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Look for what is right

The human mind is wired to scan the environment for what is wrong. We tend to take what is going well for granted and focus on what is not going well. That is what our mind naturally focuses on.

Imagine that you walk into the kitchen and your children have been baking. They did their best to clean up but left 3 dirty dishes on the counter. What does your mind focus on? The 6 pots and pans that are in the dishwasher or the 3 that are on the counter?

But here's the thing: we get more of what we focus on. When we focus on mistakes and things that are wrong, guess what we will get more of? That's right. Mistakes and things that are wrong.

Imagine though, if you walk in the kitchen and take a moment to acknowledge that the children did, in fact, put away some of the dishes.

This kind of focus DOES NOT come naturally to most of us. But we can all learn this by intentional practice.

And it really does encourage people to try harder to do more of what we acknowledge.

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Where are you focusing your energy?

Where are you focusing your energy?

Once you have drawn your circles and written in them the things that you are concerned about and the things that you have influence over, it is time to get honest about where you are focusing your attention and your energy.

It is tempting to rant and complain about the things that concern us like politics, the economy, the weather, the lack of social justice in the world etc. etc. It makes absolutely NO difference to what we are concerned about.

Focusing our energy and our attention on matters that we cannot change or impact is guaranteed to bring about a sense of powerlessness and unhappiness in our lives.

But here's the thing: if we focus instead on things that we DO have control over, guess what happens? Our circle of influence grows.

So here are some things that I care about (Circle of Concern), followed by an example of something I could do to impact the situation (Circle of Influence):

My physical health – eat well, move and sleep
...

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What is in your circle of control?

Continuing with our exercise on what we control and influence in our lives . . . it is now time to draw one final circle. Place this circle inside your circle of influence. It will be smaller than the other two.

Your circle of control is those areas of your life over which you have direct control. Just pause and reflect for a bit. What are they? Go ahead and write down everything that you control in your circle of control.

What did you write in your circle of control? Did you write your children or your spouse? Really? Please do let me know how you control them as I have not figured out that one yet!!

It is common to write many things that upon reflection turn out NOT to be within our control. So go ahead and delete those now.

Upon a bit of reflection, it becomes clear that the only things we have control over are:

our attitudes
our words
our actions
and our reactions to what happens in our life

(Do we have control over our thoughts and feelings? That is an entirely different...

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Do you have a Trouble Tree?

We have been talking about simple ways not to let the stress of life impact our family life.

To some extent, all of us take our families for granted. When we are out and about in the world, working or socializing, we tend to behave our best and give our best.

When we come home, we can relax and ‘let our hair down’ so to speak.

The problem is that when we consistently give the best to the world and the ‘left overs’ to the ones that matter most, our relationships suffer.

A story that really inspired me to pause and not to carry the stress of outside world into my home is the story of the Trouble Tree.

The Trouble Tree (Author unknown)

The carpenter I hired to help me restore an old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we...

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Virtuous Cyles

We have all heard of (and likely experienced) vicious cycles: A bad situation or behavior that is the cause of another situation which in turn causes the first, bad situation again.

It is quite easy to get into vicious cycles.

When things start of go wrong they sometimes seem to spiral out of control. Skip one day of your exercise routine, for example, and you are likely to make unhealthy choices for the rest of the day.

Bring home a bad mood and the family reacts and makes the bad mood worse.

But have you heard of virtuous circles?

A virtuous cycle works on the same principle of cause and effect. In a virtuous cycle, things go from good to better.

One of my favorites types of virtuous circles is:
Do good, feel good. Feel good, do good.

When we are feeling good, we are much more likely to 'do good', that is behave in ways which take our day in a positive direction. The more 'good' we do, the better we feel and so the virtuous cycle perpetuates.

A pretty awesome way to live,...

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The first 5 minutes

Ever had "one of those days" when everything seemed to go wrong? For the next few days we will be exploring how NOT to make "one of those days" even worse!

So you have had a hard day and are at the end of your rope. You are cranky and irritable. It is nearly time for you to meet the significant others in your life.

You are itching to "have it out" with them or just to "let it all out".

Or you want to retreat into your cave without so much as a greeting.

Consider this:


The first few minutes of the interaction after you have been away from each other sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

If you can just hold it together for just for a few more minutes and greet your loved ones in a loving way, the effort will be worth your while.

It is much more productive to have a de-stressing conversation about the day's stresses after the family has connected in a positive way.

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The bully, the bullied and the bystander

family parenting Oct 10, 2016

This phrase is used often in anti-bullying seminars to explain to parents and children that witnessing an act of aggression or violence and standing by, ‘doing nothing’ is not, in fact passive. Onlookers or bystanders are found way beyond the playground. Bystanders are those people who slow down to look at a traffic accident, but don’t stop to offer assistance, the people who watch an argument on the street, and the crowd that gathers to watch a playground fight. They are the audience that engages in the spectacle, and watches as a drama unfolds, standing on the sidelines and perhaps passing commentary. They might even say things like, “tsk, tsk. What bad behavior” and nod their heads in judgment and disgust without actually doing anything to stop the situation.

Witnesses to bullying and other acts of aggression, violence or oppression who stand by and and do not take a stand actually contribute significantly to what takes place. ‘Doing...

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The Miracle of the Chinese Bamboo Tree

In these days of instant feedback and results, it is challenging to remember that some things take time.

Such as farming, gardening, building relationships and parenting.

It can be disheartening when we feel we are working hard but not seeing immediate results.

On days that we feel that are efforts are not bearing fruit, it may be helpful to remind ourselves about the Miracle of the Chinese Bamboo Tree, a lovely parable about the power of faith, patience and perseverance.

The Chinese Bamboo Tree tests the patience of those who plant it. After planting it and nurturing it with water, soil and sunshine, the farmer sees no visible signs of growth at all.

Not for the whole of the first year.

Or the second . . . or third . . . or fourth.

By this time, the farmer begins to feel as if he is doing something wrong or that is there is something faulty with the seed itself. There is self doubt and loss of faith beginning to creep up.

Faced with barren land and no sign of reward for his...

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