and his esoteric writings satisfied the slightly rebellious and sassy teenager/young adult. Later on, I switched my major from Japanese literature to sociology and moved to the US. So, I did not have much time to read Japanese novels. For decade, I rarely read Oé.

It was only recently that I restarted reading Oé. Reading his so-called late work reminded me of how I had felt as a teenager ... what an incredible story teller!

Also, last summer I found his book A public Exchange of Letters with Oe Kenzaburo – Writing in Defiance of Violence (「暴力に逆らって書く」朝日新聞社、2006年). In the book, our old friend (!) exchanged a few letters with our great sensei, Amartya Sen.

In this blog, using Oé's words and examples, I tried to explain the basic insights of Sen's view in Japanese.

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