Leadership

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

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Worrying

The state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems is worry.

Worry is a way of thinking. Imagining the worst. Rushed responses, reacting under fear or duress, work deadlines are all forms of worry. When we rush we worry; while worrying we force ourselves to think about what will happen next. Instead, we should focus on what we can do now. When we think less, think slowly and think positively, then we can understand our thoughts and stay practical. Thinking clearly in the present situation, helps us visualize possible outcomes and next steps. As we begin to think clearly in the present, we programme ourselves to picture the future too. This dissipates anxiety over unknown possibilities. Worrying over how tasks will be completed and creating self-doubts over our competence, limits our ability to respond to challenges.

Flexibility is one solution to overcome worry. This covers acceptance and allows alternate thought processes. It lets us accommodate the unforeseen situations that we encounter and enables us to make the best of things. To an extent worrying is good stress. It can force one to look for creative answers, out of the box solutions. But you need to be in control of these situations.

If you are a worry wart and constantly fret about everything and anything – from health to wealth and everything in between and it sounds like you may be worrying your life away, you are a victim of chronic worrying. This is a mental habit that can be broken and you can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.

To tackle your chronic worrying problem, start first to distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries. When a worry pops into your head, ask yourself whether the problem is something that can be solved. Is the problem something you’re currently facing, rather than an imaginary one? If the problem is imaginary, how likely is it to happen? Can you do something about the problem or prepare for it, or is it out of your control?

Solvable worries are those on which you can act immediately. Start brainstorming. Make a list of the possible solutions. It is not necessary to find the perfect solution. Focus on the things in your control. Once you have an action plan, you’ll feel much less worried. Developing the ability to embrace your feelings – feel grounded – help to control worrying tendencies.

Chronic worriers can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what’s going to happen. Worrying is then seen as a tool to predict the future. The problem is, this doesn’t work. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on negatives won’t stop them from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things in the present. So, if you want to stop worrying, start by accepting uncertainty. Ask yourself – ‘Is it possible to be certain about everything in life? How would having certainty in life be helpful? Will bad things happen just because they are uncertain? Is it possible to live with the thought that something negative may happen? Don’t look at the world in ways that make it seem more dangerous than it really is. Or treat every negative thought as if it were fact.

Your feelings are impacted by the company you keep. Emotions are contagious. People with whom we spend more time have a greater effect on our mental health. Spend less time with people who make you anxious. Choose your confidantes carefully. Few people will help you introspect, to improve perspective, while most will feed into your worries, doubts, and fears.

Talk therapy can help chronic worriers worry less by getting to the root of their issues. Individuals need to understand what causes their anxiety or what it is related to. Talking to supportive people helps you dig deep enough and go back to the origins of your worrying nature.

Since, worrying is usually focused on the future, the ancient practices of mindfulness and meditation can help by bringing focus back to the present. This strategy is based on observing and then letting them go. Acknowledge your anxious thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them. Instead, simply observe them from an outsider’s perspective, without being judgemental. Let your worries go. When you don’t try to control anxious thoughts, they pass by.

Using meditation to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes practice to reap the benefits. Your mind will inevitably keep wandering back to your worries. Don’t let this frustrate you. Each time you return to the present, you are re-inforcing the habit that will eventually help you break free of the worry cycle.

In situations where nothing can be done to change the outcome, worrying can still serve a motivating function in preparing you for bad news – if it comes. In essence, worry often provides impetus to do something rather than nothing.

“Life is too short to worry about anything. You had better enjoy it because the next day promises nothing.” – Eric Davis

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Don’t Postpone Work

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

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Ikigai 生き甲斐

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 TalkDan 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.

Ikigai

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.

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Idleness > Busyness

Have you ever caught yourself lying in bed looking at the fan lazily turning over, or gazing at the waves lapping the shore, or just dreaming – in fact, doing nothing? If not yet, then just reading the first line made you long for it. Ignorantly, we call this wasting time. But and in this age of ‘busyness’, idleness could be the way to be. The stress, the chaos, the ‘no time for yourself’ life – doing nothing – could be the only way to give your mind that craved for peace and refresh your energies.

La dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) – is a way of life perfected by the Italians, especially those in the South. (Spaniards and Greeks do it too, but the poetic Italian words take my vote everytime!) I learned about this concept while watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s masterpiece – ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. The scene is set in a barbershop in Rome, where Julia and her friend get educated on the ways of the Italians. One of the male characters rubbishes the American idea of ‘relaxing’ – working themselves to the bone all week just so they can lay around in their pyjamas on weekends, down six packs and watch other people live their lives on TV. And then he presents the concept of la dolce far niente.

Based on the premise that doing nothing is actually an activity in itself, this idea can develop your problem-solving ability. It can make you creative. It could make you a solution seeker. Research says all these qualities are borne out of letting your thoughts wander randomly. Giving your brain time for self-reflection, improves the quality of your life.

Bill Watterson, the creator of that famous comic strip ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ said, “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ‘Time-wasting’ might actually become the movement for people who find themselves running on a treadmill of activity, that has sapped their strength to the extent that they don’t function like normal human beings anymore.

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Says author Manjiri Prabhu, “Doing nothing is actually far more productive than people think. For me, it also includes not thinking of doing anything, taking long walks, connecting with nature, watching movies, listening to music, chatting with friends, family or playing with dogs. These things nourish my soul.”

Research shows that indulging in hours, even days, of nothingness is a smarter way to live and work. Realising the need to give people’s brains the much-needed vacuum, companies such as 3M, Pixar, Google, Twitter and Facebook, have made ‘disconnected time’ a key aspect of their workplace. To be disconnected, is possibly, the first step to an idle mind. This January, France passed a law that gives citizens the “right to disconnect” after office hours. They cannot be forced or asked to check official emails or respond to them after work hours.

We have all been told that people who whiled away time were not doing anything useful with their life. But in this age of 24×7 ‘connectedness’, we crave – even lust for – seconds of serenity. Even as we think, we yearn to give our mind a rest. Our fingers are furiously working our smartphones or tablets while other people’s lives and comments occupy our headspace. Fashionably saying “I’m busy” to everyone, we take pleasure in the self-serving indulgence of ‘busyness’. We have enough warning about the ill effects of the ‘connect crave’ and recent studies have shown that our brains get a dopamine hit each time we experience something new. As we scroll through our social media, we get a ‘high’. Given this, Idleness, as a feeling, will not come easy.

A different perspective is brought in by life coach Jasmin Waldmann, who tells us that people are scared to be caught from doing nothing. She explains, “You are confronted with your inner self, and not all of it is ‘sunshine’.” We tend to be happy with mindless activities – phone, social media, TV, etc – that lets us live in the happy bubble we have created around ourselves, instead of letting our thoughts wander off to nothing-land. Author Sanil Sachar’s reasons for the unease is a little different. He says, “Everyone is running to outdo others in this made up rat race. There’s a fear of doing nothing because people think someone else is doing something you should be indulging in.”

How does one go about being idle? Waiting at that traffic signal – still your mind instead of muttering under your breath. In your seat before the film begins or awaiting company at your appointment – don’t play with your phone, just let your mind rest. Take work breaks and let your mind wander to far-off places, or just let it be blank. A blank slate is the best place to start over.

Relaxation, which we seek and yearn for – does not exist in the exotic, in the unknown or in the rare. Relaxation exists within each of us and is ours for the taking if we’re willing to put in the effort towards La dolce far niente – the sweetness of doing nothing!

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Laws Of Attraction And Success

“You attract what you fear, feel  and think.” – Denzel Washington

“We’re all born superstars, you just have to pull it out of yourself” – Lady Gaga

“Visualize clearly, precisely and frequently and it will manifest itself into reality.” – Conor McGregor

“Visualization works if you work hard.” – Jim Carey

“Decide what will be, who you will be and how you are going to do it.” – Will Smith

“As you think, so you shall become.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Don’t allow your thoughts to be on anything you don’t want.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Like attracts like.” – Steve Harvey

“If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand.” – Steve Harvey

“Laugh every chance you get.” – Steve Harvey

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To Be Great

To be great, One need not be special. One only has to be willing to work hard at it.

No great achiever – even those who made it seem easy – ever succeeded without hard work.” ~Jonathan Sacks

Very often one hears that people are born with natural talent. This is just not true. We are born with hardly any innate skills. Excellence therefore, is primarily born not of inherent ability, but of deliberate practice.

We all want to be excellent at what we do. So, how does talent actually work? Actually, you can be good at whatever you want… within reason. The keywords are … Whatever you want …

The questions that now arise are – How do you know? Where are you supposed to focus? What if you don’t even know what you’re passionate about?

So what do you do?

There are umpteen books, essays and writings which extol one to strive for greatness. People struggle and agonize over this conundrum for lifetimes. They chase one career after another, just to realize that they were originally cut-out for a third. Necessarily, one has to pass through all these processes. The answer lies in the lessons that must be learned.

Challenges

Learnings start in school. The entire environment in school conspires to push one towards seeking out new opportunities. Every day, children arrive at school and return home, wonder-struck at the myriad possibilities there small world provides. They pick up new abilities, new habits, new choices. Sports, Music, Arts, multiple avenues of learning. Yet, the child is not born with any of these abilities. Yes, he is drawn to a certain type, but he knows nothing of it. The only way he can actually get better is therefore by practice. And practice. And more practice.

Although, a school provides the breeding ground for developing these talents and abilities, it is the home where the child actually begins learning. It is a natural progression from parent to child. The first things children want to do, and excel at, are what their parents do. Day in and day out. One would see that musician parents produce musically inclined children. Academicians produce researchers. And so on.

One will also note that the school environment is limited. And generally, the child’s upward progress will flat-line at some point. This is because their abilities are not being challenged enough. They get comfortable with a certain level of talent. As that is what their immediate audience demands. So, why do they need to get any better? This is where the first steps towards greatness actually germinate. They just want to get better !

They step out. Out of their comfort zones. Into the world. They expose themselves to more challenges. They begin to see others who are equally good or better. And these people tell themselves that they can get better too. And with more practice, they begin to realize that they can now do things in their field which sometime back, they never imagined were possible.

Thinking that talent has a limit and that one is born to only achieve a certain level of skill, people grow comfortable with what seems a reasonable amount of talent. Always tell yourself – ‘I can get much better’.

Then, there is nothing holding you back.

Motivation

As time passes by, interests wane. Sometimes, other attractions pop-up. Sometimes, responsibilities crop up. Sometimes, people just don’t want to do it anymore. We call this flagging motivation. You know, at every stage of your life, you are the best at a particular activity. As good as you ever thought you could be. The lurking danger is that you may no longer want that ability.

At this stage, ask yourself – ‘If it’s possible for anyone to acquire any skill, why don’t more people do it? Why don’t they get good at things they’ve always wanted to do, like cooking or sports or playing the piano?’

The first answer, of course, is that it’s difficult, much harder than people realize, and requires an incredible amount of discipline. It just takes time and effort, which most people don’t have or aren’t willing to give.

But the second answer, the one that’s not addressed enough, is ‘motivation’.

Eminem reminds us – “If people take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down.”

And so it begins. Where this comes from is a mystery that escapes the current grasp of science. But make no mistake. You cannot become great without motivation.

Thinking over this, one cannot ignore the thought that pops up – ‘If I can do anything, what makes me choose one pursuit over another?’

It has to come down to desire, to passion, to what truly motivates you. Otherwise, you will eventually lose interest and never master a skill.

A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration.” – Kurt Lewin

Self-awareness

The last of the learnings is sorting out hobbies and pastimes from something one really wants to do. For many, what they did at school were things they did not want to fully dedicate themselves to. They were just hobbies. One needs to give some serious thought to these activities. Think of these as greater than just misplaced passions.

Parker Palmer writes, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am”.

It’s not just about being good at it. It’s about being good at the right thing. Many of us could spend our lives climbing the ladder of success only to realize it was leaning up against the wrong wall. So be careful what you choose to excel at.

Listen to that tiny voice in your head. Listen to your life. It is your heart calling out your true desires. “Your calling,” Frederick Buechner famously wrote, “is the place where your deepest joy meets the world’s deepest need.” That’s what personal greatness looks like: finding what the world needs and what makes you come alive and combining them. That’s your sweet spot.

What it takes to succeed in the world and how to find that thing you were meant to do –

  1. Find something you love. Ideally, surround yourself with others who share your passion. Your environment matters.
  2. Do it until you can become good, eventually even great, at it. And don’t worry if you’re not that good yet. This is what practice is for. But make sure this is something you are motivated to do even when you are bad at it.
  3. Share your gift in a way that helps other people. If you do this, you actually can get paid to do what you love. Otherwise, it will only ever be a hobby.

Remember to begin by discarding the idea that “people are born with it.” It’s just not true. Talent has little or nothing to do with greatness. You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.

Because the truth is, just about anyone can get better at just about anything.

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“Take those chances and you can achieve greatness, whereas if you go conservative, you’ll never know. I truly believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Even if you fail, learning and moving on is sometimes the best thing.” ~ Danica Patrick

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Hope In The Dark

“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.

Hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.”

Hope Rebecca Solnit

Excerpted from “Hope In The Dark” by Rebecca Solnit

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Change

“Change is rarely straightforward… Sometimes it’s as complex as chaos theory and as slow as evolution. Even things that seem to happen suddenly arise from deep roots in the past or from long-dormant seeds.” ~ Rebecca SolnitChange Rebecca Solnit

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Light Your Fire

A man was traveling and stopped at an intersection. He asked an elderly man, “Where does this road take me?” The elder one promptly questioned, “Where do you want to go?” The man replied, “I don’t know.” To which the old man opined, “Then take any road. What difference does it make.”

How true.

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​When we don’t know where we are going, any road will take us there. Enthusiasm without direction is like proliferating weeds in a garden. It will lead to frustration. A whole lot of energy is being wasted and nothing concrete is being seen. Goals give a sense of direction. Would you sit in a train or plane without knowing where it was going? Obviously ‘No’. Then why do people go through life aimlessly, without goals?

That was the easiest part. Because it did not require any effort to ask a question. But it is really challenging to find the solution. And for this riddle, there is no perfect answer. Some people know what they really want, but just haven’t pursued it. So, for them, it is only a matter to focus and realize what they wanted all along. Others will have a more difficult time. They have not yet figured out what their dream is. Or what they’d like to accomplish.

For those wandering aimlessly but would like to get a grip on things, it is best to start simple. Small steps, like thinking. Close your eyes and think about things. Deep inside, you already know what you want, only that it has not surfaced enough to be visible. That is why you have to go inside. Close your eyes and think.

Think about what’s important to you. Think about what you’d like people to talk about when you are no more. Think about how you would like to be remembered. Write down the things that come to mind. This should not be a one-time exercise. You will need to do it many times. Until you can see clearly. Your goal should be visible right in front and everything else will be a blur. Continue to explore your inner consciousness till you can see clearly.

This was the easier part. The struggle starts as you build a road map to get there. There are always several roads to get where you want to go. The ones that are easy have many shortcuts and compromises. The others will be difficult, treacherous and full of hardships and obstacles. But one has to walk down this street. There is a technique here which works – think backwards. From the end to the beginning.

What is the last thing you’ll need to do to achieve that outcome? What is the thing you’ll need to do just before that step? What is the thing you’ll need to do before that step? And so on, until you get to the first step. The first step is what you need to focus on.

On the best sunny day, the most powerful magnifying glass will not ignite the paper if you keep moving it around. But focus and hold it in place and the paper will light up. That is the power of concentration.

This was the easy part. Now you actually have to go and do it. You have your plan outlined. Surely you can now have the 1-2-3-step guide laid out too. What is needed and critically so, is to monitor how you stick to the plan. It could get very complicated keeping track of several goals with different time frames. What can be done to simplify things ? It is suggested to break down the goals into smaller components. And then monitor them. So you have just one small sub-goal one at a time. And several such sub-goals leading to a short-term goal. And a bouquet of short-term goals building up to your medium-term goal. A number of medium-term goals lead to a long-term goal and finally targeting the life-time goal.

The reason you focus only on one goal at a time is because it is difficult to follow many objectives at the same time. So, we sort them into actionable aims. When you need to accomplish only one thing this week, you actually boost your chances of success. As you can really focus more energy into making it happen. However and when you decide to do 3-5 things in the next two weeks, it is much more likely that you won’t do any of them.

When you achieve the short-term goal, select another one which is in line to get you to your medium-term goal. Once the medium-term goal is accomplished, choose a new medium-term goal to get you to your long-term goal. No sooner is your long-term goal accomplished, set your sights on a new long-term goal. Keep this up, and you will achieve your aim. Importantly, you won’t be wandering aimlessly anymore. You will have discovered purpose, hope, faith, confidence and success.

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