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The root of good words (DW#602)

Yesterday we discussed verses 24 & 25 of Sura Ibrahim where the Quran compares good words to a good tree:

Have you not considered how Allah sets forth a parable of a good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven,Yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful.[Quran 14:24-25]

Today let’s deepen our understanding of this parable by exploring a narration from Imam Ali (as), where he says:

Speech is implanted in the heart and deposited in the thought, strengthened by the intellect conveyed through the tongue; its body is the letters, its soul is the meaning, its adornment is punctuation and its order is reason.

This profound saying has so many layers of meaning that it is not possible to do it justice here. For today, let us simply reflect on the process of communication.

What comes out of our mouths is not the beginning of communication. The thought and...

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Recognize the power of words (DW#601)

Have you not considered how Allah sets forth a parable of a good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven,Yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful.[Quran 14:24-25]

The verses for today’s reflection are from Sura Ibrahim and they compare the impact of words to that of a tree.

So what is a Kalimat Tayyabba, a "good word"?

In the first instance, it is a word that calls to righteousness, to the Truth. But it is much more than that.

The Quran compares a good word to a good tree (and later an evil word to an evil tree). It is interesting that we consider trees to have solid psychical mass while we rarely consider our words in the same way. We think that they are spoken into air and disappear in the next moment. (And sometimes we wish that they did!)

On the other hand, we have all experienced the power of words to connect and heal people and also perhaps...

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Have you heard of procrasti-pain? (DW#565)

Did you know that you can feel physical pain when you think about doing something that you are procrastinating on?

Barbara Oakley shares some fascinating research about procrastination in her book A mind for Numbers.

She claims that you can take people who hate doing math and scan their brains and actually SEE their pain centers light up as they contemplate having to do math! In other words, when they think about math, they feel physical pain. Weird right?

But it gets very interesting. When her research subjects actually start doing the math (rather than thinking about it) those pain centers turn themselves off!!

In other words, the anticipation of doing a task which they thought was unpleasant caused the pain. But the pain went away when they actually started doing the task.

This point is worth reading again and again and memorizing:

PROCRASTIPAIN IS THE ANTICIPATION of doing something unpleasant. And the cure for procrastipain is to start doing the task.

...

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The ultimate cost of procrastination (DW#564)

Let’s talk about our tombstones.

Imagine that you are walking in the cemetery and you come across your own tombstone. The cemetery has certain rules about what you can put on your tombstone. The choices are:

Full of potential. Had many talents and gifts. Had very good intentions of using them. Ran out of time. Died while planning.

OR

Spent. All used up. Tried (and failed many times). Played full on. Did what s/he could. Died while engaged with life.

Which would be yours right now? Which would you rather have?
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The cost of procrastination (DW#563)

Some of us thrive on the adrenalin rush that comes from doing things last minute. We tell ourselves that we work best under tight deadlines.

Research shows however, that procrastination comes with many costs. 

University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel’s studies show that procrastinators perform poorly, experience low self esteem, make poor economic and financial decisions and suffer more medical problems than their non-procrastinating peers. 

And sadly, procrastinators don’t just delay completing unpleasant tasks. They also end up procrastinating on opportunities to enjoy themselves, such as waiting too long to buy tickets for vacations, concerts or sporting events and either miss out on these or end up paying a lot more for them.

Think of a recent time when you procrastinated on something. What did it end up costing you? Was the cost financial, relationship-based or a reduction in self-esteem? 

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What is procrastination (DW#562)

Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean by procrastination.

Here is how Piers Steel (among the world’s foremost researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination) defines it:
Procrastination is the act of needlessly voluntarily delaying an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him- or herself. 

In other words, procrastination is not rational. We fail to act even though logically we know that delaying this action is not in our own best interests. 

Timothy Pychyl in his book Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change defines it as a failure of self control. 
"Procrastination is a form of self-regulation failure. We fail to regulate our behavior to achieve our own goals. We make an intention to act, but we do not use the self-control necessary to...

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Let’s talk about procrastination (DW#561)

Most of us know a lot more than we put into action. We may even have a goal or a plan to do something of value to us but we haven’t started on it. We will start tomorrow; next week or next month we may tell ourselves. Or when we have time.

In other words, we procrastinate. We delay or put off something that needs to be done.

If you procrastinate, you are not alone. By some estimates, about 20% of adults have regular bouts of procrastination. Students are of course notorious for putting off things and apparently 70-90% of students chronically procrastinate. I have a theory that students procrastinate about as much as anyone who is engaged in a creative pursuit (writing, preparing a presentation, creating art work or designing anything – anything that will be up for public scrutiny).

For the next few weeks, we will explore the topic of procrastination, why we do it, what it costs us and how we can work around our tendency to delay things that need to get...

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Say thank you (DW#550)

Yesterday we discussed how happy couples believe that when their spouse does something positive, it is just like them. 

However, this does NOT mean that they take their actions for granted. It means that they do notice the positive things that their spouse does. 

And that they regularly verbally appreciate their spouse for doing these things. 

What is the best way to say thank you? Be specific about what action pleased you and why it meant so much. This does take a little more effort than a simple thank you but it means so much more. 

Let’s consider some examples: 

Thank you for helping me pack yesterday. I was relieved to have your help so that I did not forget anything. 
I really appreciate help with Ahmed’s homework. I tend to get easily frustrated when he does not get it immediately. I love how patient you are in this situation. 
I was so relieved when I went out and saw that the driveway had already been shovelled. I was not looking...

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Think: That’s just like them! (DW#549)

Today’s marriage hack is the flip side of yesterday’s.

Smart couples have a particular way of thinking about their spouses when they do something which is positive or pleasing. 

They believe that this quality is "just like them". That it is permanent and a part of their true character. 

For example:
My wife helped me pack for my trip: that is just like her. Always making sure that I have everything that I need when I am travelling. 
My husband did the math homework with my son yesterday. That is so like him. He is happy to do whatever it takes to help his children succeed at school. 
My husband got up early to shovel the snow this morning. He is always concerned that we have a clear driveway for when we leave for work and school. He really cares about our family’s safety. 
My wife called my family over for Eid just like she does every year. She goes out of her way to make sure that the family gets together and is welcomed into our home. She is...

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Wear rose coloured glasses (DW#548)

Have you noticed how blind some people seem to be to their spouses’ obvious flaws? They seem to be wearing rose coloured glasses and keep making excuses for their spouses’ shortcomings. They can be quite annoying at times; don’t you think?

Well, it turns out that people like that have hit upon a very important secret for having happy relationships. Couples in happy relationships have mastered the art of positive interpretations. When their spouse does something annoying or causes offence in some way, they attribute it to temporary circumstances which are external and not a part of their spouse’s core character. 

So, for example, if they are late, instead of going on about how they are always late and making it mean something big, they will give their spouse the benefit of the doubt. Something must have come up, they have been preoccupied or busy at work, they do try but struggle with keeping time etc. etc. 

If the bank account is overdrawn,...

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