Measuring Your Life

Life is indeed complicated. It is not easy to understand it or even figure it out. No one can have all the answers and if anybody claims to be someone with all the answers, always be wary of such people.

I spend a decent amount of time in figuring out ‘what life is really about’ or ‘how do we measure life’ or ‘what does success mean’. Most of the time I don’t get any answers and when I do, I don’t like them. So I consciously try to bury these questions. This is not just me; it’s a human tendency to kick off the things that are uncomfortable. But then I think about how important it is to understand life because otherwise I will be chasing all the wrong things.

My outlook towards things has been shaped a lot by the works of Professor Yuval Noah Harari. His one of the ideas has made me realise that the most important thing in life is to be able to distinguish between what is ‘real’ and what is ‘a fictional story’. When I look at the things that are ‘objective realities’ such as birds, trees, and mountains, I immediately realise how insignificant my life’s problems are which may have been a product of my own imagination (this idea is again inspired by Prof Harari’s book SAPIENS). For instance, I have been observing birds a lot lately both when I am in my room or when I go outside. There is so much that I have learned about those birds from my mere observations on a daily basis. I get such a level of satisfaction that no gadget or technology can ever compete. I feel I am looking at things that ‘do exist’ in this world. Even when I look at the beautiful sky I sense vastness and everything in life- all the accomplishments, all the possessions seem little (I won’t say worthless because that would be extreme). We do spend a lot of time in our own imagination and hence, suffer. As Seneca would say, “WE SUFFER MORE IN IMAGINATION THAN IN REALITY”. Our brains create parallel realities that are not objective. I can suffer and feel miserable by thinking that I am a total failure because I did not get the job I was hoping to get. However, in reality that may be questionable. How do we understand what ‘failure’ is? Can we see it? Can we touch it? We can solely feel it but we can’t always trust our feelings.

Drawing a fine line between reality and non-reality is not a child’s play. Even philosophers and scientists are having a hard time decoding what ‘reality’ is. So, I am not going to pretend that I have figured it out. I am no expert. But there’s one thing I can say with confidence: the whole search for what is real is worth it.

You must be wondering that the title of this blog is ‘Measuring Your Life’ and I haven’t talked about it as such. Well that’s how you measure life- for me real success in life is about segregating what we usually call ‘mere illusions’ because majority of the time in life we suffer because of our distorted perceptions towards things. There are real stresses in life such as illness, death, unemployment among others. But it’s also true that sometimes we feel unhappy because we take ‘fictional realities’ for ‘real realities’. When we understand the difference we will have the headspace to think about other things that are actually matter (and possibly real) such as the importance of investing time and effort into relationships, loving people, and doing the work that is meaningful.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is simply an exploration. The author’s objective is to explore ideas and not arrive at a conclusion. So read it with a grain of salt. Happy reading!!

Enjoy your Own Company

Picture credits: medium.com

 

Before I begin, I want to warn you that this blog post is not a motivational one. There are tens of thousands of blogs on the internet to motivate you. I don’t want to give you something that is already available.

Humans are social animals and they crave for social interactions. There is nothing wrong with meeting people because research in psychology supports the importance of relationships in mental well-being. While it’s good to follow what scientific literature says, sometimes we are left alone with our own devices. Learning how to enjoy one’s own company is one of the most daunting tasks one can ever undertake. We want to avoid it as much as possible. However, things can be a bit different for the introverts because after a point of time they simply want to be left alone.

Enjoy your Own Company

We can cultivate our ability to enjoy our own company even if it for the occasions totally uncalled for. All we need is a diary, a pen and an openness to new experiences.

1. A Diary and a Pen- Execution is prioritised over ideas and it makes sense because without implementation ideas are next to nothing. But ideas matter too because without ideas there is nothing to put into action. A single idea has tremendous power to change the course of basic narratives we are accustomed with. And that single idea can take birth when in one’s own company. In such circumstances, a diary and a pen can serve as two best friends. When in solitude, it is likely that we will be bombarded with many thoughts. Thoughts. Thoughts. And some more thoughts. Letting those thoughts simply pass by is not a wise decision (at least that’s what I think). Grab a diary or a piece of paper and a pen and write them down. Pay attention to your thoughts. Read them over and over again. Try to make sense of them. You will find how much you can offer to this world. With time, you will start craving for your company more and more because in the midst of all the chaos you are prioritising yourself, you are prioritising your ideas and that’s a bold move. All you need is a diary and a pen.

(*Thinking can be one of the flow activities or put simply an optimal experience. Great thinkers in the past used to love ‘thinking’ as it gave them a lot of joy and happiness. Democritus, a Greek philosopher, was one of them. If interested in the concept of optimal experiences and how they can be a source of happiness, I’d recommend Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi*).

2. Openness to new experiences- Sometimes a simple effort to be more open to new experiences in life can initiate enjoying one’s own company. We think we can only see the world in the company of other people. While it is true in many ways, there are moments in life when we are left alone with our own devices (as mentioned before). Should we stop exploring the world ? No. We can take a small step to go against our thoughts that are trying to compel us to stay inside. We can take a small step to become more open to new experiences even if those experiences aren’t shared with anyone but us. Pretty soon you will start seeing a cyclical pattern.

 

(*This article is based on author’s personal experiences and generalisability of ways to enjoy one’s own company isn’t guaranteed. There are many people living in extraordinary circumstances and the content might not be practical. Moreover, everyone is different in their own ways and prefer living their lives as they please. So pick and choose what seems to work for you)*.

Be like Water

Picture credits: Alabama Co-opertaive Extension System

"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

– Bruce Lee

Majority of us fall victim to thinking in fixed and certain ways. Just because something worked out for us once we believe that’s how it’s always supposed to be. Were we loved enough at our homes by our parents and siblings? That’s good to know. Were we loved enough by our friends and teachers at school? That’s good too. However, as we get older and start getting reality checks we understand that rigidity is not always a good thing. Flexibility is. Becoming like water is seriously a challenge but the challenge is totally worth it. Bruce Lee is telling us to be like water because people who become like water can make it through any hardest possible obstacles. 

Lao Tzu once said, “Water is the softest and most yielding substance. Yet nothing is better than water, for overcoming the hard and rigid, because nothing can compete with it.” If you observe water carefully you will see that it’s nature is very resilient. It’s resilient to changes. Just the way Bruce Lee said if you put water in a glass it becomes the glass but when you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Life is always going to keep throwing trash at us. That’s a harsh reality. Becoming resilient like water can prevent us from feeling victimised. We must keep moving forward taking different shapes and sizes because that’s the best shot we have at facing tough times. The pandemic is a great example of a need to build resilience and flexibility during harsh times. We did not expect something like this to happen. We only used to study it in our history books. Unfortunately, the written text has become a reality because history has been repeated. Lives are not the same anymore. We are unable to meet people in person the way we used to do pre-pandemic. Colleges and schools have opted for either online learning or hybrid learning. We have to work not in our offices but homes. On top of that work from home is another big deal for majority of people (as it has its own pitfalls). Is this in our control? Absolutely not. No matter how challenging everything has become we can learn one fundamental lesson from water: to stay flexible and adjust to the circumstances outside our control. 

Water isn’t merely about flexibility it’s also about softness. We think softness is a bad thing. People who are soft and not robust from the inside are weak but that’s not true. Water is soft but it has got tremendous power. If it has to it can cause huge destruction (as we all see in hurricanes, floods). Many times ‘strength’ or I should say ‘forceful strength’ doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s total waste of energy. In those moments being soft can make things possible for us. It might take some time. It’d be like taking ‘baby steps’. But things will happen. Do you think working 18 hours a day will finally make things happier in your personal life? No. It will not. You’re just exhausting yourself. You’re exhausting yourself both physically and mentally. You think forcing yourself to work for the insane amount of hours will make your life perfect. Actually your life is far from perfect. Look at water. Touch it. What do you feel? SOFTNESS. Maybe you will realise that your long term goals can be achieved with having a tranquil mind and one day at a time approach. Your softness will become your superpower. 

Most Important Lessons I have learned so far during the pandemic

Picture credits: Roffey Park Institute

Every event in our lives teaches us something. If you believe it doesn’t then I’d suggest you take a look at any event of your life again: this time more carefully. I am pretty sure you’re going to see it yourself that you had some learning. It’s impossible to believe that the pandemic is not teaching us anything. There is so much learning each day and remembering and not forgetting those lessons ever may help shape our lives for the better.

Personally, I have learned a lot of things in the past one year. While I was grateful of my life during this time, nonetheless it wasn’t an easy year. Actually it wasn’t easy for anyone. In spite of everything I have had a few realisations and I’d like to share some of them with you.

You’re always hanging by a thread

What I am about to say is going to sound cliche but it’s the harsh reality of a human life: life is very short. You can put your 100% energy into predicting the future still you will fail. You will fail badly. Everybody is hanging by a fine thread. If the thread breaks up it simply means that you are alive no more. What may sound scary is that you can never know when your own thread is going to break. One day you’re like ‘life is a bed of roses’ and another day your worst nightmares have come true. I don’t mean to make you feel depressed. My purpose is to bring it to your attention that don’t disrespect life. Don’t treat it like garbage. Value it. Bad things do happen. Sometimes the worst possible things but such events are supposed to make you stronger and not ridicule at life itself.

Never stop fighting for your/loved ones life

When we are at a very dark place it is natural to start losing hope. Giving up seems like the only option. I am not perfect. Even I tend to start losing hope sometimes when nothing is in my favour. In those moments only our resilience and bravery is tested. If we try our best to maintain our demeanour we can think clearly. When we think clearly we stop focusing on what has happened to us and start focusing on what we can do now. Options, which we thought earlier we had none, become very much visible. I believe it is about intention. A good intention make things possible while no intention does nothing good to us. No matter what you’re going through in your life never stop fighting for your life and the life of your loved ones.

Your focus must be on what you control

There are two kinds of things in this world: the things we control and the things we don’t control. Humans want to control everything. They often believe that they have a control over everything and that’s why their lives become miserable. Some people have a good sense of what they control and what they don’t. Such people have a much better life than those who focus way too much on the things beyond their control. I know it sounds easier than done because while I understand the fact intellectually it is hard for me sometimes to act upon it. Nevertheless, it is never too late. The next time you are in an adverse situation ask yourself one simple question, “What I can change and what I cannot?” I am sure you’ll be having enough clarity to make a better decision.

Each day is a gift

We have a tendency towards believing that life is short but not too short. We have a lot of time. There’s no need of hurry. Indeed, that’s the reason we fail to celebrate each day. The pandemic has shown me very clearly that in no time you can lose anyone. One day you’re talking and laughing with someone and the next day that person is gone forever. It can give you the chills if you think about it deep enough. Therefore, be grateful every single day. Try to look at each day as if it were your last. By saying this I don’t mean you start living in a fantasy world where nothing is broken. You shouldn’t stop feeling all the negative emotions. But every day remind yourself: how would you want to live your life today if this was your last day?

Impermanence is a reality

Everything is transitory. I am sure you have heard it many times. Accept it. Accept the fact that your life, the life of your closed ones, your possessions and your achievements are all temporary. None of them is going to stay with you till eternity. Focus your attention, time and energy into the things that matter: a purposeful life, good deeds and spreading love all around.

This too shall pass

Picture credits: Pure Source Recruitment

I know I am not the only one who has been hit psychologically by the pandemic especially the second wave in India. I also know well enough that there are people who are going through the worst time of their lives. Either their own lives are in danger or the lives of their loved ones. People who are not getting infected with the COVID-19 virus are surely getting infected with anxiety or depression. Psychological disturbance during the pandemic in itself a big deal because it paralyses you and actually makes you sick.

If you open Google search and start typing ‘how to deal with anxiety‘, you will find infinite amount of information. Some will suggest you to exercise meditation (mindfulness meditation or simply deep breathing exercises), some will suggest to take care of your body by exercising and consuming a healthy diet. Journalling will also come up, I am sure. These are all evidence based suggestions and people suffering from anxiety these days can introduce them in their daily routine. While the above mentioned suggestions are helpful in easing anxiety levels I am quite sure you, me and everyone is wondering:

WHEN IT IS GOING TO END?

Quite honestly, it’s a difficult question with answers people will not enjoy listening to. Based on my limited knowledge, I believe the pandemic is going to go away when approximately 70-80% of the world’s population is vaccinated. Until then, the waves are going to come and go and come and go….In spite of that, we should not forget how far we have come. Thanks to science and those scientists who managed to come up with vaccines so soon.

Everyone wants the pandemic to end. While pondering upon this thought I was reminded of a Persian adage:THIS TOO SHALL PASS.” Yes, it will pass. The pandemic will pass. Human lives are going to get back to normality. We are going to have days when we don’t have to wear masks and maintain social distancing (physical distancing not emotional distancing). Obviously, we are not going to forget these times. They are going to stay with us as long as we are alive. But remember, THIS TOO SHALL PASS….

THIS TOO SHALL PASS is another way of thinking that nothing in life stays forever. Buddhism revolves around the idea of impermanence: everything is transitory and nothing is permanent. Whatever it is- your feelings, moments, lives , it’s changing all the time.

  • People who are with you right now are not going to be there till eternity.
  • You are not going to be there forever either.
  • Your circumstances are going to change and they won’t remain constant.
  • Your feelings are going to get replaced with other feelings (good for bad and bad for good).

In the same way, this pandemic is not going to stay forever because it shall pass. We may feel right now that this black cloud is going nowhere. But it will pass. It, too, shall pass. Trust me, the lesson of impermanence hasn’t been digested by me completely. I am still learning. But I am glad I have started walking down this path.

We are going through some of the most difficult times right now. Stay wise and please act wisely.

How to measure success?

Picture credits: Customer Success Association

If I ask you to google the meaning of a word ‘success’ I am sure you’re going to find many definitions of it. 

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  2. a desired outcome of an undertaking
  3. the attainment of wealth and eminence
  4. or put simply, excellence

Success has become a very important part of our lives. And that’s why we are so fixated on becoming successful. It’s linked to how much money we earn, how powerful we are, how many powerful people we know, what university did we go to, how multi-tasking we are, what clothes we wear, what devices we own, etc. Alain De Botton, who is a brilliant philosopher (and one of my favourites) has rightly said that the most iconic question of the 21st century is nothing but “WHAT DO YOU DO?” and by that question we are obviously pointing out at each other’s careers. People who have all the things I have mentioned earlier in the paragraph leave no stone unturned in flaunting their success while people who implicitly believe they haven’t got the best job in the world try avoiding that question in every possible way. When we look at celebrities we tell ourselves ‘This is exactly what I want. These people are so successful. They have the best life ever.’ When we look at billionaires or millionaires we start believing that is what success is all about and therefore we make it our life’s purpose to accumulate as much wealth as possible. The thing is no one has an idea what success is like and what it should look like. Our biggest problem is that we decide if we are successful based on an the external things. We let societies, money, power, etc. define our life as successful. Guess what? We never feel successful. And sadly, we never will as long as our metrics of success are faulty.

Inner V/s Outer Scorecard

Warren Buffet who is an American investor, philanthropist, business tycoon and the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway once said, “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.” Majority of us look at an Outer scorecard, not an inner one and that’s exactly why we never feel satisfied or successful in our lives. We are constantly focused upon money, power, other people’s validations to define us; to define our levels of success. C H Cooley and Han-Joachim Schubert gave a name to this phenomenon and it’s called “Looking- Glass- Self”. They summed it up by a wonderful line: “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” While it is important from time to time take into consideration other people’s good pieces of advice it is not an entirely good idea to rest our whole lives on what the world thinks how successful we are. If we are earning $1000 lesser than our friends and relatives does it mean we are poor and our lives are not as good as theirs? If we own only a single car or no car at all does it mean a vehicle is going to become one of the metrics of our success? Maybe we want to use public transportation because it saves up a lot of our time and contributes in saving the environment. It’s like we are always chasing what the next person has and until we get it we are a failure. 

Potential metrics of success

Since time immemorial it has been told to all of us that a successful life means good quality education, a good job, a happy marriage with lovely children and having caring and supportive family & friends. That’s true. I couldn’t agree more. But humans seem to have no appetite when it comes to success. Therefore, we are always doing ‘something’ yet we want more and more of it.

So how should we define what a successful life should be? A life can be defined in terms of:

Well being

We sacrifice our health (both physical and mental) for a better project at our jobs so that we climb ladders of success instantly. Sadly, we forget the age old saying, “Health is Wealth.” Just imagine, if you are not physically fit and mentally serene do you think that life is worth that bigger project you’re chasing. Prioritize health because when you’re healthy you’re way more successful than someone who is digging his/her own grave by making ‘work’ everything. By being well you’re giving yourself more opportunities to do your best work. Having tons of money in your bank account with an ailing health doesn’t account for a successful life. You are still miserable. 

Family

A loving, caring and supportive family is the biggest blessing of one’s life. A blessing we often take for granted because we are busy measuring our lives through other external means. Someone with a great family support can withstand everything life will offer and we don’t think of it as something to be grateful for. We care more about what our bosses, colleagues, strangers think of us that we miss out on how much our family loves us. Their love gets shadowed in front of other people’s constant approvals. We are always trying to please everyone other than our families yet no one gets pleased enough. Is that the kind of life we should be striving for? Would you call that a successful life because a successful person clearly knows his/her priorities. Having a great family is a sign of a successful life no matter what everybody says. 

True fans

Kevin Kelley, founder of Wired Magazine coined a term called “1000 true fans”. He believes these are the people who will buy anything and everything you will make because you have earned their trust. He further believes these 1,000 people will be enough for you to have a decent living standard (according to Kelley’s math).These are the people we must focus on. They can be our close friends, family members, spouses, colleagues or even complete strangers. What everybody else thinks should be of no concern to us. When we start caring about our true fans we will start feeling successful too. 

Autonomy

We all want to land prestigious universities and companies so that one day we have a prestigious life. There is nothing wrong with wanting something ‘better’ in our lives. It’s human nature after all. But sometimes we are so desperate that we often forget when everything should be enough. We are so desperate that we are even ready to lose our autonomy to reach the stars. Look at celebrities for instance. They have luxurious lives. They have a lot of money. They go on vacations all over the world as if it’s like taking our dogs for a walk every evening. They have the best cars and the best houses. Yet they feel something is missing in their lives. That’s probably their ‘autonomy’. Ryan holiday, a best selling author of The Obstacle is the Way has said that the definition of success is autonomy or independence. If we are not free, if we are always being told what to do (the way celebrities have to comply to their PR agents, lawyers, managers, etc before uttering a single word) then I am sorry but I don’t think that’s success. And even if that is what success looks like then it’s not worth it. We should do big things but autonomy should never be compromised with.

I think it’s time to re-define the definition of success. Probably it is going to help us become more content and happier.

Are you building your competence or character?

Picture credits: parentingskillsblog.com

Competence is very crucial in today’s world. If we do not possess sufficient knowledge, judgement and skills it will be hard to perform well at our workplaces. These days a lot of emphasis is being put upon building new and variety of skills. Quite frankly, it makes sense because we are living in an era where nothing stays the same for very long. Every now and then things are changing rapidly due to constant innovations in science and technology. And if we can’t keep pace with such innovations and keep ourselves competent enough to land a good job, survival will be very hard.

What about character?

Does it matter in a world that pressurizes us to put our whole energy into building our skills and careers? Or simply, it doesn’t matter at all?

From my limited experience of the way this world works, I believe people do not give much thought to building their characters. Everyone is busy in a rat race. Everyone wants to be ahead of everyone else. It looks like people are losing their basic human values including kindness, gratitude, love, forgiveness, etc. Building a good character is not primary anymore. Rather it has become secondary.

Tasks either reflect competence or character

Jay Shetty who is a former monk, coach, author and a podcast host has written his first book titled “Think like a Monk”. In one of the chapters, he talked about how tasks that we do on a daily basis either reflect our competence or character. If I am an academician and I am focusing on improving my critical skills, statistical skills and teaching skills then my job will be a reflection of my competence. This will show that I am skilled at my work. What about jobs/tasks that are not related to our work? Like washing dishes, cleaning the washroom, brooming, doing grocery every week, etc. Do they not reflect our competence? They might do but more importantly they reflect our character. We undermine these tasks thinking they are below our level and why should we waste our time doing them when we could be doing something more important like making another report or studying.

In one of my previous blog posts I wrote about me doing all the household work alongside my mother. All this time I felt frustrated from time to time because I had this belief that I was just wasting my time. I felt I should be investing my time in doing something more important and better like learning new skills. But after understanding that some tasks actually help in shaping our character I realized I have been so wrong about my perception. I might read a chapter of a book in the time I am doing household chores. As it turns out, life is not simply about making myself the most competent person but also building a good character.

Look, a broom is trying to teach you something

While listening to an audio book by Jay Shetty I came across a very valuable point he made in his book. He said while he was a monk in an ashram in India he learned the importance of exhibiting flexibility through a broom. And he is very much right because we can learn that lesson too. When we are trying to clean our houses using a broom we often forget that without showing some flexibility it will be very hard for it to do its job. It is so interesting to realize that a broom is only able to reach the corners of our houses because it is flexible.I believe every task that we belittle is trying to teach us something. We need to change our perspectives. That’s all.

It is a good thing if we are millionaires. After all we deserve to be because we had worked very hard for it. Being financially stable is very important because lives cannot be sustained without money. We need money to fulfill our basic requirements. And we can be financially independent if we land a good job. Good jobs can be landed if we show the company/organization that we will be valuable at work. To be able to show our worth we actually have to be worthy and our worth is a result of our competence. However, we must never forget our worth is not limited to our skills and workplaces. Being someone of  a good character should be one of life’s purposes too.

The Art of Being Enough

Picture credits: Pinterest

This post might just change your life. But more importantly, I want it to change mine. In other words, you can say out loud that I am writing this short essay for me.

Every moment of our lives we are striving for more. We want more achievements, more money, more friends, more social approvals, more gadgets, etc. It seems like ‘more’ is guiding our lives. We do not take a pause, look around and think if everything we have is enough. We are always competing: competing with our former selves is a good thing (but it should be done in moderation too) while keeping an unhealthy competition with others is an invitation to self destruction and no self satisfaction. Nothing is ever enough for us. You might assume contentment equals no progress. I disagree. Being content in life provides a stronger platform to get closer to our goals and dreams. People who are content in life find better ways to pursue new goals.

Wrong: Contentment= No progress

Right: Contentment= Better progress

My elder sister is a successful woman. She has a stable job which she enjoys a lot. Recently, she has purchased a car. These are considered to be the measures of success; just to name a few. I have attributed her success with her salary and possessions. They are the external measures of success and they matter. But she has a quality that I believe can be referred to as her “internalmeasure of success. I will call it “the art of being enough”. My sister is ambitious. She knows what she wants in her life and then she goes after it. That’s how we all approach our lives too, right?

I don’t think so.

What sets her apart from the many people I have met is her ability to stay content. Her ambitions are loud but they are not loud enough to keep her dissatisfied with her accomplishments and life overall. She is not trying to do ‘everything’. She does ‘something’ and she gives her best in that. She knows when things get ‘enough’ for her. I admire such people.

I often talk about gratitude in my blog posts not because it looks cooler but because I personally believe how important it is to be grateful in life. Few years ago I would say I wasn’t a grateful person. But that changed with time. Now I say it out loud that I am a grateful person and whenever life throws mud at me I try to remind myself of all the things I have. Still, I have this constant feeling like something is missing. I could say it is because I am an over ambitious person. Also, I am very competitive (please bear in mind that I try my best to keep a healthy competition). For the past few days I have been wondering about it and it crossed my mind how I can learn a simple skill of being satisfied and content from my sister.

Why so serious? It’s just life

I have always been serious in life and my sister has always been jolly and carefree. That way she enjoys her life.

Does it mean she is not an accomplished person? Does it mean she has no bigger goals and aspirations? NO. She is a very successful person not only because she is well educated, she has a car, a place to live and other essentials but also because she practices an art of being enough. She strives for more and better things in life but at the same time she knows when and how to put a full stop to her desires. She prioritizes experiences and having diverse experiences in life makes life more worthy.

Seriously, it’s only life. Why be so serious???

Ambitions can be a double edged sword

I know well enough the cost of being over ambitious. There have been profits, not going to deny that. But I have bear losses too. And those losses are realized only when it gets too late. I believe we must all have higher goals in life. Having bigger goals motivate us to realize our potential. Taking risks alongside is crucial too because without risks nothing changes; not even our circumstances. If there is no contentment everything seems futile. There shall be zero satisfaction.

 Is it a good life? A life where we have almost everything yet we tell ourselves we have nothing? I know that’s a difficult question because at the end of each day we want more. That’s a harsh reality. Even though it is a harsh reality should we just let ourselves suffer? Probably not.

Practice the art of being enough

It is not easy to go against our pre-wired biological mechanisms. It is not easy to go against our own human psychology. But that doesn’t or shouldn’t mean we don’t make changes.

Like my sister, I am trying to stay content in life. I plan things out. I imagine my future and try work accordingly. I keep higher goals for myself. In the midst of all this, I tell myself whatever I have right now is enough. With that little dialogue with me I start believing not only what I have is enough but I am enough too. When we start believing that we are enough we are much happier. That further motivates us to go one step further and further and so on and so forth. If only I am ungrateful for everything that I have do you really think I will be motivated enough to take a leap of faith and go for another goal? I will only be stuck with self-loathing and self-loathing is always our foe.

There are no limits to human desires and that’s the fundamental cause of our suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. I don’t think our goal is to eliminate our desires and become void beings. Contrary to that ,our goal should be to keep our desires in check and whenever we get a signal that our desires are getting out of control we should take a pause and reflect.

Meditate on these quotes every day

Picture credits: The Daily Stoic

Stoic philosophy is a very practical philosophy. Many stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus had spoken of some of the ultimate truths of life. They were not gods. They were common people like us with responsibilities at home and workplace. They had families to look after. They had jobs to do to. They had adversities and challenges to face. In the middle of all this they did not stop being philosophers. They did not stop working on themselves. It was only when they were striving for mental clarity, peace and self improvement did they reveal some beautiful words which still survive today- more than 2,000 years later. 

1. “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”– Seneca

Stoic philosophers believed events are objective. They are ‘what they are’. If someone has ridiculed us on social media then it is an objective reality: it is what it is. We cannot go back in time and change it. But how we choose to look at those events will eventually decide how we are going to feel about them. In other words, our subjectivity or perception is going to determine how we feel about that particular event. How we are going to react to that ridiculous comment someone has made against us on social media is either going to make our day or break our day. A lot of times things are not that bad. Our judgement make them. Therefore it is of great importance that we work on improving our perspective. A lot is at stake when we do not have a favorable perception.

2. “Why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice?”- Marcus Aurelius

Every time I read this, I feel a little different. We are not always angry at ourselves. Majority of the times we are angry at the world; at people- for not being kind enough, for not being honest enough with their jobs, for not being understanding enough, for not being like us. It is a big mistake to expect the world to work as per our preferences. People are not going to be like us: they do not care much if they are being greedy or not, they do not care if they are efficient at their jobs or not, they do not care about your expectations. They are just carrying on with their lives just the way you are.  Then what is the point in punishing yourself for someone else’s mistakes. Why are you angry? Why you? Do you think they care? Do you think they are noticing your anger? Do you believe they are going to come console you? NO. NO and NO. We can influence people. We can make a difference in this world. But we cannot do it for everyone.

3. “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

We all dread mornings because we have to go to work, we have to do household chores; we have to think of innumerable tasks on to-do list. In the middle of all the responsibilities we forget what a privilege it is to be able to breathe; to be alive. We forget it is a new day to correct our past mistakes. We forget it is a new day to make our plans again. We forget we have another day to care deeply about the people we love. This is what Marcus Aurelius said. He wanted us to make time for gratitude. If we are focused too much upon what we don’t have, we will never be able to enjoy what we already have. This is what gratitude teaches us. Strive for better but also enjoy what’s already there.

4. “You have to assemble your life yourself – action by action.”- Marcus Aurelius

Life is never build instantly. There is no magic formula to build our lives quickly. Everything is done brick by brick. In other words, one step at a time. Human beings are very impatient. We expect instant results with little time and hard work. We do our work on a daily basis and feel like we are not getting anywhere, like we are stuck. I am most certain it happens with everybody.  Every day progress doesn’t seem to matter a lot because we don’t get to see any changes. But in reality, we get better. We make progress. Like Marcus Aurelius said we have to assemble our lives action by action. Act once. Then act again. Act once more. Keep doing your work. You will definitely get there.

Important lessons I have learned so far- Part 2

Picture credits: projectsmart.co.uk

(Note: This blog post is a continuation of my previous post)

5. Less is more

Less is more.” Read that again if you haven’t quite understood it yet. Yes, ‘less’ is ‘more’. Words might sound contradictory but reality isn’t. Having less people around you, having less stuff alongside you, having less of everything is always better. Before you get all confused let me clarify a bit more. I used to believe that having more people around me was a good thing. It was never easy for me to let go off people so easily. That, obviously, had a huge demand on my cognitive resources– I had to pay constant attention to their needs, I had to pay attention when they needed help, and I had to pay attention to the fact that I wasn’t not ignoring them. In the middle of this, I wasn’t paying attention to the people who were actually worthy of my time. I wasn’t prioritizing myself either. My constant efforts to keep the relationship going weren’t recognized as well. So, I cut off all the compulsions I had set up for myself. Now I don’t have contact numbers on my phone beyond 20-30. I am very particular about investing my time on people who do not come under the radar of my social circle. I am not saying that I have become cruel or rude. I help people if they need my help. But I don’t keep any expectations. This has literally let me have a lot of peace in life. The same goes for material things. Before buying something, I ask myself, “Is this really necessary?” If not, I move on.

6. Prioritize health

One of the biggest mistakes we often make is ignoring our health and putting everything else first like we can manage to do ‘everything’ with our so called ‘good health’. Actually it’s just poor health if you are not giving it any importance. Compromising on health is equivalent to compromising on life. When we are young we feel like we have the most perfect bodies. We feel sickness can never touch us. It is true when we are young we don’t feel maladies affecting us but as we grow older and older we come to understand that our bodies are far from perfect. Actually, we further realize that our bodies were never perfect or well maintained. Focusing on our physical health is very very important. It can’t be emphasized upon more. While physical health should be a priority we must never forget about prioritizing our mental health as well. A sound mind is just as important as a sound body.

7. Don’t be on social media

Honestly, I hate social media. I am not available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and countless other social media platforms designed deliberately to be addictive. Many might comment that I have a very weak will power and I do not know how to use it moderately. To such assertions I will retaliate that this idea is completely naive. People do not understand that these social media platforms have been designed very cautiously to be addictive. Those cute and vivid colors of the apps, without your conscious awareness, are playing with your brain and eventually you are giving them more time than you are supposed to. You do not realize that the red color you see when a notification comes on your Facebook account is a result of deliberate thinking by some experts. Moreover, there are constant unconscious comparisons that we make through social media and it takes a big toll on our psychological well-being. That is why I have disappeared from social media. That is why my life has become a lot more peaceful.