The journey of Happiness!

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Happiness is what everyone is looking for. In other words, happiness is all about learning and doing things we love and loving things we do. If we make this our profession, our lives will be more happier, fulfilling and rewarding. But the question I would like to ask is “How many of us are playing out this role”? Very few, I believe!

What about the rest of the world? Does that mean that life is boring, stressed out and painful? How do we motivate ourselves to live our lives meaningfully? Do people really strive to find their purpose in life? Do they even know what they want and what will make them happy? Are they willing to listen to their heart?

I did! And that’s when my journey began. At first, there was a restlessness. I was not happy at work and knew that this was definitely not the place I wanted to be till i die! So, the next question I asked myself was – where will I find that happiness and what will make me happy? And i didn’t have an answer! That made me put on my first thinking cap. I realized that nobody had asked me that question in my life. Yes, I did get asked questions when I was young about what I wanted to be when I grew up and the answer always changed with the passage of time. I was interested in so many things and that itself was the root of all my confusion.

So, I set out reading books which asked me the questions and I am  listing out some questions that helped me put on my thinking cap and get some answers. Find your own set of questions that come to mind to help you find your purpose in life.

  1. What are my likes and dislikes?
  2. What are the things I like to do that give me pleasure and happiness?
  3. Is this something that I do with an ulterior motive or without?
  4. Do I share myself with everyone?
  5. What am I doing to give back to society?
  6. What are my expectations from different people in my life?
  7. Where do I stand with myself ? Do I think and feel lesser of myself or have the needed self-esteem, confidence and determination to accept myself the way I am?
  8. Do I love myself?
  9. Do I stand up for myself?
  10. Do I share my opinions or do I keep quiet ?
  11. Do I prove others wrong to prove myself right?
  12. Do I feel selfish and competitive or am I constantly tempted to have the “frog in the well” attitude?
  13. Am I an optimistic or pessimistic person. List occasions for both.

All these helped me slowly discover myself underneath the many layers I didn’t even know existed. Fortunately, it didn’t stop me. I went on figuring out myself slowly and surely. And I discovered that I was putting on acts, lying , evading, dodging and more to please people and avoid conflicts and not being myself in the process. All my relationships were fake, unreal. That was what was causing heartburn in the first place. That was the first discovery. What did I need to do to change this and be myself? I realized that I needed to do some more hard thinking. I needed to put on my thinking cap again!

 

 

#LifeLessons: How to make yourself win every time, all the time!

In our life, we are so consumed with winning, coming first and being successful. Our drive is to achieve and reach the pinnacle in the shortest time possible. Which is a great goal and we should strive to reach it. However, there is big problem in our attitude. Our attitude is to win at the cost of others. One thing that dawned on me when seeing a video forward of a game during a corporate training program is how this attitude is so ingrained in us. The trainer gives a balloon each to a group of people and asks them to blow it. The next set of instructions follow after giving them a toothpick. The instructions are very clear. In whose hand the balloon remains till the end of the game is the winner. The moment the game begins, each person tries his best to burst the balloon of the other and in the end, not a single balloon remains. There is a lot of fun in this activity. But the whole essence of the activity is lost.

The instructions are very clear. Whoever remains with a balloon till the end of the game is the winner. Nowhere does the instruction suggest that one has to burst the others balloon to make them a winner. The trainer also makes a point here questioning the participants if there could be a situation which would have made everyone a winner? It then strikes the group that if all the balloons were not busted, then all could have been winners. The way it is expressed is also clear…. If each one had not burst the other’s balloon, then each one could have been a winner. The trainer then gets the essence out….. in order to win, it is not necessary to make the other side lose.. or it is not necessary to win at the cost of the other’s defeat.

The trainer points out that that is how our mind is wired. That one works to burst the balloon of another. Two of such people then gang up to burst the balloon of the third person. They find out ways to group up to defeat somebody or another group. This is what happens at home, in the office, in the economy and countries. In order to win, we defeat somebody and defeat our very purpose. In order to make someone lose, we lose ourselves. Political parties put the other down in order to malign the opposing party and in the process, the whole country loses out.

This is how everyone’s minds work. We think that in order to win, we need to do so by putting the other down. That we need to speak out against somebody in order to defeat the other and that defines defeat. This is not right. We need to make everyone win and equally. There is a saying that sums up people’s attitude. People want other people coming up in life. But not be better off than them. This is also an example of losing out. We are not being wholehearted in our attitude. We are being selfish and defeatist in our attitude.

We need to change , to rewire – our attitudes, our mindsets, our outlook with this small acceptance of a positive change. To make everyone win when we win. Or we can win every time and all the time if we have such an attitude. Not everybody can and will be positive in this world. But for those who live by positivity, this is an essence. A lesson that we know, but get lost in the competition, our definition of competition and winning. We need constant reminders to keep this thought alive and kicking.

So, let’s discover a new attitude. Let’s rewrite the story of our life by adopting and adapting to this new adage of making everyone a winner…… if you believe in people. If you believe in your son or daughter. If you believe in your friends and partners. If you believe in your community and society. If you believe in your country and the world. No matter what people say, reword your philosophy in life. After all, you drive your life and destiny to make a successful life for yourself!

#3Life Lessons: Perspectives

 

I introspect on my life constantly to understand myself better. I believe that thinking about what we have done, how circumstances, our behaviour and experiences have shaped us to become who we are today is important. It is a very important step as we progress in life and evaluate and understand what is important to us and to figure out our purpose in this life.

During one of these introspective journeys, I figure out many things about myself. I am always on a journey of self discovery. Every time I realize why I behave the way I do or think the way I do, I understand a bit of me better. I made a recent discovery that the anger within me was actually the result of my anger towards my dad. My dad who died when I was 13, the one who made a promise to his kids that he would take them on a European holiday after 5 years, died a few days after he made this promise to his 3 kids. He broke his promise. And this was not the first promise that he had broken. I was angry at dad as he left his 3 young kids and a young, uneducated wife, (as my mom did not study beyond her 10th grade. That she was educated till her 10th, but not qualified was a perspective I realized recently. How we make people small just because we are not able to understand the deeper aspects of life) without much to go on financially. My anger towards my father as a breadwinner and nourisher now turned towards my mom as she took over that place. She seemed incapable to guide us and give us the direction we needed most at that time. There were so many things I wanted to do, to learn, which I wasn’t able to, because there was always no money for anything extra in life.

As life passed, this anger probably got fed by more anger when I faced difficult circumstances and built up, which led to me becoming a rather destructive person. Destructive because I was never able to nourish relationships. I blamed, made others victim to my anger and always felt that life was a struggle. I was always angry with life and the world around me. No wonder my relations never lasted. The relation with my mother was always argumentative, proving she didn’t know as she wasn’t educated and always complaining and fault finding.

It took me nearly 40 years of my life to understand things in the right perspectives. That my father had done his duty as a bread winner and so also my mom after dads death… that we had a good education, that they did put food on the table, that we had good clothes to wear, a roof above our heads and parents who cared, but perhaps weren’t able to express their love for us easily. We were complete, but because of my warped thinking, I blamed the circumstances, people and the world for doing me wrong.

When that perspective cleared, I felt lighter. A huge burden was off my shoulder. I apologized to mom and all relationships changed post this understanding. I understand that relationships make us vulnerable, yet strong. I look at life differently, am able to speak to people more openly and without any expectations. However, something still felt “not right”. I still felt that I was procrasting, didn’t find that interest and energy to do the desired things in life. Felt that I needed to delve deeper into myself. I have been doing it for a while now.

This morning, suddenly it hit me. I was blaming circumstances all the while. The blame game was still on. While I was understanding people better, I wanted life to throw me better circumstances so that I can feel pampered and loved. I expected that since life had thrown us into bad circumstances during my childhood, it owed me some good times now.

How silly of me. How did I realize it? Another self discovery. Recently, I realized that I was complete by myself and didn’t need someone to complete me….as in a man. When one of my friends asked me a question…. What makes me feel complete? I answered that having no expectations, the right intentions and being able to see circumstances as circumstances, something objective rather than subjective is the key to my understanding of being a complete person .

People are complete by themselves and so is life. And yet, there I was, wanting a man to pamper me, to share his home, his time and resources to make me feel complete. How wrong I was. This realization brought me to the understanding that I can do all that for myself. I didn’t need a man to fulfill me.I could pamper myself, build my own home, secure my finances, spend time with loved ones and myself to make me feel complete.

The anger towards circumstances and life was stopping me…making me delay my responses to them leading to procrastinating and delay in attending to tasks in life. I have stopped taking things personally now. So, with that perspective finally falling in place, I realized that life is beautiful. That I will not blame circumstances. That circumstances are not bad or good. That it is our reactions/responses to them that bring out a negative and positive perspective and shapes our attitude towards life.

Feel so much energy spilling in me with this realization. No more waits, delays, procrastination. I am sure of it. No niggling doubts at all. Clear in my thinking and confident to face any circumstances now.

Love you Zindagi!

How to strengthen the bonds in a settled marriage?

Dated over two years. Got married. Honeymoon in Seychelles. New family with a baby after 3 years. Growing family with a second child after 6 yrs. Settled in marriage and family now after 9 years of marriage.

Are you in this phase of marriage and do you see your relationship in the same light as you did soon after your marriage? Every relationship goes through changes.. Roles and responsibilities keep evolving with a growing family. This relationship has had its share of conflicts and has withstood the tests of time and challenges. Somewhere though, the bonds are a little frayed, emotions run high, taking each other for granted has crept in, the distances are growing.

Easy to advice the couple to keep the fire of marriage alive. But as in all settled marriages, every spouse realizes that sustaining a relationship requires time, effort and creativity. So, what to do next that will help to keep the fires burning in marriage?

The first thing to do is set a calendar for dates. With a growing family, it is difficult to find and make time for each other as a individuals and as a couple. In India, since the support system is still available to many in the form of nannies, maids or parents/parents-in-laws to look after the kid/s, it is important to take time out for yourself and for each other at regular intervals to be able to keep the individuality alive along with the sparks of friendship and intimacy with your spouse that have probably grown dull after the birth of the babies.

Keep the spark of intimacy alive with small romantic notes in the tiffin box like a fortune cookie. I know this sounds dumb especially after so many years of marriage, but it will help to light up your romance once again and to help rebuild the intimacy. I owe you notes which says that he/she can ask for a nice massage whenever they want, other wishes like hugs and kisses granted where the IOU notes have an expiry period, all enhances a lighter mood between couples.

So, you have done couple activities together for understanding each other better. However, doing the same thing over a period of time just to keep the spouse happy will only lead to a distance as the activity becomes boring and routine. The trick here is to do novel things which both have not attempted before to get to know each other better. Take a chance and do it together. A challenge that tests your strength as a team. A good experience will help increase production of dopamine, the good mood enhancing chemical that will physiologically help you like each other more for taking the chance together and deeply strengthening the bonds of trust between the two partners.

How many of you have asked your spouse the question, “How was your day?” everyday to your spouse? A very casually asked question asked by every spouse, probably too clichéd in life, which is forgotten slowly and steadily over time. But keep at it. Asking this question to your spouse everyday helps. Psychologists believe that receiving a positive response will help building the relationship positively through a patient listening, build intimacy between the two partners and also help start the next day on a happy note.

Celebrate the successes of each other. Career growth and higher responsibilities come in after a few years of marriage and will be recognized by the organization with a promotion. However, does your spouse share your success with a genuine appreciation and a pat on the back positive response or do they respond with a statement which doubts the capability of the spouse? “Finally, your boss recognizes your hard work” is an appreciation positively made rather than “Now you won’t have time for us at all” statement.

We all know that laughter is good for health. How do you increase the laughter quotient between husband and wife when life has become too routine, mechanical and has lost its spice? Try and make some good memories early on in the marriage to create some good memories to get nostalgic twenty years down the lane. Share the small jokes, have pet names for each other, have code words for people which only the two of you understand, these help build better chords in the relationship which keeps you going when times get tough.

Be ready to accept that there will be fights, arguments, conflicts and differences of opinion. When it happens, there will anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment. Trust and faith in each other will be tested during these times. Make a pact not to talk to each other for at least an hour after the conflict peaks. Go to different rooms or go for a walk and return. Breathe deep and long. Let the anger dissipates. Clear thinking comes only when the mind is calm and sober.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Talk to each other. If talk doesn’t work, write to each other, sms each other. Use all channels of communication to clear the air. Sleep over the problem and resolve it the next morning if things are serious. Go to a family or marriage counsellor if the conflict is still not getting resolved. Many partners keep quiet, thinking that they can shove the conflict under the carpet. It won’t go away. Many also hesitate to tell their parents for fear of their aged parents getting worried. Let the elders help you so that the family can talk to both parties and be a neutral ground for resolving any issue. This is the time to think like a couple who have a strong relationship going… not as individuals….as us and not I.

After all, you had made a pact to be in this relationship for better or for worse. Thinking positively with the intention of solving the issue and strengthening the relationship is important than thinking with the worst case scenario and divorce in mind.

#Life Lessons: Attitude

Lesson learnt a little late in life, but never late than never.

Essense: Make the right attitude matter. Don’t be reactive. Think through your  thoughts and actions and see that it benefits you and others around you rather than harming you in the long run.

When we are young, we are so foolish and stubborn.  Our actions and attitudes are so immature and actually can be self harming. Sharing an incident of the past that somebody may relate to and learns better from my experience.

There I was, in the 8th grade. Had failed in quite a few subjects in school. My mother as usual, puts me in a room, closes the door, locks it from outside and tells me to study.

Rebellious me! I am stubborn, angry at being put in a room while my sister and brother are free  and thinking the worst about my mom, make a decision to teach her a lesson by not studying. I decide that I will sleep but I will not study, out of pure stubbornness. So, I pull the blanket over me and sleep the whole time I am locked in the room. I don’t study because of just one emotion – spite.

25 years later, I realize that my actions and attitudes have been so detrimental. Why didn’t I adopt the absolute opposite attitude of what I actually did? I should have channelized that anger with the thought that I will study hard and show them what I am made of. Why did I decide to not study? Why was I reactive and how did this affect me in the long run?

I didn’t study. Failed again and again and again and while I was upset for failing, got immense joy in proving to my mother that she can’t control me by putting me in a room and locking it.

Years passed and I realized that this attitude has become so strong that it controls me totally. I get angry when my boss reprimands me for not escalating an issue in time. I get stubborn and the next time, I dont inform her at all. The loss is her’s I tell myself when we lose that business. But in the end, it is my career that i am jeopardizing. I realize that at the back of my mind, but unable to stop my actions.Soon enough, I see that impact on my life. I am more angry, frustrated, having constant conflicts with the boss, totally demotivated, unhappy at work and with life in general.

What do I do to change this? First of all, I knew this had to change. How could I make things better for me? I took one big hard decision. That no matter what negative things people said about me, I will not get angry. That was the first step.

The next step was to sit down and calm myself. I told myself that without a spark there cant be a fire. So,maybe there was some truth in what they said. I had to examine it. I did. Happened to realize that in my quest for teaching everybody a lesson for putting me down or belittling me, I was the cause of losing business to competition due to the late turnaround time, my boss probably had to take a lot of flak from her boss for missing the business opportunity and probably had her credentials questioned about her professional capabilities. She was probably at a loss as to how she could handle me as she didn’t understand the background of my mindset or situation in life. I realized what I had done and fortunately had the time to rectify things to manage my responsibilities better thereon.

Why does one learn the lessons of life so late in life? Couldn’t I have learned the lesson then and there? Couldn’t someone have guided me to think more positively then? I keep wondering how my life would have/could have been different if I had seen the bigger picture and taken the right decision.

However, the lesson I learnt hopefully will prevent many from thinking negatively especially if they have the same mindset I had when I was younger. I have realized it in time to tell my son the essence of this lesson so that he makes new mistakes in his life and learns from this one.

Let your anger and attitude be channelized into positive thinking that will benefit you and not harm you in return. See the larger picture of what it can lead to, what the consequences can be due to your actions and to make a decision on what and how you would like your future to be. Mainly, see that the action you take, not only benefits you, but also others around you and helps everyone to grow and be better individuals through this lesson.