Six techniques to better navigate through life


Whether by an accident of nature or by design, we have arrived on this pale, blue planet of ours. You have arrived at this page by another accident or by intention. Regardless we still have a lifetime ahead of us.


Here is a post that gives 6 key strategies that will enable you to lead a more complete and fulfilling life.


Problems are a reality of life: This is the first and foremost fact that one needs to understand. Life’s problems are real. Accept it. Everybody from Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Buddha has had their share of problems. There are no exceptions. The sooner we realize this fact the better is our chance of handing our life better. While everybody has problems, the real difference comes in how we handle issues in life. Some get cowed down by problems, some constantly complain, and while others sit down to deliberate the best strategy to handle the problem. Instead of fretting and fuming, we could better use our energies in attacking and resolving the issue. We need to set the steps in motion and get on with life.


Accumulate small victories over time: It is necessary that we constantly and continually attain small victories. For this we need to set ourselves small, realistic goals and go about achieving them. This is particularly important for those who are low on confidence, have a defeatist attitude or even those who have an intact self-esteem. The Tao-Te-Ching gives the example of water being able to erode the hardest rock by constantly flowing over it. The erosion happens in infinitesimal amounts but over time can break through mountains.  We need to build our edifice of self esteem one brick at a time. This will enable us to take on larger tasks as we progress in our confidence


Envision a goal that is larger than yourself: To lead a fulfilling life we need to have a goal in life that is larger than ourselves. Simply wanting to be a CIO of an organization,a talented musician or  a great cricketer in 10 years time would not suffice. It would be too pedestrian. Your goal in some way should elevate and ennoble you. Rather your goal should be to reach a position where your influence in some way changes the life of many for the better. Other goals would be to become writer who can entertain and relieve boredom, a social worker who can alleviate the suffering of people or a blogger who can incite critical thinking. Your goal should have some qualifying aspect which you can relate to in a deep way. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s search for meaning” discusses how prisoners in the concentration camp were able to avoid death since they had an ennobling purpose in life.


Once you have your purpose it is essential that you work towards it. This has to happen consistently. You have to pursue your purpose with unshakeable fervor. It is likely that you will achieve your goal if you pursue it with steadfastness.


Delve into your past: In this world nobody is poor. We are all rich in a way. We are rich with our own experiences. Dive into your past. Look at your past accomplishments, your failures and your non-starters. What can you learn from your experience? As somebody said “Failures are failures, only if you don’t learn from them.”


Pause and reflect: Every now and then we need to come to a complete halt in life. We need to come to a absolute standstill. We need to enjoy the silence of stillness. We need to look inward at our desires, wishes, hopes, fears and thoughts. We have to see ourselves for what we are and what we stand for. This we can only do,  when we come to an absolute stop. This pause in life is necessary to make course corrections in life. In this silence we can understand our weaknesses and plan our future direction better. We can come to terms with our problems in life. We can better understand our prejudices and biases. This meditative silence is the best time when we can take stock of our personal, professional and social lives and make the necessary adjustments. Making this pause in our daily lives is extremely important in our fast paced lives these days


Sleep and exercise: Finally we need to make sure that we spend adequate time in exercise and sleep. The importance of physical exercise is vital to life. As we grow older, exercise takes on added importance. Spend the time outdoors in a brisk walk at least a few hours per week. Besides exercise ensure that you get adequate sleep. It really makes no sense to be miserly in the hours of sleep. A sleep refreshed body and mind can work far more efficiently.


These are some techniques that will help you navigate through life better. Consistent application, patience and a visualization of a larger goal can make life more meaningful and enjoyable.


For a degree in right attitude

We spend a third of our lives in academic pursuits, the initial years being taken away in basic education and the later years in the pursuit of degrees and certificates. Education in itself is important and necessary to get us through this increasingly knowledge intensive world. However the fervor with which we attempt in getting into top –rated colleges with top-rated degrees does not make a whole lot of sense. We run, or are made to run, by our family and society after law, medical, engineering, commerce degrees.

Granted, a good degree from a great college or a great degree from a good college will give you an excellent initial velocity and momentum to your career in the early years. But with time it is not the degree that will come your aid but your attitude towards life. Unfortunately there are no institutions that give a degree in right attitude. There are no institutions that teach us the importance of personal responsibility, of social obligations, the ability to solve life’s problems. Neither are we taught to maintain a constant drive to get things done, the need for patience and consistency and so on. These are essential skills that one needs in life in addition to the medical, engineering or the law degrees.

We are left to fend our lives on our own. A great many people, after the initial exuberance of a wonderful start to their career and lives dies down, tend to meander about completely lost in life. There are others who just potter or drift about in life.

“Life’s journey, not a destination” we have been told a million times. What has been left unsaid is that this journey can be to new territory, or simply in plain circles. It is what we make of it.

If we don’t have the right attitude to life we will not navigate our way in life properly. Some of us will tend to the same mechanical things ad-nauseum without getting nauseated. Others will tend to buffeted by the vagaries of fortune. Still others will be cowed down under their responsibilities and problems.

In my opinion “success in life lies is in the eyes of the beholder”. Life is a marathon and we need to have the right attitude in dealing with it. We should not shy away from problems. Rather we should face it head-on. We need to become expert problem solvers. We must sow seeds for our future. We must be grateful for life itself and what it has offered us. We must live every moment.

We must use the creativity of imagination, the strength of courage, the power of determination and the wisdom of patience to sculpt our lives as we live them.

Life is never a race though it is often mentioned as one. In life, you never need to get anywhere. Life is all about paving your own path in time.

You are the sculptor and you sculpt yourself!

A healthy and a right attitude can come handy at any stage in life. This does not just apply each one of us but also to our children.

We should spend more time educating our children about true values like courage, will-power, consistency and drive while they pursue their college degrees. This will take them farther in their lives.

The difficulty of altruism

All of us have altruistic urges, to a larger or smaller extent. But there is usually only a small part of us that is kind. However being consistently and uniformly altruistic is rare and fairly non-existent even among so called swamis and holy men.


The lopsided altruism: Most of us practice lopsided altruism. There are some who would not bat an eyelid in shelling out money to a charitable organization – to orphans, to the hungry and the needy. Yet these very same people will find it difficult to be charitable in their nature to their relatives or a colleague. They will be unkind, rude and biased. On the other hand there are those who will be generous to their near and dear ones. They will make sure that their family, relatives and dear ones get their full attention. However they will turn a blind eye to the destitute and the really needy.


The generosity oxymoron: We are expected to give without even the expectation of gratitude. However we generally tend to feel pleased with ourselves and our own perceived nobility. In fact some people even go to the extent of comparing themselves mentally and feel that they are superior in generosity. This is an oxymoron. There is never more generosity. It is as meaningless as being “more pure”.


Ego vs. altruism: This is another bind we typically get into. For e,g. if there is another who is also morally responsible for something then our altruism will depend on whether the other person is equally altruistic as we perceive ourselves to be. For e.g. if there is a village which can benefit from increased funding we will feel that we can give only if all responsible parties also give. Closer to home it is common for a spouse to ignore their child if their significant other ignores the child. In these cases the ego gets in the way and the child or the village suffers. It is better that we get rid of our egoism and give regardless of whether anybody else does or not.


While all of us have an altruistic and generous nature out pettiness often gets in the way. Generosity of heart has to be practiced till it becomes a habit. It requires a lot of thought to keep us broad minded and truly generous.

Facets of intelligence

Whenever we think of intelligence we normally tend to confuse it with one’s ability to solve puzzles, mathematical problems, and ability to analyze science problems. To make matters worse we have IQ scores that measure one’s ability to solve a wide variety of test problems. I would like to call this intelligence as “paper intelligence”. This type of intelligence is hardly of any use in real life. One good attempt to classify intelligence was by psychologist Howard Gardner’s in his Theory of multiple intelligences in which he states that there are 9 types of intelligence.

In my view intelligence far from being a problem on paper requires much more involvement. It requires the ability to understand situations, have an insight into multiple contexts, capability to understand nuances, resolve different ideas between people. Intelligence should be accompanied by sound common sense, gumption and dollops of street smarts. In this context I would like to propose the following types of intelligence in people

Personal Intelligence: This is the most basic requirement for a person. This intelligence enables a person to understand what he needs in every point in his life and how to go about achieving it. For e.g. a teenager would understand the importance of learning a professional would realize the need for qualifications or an intelligent sport person would understand the importance of consistent practice. People with this type of intelligence would understand the need to remain healthy and would follow an exercise regimen religiously. Having personal intelligence we would know that we would need to save for our future. We would prudently invest in stocks, funds or CDs to increase our net worth in life.

Professional Intelligence: Have you ever wondered why those with talent sometimes never reach the top of the ladder while others who appear less talented are able to cruise to the top of the management ladder. In my opinion this is because the latter have something I would like to call professional intelligence. For this the person must not only deliver but he/she must make sure that all concerned are aware of his/her contribution. This type of intelligence requires a combination of talent, hard work, ability to influence people and some amount of appropriate self advertisement. Some people are endowed with this type of intelligence. They know what wheels to turn in order to get farther in life.

Interpersonal Intelligence: This is extremely powerful type of intelligence and very few people have it. This intelligence requires that the person be able to weigh each and every individual he/she comes across and be able to turn lever that will make the other person feel important and valued. People endowed with interpersonal intelligence will exert a lot of power. People around them generally love to work for these types of people.

Ethical Intelligence: This intelligence deals with the ability to weigh different possibilities in a conflict and to make appropriate choice, Ethical intelligence involves the ability to weigh a hierarchy of values and choose what is most appropriate under the given circumstances

Social Intelligence: This is to some extent similar to interpersonal intelligence though it is on a much larger scale. Social intelligence indicates a complete understanding of how society at large operates. It requires knowledge of what is important to the people at large. Social intelligence is being able to identify a larger purpose in a situation influence people. These people are leaders and can start a movement if required be.

Conclusion: Intelligence thus has many facets to it. In most cases it requires certain perspicacity, the ability weigh situations, understand the contextual complexity and take decisive actions. Intelligence in real-life has little to do solving paper problems. Intelligence involves being able to adjust oneself according to different contexts and choose the most appropriate course of action.

The importance of consistency

One key ingredient that is required for success in life is consistent effort. Effort by itself does not achieve much. However sustained effort over a long period of time will definitely bring its reward.  We have to persist in our efforts only then will be see the fruits of our actions.

For example if we wanted to become an accomplished player in any musical instrument we must make sure we practice every day. It is not enough to spend long hours in bursts. We need to practice regularly. Similarly if we want to excel in writing skills we must allot some time to writing on a daily basis. We should not adopt the attitude of waiting for divine inspiration before writing. If we make writing a regular habit where we allot certain hours of the day for writing then pretty soon we will become good at it. We will get more ideas as we write more often. If we want to improve our general health we must ensure that we exercise regularly. There are a few who exercise is bursts and get upset when they don’t see results. The secret to good health is constant and regular exercise.

Whichever field we look to and whatever we want to achieve can only be obtained through a consistent and sustained effort for long periods of time. There may be occasions when such a ritual will appear distasteful. But if we keep doing it we will slowly start noticing our own improvement in the skill and we will start to get into the flow.

We are generally awed when we watch an artiste perform on stage or a professional player play with such power and grace. We must understand that to reach that stage perfection he or she must have gone through many, many hours of consistent and regular practice. Behind all successful people there are years of rigorous practice.

This in essence is the secret mantra for success and achievement in life. To put it succinctly we could say that “Consistency breeds competency”.