Stolen Focus (2022)

This is probably the best book I’ve read/listened to in the past two years and would highly recommend anyone to read this.

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, by Johann Hari.

It’s not a conventional self-help book, with the author telling you how to solve the problem (in this case – regaining your focus), what he has tried, what research says would work, nothing like that.

He does tell you as an individual what we can do to possibly prolong our focus, like for example, getting into a flow state (being passionate about ONE thing that’s meaningful to you), having enough sleep by following your body and nature (not the clock and manmade routines), changing relationship with your devices, reading and especially reading fictions (something that I’ve given up for a long time but been longing to come back to it yet I couldn’t find the excuse!), and letting the mind wonder, without any device.

But the fact that the title is “Stolen” focus, that indicates that it really just isn’t about what we can do. The book goes on to discuss how the bigger environment, societal and education systems around us have been preventing us from doing so (e.g. technology and social media algorithms), yet we are blaming ourselves when we fail to sustain our attention for a prolong period of time.

Here is a pretty good summary from the author towards the end of the book:

When adults notice that children and teens seem to be struggling to focus and pay attention today, we often say it with a wary and exasperated superiority. The implication is, “look at this degraded younger generation, aren’t we better than them? Why can’t they be like us?”

But after learning all these, I think about it very differently – children have needs, and it’s our job as adults to create an environment that meet those needs.

In many cases in this culture, we aren’t meeting those needs. We don’t let them play freely, we imprison them in their homes with little to do except interact via screens. And our school systems largely deadens and bores them. We feed them food that causes energy crashes, contains drugs-like addictives that can make them hyper, and doesn’t contain the nutrients they need. We expose them to brain destructing chemical in the atmosphere.

It’s not a flaw in them, that as a result they are struggling to learn attention, it’s a flaw in the world we built for them.

Possible Selves

I stumbled upon this article by the New York Times a couple weeks ago, and have been thinking about it. I do want to apologise for not updating my blog as regularly as I used to, I will probably write a personal piece to share why and what has been happening in my private life. 

So a brief summary of the short article:


Screenshot 2023-05-04 at 10.26.44 AM.png

Summary of content:

  • The “possible selves” describes how people envision their futures: what they may become, or want to become, or even fear becoming.
  • These possible selves, both positive (A violin student who wants to become a musician) and negative (A person whose feared possible self is an alcoholic may become a teetotaler.), are closely related to motivation.
  • Conjuring positive possible selves can improve well-being and alleviate symptoms of depression by holding out the potential for a better future.
  • So how do we construct that positive self and do what we envision?
    • Take action: Making the transition “requires you to say now, today, this week, these are the steps I can actually take” to attain that goal.
    • Find an expert companion: A supportive person who knows your strengths and weaknesses — and opens your eyes to potential selves you hadn’t considered.
    • Share your goal: Doing so makes you more likely to achieve it
    • Reach out to your weak ties: Whether you’re job hunting or seeking breakthrough advice, people in your larger network are more likely to help surface fresh ideas than those closest to you are.

So you might know that I’m trained in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and have been practising since 2013. One of the first exercises that students learn in the diploma course is a script writing exercise, asking your client or volunteer to envision how things will be like after they have achieved their goal. So say you have a goal to become a hypnotherapist (or working out every day, a dancer, a confident and eloquent public speaker, a calm mother etc), you will then ask about a specific situation once you have achieved that, where are you, what are you doing, what are you thinking, how are you feeling, what are your body sensations like, what are your facial expression and body gestures, what are the social and financial and other impacts etc. 

Doing so often motivates people to work towards their goal. It most likely increases the feel good hormones (like dopamine etc) when you see your goal achieved, and then these hormones keep you going. Of course, during the process if there’s any obstacles or any skills needed, we can use imagination or hypnosis to facilitate that too.

Diversity in International Schools

If you have the desire and ability to send your children to an international school, what kind of school would you send them to?

I guess many international schools we have come across are from the west, like from the United Kingdom, the States, Canada, Australia etc. And often when you look at the leadership teams of the school, you find that they are mostly white people, which is understandable, because of, I guess, the country of origin of these schools. But the thing is, these schools are now very commonly seen in everywhere else in the world. According to the international school database, there are 65 of them in Singapore, an Asian country, the map of where those schools located on the island looks something like that:

Screenshot from

And there are 180 international schools in Malaysia, 48 in Tokyo, Japan, more than 200 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some of these schools have been there for half a decade, yes maybe around or more than 50 years. Go look at their leaderships and teachers, what do you see?

I want to discuss diversity today, it’s my intention starting this writing. I want to see more diversity in those international schools, not all mostly white and/or European, in those schools. There is nothing wrong with them as individuals, they are probably all great at their job (, and it’s arguably why they are all still there).

But if you look at the students’ nationality, they are so diverse. Many of these schools have more than 80 or even 100 of students from different countries, speaking more than 60 or even 80 different languages at home! Then you look at the teachers and leaders, I can easily find like 65% of them from the UK, maybe another 15% from Australia, 10% from the US, and maybe 10% of local AND other nationalities. I made up these numbers, no school is so comfortable stating all these on their websites, they will tell you they have staff from 80 different nationals too, but the top tiers are mostly white, “and as it ‘goes down’ (to admins, cleaning staff etc), their skins get darker” – quoting a teacher I came across. Mind you, he is White. I noticed that, but was never comfortable pointing that out openly. Now I do that. I do that often, in front of other staff and students too.

Next week I’m involved in a recruitment of a boarding houseparent positions. All final shortlisted candidates are white except one, and the only exception is a European. I see the problems, I see that those who are able to present themselves so well are mostly the people from the same regions, at the same time have English as their first language, and are very familiar with what we are looking for. It’s hard for many others to be seen and get into it in the first place. But my point is not that, because that takes time to change, IF changes are wanted.

My point is, going back to my first question, is this a supply demand phenomenon? Is it because those parents who send their kids, and those kids who get to choose their schools (yes, many of them do), want their teachers to be from those regions, White, presenting themselves that way? Are parents more likely to send their kids to those schools? Are kids more likely to select those schools, than say, a school with all Asian in their leadership and teaching community?

If the answer is positive, why so?

What are the other deciding factors?






也许没有选择意味着我们过着更充实的生活,与那些在保护良好的环境中长大、总是有选择的特权,并且可以过着非常悠闲的生活(如果他们愿意 )? 他们往往有点脆弱,他们有时害怕接受挑战,也不能很好地应对挫折。 毕竟他们大部分时间都在自己的舒适区,要什么有什么,不需要面对挫折。 显然,这并不适用于每一个出生在那种家庭的孩子。 但是试着注意你周围的人,你有观察到任何规律?

然而这就是现实。 这意味着你在充分地生活、尝试、学习、奋斗,最大限度地发挥你的能力和每一个细胞。 这难道不是一种更值得过更有价值的生活,远比那种要什么有什么的生活来的更值得? 当你竭尽全力以实现目标时,感觉不是很棒吗? 这不也让你成为一个更强大、更伟大的人吗?


也许你认为我只是想让你感觉好些,这些都很阿Q的自我安慰。 但这在世界许多地方都可以观察到,当某个少数群体在某些资源或机会(选择)上被剥夺时,他们会更加努力地奋斗,他们变得越来越强大。 这可以是某个种族、性别认同、社会经济阶层、能力不同的人等。任何一群人都是如此,我给他例子,像在马来西亚生活的少数民族…

最后他告诉我,“是的!也许这是真的。我注意到去年获得奖学金的大多数人都是 LGBTQ+,即使他们没有公开宣布,但我猜他们内心深处, 像你说的那样坚强,不像顺性别者那样生活,这很难,你知道的。但是是的,他们可以取得更大的成就”

Invisible Women (2019)

Happy 2023! First post in 2013! This is my 10th year blogging here. 🙂

I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I guess I’m not a female who would willingly fit myself into the more “traditional” roles that women have been expected by the society and their older generations. I have always an advocate for the minorities, like for ethnic minorities or the LGBTQ etc in the school, but I seriously refuse to think that women are in the minority, though it often feels so!

This is a book I noticed recommended by the school librarian and as a member of staff in this DEIJ/B (Diverse, Equity, Inclusion, Justice/Belonging) school, I thought, “let me read this and see if there’s anything I don’t already know!”

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez

So much. There were so much! So much that I don’t already know. Some were shocking, like in the medical field, how women have been taking medication that were mostly trialled with only or mostly men and how much medication has not been developed based on women’s needs. Or, how the data has long shown that women have worse outcome recovering from heart surgery, but only recently researchers found that it’s because women jump right back into their carer roles after the surgery, while men are more likely to have someone looking after them. And single women tend to recover better from bypass surgery than married women, and you can guess why! Et cetera. Et cetera.

This is nothing against men, and you don’t have to be a female or a feminist to read this book. But it opens my eyes on how the world operates with the men as default and how this is affecting us women in every possible way…

Four Thousand Weeks (2021)

I don’t think I’ve ever read any book on time management, I never see the need to do so to be honest… I can’t remember how I came across this book by Oliver Burkeman, but I’m quite sure it was so highly recommended by a bunch of people that I decided that “right! I will see what’s in there for me!”

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals,
by Oliver Burkeman.

This is not your usual time-management self-help books, that teaches you how to organise your time, increase your efficiency, prioritise this and not that, wake up at 5am and do this 5 things before everyone else wakes up, no, nothing like that.

I guess for me, it’s very much philosophical yet in a practical way, on how you see life, how you use your time, your focus and attention, and perhaps seriously, not worry so much about how much more you can achieve within a day or week or any given time frame, instead, focus on how you live presently, connecting with yourself and others and maybe your environment. I’d love to learn the hardest task for humans — doing nothing, like, nothing, not even noticing your breaths or letting go of thoughts kind of nothing.

A few quotes that I like from the book:

The trouble with attempting to master your time, it turns out, is the time ends up mastering you.

You come to realise, missing out on something, indeed, on almost everything, is basically guaranteed, which isn’t actually a problem anyway, because missing out, is what makes our choices meaningful in the first place.

People are like donkeys running after carrots hanging in front of their faces, from a stick attached to their own collars, they are never here, they never get there, they are never alive.