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Are you pursuing perfection?

The pursuit of perfection is one of those concepts that can keep us stuck and feeling disheartened in many areas of our life. We aim to be the perfect parent, the perfect spouse and the perfect human being.

The dictionary definition of perfect is: without fault, faultless, flawless.

Since deep down many of us believe that human beings cannot be perfect, we are chasing a goal that is, by definition, impossible. Not very smart, is it?

When we set our goal as being perfect, we are in a sense setting ourselves up for failure. Anything less than the achievement of perfection is by definition not success.

The pursuit of perfection means that our eyes are only on the outcome, on the final result. The steps we take to get there and what we achieve on the way really do not matter until we have achieved perfection.

It is no wonder that so many of us end up feeling disheartened. What is the point? We tell ourselves, why bother to do anything if we cannot be perfect?

How about exploring a...

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Your human tool box

Once your pause button is activated, it is time to delve into your human tool box and see which of the following tools you can use to respond rather than react:

Willpower: this is the ability to stop yourself. Sometimes we tell ourselves we 'cannot' stop ourselves. Not true. We all have willpower and can strengthen it with practice.

Conscience: we have an inbuilt GPS system that guides us regarding our deepest values. It does this by making us feel good when we act in accordance with our values and nags us when we go against them.

Imagination: we have the ability to imagine ourselves doing something other than what we habitually do. Imagination is a powerful ally in helping us move in the direction that we want.
Imagination also allows us to predict the future outcome of our present actions.

So how sharp are your tools?

Which will you use today to help you respond rather than react?

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Your internal pause button

A powerful way to practice pausing is to intentionally activate your internal pause button.

As human beings we have the ability to stop ourselves before reacting by 'pressing our pause button'.

People use various ways to activate their pause button:

- By imagining reaching for a remote control and pressing pause
- By imagining that there is a pause button on some part of your body and pressing it with your hand to remind yourself to pause rather than react
- By imagining that you are slowing or freezing time

When learning to pause, it is an excellent idea to be intentional about creating and activating your own personal pause button. The more concrete it is in your mind, the easier it is to activate when you need it.

So go ahead.

Where is your pause button? Practice using it in conversation and in your daily interactions. Even when you think you don't need to.

The more you practice when you are not really triggered, the easier it will be to use when you do need it.

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Learning to pause

If we can pause for just a moment and respond with intention rather than through automatic reaction, our lives would be quite different, don't you think?

Learning to pause takes some practice – the more habituated we become to reacting, the easier and more automatic the reaction is and the greater the need to interrupt this pattern.

The first step in learning to pause is to recognize the trigger/s that cause us to react.

Recognizing the trigger means to tune into bodily sensations that signal stress or upset. These signals are always present moments before we react. They are present in the form of 'knots in the stomach', clenched fists, tight muscles, a headache, fluttering in the heart or stomach, perspiration or some other sensation.

It takes practice to connect these bodily signals to what is happening outside of us and recognize them as a warning sign that we are about to (over) react.

Here is an example:

The phone rings, and it is your mother/mother in law. There is a...

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Are you free?

Do you ever react to something or someone in the moment and later regret what you said or did? Me too!

For those of us who are highly emotional or reactive, it can sometimes seem like reacting in a certain way to circumstances or to people has become automatic, a habit that we are not able to control. It is almost as if we are locked into a pattern, unable to change it.

But conscious living requires us to realize that:

"Between stimulus (what happens to us) and response (what we do in response to what happens to us) there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." Victor Frankl

Over the next few days, let us explore this "space" where we can choose our response. Why is this important? Because the ability to choose our response is what makes us human. That's why!

In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote that "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to...

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Using the circles in daily life

It is so tempting to hang out in the Circle of Concern. I need not take any action, or any responsibility. I can just vent and complain and momentarily feel that I am engaged in life. At least I care, right?

Not a great formula for a life well lived, though, is it? It is energy draining and ultimately powerless.

This is why I need to move out of the Circle of Concern as soon as possible.

Here is how: every time I am frustrated or upset over something, I need to ask myself a simple question: What, if anything can I do to impact this situation?

If I can come up with actions that I can take (they can be tiny, minute even), great. Let me start acting upon one or some of them. Now I am in my Circle of Control. The more time I spent in this circle, the larger my Circle of Influence becomes. Can you see how?

If I cannot come up with a single thing that I can do (for example, about the US election - SIGH), I need to remind myself that I am hanging out in my Circle of Concern which is the...

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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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Your circle of influence

Continuing with reflections on the what we control and influence in our lives. Just inside the circle of concern is another circle. This is our circle of influence. The Circle of Influence encompasses those concerns that we have some impact or influence over.

So go ahead, draw a smaller circle inside your circle of concern.

The actions we take, the things we say and how we interact with out world directly or indirectly impacts things in this circle.

What is in your Circle of Influence?

In mine I might put things like my relationships, the emotional climate of my home, whether or not my children feel supported, just to name a few. I also put my health and mental and emotional wellbeing.

It is powerful and potentially life changing to actually do this exercise for yourself.

Are you unclear about where to put certain things? Do they belong in the Circle of Concern, the Circle of Influence or somewhere else? It is ok to be confused or unclear about where things go. You can move...

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Setting powerful intentions

In Islamic spirituality, setting an intention (niyya) is the foundation of an act of worship. Without the intention, the act does not, in fact, qualify as an act of worship. And conversely, by setting an appropriate intention, any act of everyday living can become an act of worship.

Setting intentions for our actions is a powerful exercise. Intentions determine the full consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions. It is our intentions which form the spirit of our activities and the emotional tone of our efforts.

Two actions which look identical will be different in spirit depending on the intention behind them. For example, I lend someone my car. Whether this qualifies as an act of generosity or social barter (I do something for someone in the expectation that they will return the favour) depends upon what my intention was for doing it.

So setting an intention can turn an ordinary day into sacred time and an ordinary space into sacred space. Let us understand this through an...

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A lovely gratitude practice

I recently came across this LOVELY gratitude practice which I cannot wait to share with you. It is called the Lotus of Gratitude.

Please watch this 3 minute video that explains it:

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