Travel lightly in life!

travelerPeace in life is a continuum and cannot simply be isolated instances of freedom from discord. But peace in life is a mirage. We never seem to attain it and are usually burdened with worries, anxieties, fears, animosities and the like.

To get anywhere even close to peace and happiness in life the first thing we need to do is to travel light in life.  Here are some prescriptive processes that will take you closer to peace in life. As mentioned above they are prescriptive and they are processes and will need to be followed in your journey through life

Let go of animosity and hatred: This is the cardinal principle of living lightly and is embodied in Lord Jesus Christ’s immortal words “Love thy enemy”. One needn’t be religious to understand the brilliance in the above statement. Letting go of hatred is simply “smart mental energy management”. Harboring hatred and venom for another can sap your energy and strength. So simply let go and better still forgive and forget.

Strive for mental poise: Here is another no-brainer and is the utterance of Lord Krishna in the Gita “A true yogi is one who is unruffled by praise or criticism”.  You don’t have to be a yogi to realize the truth in the above statement. Praise usually makes us excited and giddy headed. Our head could swell with exaggerated pride. This is often very tiring. Similarly criticism can make us feel crushed and hurt. This is another mental energy sapper. So we need to be able to consciously brush off both praise and criticism,

Take on problems head-on: As I mentioned in my earlier post “Life sucks … big time”. All of us are given a unique set of problems to handle in life. There are no exceptions. So handle your problems head-on. Don’t put away the issues you face in life. It is your problem and your responsibility to get it solved. So get cracking and start to work towards possible solutions.

Don’t procrastinate: This is another important step to travel lightly in life. Having a large to-do-list is bad. In fact go ahead and banish the to-do list from your life.  Whatever you need to do for yourself, your family or in your profession get started and have them completed. In my opinion a ‘to-do’ list is really a ‘to-nag’ list. The tasks in your list have the dirty habit of lurking in the recesses of your mind and robbing you of your peace.

So get started. The first step is always the best step.

Let go of hatred, practice mental poise, take your problems on your chin and avoid procrastination.

Unclutter your mind.

Travel light in life!

Life sucks … big time?

How often have we felt the above? We felt that our life sucked big time. We would almost feel that the Creator has singled us out from the billion of other humans. We look at the lives of our friends and colleagues and wonder how their life is so easy.

In reality once we come into this world each and every one of us is given a unique set of problems and issues to handle. So everybody from Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa all the way up to the Buddha has had their own problems during their life times.

What is important is our attitude towards the problems we are confronted with and how we go about solving them.

While some of us love to wallow in our own pity, others live in a world of imagined reality. Some try to drown their sorrows through drink and others take recourse to some spiritual guru who will magically root out their problems.

Most of the above measures will provide only temporary relief.

It is very necessary that we develop the right attitude towards the problems we face. The pain we face with the problems could be real. However we must really take active steps to understand the cause of the problem that we faced with.

Why are we upset by it? What can we do to mitigate the problem and better still solve it.

Unless we learn to handle our own issues, we will continue to dwell on our miseries and expect them to solve themselves.  Occasionally time will help in the resolution of issues. But more often than not we have to actively seek out answers to our own problems.

As long as we take pro-active steps to solve our issue the pain and misery that we face now can be removed.

So while your life sucks big time now, it needn’t continue to suck as long as you decide to solve it.

Design your life!

1If there is one activity that we all should necessarily do, it is ‘to spend time designing our life’. Now why is this important? There are many. For one, we just get one chance in this world. Our life is either short or long, depending on how you look at it.  We want to spend this life in the best possible way we can. So we need to put some effort in ‘designing this life of ours’.

How do we go about designing our life? Here are some considerations that we should keep in mind.

Designing the route

The first one is “Where do you want to go in life?” If we know what our goal and destination in life is, then we need to look at the steps that we need to take to get to our goal. For e.g. if we want to become a Director, senior VP we need to look at what the steps we need to take for achieving this. Still others may want to become musicians, artists, sports persons. Whatever your ambition may be, we need to sit and think through all the steps that we would have to take to get us to our goal. We would then have to diligently follow this process and monitor our progress along the way. This will be your basic design to get you “from where you are, to where you want to be”. As we navigate to our goal we will have to adjust our design to be take us to our goal

Designing a fall back scheme

A common saying is that “All good plans go awry”. So despite our best design for achieving our ambition, we may face roadblocks, failures or disasters. So a good design for our life will have to take all alternatives into consideration. So if you planned in climbing the corporate ladder but found your efforts thwarted midway it does not make sense if you just collapse into a crumpled heap on the floor. A good design of life would have to plan for failures and disasters. So your design for your life should have a Plan B, Plan C etc.

Designing happiness buffers

2As we move through, if there is one thing we want is be moderately happy. Note, I am saying that we should always be happy or simply elated all the time. If we go by Buddhist philosophy that “suffering is inevitable’ then it make sense that we design “small happiness buffers”. By happiness buffers I mean that we should include into small acts or activities that give us some amount of joy. This could be anything from starting a hobby, performing random acts of kindness, learning a musical instrument etc. The feel good factor that one gets in small achievements will soften any blows we may face in life.

Since we have just this one chance in this world, it makes eminent sense that we give some serious thought in ‘designing our life’

A yardstick for life!

Is there a yardstick with which we can measure our lives. In his extremely thought provoking and insightful article “How will you measure your life?” Clayton M. Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor,  provides this extremely useful yardstick. He says “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”

What an extraordinary statement to make? We, as individuals, tend to measure our success in life based on achievement of personal glory, power, personal wealth etc. But what is really required for happiness and enduring satisfaction in our lives is in what way we are able to make the lives of those around us just a little better. This is truly a noble endeavor.

It does not mean that that the only way we can influence others is through charity. While charity can help there are possible several other ways in which we can help others. For e.g we could use our learning to educate. We could provide moral support to those who lack in confidence. We could spend some time in making happy those who are terminally ill or have some debilitating  disease. There are several ways that we can extend our help and care for those around us.

But typically what happens is that we lead very self-centered lives. We are in a race to make the most money, grab a chuck of power, look to garner personal glory. We live a life that is self-centered all the time.

We may achieve success by way of fame,power and wealth but in the long run it may not give you as much a glow of satisfaction as helping others lead better lives.

We need to shift the focus of our lives from ourselves to those around us. That way we will lead
a far more fulfilling life!

A Strategy for Happiness

Kenichi Ohmae in his classic book, “The Mind of a Strategist”, on organizational strategy, poses a very important question. While the book is devoted to strategies for solving organizational issues, the question he poses is pertinent even in our daily lives. This question that Kenichi Ohmae poses to us is this: Are the questions we ask designed to address the symptoms of a problem or are the questions so framed so as to point to possible solutions? In most cases, he says, we err towards asking questions that try to remedy particular symptoms.

This is what this post is going to focus on. There is an art to questioning. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I would prefer a man who asks the right questions to a man who knows the right answers”. With regard to happiness, we should not ask ourselves “Why am I unhappy?” rather we should ask ourselves, “How can I make myself happy?”

The former question tries to focus on our laundry list of problems. Each of us will always have a set of pet peeves in life. Such a question will only bring forward all our miseries in life. It could be not having the right job, not getting a promotion or people not subscribing to your point of your view. Whatever may be the reason, when we ask ourselves “Why am I unhappy?” we are setting ourselves for further unhappiness by dwelling on our problems in life.

The problem with the earlier question is that while it focuses on the issues in our life it does not point towards any solution. We will just be turned towards many things that are not in our control and we will feel helpless.

Rather the right question we should put to ourselves should be “How can I make myself happy?” With this type of questioning we are forced to look for constructive ways out of our present unhappy state. The answers could be as simple as starting a reading habit or it could be starting on some creative endeavor like painting, poetry or photography. Others may find peace in doing random acts of kindness.

So our strategy for happiness should be based on the right questions that we pose for ourselves. The art of asking the right questions actually goes beyond personal happiness. It can be used as an effective way of solving our daily problems in life.

Redefining happiness

The human yardstick for happiness is the success one achievs in life. And success to most of us is measured in terms of wealth, fame, power and recognition. When we don’t achieve these things life we assume that we are unsuccessful which in turn results in us being unhappy. However these measures of happiness are a social invention through the ages and in reality should not have any bearing one’s happiness.We are programmed
to feel elated when we achieve material successes like fame, wealth and power the reality.

However,with a little thought we realize that happiness is a personal emotion and is of our creation. With a little introspection we will realize that happiness or contentment does not require external successes or validation but depends
more on our inner victories that we achieve.

We need to set small, realistic goals for ourselves and strive to achieve perfection in them. For example we could learn to play a musical instrument, or spend some time in creative arts like painting, writing etc. The satisfaction that we gain by achieving success in our personal goals will result in real personal satisfaction and contentment in us. So we can measure our inner joys by the little achievements we make towards our own personal goals. We should not hitch our happiness to external validation.

Besides, there are other sources of happiness in the real world. We could find joy in the innocence of children or in the endearing qualities of older people. We could find happiness in the accident of human life and its place in the cosmos. We need to understand that we are just minute specks in the vastness of the universe. We could find true pleasure in the evolution of life or as Kahlil Gibran puts it as “Life’s longing for itself”

Hence there are many avenues for happiness in life and we should not base our happiness in life on a narrow view of success on achievement of money,power and fame but on tre internal peace and contentment.

An adventure called life

If we really pause to think for moment we will realise that our lives are one big adventure. Every moment that we encounter in our lives unfolds new things, new challenges and new mysteries for us to unravel. We always have to be alert to handle these challenges that our lives throw our way.

None of us know what is going to happen the next moment. Nobody can divine the future and that is precisely what make our journey in life so enjoyable. There is untold mystery in every moment. Life throws ups new problems, puzzles and conundrums for us to crack. The problemes could be in the personal or professional space but it is brand new challenge that we are confronted with. When we solve the problem we move up a notch in life with the lessons learned. Life and time are the greatest teachers of mankind.

Yesterday, while gazing out of the window of my train I saw another train passing by. Ordinarily I would not have given it more than a fleeting glance but yesterday I was really fascinated by the huge mechanical contraption chugging in the opposite direction. I was amazed that man has been able to use his intelligence in making such a grand design to carry men and goods across long distances. There are several such brillant inventions where human beings have solved difficult problems and conundrums of nature.

Whichever side you look you will always find the progress made by human thought is great. Whether it is computer science, medicine, physics, bio-technology creative writing etc. All these have been possible because man has used his intelligence and creativity to solve the difficult problems of nature and life.

As long as we are filled with wonder at nature and human ingenuity, all problems that our life throws up will be regarded as just another test for us to pass and progress in life. The most important ingredient for success is to have an unquenchable zest for life.

Expect Nothing. Enjoy Everything!!!

This is exactly what St. Francis of Assisi said in the early 13thcentury. St. Francis of Assisi asserted that “he who expects nothing, enjoys everything”. How true this is? If only we could lower our expectations everything that comes our way will be an added bonus. However to most of us we expect everything and wind up enjoying nothing. We spoil a perfect present by dreaming of a possible rosy future

The important thing is that we should keep our expectations in perspective. This does not mean that we should lead a life devoid of any ambition or desire. A life without ambition can be dull and drab. A life without any purpose is like setting sail into the ocean without sails. While we should be imbued with ambition that will propel us along in life we should not pin our enjoyment in the current moment based on only achieving these goals.

The issue most of the times is that we are so bent on getting that promotion in office, or buying a shinier new car or moving into a large house that we fail to enjoy even what we have.  We tend to complain and find fault in what we have. We keep dreaming and dreaming of something that we don’t have which results in utter discontent and dissatisfaction in our regular lives.

We expect so much in life. We feel that we deserve many things. When these hopes or ambitions are not realized we end up feeling crushed.  We not only don’t enjoy what we have in the moment but we also feel utterly devastated when we don’t get what we had hoped for.

We must have ambition in life but we should not pin our hopes on them. We need to continue to enjoy what we already have. If we do get what we aim for then our enjoyment and happiness will increase manifold.

So the right approach in life is to rein in our expectations while fully enjoying what we have at hand. We should accept all things that happen to us as our good providence. By this  way we will lead a more happy and contented life.

Increasing the world’s happiness quotient

If there is one thing all of us want more in life –  it is happiness. The end goal of humanity is happiness.  The main driving force behind our thirst for money, power or fame is that it will increase our general happiness in life.

Knowing this condition of humans what can we do pro-actively to increase the happiness quotient in the world?  This blog is not about increasing your own happiness. That would be too selfish. How can one increase the happiness of others? Here are some simple tips to increase the joy of your family, your friends and others you may know

–          Make sure you thank people for little things they do for you. Show genuine gratitude to those who make your life just a little better. It could be the friendly shopkeeper, the counter clerk or your kid’s school teacher. Thank them profusely for their service

–          We live in a connected world. Your school friend, your old colleague or one of your chance acquaintances is just a few mouse clicks away. Renew old friendships. Send them a mail. Enquire about their family. Show them you care.

–          Be lavish in your appreciation of your child, your co-worker and your colleague. Shower praises where it is genuine. Do not with hold praise

The more ambitious can try to extend their reach. There are many things that you can do to the under privileged.  Take up some social activity. Teach in a local school.

There are many things that we can do increase the quantum of happiness in this world of ours.


The grass on the other side is brown …

Make no mistake “the grass on the other side of the fence is not green”. Usually our grouse in life is that our friends or neighbors are better off in life than we are. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

The reality is everybody in this world has his or her own share of problems. We are also given our own unique quota of problems. What differentiates one human being from another is how he or she goes about solving their problems.

The important thing in life is to recognize that though our friends and neighbors appear to have things that you don’t have they also go through tough times. The moment we realize this we need not fret and fume about how others have their lives all arranged and nicely parceled.

We just need to look at our own lives and tackle the problems that we are faced with. As long as we use our mind to skillfully solve problems we can tide over a lot of life’s difficulties.

We have to learn to accept that we are given a set of issues in this finite life of ours  to solve and clear away. We need to put our minds in cleverly solving problems. We need to use our ingenuity to solve the problems that confront us and not fritter away our energies in sulking and envying the lives of others.

The moment we realize that everybody their share of problems and we fully confront our problems wholeheartedly we can keep our spirits cheerful and soaring high!