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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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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Name it to tame it

Berne Brown, the world famous researcher on shame and vulnerability says that a way to tame your inner critic is to giver her a name and begin to understand her as an entity.

Because the critic thrives on secrecy, silence and the perception of judgment, giving her a name and calling her out on her tactics weakens her power considerably.

Brown calls her critic "Gremlin", but personally, I'd like to think of something nastier. I have tried various names for my inner critic and these days I am calling her "Ms. Blah Blah".

I can always count on Ms. Blah Blah to let me know why what I set out to do is not a good idea or that it is not a good time to do it.

When I wanted to start the Daily Wisdom project, for example, Ms. Blah-blah gave me a hundred excuses why I could not – or should not -do this.

Here are only a few of them:

  1. You are not consistent – you will start and then it will fizzle out
  2. It is too big of a commitment – you don't have the time
  3. You are NOT a good...
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Write down what the critic is saying

When the familiar story of self doubt or negativity starts playing in your head, take a moment and write it down. Word for word.

It is often helpful to write this down in two ways:
First, write down everything in the first person: "I cannot do this", "I will never be able to do this" etc etc.

Now rewrite these stories in the second person: "You cannot do this". "You are just not organized enough, clever enough, good enough . . . ." "What makes you think that you will succeed this time when you have failed in the past . . ."

Blah, blah, blah. . .

Now ask yourself: Are these stories adding value to your life? Are they helping you live your best self?

If not, simply thank the critic for sharing their view, and then get on with your day.

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What is your critic saying?

We all have that critical inner voice – the one that specializes in giving a running (mostly negative) commentary in our heads. Creating self doubt, telling us off and breaking our confidence.

Sometimes, we just accept this commentary without challenge.

"You look so tired/fat/ugly/stupid", "You can't do this." "You're such a mess." "What's the matter with you?", "What's WRONG with you, you still don't have it together".

So how do we continue to live our best selves' moment to moment while this critic is having a field day inside our heads?

The very first step is to become aware of this narrator/critic/commentator. Just by recognizing the existence of this critic, we begin to loosen her hold on our life.

By noticing the script that s/he is playing, we begin to recognize that these statements are NOT a reflection of reality.

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The Magic Ratio

One of Dr. Gottman's biggest research findings is the 5:1 rule.

Dr. Gottman has found that for the emotional climate of a relationship to be positive, the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions between the spouses has to be greater than 5:1. This is because negative experiences have a much bigger impact on the human brain than positive ones (something we will talk about in the future inshallah)

Simply put, this means that for every negative interaction you have with your spouse (even happy couples have negative interactions) you need to have at least 5 times as many positive ones to keep the relationship happy.

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Make a list

I once came across a woman who taught me a great lesson about acceptance in relationships.

A group of us were complaining about annoying habits of spouses and how they can drive us quite crazy. She was the only one in a long term relationship who did not add to the griping.

We wondered if she was married to a saint.

"Nope", she said, "He is no saint. Early on in my relationship, I made a list of all the things I find irritating about my husband. I then made a decision to accept him as he is and love him despite all these annoying habits that sometimes drive me crazy. So now, on days when I want to nit pick at his exasperating habits, I remind myself, Oh yea, that is on the list, so big deal".

If we have been grumbling about the shortcomings of our other halves for a while now, isn't it time to accept them as they are, the whole package?

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Make a clean apology

One of the worst things we can hear from the ones we love are: "I am sorry but . . ." or "I am sorry if . . . ".

Imagine that you are on the receiving end of such an 'apology'. The words "I am sorry" become meaningless when they followed by 'ifs' and 'buts'.

A true apology contains three simple ingredients:

Regret: I am sorry for causing you pain.
Responsibility: I accept my part in it.
Remedy: Here is how I would like to make it up to you.

Practice making a clean apology and then STOP before you are tempted to undermine it by 'ifs and buts and what about yous'.


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