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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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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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