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change lifeMost of us look back on our lives and realize that we could have done things different or better. Sometimes we may regret not pursuing of changing certain aspects of our life sooner, while other times we wish we would have considered more options before jumping into a marriage or a new job.

I have often heard my Grandpa say that if life were perfect, there would be no room for any progress and learning. I still kind of wished my life was perfect, but he was right – our challenges and set-backs allow us to grow both mentally and spiritually. They make us stronger, wiser and more tolerant towards our own and other people’s imperfections.

If we are conscious enough we will not dwell on our past failures, but learn from them and concentrate on ‘right now’ – the only moment that we will ever really live in and control.

That is what I invite you to do today!

1. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, mentally distance yourself from all the doubts, past set-backs and self-defied limitations, and answer one question:

What is it that you need to change about your life?

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A strange but lovely little girl gave me a huge smile on the subway a few days ago. It was like her smile was intended to cheer me up after a rather rough time at work. Maybe my face displayed gloominess, I do not really know. I had a book open on my lap, but instead of reading it I was staring ahead of me, thinking about everything I had to get done before the weekend.

I noticed a movement to the side and when I looked in that direction I saw the little girl with two thin pigtails and a pink fluffy bag, looking directly at me. Suddenly she gave me a big, bright smile. Just like that! How could you not smile back? I did and immediately I felt better.

It is amazing how one reassuring smile from someone you have never seen before can wash away frustration and restlessness in a matter of seconds. The rest of the way the girl and I played a game called “What’s in your purse?” It went like this: first the girl would take a toy out of her purse and show it to me, next I had to do the same. Sadly, the content of my purse was hardly as exciting as hers, but the game went on for quite a while. When I stepped out of the subway, whatever was stressing me out was still there, but my frustration was gone. I was smiling and maybe my smile brightened up someone else’s day as well.

So what is your story?

Can you remember the last time a stranger did something nice for you?

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Four years ago, my answer to this question would be to locate and reach my alarm clock snooze button and enjoy an extra five minutes of hibernation. But now I have changed this. It always feels good to wake up to a brand new day, smell the fresh morning air and thank heaven for all the wonderful blessings you have. I am blessed with living in an apartment on the upper floor where I can have a glimpse of the horizon and the sunrise. This would be the first thing I would like to see upon waking up. The Sunrise.

Knowing that today is another day, another endeavor, another trial, another little pursuit of happiness, another chance to do something differently, to learn new lessons.

I am a firm believer that how we start our day has a huge impact on how we spend it.

So how would you like to start your ideal morning?

What is the first thing you like to see upon waking up?

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I thought about this question often when I was a teenager, partly because I went to a ‘privileged school’ where you could get in either by passing numerous tests or by having the right connections and making generous donation for school improvements. Consequently, I had classmates from very poor families and those who had everything a teenager could ever ask for (from the latest gadgets to fancy designer clothes).

At times it seemed cool having rich parents, who gave you expensive gifts and took you on the exotic vacations during summer holidays. Who would not want to be the offspring of a well-to-do family and have a top-quality education in a prestigious university or a new shiny car just handed to you?

However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that behind the gleam of luxury of my rich classmates often laid loneliness and self-consciousness. Their parents never had time for them. Their future had been planned out since they were little. And deep down they were intimidated by their parent’s success and struggling to live up to someone else’s unrealistic expectations. Of course, it is not always the case as each family and each situation is different.

There are many families that are successful in a monetary sense, whose children grow up to be hard-working, generous, compassionate and bright individuals.

Although, I personally consider it a blessing, not to have been born into a wealthy family and having had to work hard to achieve my goals. I am not sure I would have graduate so fast if I had not had to pay for my studies. Or that I would have developed the drive and determination to succeed without having had to face a few failures and making a few sacrifices.

What about you?

Did you grow up in a well-to-do family? Would you have wanted to?

And do you want your children to have everything they desire?

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Our work takes up about one third of our life and people we work with have a huge impact on how we feel and the attitude we maintain. In general the vast majority of people we work with are nice, considerate and upbeat people. They go out of their way to be polite, they gladly help us if they can and they encourage us whenever we have a bad day, without being too invasive.

As I said this is the vast majority. But at times we have to deal with people that are annoying, inconsiderate, spiteful and plain negative about everything and everyone. Like black holes these people suck out our energy and bring out worst in us.

And the worst thing is that there is not much you can do to avoid them. Outside of work you can walk away. If a stranger steps on your foot without saying sorry – you can get irritated, but your chances of seeing them again are almost inexistent. If a guy sitting next to you at a bar is obnoxious and rude you can get up and leave.

At work it is not that easy, as we still have to face the same people day in and day out.

So my question to you is How do YOU handle emotional setbacks brought on by people you work with?

What do you do to stay positive and not let the negativity and criticism rub off on you?

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While difficulties often drive us to the lowest points in life, it is a test to bring out the best of who we are and what we can be. Many people would see it differently but challenges are the ones that force me to rethink my life’s direction.

Often, when trials come my way, it’s followed by a profound period of reevaluating the steps taken in the past. It’s also about looking deeper into decisions made, relationships built and the values held or compromised. It is my belief that that challenges, while mostly beyond our control, could be dealt with positively and get to a happy end.

Be it about not having the expected economic stability despite hours of hard work, or having to uproot myself from the security and warmth of home to pay for my own studies and gain independence – such challenges have become my blessings in disguise.

Trials and difficulties, loss and errors… they are challenges. They, too, are actually just stepping stones to finally getting to where we need to be. Others would use these stones to sit on and wallow in self pity, often seated opposite from their direction. But for me, I’ve used these stones to elevate my being. So now I’m looking at a better view, with a wiser perspective and healthier supply of positive air.

What about you?

Do You See Blessings in Your Challenges?

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I read in a study that the average adult tells 3-4 lies a day, the most common one being: “I’m fine”.

Others on the list include:
“Nice to see you”
“I’m stuck in traffic”
“Sorry I missed your call”
“I’ll call you back in a minute”
“This is really good”

And sadly “Of course I love you”

There is no doubt that a few white lies like these make the world go round. They save us the embarrassment of explaining why we do not want to talk to someone. They are often meant to protect another person from getting hurt. And they occasionally make our lives a bit easier.

But at the same time why does telling these lies feel so uncomfortable and unnatural?

Is it really that necessary to alter the truth 1092 times a year? Do not get me wrong. I am not implying that we should be frank to the point of meanness. We still have to take other people’s feelings into consideration and not just go about being blatantly honest for the sake of sharing what is on our mind. But on the other hand, should we always reply “I’m fine” and put on a brave facade, instead of sharing what is bothering us? Is it social politeness that requires us to be nice to someone’s face while talking poorly about them behind their back?

What do you think about white lies? Do you consider them necessary? Or would you prefer to be radically honest when speaking your mind?

How would your life change if you only told the truth to others and yourself?

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Values differ from one person to another, vary from culture to culture and are appreciated on different levels depending on the walks of life. For the most part, the values held by nomadic African tribes are not the same as an average American family. Those predominantly Christian countries hold some values very dear which other cultures relegate to lesser importance. Sometimes...

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Growing up, I’ve read somewhere that we should plant our own garden and beautify our own spirits because waiting for someone to bring us flowers might not happen. This is very true. Happiness is a decision we must make and an undertaking we must hold. It is not just a person’s choice to be happy, it is also about implementing thoughts, words and actions to be truly so. It’s so easy to say, “I want to be happy;” it’s a difficult thing to act on it.

Yes, I’m a great believer that happiness is a choice (or rather thousands of choices) that we make. Just because we decide to live a happy life or be a jovial, contented person, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we instantly become so. Again, there’s a process involved once we make that choice to be happy. But that is just my point of view.

What do you think? Do you believe that happiness is a choice?

Or do you feel that our happiness largely depends on other people and life events that we have no control over? And if happiness is a choice, can we choose to be happy no matter what?

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