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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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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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What are you concerned about?

One of the books that changed my life is Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Over the next few days, we will explore a tiny bit of the wisdom from this wonderful book (named one the most influential books of the 20th century).

Covey uses concept of the Circle of Concern versus the Circle of Influence to explain how we can take responsibility for our own lives.

The best way to understand these concepts is to actually do the exercise. It only takes a few minutes initially but has HUGE payoffs as you deepen your initial understanding.

To begin, take a piece of paper and draw a large circle on it. Please label this "My Circle of Concern". In this circle write down everything that you are concerned or bothered about in your life. Go on. Don't hold back and don't overthink it. The more you write, the more things are likely to come to mind.

The circle of concern is a VERY large one for me. It contains everything from climate change to the state of the Muslim Umma to the...

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Intentions for ourselves and prayers for others

productivity spirituality Nov 03, 2016

When we are interacting with others in life, it is not enough to have intentions for ourselves. Even if we are mindful in every interaction, and have a strong intention to show up in a purposeful way, we need to address the role of the other in the interaction.

While we cannot make intentions for the other, we can certainly say a prayer for them. A prayer that their intentions are realized in the most perfect way.

This is not an agenda or a goal. Once again, it is creating the space for God and the Universe to work a synchronistic outcome that allows both people in an interaction to fulfill their needs, desires and intentions.

Let us take an example. I am in a business (or community work) meeting discussing a potential future project for the organization.


My intention would be to be open to possibilities and allow myself to fully consider all suggestions and opinions so that the best possible outcome could be discovered. My prayer for the others in the meeting would be that they can...

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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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The Difference between intentions and goals

A question that often comes up with setting intentions is this: What is the difference between goals and intentions?

Although goals can sometimes be confused with intentions, they are in fact quite different.

A goal is a desired outcome in the future. A goal is something that you set by thinking about a specific outcome that you want. For example, my goal could be to get a certain job, to achieve a milestone in health or to commit to a long term relationship.

An intention is about how we commit to showing up in our life everyday, regardless of what is happening around us. It is the guiding principle or value that we act from, and it is very much based in the present moment.

For example, an intention related to relationship might be "I intend to relate with honesty". This would be a guiding principle in my relationship regardless of whether or not my ultimate goal of being in a committed relationship is met or not.

Having a clear intention means that whenever I stray away from...

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Are you going with the flow?

It is so easy to 'go with the flow'. It is easy to let life happen to us, to experience life as it is happening around us, reacting to each day as it unfolds.

It is so easy, in fact, that we often do not realize that we are doing it. Things are happening around us, asking us to react to the urgent. When we are not reacting to the urgent, whether it is at work or with family, we are tempted to 'numb out', 'veg out' or 'chillax' with the steady stream of mindless entertainment which is SO readily and freely available.

The cost of living like this, of 'going with the flow' can be huge. If we do not stop to ask ourselves if this the life we want, if we are satisfied with the way we are spending our days on this planet, there is a good chance that we will end up dissatisfied, and feeling empty and meaningless.

As Rabbi Harold Kushner puts it, "Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry...

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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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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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