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Check your assumptions!

Human beings are meaning making machines. We often take 2 + 2 and make it 22, filling in all the missing numbers in our head.

Making assumptions, or mindreading as it is also called, is not always a problem. When I am grocery shopping for example, I will often pick up things that I assume my family will like.

Other times, however, when we make assumptions about what someone is thinking, why they are doing what they are doing or what they are thinking, we need to remind ourselves that it is very possible that our assumptions are wrong.

The only way to know for sure if our assumptions about someones behaviour or thinking is to check them out.

How? Just ask!

"why did you . . ."
"why didn't you . . ."
"am I right in thinking that . . ."
"would love to know your thoughts"
"how do you see this"
"am I right in thinking . . ."
"help me understand . . ."

This week just begin to notice how many times you are assuming what is the motive behind someone's action. And then check your assumptions. You...

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How is project "Self Development" going?

I love projects. I love the fact that a project has a clear beginning and an end, with a feeling of achievement once it is completed.

For much of my life, I saw various aspects of self development as a project. Once I had achieved these projects, I told myself, I could put a check mark against them. Done! And then move onto other projects.

Here are some examples of my self development projects:

1) Become more patient
2) Become more positive
3) Be less angry
4) Forgive more
5) Be less resentful

It did not, however, work out as I had envisioned. NOT. AT. ALL.

What I noticed what that there were days when I was really positive and patient and then other days, not so much! But this is not how a project is supposed to work is it? Once you have completed a project, it is not supposed to be undone, is it??

It took quite a bit of awakening to realise that working on oneself is not a project. I begun to recognize that all aspects of self development are actually practices.

On days when I...

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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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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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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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