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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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The secret sauce of relationships

Do you know how to almost instantly turn around a struggling relationship? Start noticing what the person is doing right. And acknowledge it.

When we are upset at someone, it is easy to start focusing on what they are doing wrong and how they are annoying us. However, most people in our lives are doing more things that are right and wrong. It is just that the human mind tends to focus on what is wrong while ignoring or taking for granted what is right.

Your 16 year old, for example, might be driving you crazy because he just cannot clean up his room, or wakeup without being nagged. These annoyances become the focus of your relationship because this is what you notice. You take for granted that he helps out without being asked, is loving and plays with his little sister for hours.

To turn the relationship around, just start acknowledging the things that you have been taking for granted. Even small, tiny things. Once you start looking for what he is doing right, it is amazing how the...

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Celebrate efforts rather than results

family parenting Dec 01, 2016

A very useful application of our discussion on focusing on process rather than outcome is with our children.

When we praise children for the grades or accolades that they may achieve, it can often stress them out. They cannot control the grades they get any more than we can control whether or not we are promoted at work.

Their grades depend on so many things, the mood of the teacher (!), how others did and where they stand in relation to the rest of the class. NONE of which they can do anything about.

What children can control, is the amount of time and effort they put into any project.

When we praise the effort, if encourages them to work harder and give it their best, regardless of what the final grade or outcome is. Praising effort is a VERY powerful way to motivate children to do their best.

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Perfection versus excellence

Let us talk about excellence. Excellence is "the quality of being outstanding or extremely good". Not perfect. Just "extremely good".

Compared to perfection, which can only be achieved in the final outcome, excellence is something that we can choose to practice moment by moment.

The standard of excellence empowers us to keep giving our best. It is focused on effort rather than outcome. On the process rather than the outcome. We could give it our best and achieve an excellent result, even though it is far from perfect.

This is why I call myself a recovering perfectionist. Each time the 'perfection monster' whispers in my ear: "You did not do that perfectly" or "That could have been much better", I remind myself how perfect is the enemy of good. And how done is better than perfect.

It is the only way to move forward, really.

How about you? Are you ready to try practicing excellence rather than pursuing perfection?

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Are you pursuing perfection?

The pursuit of perfection is one of those concepts that can keep us stuck and feeling disheartened in many areas of our life. We aim to be the perfect parent, the perfect spouse and the perfect human being.

The dictionary definition of perfect is: without fault, faultless, flawless.

Since deep down many of us believe that human beings cannot be perfect, we are chasing a goal that is, by definition, impossible. Not very smart, is it?

When we set our goal as being perfect, we are in a sense setting ourselves up for failure. Anything less than the achievement of perfection is by definition not success.

The pursuit of perfection means that our eyes are only on the outcome, on the final result. The steps we take to get there and what we achieve on the way really do not matter until we have achieved perfection.

It is no wonder that so many of us end up feeling disheartened. What is the point? We tell ourselves, why bother to do anything if we cannot be perfect?

How about exploring a...

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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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Process versus outcome

parenting productivity Nov 27, 2016

Last week we spent some time talking about what is in our circle of control. Let us revisit that concept in some more depth.

When we are working towards something, whether it is a work related project or parenting to raise successful children, it is easy to keep our focus on the end goal. We see the success of others in what we are trying to accomplish and lose sight of the steps that they took to get there.

But here's the thing: the final outcome of our efforts is almost never in our control. We can try our best and our children may still make choices that we do not agree with. We can work hard at a project at work and still have it not be accepted by our boss.

This is why it is much more useful to focus on the process rather than the outcome.

The process, or steps that it takes to achieve any outcome is well within our circle of control.

This changed focus also makes it more likely that we will enjoy the journey to our destination or goal whatever the outcome will be.

Over the...

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Look for what is right

The human mind is wired to scan the environment for what is wrong. We tend to take what is going well for granted and focus on what is not going well. That is what our mind naturally focuses on.

Imagine that you walk into the kitchen and your children have been baking. They did their best to clean up but left 3 dirty dishes on the counter. What does your mind focus on? The 6 pots and pans that are in the dishwasher or the 3 that are on the counter?

But here's the thing: we get more of what we focus on. When we focus on mistakes and things that are wrong, guess what we will get more of? That's right. Mistakes and things that are wrong.

Imagine though, if you walk in the kitchen and take a moment to acknowledge that the children did, in fact, put away some of the dishes.

This kind of focus DOES NOT come naturally to most of us. But we can all learn this by intentional practice.

And it really does encourage people to try harder to do more of what we acknowledge.

Are you ready to start...

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The art of complaining

Have you ever been told to stop complaining? Well, I don't think that we should stop complaining.

I believe that complaining is often a very good way to improve things. Effective complaining gives important feedback to people, it can result in better service from companies and employees and it can encourage people to change ineffective behaviour.

We do, however, need to complain in an effective way that is likely to bring about the change that we seek.

Here are the three essentials to an effective complaint:

1) Complain to the right person. Is the person you are complaining to in a position to make changes to what you are complaining about? If so, go ahead. They are the right person to complain to. This is the ONLY person that the complaint should be made to. Everything else is just whining and venting and tiresome to listen to!

2) Complain at the right time. We often make complaints and requests (demands!) for a change of behavior in the middle of a conflict situation. This not...

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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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