5 more ways to be kind

Posted November 14, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community, Family

Tags: , ,

Today is the day after World Kindness Day, but we can’t limit ourselves to one day of kindness. A small kindness can have a big impact; it can brighten a lackluster day and turbo-charge an ordinary day.

 Sometimes overlooked or under-appreciated, here are 5 more ways to be kind: 

1. Be kind in online comments. Every news story has supporters and detractors, and online news sites let reader post comments anonymously. It’s easy to forget that there are real people behind those usernames. It’s even easier to type negative remarks or bullying comments that you probably wouldn’t say face-to-face. You can be respectful even when you disagree with someone.

2. Be kind on social media. Sometimes social media helps you create an idealized image of your life. Sometimes social media lets you vent your anger, fears, and frustration. When you see glimpses of other people’s amazing, awesome lives, don’t compare them with your own life. And when you read about or share depressing or horrifying news, balance it with a little kindness in your social media feed.

3. Be kind to our past self. We sometimes think the worst of our younger selves, dwelling on past mistakes and failures, instead of focusing on our past accomplishments. I’m guilty of this – I often find myself unintentionally replaying embarrassing moments and disappointments, even though I don’t want to remember them. I can’t seem to stop myself. But if you can forgive a past mistake or mischief in someone else, then you can forgive your younger self.

4. And be kind to your future self. We sometimes have unrealistically high expectations of our future selves, setting ambitious goals and over-committing our time and energy, instead of setting realistic goals and respecting our time in the future. Treat your future self will as much care as yourself today, being careful of your future self’s time and money, suggests productivity blogger and author Chris Bailey in his book “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time” (2017).

5. Appreciate other people’s acts of kindness. There is kindness all around us, but often these small, everyday courtesies go unnoticed. As you do small acts of kindness, be aware of the small acts of kindness that you see – and that happen to you.

Do you perform random acts of kindness? What is the kindest thing someone has done for you recently?


Writing next year’s annual report

Posted November 7, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: ,

The end of the year is fast-approaching. In addition to holidays, gift-giving, and resolutions at home, I’m also thinking about annual reports at work. I don’t think it’s too early to start summarizing our accomplishments over this year, and what we hope to accomplish next year.

Last week I wrote about mock-exit interviews, and how they could help identify and address existing problems in an organization. The mock-exit interviews made me wonder how businesses and organizations can make positive changes today – not just put out fires, but build something better.

Then I remembered a TEDTalk I watched recently – “How to gain control of your free time” by Laura Vanderkam at TEDWomen 2016. She offers a strategy for figuring out our priorities: writing next year’s performance review.

She says, “So I want you to pretend it’s the end of next year. You’re giving yourself a performance review, and it has been an absolutely amazing year for you professionally. What three to five things did you do that made it so amazing?”

This is it, I thought. This is one way that companies can set their priorities and make positive changes: writing next year’s annual report. When you “look back” at this year, what does your organization hope to accomplish? What will be the highlights of this year?

By envisioning your future successes, you can make a realistic plan for the coming year with confidence – because you already pictured it. By envisioning your future challenges, you are more likely to spot problems before they occur – because you are on the look-out for them.

In addition to financials, here are some of the things I want to read in next year’s annual report:

  1. Just the highlights – with graphics. What three accomplishments did your organization achieve? How do they align with your company’s mission or goal? What have you learned from them and how will you improve on them?
  2. People, not programs. Who are some of the people or communities that were positively affected by your organization? Tell a personal story about a customer, partner, donor, and volunteer. How did you gain their support? How did you show your appreciation?
  3. Put a face to the organization. Who are some of the people who made a difference in your organization? I don’t mean just the executive management, but the people who interact with customers, who look beyond their department, and who accomplish something great outside of the organization. What can you do to help these employees deliver stellar service? How can you recognize their efforts?

Professionally, maybe we all need to write next year’s performance review for ourselves – and next year’s annual report for our workplaces.

How does your organization set goals for the coming year? What do you look for in an annual report?


Clipart courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.

“The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking

Posted November 4, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , , ,

Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world, according to studies and polls. Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, believes that this is because the Danish people are obsessed with Hygge (pronounced HOO-GA), a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. They create an atmosphere of Hygge in their homes and workplaces, seek out Hygge experiences, celebrate Hygge moments.

In the simple and forthright book, “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” (2017), Wiking shares the principles of Hygge and how we can bring Hygge into our lives. Each chapter focuses on ways to bring Hygge into our lives, such as the use of light (candles, soothing pools of light) and small gatherings to comfort food and casual clothes, illustrated with cozy, colorful drawings.

“The factor that has the biggest effect on our happiness is social support,” Wiking declares. Or put another way, “The best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.” He highlights Denmark’s healthy work-life balance, a slower pace of life, free healthcare, free university education, and five weeks of paid holidays per year.

Wiking also includes polls and studies to backup the science of Hygge, as well as recipes, a Hygge emergency kit, and even directions to make woven heart decorations.

This is the Hygge Manifesto:

  1. Atmosphere. Turn down the lights.
  2. Presence. Be here now. Turn off the phone.
  3. Pleasure. Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy.
  4. Equality. “We” over “me.” Share the tasks and the airtime.
  5. Gratitude. Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.
  6. Harmony. It’s not a competition. We already like you.
  7. Comfort. Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.
  8. Truce. No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
  9. Togetherness. Build relationships and narratives.
  10. Shelter. This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and serenity.

For me, the best Hygge tip is to link what you buy with good experiences. For example, save money to buy something you really want, but wait until you have something to celebrate, so that you will be reminded of it every time you use it or remember it.

Wiking begins and ends with a socialist-leaning political agenda. He states that “the welfare model turns our collective wealth into well-being. We are not paying taxes, we are investing in our society. We are purchasing quality of life.” He concludes that “One of the main reasons why Denmark does so well in international happiness surveys is the welfare state, as it reduces uncertainty, worries, and stress in the population.”

Denmark has cold winters, rainy days, and an abundance of darkness. Candles, lamps, fireplaces, warm sweaters, woolen socks, and hot soup can warm you inside and out. Hawaii, with its tropical weather, refreshing breezes, and abundance of sunshine is almost the complete opposite of Denmark.

What does Hygge mean to us in Hawaii? Could our ceiling fans, open lanais, tank tops, board shorts, slippers (flip-flops), scent of plumeria, and shaved ice, as stereotypical as they may be, reflect a Hawaii concept of Hygge?

Keep your best people with mock exit interviews

Posted October 31, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , , ,

I work for a small, local nonprofit. One night my husband asked me, “So your company is doing okay?” It was the kind of routine question someone might ask, and neither of us was prepared for the response that came pouring out. I answered not with “I guess,” but with the biggest challenges (in my opinion) that the nonprofit is facing today.

I hadn’t even realized that these issues had been bothering me so much. I wondered if I should talk to my boss about my concerns, but I felt hesitant. My boss is nice, informal, and understanding, but I still felt uncomfortable bringing up these issues. It’s a conversation I would feel more comfortable with during an exit interview.

But why would I have to leave my job to talk about my honest concerns about the company? I had a “eureka” moment…

We have mock interviews to help people get the jobs they want. Maybe we need mock exit-interviews to help companies keep the people they need.

Mock exit-interviews would give employees the freedom to be honest about their opinions, and give companies the chance to make improvements and retain their best people. They could be held once a year with random staff members, so that it doesn’t feel as if anyone is being singled out. They would be separate from performance reviews, and conducted by non-managers. Co-workers could even take turns doing a mock-exit interview for people in other departments.

Questions could be centered around three principles:

  1. People. Who are the top contributors to the organization? Who needs our help to be better team members?
  2. Purpose. What does the organization do better than other organizations? What do other organizations do better?
  3. Process. What three things would you change about the organization today? What one thing can we do to build stronger relationships between staff and partners?

So what the biggest challenges facing our nonprofit?

A year ago, I would have said that we need to improve our fundraising (raising money and persuading donors) and name recognition (most people in Hawaii have never heard of us or what we do).

Today, I think it’s more fundamental than that. The biggest challenge we face is people. We need to engage staff who have the time, interest, and experience in reaching out to new clients and the community; and attract board members who have the energy, community connections, and willingness to fundraise.

What challenges does your business or organization face today? Have you ever talked with your boss about a problem or concern? What was the response and could it have been resolved better?


Image courtesy of ClipartGround.com.


Make a Difference Day 2017

Posted October 24, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community

Tags: , ,

Art is one way I choose to make a difference.

This month, our local children’s ceramics class finished a small tile mural. It started as a dream of beautifying our neighborhood park with art. I wanted children to come to the park and point out a tile they made last year, or two years ago, or (in the future) twenty years ago. Over four class sessions, with the support and hard work of the ceramics class instructor, Ida, children ages 6 to 16 created a tile mural that celebrates our community.

Sometimes we can make a difference with a community venture or a long-term project. Sometimes we can make a difference in just a day. On October 28th, 2017, volunteers are coming together for Make A Difference Day, a nationwide day of service. Every hour we can give matters.

Here are just a few of the Make a Difference Day events on October 28 in Hawaii:

* Honolulu, 10 am to 12 pm. Manoa/Woodlawn Adopt-a-Stream. Join Malama Manoa to remove trash and debris from Manoa stream along Woodland Drive. Volunteers must be 12 years of age or older to participate in clean-up events around the island. Minors must bring parent/guardian signed waiver. For more information call 768-4319.

* Honolulu, 9 am to 12 pm. Pearl Haven Cleanup. Pearl Haven is the future site of a specialized residential treatment facility with comprehensive wrap around services for adolescent girls who are high risk or who have been sexually exploited. The project is a yard/land clean up and maintenance landscaping day, with a history of the site and the organization and a brief tour.

* Kapolei, Waianae, Wahiawa, Waimanalo, and Waipahu, 11 am to 12:30 pm. Honolulu, 12 pm to 1:30 pm. Ohana100 GO! READ. Help promote literacy by reading with children, engaging in literacy activities, and offering them a new book at participating sites around Oahu.

* Sunset Beach, 9 am to 12 pm. Pūpūkea Paumalū Community Work Day. Volunteers needed to help maintain the trail from Sunset Beach Elementary School to the pillbox. Bring a reusable water bottle and wear closed toe shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Tools, water, and light snacks will be provided. Meet in the SBES lower parking lot. Contact tim@northshoreland.org.

* Waimea Valley, 9 am to 3 pm. Waimea Valley Workday. Volunteers are needed to help with native planting and invasive species control on Kalaheʻe Ridge. Email Laurent to RSVP.

Ready to run for a cause?

* Kailua, 7 am to 10 am, Family Promise 5k Fun Run. Raise money and awareness for families with keiki struggling with homelessness. Wear your Halloween costume. Race/walk starts at Kailua Intermediate School.

There are many ways to volunteer in the community, on Make a Difference Day and any day. What kind of difference do you want to make in your community?

I’m in love with the library

Posted October 17, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Books, Humor

Tags: , , ,

I appreciate everything that the Friends of Hawaii’s Public Libraries does for the community – buying books, supporting children’s events, sponsoring performances. In honor of National Friends of Libraries Week, we’re singing “Library” to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

The club isn’t the best place to find a novel
So the library is where I go (mmmm)
Me and my Friends at the shelves choosing books
Reading fast and then we talk slow (mmmm)
And you come over with a book recommendation just for me
And trust I’ll give it a glance now (mmmm)
Hold that book, stop, get that novel from the bookshelf
And then we start to read
And now I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]
Library, I want your books
Your books are written for somebody like me
Come on now, just let me read
I will be reading, don’t mind me
Shh, Friends, let’s not talk too much
Pick up a book and read that book to me
Come on now, just let me read
Come, come on now, just let me read (mmmm)

[Chorus 2]
I’m in love with the library
We browse and borrow books we see
Although I like Amazon too
I’m in love with the library
Last night I was up too late
And now I can’t wait to debate
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

One week in we let the story begin
We’re starting in our first book (mmmm)
You and me are carefree, so read all you can read
Settle your mind and settle in a Nook (mmmm)
We read for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
Flights of fantasy, conflict and courtship (mmmm)
And pause and pick up a new book, the cover got you hooked
Libraries take you on the best trips
And I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]

Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library


My best friends from high school is a librarian. Who is your favorite librarian? Why do you visit your favorite library?

Success and the well-balanced student

Posted October 10, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Education

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been thinking a lot about education recently – choosing the right school, the right amount of homework, the right number of extracurricular activities.

Recently, I attended an Education Fair and listened to guest speaker Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, who lectured about “A Balanced Approach to Success: K through Life.” I appreciate the invitation to join other interested parents, and I offer a big mahalo to Dr. Pope, the event organizers, and welcoming volunteers.

The morning began with reflection: how do we define success? How does the community define success? There seemed to be a general consensus that families tend to prioritize intrinsic values like character and resilience, while the community tends to prioritize extrinsic values like high grades/test scores and college admissions.

Dr. Pope declared that our values about education should match our community’s values, because we are the community. So why do families and the community define success differently? What message are we sending our children? What can we do to reinforce the idea that character, kindness, and problem solving are equally or more important than grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities? Take a few minutes to consider what success means to you.

From Dr. Pope’s keynote, here are three take-aways I learned about success and the well-balanced student:

1. It’s the kid, not the school. Success is not a straight line, from grade school to college to a good job to happiness, Dr. Pope declared. Attending a “good” school and getting a “good” job will not guarantee happiness or success. Rather, success is a meandering path, with unexpected turns and setbacks, and there is no one path to success that fits everyone. So we need to redefine what success means.

2. Every family needs a family mission statement. Businesses and organizations write mission statements that keep them on-target with their values and goals. Families need mission statements, too, that show how we value play time, down time, and family time – and so that we don’t overschedule ourselves. Play time is unstructured play. Down time is relaxing, sleep, and time to dream – remember, it’s okay for kids to be bored. Family time, at least 25 minutes a day, five days a week, lets us connect with each other and form strong bonds. Then, once we agree on a family mission statement, we need to align our values with our actions.

3. Help schools create SPACE. In addition to curriculum, teachers, and learning resources, schools also need to create SPACE for students: Schedule and use of time (revising student schedules and homework policies), Project and problem-based learning (relevant assignments with a community service component), Alternative and authentic assessment (multiple forms of assessment), C Climate of care (social and emotional learning), E Educating parents, students, and faculty (facilitating dialog and professional development).

Dr. Pope’s discussion of the “Alternative and authentic assessment” really resonated with me. In the workplace, we don’t have just one chance to turn in an assignment and we don’t get a letter grade for our presentation. We can revise presentations, proposals, and projects as we go along. In fact, we can build on the questions and comments we receive to create better presentations.

Note: The SPACE framework is a lot to take in, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all plan for every school. You can read examples of the types of changes on the Challenge Success website under “School Resources.”

Do your children or grandchildren have a good school-life balance? Do you have a good work-life balance? What one thing can you do to have a more well-balanced life?