Category Archives: Empowerment

What Is Change?

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

– John C. Maxwell

Change can be very uncomfortable initially, because it requires us to go beyond our comfort zone. We all have an internal psychological thermostat that seeks to keep the temperature inside ourselves the same whenever the weather outside changes. So making changes often means that we have to reprogram our thermostat and tolerate the new uncomfortable temperature inside ourselves. Acknowledging and embracing this discomfort is the first helpful step by reminding ourselves that this discomfort is a natural process of change.

Change means different things to different people. For some people, it could be something as minor is reducing salt intake in their diet. For others, it could be something as powerful as the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. where Martin Luther King Jr. led a Million Man March on Washington D.C.

Change is inconvenient. It means giving up old ways of doing things, or switching off our autopilot mode. It means taking time to learn new ways of doing things, time that many of us don’t think we have.

Change requires patience, hard work and persistence. Sometimes you might even ask yourself “What’s the point?” It took me eleven years of studying after graduating from high school to become a therapist – two years in college, six years doing my B.A. and three years completing my Masters. When I felt discouraged at times, I reminded myself that I really wanted one day to be able to alleviate people’s emotional struggles through psychotherapy.

Change can be slow, incremental and invisible at first, sometimes even over a long period of time. However, eventually it can accelerate and the benefits it reaps can be extremely powerful. It’s almost like planting seeds in the garden. We don’t see the results for months. First, we decide what types of seeds or bulbs we want to plant in our garden. Next, we pick the right spot for those seeds and bulbs, with the right type of soil and light condition. Then we water them and fertilize them. So one step at a time and one day at a time is all it takes.

Change means seeing things from a different perspective. It may mean looking at things as a whole picture or in a big scheme of things. Or it may mean focusing on minor details or small meaningful moments. It’s like changing the focus of the lens of your camera. Sometimes you need to zoom out the lens to see the big picture. Sometimes you need to zoom in to take a close-up picture in order to include small details in the photo. No picture is good or bad, it’s all about perspective and what works for you at this point in your life. Looking at things from a different perspective can alleviate that internal conflict you have within yourself about a decision. Internal conflicts can often bring about lots of anxiety.

Change by nature leads you to redefine your long-held values or beliefs. For example, you may have chosen your current job because career, status, money, etc. used to be very important to you at that point in your life. Now, it may be that family, health and freedom are more important to you. Initially, I really wanted to get a Ph.D. to become a psychologist. While I studied my Masters, I realized that I didn’t want to pursue a Ph.D. for various reasons. I wanted to finish my Masters degree to become a therapist instead. At first it was very hard for me to change my plan, because it seemed as if I was giving up and I didn’t like the idea of giving up. However looking back now, I am so glad I changed my career path.

Change sometimes requires us to take a step backward. This can seem like the opposite of growth. However, often we have to take a step back in order to go forward. For example, sometimes you need to have your car going backward in order to go forward. This is a necessary part of change, as long as you know why you need to first go backward and as long as you don’t let your car keep going backward.

Change means letting go. It means letting go of things like anger, victimization, hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonment, fears and more. It means letting go of old habits and old patterns of behaviours. It means letting go of negative messages we have received from others or told ourselves, messages such as MUSTs, MUST NOTs, OUGHT TOs, SHOULDs, SHOULDN’Ts, HAVE TOs, CAN’Ts, COULDN’Ts, etc. Change means letting go of expectations – the expectations you feel others have of you and those you place on yourself.

Change means looking within ourselves to find the answers rather than seeking for the solutions in other people or in our environment. Change means taking full personal responsibility for our behaviours, choices and circumstances, no matter how hard it is to do so. It is not what life hands us. Rather, it is about how we make the best of what life hands us.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  • Mahatma Ghandi

Change means confronting our own fears rather than avoiding them or running away from them. During my training with my first guide dog, I was asked by my instructor to approach the edge of the subway platform in New York City. Although I was gripped with fear, as I always had a big fear of stairs or drop-offs, I followed his instructions out of respect and courtesy. When my dog and I were finally standing right at the edge of the track, he told me to give my dog the command “Forward!” I thought he was crazy! I didn’t move. All kinds of thoughts and feelings were going on in my mind. One of the horrifying images was imagining that my dog and I falling down the track as the subway was approaching, crushing our bodies. I thought what if the dog forgets her training? Seeing me not moving, the instructor explained that this was a very important exercise. I needed to be able to trust my dog completely. Putting all of my emotions and logic aside, I cautiously gave the command to my dog “Forward!” Miraculously, I felt the harness in my left hand moving to the left as my dog turned to the left to step away from the track. I felt relieved! At that moment, I truly realized I could trust my dog. I bent down and gave her a huge big hug!

Change means redefining your identity or your purpose. One client I used to work with was previously a doctor who lost his vision in his 40s. This was extremely devastating for him. He had to change his identity from being a doctor and a career-oriented man to being a great husband, father, son and friend. Rather than focusing on the physical side of things, he had to learn to focus more on the emotional and spiritual aspects of life.

Change is a choice. It means appreciating the simple things in life and focusing on small happy moments. A dying patient in the hospital told me how much she looked forward to my dog and I visiting her bedside every day.

Change starts with one person’s vision. Bill Gates had the vision that everyone has a personal computer in their home. Thus, you, and you alone, can make a huge difference in the world!

If you are considering making changes in your life, don’t be afraid. Don’t let your life be dominated by self-doubts and other’s’ expectations and limited by fears and road blocks. Rather, let your life be driven by endless possibilities, growth, hopes, optimism and open doors! And if you have already started to make changes in your life, have faith in yourself, believe in yourself and keep going! Don’t give up, even if others and your doubting Self tell you so!

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens. But often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

– Helen Keller

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5 Ways You Can Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Mortgage, By Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed, RCC

Do you want to save thousands of dollars on your mortgage by just following a few simple tips? Here are 5 ways you could try out either for your current mortgage or your future mortgage:

 

1. Change your payment frequency from MONTHLY payment to ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment. Why? Because you can pay off your mortgage a few years earlier and at the same time, save thousands of dollars.

 

How does it work? When you make MONTHLY mortgage payments, you pay 12 payments a year. Whereas when you make ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payments, you make 26 payments a year (52 weeks in a year, divided by 2, equals 26). This is equivalent to you making 13MONTHLY payments a year.

 

Here is an example of how you can save choosing the ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment option:

 

Your mortgage is $300,000 with a 30-year amortization and a 2.99% fixed interest rate.

 

If you choose the MONTHLY option, your interest cost over 30 years is $153,674.86.

 

However if you choose the ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY option, the cost of your interest will be $132,437.60, saving you $21,239.46. What’s more, if your mortgage has a 30-year amortization, it will take you only 26.4 years to pay off your mortgage. Likewise, if your mortgage has a 25-year amortization, it will take you 22.2 years to pay it off.

 

Of course, if your mortgage is higher, you will pay higher interest and vice versa.

 

You can check out yourself how much you can save on your mortgage by going to this mortgage calculator website:

 

http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/cgi-bin/mortgage/mpc/start.cgi

 

Many of us get paid on a bi-weekly basis. Hence choosing the ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment option will not affect you in any significant way. All you have to do is call the financial institution where your mortgage is with. Tell them that you want to change your frequency payment to ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment. Note the word ACCELERATED is crucial here. If you just tell them BI-WEEKLY, they will just average out your payments to 24 payments a year and not 26 payments a year, in which case it is the same as you making MONTHLY payments.

 

2. Interest rates can make a huge difference, even if the difference seems very small. In September 2014, we bought a house and our mortgage at the time was 2.99% interest rate. Six months later, we bought another house and the interest rate of our mortgage was 2.74%.

 

Using the last example of a mortgage of $300,000 with 30-year amortization and ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY option, your interest cost will be as follows:

 

2.99% interest rate: $132,437.60

2.74% interest rate: $120,969.65

 

You save about $11,468. So don’t give up and shop around for the lowest interest rate possible when you get a mortgage or when it’s time for you to renew your mortgage.

 

3. Whenever possible, choose a shorter amortization period, as it can save you thousands of dollars. Again, using the previous example, the difference between 25-year amortization versus 30-year amortization can be as much as $22,955, based on the ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment frequency. Of course, a shorter amortization period will result in higher mortgage payments, which may not be an affordable option for some people. However, the savings in interests can be quite significant so it’s worthwhile to consider. Imagine you purchased a house at age 30, and by the time you are 52, you don’t have any mortgage or rent to pay.

 

4. Take advantage of the privileges offered to you in your mortgage terms. Such privileges can help you pay off your mortgage as quickly as 10 years or more. For example, you might see something like 10% and 10% and double. This is what they all mean:

 

10% of the original amount of your mortgage (e.g. 10% of $300,000 equals $30,000). This means that you can make a lump sum payment of $30,000 each year if you so choose. However, this option might not be as feasible for many of us, as it is difficult to come up with this amount. Although we don’t have to pay this full amount, we can certainly pay some, perhaps with our yearly tax return?

 

10% of your mortgage payment. For example, 10% of your ACCELERATED BI-WEEKLY payment of $700 is only $70. So instead of paying $700 every two weeks, you can pay $770 every two weeks. Again, using the same example, you can save as much as $14,000 by paying 10% more on each of your mortgage payment.

 

Double your payment. This is another privilege where you can double each of your payment.

 

With TD Canada Trust for example, you can take advantage of all the privileges spelled out in your mortgage terms simultaneously. So taking advantage of one privilege does not disqualify you for using the other options within the same year.

 

5. Shop for the lowest interest rate when it’s time to renew your mortgage. Many of us automatically renew our mortgage with the same institution over and over again without bothering to shop around for the lowest interest rate. This is primarily done for the sake of convenience, as it can be very daunting and time-consuming to apply for a mortgage with another bank. Many people find it’s very helpful to get a mortgage broker to help them apply for mortgages. Such mortgage brokers can apply to different banks for you based on your information. Some mortgage brokers are also able to get preferred low interest rate from banks due to the high volume of their clientele. As discussed earlier about how small differences in interest rates can mean thousands of dollars in savings, particularly if you have a large mortgage, your work and persistence will pay off in the long run.

 

The bottom line: Be persistent and pay attention to the numbers, as they can mean tens of thousands of dollars in savings for you. When in doubt, ask questions. I didn’t know much about mortgages until last year, as it was my first mortgage ever. Remember 1 dollar you save on your mortgage means you, instead of the bank, are 1 dollar richer!

 

Good luck with your mortgage!

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Courage in Relationships with Yourself and Your Loved Ones, by Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed., RCC

How do you show courage in your relationships with yourself, your mate and your children?

What are some other ways you want to show courage from this moment on?

 

“I learn that courage was not the absent of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

 

1. The courage to love and allow yourself to be loved by your mate and your children despite your fears of rejection, abandonment and betrayal.

2. The courage to trust yourself, your mate and your children.

3. The courage to need your loved ones and let yourself be needed.

4. The courage to give and receive, and to help and let others help you.

5. The courage to accept yourself and others with love and compassion.

6. The courage to forgive yourself and others for your mistakes and theirs.

7. The courage to listen to your feelings and others’ non-judgmentally.

8. The courage to be vulnerable by expressing your needs and sharing your feelings with your mate and your children in an authentic and non-blaming way.

9. The courage to follow your heart and be true to yourself as well as let others be true to themselves.

10. The courage to ask yourself important questions and engage in open dialogues with your mate and your children.

11. The courage to respect opinions, beliefs and values of yours and others’.

12. The courage to recognize your own limits and say “No” at times.

13. The courage to let your children grow by making their own choices and mistakes.

14. The courage to say to yourself and your loved ones “I love you.”

15. The courage to admit you are wrong and say “I am sorry.”.

16. The courage to face and overcome challenges and not avoiding or denying them.

17. The courage to take initiative to make important changes yourself.

18. The courage to leave a very abusive mate and start over again.

19. The courage to begin a new chapter after a breakup, a divorce or the death of a mate.

20. The courage to trust and love again.

 

As you read this list, what have you learned about yourself? Which of these ways you have found relatively easier to show Courage, and which of these are not very easy for you? Personally, some of these ways of showing Courage are natural for me. Yet, many of these ways are very difficult for me and I find that I am learning all the time.

Lastly, do you have the Courage to show this list to your mate and have an open conversation about Courage with him? Share with him what ways Courage has meant to you and what ways you still struggle with. Gently invite your mate to complete this list himself and share with you his own journey of Courage.

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