Monday, September 30, 2013

15. How to Connect with People?

How to connect with people? To find an answer to this question, think of how you got connected with people who are close to you now. 

You are likely to find that in many cases, you were brought together in an emotional moment. It could have been a time when either or both of you were experiencing a grief, disappointment, frustration, astonishment, excitement or ecstasy. When one was experiencing a difficult emotion, the other reached out to them or the both together were sharing a moment of excitement or ecstasy.

Can you take a cue from the past? If you want to connect with someone, just find out how you can touch the other person emotionally. Understand what their feelings are there and find a way to empathize with them. You will then find yourself connected to the other person without even making an effort.

This idea is not confined only to personal relationships but to professional relationships as well. A boss who understands empathizes with the problems of his subordinates will be able to connect to them, even if he couldn't solve their problems.

Even parents can connect with their children only when they understand what the children want and feel. Many problems parents face with their children can be overcome if they try to themselves with the feelings of their children and let the children know that their parents understand them even if there were to be differences in thinking.

People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies. -    Blair Warren

Sunday, September 29, 2013

14. When Can You Be Sure of Being Right?

Sometimes, you wonder whether you are right. This happens especially during the times that you have to take a decision. Is there a reliable indicator to show that you are right?

'Being right' can be used in 2 senses, being right about a fact, as when you are answering a quiz or being right 'in tune with your values, likes and expectations,' as when you buy an article, join a course, choose a life partner etc. 

Let us consider the second situation. It's the one for which there will be no answer key to check with. You will know what you have done is right only much later, when you experience the consequence of your decision.

A simple rule to follow is to observe the state of your mind. Is your mind calm when you take a decision? Then, your decision is likely to be correct. If you are euphoric, disturbed, worried, agitated, grieving or depressed, avoid taking a decision. Even if there is a time pressure, postpone the decision to the extent possible.

The mind is never right but when it is at peace with itself.  - Seneca

Saturday, September 28, 2013

13. Should you wait for the next opportunity?

The dilemma faced by many of us in life is to decide whether to grab the opportunity on hand or allow it to pass by hoping for a better opportunity to present itself soon enough. Either way, we may go wrong!

There is a risk of having accepted an option when we could have got a more attractive option if we had waited for a while. The other risk is having let an opportunity go only to discover later that another good opportunity is hard to find.

Unfortunately, there can be no foolproof strategy for this kind of a situation. The best option is to be clear about what you want, set a minimum acceptable standard and accept something that meets this standard. 

We should not be upset if something better comes in our way after we have made a choice. There is always scope to improve upon what we have and even switch over to some other option if necessary. 

But we can't be jumping from one to another. The optimum strategy is to work with what you have chosen. After some time, if we conclude that the opportunity you have chosen does not have enough scope, we can think of switching over to a more promising one at an appropriate time.

In general, people who take a decision and stick to it are likely to be successful in the long run than those who are fickle minded, living in constant doubt of whether what they have made the right choice.

Making choices is only the first step. Success has a lot to do with how we work on what we have chosen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

12. Making a choice - A Difficult Task

Life is about making choices. And life is difficult because making choices is difficult. The problem with choices is that as you choose one, you forego some other(s). It's the pain of losing something that makes it difficult for people to choose. The pain intensifies from the possibility that what we forego may turn out to be more valuable than what we choose!

People take a lot of time to decide. And even when they decide, they are not sure of themselves. And often they're not happy about having made a choice. They are tormented by the fear of having made a wrong choice. And if the fear comes true, they curse themselves. 'I should have chosen the other one. That's what I preferred first. But somehow I got confused and chosen the wrong one!'

Well friends, let's face some facts.

1) Life is about making choices. We can't avoid choosing one over the other. If you are buying a set of dress, you can buy many sets, if you have the money. But there will still be a large number of  dresses you have to leave behind in the shop. So is the case with other things you own. If you are extremely wealthy, you can buy a number of houses. But there will be innumerable other houses you can't own. Even among the houses you own, you can live only in one! So, accept the reality of having to make choices which means foregoing a large number of choices.

2) In choosing something, you should be guided by your objectives. If you go to a restaurant, you choose the food you like. Sometimes, you may experiment with some foods . But this is also a process of deciding the things you like. If you are clear about your objective and you get a good opportunity, grab it. There is a possibility of better opportunities emerging if you wait. But there is no point in waiting when you have got something good enough.

3) After making a choice, don't  regret. If you have chosen to be a lawyer, don't think that you should have become an engineer. Focus on what you have chosen and pour your heart into getting the best out of your choice.

4) Most importantly, learn to enjoy what you are doing. This will happen only if you accept your choice to be good and decide to get the best out of your choice.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

11. Are you waiting for the next opportunity?

You are standing in a bus stop waiting for the bus. A bus arrives. It is on the route to your destination. But you find that the bus is a little crowded. You can get in alright but you have to travel standing. May be after a couple of stops, you will get a seat or you may not. 

You allow this bus to pass by and wait for the next bus. Another bus arrives in a few minutes. It's less crowded than the previous one but you still can't get a seat. You decide to wait for the next one. The next bus has empty seats but looks old. You feel the journey may not be comfortable. So, you decide to wait for the next bus.

The next bus is overcrowded. You wish you had taken the first bus, the one that came after that or the one that came after that... But you have allowed them to pass by and there is no way you can board those buses. 

Now, you can either board this bus or wait for then next one. But there is a danger of the waiting become longer and your missing the deadline to reach your destination. You may end up frustrated cursing yourself for having missed the buses, a decision, which in retrospect appear to be acceptable choices!

All of us undergo a similar experience in life. We get opportunities and we let them pass by hoping that a better opportunity will present itself soon enough. But after a while we find either we don't get another good opportunity at all or that the ones we get are less attractive than the ones we chose to give a miss.

On the other hand, you grab an early opportunity only to realize that if you had waited a little longer, you would have got a better opportunity.

The opportunity may relate to many things about life from the trivial to the most important. It may range from buying clothes to buying a house, from choosing a menu in a restaurant to choosing a career, dating to deciding on your marriage and so on.

So, what is the right thing to do? Should you jump at the first opportunity or wait for a better one?

You will have to wait for my next post to find an answer but don't take this as a clue that I'm going to recommend waiting over jumping!.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

10. Do you expect others to be honest with you?

Do you expect others to be honest with you?

You may think, the answers is obviously 'yes.'

I am not going to counter you with a question, "Are you honest with others?" I assume that you are. as otherwise, you ( a fair-minded person) may not be expecting honesty from others.

Well, your experience might have been that some people have been honest with you and some others are not. You are upset with those who are not. This is because you feel that you think you have a right to expect honesty from others since you have been honest with them.

But are you right about your expectation?

Let us consider an analogy. You would have received gifts from many people at different times. There are occasions when we receive gifts from others. And we are happy about receiving these gifts. Not that we need them. But in a way we expect them on certain occasions. But will you expect an expensive gift from everyone? We know that everyone can't give an expensive gift. There are people who are not economically so well placed. Such people may not be able to give us expensive gifts and we don't expect expensive gifts from these people.

Being economically weak is not a sin. Mostly, a person's economic status is decided by many factors not in the control of that person.

But there are people who are morally poor, even morally bankrupt. You may not even know that they are morally poor unless you have had dealings with them. You come to know of this only when you find that they were not honest you.

It is only natural that you expect everyone to be good, everyone to be honest, everyone to be kind and hopeful. But when you find that the results are different from your expectations, don't feel upset. Just remember this:

Honesty is an expensive gift. Don't expect it from cheap people!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

9. Can you infuence others through your thoughts?

Can you influence others through your thoughts?  I can't give you a definite answer to this. But if you can reword this question, I may be able to provide you an answer. Let's see how.

Do your thoughts influence others' behavior? The answers is a definite yes. I may not be able to prove this. But you can get a lot of empirical evidence.

You can test this easily. Approach someone with whom you interact everyday. He or she can be someone related to your work, family or social circle. Ask that person to do something. It may be as simple as giving you some information or doing you a small favor. It can even be a part of the other person's duty. Before approaching that person, spend a minute thinking about that person. Generate some positive thoughts about the person like how helpful and understanding that person is. Observe the response. You will find that in most of the cases, the response from the other person will be positive and encouraging.

Try the same experiment with another set of people. Now think something bad about that person like how unhelpful and unreasonable that person is. You will find that in a majority of the cases, you will find the responses to be unhelpful and even hostile.

But I would suggest that you do only the first and not the second. Develop positive thoughts about the people you deal with. Just observe in how many cases you get a positive response. You will find the experience not only encouraging but also exciting.

The more and more you do this consciously, the greater and greater will be the results you get. What more, after some time, you don't have to do this consciously. This attitude will become your second nature!

Monday, September 23, 2013

8. How Do You Build Your Life?

My last post was on the best gift you can give for yourself. While writing this, I was reminded about a 'gift incident.'

I once read a story of a builder who was working for a businessman. The businessman built houses and sold them to people. The builder was the one who had the responsibility of building houses. The builder earned a salary while his employer earned the profit. 

After working for the businessman for many years, the builder wanted to retire. His employer asked him to build one more house and then retire. The builder was not happy about this but he had no choice except to accept his employer's command. 

He took up the task but since his mind was on retirement, he didn't focus on doing a good job of building as he had been all along. The house was completed but it turned out to be a shoddy piece of job with poor workmanship.

The employer inspected the house and gave the key of the house to the builder saying, "This is my gift to you for serving me all these years."

The builder was shocked. Had he known that he was building the house for himself, he would have made it a masterpiece. But now, he had to accept a shoddy piece of building as a gift!

Think of the way you live your life. Everyday you live, everything you do is a step in the process of building your life. 

Some time in the future, you will get a call to take possession of what you have built over the years. If you have built your life diligently, taking care of even the little things, you will inherit for yourself a precious legacy. 

If you have been living a life cheating yourself by way of procrastinating, avoiding and half-hearted functioning, you will find yourself burdened with a gift that you can't be very happy about possessing.

The choice is yours!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

7. The Best Gift You can Give Yourself

Yesterday, I shared my thoughts about procrastination.

How do we justify our procrastination?

By giving some reasons for not doing what we have to do, of course.

Did I say 'reasons?'

I should have been a little more honest in answering this question!

It is not 'reasons' but 'excuses!'

What's the difference between the two?

Well, given that my excuses have been so perfect, I may not be able to identify the difference!

A simple distinction can be that reasons are things you are unable to control and excuses are things which you can control to a great extent. 

In fact, excuses are mostly created by your subconscious mind, to be passed off as reasons for your inaction. 

To give you an example, if you were knocked off  by a speeding vehicle when you were taking a morning walk and confined to a hospital bed,you have a reason for not doing things. 

On the other hand, if you discover you have severe headache and get yourself laid on a bed and spend your time watching the TV and sipping cups and cups of coffee, then it's an excuse. 

Headaches are not always self-created. But headache is something your mind can easily create when you are looking for a 'good' reason for avoiding doing something.

It's up to you to analyze your reason and decide whether it is a real reason or a convenient excuse. All of us are too familiar with such situations and any attempt by me to expatiate on this will be superfluous.

But then, I am supposed to talk about a gift. Don't worry. I am not digressing. I'll straightaway mention what the best gift you can give to yourself.

The best gift you can give yourself is freeing yourself of excuses! 

Don't allow excuses to dictate your actions.

Every time you catch yourself using an excuse, convert the opportunity into giving yourself a gift. 

If you can follow this simple practice, even within a few days, you will discover how valuable these gifts have been to you.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

6. Do You Have the Time?

We all procrastinate. And we always justify our procrastination. After all, we are going to do it tomorrow, aren't we? Just wait till tomorrow comes. And what if we don't do it tomorrow? There's always another tomorrow!

Why do we procrastinate? There can be many reasons. But the most important reason is that we are certain that we have a tomorrow. But how sure can you be of this?

There is a story in the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic. This is a story of five brothers. The eldest Yudhishtra is known for his moral rectitude and scrupulousness. One day, a poor man approaches Yudhishtira for some financial help. Yudhishtira asks him to come the next day. Yudhishtira's younger brother Bhima tells his other brothers, "I have news for you, brothers! Our elder brother has conquered death!"

A perplexed Yudhishtira asks Bhima, "What do you mean, Bhima?"

Bhima says, "You asked this person to come tomorrow. That means you are sure that nothing will happen to you today and that you will be alive tomorrow. Does it not mean that you have conquered death?"

A chastened Yudhishtira calls back the person sent away by him and gives him the help immediately.

So, don't be too sure of tomorrow. You don't have to think of death. But you should be wary of obstacles that may present themselves tomorrow. If you are unable or uninclined to do a thing today, how can you assume that tomorrow you will be able to do it!

Procrastination is based on a misconception that conditions will change for the better in future. They may not. They may even change for the worse. So, don't postpone anything you need to do, unless you have a good reason for doing so. And the reasons you conjure up are not likely to be sound!

Friday, September 20, 2013

5. What If You Don't Get What You Want?

One of the biggest problems many of us face in life is the inability to cope with the disappointment of not getting what we want.

I thought I will share a beautiful quote I came across today.

We never get what we want,
We never want what we get,
We never have what we like,
We never like what we have.
And still we live & love.
That's life...
Do I need to add more? I think not.
Live with this thought today!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

4. Tough Things First

It is natural for children to become difficult when its mother or some one else makes it eat something. Many a child will stubbornly refuse to take anything that's good for its health! 

I know a clever grandmother who followed an interesting strategy for making the child eat its lunch or dinner. When the child refused to eat, she would say, "Let's divide this food into two parts. Keep the part you don't like this side and the part you like on the other side." Enjoying this diversion, the child would do accordingly. After talking to the child about something else and deviating its attention for a while, the granny would say, "Quickly eat what you don't like first. Then you can enjoy the other part of the food which you like." The child would accept her suggestion and end up emptying the whole plate.

There can be two questions here:
1) How did the child agree to eat the part of food it had labelled  'don't like?'  The answer is simple. The child doesn't follow complicated instructions, but follows simple suggestions, especially when the child is given a suggestion and not a command.

2) How did I know this story? Again the answer is very simple. It was my own granny. And the child that was tricked into eating was myself! (Of course, I realized the trick played on me only several years later after developing the facility to reminisce!)

Thinking about this after I grew up, I had admired the way my granny had been taking me for a ride! I then realized that I can apply this trick in my day to day life. On any given day, we have several things to do. Some of these tasks are interesting and enjoyable and some others are not so enjoyable. 

Most of the time, people, in general, will do the easy and simple part of their plan and leave things at that stage. The consequence of this 'strategy' will be: important things are neglected while simple, convenient and interesting (and often useless and unproductive) things are done. This practice will ensure that we don't make much progress in our lives.

So, what if you can persuade yourself to do the tough and uninteresting but important task that you detest first and the enjoyable task next. With the burden of difficult task getting over, you will find doing what you like to do, even more enjoyable.

Today, I had such a situation. I had to complete two books, one an interesting novel and the other a book relating to my profession. I had to return both the books before the end of the day. I started the day with the novel but persuaded myself that I should first finish reading the other book. 

I put down the novel and forced myself to read the educational book. With the motive of completing the novel driving me from behind, I was able to read the technical book faster without losing comprehension. 

I finished it well in time affording me the time to complete the novel. My mind was free as I read the novel and I enjoyed myself much more than I would have if the need for reading the other book had been pressing me from the background. 

There is no doubt that the pleasure you get from doing something you enjoy after finishing a pressing task will be highly enhanced.

Try this today. Develop the habit of dividing any task, big or small, into two parts - one simple, easy and interesting and the other dull, uninteresting, tedious and time-consuming. Start working on the second part of the task first. Once you complete the second part, you will find doing the other part easy and interesting

So, for today, remember
1) Do the difficult part of any job first; doing the easy part will be child's pay!

2) If you have to do two or more things, do the thing(s) that you find dull first. The enjoyment you will get doing the things you like to do will be something extraordinary.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

3. A Painful Duty!

What is the most difficult thing to do in life?

If you pose this question to different people, you will get a variety of answers.

People do many things. The activities people take up are myriad, ranging from the simplest to the most complex. Can we say the most complex activity is the one that is most difficult to do? Perhaps, we can.

But I want to approach this question from a different angle.

Try this experiment.

As you walk on the roads, as you travel in a train, bus, plane or any other mass transport vehicle, as you walk through a crowded shopping mall, as you enter a cinema hall or a concert hall or as you engage in any activity in public, just glance at the faces of people around you. Find out how many people have a happy expression on their faces.

If you find that a vast majority of people put up a gloomy look even when they are in a place for entertainment and enjoyment, don't be surprised.

From this, can we get an answer to the question I posed at the beginning?

The most difficult thing to do in life is to be happy! So it seems, judging by the mood of the people we come across at different places and different times.

If you want a confirmation for the predominant mood, just listen to the conversations. You will find that most of the conversations, whether between friends or between strangers, revolve around problems. The problems may be petty or serious, but it is the problems that dominates conversations.

The reality is that the easiest thing to do is to be happy. All you need to do is to decide to be happy and force a smile on your face, in pursuit of your intention.

There is no duty so much underated as the duty of being happy  

                                                                                      - R.L.Stevenson                                                                                                            

Remember to do your duty of being happy today as many times as you can remember the above words of the great writer Stevenson and see for yourself how you feel at the end of the day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2. Will little drops make an ocean?

Will little drops make an ocean?

The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because an ocean is made of many small drops. No, because building up an ocean with water drops is like adding small numbers like 1 to make infinity.

But the fact remains that an ocean comes into being only by accumulation of water and not at one stroke.

Creating an ocean is a monumental task. The task may look formidable and even impossible.

If you are asked to create an ocean, you may feel overwhelmed by the enormousness of the task and may decide to give up even without trying.

But if you start working on the task with whatever quantity of water you can accumulate at the beginning, you will soon find the ocean beginning to develop into its full form.

Do all these sound too simple?

Yes, the idea is very simple. But the question is: Will you implement the idea?

It is human nature to neglect simple things and be daunted by complicated things.

Think of a difficult task you have been procrastinating on. Find out the real reason behind the procrastination.

If you realize that the procrastination is because you find the task too difficult, break the task into a number of smaller tasks. Do just one small task immediately. Resolve to continue doing this till the task is finished.

Recall the well known saying of Confucius:

A journey of thousand miles starts with a single step!

Decide what the single (first) step is going to be.

Monday, September 16, 2013

1. Do you Need Motivation?

Do you need motivation?

I do.

And I think everyone does.

We get our motivation from various sources at various times. But will it not be great if you can start a day with a motivational message? Such a message will inspire you, enthuse you and energize you as a cup of morning coffee does.

I have started this blog on my birthday 16th September 2013 as a gift to myself. I will be elated if this serves as a gift for some other people also. From today, I will start my day with a motivational message. Some messages can be very strong and powerful and some may not be. The effect will depend both on the message and on the receipient. If you are in good spirits, even a mild message will enthuse you to a great extent. If you are in a depressed mood, you will need something earth-shaking to pull you out of your state and spur you into action.

I am committing myself to post one message of motivation to this blog everyday as long as I live. So, if you don't find my message on a particular day, you are entitled to presume me dead! But I am also entitled to surface after a day or two with an apology and an explanation for the missing posts! But I think it (my missing a post) will not happen. This is a test for me.

I will have a very brief message for today. And this being the first message, I will start with a prayer (I mean a message about prayer!) Why do we pray? Won't God do what is to be done, if we don't pray? Here is a simple answer to this question.

A Prayer doesn't change God's Attitude. It changes the One who prays!

Remember this when you pray today!

Note: The daily blog post will appear before 6.00 a.m. Indian time (GMT + 5.5 hours) everyday.