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What’s your intention? (DW#532)

For some people, setting specific goals can feel too limiting. This can be especially so if you are in a time in your life when you want to be open to new possibilities or if you are going through a period of uncertainty, transition, change and discovery. At times like this, setting goals (at least in some domains of our life) can feel overwhelming or simply not do-able. 

At times like this, instead of setting specific goals, consider setting an intention for how you are going to show up in your life this year. 

You might be asking: What exactly is the difference between goals and intentions?

To put it briefly, while a goal is a desired outcome in the future, an intention is about how we commit to showing up in our life everyday and in every moment, regardless of what is happening around us. 

It is a guiding principle or value that we act from, and it is very much based in the present moment (as opposed to the future)
So while a goal might be to...

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What will you do differently this year? (DW#531)

We have been talking about completing an end of year review for last year before moving forward and making plans for this year. 

So, based on your learnings from this process, what exactly are you going to do differently this year? What has worked in the past that you can do more of, and what will you change?

Let’s look specifically at the goals from last year. When you review the ones that you did not achieve, what obstacles got in the way? Is that goal still relevant to you? If it is, then please go ahead and recommit to it intentionally (making notes about how you will do it differently this year). 

If it no longer relevant, you have the option to revise it so that it becomes relevant. Or you can go ahead and intentionally remove it from your goals. This is SUCH a powerful way to clear the emotional burden and mental clutter that comes from so many open loops in our lives. 

There are many goals and projects that find their way into our to-do list but which have...

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Your end of year review (DW#530)

Let’s briefly recap what to consider while writing our end of year review for last year. Doing this can greatly enhance learning about what worked and what we need to do differently this year.

Remember that it helps to break up our lives into the various domains of work, relationships, health and service to make this more accurate and meaningful. You do not have to review every domain of course, but it does help to consider the domains where you experienced the greatest challenges or successes.

So here are the questions:

1)   What went well? What were your successes?
2)   What did not go well? Where did you stumble?
3)   What are your greatest regrets? How closely did you miss success in this area? Were the stumbles a result of outside influences over which you had little or no control or were they the direct or indirect result of your own actions and mistakes?
4)   What were your biggest time wasters this past year?
...

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What were your biggest time wasters? (DW#529)

Do you know how much time you spend on social media every day? Or on YouTube? How about Netflix?

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of us have a (sometimes secret) guilty pleasure that we spend more time on than we intend.

So let me start by confessing something. I can be a workaholic. When I am researching, writing or preparing a presentation, I tend to lose track of time and work bleeds into family or leisure time. Recently, however, I have discovered the joys (!) of binge watching Netflix and find it really difficult to stop after watching just one episode of an engaging show. What I am noticing is that while watching a single episode of something can be rejuvenating, relaxing and a good way to wind down the day, watching three episodes in a row is much less so. After an evening of such binge watching, I end up feeling guilty and empty (and much too wired to sleep), and wishing that I had used my time in a much more productive fashion.

What were your biggest time wasters in...

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Who do you need to thank? (DW#528)

Continuing with our series on reflecting on the past year, today let us bring to mind WHO we were grateful for this past year. 

Before we begin, a quick question: have you heard of the "gratitude gap"? Let me explain what it is. 

The John Templeton Foundation did an extensive survey on gratitude in America. They found that when asked what they were grateful for, a staggering majority of people put family (90%) and friends (87%) at the top of their lists. 

But here is the sad part: less than half of women (and even less of men) expressed this sense of gratitude or appreciation to their family or friends. So even though many people are feeling gratitude in their hearts for people, they appear to be reticent to express this gratitude. 

In fact, the closer the relationship, the less likely people are to show their appreciation for their loved ones. So family and spouses appear to get the least verbal appreciation from us even...

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What are you grateful for? (DW#527)

As we have previously discussed, a gratitude practice is key to mental and emotional wellbeing. When we are intentional about noticing things that are right and expressing gratitude for them, we actually train our brains to become more positive and optimistic. 

There are however, more and less effective ways to express gratitude. 

1)   If we are putting gratitude on a "to do list" for ourselves, it can lead to it becoming a burden rather than a blessing, say researchers. The idea is to begin noticing things that we are grateful for as a first step. When a daily practice of gratitude leads to us noticing more things to be grateful for, it can work really well

2)   Go for depth rather than breath. When our gratitude lists are brief and general, they may do little to lift us up. A University of Southern California study found that writing one sentence about five things we’re grateful for is less beneficial than writing five sentences...

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What did you learn? (DW#526)

Today let us reflect on life lessons learnt from this past year. These lessons could include reflections on what you did that worked, what you did that did not work, lessons learnt in challenging times and/or blessings and opportunities that you discovered even amidst set backs. 

In fact, it is generally in challenging times that we step back, take stock and reflect on what we have learnt and/or can do differently. 

So go ahead, and take a moment to reflect and write down the life lessons that you have learnt this past year. By distilling these lessons and turning them into wisdom, we can learn from the past and not repeat our mistakes (of course we can always make new mistakes :))

Here are some life lessons from challenging situations to reflect on. It can be difficult to write them in positive terms so that we are not embittered by our experiences and we so that we many continue to live with positivity, purpose and peace. 

You can only control yourself. You may wish...

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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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