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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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How do you take feedback?

There is a quote from Imam Hussain (as) which says:

"One who reveals your faults to you like a mirror is your true friend, and one who flatters you and covers up your faults is your enemy."

It is hard to accept feedback isn’t it? But it is the only way we can learn how we show up for other people in the world. A friend who loves us enough to tell us the uncomfortable truth about ourselves is precious. In the absence of feedback, we can spend a long time (sometimes a VERY long time!) doing what is not serving us and being unaware of it.

The next time someone offers you the gift of correction, accept it with gratitude.

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Repeat the stories of bravery

Have you seen how the Holocaust is kept alive? Our Jewish brothers have done a remarkable job in keeping the memories of the injustice alive as well as the stories of heroism and bravery.

This is extremely valuable because if people let the memory of injustice fade, it is easier for tyrants to carry it out again. Recollections of bravery and resisting oppression play a very important role in bringing communities together in their shared history and encourage those that have not lived through the oppression to take a stand and not let history repeat itself.

Resilient communities learn from their history. They never forget.

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Trying to get rid of negative feelings?

positive thinking Oct 06, 2016

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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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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Ready Fire Aim

No that's not a typo. We have all heard the recommendation to get ready, aim and then fire. Metaphorically this relates to any plan of action that we may have.

If you're anything like me however, you spend so much time getting ready and aiming that by the time you fire, the target has moved! The actions are too late and irrelevant at this point. In today's fast moving society, this is truer than ever.

On the other hand, when you get in the habit of firing by taking action, you will get feedback and can keep improving your aim until you hit the target eventually.

Life, as they say, rewards action. Let us not wait until we 'have it all figured out'. Let us start taking action and learn from our mistakes. We can only fine tune once we have begun.

Ready, Fire, Aim!

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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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