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Look up (DW#543)

Imagine you are at work. You are busy answering emails or preparing a presentation. And your boss or your most important client walks in and starts talking to you. 

What do you do? Do you continue working on what you were doing and give them perfunctory nods and hmm, uhmms without even bothering to acknowledge their presence in the room? (and how do you think your career will fare if you did that?)


Or do you stop what you are doing, look up and give them your full attention? If you recognize that your relationship with them is more important than that email, or text message, you will likely do the later. 

Now how about your spouse? When they walk into the room, do you look up from your phone and give them your attention? Do you listen to what they have to say before giving them the nod and the hmms and the ahas? 

If not, why not? 

You cannot improve something without giving it some attention. You really cannot. So please start paying attention. And look up from your...

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Get more sleep (DW#542)

If you are sleep deprived like a lot of us these days, you know that the world and everything in it (including your spouse!) looks much better after a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, a lack of sleep can leave us feeling irritable and wanting to lash out at even minor annoyances. 

A study from Ohio State University confirmed this. It found that couples who routinely slept less than seven hours were more likely to fight in destructive ways and with overt hostility. Sleeping more did not get eliminate conflict, of course. But those couples who managed to get more rest bickered with more humor and kindness and with less hostility. 

So an easy way to improve your family relationships is to improve your self care routines, which include sleep and exercise. If you take care of yourself, you are able to show up as your best self at home. 

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Where did you stumble? (DW#523)

Once we have acknowledged our successes for the past year, it is easier to confront and acknowledge where we stumbled or fell short. 

So let’s remember the domains of our lives again: social, emotional, physical, professional, spiritual, marital, parental, financial. 

Where did you have the greatest challenges? Where these challenges outside your control or as a result of your own choices?

For example, if the stock market crashes and causes you to have financial setbacks, it is outside your control. (How much you invest and how you diversify is within your control however  . . . ) If your financial crisis is caused by overspending, not saving or other actions, the situation is caused by your own actions.

If we lose our job because of industry-wide cut backs, we cannot control that. But if we lose our jobs because we slacked and did not do our best, our actions caused our challenges. Get the picture?


While it is helpful to own responsibility for our actions, it...

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Where did you succeed? (DW#522)

One of the joys of doing an end of year review is to look back with gratitude on the things that went well, the milestones that we achieved and the successes we enjoyed. 

When we are in the thick of things, it can be easy to ignore the baby steps we are taking towards success. At the end of the year or the beginning of a new year, it is enormously pleasurable to celebrate our successes and give ourselves a small pat on the back! 

If it has been a stormy or difficult year, this can be quite challenging. The challenges or setbacks can often claim a disproportionate amount of our attention and energy. When this happens, just take a moment and reflect on the various domains of your life: social, emotional, physical, professional, spiritual, marital, parental, financial. It is much easier to acknowledge successes when we separate the events and happenings of our various domains. 

For example, even if we suffered from health challenges the past year, our finances may have...

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What would your wisest friend tell you in this situation? (DW#515)

Some of us are blessed to have a wise friend or mentor in our lives.

This is a person on whom we can count on to give us a realistic perspective when our mind is doing its distorted loopy thinking. A friend who can set us straight and talk some sense into us for our own good. A friend who is a friend of our relationships because they realize that even if we are angry or upset in the moment, our long term happiness and wellbeing lies in making our close relationships work rather than walking away from them.

This is a friend who is kind and compassionate and yet holds us accountable and encourages us to live up to our best selves and to stop acting like a jerk.

If you were to ask this friend about the situation, what would they say?

How would they interpret this situation?

What advice would they give you on your behavior?

Exactly. Listen to this friend.

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Labeling (DW#490)

When people upset or annoy us it is very tempting to generalize their behavior into a character trait. For example, if someone throws their socks on the floor after you have tidied up, you may be tempted to label them as sloppy, disrespectful, uncaring or a number of other unflattering things.

Of course, we can also label ourselves, which is equally unhelpful. 
Instead of saying "I made a mistake," you may attach a negative label to yourself: "I’m a loser." 

Sometimes, we adopt a negative label for ourselves that others have used, and then use it to justify our negative behaviour because of the label.

"That is right, I have always been an angry person. That is why I cannot control my temper".

"You’re right. I am stubborn. And I won’t budge."

"I am a loser. So why should I try?"

When we label ourselves or others in this way, we mistake an action or behaviour for a character trait. And we know that behaviours and actions are much easier to change than the...

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Have you heard about EQ? (DW#448)

What do you think of when you think of when you think of someone who is intelligent? Are they logical, good at learning, solving problems, taking tests? 

This is the traditional view of intelligence which is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, solve problems, and adapt to new situations. Intelligence or IQ can also be defined as the ability that intelligence tests measure.

For the last few decades, however, psychologists and scientists have begun to question this limited understanding of intelligence. 

The most famous challenge, perhaps, was launched in 1996 by Dan Goleman with the publication of his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman claimed that emotional intelligence or EQ is another aspect of intelligence that is often overlooked but it is what often determines success or failure in our lives. 

Before we go any further, let us understand what we mean by EQ. 

...

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You made me do it (DW#423)

objective productivity Jun 27, 2018

As human beings we mess up and make mistakes. Quite often. We sometimes behave badly with those who matter most to us. 

And when we are confronted about our poor behavior or judgment by a loved one, it feels uncomfortable and it is anxiety provoking. It can be tempting to deny our role in making someone upset by denying responsibility, or worse by blaming them for our own behavior. 

For those of us who are parents, our children can sometimes really push our buttons. We may lose it from time to time and get ashamed by our behavior. At this point, we say things like "You made mom/dad mad". "Look what you made me do". We may believe that we are hiding the fact that we fell short of our own values and we feel ashamed. But lets not kid ourselves. Our children can pick up on the fact that we are shirking responsibility. And the lesson they learn from this is NOT the one we want them to learn!

Similarly, in adult relationships which are abusive or severely distressed, there can...

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Hardship and ease come together (DW#414)

Sura Inshirah: Truly with hardship comes ease! [Quran: 94:5]

Such a beautiful and hopeful verse of the Quran! And the phrase is repeated in the next verse for emphasis. 

While we often read that there is a silver lining in the clouds, that hard times eventually pass, this verse reminds us that there is relief and ease not after a trial or challenging time, but right along with it

Truly with hardship comes ease. 

When we are going through tough times and challenges, we sometimes get tunnel vision: our focus narrows only to the pain or the challenge and we fail to notice things that are working as they should or are in fact working for our benefit. When our knees are hurting for example, we may not notice that the rest of our body is in fact, pain free. We begin to lose perspective and begin to see our whole life in terms of the challenge or the difficulty. 

At times like this, it is useful to remember that no matter how bad things may seem at...

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Pay it forward (DW#412)

Sura Qassas: and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you[28:77] 

This verse, addressed to the rich despot Qarun, reminds him that the bounties that he has been granted are a gift from God, to be used in good works and charity. That he should be a conduit of these blessings, keeping the flow of blessings going by passing some of them on to those in need, rather than hoarding them all for himself.

Qarun believed that what he had was solely a result of his own hard work. He failed to see that the abundance of blessings can be a test to see how we will use these blessings. He forgot about all those who could have benefited from sharing in the blessings that were granted to him and instead he squandered them in meaningless ways and to feed his whims and passions. 

The lesson for us is this: whatever we have been granted of material, intellectual or social bounties are a trust from Him. These gifts need to be engaged as a force for good in this world rather than...

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