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Can you?

Do you ever question yourself about what is possible for you to do?

Leadership and personal growth guru John Maxwell writes in his book, "The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth", that how you ask yourself the question about your abilities greatly determines whether or not you will achieve something.

This is how he says it:

"At first glance, the questions Can I? and How can I? may appear to be very similar. However, the reality is that they are worlds apart in terms of results. Can I? is a question filled with hesitation and doubt. It is a question that imposes limitations. If that is the question you regularly ask yourself, you're undermining your efforts before you even begin. How many people could have accomplished much in life but failed to try because they doubted and answered no to the question 'Can I?'

When you ask yourself, 'How can I?' you give yourself a fighting chance to achieve something. The most common reason people don't overcome the odds is that they don't challenge them...

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What are you concerned about?

One of the books that changed my life is Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Over the next few days, we will explore a tiny bit of the wisdom from this wonderful book (named one the most influential books of the 20th century).

Covey uses concept of the Circle of Concern versus the Circle of Influence to explain how we can take responsibility for our own lives.

The best way to understand these concepts is to actually do the exercise. It only takes a few minutes initially but has HUGE payoffs as you deepen your initial understanding.

To begin, take a piece of paper and draw a large circle on it. Please label this "My Circle of Concern". In this circle write down everything that you are concerned or bothered about in your life. Go on. Don't hold back and don't overthink it. The more you write, the more things are likely to come to mind.

The circle of concern is a VERY large one for me. It contains everything from climate change to the state of the Muslim Umma to the...

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The Difference between intentions and goals

A question that often comes up with setting intentions is this: What is the difference between goals and intentions?

Although goals can sometimes be confused with intentions, they are in fact quite different.

A goal is a desired outcome in the future. A goal is something that you set by thinking about a specific outcome that you want. For example, my goal could be to get a certain job, to achieve a milestone in health or to commit to a long term relationship.

An intention is about how we commit to showing up in our life everyday, regardless of what is happening around us. It is the guiding principle or value that we act from, and it is very much based in the present moment.

For example, an intention related to relationship might be "I intend to relate with honesty". This would be a guiding principle in my relationship regardless of whether or not my ultimate goal of being in a committed relationship is met or not.

Having a clear intention means that whenever I stray away from...

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Is it kind?

The messages that are perhaps the hardest to deal with are the passive-aggressive ones. They are mostly found on social media platforms such as Facebook but also creep into instant messaging from time to time.

Here are some examples: “I know most people won’t care to repost/respond to this”. “I am seeing who cares enough to read until the bottom of this post”. “If you love your brother, hit like and share”. “Please forward to x number of people if you care about this person”.

All the above are examples of the opposite of what I like to call “clean communication”.

It is not effective to use emotional blackmail in relationships and it is not great to use on social media or WhatsApp either.

If we want someone to read a post, to forward it or respond to it, please let us ask them directly. If we do not have the courage to do this directly, there is usually a really good reason for it, such as the post not being worthy of...

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Is it Inspiring?

Regular inspiration is great at keeping us motivated and on purpose. When we hear or read something that articulates and resonates with our felt values it helps to realign our actions with what we believe to be true.

Inspiration, however, works best in small doses. To add meaning and value to life, we need to pause, reflect and let the message sink in. When we are receiving and sending several messages at a time, it ends up reducing the value of each message and does not allow for the essential step of absorbing the message, actually letting it inspire us rather than simply clogging up our inbox.

So the next time we are tempted to pass on several inspiring quotes or messages, let us remind ourselves of the power of wisdom in small doses ;)

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What’s the worst that can happen

When we are starting something new, it is natural to feel apprehensive about the outcome and to fear failure. The mind will likely come up with a lot of 'what ifs' followed by a picture of catastrophic failure.

At times when your mind starts to go down the spiral of what dismal failure looks like, it is good to do a reality check and ask yourself: "what's the worst that can happen"?

Very rarely will the answer be one of life or death (unless you are a neurosurgeon or an astronaut, in which case please take your apprehensions seriously).

For the majority of us, the worst case scenario is no worse than the present situation. Except maybe for a slightly bruised ego. And a loss of time, effort and maybe some money.

While the mind is ready to go to the worst case scenario, we need to gently nudge it in another direction by asking a follow up question: "What is the best that can happen?"

Mostly, you will find the risk involved in taking action is worth the potential payoff.

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Judging others and ourselves

What happens when someone falls short of your expectations? Do you judge them by their failure to act in accordance with your expectations? If a close friend forgets a birthday, for example, do you judge them for their failure to remember?

Now when you fail to do something, do you judge yourself by your good intentions? For example, I always intend to wish friends on their birthdays but often lose track of the day until it has passed. I often console myself by reminding myself that I did intend to call but somehow didn't.

How about assuming that everyone has at least as good intentions as we do?

We are likely to be so much more forgiving of small and big lapses if we practice this regularly.

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Hope is not a strategy

Hope by itself is not a strategy. Merely hoping or imagining a great outcome will not make it happen nor will it make your dreams or goals come true.

Hope, however, IS a very important part of making dreams and goals become reality.

In fact, we could say that it is an essential first step in changing what we are not satisfied with. Only with a hope for a better future are we motivated to take action.

Hope then, is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for change and transformation.

It must be combined with action for dreams to become reality.

Think of an area in your life where you are dissatisfied. What are your best hopes? What would be a great outcome?

What is one tiny step YOU can take towards making that hope into a reality?

ONE. TINY. STEP.

That is all you need to start.

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What DO you want?

Easy question right?

For many of us, it is a less than easy question to answer. It is so much easier to talk about what we don't want.

Our brain is geared towards avoiding pain and so it is easy for us to recognize what we want to move away from and what we don't like.

Getting clear on what we DO want is not automatic. It takes intentionality and reflection.

It is worth the effort though because we are much more likely to get want we want in life (and in relationships) if we are clear on what we want.

Begin noticing how many times you talk about what you don't want . . .

Here are some things I noticed just this week:

I don't want to be overweight
I don't want to go to the dentist
I don't want to take flights that land in the night
I don't like action movies
I don't like loud spaces

What do I like and want?

I would like to be an ideal weight
I would like to have a perfect set of teeth
I prefer daytime flying
I like movies which are calming to the nervous system
I prefer quiet spaces

...
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Dealing with negative feelings

Are you desperately trying to get rid of negative feelings so that you can be happy?

Good luck with that!

According to research on happiness by Russ Harris (The Happiness Trap) it is unrealistic to expect that we can get rid of all negative feelings.

In fact, emotional wellbeing entails experiencing and embracing a full range of human emotions, sadness, grief, happiness and joy.

We cannot selectively turn off certain emotions. When we try to suppress negative emotions, we end up putting a blanket on all emotions. We cannot really feel joy if we do not allow ourselves to experience sadness.

A more useful approach to emotions is to recognize and label the emotion we are feeling and to acknowledge it, knowing that all emotions are transitory.

Happiness and sadness come and go. Let us practice noticing and labeling the emotion we are experiencing.

A simple but very powerful exercise.

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