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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Enjoy the wait

The fourth principle that we will explore from Sonja Lyubomirsky's The Myths of Happiness is this:

Spend money now to enjoy something in the future.

Research confirms that anticipating a pleasant or happy event brings us joy.

We have probably experienced this ourselves, when we book a summer holiday, for example. The planning, the dreaming and the talking about sunny days on the beach and starlit nights bring us much pleasure and enjoyment long before the event actually takes place.

Now before we all go and look for that super once in a lifetime trip, a quick word of caution: the results of happiness research favour "the ordinary over the intense".

In other words, we get more "bang for our buck", so to speak, if we spend our money on many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.

So instead of spending our life savings on that one fantastic trip, we would be better off planning small but regular get-aways or outings with the family. Or even planning a free picnic to the local park...

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Buy yourself time

Sonja Lyubomirsky's third principle to enjoy your wealth so that it brings you happiness is this:

Spend money to give you time.

Time, as they say, is the great equalizer. We all have the same 24 hours regardless of the dollars in our bank accounts.

Research shows, that 'time affluence' – (time to do things that matter to you and bring you joy) is a better predictor of happiness than pure affluence (how much money you have).

Makes sense, right? If we are too busy making money, we don't have time to enjoy it.
So here is an easy way to "buy happiness".

Use money to buy time for yourself. Hire someone to do something that you would normally do yourself.

For those of us who like to do everything ourselves, here is another way to look at it: you will be distributing your blessings and being a source of income for someone else.
(Not to mention having one less thing on your "to-do" list).

(When I shared this with a group of mothers recently, that you could get someone to help you do...

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Share it to savour it

Sonja Lyubomirsky's second principle to enjoy your wealth so that it brings you happiness is this:

Spend money on others not yourself.

There is some fascinating research here. It turns out that if you give people $20 and have them spend it on themselves they'll be less happy than if they spend it on others. Cool, huh?

(I wonder if this is the one reason why people like Bill Gates give away such a significant portion of their wealth?)

So, shall we experiment with generosity this week?

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4 ways money can make you happy

family self awareness Apr 03, 2017

We have all heard the phrase, "money cannot buy happiness".

This is true.

But can we use our money in ways that are likely to bring us more happiness and contentment as opposed to stress and dissatisfaction?

Sonja Lyubomirsky in her interesting book The Myths of Happiness gives us four principles that psychological science suggests we live by if we want to optimally enjoy our money.

Here is the first principle:

Don't spend money on "stuff"— you will get used to it ("hedonically adapt" to use the technical term).

Moreover, she writes that "A mountain of research has shown that materialism depletes happiness, threatens satisfaction with our relationships, harms the environment, renders us less friendly, likable, and empathetic, and makes us less likely to help others and contribute to our communities. . .". These are just some of the negative effects of unbridled consumerism.

Lyubomirsky suggests that in order to counteract this happiness killer, spend money on experiences and...

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Money and happiness

Let's face it. Our generation as a whole has more money and disposable income than any other generation in history. This material progress has not resulted in increased emotional or psychological wellbeing.

Quite the opposite.

We are so rich, in fact, that we have "rich people problems" and our youngsters (not to mention their parents) have managed to catch a brand new virus.

This 'virus' is called the "Affluenza Virus" and it is defined as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more."

Symptoms of the "Affluenza Virus" include:

- Shopping Fever . . .shopping as entertainment and fulfillment. (Newsflash: Just as "dieting makes you fat" so "retail therapy makes you sad.")

- Chronic Stress . . .

- Hypercommercialism . . . confusing personal identity with the brands you wear

- Believing that "Anti-social behavior in pursuit of a product is a good thing."

- A Rash of Bankruptcies . . . the top 10%...

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Buddha and the farmer with the 83 problems

Sharing a story today that captures the concept of AIMing at happiness that we have been talking about this week. . .

A farmer came to see the Buddha for a solution to the problems in his life.

My first problem is my work, he began:
"I like farming, but sometimes it doesn't rain enough, and my crops fail. Last year we nearly starved. And sometimes it rains too much, so my yields aren't what I'd like them to be."

The Buddha patiently listened to the man. . .

My next problem is my domestic life, he continued:
"I'm married and she's a good wife… I love her, in fact. But sometimes she nags me too much. And sometimes I get tired of her."

The Buddha listened quietly.
"Also, I have kids," said the man. "Good kids, too… but sometimes they don't show me enough respect. And sometimes…"

The man went on like this, laying out all of his difficulties and worries.

Finally he wound down and waited for the Buddha to say the words that would put everything right for him.


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AIM-ing at happiness – what do you remember?

Uncategorized Mar 29, 2017

Human minds are wired to retain more negative memories than positive. There are very good survival reasons for this (which we can get into at another time!)

In order to move beyond survival to self growth and actualization, we need to be intentional in training our brains to remember the good.

How can you do this? So glad you asked because it is actually VERY simple.

When you are having a positive experience (listening to a bird, getting a parking spot, smelling a flower, tasting that chocolate . . .), take a moment to savour it.

Pause. Breathe. Savour.

Take a few moments to enjoy the experience rather than moving onto the next thing.

It takes between 8 – 20 seconds for the pleasant sensations and memory to register in your memory bank and in your cells.

For best results, repeat several times a day!

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AIM-ing at happiness – what is your interpretation?

Uncategorized Mar 28, 2017

It can be really challenging to separate what happens to us from how we interpret it.

When we are in a negative spiral, it can be quite difficult to remember that what happens and how we interpret it are two separate events – one out there and one in our minds.

While we cannot control what happens out there, we can practice coming up with more helpful interpretations for ourselves.

For example, if I did not get invited to my friends birthday dinner, it can be easy to interpret this in a negative way. She does not care about me, I do not matter, she is upset with me, she has found other friends etc etc etc!

It takes much more presence of mind (and creativity!) to come up with interpretations that will not lead to emotional distress.

How many can you think of?

Coming up with helpful interpretations of external events takes intentionality and practice. But it gets sooo much easier with time.

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