Month: December 2010

Why worry?

Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due. William Ralph Inge

Anything that disturbs our equilibrium, will pressurize us, make us anxious and continue to be an irritant that constantly nags and worries us. It could be as simple as awaiting ones exam results or it could be more life altering as awaiting the diagnosis of a biopsy report or it could be trivial issues like not being able to find a matching pair of socks or a clean handkerchief. While there would be many reading this post who would discount all the above examples as not relevant to them, it would help to just pause and reflect on our pet peeves and irritants that get us worried so often.

Interestingly, if we are honest to ourselves and study the actual happenings which initially got us worried, we would notice that barring rare exceptions most of our worries were ill conceived and completely misplaced. This brings us to an important lesson in life; that most worries never come true or happen in reality. The reason we keep worrying could possibly be explained by our parental guidance to be well prepare for all eventualities. As a consequence we have honed the skill of anticipating problems and troubles, working out alternatives to combat the perceived problem and thereafter worry that every alternative has a limitation. The irony is that originally perceived problem morphs into a myriad of subsidiary niggles each of which keeps pricking us and disturbing our peace of mind.

When seen from a different perspective, worry is simply hoarding a lot of useless stuff in the hope that it will prove useful when the time comes. Alas, this is like accumulating a sack full of salt, when all we need is a pinch of it. The excess baggage weighs us down, preoccupies us and diverts one from focusing on the more practical and meaningful activities that should ideally be our priority. Another angle to understand the futility of worrying is to see it as an off shoot of a poor me syndrome. Here we condition ourselves to believe we are in pain, in trouble, in dire straits and are constantly seeking the attention and sympathy of those around. Worry manifests itself as a bait to lure those around into paying attention, offering their support and fawning over the worrier.

The consequences of worry are what should really worry us; it affects our health, our psychology, our relationships and completely disrupts our personal, social and professional life. Ranging from sleeplessness, our worries create anxiety, panic and could end up with depression and other psychosomatic illness. What is more subtle is the elaborate process of denial that we are worrying. More often than not we have the urge to portray a happy and contented personality for the world at large while deep inside our heart and mind are progressively being weakened by our inability to eliminate, accept or confront our worries. The realization that our worries are best confronted when they really come true will help us build up the ability to reduce our anxiety, temper our fears and seek positives in perceived problems.

Remember: Don’t trouble troubles till troubles trouble you.

Try this:

  1.  Think of what would be the main worries of the following people and analyze if their worries are justified. Also try to group the worries in order of seriousness as perceived by you.
  • A chief executive of a company
  • A solider on the battle front A student who gets average marks despite working hard 
  • Parents of mentally or physically challenged children
  • An unwed mother.
  1. Check if you suffer from the following symptoms of excessive worry
  • Less sleep or restless sleep Bouts of anxiety and depression.
  • Constant negative thinking.
  • Unexplained fears Feelings of jealousy/ envy

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Duty Calls

The habit of doing one’s duty drives away fear. Charles Baudelaire

Many of our fears stem from our tardy and lethargic behavior which results in us postponing our work, avoiding work and taking our duties casually. As a result suddenly the piled up work, the extensive rework that we have to do and the unavoidable deadlines that loom in front of us frighten us and the resultant stress and tensions scare us even more. When one objectively looks at the situation we make the startling realization that most of our fears are self created and possibly completely avoidable if only we were more diligent and hardworking.

Very often our problem of doing our duty efficiently emits from the uncomfortable and painful realty, that we don’t even know what our exact duties are. This is partly due to us being haphazard by nature but largely due to being ill organized and unplanned when getting to work. The way out is to take time out and attempt to clarify to ourselves what are the key jobs that we must do and ideally we must have fixed time frames to finish of the tasks. It also helps tremendously if we can prioritize our duties so that we cover all of them efficiently.

The next most common problem relates to our work style and our habit of putting off unpleasant tasks. We will stall, delay, attempt to avoid, try and delegate, deny, refuse or ignore those tasks that in our view are unpleasant and unappreciated. Conveying bad news for example is the least favored duty anyone fancies. Remember the time when we got a bad progress report card in school and we worried sick the whole night about the consequences. We muster courage to show it to our parent just a minute before leaving for school in the fond hope that tempers will cool down by evening. We actually end up getting a triple whammy for we are berated for trying to hide the report card, then for the poor performance and we have already spend a whole night in tossing and turning and visualizing  the most frightening consequences.

Perhaps our own work ethics creates the maximum problem for us. Sheer laziness and tardiness accounts for the bulk of the problem related to our abjecting our duties. . This followed closely by our personal weakness of being meticulous to a fault in doing ordinary tasks or completely casual and irresponsible when having to do important and critical tasks. On one hand one may spend hours on sprucing up our homes to receive an important visitor but at the same time we may conveniently put of deadline bound tasks like paying bills or filing the tax returns since there may be provisions to pay a fine to make up. In effect our style of work puts mental pressure on us for we are most worried about how the guests will react to the house despite our best efforts and at the  same time dread paying the whopping fines for not paying dues on time; the bottom line is that we still do not change.

 Remember: Excellence begins when you go beyond the call of duty.

Try this:

  1. What do you consider as your 3 primary duties to the following people?
  • Your parents
  • Your spouse
  • Your children
  • Your friends
  • Your society at large
  1.  List out the following
  • Apart from the daily chores what are the 3 duties that you have to do at least once weekly for the family
  • What are those 3 duties which you know will make you worried if you do not perform them on time?
  • List out 3 tasks that you hate to do and examine how you handle to tasks when they occur.

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Being happy

A happy life is one, which is in accordance with its own nature. Marcus Annaeus Seneca

The essence of happiness lies in trying to keep in harmony with the world around us. The trouble unfortunately is that most times the world seems to be at cross-purposes with our feelings, wants, expectations and hopes. Obviously, when things are far from what we ideally want it to be we get disturbed, annoyed, irritated, upset and very unhappy. Let me share an example to illustrate the point. This morning I was traveling along with my family to Bangalore by the 7.40 am flight from Pune and had a connecting flight at 11 am to Cochin. After checking in at Pune, we were informed that the flight was delayed because of fog both at Delhi the originating destination of the flight and also at Pune and the departure was rescheduled for 8.30 am. Thereafter it was further delayed and ultimately we departed only at 10.30 am. Obviously, there would be no connecting flight and we had to compromise and take the next evenings flight a very tough decision to take since we were to miss some family functions for which the whole visit was planned.

How does one reconcile with this paradox of excitement turning to disillusionment and possibly frustration and anger?  The answer lies in accepting the reality with equanimity, assessing the alternatives calmly and trying to find positives in the unavoidable. As I write this post I am staying with my brother in Bangalore a completely unplanned and unexpected bonus. Now when I look back at the day I can see that my initial annoyance actually turned out to be a extraordinary experience. To begin with my son and ardent Manchester United fan felt privileged to visit the newly opened Manchester United Restaurant at Bangalore (this will be the highlight of his life and the one talking point for the New Year); my mother was thrilled to meet the grandchildren in Bangalore (which was never planned) and for me the experience fitted in with my post today.

If one thinks positive, seeks happiness and accepts the bitter and sweet experiences as flavors of life then nature gives us the gift of happiness daily. John Powell has correctly titled his book Happiness is an inside job and this is a message that we must tattoo in our minds and hearts. We alone determine our happiness and no amount of material wealth or possessions or relationships can give us happiness unless we seek it out within us. All of us are also guilty of succumbing to negative emotions like jealousy, pride, greed, envy etc. as a result of which we cannot filter out happiness and enjoy it for the negative emotions block the pathway to happiness seeping inside us. Instead, if we replaced these emotions with just one single feeling of LOVE we would find happiness everywhere and that to all the time.

Seeking happiness is not the same as chasing happiness. The majority of us are disillusioned because we confuse these two terms. When seeking happiness we are making an effort to find the positives, the goodness and reasons to enjoy the moment and the situation. When we are chasing happiness we are trying to force situations to meet the demands of what we perceive is our happiness. The former approach succeeds because inherently there is happiness in plenty and we are merely searching for the right tap to pour out to our hearts content. The later approach fails because we are trying to dig bore wells in parched lands in the fond hope of striking water. If after reading this post you did not find the key to happiness that you were so desperately seeking you have been following the wrong approach. Ask others who believe that they found the keys to happiness in this post and they will tell you that they can do it because they found out that they were trying to open the wrong locks and are now focusing on those locks that open with the keys hidden in this post.

Remember: “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” Frederick Keonig

Try this:

  1. Can you recollect the 5 happiest moments of your childhood? Now try and recollect the 5 happiest moments of the past 5 years. Now ask if you are creating situations conducive to your younger siblings/ children/ friends enjoying the same type of happiness that you have just jotted down.
  2. Now list out who/ what makes you unhappy in the following cases and reasons for the same
  • Name the people who irritate you – e.g. your subordinate who does not take any responsibility and your powerless to reprimand or punish him/her.
  • Situations that irritate you e.g. The traffic jams
  • The songs /movies that you hate e.g. pure classical because you do not understand it
  • Social/ technological/ infrastructural/ scientific changes that annoy you e.g. The toll collection outlets on highways because it slows down the vehicle and negates the purpose of the high ways.

Now try to find out the good things about the above and see if it reduces your negativity. Reducing unhappiness is equivalent to improving your happiness quotient.

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Be aware of the truth

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. Oscar Wilde

There is a natural tendency of most of us to form opinions about people and come to some conclusions. We are rudely shocked or pleasantly surprised when contrary to our assumptions there are exactly opposite views expressed by others about the same person. It isn’t that we are completely wrong or the other completely right but the reality is that each one of us has shades of Jekyll and Hyde in us and we tend to display one of the two personalities more dominantly.

What we can observe in ourselves is the mood swings, change in behavior and the alternating negative and positive energies that seem to constantly shadow us. This does not make us either good or bad people but is merely indicative of the constantly changing personal display of emotions and characteristics. When we are tempted to take a holier than thou attitude we may be rudely awakened to the reality that we have had a none to enviable past.  On the other hand when we are prone to wallow in self pity and desperation it is a timely reminder to seek help for every weakling has hope of salvation.

Since we are certain that there is no such concept of a perfect person in this universe, logically each one of us falls in the continuum between good and bad. Depending on the day and time we plot ourselves on that continuum we could go into either extremes but the saving grace is that there is hope for sinners and the apparently virtuous  can be more tempered in their ego massaging. In effect we realize that being good or bad does not make us exceptional or despicable for there is a past that can be a burden to carry and a future that absolve us and reward us for our repentance. This gives us both hope on one hand and a word of caution on the other hand that enables us to see ourselves as balance individuals.

We therefore come to a conclusion that we cannot really form opinions unless we have closely interacted with the person and more interestingly that the conclusions we draw are limited to the time we spend with them. We also need to realize that our opinions of people should not be so rigid that we alienate people because we are not willing to study the facts or acknowledge our mistakes at a later stage. The bigger lesson though is for us as individuals to be aware that we have our own limitations and strengths and that what was strength at a point in time could vanish and we could end up as victims. Similarly for those innocent who stand as accused in the docks of human morality there is hope that redemption is possible if one is determined to work for it and seek repentance.

Remember: Tomorrow is another day.

Try this:

  1. Jot down 3 positive changes that you have noticed in you that have come over since the last 5-10 years. Also list out 3 bad traits that you have adopted that you never accused of before.
  2. If possible read the book The Cross and the Switchblade a book written in 1963 by pastor David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It tells the true story of Wilkerson’s first five years in New York City, where he ministered to disillusioned youth, encouraging them to turn away from the drugs and gang violence they were involved with.

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A firm will

It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it. General Douglas MacArthur

Every day is a challenge, a war with our emotions, our feelings, our thoughts and our experiences. Most times we win the battle because we are prepared mentally and ensure that we are well equipped to meet the challenges with a positive attitude, a firm determination and a fighting spirit. On the occasions when we are defeated, dispirited and desperate we tend to lose hope, fail to see the learning from the experience and instead are tempted to throw in the towel. Fortunately for us more often than not our will to win will energize our spirit and keep us going to fight another day.

The reality of life is that, for us to achieve anything or attain anything, we must have a strong motivation, a passionate desire and a very firm will and determination. Look back at the school days and visualize the passionate competition indulged in by the toppers be it in academics, sports or extra circular activities. Can you recollect some of the more innovative techniques and styles of these people, the constant studies or practice they endured and the numerous distractions they overcame in order to unwaveringly attain their goal? The will is not just any commitment but a steadfast refusal to be distracted by anything be it happy or sorrow filled, challenging and risky and / or routine or experiential.

Look at boxers in a ring and the sheer brutality of the game is a classic example of how the will becomes central to the success of the ultimate winner.  While good technique, stamina, physical fitness, power packed punches etc. are all very vital elements, the winners are able to take a punishment and inflict worse on the opponent and this is made possible by drawing on their determination and will. The sufferings we undergo may not be physically so challenging but mentally and emotionally they can be torturous and we would need to draw upon all our inner strength and self belief to overcome the pain and hurt.

A strong will is quite different from being obstinate. The former is focused and clear and we are convinced we must tread during our journey through life, whereas obstinacy is a more emotional, less rational and possibly a rather radical approach. When we have the will it is a conscious and planned approach that takes into account the upside gains and the downside losses and lets the circumstances determine our commitment. On the other hand when we are obstinate we are committed no matter what the situation. Obstinacy is often triggered by our ego, our perceived but mistaken notion of our invincibility and our itch to prove a point. Many a war is actually played in the mind; we need to acknowledge a problem, we would have to make painful decisions with regards to how to tackle it and there are times when we have to simply step back and withdraw to avoid more humiliation and misery. Then we may live to fight another day and win.

Remember: “So many of our dreams at first seem Impossible, then they seem Improbable, and then when we Summon the Will, they soon become Inevitable. Christopher Reeve

Try this:

  1. Name 3 things that you envy, that is owned by a friend who is of comparable financial status and background as you. Now make a determined will to also acquire it within a determined time frame and be prepared to make sacrifices for it. Experience the joy when you actually acquire it.
  2. For the New Year, make your New Year resolutions list. Ensure that there are at least 3 personal habits or personal changes that you want to make in the coming year. E.g. To be more punctual at work or to spend less time on the internet etc.

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Unconditional acceptance

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding.

If you want to know the secret of a popular person, just observe their interactions and communication style and you will make the profound discovery that they are spontaneous and large hearted. It is in those two qualities that they give themselves completely and freely off and that is what the world wants, appreciates and acknowledges. Most of us for example will give alms to a beggar when he / she approaches us but rarely do we stop to give something more as a planned offering given out of our own free will. True we may spare old clothes and left over food, but those are all from our excess and more with a view to avoid wastage than as a genuine heartfelt offering of love. On the other hand, observe volunteers who work in the social service sector for free; they put their heart and soul in what they do.

In our own life there are ample opportunities for us to share ourselves with those who need us.  Beginning with a smile that costs us nothing but enables us to connect with a everyone, we can express ourselves through our conduct, being polite, attentive, even tempered etc. and in our attitude of being positive, helpful and affectionate. In other cases we offer our services out of a sense of obligation as in the case of a blood donation camp or participating in events to make up the numbers. Here the approach is to be obedient and disciplined and cooperative but the spirit seems to be artificial. On the other hand there are many who take the initiative knowing fully well the responsibilities and the pain that comes with the job.

Notice the people who are always smiling and cheerful and you will see that they do not feel obliged or stressed by anything. This is because they have no expectations nor do they feel constrained to act as a matter of duty. Whatever they do they do so out of their sense of compassion, a feeling of gratefulness and because of their urge to share. There are no rewards except perhaps the joy and contentment that accompanies a spontaneous gesture be it taking the injured to the hospital, spending time with the aged and infirm or holding the hand of someone who is deeply distressed and distraught.  These rewards are priceless and that is why they are rewarded only to a select few who just plunge in and initiate action when the going is tough.

Look back and visualize your favorite uncle/ aunt/ grandparents/ teachers and see a common trait that endeared them to you.  They tried hard to understand you, your needs, your feelings, your fears and your longings. While they may never have been able to really fulfill all your needs, you could sense a feeling of comfort, a glow of happiness and the magic of serenity when they were with you. They may have spoken little, offered you nothing but by their sheer loving presence reviewed your spirits and recharged your life. How did they do it? Simply by being there when you wanted them most; you didn’t ask them to they sensed it; they didn’t lecture you but merely held your hand; they just gave themselves to you unconditionally and presto life was wonderful again.

Remember: “The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Try this:

  1. Volunteer to participate in some social service activity and ensure you stand by your commitment. Choose to share of your talents / your time/ your expertise/ your creativity
  2. Make it a practice to use the power of our senses to give unconditionally to all. Do this in the following manner ( but use discretion please)
  • Sight – Appreciate the grooming / manners/ help/ spontaneous gestures/ the beauty around
  • Smell – Appreciate the aroma of the food/  the perfume/ the fragrance of flowers
  • Touch – Hug a child or a close friend or use it as a gesture of deep sympathy
  • Hearing – give a patient hearing / listen attentively without prejudging
  • Tasting – Criticize with caution / appreciate with warmth all those who feed us

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Fresh start

With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun. Anon

Experience they say is a good teacher, but a large number of us seem to look at experiences as cross to bear, rather than as a personal learning experience, however painful it may have been. With rare exceptions, very few experiences really scar a person beyond repair and that should be a very comforting thought. Yet most mornings when we get up, we begin to recollect the hurtful past and reconcile to a not so happy day. However if we pause to see the cheery bright sun that shines despite the threat of rain when there is a cloudy sky, we realize that it is all in our attitude that makes a day wonderful or otherwise.

Actually the day break provides us a wonderful opportunity to leave the past behind and to make a fresh start all over again.  The past cannot be got back or turned around so there is no point brooding over it or ruing the lost opportunities or the mistakes that were made.  On the other hand we must see the next 24 hours as afresh chance to make up for the past, a new offer to achieve some personal dreams and you should also reward yourself using  this time by relishing  the success of the past. In effect this means that we do not get weighed down by yesterday nor do we get cowed down by the prospects of tomorrow but we grasp and climb up the tree of success today.

The best way to utilize today is to plan, prepare and perform. Without planning, we would not have any outline of how we can effectively utilize the 24 hours at our disposal. A good plan allows us to prioritize and put in order the critical and important tasks and balance it out with the urgent tasks. It also allows for time cushions to take care of emergencies and it effectively values the activity and the time.  Preparation takes care of putting the plan into action by bridging any gaps that may be there. It means that one gets mentally alert; one harnesses the available resources to execute the plans and also attempts to make provisions for contingencies and emergencies. Performance is what sets things rolling. Without performance we only have a skeleton that is well fleshed up but without any life. It is while performing that life is actually lived.

We need to watch out for negative emotions acting as stumbling blocks and derailing our carefully laid plans.  In our exuberance we should not attempt more than what we are capable off and yet not be so conservative as to not realize our full potential. We would need to leverage the past experience without the bitter moments poisoning our thoughts and emotions. We must overcome our personal weakness of being lethargic, lazy, suspicious, fearful and demotivated. We must also be inspired by the clockwork, dispassionate and cheerful way the sun goes about its business no matter what the weatherman says, what nature offers or whatever the world may criticizes it for.

Remember: “Today’s opportunities erase yesterday’s failures.” Gene Brown

Try this:

  1. Do you have a daily plan or to do list. If yes do you update it regularly? If no, start one today.  Ideally also have a yearlong plan and clear targets to achieve. (eg. I started this blog on 1st January 2010 and planned to write a post each day. I have been fairly successful mainly because I had a set target to aim for)
  2. Visit the following link and check out the post on PAST (Poignant Associations Standing Testimony) PRESENT (Prime Resource Emerging Silently Evolving Now Today) and FUTURE (Foresee Unusual Trends Usually Rapidly Emerging)

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Dream big

A person can grow only as much as his horizon allows.  John Powell

If we see some of our major achievements in our lives, we would feel elated at some and a trifle disappointed at others. The ones which we are thrilled about are invariably those in which we have achieved some tremendous success and possibly scaled some dizzy heights. What disappoints us often are achieving relatively lesser success where in our view we set our standards a lot lower and could have excelled far beyond our own accomplishments.

The realization that we did not think beyond our comfort zone and our fear of failure are two critical reasons why we are unable to stretch our imagination and widen our horizons. Moving beyond our comfort zone poses problems because we are not used to thinking big nor are we having the conviction to attempt something different. At best we move the bar a wee bit more and then since we are not convinced ourselves our efforts to attempt it are also feeble and half hearted. Obviously when the crunch time comes we may not achieve the goals set and we reinforce our belief that we should not try too much.  Most times it is fear of failure that is the mill stone that bogs us down. When our focus is to avoid failure rather than achieve a spectacular win, we are completely risk averse. The fear paralyzes us and the word failure conjures images of shame and loss of face. In reality failures should spur us on to prove that we are up to the challenge. Very few of us take this as the trigger to set our eyes on bigger goals and worthwhile challenges.

Lack of a worthwhile motivation can also prove to be a dampener when it comes to seeing beyond the visible horizons. Unless we can see a reason, a reward, honor, glory or the sense of ecstasy at the end of the journey, we would not even attempt anything that we perceive as risky, daunting and cumbersome. Motivation is what acts as the carrot that teasingly dangles ahead and we are keen to grab it even if the challenge is way beyond our capabilities. The vast majority cannot think beyond simply because of sheer laziness and / or they have always operated within a regimented paradigm.  When people prefer to do bare minimum work and operate within their own set routine and parameter, there is very little scope to be adventurous and imaginative. They would dream of spectacular triumphs and ground breaking achievements but would shy away from even visualizing it when awake. They are just satisfied with the routine, the time tested and the limited role they have chosen for themselves.

Remember: Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.  George Bernard Shaw

Try this:

  1. Examine your wardrobe and observe the commonality in the majority of the attire you have; patterns, colors, styles, designs etc. Now consciously attempt to procure 3 items of clothing that are visible to everyone which is completely incongruent with your current style. Wear these clothes and notice the feelings you get, and also pay attention to the comments and observations of others.
  2. In this festive season, think of 1 imaginative gift each for the following people (price not to exceed Rs.500 or USD 10 approx)
  • A retired teacher you loved very much
  • Your favorite aunt/ uncle
  • Your nephew / niece
  • A gift for an inmate of an old age home
  • A gift for your pet (dog/ cat)
  • A surprise gift that can be won by any one from your friends circle based on a lucky draw

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The company you keep

A man is known by the company he keeps. Anon

Just look around and see how we pass judgment on people around without ever knowing them. In most cases we base it on their mere appearance and personality and unconsciously we also give a lot of credence to the type of people with whom they are seen moving around and interacting extensively.  In effect, our perceptions about people are largely dependent on physical appearance and physical company that one keeps. While it is quite possible that we may be wrong in our initial assessment and discover that the individual is made up of much more than just the outward appearance our initial assessment ahs a large bearing on how we interact with the person later on.

In the 70’s for example, anyone with long hair and flowery clothes was broadly described as a hippy and anyone who associated with these people was perceived to be cool by their peers but viewed with disdain by the society at large. Today the same people following similar trends are either cool or geeks and seen as a breed apart who merely march to a different drummer. Funnily enough most people would think that geeks and cool techno savvy people are brilliant but at the same time they wouldn’t really want their own children or siblings to be influenced by these geeks. They would rather that have their kids and siblings follow the straight and narrow path that is the family tradition or the societal norm. It is human nature to rebel against norms and confines and it is also human nature to view rebels as social pariah’s who are forever stretching the boundaries of convention and customs. Obviously anyone who is seen as associating with such a crowd is inviting trouble and the wrath of the majority who view them with disdain.

In most formal settings there is a social hierarchy and pecking order that is determined by the social status of the people around. There are no fixed norms or clear cut boundaries but by and large the social order is based on financial muscle, perceived social standing and power play. There are of course some incongruent elements who are thick skinned and shameless enough to ignore the social rules and by stealth or cunning attempt to be seen in the company of those on the highest pecking order. The hangers on around politicians or the entourage that accompany film stars and high flying business men are ample evidence of the crazy to be seen in the right company. They thrive on portraying themselves as close to the seat of power for the general perception is that those seen with the high and mighty are influential, powerful and useful.

There are two outstanding examples of how each of us is deeply influenced and is easily influenced by the need to be seen with the right company. The craze of people to be seen with celebrities who will never ever know them or recognize them again is not just a fad but an expression of our urge to be seen with the extraordinary. Sportsmen, actors and writers are among the most sought after celebrities. The second example pertains to the new age social networking trend where a look at our friends list reveals a lot about ourselves and the company we prefer. Our preferences for certain blogs of celebrities and following the posts of celebrities/ high flying  individuals on twitter etc. are also pointers to our need to cozy up to power, status and social visibility.

Remember: Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. Mark Twain

Try this:

  1. List out 3 individuals who are still alive who you would like to meet in person if the opportunity arises. Now note down the reasons you want to meet these people and the line of interaction you would ideally have with them.
  2. Make a list of the types of people you will never associate with. Now make a list of people who you would love to associate with. Now check and jot down at least 3 things you love about your current friends and at least one irritant in them.

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Being the best

Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you. John F. Kennedy

Life is a series of races from cradle to grave; beginning from cradle to school, from school to college, from college to job, job to family and the list goes on. At times we seem to be running a couple of races simultaneously. What is common to this whole business of races is that the races seem to put us under pressure most times and we are not too sure why that happens. Worse is the uncomfortable feeling that we haven’t done our best and that we should have done even better. If we end up evaluating our lives, most times we have a sense of regret and the ire is directed inwards at ourselves because in our view we never lived up to our own abilities.

The major reason for out troubles is that the vast majority of us are too modest and fail to really appreciate our own potential and abilities.  You can do a self check to know our own response when we are praised for any thing. E.g. If someone compliments you on your new hairstyle or new dress , how do you react to it will be symptomatic of our attitudes and beliefs about our self. While modesty by itself is a virtue, it is when we let modesty overwhelm us that it becomes a millstone. Then we always tend to undervalue our self and convince ourselves that we have limited ability and limited success probability. In effect we are not aiming for gold but in most cases just hoping to breast the tape. When we run a race with that mindset invariably the outcome would be just about what we aim for.

Quite a number of us shy away from competition and hard work and as a result, we try to believe that coming in second or lower is still a great achievement. It is said that when the going gets tough the tough get going; alas many of us wear T –shirts proclaiming this but in real we are a disgrace to such T-shirts. For those who do not have the competitive spirit or those who never really faced stiff competition, a real competition makes us nervous and scared. More problematic is the thought that when there is competition we need to work that much more harder and that takes time and effort. As a result we compromise and satisfy ourselves that participation is more important than the real victory. To test this hypothesis look back at the quality of project work you did in school/ college or a competitions in which u were forced to participate. More often than not, we just did enough to show that we too participated and got some marks.

We win when we set our sights on it and passionately work to win. Look back at the times when you were shamed into improving your grades, asked to play in the starting lineup despite warming the benches for a few seasons or became  a hero when you participated and won  after competing and beating stiff competition and your own apprehensions. On hindsight you will realize that three factors contributed to your victory; your self belief, your hard work and preparation and your focus on winning.

Remember: “Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.” Arthur Ashe

Try this:

  1. Never accept a position of responsibility without first knowing what is expected of you. Once you have accepted that office, it is incumbent on you to discharge your duties diligently no matter what the odds are against you.  Also ask yourself if you have refused responsibility. Examine the reasons for it? Work out a plan to overcome your limitations and to take on that responsibility in future.
  2. You are good player but you are aware that you have been appointed captain of the team because of your excellent academic performance. You feel that your teammates will resent your appointment. How will you tackle the problem? How will you convince yourself that you deserve to be the captain? How will you get the other team members to respect you as captain?

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