Things that break easily tend to be rigid and hard. Therefore and to be unbreakable, we need to be flexible.
Circumstances change. Being flexible is about adjusting to such changes while keeping our goal in sight. This makes us unbreakable, and the journey easier.
It is also about resilience and sensitivity to things others say and do. Faith in ourselves. Confidence in our potential. Belief that there is benefit in everything that is happening.
Resilience is the super quality that can be best described by looking at people who have been knocked down by life and have returned stronger than before. Rather than letting failure overcome them, they find a way to rise.
Cultivate flexibility, build a positive attitude, promote optimism, manage emotions, and see failure as a tool to improve.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins
The belief – ‘survival of the fittest,’ has been ingrained into our psyche since the earliest days of civilization. Repeatedly told that the world is competitive and only the ‘top notch’ can survive, we live comparing our successes apropos others. Competitiveness is explained as the possession of a strong desire to be more successful than others or the quality of being as good as or better than others of a comparable nature.
We live in perpetual fear of failure. Of threatened survival. Is it true that being an ‘always winner’ can bring genuine happiness? Can it even guarantee happiness? Is it not more likely that buying into this belief, might actually be ensuring unhappiness?
Ask anyone why they have not accomplished their goals yet, and fear of failure will always crop up as the number one reason to, most of the time. But, this has nothing to do with being born with low self-confidence. It has everything to do with fear of failure being a socially acceptable behaviour. What we really fear is failing to do something right the first time. Is it really reasonable to expect anyone to do ‘right the first time around’? No. People require several attempts and lots of practice to get things right at all. Yet we go on expecting ourselves to ‘do it right’ the first time.
Why are we in this situation? Right from school, we are trained that getting the ‘right’ answer the first time is the only thing that is rewarded, whereas the wrong answer is punished in a variety of ways: low grades, scolding and contempt from teachers and peers. By our late teens, we have been very effectively trained to fear failure. And most certainly not been taught to embrace failure as a key step in learning.
Most of us are still stuck with a big, ugly Fear of Failure staring us in the face whenever we try to break out of our current reality, go after big goals, or think about learning something new. Somewhere along the way, one has to de-learn the lesson to fear failure. Learn to go after what you want regardless of how often you might probably fail. Embrace failure as a part of getting what you want out of life.
The keys here will be –
Re-training your brain to go after new things. Take a class in something you’ve never done before. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you’ve never done it before, you are bound to fail the first few times you try it. This is a great way to relearn how to court failure, and then overcome it on your way to achievement.
Remind yourself that, fear of failure wasn’t always there for you. When you were a toddler, you had absolutely no fear of failure. If you were afraid to fail, you’d never have learned to walk! Somewhere inside who has absolutely zero fear of failure. That inside man wants to try to do everything. Access that brave little person once again, and you can achieve anything.
Choose to cultivate contentment, joy and bliss. Real, lasting happiness is about being who we really are and not something we have to strive for or can buy. Choose happiness now.
“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
‘Hope’ – a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. Amidst the constant changes in life and continually arising confusing, chaotic situations, Hope becomes our life jacket. Hope helps us to keep afloat in the storms that at times cause unexpected changes. Living with Hope keeps us awake. Hope opens us to the opportunities that life offers. We overcome fear and expect the best. We develop the vision that everything will get better and all things will themselves fall in line.
Hope helps us to keep the meaning of our life alive.
Barbara Fredrickson argues that hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. That with great need comes an unusually wide range of ideas, as well as such positive emotions as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment. Hopeful people are “like the little engine that could, [because] they keep telling themselves “I think I can, I think I can”. Such positive thinking bears fruit.
Hope has the ability to help people heal faster and easier. Individuals who maintain hope, especially when battling illness, significantly enhance their chances of recovery. This is important because people with chronic illness believe they have little chance of recovery. If health care providers begin to recognize the importance of hope in the recovery process, then they could learn to instill hope within their patients; thus enabling patients to develop healthy coping strategies. Shaping people’s beliefs and expectations to be more hopeful and optimistic is an essential component of positive psychology. In general, people who possess hope and think optimistically have a greater sense of well-being.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu
Do you remember what it was like to ride the bicycle with support wheels? The constant swaying. A little to the left and then resting on the little wheel, then off to the right. Lurching from one side to the other. Stopping and starting. Hiccups. All the way. Now, do you remember the exhilaration when, as a child, you could cycle without those aids! Free as a bird.
You can still do this. Every day. Facing all those daunting tasks and looking around for those small support wheels. You never needed them. And you don’t need them now. However challenging the situation may be. Even when the job at hand is totally new. It’s just learning to cycle again. Whatever obstacles are put in you path, whatever hurdles you come across. You don’t need those little support wheels. Ever again.
Pick yourself up. Remind that you did it before. You can do it again. Drag yourself out of your comfort zone. Discard those feelings of discomfort. Those misgivings. The niggles of suspicion. Slay the ghosts of fear. Have faith.
Trust yourself and go for it; you will achieve. You will be surprised by your own force. Sitting in the comfort zone, you will stagnate.
“Being bold is being firm, sure, confident, fearless, daring, strong, resilient, and not easily intimidated. It means you’re willing to go where you’ve never been, willing to try what you’ve never tried, and willing to trust what you’ve never trusted.” – Mike Yaconelli
Determination is defined as firmness of purpose. Determination is that positive emotional feeling which involves proceeding towards a difficult goal, despite obstacles. Determination serves to motivate behaviour that will help achieve one’s goal. Determination is the pre-cursor to goal attainment.
To be successful at any activity, one should follow a series of steps. First, have the desire to achieve. Immediately followed by motivation to be on the top. To do so, one needs determination. And to get this determination to work, we need passion. Passion is strong and barely controllable emotion. It is pure energy.
This is the energy inside each of us. It is this energy that gets blocked when we resist change. When we are not prepared to change our thinking. When we do not own responsibility for our own well-being. When we lack self-esteem. When we react rather than respond to situations. When we suppress feelings. And when we are comparing and criticising. We do not realize that not expending energy itself consumes energy. In other words, remaining at the same status (being static) will also use our energy.
Determination is the positive emotion that pushes individuals toward action, that results in important outcomes such as diligence and perseverance, and the development of constructive coping mechanisms. Acting with determination also boosts physical health and mental well-being. Specific positive outcomes include illness resistance, increased survival rates and decreased levels of depression.
An individual experiences positive personal growth when they are able to proactively cope with a difficult situation. In such a case, an individual can acknowledge a demanding situation, take action and maintain high coping potential. One can acknowledge the benefits of a difficult experience yet display a willingness to put forth an effort and achieve specific personal goals.
It is very hard to move on, but once we do move on and with determination, we will realise it was the best decision we have ever made.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti
“I’m a person of whim, and easily distracted. I don’t like multitasking. When I’m doing one thing, I like to do just that thing.” – Margaret Atwood
Multitasking is working with split attention and currently enjoys a great reputation, but the fact is that we are never actually multitasking. Instead the brain switches between tasks so quickly that it feels we are performing each activity in succession. Imagine a machine were to switch between tasks. We know how much downtime is involved, changeover operations have to be scheduled and performed fully, else the machine will malfunction during the process. It’s not easy for our brain to switch tasks. It takes time and invokes a second level of executive functioning, meaning that we have to use a lot of resources to switch tasks. Do we pause to think what kind of costs we are loading on each task switch? Multitasking drains our effectiveness. We end up performing each activity far more poorly than if we had done it on its own. And the task-switching overhead multiplies exponentially with the number of things being juggled.
The antidote to doing too many things at once is, of course, to only do one thing at a time. That’s the most basic definition of concentration: doing one thing at a time. It is the easiest thing we can do to create a substantial increase in our ability to focus.
When we reduce the number of things you are mentally juggling, the cognitive cost is vastly reduced. Just changing from three objects to two objects frees up a tremendous amount of overhead. The best, however, is to reduce the number of things we are doing or thinking about to one at a time. This lowers the juggling overhead to zero, and allows us to focus 100 percent of our brainpower on one topic.
Develop a habit of doing one thing at a time.
Distractions have become the norm in this tech-driven world today. But it’s more of a habit we have got used to. The challenge now, to break this habit is to make a new habit. Which should be – doing just one thing at a time. Every time we catch ourselves doing too many things at one time, let’s consciously return to just that one essential. The thing that matters. Practise this at every opportunity, at work, at home, while driving the car, all day long. Gently remind ourselves, “One thing at a time.”
We can take a quick check on how strong our habit for distraction has become. Shut everything off and do something simple with no distractions. The first thing that happens, often, is that the mind begins to complain “This is boring. There’s something on TV. Why can’t I just play some music? What’s wrong with eating while studying?” And so on. We will experience anything from mild discomfort to an almost irresistible compulsion to bring back the distractions.
That’s the place to start. To attempt some discipline about doing one thing at a time while trying to concentrate. Concentrating without distractions will eventually turn out to be incredibly pleasant. It will refresh and energize. Stable focus can increase our feeling of satisfaction in what you are doing.
It’s not that difficult. All it takes is a little practice.
Warren Bennis once stated, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Great leaders possess impressive social intelligence, a zeal for change, and for the most part, a vision that allows them to set their sights on the issues that truly merit attention.
The responsibility of leaders is to develop a vision, provide direction and foster inspiration. Yet, while leaders set direction, they must use management skills to guide their people correctly. The mapped route must arrive at the proper destination.
An effective leader, therefore is a person who –
- Creates an inspiring vision of the future. Leadership is proactive – problem solving, looking ahead, and not being satisfied with things as they are.
- Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision. Effective leaders link together two different expectations – first, that hard work leads to good results, and next that good results lead to attractive rewards or incentives. This motivates people to work hard to achieve success, because they expect to enjoy the resulting rewards.
- Manages delivery of the vision. Work allocation, delegation and monitoring will ensure effectiveness. This also includes change management. Changes must be implemented smoothly and thoroughly.
- Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. Individual and team development are important activities. First, great leaders understand their team dynamics. Successful teams are created because the leader ensures that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision. They identify, leadership potential in others and nurture this. This creates and environment that ensures success over the long term.
Leader and Leadership should be understood properly. These roles are often confused with people who are just managers. Managers may be highly skilled, good at their jobs, and valuable to their organizations – but that does not make them leaders.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso
To postpone is to cause or arrange for (something) to take place at a time later than that first scheduled. It is the nature of the mind to postpone work to tomorrow. The mind has the habit of flitting from one thing to another, from one thought to another. We have to still the unstable mind, stop it from wandering and focus it on one idea. This needs to be done repeatedly. Unfortunately though, most of us are unable to control the mind. So, we keep postponing the task at hand to tomorrow, which obviously never comes. Poet-saint Kabir put it so succinctly: ‘Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab / Pal mein pralaya hoyegi, phir karoge kab’ — Do tomorrow’s work today and today’s work now / If this moment is lost, how will the work be done? Kabir advises us not to get into the realm of procrastination. No one knows how ‘tomorrow’ will turn out to be, whether we will be around or not. Time and tide wait for no one. At the end of life’s journey, all unfinished tasks will come to haunt us and we will be full of remorse and regret; this dissatisfaction becomes the cause of transmigration.
If there is something you have to accomplish, don’t postpone it. If it is possible, do it as soon as you can. Even if it is uncomfortable, time wasting or something else. When postponing becomes a habit, you learn to avoid uncomfortable situations. You search excuses not to tackle them. As soon as difficulties come flying in, you run away. That is definitely not the path to be effective or successful.
As long as you continue to avoid the task, nothing will happen and precious time would have flown by before you realize it. No sooner you address the issue, it might take some time to resolve it, but you can move on and focus your energies elsewhere.
Here it’s important to divide tasks into the matrix of Urgent – Non-Urgent v/s Important – Non-important. Highly effective people live in the 2nd quarter – Non-Urgent, Important. Because it’s the most effective way to live and manage your time. They don’t spend time in the 3rd or 4th quarter as these are always unimportant. And to live in the 1st quarter means to deal with constant fire-fighting. It is extremely stressful as you are constantly dealing with urgent AND important issues. Because they are important, you cannot reject them. Because they are urgent you cannot postpone them.
In the 2nd quarter, you deal with things that are important BUT not urgent yet. You have time to solve them without fear of deadlines. This gives you inner peace.
The habit of procrastinating work also keeps us away from spiritual pursuits. The mind tells us ‘enjoy the present moment. There is a lifetime ahead to finish our work’. It seeks to find newer excuses to not do the work at hand. Thus, an entire life might be wasted and there is nothing to show for it. As the deadline to finish a task gets closer, we get stressed and wonder what to do now. The habit of postponing work increases our stress levels.
Live in the 2nd quarter. Complete your work in the moment.
“The clock of life is wound but once, And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour.
The present is the only time you own, So, live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in ‘tomorrow’, For the clock may be still.”
~ Robert H. Smith
“I am confused. I don’t know what course or career to follow. Can you guide me?” Contradictory to popular opinion, there is no single or absolute answer to this question.
It is easy to put people in familiar boxes created by our education system and society. To compound matters, the market is inundated with aptitude tests. And there are enough pontifical gurus to direct you in one or the absolute opposite direction. That too, with great self-assuredness.
However, one thing is for certain. People are happier when they follow their passion, rather than a course or a degree.
A woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the Judgment Seat.
A woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the Judgment Seat.
“Who are you?” a Voice said to her.
“I’m the wife of the mayor,” she replied. “I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.”
“I’m the mother of four children.”
“I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.”
“I’m a school teacher.” “I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.”
And so it went. No matter what she replied, she did not seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”
“I’m a Christian.” “I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.”
“I’m the one who went to church every day and always helped the poor and needy.” “I did not ask what you did but who you are.”
She evidently failed the examination, for she was sent back to earth. When she recovered from her illness, she was determined to find out who she was. And that made all the difference.
The Voice is asking the woman to name her ikigai but when she does, the Voice replies that that’s not the meaning of her life – ikigai – tell me again, what is it that defines who you are, that gives your life meaning, that makes your life worth living. One who lives for work will soon enough retire, or get laid off; one’s lover may leave; children will grow up and be gone; one’s dreams may fade; God may disappear. One will eventually die, and what will it all mean then?
So what is it that makes life worth living? What is your ikigai? Is it Work? Lover? Family? God? Friends? Is it a vocation? Many will answer “Yes,” yes to some, many, all or more of these. Our lives are very full, for many there are multiple sources of meaning, value and fulfillment – and those change too.
Of much greater value, than naming a single something that defines life value and meaning – ikigai – is nurturing and sustaining an attitude that embraces the promise of living every day, that takes delight in the ‘ongoingness’ of living.
Allow me introduce the Japanese concept of ‘ikigai‘. “Iki” (生き) refers to life and “gai” (甲斐) pertains to what one hopes for. English has no equivalent, and ikigai applies not only to Japanese lives but to all. Ikigai is what, day after day and year after year, each of us most essentially lives for. The French have a similar concept – raison d’être, which literally means ‘reason of existence’. In the culture of Okinawa, ikigai is thought of as a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to enjoy life. In a TED Talk, Dan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in certain geographical zones had such long lives.
All of us have an ikigai. The word is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Alternatively, it could refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It is not necessarily linked to one’s economic status or the present state of society. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make us feel ikigai are not actions we are forced to take – these are natural and spontaneous. In the article named Ikigai – jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei (“Ikigai: the process of allowing the self’s possibilities to blossom”) Kobayashi Tsukasa says that “people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization.”
Practising your ikigai takes you away from stress. This does not imply that there may not be angst. You may still aim at perfection and make yourself work harder. But the bliss is deeper. The desire is more innate and the fulfillment more intrinsic. It will never restrain or stifle you. And it is never, ever a chore. I am at my happiest when I just sit down and write.
What defines your ikigai ? It is a beautiful blend of four primary attributes.
That Which You Love:
We all know this one. It relates to actions & deeds we value most in our life. Or it may be an inborn talent. This will be diverse for different people. It is also likely to change for the same person at different points of time in life. Know that your ikigai will shift and transform as you evolve. People start life as bankers, then discover their joy and passion is writing!
That Which You Are Good At:
The ikigai will be a natural inclination to follow a particular course without any end result or desire. The act itself is the reward. There is nothing contrived or laboured within the ikigai. The entire process of reward follows as a consequence and not as the motive or primary purpose of doing something. Do you now see why A.R. Rahman stands head and shoulders above others?
That Which The World Needs:
What you live and what you are good at must align with the the popular choice, needs of others. A state of conflict will exist when your passion does not match with societal demands. It is unlikely that the ikigai could be found by following popular dictum, practice or culture. Hence the necessity for aligning and adapting.
That Which You Can Be Paid For:
The icing on the cake! Do what you love, Be good at it, Satisfy the world needs and get paid for it.
The role of a mentor should be more of guiding people towards their ikigai. Necessitating a blend of two very practical elements. Marry what you love doing and what you are good at with what other people would be willing to pay you for. This is no easy task and needs tailoring, amending, adapting. This is also the reason that people elect to be entrepreneurs. It allows them to channel and sustain their ikigai.
“Success comes to those who dedicate everything to their passion in life. To be successful, it is also very important to be humble and never let fame or money travel to your head.” – A. R. Rahman
One struggles each day to overcome the original question – “I am confused. I don’t know what course or career to follow. Can you guide me?” To point people away from multiple-choice questions on aptitude tests analysed by computer-aided software. There is no magic formula for determining the reason of your existence. The ikigai is highly unlikely to be discovered through aptitude tests or analyzing scoring patterns. The search is simpler and more intuitive. We need to move away from the gravitas of algorithms to answering the simpler question: your reason for getting up in the morning.