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The closer the goal, the stronger the regret (DW#525)

Psychologists who study regret map a three-stage process which triggers regret: there is action, outcome and recall. In other words, we take an action, we experience the outcome of our action and if the outcome is negative, we feel regret. 

The third aspect of regret, recall is rather interesting. The researchers found that "Feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment are strongest where the chances of corrective reaction are clearest". In other words, the greater (and easier) the opportunity for corrective action which is not taken, the stronger the regret. 

Let’s try and understand this with a couple of examples: imagine you have an exam and you don’t study enough to get a passing grade. What the research suggests is that you will experience stronger regret if you get one or two percent below the passing grade than if you miss the grade by a long shot. 

Imagine you are catching a plane, get distracted, leave late for the airport, hit traffic and arrive...

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What do you regret? (DW#524)

When we are reviewing the past year and reflecting on our stumbles, feelings of regret can sometimes surface. We may begin thinking about how our life would be different or better "if only" we had done this or not done that. 

The pain of regret can be intense and it is very tempting to want to distract ourselves, distance ourselves or push it away. Doing this too quickly can be a mistake. 

Janet Landman from the University of Michigan explains that there are some benefits of staying with the discomfort of regret. 

Firstly, there is information and instruction. Regret informs us that the course of action that we have taken in the past has not led to success. 

Secondly, the pain of regret can act as a motivation for change. It tells us that the course of action has not made us happy and we need to do something different in order to get better results. 

Thirdly, and related to the point above, regret can act as a moral compass. If we see negative outcomes for...

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Where did you stumble? (DW#523)

Once we have acknowledged our successes for the past year, it is easier to confront and acknowledge where we stumbled or fell short. 

So let’s remember the domains of our lives again: social, emotional, physical, professional, spiritual, marital, parental, financial. 

Where did you have the greatest challenges? Where these challenges outside your control or as a result of your own choices?

For example, if the stock market crashes and causes you to have financial setbacks, it is outside your control. (How much you invest and how you diversify is within your control however  . . . ) If your financial crisis is caused by overspending, not saving or other actions, the situation is caused by your own actions.

If we lose our job because of industry-wide cut backs, we cannot control that. But if we lose our jobs because we slacked and did not do our best, our actions caused our challenges. Get the picture?


While it is helpful to own responsibility for our actions, it...

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Where did you succeed? (DW#522)

One of the joys of doing an end of year review is to look back with gratitude on the things that went well, the milestones that we achieved and the successes we enjoyed. 

When we are in the thick of things, it can be easy to ignore the baby steps we are taking towards success. At the end of the year or the beginning of a new year, it is enormously pleasurable to celebrate our successes and give ourselves a small pat on the back! 

If it has been a stormy or difficult year, this can be quite challenging. The challenges or setbacks can often claim a disproportionate amount of our attention and energy. When this happens, just take a moment and reflect on the various domains of your life: social, emotional, physical, professional, spiritual, marital, parental, financial. It is much easier to acknowledge successes when we separate the events and happenings of our various domains. 

For example, even if we suffered from health challenges the past year, our finances may have...

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Looking back before moving forward (DW#521)

Philosopher Seren Kierkegaard said that we live forward but we understand backward. These simple words make so much sense: very often we do not gain understanding of a situation or of our actions until they are in the past. It is only once we see the impact of our actions (both positive and negative) that we gain a perception of whether our decisions were sound. We can see this both in our personal and professional lives. 

Sometimes the impact is so significant that we cannot move forward and we get stuck. We may keep ruminating about our decisions and wish that we had done more to get greater success (if the impact is positive) or, more likely, wish that we had made better choices, if the impact is negative. 

While wishing that we had made better choices is not helpful, it can be hugely beneficial to confront our choices, reflect on their impact and learn lessons from them. It is only by being brave enough to engage in this process can we move powerfully into our future....

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10 reasons why you must work on your relationship with your in-laws

in-laws marriage Dec 21, 2018

It is no secret that in-law relationships can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting married, especially for women. It seems that in-laws, especially mothers-in-law, have the unique ability to push our buttons and trigger issues for our families even if they live on a different continent and you see them once or twice a year. In fact, almost two-thirds of the participants in one long term study reported that friction with their husband’s mother was the root cause of their ongoing stress and unhappiness.

The reason for the issues in the in-law relationships is a conversation for another day. Today, let us consider why, despite the challenges, it may be a good idea to keep working at this relationship.

 One thing that may comfort young couples is the knowledge that just because they are experiencing challenges in this area, it does not mean that there is something wrong or that they are in an unhealthy relationship. Conflict, in fact, is almost to be expected...

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Challenging Cognitive Distortions Summary (DW#520)

Here are the 10 ways to challenge cognitive distortions that we have been exploring over the past few weeks. (and here is the link to catch up on any that you may have missed)

1)    Clear weeds from the garden of your mind [DW#508]
2)    Separate facts from interpretations [DW#509]
3)    Be an observer and develop a practice of thought watching. [DW#510 and DW#517]
4)    Explore what happened and what did you make it mean? [DW#511]
5)    Ask yourself if your interpretations are helpful. [DW#512]
6)    Come up with more helpful interpretations. [DW #513 & DW#514]]
7)    Ask yourself what your wisest friend would advice you in this situation?  [DW#515]
8)    Take the advice that you would give to a dear friend [DW#516]
9)    Develop and use a list of questions to challenge...

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Are you willing to choose happiness? (DW#519)

People who are successful and happy in this world have as many negative thoughts as you and I do. Really. 

The difference is that they find ways to remind themselves to focus on the narrative that they want to live rather than focusing on the mental chatter in their heads. 

Because if we continue to believe every thought that we have, and if our thoughts continue to be negative, it will be very challenging to live a life of positivity, purpose or peace. 
What we allow to settle in our minds and what we focus on will surely become our reality. 

So how about focusing on the narrative that we want to live? How about becoming aware of where our attention is, and being intentional about directing it where we want it to be? 

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List of questions to challenge Cognitive distortions (DW#518)

It is very helpful to have a list of questions already prepared when we want to challenge our unhelpful thoughts and negative assumptions.

Here are 25 questions that we can choose from. When we notice our distorted thinking patterns, lets challenge the validity of these distortions. They can seldom hold up to this type of questioning.

·     Is this thought helpful?
·     What are the disadvantages of thinking this way? 
·     Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
·     Are there other ways that I can think about this situation or myself?
·     Am I blaming myself unnecessarily?
·     Is it really in my control?
·     Is it all someone else’s fault? 
·     Am I overgeneralizing?
...

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Develop a practice of thought watching (DW#517)

As we have been saying, the problem in our lives is not that we have negative thoughts or "cognitive distortions". The problem is that we believe all of these thoughts and assume that they are accurate or true. 

Instead of believing everything that we think, we can begin to notice our thoughts as they come and go without getting "hooked" by them. We can learn to become observers of our minds and its chatter and become aware of how much of it is automatically negative and unhelpful. 

The best way to do this is to intentionally set aside time each day to get silent and observe our thoughts as they come and go. When we notice our minds wandering into negative territory, we can bring our focus back to the present moment without further engaging with those thoughts. 

Once we become intimately aware of how our mind works, we can stop automatically believing and acting on our thoughts. We have a choice. We can notice our thoughts, let them go. Notice our thoughts and let them...

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