“Who are you?”
Asked the same question ten times in a row, one is nudged to the realization that we all have more than one identity. Some people tend to identify at first with their name, nationality, gender, profession; others define themselves through their relationships (I am a mother, a friend) and some think of themselves first and foremost as human beings, a ‘soul’, a ‘force of energy’ or as ‘seekers of wisdom’. This exercise also brings the awareness that beyond these layers, there exists a mysterious ‘inner core’ or ‘essence’ that defies definition but shines through all our different identities. We are always ourselves, whether this be at work, with our family or on our own. In each environment we express different aspects of ourselves, but deep down we are still the same mysterious ‘centre of awareness’. In short, we are both one and many.
Are we just born with an identity? Is it ‘God-given’ and we have no choice but to accept and bear it as a kind of destiny? Or is identity something that can change and even become a choice? Most people would say that there are certain aspects of our identity (sex, cultural roots, etc) that we cannot change. Others, however, are the outcome of choices we made at some stage. We were not born to be ‘computer programmers’ or ‘mothers’ – but we chose to become them. And, most importantly, we can always choose how much priority we give to each of our different identities, even if we cannot change some of them. What do we prioritize: Our gender? Our nationality? Our status? or Our inner qualities?
For society to function and cultures to evolve, we need to learn how to transcend our differences. To consciously choose an identity that enables us to connect more with others and to empathise with them. Life is a journey from unconsciousness to consciousness. To be unconscious means to be impelled by inner or outer forces or circumstances. Whereas to be conscious means to be aware that we have a choice. Amartya Sen says: “To deny choice where choice exists is not only an epistemic mistake, it can also entail a moral and political failure through abdication of one’s responsibility to face the fundamental, Socratic question: ‘How should I live?’”
Choice is inescapably associated with responsibility. It seems much easier to say, ‘This is how I am, I cannot change it’. But history is full of atrocities that were committed because people felt compelled to act in line with a perceived and fixed identity. Amartya Sen’s message is that we should choose our identity of our own free will.
To quote Kofi Annan – “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”
The mind is a search engine.
Our memories are the data bank that is being searched.
The words we input, return the memories associated with them. When you type in: depressed, lonely, unhappy, etc., all those memories are retrieved and this is what you experience.
From today, choose what memories you want to recall. Then input those words in your ‘Search Engine’. Try words like “happy, peaceful, powerful, etc”.
See the result for yourself.
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” – Kevyn Aucoin
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