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What are your core values?

The second question we will explore in our quest for self awareness and growth is this: What are my core values?

Values are a part of us. They highlight what we stand for. Values guide our behavior, providing us with a personal code of conduct.

When we honor our personal core values consistently, and live in alignment with them, we experience fulfillment in our lives.

Similarly, if we are not living in integrity with our core values or when we dishonor them, we experience guilt, remorse and anger. (In fact, when we are angry at someone else, it is often because one or more of our core values has been injured – think about this one)

Other ways to ask this question and get in touch with our core values are: What is the most important thing about me as a person? What do I stand for? What are the qualities that I would like to be known for?

It is important to remember that we cannot select values that we would like or believe that we 'should' have. It is a process of discovery and...

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What’s your iki gai?

The first question for personal reflection that we will explore in this series is: What is your iki gai?

Ikigai (pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept which means "a reason for being." Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. The Japanese believe that finding one's ikigai requires a deep and often lengthy search of self.

There is a reason why we need to pay attention to the concept of ikigai. The people of Okinawa in Japan are the longest living people on the earth today. They live an average of 7 healthy years longer than Americans and have the most people over 100, partly because they believe that everyone has an ikigai which gives meaning and purpose to their lives.

So strong is this belief that they do not have the concept (or even a word for) retirement in their language. Work that adds meaning and purpose to life is not something that the Japanese stop doing when they reach a certain age.

But an ikigai does not have to be purely work related.

For example,...

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I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

Bronnie Ware found that almost all the men and quite a few of the women she spoke to, regretted spending too much time working at the cost of spending time with family and loved ones.

This one did not surprise me at all.

It seems that as a generation, we have completely blurred the boundaries between work and non-work life. Our work has taken over all aspects of our existence.

With the advent of technology, work follows us home, on the dinner table, on the prayer mat, in bed, on vacation, in the shower . . . you get the picture.

It may be helpful to remind ourselves that no one on their death bed ever wished they had spent more time at the office. (attributed to Rabbi Harold Kushner)

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Learning life lessons from the dying

Are you familiar with the story of Bronnie Ware the palliative care nurse who wrote the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying?

Although employed as a personal carer primarily to look after physical needs of dying patients, Ware found herself having deep and meaningful conversations with her clients.

Ware came to appreciate that people who are dying realize what is most important and what is not, and are more likely to speak honestly about their life and what they wished they had done differently.

Through many conversations and interactions with the dying, she began to notice some common regrets they expressed and gathered their wisdom and experience in her book.

Over the next few days, lets explore the top regrets of the dying. Maybe we can learn from their wisdom and live a regret-free life ourselves.

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Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

family spirituality Apr 17, 2017

Let's talk about the 'D' word.

Death.

What every one of us will face and what few of us like to think or talk about. Some of us might even believe that thinking about death and dying is morose and depressing.

While spiritual traditions, including Islam and Buddhism have advocated reflecting on the temporary nature of life in this existence as a path to virtue and salvation/bliss, it is fairly recently that secular psychologists have affirmed the benefits of thinking about death.

Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, headed a study about 'death awareness' and said, "There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being."

Vall specifically mentions three ways consciousness of death can improve our lives:

1) Thinking about death helps us prioritize our goals and get in touch with what we truly value

2) Just...

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Be creative with your interpretations

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "Do not think of anyone's statements as evil if you can find it capable of bearing good".

It is clear that what people say to us and how we interpret their statements are two distinct parts of each communication.

When our emotional bank account with a person is low, it is easy to interpret what they say more negatively than they intend. We can pause, notice this tendency and choose to give it a positive interpretation. Give them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

Being creative and positive with our interpretations of another's words and actions takes intentionality and practice. Over time, it can become a habit.

A habit that brings more positivity into our lives and improves our relationships.

Worth a try, don't you think?

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Be open to influence

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "One who is headstrong and opinionated perishes, while one who seeks the advice of others becomes a partner in their understanding".

When we are highly protective and defensive of our opinions, it is usually a sign of fear, insecurity and a lack of confidence. It also leaves us little room for growth, reflection or expansion of wisdom.

So the next time someone offers us a suggestion or a piece of advice, lets pause before automatically dismissing it. Just fully consider it before making a decision either way. Considering something does not mean agreeing. Listening to a point of view with an open mind does not meant that you automatically accept it.

Listening with an open mind leaves the opportunity open, though, to grow in understanding and insight and to become a 'partner in their understanding'.

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Pause before you promise

It is hard to say no to those we care about. It seems much easier in the moment to make a promise when a request is made than to disappoint and upset the one who is asking (especially if they are a child, a family member or co-worker that we see everyday)

The trouble is, when we promise something we have no intention of doing or are not in the position of doing, it ends up causing twice the amount of upset and disappointment, both for ourselves and others. Our words and our promises do not hold much weight. The promisees are never quite sure whether or not we will make good on our promise.

Imam Ali (as) puts it very eloquently: “One who is asked a request is free until promising". On another occasion he said, "A graceful refusal is better than a lengthy promise.”

So the next time a request is made which you cannot or will not fulfil, consider a graceful refusal.

This may be challenging in the moment, but so much easier in the long run for you and for the relationship.

...

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Turn knowing into doing

Many Muslims around the world are celebrating the birth of Imam Ali (as) this week and so I would like to share some timeless wisdom from this great spiritual leader which continues to inspire millions today.

Imam Ali (as) said: "Knowledge, if not acted upon, departs." Along the same lines, he also said: "Knowledge is of two kinds, that which is absorbed and that which is heard. And that which is heard does not profit if it is not absorbed".

Have you ever wondered why we remember so little of what we read and hear? It is because what we hear, does not 'settle' into our being. It passes by without making an impact. "In one ear and out the other", as the saying goes.

Can we change this so that we remember more of what we learn? So that what we learn transforms our lives for the better?

For sure.

As soon as we learn something, we need to ask ourselves: "What will I do differently as a result of this information?"

Then put knowledge into action. Even a tiny little action.

Remember the...

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SMART goals

parenting spirituality Jan 22, 2017

Some of you may have heard of SMART goals.

Here are the criteria and some examples of SMART goals.

Specific - Studies show is that in order to activate our creativity, engage our focus and call out our best resources, the goals that we set need to be very specific. So what EXACTLY are you aiming for? Do you have a goal to read more? How many books will you read? What kind of books? If your goal is to connect more with family, who specifically will you connect with and how? How often will you initiate connection?

Measurable – How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Becoming a better person is not a measurable goal. Breathing and counting to ten before responding to sass from your teenager is more measureable. Becoming more efficient is not measurable. Getting through your task list at home before 2pm is measurable.

Action oriented – what will you DO differently? Becoming healthier is much too vague and does not specify the action. Eating dinner before 8pm on...

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