Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where Do You Go From Failure?

If you fail once, you expect to succeed the second time. If you fail the second time too, then you will try for the third time. You may try the 4th time, 5th time etc. But what will be your state of mind at every successive attempt? If you are like most people, you will find your level of enthusiasm falling at every successive attempt. This is only natural but not healthy and definitely not helpful.

What makes your enthusiasm fade with every successive attempt is the memory of the past failures, which generates the fear about a repeat experience. When you set out to do a thing with this state of mind, the chances of your failing increase. One more failure will only reinforce your fear of failure and with every successive attempt, your chance of success dwindles.

But it should be the other way about, shouldn't be. After all, the more experience you have, the better should be your ability and skill. In fact, your ability and skill would have definitely improved with every successive attempt. But this improvement is overshadowed and overpowered by the fear that has grown even stronger than your skill and ability have.

So how do you overcome this? Check out my next post!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fear makes you lose

Do you like to be a winner in the game of life? Of course, you do. But do you know how your fears keep you away from achieving your goals?

Let us take someone who is afraid of darkness. What will he do? He will avoid darkness and will always keep himself surrounded by life. So, what does he lose? He may feel that he is safe keeping himself in a surrounding of life. But he cannot know what light can do.

If you are in a dark room and switch on a torch light, won't you see a magic? The spectre of the beam of light piercing through darkness and revealing things is a delight to watch. But the man who keeps himself away from darkness can never experience this delight.

Those who fear darkness have no idea what the light can do!
If you have the fear of flying, you will miss the joy of flying in an aircraft. There are poor people who can't afford to board a flight. They are to be pitied. But the people to be even more pitied are the wealthy people who have the resources to travel by air to any place in the world any number of times but won't because their fear of flying keeps them grounded permanently!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Drive your fears away!

Everyone has some fears.  Some manage to not show their fears. They will clearly avoid what they fear thinking that others will not find out the real reason for avoiding the things thy fear. Fear is a common feeling. We have all felt insecure at least a few times during the time of our growth. A child will feel insecure if it can't find its mother for a while after it has realized that it has been taken care of by its mother. So, the seeds of fear have been sown in our minds even during our childhood and the seeds have sprouted and grown into plants and trees.

The only way to come out of our fears is to get ourselves rid of them. And, how do we do this? Just by doing the things we fear. If someone is afraid of swimming, his coach will just push him into the water. After the initial shock, the person will realize that being in water is not such a dreadful thing to do. He may not overcome the fear immediately but after a few trials, he will overcome his fear of swimming and emerge confident. the same thing can be said about riding a bicycle or a car.

So, do the thing you fear to do and the fear will become weak. Do it a few times and the fear will go away never to come back. You have nothing to lose but your fears!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do You Feel Bad About Wasting Your Time?

Almost all of us waste time. (The word almost is my concession to the ideal people!). And it is only natural that we feel bad about wasting our time. Though we know that gloating over time wasted will only result in wasting more time, we can't help doing it. So, it is not abnormal or unhealthy to feel bad about your having wasted some of your time.

But you should learn to differentiate between the time you have wasted and the time you have spent enjoying yourself. Enjoying yourself through recreation, entertainment or even idle chat can be really good for you. Such diversions will rejuvenate you and help you work with m,ore enthusiasm and energy and hence efficiency.

Even if you had a lot of important thing to do but took some time off to amuse yourself, it is not wasting time. Understand the difference between planned and deliberate ways of spending time doing apparently trivial and unproductive things and allowing time to slip away through your fingers due to laziness, inaction, reluctance and half-hearted efforts.

"Time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted!'

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How Life Teaches Lessons to Us

How often do we hear people talk about learning a lesson or teaching a lesson? Sometimes, when we go through a bitter experience we say, 'I've learnt a lesson,' or 'this is a lesson to me.' What we mean is that we have realized that we will have to change our behavior if a similar experience were to occur in future. At that time, we will act differently, respond differently or do things differently so that we get better results. At least, we don't like to taste the bitterness again.

On some other occasions, we say, 'I will teach him a lesson.' This is often said in anger, resentment or frustration. We feel that the other person has not been fair to us or has not behaved appropriately with us. We want him  (her) to mend his (her) ways. Since we don't expect the other person to correct himself (herself) on his (her) own, we want to play the role of a teacher - not the role of a conventional teacher! We want the other person to experience some pain that will motivate him (her) to change his (her) ways.

Whether we learn a lesson or make another person learn a lesson, there is a process involved. What is that process? We go through some experience and based on the results we get, we learn something. We realize we have to change the way we think, speak or act. In a conventional educational system like the one we have in the schools, we are taught a lesson and then we are asked to write a test.

But life works differently, almost in the opposite way. It first makes us take a test (go through an experience) and then makes us learn something from it.

Life is a different kind of teacher. It first puts us to test and then makes us learn the lesson.

Observe yourself closely. Observe your thoughts, feelings and actions. Think why we do certain things in  certain ways. At the end of the day, recall the lessons you have learnt today.

This process will not only help you identify the specific lessons you learn from your experiences but will also make you put the lessons into practice.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Do Problems Get Solved By Themselves?

How should we deal with problems?

There are typically three ways in which people respond to problems.

Run Away
Do Nothing

Confronting a problem means facing it boldly and doing something to overcome it. This obviously is the most effective way to deal with a problem. But what if your efforts are not successful and you are unable to overcome the problem. Then you just have to accept the result. You will have to suffer the consequences created by the problem. But you will have the satisfaction of doing your best to overcome it. You will also have learnt some lessons which you will be able to use the next time you face a similar situation.

Running away from a problem may appear to be the most convenient option. Most of the people will like to choose this. But there are two difficulties. You may not be able to run away. You find your job to be tough and want to quit but you may not be able to do it because you need the job to make a living and you know that getting another job will be difficult. The second difficulty is that running away from a problem may not keep you away from it always. You may have to face the same problem, probably in a more difficult form sooner or later. People procrastinate to avoid doing things only to find that they have to do what they have been avoiding all along and to realize that doing it earlier would have been much easier.

Doing nothing is a corollary of the first two options. Sometimes, the only way you can deal with a problem is to do nothing about it. Put it in the back burner. This option is similar to the first one in that doing nothing is also a way of confronting it! what will you do if someone points a gun at you? Dodging it will be foolish. Overpowering the adversary a la a film hero will be stupid. The only option is to do nothing and hope that the gunman doesn't fire the gun!

This option is different from the second option in that you are not avoiding or running away from the problem but you are just being realistic. The important thing is that you should know that you are not acting because you have a reason not because it is a convenient to not do anything!.

Sometimes, when you do nothing about a problem, the problem gets solved miraculously.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Towards or Away?

If what you are doing is not moving you towards your goals, then it is moving you away from your goals.                -  Brian Tracy
Do you agree with the above statement? You may not. You may say that not moving towards your goal may just mean that you are not moving at all. You need not necessarily be moving away from the goal.

But it does not happen that way. Either you are moving in one direction or in some other direction. In real life, you may not be standing where you are. In another post I have referred to a concept that you need to keep moving if you want to remain where you are. So, if you are not moving forward, you are most probably moving backwards. At least in a relative sense.

Let me elaborate. Have you not met some people after a gap of time and found that they have moved up much higher economically, socially or in some other way? Have you not been surprised by this, even while wondering why you have not been able to move up. This means that you have moved down relatively.

I am not suggesting that you should compare yourself with others. This will be a futile, endless and more importantly, a depressing exercise. I just gave an example to show that if you have not moved up when everything around you has moved up, you have, in fact, gone down. This can happen not only in terms of financial or social status but also in terms of your status as an individual. 

For example, if you are a professional but fail to keep updated on the new developments in your field, you will become less valuable as a professional, even if you manage to advance financially and socially. However,  if you don’t have a goal of getting updated on the developments in your field, it’s fine.

But if you have a goal and if you are not progressing towards it, you are allowing yourself to be pulled down, without your even being aware of it! Bear this in mind. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beware of the company you keep

There is an old  saying "Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you what kind of a person you are." This may sound old fashioned in today’s context but there is no gainsaying the fact that there’s a grain of truth in this dictum We are affected by the company we keep, directly or indirectly, sometimes in unexpected ways.

The vine that has grown old on an old tree falls with the ruin of that tree and through that bad companionship must perish with it. 
  - Leonardo da Vinci, painter, engineer, musician, and scientist (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vinci’s quote may appear applicable only if we are dependent on others. But remote connections can also cause us problems. There are numerable examples of people close to political leaders or businessmen enjoying the benefits of their intimacy for a period but getting into trouble with law enforcing agencies or tax authorities when the politicians or business people get into some problem.

The idea is not to suggest that we should be choosy in selecting our acquaintances. This may not be possible. But we should be aware  of the possible consequences of our acquaintances and be prepared, at least mentally to face problems when the going gets tough for our acquaintances. We should also learn to keep appropriate distances from different people.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dealing with Self Doubt

Whenever you set to do something (big or small), do you sometimes hear a voice from within you doubting the correctness of your action? If your answer is no, it means either you are not being truthful or you have some psychological abnormality. If your answer is yes, then you are in good company, sharing the experience of all normal, thinking human beings including geniuses and people with an extraordinary sense of determination. The reality is that there is (was) not a single person on earth who has (had) not experienced doubt when pursuing a particular course. In fact, language has even glorified this trait by coining the phrase ‘healthy skepticism!’ to refer to self-doubt (as also to doubts about ideas coming from outside)

As thinking creatures, human beings have embodied within us a little critic whose only job is to be skeptical about every thought that strikes the mind either from within or from without. People who either ignore this little genie or put him (her) to sleep often act gullible and end up losing something precious. So, next time when you hear your little genius interrupting your thought process with an ‘I object’ response, like a lawyer putting up a dramatic performance in a court, don’t be put out or get irritated. . 

It is in your powers to convert your self doubt into a conversation you will have with a well wishing friend of yours about something you seek to do. While your friend will point to the weaknesses, pitfalls and the risks in the path being chosen by you, you will come out with answers clarifying your friend’s doubts. In the end, either you will have convinced your friend or will have changed your mind, seeing the reason behind your friend’s arguments.

The best way to deal with your self doubt is to take note of it, examine it and convince yourself about the rightness of what you plan to do.Give a minute to examine the doubt. Consider what the basis of the objection is. If it is  habitual cynicism, dismiss it. If it has some substance, examine it on its merits. If you are not able to find the right answers to the questions raised by the Doubting Thomas in you, then the wise thing is to change your decision. 

If you can train yourself doing this, you will find self doubt not a hindrance but a valuable tool in decision making. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Freebies Galore!

Everything that's really worthwhile in life comes to us free - Our Minds, Our Souls, Our Bodies, Our Hopes, Our Dreams, Our Intelligence, Our Love of Family, Friends and Country. All of these priceless possessions are Free   - Earl Nightingale

Do you agree with the quote given above?

I don't.

I think the list is too short. Everyday, from morning to night we get several freebies like a smile from a stranger, a compliment that lifted your spirits up, a whiff of fresh air that made you feel instantly refreshed, an unexpected  help from an unexpected source, a problem that resolved itself and so on.

Take some time to recall the freebies you received today and feel good about them. Thank God, if you are a believer. If you are not, just relish the gifts you received.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Things to do


Today, I would like to share with you a simple poem by Mary Anne.

     Walk to the edge.
     Listen hard. 

     Play with abandon.
     Practice wellness.
     Continue to learn.
     Choose with no regret.
     Appreciate your friends.
     Lead or follow a leader.
     Do what you love.

Just check how many of these you are doing on a regular basis, or often, or at least now and then? Obviously, the more of these things you do, the more productive, the more successful and the happier will you be.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Power of Habits

Our life is molded by our habits. If you think that this is a sweeping statement, do a small exercise. At the end of a normal day, write down the things you did, from the morning to the evening. You will be surprised to discover that a vast majority of your actions have resulted from habits. Habits influence the way we think, speak, act, smile, cry, respond, react, show our emotions, plan, succeed, fail, innovate and so on. Some of the terms like succeed, fail and innovative might have surprised you. It's a fact that we achieve success by doing things in a particular way and we also fail by doing things in a certain way. Even creativity follows a habit. Have you not heard some famous writers and artists proclaiming (rather proudly!) that they get ideas when they have a shower, when they walk on a particular path or sit down at a particular place at a particular time!

Habits can be good or bad depending on what habits we have. And the good news is we can choose our habits. First, identify the undesirable habits you have. By undesirable habits I don't mean just smoking or drinking which can ruin your physical and mental health. I am also referring to the way we act in a particular situation, the way we spend our time, the way we do our work etc. By curtailing wasteful habits like watching TV, playing video games, chatting over the mobile phone or through the internet etc, we can save a considerable amount of time which we can use in a fruitful way. By consciously overcoming tendencies like procrastinating, doing things in a hurry etc, we can improve our efficiency and effectiveness.

Identifying negative habits and taking steps to free ourselves from them and developing powerful habits should be an ongoing exercise. Habits die hard. So, it takes time both to cultivate a good habit and to get rid of a bad habit. On the other hand, bad habits get entrenched in our lives very easily without our even realizing the fact. The more sustained we are in making habits work for us, the simpler will become the process as time goes by.

So, start the effort today.
1) Identify one bad habit and resolve to come out of it within a time frame.
2) Identify one powerful habit you could develop and start working for it.

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
                                                                - Aristotle

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why We Should Aim High?

Among the people who are not successful in life, there are two categories. Those who aim high but for some reason fail to achieve their goals and those who deliberately choose not to try to improve their lives..

The first category of people fail for various reasons but they keep constantly experimenting and may taste success, sometime in future.

But the second category is vulnerable to serious risks. These people don't do enough. They are complacent. They feel, "This will do. Why should I exert myself too much?" When we adopt this attitude, we fail to aim high, we don't feel the need to improve our life and we don't mind living a mediocre life.

Some people mistake this attitude to be contentment. They even take pride in their concept of simple living. This attitude can be psychologically traced to a lack of self confidence or a fear of failure. 'It's better not to try than to try and fail' can be the the underlying principle that guides them unconsciously.

The risk involved in this attitude is that we may end up with a life much worse than what we had bargained for. The lower you set your goals, still lower will be your achievement. It's an irony of life that people who set goals at high levels are more likely to achieve them than those who set goals at lower levels. You may say, "But i have not set any goal at all!" But not setting any goal amounts to accepting your present state as a goal and there is a danger of your falling to lower levels.

Thee is a saying, "We have to keep moving if we want to remain where we are." Yes, if you don't move, you will find yourself pushed backward since the world keeps moving forward.

So, aim high. You have nothing to lose. You will get what you aimed for or slightly less than that or at the worst you will be able to retain your level. Not aiming for better things in life carries the risk of pushing you down.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The TEE Principle

I came across an interesting quote that set me thinking.

Live life according to the TEE principle - Truth, Empathy and Energy. (The author of this quote is likely to be a great fan of Golf!)

The first principle is understandable. The Truth principle has been repeatedly emphasized on us. There is no need to elaborate. Yes, we should be always truth full. The moment we hear this, a doubt will arise immediately - Is this possible. I would suggest that we just accept this principle rather than raising a doubt even while considering it. We will see the possibility aspect as we move on. There are many things that we want to do but the possibility factor comes in the way, sometimes. If we start doubting the possibility of anything, we can do nothing. So, let us accept this and make a resolve to live by the principle of Truth. You will find that once you resolve to follow a principle, you will get the strength and other resources at the time of living by it. Like Mahatma Gandhi, we can also experiment with the Truth!

The second principle of Empathy is something to be cherished throughout your life. Empathy means understanding - understanding  the feelings and experiences of the other person. It means putting yourself into the other person's position and examine how you will feel and what you will think and do. Your ability to empathize will become stronger the more you empathize. Whenever you get angry with another or upset by another person'e behavior, empathize for a moment before reacting. if a doctor can prescribe a tonic for strengthening relationships or a medicine to cure relationship problems, it will be 'Empathy.'

How does Energy come in here? Energy refers to the support from our internal system. Observe what your energy levels are when you are different things. If you enjoy doing something, you will have a lot of energy. If you are unenthusiastic about doing something, your energy level will be low. The energy level you experience will have nothing to do with the food you have taken or your health, except in extreme cases. If you don't have an energy for doing something, just reflect. Perhaps, you shouldn't be doing it at all!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making a Difference

"The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money...or the most awards. They simply are the ones who care the most."
                                                                                 -   Charles Shulz

Perhaps this quote needs no explanation. But I want to share how I perceive the message given here. I think there is a two-fold message here. One is about finding out the people who fulfill this definition. All you need to do is to make a list of people

- who have helped you at different times
- who have been kind to you.
- who have cared for you.
- who have empathized with you
- who have been a source of comfort and solace to you in times of need
- who have been willing to give you a hearing when you wanted to pour out your feelings.
- who have felt genuinely happy about your successes
- who have accepted you for what you are.

The other side of this is obviously the question whether and to what extent you have fitted in the lives of other people  on the above considerations.

This simple analysis will help you remember the people who have cared for you. You will also remember your own obligation to care for the people you interact with. You can also be caring towards a stranger whom you may meet just once in your life that too only for a few moments and can make a difference to their feelings, if not to their lives..

The list of pe

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Connect with Others? A Sure-fire Way!

One of the problems many of us face in life is the difficulty of connecting with others. This problem can arise in a wide range of relationships from parents-children relationships to supplier-customer relationships.When we find that a gulf is separating us from the other person we want to reach out to can be very frustrating, especially in a close relationship.

Parents find it difficult to connect with children as children, with parents. Spouses are unable to connect with each other in spite of being so closely together. Other relationships like the ones between a  boss and subordinate, a salesperson and a prospect etc have this in-built challenge.

I came across a quotation from Blair Warren, considered to be one of the masters of persuasion. He says:

 “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.”

I think Warren has given a workable solution to the problem of getting connected. Encouraging one's dreams and allaying one's fears are, no doubt, positively desirable things to do.

But you may look askance to the other two ideas - justifying other's failures and confirming their suspicions. Well, these two actions do not appear desirable. But we can easily see how some people do these to win over others. People with ulterior motives will have no qualms about resorting to these.

But people like and you who want relationships to be supportive and mutually empowering should understand these actions to mean showing empathy or sympathy. Justifying someone's failures should be by way of understanding their problems and sympathizing with them rather than blaming them for their failures. If we dismiss people's suspicions using rational arguments, they may not be convinced. We should show an inclination to agree with their suspicions but should gradually and subtly change their perceptions, since harboring suspicions will not do them any good.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Perils of Comparison

We can't help comparing our lives with those of others. Invariably, such comparisons tend to focus on things that others have but we don't. We never give a thought to the fact that we have a large number of good things in our lives which others don't have. Often these comparisons make our lives miserable.

We all know that there is no logic behind the comparisons since every life is different. You can't even compare your life with that of any other member of your family. All of you may be equal in your financial and social statuses but there will be significant differences in health, personality traits, education, profession, success in career and business, attitude towards life, mental state, happiness level etc.When we are not able to have the same level with our family members in several areas, what is the logic in comparing ourselves with a host of others?

The problem is that though we are aware that comparisons are irrational, we can't help making comparisons. But we should be careful to not allow these comparisons to make us feel bad or unhappy about the things we don't have. One simple way of checking the tendency to compare is to ask yourself whether you, if given a chance,  will be willing to change places with the person you consider to be better off than you in some respects. The answer will almost always be an emphatic NO.

There is a story of people complaining about the burden of responsibility they have been carrying. God made the burden carried by each person into a bundle and gave people the choice to exchange their bundle with others'. Some bundles were large in size and some small, some  heavy and some light. But no one came forward to exchange their bundle with that of any other person. Even people whose bundles were large/heavy were not willing to go for the exchange because they were not sure how the experience of carrying the new bundle will be!

When we make comparisons, things may look greener from a distance. But whatever we have is good for us..

Monday, October 14, 2013

Have A Check on Your List!

In my previous post, I discussed the usefulness of a list. Coincidentally, I underwent an experience yesterday that highlighted not just the importance of the list but the care you need to take in preparing the list. While making a list of things to do, we are apt to omit what we consider routine tasks. Routine tasks of various types. There are some which become part of our day to day life. You don't have to write 'Brush your teeth.'

There are certain other tasks which we don't do everyday abut which we normally remember to do. These may include going to a temple or church on a particular day, checking your bank balance through net banking  twice a week etc. There are certain other tasks which may be considered routine but we may not always remember to do.

October 13, 2013 was celebrated as Saraswati Puja or Ayutha Puja in the southern part of India, especially in Tamilnadu.. This is an annual festival during which people pile up their books tools etc in front of a portrait of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning,  and perform a puja (a ritual of worship). Puja is also performed on vehicles.

I have the habit of cleaning my two wheeler and performing a puja on the Ayutha Puja day. But I missed doing it this year because I did not include  this activity in my list of things to do for 13th October. I remembers it only this morning. Then I realized how easy it is to slip up. If only I had applied my mind on thinking what was special about the day while preparing the list for the day, I wouldn't have slipped up.

The lesson I learnt was that even things considered routine cannot be taken for granted.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ten Things To Do Today

One of the most powerful words in the English language is 'List'. This word has got several meanings. Since we are not pursuing a study of English here, we will go by its most common meaning. The most common meaning is the one which all of us know. It will be difficult to give a meaning for this word. The dictionary gives the meaning as a series of names or other items written in sequence.

Why do we need a list?

1) To decide what we need to do
2) To know what we should be doing at a particular time.

Again, I am limiting the use of lists.

How may times have you  cursed yourself for omitting or forgetting to do something that was important, valuable or useful?

How many times, have you whiled away your time unable to think of what to do?

I plan to discuss the use of lists in more detail in another post. In this post, I will confine myself to one simple strategy. Every night, before going to bet, make it a point to list 10 things you are going to do the next day. Why ten? I don't mind if you can make a list of twenty! But I wanted the list to be realistic and doable. Five may be too small. Don't worry if it is nine or eleven. But having a target of 10 or 15 will be very helpful in the long run.

Carry this list with you on your person throughout the next day. Make it a point to do all the things in the list. If you are unable to do a few things, there should be a good reason. By the way, 'not having the time' is not an acceptable reason!

If you follow this simple system, you will find achieving a lot within a short time. You will enjoy this process once you become habituated to this.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Life's Little Lessons

In our life, we do many things. We keep learning by doing things. Sometimes, we learn to do things in a better way, sometimes we learn that we shouldn't do certain things and some other times, we learn that we keep making the same mistakes we have made earlier, making us realize that we learn very little.

School children sitting in a class room learn a few things, which they forget very quickly.. Sometimes, they just enjoy themselves. Parents, concerned with the future of their children, may conclude that their children have not been learning anything at all.

But, whether we realize it or not, we keep learning a lot. Even a person considered a fool by others learns a lot. Learning takes place often unconsciously. Life keeps teaching its lessons, big and small, continuously. Unlike in a school, where we learn easy lessons fast and difficult lessons seldom, in life, we learn big lessons easily. We may not even take notice of small lessons!

What I mean by big lessons are the experiences that hurt us more. If a person incurs a big loss in a business, he will realize where he went wrong and will not repeat the same mistake again. But one keeps making small mistakes repeatedly because one doesn't bother to learn from one's small mistakes. Let us consider a couple of examples.

A woman used to carry a lot of cash in her handbag while going for shopping. She often didn't bother to close the bag  perhaps because she found it annoying to open and close it every time she had to take the cash out, though nothing could be easier than pulling the zip to close or open the bag. As can only be expected, one day, someone stole a huge amount of cash from her bag.. The woman learnt her lesson at that time. After this incident, she never forgot to close the zip of her bag even if it was empty!

A man would keep his pen at some random place after using it. Next time, when he needed the pen, he won't find it. So, he bought a packet full of pens and kept it on his bookshelf. Whenever he needed a pen, he would take one from the packet. And, if the packet became empty, he would buy another! He didn't bother to learn to keep his pen at a specific place to avoid losing it, though he was able to keep the packet at a particular place! The lesson was not learnt because the experience was not painful enough to stimulate the learning.

If there is a place for continuous learning, it's our own life. We keep getting lessons, many of them small and subtle yet profound and valuable. Don't fail to learn life's little lessons. Every night, reflect for a few minutes on what you had learnt during that day. You will become constantly enriched with wisdom and  will be able to turn your life for the better over a period of time

Good luck!

Friday, October 11, 2013

What if You Can't Control Your Thoughts?

In the previous thought, we discussed the issue of controlling your thoughts.

What will happen if you can't control your thoughts?

I am reminded of a story.

A man was walking a long distance. It was summer and the heat was oppressive.

He found a big tree and decided to rest under it for a while.

He rested under the tree using the root of the tree as a pillow.

A thought occurred to him, "This root is very hard on my head. How nice will it be if I can get a pillow?"

To his astonishment, he found a pillow next to him and rested his head o that.

He was very hungry. He wondered whether he could some food.

To his surprise, a dish loaded with delicacies made its appearance. He became a little scared but ate the food relishing it heartily.

When he lay down again, he felt his legs aching due to the strain of walking a long distance. "How I wish a nice looking woman comes here and massages my body. An attractive woman appeared before him with a broad smile and started massaging him.

Even as he was enjoying the message, he thought, "Who is this woman? Is she a devil disguised as an attractive woman?

Instantly, the woman was transformed into a devil.

"Oh My God, the devil is going to eat me alive" was his last thought!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Can you control your thoughts?

Can you control your thoughts?

Before we find an answer to this question, we should know that there are certain things in our control and certain other things that are not. For example, if you are driving a car, you can control how you drive but you can't control how other riders on the road. A traffic policeman can control the overall movement of vehicles on any road but he can't control the way an individual drives his car.

So, do thoughts fall in our realm of control? The obvious answer appears to be 'no.' Thoughts are like waves in an ocean. They keep hitting the shore and receding and some waves may inflict some damage to the objects on the shore before they recede. There is a story of King Canute who thought that he was so powerful that he could ask the waves in an ocean to go back. Not surprisingly, the waves didn't obey his command!

This story is a simple revelation to us that we should know that certain things are not in our control.

So, if we can't control our thoughts, what is the point in talking about this topic?

Well, we can't control our thoughts. But we can control the sources from which our thoughts emanate. We can provide a good breeding ground to our thoughts by focusing on what is desirable and avoiding what is not desirable.

If one reads esoteric material, one will have more thoughts relating to sexual pleasures. If one reads books on positive thinking, one will generate more positive thoughts. Don't we have the power to control to decide what we read, what we see, what we hear and what we get exposed to?

The answer is left to you!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Are you a product of your thoughts?

You might have often heard this statement: "You are a product of your thoughts."

How can thoughts mold our personality and our life? Thoughts after all are intangible things. There are other intangible things like energy which are also crucial to our life but they can be measured. But thoughts can't be perceived in any way. In a way, thoughts are non-existent things. They are our imaginations. How do thoughts gain the power of making our life? Let us examine this question.

1) We always live with thoughts.
Don't we? Most of our waking time is occupied by thoughts. Does it not sound sensible to think that our life is influenced by something we spend most of our waking time with?

2) What are our thoughts about?
Our thoughts may be concerned with solving a problem we have, fearing an outcome, rejoicing a happy or successful event, planning a course of action in some area of life - professional, family, social, relating to the self etc. Thus our thoughts have the effect of making us do something out of desire, fear, concerns, worry, anger, grief, love, enthusiasm, depression, resentment,hatred, gratitude  etc. Don't you see how thoughts influence our actions?

At any time, you are swarmed by a large number of thoughts and you choose to act on one or more of these thoughts. And the thoughts you have acted upon determine the course of your life.

Hence, we have to have some control on our thoughts if we want to have some control in our life. But, is it possible to control thoughts?

We will examine this question in the next post. For now, let us agree that thoughts have the power to influence our lives and hence we need to exercise some control over our thoughts.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Be happy or....

In the previous post, we saw how natural laws will  ensure that a series of misfortunes will be broken by a happy event. Anyone reading this is likely to think about the other side of this.

 If we have some happy events occurring, will they not be followed by an unhappy event?
The answer is:  May be.

Am I trying to be evasive?
The answer is NOT 'May be.'
I am just being practical.

If we have some liabilities, we think of ways of liquidating them.
But if we have assets, do we think of disposing them of?

We need to use a similar logic when we consider an answer to the question posed at the beginning of this post.

Our objective is to be happy.
So, when we pass through an unhappy period, we look forward to something good happening.

But when we are enjoying a happy period, we should relish our happiness and should not worry how long this period will last and when this phase of happiness will be broken by something untoward happening.

So, there is no contradiction in our attitude. Our attitude is to be happy and if, for some reason, we are unhappy, we should look forward to some happy occurrence.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Head or Tail

You toss a coin. You get a tail. you toss the coin again. What are you likely to get? Another  tail? Perhaps. But a head appears more likely primarily because you got a tail already. Let us say you got a tail for the second time. Now you toss the coin for the third time. What will you expect? A head appears even more likely now, doesn't it?. Let us say, you got the tail  for the third time too. Now, if you toss the coin for the fourth time, you will be almost sure that it will be a head.

I am not going to dwell on the law of averages or on the law of probability. I am only bringing in this as an analogy to drive home a point.

Sometimes, in life, we are confronted by some problems. We are naturally upset. Sometimes, we solve the problems and carry on with our life. But sometimes, we feel helpless, unable to know what to do. We feel frustrated and become desperate, losing all hope. Is this thinking rational? Logically, when something goes wrong, we should expect something good to follow but we don't. We only fear the worst. And if  problems come in succession, we feel that we have run out of our luck. We expect even worse things to happen. But, logically, if problems come in succession, the likelihood of a good thing happening should be stronger.

The Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar says, "When struck by a misfortune, cheer up because, what will follow will be something different (pleasant). When tail keeps coming up in successive throws of a coin, you are becoming closer to getting a head! So, cheer up!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What I learnt from my neighbor

When I was a boy, I sometimes visited a roadside snack bar. This was run on a thatched roof structure by a man helped by a boy. The man would make delicious South Indian snacks like Vada, Bajji, Pakoda etc. The Masal Vadas he made were especially popular and they would be sold instantly. In fact people ordering for this item would have to wait a few minutes till the man made them and served them hot. His assistant would take the orders and supply. But the man would collect the cash and out it in the drawer of the antiquated wooden table he used more as a barricade than as a table.

One of my neighbors was his regular customer. He was a connoisseur of food. He would relish the snacks passionately. While paying the bill, he would say, "You make excellent vadas, man. I wonder whether anyone in this world can make them tastier than you do." But the man would not even appear to have listened to the words of appreciation. Without even looking at the face of my neighbor, he would just collect the money, pay out any change due and then abruptly go back to resume the task of making vadas and other items.

I once asked my neighbor who was much elder to me, "Uncle, why do you continue to praise him when he doesn't even bother to acknowledge your praise, leave alone thanking you?"

My neighbor said, "Young boy, I won't allow a man like him to change my behavior!"

Now, please go back to the previous post and read it again.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

20. Can Other People Influence Your Behavior?

In the previous post, I discussed how we, unwittingly, allow other people to mold our moods, shape our emotions and control our feelings. As I have suggested already, we can resolve not to allow our moods or emotions to be manipulated by others.

The point I like to discuss in the post can be considered a corollary or extension of the same principle of not allowing others to control our emotions.

You are an honest person. If you were to deal with a dishonest person, what will be your approach? Will you stick to your honesty or choose to be dishonest in order to confront the other person effectively? If you follow the latter path, it means that you are allowing your behavior to be influenced by the other person. You may think that it is not wrong to be a little cunning while dealing with dishonest people.

If we accept this line of thinking, then we will have to lose our identity. Don't be carried away by sayings like 'A thorn can be removed only by another thorn.' This may be applicable to tools but not to human beings. If I am going to change my nature or my behavior to match the traits of the other person, then I will be left with no life of my own.

So, never allow other people to influence your behavior by adapting your behaviour to be in tune with their behaviour and thus unconsciously surrendering your individuality to them.

Friday, October 4, 2013

19. Will You Like To Be Controlled By Others?

If I ask you, "Will you like to be controlled by others?" you will come out with a forceful 'NO.'

But are you taking care to see that this doesn't happen?
I mean to ask you, "Does it sometimes happen that you are allowing other people to control you?" You may be inclined to say No!"

But before answering 'no,' think for a while.

I will frame this question in a different way. Have you ever been made angry by what someone said or did? Have you ever been made unhappy by another person.

If your answer is yes,' then you will find that you are contradicting yourself.

The reality is that most of us unwittingly allow our emotions to be influenced and often dictated by others. You know how to make another person angry or unhappy and other people can also do the same to you. 

All one has to do to make you unhappy is to say something negative about your dress. Nothing can be easier than making you angry. Even my statement that other people can make you angry would have made you angry!

If someone can evoke any emotion from you just by pressing a button, this can only mean that you can be manipulated by others the same way a Television set is by a remote control device.

Take a decision today not to allow others to manipulate your emotions. Remember that you have the right, the power, the competence and the responsibility to respond to any situation the way you want to, not the way another person expects you to.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

18. To Do or Not To Do?

We sometimes struggle to cope with the situation. It dawns on us much later that we could have changed the situation to our advantage if only we had tried. But when we were facing the situation, such a possibility was not in the realm of our thought process.

There are other times when we spend all our energy in trying to change something. It is after wasting a lot of time, energy and other resources that we realize that there is no way we could change the situation. The best course would have been to have accepted the situation and managed to cope.

Some people seem to have an admirable capacity to know when they should try to change things to suit them and when they should change themselves to suit the occasion.

How can we develop such a capacity - the knowledge, the wisdom and the judgement to decide what to change and what not to change?

I think the only way to develop this faculty is to pray to God to guide you properly in each situation.

I find the following to be the best prayer anyone should resort to.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.                                    - Reinhold Niebuhr

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

17. Is Making Comparisons Wrong?

Do you sometimes compare yourself with others?

I do.

But you have been told that you shouldn't make comparisons.
I agree.

But the human tendency is to compare!

Comparisons can be valuable if we use them as benchmarks. If a colleague of mine is able to go up in his career faster than me, There is nothing wrong in my comparing my career growth with his and deciding to improve myself.

Yes, comparisons are good if you use them to improve yourself. In fact, making comparisons may be the best way to find out how you are doing.

But if comparisons are going to make you jealous, depressed and demotivated, then it is really bad for you.

So, how do you use comparisons? Use comparisons to measure your progress with those of others and find out the improvements you need to make. Comparisons can only be about actions, not about attributes.

Comparing your life with someone else's life and feeling miserable is a recipe for a perpetually unhappy life.

There are people who are better off than you in looks, health, education, profession, financial status, social status, family life, popularity, possession of skills etc. the same way you are better off than many others in one or more of these areas. There is nothing to feel bad about it.

Accept the realities of life.

Focus only on areas you can improve.

If you can do this, you will enjoy making comparisons because you know that you are going to use comparisons to empower yourself and enhance your life.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

16. Coping with Emotional States

If you have read my previous two posts, you might have noticed a contradiction. In one post, I had said that decisions taken in emotional states may not be correct but in the other post, I said that you can connect with people only by touching their emotional cords. Is there a contradiction here?

Yes, there is. But it is only apparent, but not real. It is true that you can connect with people by understanding and appreciating their emotional state of mind. This does not mean that you are taking advantage of the other person. But if you choose to do that, it means that the other person is vulnerable. They should be wary of being taken for a ride by others when they are under the control of some strong emotion.

When people  are overpowered by an emotion, whether it is positive or negative, they are in an impressionable state. Like a clay, they can be easily molded. It will be easy to connect with them or to manipulate them. You can use this opportunity by empathizing with them and get closer to them.

But if you are on the other side of the fence, under the grip of some emotion, take care to see that you don't take any hasty decision, while being in this state. Also remember that there will be people waiting to take advantage of your weak state!

I think you will see that the two posts address the issue from two different perspectives.