Monday, 18 February 2013

If wishes are cycles...

Every life, without exception, has its own regrets and recognizing that is the first step to turning at least some of them into satisfying experiences.

On a bright and sunny California morning a huge package was delivered to my doorstep by Amazon and though it was a self-ordered package I could hardly contain my excitement. A couple of hours later, I sat back to take a satisfied look at my newly assembled cycle. For the next two weeks every evening I went back home from office, took my cycle to the parking lot of my apartment and taught myself how to ride. Many frustrated attempts and several falls later, a childhood wish was fulfilled and a long time regret was wiped away.

Somewhere between the large themes of our life like getting an education, relationships, jobs, marriage etc there are many small wishes that come to our minds and if unfulfilled for long enough they become our regrets, which we may often not even consciously aware of. There is tremendous satisfaction in wiping away regrets and when circumstances change with time it is often easily possible to do so. 

Often a thought or an impulse is all it takes to pick up a long forgotten wish and go after it. But if there are inhibitions or doubts that prevents one from doing that it is necessary to make a conscious effort.


Make that list: Pick up that cuppa coffee, take up a pen and paper and make a list. Choose any time of period of your life and list the strong wishes you had then. I went back to my childhood and the first item on my list was the cycle. I always wanted it as a child. It could be something as trivial as that or it could be something much bigger, perhaps the cause that you were passionate about, the trip you always wanted to do, an estranged friend that you wanted to restore peace with or anything else. Every life, without exception, has its own regrets and recognizing that is the first step to turning at least some of them into satisfying experiences.

 Check for relevance: What seems most important at one point in time might become inconsequential at a later stage. The wishes that have become obsolete are a reminder to us that it is possible to exaggerate our desires when we are fresh with an idea. It is also possible that changing circumstances can render them irrelevant. Even if it is not essential, figure out if doing it will bring satisfaction. Identifying the most relevant ones is one step closer to making them a reality. 

Stop trying to fix the blame: There can always be someone who we can choose to blame, like I could have blamed my folks for not being able to learn cycling. Perhaps as a seven year old that was a valid reason, but not as a fully grown adult. There has to be an expiry date for blame too, because our mind only has so much capacity for negative thoughts before it gets cluttered and degenerates into a toxic thought pool. 

Take action - do it!: Just go after the wish and reward yourself by fulfilling it and pump your fist in jubilation when you fulfill your wish. Watch another regret fall by the way and enhance the feeling of positivity within yourself. Do this just once in three months and at the end of that year you would have wiped off four long- standing regrets. Do it more often and you are only rewarding yourself with more positive experiences.


Despite what happens in the major areas of life, taking the time out to reward oneself with the satisfaction of positive experiences is a proof the resilience of the human spirit and often gives the positive reinforcement to our confidence and self-esteem, much needed to tackle the bigger issues we face. 

So if your wishes are something as small as cycles just get on them and ride away..

Monday, 11 February 2013

Last mile to the finish line

One of the most important dimensions of self-belief, is being able to fulfil promises; not the ones that you make to somebody else, but to yourself. It is about being able to trust yourself to finish up what you have started and about not letting the last mile take away the effort of all the other miles run.

The sports analogy of running the last mile is often quoted, but in life we are not running in one direction and finish lines are often so blurred that keeping focus is a challenge. Every year scores of people sign up for gym memberships; so much so that the owner of a popular gym chain in my city once told me that gym memberships had become like insurance policies; his clients buy them and most dont ever end up using the facilities for the full term. Being busy with the job, relationships, kids or just being unable motivate themselves to get up and head to the gym are quoted as reasons for dropping out. But the ones that do exercise their will to build the discipline of regular exercise are almost always rewarded with better health and higher energy levels; neither of which is a definitive finish line but a strive worthy goal nevertheless.

There is often no trophy or applause; while some of the most enduring images of inspiration are of athletes lunging towards the finish line to applause and the blinding flashes of paparazzi cameras, what most mere mortals get is just the satisfaction of a job finished. But do it again and again and eventually the trophy will be a deeper and a firmer belief in ones own capabilities, which is an enabler and a motivator to achieve bigger goals; much like artists who develop a bolder and firmer stroke by prolific painting and then end up painting some of their best works

One of the most common reasons why people stop just short of the last mile is an inability to sustain momentum with no one to cheer them on. Most of us have at least a few people who will cheer when they begin an endeavor. But the same audience cannot be blamed for getting too busy with their own lives and for not being there after a while. The lucky few have parents, partners and friends to keep them going on till they reach a goal. While being lucky is not in your hands, being persistent definitely is. So the next time you have no audience to cheer you on, picture yourself as a lone ranger and persist with your journey. Persistence and determination is a powerful antidote to self-doubt.

Finally, there will be hurdles and there is no reassurance of a smooth track. The hurdles may come in the form of human deterrents that can sap your confidence through insensitive talk or even worse through malicious acts. It may be changing circumstances beyond your control and in a host of other ways. If that happens remember that navigating obstacle courses is far more fulfilling on completion. Taking an endeavor to completion, despite the odds, is a triumph of the human spirit.

So finish up that project to the best of your abilities, take up that hobby and keep at it, hit the gym and take those music lessons and believe in yourself to make the best of it! 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Is "rising-up" overrated?

Is "rising up" overrated? In the first place, is it even necessary? If it is, then is it possible?

In graduate school, I once found myself sitting across a particularly nasty professor answering a viva after a lab exam. He asked all the other students to leave and grilled me for two hours, blatantly telling me that he was just playing cat and mouse with me. After two anxious months, wondering whether I would recieve my degree or not, I finally got it alright, but barely so. That was not the first, but no doubt a very strong negative life experience. Back then, I just wished that I had the powers to settle it fair and square with this man. He was a teacher, a teacher is meant to support the creation of successful lives, rather than destroy it.


The call to be noble, to justify an unconventional response to being treated meanly or unfairly, didnt quite work then. When someone steals credit, magnanimous forgiveness seems foolish. When cheated, not counting the losses and responding appropriately seems cowardly. Whatever form it may take, but each one of us has experiences of this nature and it is hard to respond to set backs, when it is caused by selfish or malicious intent. 

Thinking about forgiving, leads to a plight similar to the young monk. This is a story that was narrated to me by my father as a child. A young monk once asked a wise sage the way to happiness; he was told that it was easy, the only thing that he needed to do was to take a journey and when he was on it, not to think of monkeys. The poor monk started his journey with this instruction and every time he reminded himself not to think of the monkeys, he thought of the monkeys, until all he thought about was about monkeys!

In stead, work to make the violation inconsequential. Focus on making the best of something unrelated and challenge yourself to achieve new goals. It is certainly not easy, but it is positive and productive. It is a form of "rising up" that is beyond providing a controlled response to a situation. The less attention and food the monkeys recieve, the more that leave the mind.

There have been far bigger setbacks ever since, but this is a formula that has worked, wherever there were no emotional attachments to the offenders. Rising up is necessary for progressing oneself and it is possible by setting sights on higher goals.


I had my opportunity to see karma in action, when the same professor came to my company, a highly reputed organization, 3 years later to lobby for jobs for his students. He was assigned to me and was eloquent in praising me to get his job done.  It was an opportunity for me to rub my hands in glee and return the favor. But by then he and what he had done had become inconsequential. The only one monkey that sometimes reminds me of this episode is the one that reminds me of how this episode was an eye-opener on dealing with many such life situations.