Dr. Nguyen Phuc Anh Lan is currently the Director of Marketing and Development of the Institute for Civic Education, a non-government organization founded in Houston, USA in 2005. In 2012, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Council of the National Fund for Vietnamese education, established by the American government to strengthen Vietnam-United States relations through education. She is also an ICF Certified EI and Professional Life Coach. Dr. Lan has received many prestigious awards such as being named one of the Top 25 Women in Houston.
We’ve heard that in your life, you’ve experienced periods of hardship with many tragedies occurring. How did you overcome these difficulties?
It can be said that 2017 was my most difficult year. I felt helpless while my husband, in his hospital bed, faced his mortality each day. Around the same time, I lost my mother, and then my father not six weeks later. Once my husband was released from the hospital, he needed my constant care while my work required me to travel between Houston and Canada. My problems were piling on each other and I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle.
At the same time, my mother lost her two-year battle against Alzheimer, a disease that not only affected her memory but also made her vulnerable to other horrible diseased. While I deeply mourned her death, it also felt like she was finally relieved from her torment. My mother passed peacefully in her sleep; her hand intertwined with my father’s. It gave her great comfort that my father was beside her until the very end. Facing the death of a loved one not only made me sorrowful but it also made me think about how quickly time flies by. At that moment, I felt as if I had fallen down toward the bottom of an abyss.
Six weeks later, my father also passed. Somehow, I already knew that this was going to happen because of how much he loved my mother. He was very lonely after the passing of his life partner. I was moved by their affection but at the same time, I couldn’t cope with the loss of two loved ones.
With his last breath, my father told me three things that will forever be etched into my memory.
“I love you guys very much. Thank you. I am very happy.”
His words illustrated the unconditional love he dedicated towards his children.
Humans have the tendency to receive more affection than we give. With most relationship, the love given is conditional. If you love me, then I’ll love you. If you care for me, then I’ll care for you. But with my father, he loved his children with all he had without expecting anything in return. At that very moment, my father was beautiful, surrounded by a strange aura; it was then that I realized I owed him too much. I owed him my life, his unconditional love, and all the beautiful things he had given me. From him, I learned about hard work and dedication, and about loving things unconditionally.
This is also what motivated me to serve the community by participating in the charitable activities of non-government organization.
Now, when I wake up every morning, I place my hand over my heart and yell: “Dad, Mom!”
I owe my parent their unconditional love and thanks to that, I am always full of energy. Energy that I will use to serve the world. This commitment has helped me get to where I am and achieve what I wanted to.
As a successful woman, can you share some of your thoughts about the position of women in modern society?
Today, women participate more and more in political and social activities. The German Prime Minister, the Taiwanese President and the Thai Prime Minister are all women. This is thanks to their outstanding leadership and political prowess. Currently, during President Trump’s presidency in the city of Houston, almost half of up to half of the people elected to the California Judges system – the district judge system – are women and ethnic minorities. I think the role of women in Vietnam, or Asia in general, is growing. Despite this, there still is much that we need to improve. One of my passions is to help promote women, especially Vietnamese women. They need more knowledge and resources to balance life, work, family and self-improvement. Most Asian women I’ve met focuses so much on their family that they sometimes forget to take care of themselves. They are their own last priority. However, when we are not in our best state of mind and health, we can’t take care of our family to the best of our abilities.
The poet Ho Dzenh illustrates the sacrifices of Vietnamese women though his poem:
If the word “Sacrifice” is in life
I want to encrust with miserable gold
For the fresh Vietnamese girl.”
Every generation of Vietnamese women has this quality, but if that sacrifice exceeds their ability and capacity, the women themselves will suffer; they can even exhaust themselves and die early. Then, they won’t be able to see their children grow up or continue to help their family; thus, balance is very important to the life of Vietnamese women. We women need to know how to balance between taking care of our husbands and our children, with leaving time and space for ourselves. Only when you are feeling your best will you have a positive impact on your children, your husbands, the people around you and the community you live in.
Women today are pressured to both take care of housework and build their own careers. So, do you have any advice on how they can excel on both fronts?
For women who working at the office, working hours are usually from 9 am to 5 pm. Out of work, they’ll be busy working at home to babysit, cook, and clean up until at night. When their children starts school, they have to worry about their children’s education. Furthermore, if there are elderly relatives in the family that needs assistant, their schedule becomes even more packed. Whether you are a billionaire or an ordinary person, we only have 24 hours in a day. So, the challenge is how to balance our precious time between our responsibilities but still live a happy, stress-free life?
Just thinking about this stress, me out.
We have to wake early in the morning to get our children ready for school. Then, it’s off to work we go – god forbid we get stuck in traffic along the way. When we finally get to the office, we risk running into our ill-tempered boss.
These are just some of the issues we have to deal with daily. For traditional families, women struggle even more as they shoulder everything in the house. However, the times has changed, women are under less pressure when the man shares household responsibilities with his wife, doing housework or taking care of the children. So, it is necessary to build a good relationship between husband and wife, as well as their children and those around them. Unsustainable relationships springs from the gap between each reality and the expectation each partner has for each other. If they do not voice their own issues or compromise, these gaps will lead to long-term problems and cracks in their lives.
So in your daily life, how do you solve these everyday problems?
An advice that I’ve shared with the younger generation is that first of all, you need to be aware of yourself and your capabilities. Never blame others. Each of us has our own story. If someone blames their situation on their circumstances, that they are helpless, they cannot do anything, they are the victims, it is that sort of negative thinking that will lead to wrongful behavior and conduct. We need to know that even if things go wrong, we still have the right to choose the best for ourselves. We can choose how to react and feel about everything, and then find an ideal solution. For example, one day only has 24 hours so set out the tasks that need to be completed and ask yourself: “What are the 5 most important things I need to do today to make myself happy?”
When you wake up every morning, set aside just 2 minutes to think about the things that you look forward to and how to make the you of today better than the you of yesterday. 2 minutes to think about the things you are grateful for and 2 minutes to think about the day’s purpose.
Place your hand on your chest, on your head, on your body to feel your physical worth. Be grateful for your career, family, love, and the people you care about. If everything around you is dark, just make it a little brighter. Remember that love is an abstract, invisible and unmeasurable thing, but if you actively practice giving love every day, you will receive it back and this will give you the energy to do other things. Fill your heart with love and positive emotions.
You researched a lot about Emotional Intelligence (EI), a topic that’s garnered the interest of many. In fact, some have even said that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is more important than intelligence, that Emotional Intelligence will “get you the world”. So, is that the most important factor to success in your career? There were many managers with excellent professional skills who had failed due to their lack of emotional intelligence. Do you agree with this?
There have been many studies from 60-70 years ago that show that EI plays a very important role in all areas of life, including at work. For example, the US Air Force also administers a few tests concerning EI during the interviewing process when recruiting new personnel as well as after they’ve been accepted. The results show that 90% of those who performed well at work also has high EI. While IQ is important as it aids in clear and coherent analysis, it is clear that success stems from many factors, including EQ.
People with high emotional intelligence are not only a great employee but also a great father, mother, and friend. They are people that everyone wants to be around because they inspire and bring joy to others; they help connect people, they have passion, and they understand others. If we all see the importance of emotional intelligence and work to develop that skill, then surely, we will do better in all the roles we hold in life. Everyone will become the best version of themselves and in the eyes of those around them because they feel that they are respected, that they are being heard.
You can read more on Dr. Nguyễn Phúc Anh Lan’s article on how to improve your EI daily here.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt