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!!

An Introvert’s Brain

Picture credits: Personality Junkie

 

You are my best friend.
Together, we go to far away galaxies.
I see beyond my eyes can ever permit,
I feel the whole universe in me.
But sometimes you are not so loyal.
You make me go through misery.
You take me places I don’t want to go,
In the name of ‘Infinite Possibilities’.

-Sumbul

Different Stories Walking Around

Picture Credits: The New York Times

So I was sitting on a bench. Weather was a bit gloomy. It was cold. Not too cold to shiver or anything. Surrounding was clean- actually very clean. I was breathing fresh air. Everything around me felt fresh and pure. Buildings were distant but I was simply appreciating their beauty. Then I turned my attention to ‘people’ walking around. Or should I say ‘different stories’ walking around.

Observation can be quite interesting. My simple observation made me think I wasn’t only looking at people rather I was looking at “unique stories”. Every person who was walking by me or was walking a little faraway from me is a story. Different backgrounds, different languages, different opinions, different educational degrees, different experiences facilitated the birth of different stories. You don’t know what is going on in their minds. You don’t know what they are thinking in that exact moment. For you they are simply people. But when you think about it they are all stories. Stories we are completely unaware of yet leave no opportunity in passing judgements.

Everyone is trying to make a dent in this huge complex world. Everyone wants to feel like they belong in this world which makes sense because no one should have to feel otherwise. Be kind to each other. Be humble. Be simply a good human being. You just might help re-write someone’s story for good.

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.

Under the Microscope: People with a Psychology degree- What I have found and why I feel enraged?

Picture credits: PNGWing

I have an under-graduate degree in economics. Quite honestly, I don’t remember what I studied and don’t like economics anymore. There are many reasons and I don’t want to bore you right away. So, maybe some other time. Back to where I was, I don’t like economics anymore. Right now I call myself a ‘psychology student’ because I am a psychology student. Over the past 4 years I have been around people who either have a psych background or are striving for what I am striving for. I have made certain observations about these people and they make me feel enraged. I know you’re going to stick it to my face that I have anger issues and must start meditating or even join an anger management class. Trust me, I am not angry in a bad way. I feel enraged but laugh at the same time because I find it funny.

I believe you can have any degree in the world and yet your life will remain the same (obviously, not true for everyone). I am specifically talking about people with degrees in medical science, psychology, physics, chemistry, etc. People with the above mentioned backgrounds should do everything in their power to stop being illogical and unscientific. When I encounter illogical and unscientific ideas I feel sad and my sadness elevates when those ideas come from people who claim themselves to be ‘potential psychologists’ or ‘medical doctors’. Based on what I have been seeing over the past few years, my observations are as follows:

Science is not everyone’s cup of tea

I could not stress upon it enough. Ever since I have started making sense of the things around me I have found that majority of the people with a medical degree, engineering degree, physics and chemistry degree and psychology degree are merely degree holders. Their education in these subjects did not change them at all. Such people call themselves medical doctors, psychologists, physicists, etc. and still their mind has only expanded professionally and not personally. They don’t know how to challenge the narratives they have been exposed with since childhood. Would you believe me if I told you that I have met psychology students who believe exorcism can cure schizophrenia? Would you believe me if I told you that I know people with a modern medicine degree who think homeopathy is not a pseudo-science? Would you also believe me if I told you that I know a lot of people who don’t believe in evolution?

Trust me, science is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Psychology is ‘interesting’ to everyone. Yet not everyone can grasp it intellectually

When I opted psychology for my graduate studies and told people about it (when they asked me) I believe 9 out of 10 people said they like psychology as it’s very ‘interesting’. I am not trying to insult anyone but those people had no idea what psychology as a subject actually means. It’s true that psychology is quite interesting but grasping it intellectually is not an easy job. Pick an academic paper in psychology and start reading it. I am sure you will stop finding it interesting. The subject of psychology is intellectually challenging and if you don’t agree with me then you’re studying the ‘real’ psychology.

You can study ‘abnormal psychology’ and then go around talking superstitious stuff

I remember I was in a psychopathology/abnormal psychology class and the topic of discussion was schizophrenia. One thing led to another and very soon my classmates started talking about their long held superstitious beliefs without even considering for a minute if that was making any sense. Things started becoming more interesting when paranoid schizophrenia was being explained using superstitions and utter nonsense. I am sorry to say this but they didn’t deserve to sit in an abnormal psychology class. Such people don’t deserve to pick up psychology subject at all.

Psychology isn’t limited to helping people get back on track in their lives

When my friends used to ask me what I am doing, I used to say that I am studying psychology and will pursue my career in this field. Immediately many of them used to pose another question and ask me, “Are you going to be a doctor of mad people?” I wanted to explain things to them and to a certain level I did but after some time I stopped. Because nothing could change their fixed ideas. So, I want to make things clear: psychology is much more than clinical psychology. Psychology is like an ocean and there are many sub-fields. It’s embodied in economics, anthropology, political science, business and many more. I would encourage people to do some research first and then ask such questions.

Psychology isn’t telepathy

A lot of people ask psychology students “Tell me what I am thinking right now?” I mean seriously? Psychology students/professionals of the field are not telepaths. If you don’t know your own self in the first place how can you expect another person to do it for you? Psychology is indeed about behaviour and mental processes. The focus group of the subject is none other than humans. But the training is not given to become mind readers. Training is given to study behaviours and mental processes scientifically and not randomly.

A single question that is helping me change my perspective

Picture credits: freepik

It’s a human tendency to take life for granted. I know this and you know it too. But why do we do it? Why do we take our family, friends, health, etc for granted? Why do we often miss out on acting in much better ways even though we ‘know’ nothing lasts forever?

Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, essayist, logician and a social critic aptly said once, “In all affairs, it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Quite honestly, I haven’t make a list of all the things I take for granted in my life (probably it’s LIFE in general that I sometimes take for granted just like any other person) but I have come to a realisation that yes, indeed we don’t value our lives the way we should. I believe the pandemic is teaching us a lot in this domain.

Coming back to the question of why we take things in life for granted, psychology has some answers. Human beings are naturally inclined to ‘novelty’. It’s in our evolutionary history. Life, relationships, health seems like permanent. We think they have been there for a very long time and will stay with us for ‘always’. All this doesn’t feel novel or new so we don’t pay much attention. Until something big happens. The pandemic is giving us many examples. We are seeing with our own eyes that a single hour is enough to change our or the lives of our loved ones completely and forever. For many the wounds are never going to heal but others will forget everything and continue living their lives the way they had been living prior to the pandemic.

Isn’t it the perfect time to change that? After all, the losses are irreversible.

Only a couple days back I was pondering upon the same thought and something crossed my mind. It was nothing but a simple, single question. I have lost a very close relative to COVID-19. While reflecting back upon my own life I reminded myself how lucky I am. Quite frankly, I am very grateful of my life each day. Trying to keep myself in my cousin’s shoes I asked myself a question:

“HOW MUCH WOULD YOUR COUSIN BE WILLING TO PAY JUST TO HAVE A 5 MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH THE PERSON SHE HAS LOST?”

Without a doubt: A LOT!! Yes, my cousin would be willing to pay a lot. The cost will be very very high. Doesn’t that change your perspective, even a little bit? It changed mine. That question strikes me hard enough to pause for a moment and think things over again. Now, I am not saying I have become all perfect and will never take people in my life for granted. I am a human after all. I am conditioned to make mistakes. Nevertheless, I am going to try to never stop asking myself that question. It will keep me in check, I am sure.

Against Empathy. Really?

Picture credits: Coonoor.medium.com

Imagine I am walking down a road to buy some groceries. On the sidewalk I see a homeless man who is begging for money. Some people give him the money while others pass by as if he doesn’t exist. I, on the other hand, trying my best to use my psychology degree to understand my own emotions while looking at a homeless man. Humans feel diverse emotions in their everyday lives. We feel anger, disgust, love, sadness, empathy, jealousy, envy, compassion, etc. We cannot eliminate these emotions altogether. But when they start getting out of our control (especially negative emotions) we should pause for a moment, accept what we are feeling and deal with them with utmost calmness and patience. 

Empathy is one of the emotions that is in spotlight because recent data in experimental psychology clearly says that it is good for our overall well-being. We should be kind and empathetic towards people and if we believe it is hard we can always become one through continuous practice. Empathy is about putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. It’s about feeling what they are feeling. Nothing wrong with that, eh? Well, looks like someone thinks a bit differently. Paul Bloom, a professor of Psychology at Yale University has written a book called “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion”. You can say that this post is inspired by his argumentin the book. Professor Bloom argues that empathy is a poor moral guide. It exhausts and drains us completely. Going back to the scenario I mentioned at the beginning of this post, if I am going to be empathetic towards the homeless man then I will be putting myself in his situation. I’ll be feeling what he is feeling in that moment. I cannot speak for everyone but I am pretty sure I’ll be having a hard time to control myself because seeing someone in a situation where they are unable to meet their basic requirements is not easy. I’ll be drained emotionally, at least for some time. 

What should I do then? Should I just shut off my moral engine and become a misanthrope? No. I am not supposed to perceive the world as ‘me’ v/s ‘them’. Rather, what professor Bloom says is we should practice another emotion and that’s compassion. Compassion is about caring about other people but not necessarily feeling their suffering. So, in the case of an imagined homeless man compassion will allow me to care about him but not feel his suffering to an extent that I myself start suffering. There is a fine line between empathy and compassion but rather an important one. Clinical studies have also been done on empathy and compassion and their findings are quite interesting. Tania Singer, a social neuroscientist at the Max Planck Society in Germany is very well known in the study of empathy and compassion. She and her colleagues conducted a study where some participants were asked to practice empathy meditation and others compassion meditation. Their brain activities were recorded under a fMRI scanner. It was found that empathy was unpleasant and exhausting. On the other hand, compassion was exhilarating and more positive. 

In his book professor Bloom talked about two kinds of empathy: cognitive and emotional. Cognitive empathy is a kind of empathy that allows us to process other people’s motivations, plans, etc. In other words, we are able to understand the mental state of others. So, if one of my good friends lost her job and I am able to understand why she is feeling sad or disappointed then I am probably practising cognitive empathy. However, in case of emotional empathy I will start putting myself in her shoes and start experiencing every little emotion she is feeling. This will not only be debilitating for me but I will also fail to help her out of the situation because I, too, am messed up. Empathy is said to be biased: we tend to be more empathetic towards people who are our loved ones than anonymous strangers. This eventually narrows down the scope of empathy. As Mother Teresa rightly put it, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” 

A relationship between a client and therapist might make the argument more concrete. If a therapist during a counselling session practices empathy then he or she will be very exhausted. It is because by being empathetic the therapist is feeling everything his or her client is feeling: all the emotions. This is not good as it will cloud therapist’s ability to act rationally and professionally. The whole rationale behind the psychotherapy will remain unfulfilled. 

Before becoming the president of The United States of America, Barack Obama gave a speech and an excerpt of his speech is:

to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. . . . When you think like this—when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers—it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.

Mr Obama was right when he appealed to everyone to be empathetic towards people who are distant strangers. Empathy does play a crucial role: when we are empathetic we tend to help people more. I highly doubt if that is a bad thing. But if that same empathy starts to back fire we need to keep aside our empathy and be more compassionate. 

If You’re Blessed. Be a Blessing.

Picture credits: CNN.com

No one ever became poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a German- Dutch diarist, a Holocaust survivor who posthumously gained fame with the publication of her all time famous book “The Diary of a Young Girl”. For approximately two years she and her family lived in a secret annex to avoid getting caught by the Nazis. However, they got caught and only her father , Otto Frank managed to survive. The times she and her entire family was going through is completely unimaginable for all of us. In spite of living in such ordeals Anne Frank did not stop being optimistic and the best version of herself. While she had nothing to give to anyone outside that secret place she was living in, she believed in the power of giving. She said that no one in this world has ever become impoverished by giving to other people. 

Why you must give?

We all talk about giving. We all say if we have so much to be grateful for we must never back down from helping others. In other words, if we have so many countable blessings we must become a blessing to someone else too. I think that’s appropriate because life is not a life if it is lived not in the service of others (please mind that living in the service of others doesn’t mean we should forget our own selves). Many pundits and philosophers also believed in this and made the best usage of words to express themselves:

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”Leo Tolstoy

“We make a living by what we get, we make life by what we give.”- Winston Churchill

And finally…

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”  –Chinese Proverb

Is this enough? I mean is this the only reason we must give to other people? No. While poets and philosophers were right, science has now ample amount of data to prove that giving is a good thing and it adds meaning to our lives. 

In the year 2008 an interesting study was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and University of British Columbia on the benefits of giving. In the study they found that spending money on others lead to lasting improvements in people’s overall happiness levels. Another study was conducted by Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University and in one of their annual studies ‘Women Give 2017’ it was found that there is a connection between charitable giving and life satisfaction. In other words, there is a relation between how satisfied we feel in our lives and how charitable our attitudes are. Economists Bill Harbaugh & Daniel Burghart and psychologist Ulrich Mayr conducted a study in the year 2007 which was published in a prestigious journal Science. They were interested in observing the changes in brain activities when donations were voluntary or mandatory. Every participant was given a sum of $100 and were told no one would know how much of it they had kept with themselves or donated. The participants were kept under fMRI machines while they made decisions whether to keep some money or donate it. Their brain activity was measured by an fMRI. Sometimes subjects had a choice to choose if they were willing to donate some money to a local food bank while other times tax was levied and some of the money was sent to a local food bank without seeking the permission of the participants. Researchers found that when the participants chose to donate, the areas of the brain were lit up that release pleasure chemical called dopamine. These are the same brain areas which respond when we are involved in activities including eating and sex. On the other hand, when subjects had to donate in spite of their choice same brain areas were lit up but the activity was slower than in the previous case. 

These experiments are only a drop in the ocean. There are tons of other studies that clearly demonstrate that giving to other people is a good thing. Bill Gates is one of the names that is cited the most when it comes to philanthropy. His wealth is estimated to be nearly $94 billion and he has given away approximately $50 billion over the years to various charities. Other well-known philanthropists include Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, J K Rowling, etc. They all seem to have understood that by giving no one becomes poor. Ever. 

What can you give?

Now we know donating money to charities is an excellent practice to boost our psychological well-being. Even science agrees. But is it really about money? Does it always have to be about dollars or pounds or euros? Is it really that only if I am donating a part of my income to various charities and people in general then I am contributing in uplifting the society? Was Anne Frank merely talking about money when she said about ‘giving’? 

While it is true that it’s money which often comes to our minds whenever we are talking about giving something, we need to expand our perspective. Not everyone is in a position to help someone financially. Sometimes you’re helping someone if you are being kind and understanding with them. You’re also helping someone if you’re guiding them correctly so that they stay on the right path throughout their lives. Moreover, you’re helping someone by being the best version of yourself. They may not be given much worth but they are definitely worthy. Currently, I am not earning any money and I cannot help someone money wise. I cannot buy anyone any gifts on their birthdays. Until that day comes I am trying to help people with everything else. I am trying to become a better person each day so that my goodness is out there in the world. 

The 4 Don’ts in Your Relationships

Picture credits: TinyBuddha.com

Relationship is one of the pillars of our lives without which we cannot sustain. Sabotaging our good relationships for lesser important things is not a wise move. We know this truth but often times we forget our own learned lessons and do the exact thing we try hard to refrain ourselves from doing. Then comes the toxic relationships. In such relationships we are more of a slave to another person and loses our individuality in trying to conform to their ideas and beliefs. Sometimes we become so accustomed to such relationships that we forget there can be a liberation from such people. 

In this modern age we seem to have forgotten the importance of spending quality time with quality people. We are sacrificing them for another promotion, another job and another business project. We are depriving them of our full attention for another post on social media. And finally we are valuing our material possessions over them. Isn’t this all messed up? Yes. It is all messed up. But we can always fix things in our lives. We just need an intention and awareness. We can definitely start with these 4 don’ts if we want to start valuing people in our lives. 

1. The First Don’t/: Don’t text if you can call or meet in person.

Texting is the new normal. Is it New Year? Let’s text. Is it Christmas? Let’s text. Has someone got a promotion? Let’s congratulate through a text. Someone going through some hard time we are aware of? Let’s ask them how they are through a text message. Or even better- lets WhatsApp because it’s the perfect way to communicate. Personally I don’t like receiving text messages especially on occasions or when I am not feeling very good and people choosing texting to know about my well-being. I also do not like sending someone a text message on special occasions or when we haven’t been in touch for some time. I prefer calling at least. If possible meeting them. It is understandable when someone is far away from us and distance is a big issue because of which we can’t meet in person. It is also understandable that calling or meeting people is not possible all the time. In such cases texting is fine. Even during times like these when we have to abide by physical distancing. Unfortunately we have adopted texting so religiously that we don’t realise if that’s even the right thing to do. If you want to nurture your relationships you have to put in the efforts and time. You don’t have to call your loved ones every single day. You don’t even have to meet them every weekend. But whenever you plan to call them or meet them make sure you do that. And don’t let text messages come in between. 

2. The Second Don’t: Don’t let too much time come in between you and your loved ones.

There is this idea that prevails a lot and when I hear people talking about it I say to myself, “But, it’s ridiculous”. People think it is completely okay if they haven’t been in touch with their closed friends and family members for like 3 months or 6 months or even an year. They tell themselves that when there is love deep down their hearts then not being in touch is not an issue. Well, it is true. But only to an extent. We are living in a fast paced world and losing touch with people is very common. It happens with everyone. And letting ‘busyness’ come in between is just an excuse. While it is not possible and appropriate to call people everyday we should definitely make time. If you and your friend have very demanding jobs and family commitments schedule a call or meeting that works for both of you. However you do it just do not let too much time come in between. Sometimes it ruins a lot of relationships and we should know how to keep good people in our lives. 

3. The Third Don’t: Don’t make everything about yourself.

I am sure you have met many people who make everything about themselves. When you message or call them or even meet them they will eventually divert the whole conversation towards themselves. I have met such people and I do not prefer this quality in them. It’s not that they are bad people it’s just that they are not mature enough to understand a good and healthy conversation happens when everyone participates equally. If only one person is talking and the other person is listening then it’s not a conversation. Often times it happens that our friend is going through some hardships and in such situations it is our responsibility to become better listeners than talkers. Maybe the moment demands us to just listen mindfully and let our friend talk. This is a completely different scenario and it is completely apt to let our friend makes things about himself/herself. But a lot of times things are not so vulnerable and delicate and if we are arrogant we are definitely going to gather all the attention towards ourselves. There is so much that the other person might have to say and he/she will fail to do so if we are not going to give them a chance. So the next time you are having a conversation either with your loved ones or people in general make sure you take a step back and tell yourself that not everything is about you.

4. The Fourth Don’t: Don’t take people for granted.

We should not take good people in our lives for granted. I know it is easier said than done. But it’s worth the idea. It’s quite easy these days to form new relationships because of all this constant connectivity we have with everyone. Thanks to technology! At the same time, it is very hard to maintain and nurture them. It’s like watering a plant regularly and making sure it gets enough sunlight. The moment we stop doing all the necessary things the plant is going to die. The same thing happens in human relationships. If both the parties are not going to put in the necessary time and efforts in their relationship and take the other person for granted then the relationship is going to die soon. If you expect your friends or family to call you every time and give forth an excuse that you have been busy then you are just fooling yourself. Why? Firstly, busy is a decision. People always have time for what’s important in their lives. The fact you don’t call them simply means it is not a priority for you right now. And secondly, you are taking them for granted and they know you are. You believe if you are not calling them then they will because they do it every time and you don’t bother picking up the phone. Stop taking people for granted. Nobody is here till eternity.