Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keep in Touch !!

One of my dear friends and ex-colleague has this lovely mantra for building and enhancing relationships. He keeps in touch (KIT) with all the people who matter to him. I strongly suspect that he has a calendar for doing this and helping him to remember. KIT is a wonderful way to telling people that you care for them and that you value their relationship. The only investment needed for doing this is your time.

One can KIT with people in many different ways. Starting from text messages to mails ("forwards" also count but it cant be the only method) to telephone calls to visits. Whether it is for pure friendship or for official or a commercial relationship, KIT works wonders. Whenever an opportunity comes up, the first name that comes to mind is the person who has been in touch with us. At the sub-conscious level we have deep appreciation for the person who practices KIT with us because he is giving us importance.

Care should be taken, however, not to overdo it. We cannot impose ourselves on others at all times in the pretext of "KIT".. We should be sensitive to the other persons need for private time and should be able to sense it based on body language, response levels etc.

Each of us should have a list (physical or mental list) of people whose relationship is critical for us. Till this becomes a habit and part of our nature, we may want to use tools like a calendar / reminder system to KIT. We should have a list of important dates / events in the lives of such people which we should use to make our communication more personalised (like a birthday / anniversary greeting). Once this becomes hard coded in our behaviour, we will also become like my friend who enjoys a special standing and status in his relationships.

Communication is to a relationship, what breathing is to the living – Virginia Satir

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Speak Well of Others !!

When we think about others, what kind of thoughts comes to us ? Do we remember their good aspects or do we remember their faults ? Are we reminded of the times when they have been kind, helpful and nice or do our minds dwell on the times when they have erred, sinned or been cruel. It is important for us to watch what we think for these become our nature.

When we think good things about others, we feel good and release positive thoughts about them. We also tend to speak good about them when we get the opportunity. We gloss over their positive points and choose to ignore blemishes, if any. By doing this, we are not being imbalanced or unfair. We are consciously choosing to focus on the strengths of the individual because this is what we want that individual to develop and become known for.

What happens when we thus harbour positive feelings and thoughts about others ? When we speak positive about them in their presence as well as in absence ? Firstly, we end up encouraging and motivating the person and make her feel good about herself. Secondly, she gets positive vibes about us and responds likewise. Together we end up creating a positive spiral for each other.

Whatever we speak behind peoples back is especially important. Sometimes people tend to spite others behind their back thinking that it does not matter and the other person will not know. Invariably, however, the message tends to reach the individual. And this sets into motion a negative spiral for the relationship.

So, Always speak well of Others...

When one speaks about the sins of others, he gets an equal share of the sin committed - Hindu Scriptures

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Follow Rules !!

When pre-historic man lived in the wilderness there were no rules. Only the natural rules of "survival of the fittest" were prevalent. So, the stronger, younger and faster you were, greater were the chances of your survival. As man evolved, he discovered that he had a brain power which made him smarter and hence could make up for physical deficiencies.

He quickly used this to develop a language for communication, created tools to support himself, organised community living and formed rules. These rules were formed to ensure justice, orderliness and discipline. As the original in-habitations became villages, towns and cities and organisations within them, the number of rules increased - and so did the complexities.

When we look at rules of any kind, the first thought that should come to our minds is that the rules were formed for us and not against us. By following rules, we are making our own lives simpler and better. By breaking them, we run the risk of taking the society backwards and into anarchy and chaos.

We have every right to seek changes in the rules if they are found to be inadequate or unjust. We can create new rules, by following the right process, for new situations. In no circumstance, however, should we break rules or encourage or allow for breaking of rules. When we follow rules, we may look like robots, but that is the price we have to pay for comfortable and secure living. If everyone in our society was following rules, it would be a much better place to live.

Do you agree ?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Attitude decides Altitude !!

We see all kinds of people in our daily lives - some living very successful and happy lives while some struggling with a mediocre life. The successful ones seem to be full of energy and enthusiasm and generally always charged up. The other kind of guys we find to be grim, upset, stressed etc. The question that always comes in my mind is whether the attitude is the result of the circumstances or vice versa.

After observing a lot of people very closely I discovered that there are some who have a "never say die" spirit in them. They put up with failures with a brave face and look forward to the future with high expectations. They seem to be the eternal optimists who always have a positive outlook and self confidence. They expect the future to be better and work towards making it happen. They are like the "Bulls" in the stock market always pushing the prices up !!

There are also other types who have a pessimistic outlook. Perhaps, their own experience and background leads them to think this way. They are generally wary of what lurks around the corner, wear a suspicious outlook, are worried about what can and will go wrong etc. They anticipate problems so much that sometimes they go about creating it. Whenever things do go wrong, as they sometimes will, these guys would turn around and say "I told you so".

My own take on this is that, by being positive we are enjoying the present. We neither lament on the failures of the past nor do we get overwhelmed about the possible disasters of the future. We are not reckless but take due precautions where necessary. We charge the environment around us with positive energy. We end up attracting others towards us as well as becoming attractive in the eyes of the others. We attract and gain success by our positive attitude.

Truly, it is our Attitude which decides our Altitude !!

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character" - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Critics are Well Wishers !!

For a long part of my early life, I thought I did all the right things and that I was God's gift to mankind. Anyone who criticized me was labeled either a fool or a negative person. I did not bother to hear what the critic said and instead mentally defended myself and my actions. I also told myself that this person is criticizing me because he / she does not like me and enjoys hurting me.

Then I came across a concept that my critics are my well wishers in Robin Sharma’s blog. As I started to think about it, I realized that this is a very powerful insight. Why would anyone criticize me? Who would spend time and effort criticizing me? What would a person gain by criticizing me? Such questions led me to the understanding that only people who genuinely care for me will make the effort. People who have no relationship with me or who have nothing to gain by my evolution would look the other way when I made mistakes.

When I started reflecting on this insight, I realized that in my life, only my close family, friends, relatives, co-workers have given me criticism. Only those who had my best interest in mind pointed out my flaws and gave me tips on improvements. Only people who care about me will try or have tried to correct me and in the process help me evolve into a better person. Others had either been silent spectators or people who saw my weaknesses with glee.

As I realized this, I started appreciating each feedback and each input. I started focusing on the message and not on the messenger. As I appreciated this and acknowledged this, I became more aware and moved ahead in the evolution path. I made peace with others and with myself. I improved the quality of my relationship with others. However, I still retained the right to reject the message if I did not agree or had a rationale reason for my behavior.

The people and events that bug, anger and hurt you are the ideal educators to help you learn the lessons that will help you shine - at work, at home and in life - Robin Sharma

In the face of unjust criticism we can become bitter or better; upset or understanding; hostile or humble; furious or forgiving - William Arthur Ward

Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots. - Frank A. Clark

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Responsibilities

Today is father's day and much has been written by people on the responsibilities of the father. President Obama of U.S.A. says that any fool can become a father but being a real father means owning up responsibilities and "being there". I agree with him. A father's role in the child's development is significant. And it is more than just giving time to the child by being present when the child is growing up.

A father is a role model too. The way he behaves, acts and reacts, carries himself, interacts with others etc. are all watched by the child and imitated in many ways. The child is consciously and sub-consciously watching the father's actions and learning from it. If the father is calm and cool, so the child shall be. If the father is temperamental, the child thinks that this is normal behaviour and picks up cues from him. In rare cases, the child may reject negative behaviour and behave in a positive manner.

He gives a sense of security to the child in more ways than one. The child with a father to fall back on is a more confident and balanced child. The child grows up with a comfort that the father will protect and support the child at all times. The child also behaves with responsibility if there is a fear of retribution from a disciplinarian father.

In my view, the most important role of the father, besides being there, giving love and showing commitment and responsibility, is to inculcate values into the child. He is the first teacher to the child, after the mother, who gives the child the sense of values. He is the one who encourages good behaviour and prevents bad behaviour from becoming a habit. He constantly demonstrates to the child how to live life and how to face situations that life throws at us. He is ever watchful of the child and her progress. He is the one who shapes the child into becoming a useful and mature adult by giving her the values system that becomes hard coded into the child's DNA.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fasting is a Virtue !!

Today is Ekadashi (the eleventh day of a lunar waning / waxing cycle) and Hindus believe it is a good day to fast. I have been fasting on every Ekadashi for several years. I had read about the spiritual benefits about fasting on this day and decided to attempt it. The Ekadashi fast is one where one abstains from eating & drinking the whole day and the ritual breaking of fast is conducted the next morning only. Having seen my mother fast regularly and survive comfortably, I knew that fasting is manageable.

As I started fasting, I realised that hunger pains comes in fixed points of time. Hunger is a reminder by your system to inform you that the time to feed has come. If, using mind control and strong resolve, you resist the temptation to pop something into your mouth, the feeling passes after some time. So, hunger becomes your slave rather than you coming under its control. It is great feeling to have mastered it. It is believed that if one can master the cravings of the tongue, one can master anything.

Besides improving our mind and making us more disciplined, fasting has many other benefits. Our human body is like a machine which is working non-stop. Even in factories, they have periodic servicing of the machines. If we give a break to our stomach, we are giving it much needed rest and help it in becoming more efficient. By fasting regularly, we facilitate our bodies to survive for a longer tenure. When we fast, we are experiencing hunger more acutely and therefore are able relate to other poor beings that are unable or cannot afford to eat regularly.

There are many ways of fasting. One can go on a liquid diet or one can go without salt or one can have liquids and fruits etc. One can fast for a whole day or for part of a day. One can choose a particular day in a week or fortnight or month to make this a regular practice. It is necessary not to overdo this and one should stay within limits. But as you start this practice, you will realise that there is a pleasure of forgoing and abstaining. And this is one pleasure that is a virtue!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stop complaining, Start appreciating

Have you come across some people who love to complain about anything and everything ? It could be about the weather, the noise, the pollution, their friends, acquaintances or relatives etc. etc. In short, virtually anything they experience becomes fresh material for complaining. Such people come across as eternally dissatisfied. They are the pessimists who see the glass as half full. They seem to get a superior feeling about themselves when they complain about others.

Such people will not spare even their near and dear ones. They seem to have a special eye for noticing weaknesses or mistakes and will not waste any time pointing it out. Some of them may be clever and crib only behind peoples backs while others who are more bold and blunt will be outspoken. There are some who are of a mixed kind who speak a few positive things but tend to focus on the downsides more than on the upsides.

Initially, we might enjoy the spectacle and feel that they are praising us by condemning others. Soon, however, we realise that a person who criticises others with us might be criticising us with others too. When we see such people, we naturally get put off and want to move away. Their negative thoughts and vibes sap our energy and leaves us with a bad taste. We feel more energetic and positive when we are not around them.

This blog is not intended to advocate that we should accept everything and never complain. The idea is to start focussing on the positive. If we choose to look for the positive, there are enough and more opportunities to find it. And when we appreciate rather than complain, people feel motivated to listen to us and to improve themselves further. Also, if there is something to change, the focus should be on making it happen rather than merely speaking about it.

Do you agree ?

A pessimist is someone who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks - Michael Levine

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain - Maya Angelou

With the right attitude, you will start complimenting what you earlier complained about - Vishwanath Seshadri

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Being Trustworthy

This is a sequel to the earlier blog on trusting others.

It is not enough that we trust others. We must also develop a trait of being trustworthy. Every action of ours has to be viewed in the context of whether it will enhance / retain trust or whether it will erode or destroy trust. We cannot presume that it is our birthright to be trusted. Nor can we take the trust of others for granted. We have to earn it and work hard to retain it. We should consciously put efforts and treat each new relationship as a new opportunity / challenge to create trust.

What happens when trust is diluted? Or when trust is yet not formed? Both parties (it may be individuals, organisations, nations etc.) are wary of each other and look at every action suspiciously. They may even tend to focus on the negatives, looking for evidence for mistrusting. Imagine you have employed a new servant. You would be having an eagle eye on his / her every movement. And it would take quite some time to feel reassured about the person’s character.

Various "Trust building measures" (TBM) would have to be undertaken to give comfort to the other person. Being transparent, openly communicating your position and thoughts, showing honesty, being predictable, smiling genuinely, honouring commitments, speaking truth, taking permission before entering another's space etc. are all TBMs which say that I am keen to win your trust. Saying "Trust me" repeatedly often has contrary results!!

Being trusted is a huge compliment and gives us tremendous advantages. We need to work towards earning this from every one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trust Me !!

I attended a training program on team building some years ago. As part of the program, we had an exercise wherein we had to walk blindfolded through a hilly terrain guided only by our team member who would give oral instructions. It was a terrifying exercise for many of us who felt utterly helpless and at the mercy of our guide. The people who enjoyed this exercise the most were the people who trusted their guides completely.

In this life, while we live in society, we have to have a lot of trust and dependence on people around us. We have to trust the milkman who brings us our daily dose, the watchman who guards us while we doze, the bus driver while we commute, our banker who holds our savings etc. Unless we trust others our own lives becomes miserable. Without trust we are always suspicious of things and people around us, always worried of unexpected problems and always stressed.

Distrust creates a negative never ending negative loop that can only be broken by introducing trust. For example, Snakes bite humans due to fear of being killed and humans kill snakes due to fear of being bitten. This has been going on since time immemorial and has become hard coded in our respective response systems !!

In contrast, when we trust others, we create a positive spiral. We indirectly acknowledge our confidence in the other persons competence, intention and integrity. This, in turn, triggers a similar outlook towards us form others and we get motivated by this and perform better. Trust is the platform on which life gets built. Relationships are nurtured and grow in strength on the base of mutual and complete trust in each other. Trust also creates a moral and mental bind on others to do as is expected of them.

Of course, one cannot keep on trusting even when faced with contrary evidence. And trust need not be complete and blind without taking precautions esp. with strangers. Having said that, we should look for opportunities to create trust and build trust. For when there is trust, life is a lot more pleasant and enjoyable. Trust me.

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved – George MacDonald

Does it hurt when people don't trust you? Imagine how God feels - Author unknown

Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him. – Booker T Washington

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Control your Consumption !!

As human beings, we are constantly consuming. By consumption, I refer to any act which extinguishes the value of something. So, when we watch TV, we are consuming power. When we go for a drive, we are consuming petrol. When we eat, we are consuming food. etc. etc. Reading a book, for example, is not consumption as the value is not eroded. We need to be conscious of those activities of ours which result in consumption.

Many of us, especially people who are well off, tend to consume more as a habit than to satisfy a real need. We may be in the living room and yet the lights or fan in the bedroom may be switched on. We may not be hungry and yet may cook / serve ourselves a full meal. We do not realise that every excess consumption of ours is negatively impacting our society and our environment in addition to impacting our pocket !! In nature, animals and birds adjust their lifestyle to changes that happen. For e.g. In winter, some birds migrate to warmer countries or some animals go into hibernation. But we humans, remain in harsh climates and consume more to survive !!

One of the surest ways of protecting our environment is by consuming less. When we consume without a real need, we are wasting the resource available. Besides depriving some other person who may have a real need for it, we are also increasing the costs. When we have the savings mindset, we will get more "bang for the buck". I recollect reading a story of a wise man who before replacing his worn mattress confirms that the old one is converted into a duster to swipe the floor. And that the old duster was converted to some other useful item of daily use.

The natural resources of mother nature are limited. Our efforts in conserving it will help us and our future generations. If we live today as if there is no tomorrow, indeed it may come true. Let us resolve that we will consume only what is really needed by us. Let us commit to creating a better tomorrow.

We eat to live and not live to eat – Gautam Buddha

Friday, June 5, 2009

Protect the Environment

We live in a wonderful and lovely planet. It has the most beautiful of mountains, lovely valleys and gardens, green and thick tropical forests, vast expanses of desert land, snow covered hills, lovely lakes & rivers and the most exotic and wonderful creatures inhabiting it. It would take several lifetimes to explore and fully enjoy the lovely planet we were born in. It is our home and it belongs to all of us.

When something belongs to us, what do we do with it? We take care, protect it, grow it, nourish it, and take pride in showing it off to everyone, right? So, if we have to take care of our planet, our environment which belongs to us, what should we do? The first and most important thing is to treat it as our own. Yes, we should not look at the planet as belonging to someone else and give up our rights to it. We should strongly believe it to be ours and fiercely protect it.

Like the Bishnoi tribals in Rajasthan for whom the wild life is almost divine - they revere it, the love it and would even give up their lives to protect it. I can vividly recollect the picture of a tribal woman who was captured on camera breast feeding an orphaned doe. She treated it as her own child. That is the spirit with which we need to care for our environment.

And why not? We get everything from the environment. If we pollute it, destroy it or spoil it, who will be the loser? When it fails to rain or the summers are excessively hot who suffers? When unnatural calamities like floods, typhoons and earthquakes occur, who gets impacted? When food production dwindles who is affected? It is us - whether directly or indirectly, whether we accept it or deny it.

We cannot be silent spectators to the destruction of our environment. We cannot look the other way when someone else is trying to destroy our beautiful planet. We have to conscious of our every action or inaction and its impact on the environment. Lets us pledge to commit ourselves to improving the quality of our planet by saving and increasing the green cover, reducing pollution and waste, protecting wildlife and preventing anyone from causing damage to our lovely planet.

Read Religiously

In my childhood days our recreation meant playing indoor or outdoor games, meeting friends and relatives, going to the park or beach, long walks, radio and reading. Reading became one of the important ways of knowing what was happening across the world (through newspapers) and getting exposed to stories, values, thoughts, cultures, history, fiction, philosophy etc. through books, comics, magazines etc.

I used to be a voracious reader and my language skills became stronger with each passing day. Perhaps I picked up my interest in reading through my father who used to religiously spend an hour each day reading. He, and subsequently I, used to love to read anything that came our way. Even the waste paper used to wrap up something could have something of interest. I remember being addicted to Readers Digest and I would have read each issue from cover to cover for over 30 years. I have benefited tremendously in shaping my own thinking mainly thanks to the time spent reading. I still remember fondly the stories from Indian Puranas and history, stories from Leo Tolstoy etc. which formed a deep impression in my mind.

One of my friends recently mentioned that reading autobiographies is great because we get exposed to a great persons thinking and outlook without necessarily having to spend a long time with that person. If we read one autobiography a week, it could be equivalent of meeting 52 great personalities within a year. What a fantastic thought.

Reading is no longer considered important by the most of the youth of today. A lot of their spare time is spent in front of the idiot box watching entertaining channels which have no real education value. There is also a huge interest in playing games on the computer and surfing / chatting. Even TV and the net can be useful, if the right kinds of channel or sites are visited. Most youngsters, however, prefer entertainment to education. By reading less and less, I fear our youth will rapidly lose language skills and will also not be engaging the mind in learning and developing.

Reading is one habit that we should all cultivate. And we should be choosy about what we read. The mind is capable of doing great things. It just needs a little bit of encouragement and reading provides just that. With this habit, you can travel across the universe while sitting in your chair and let the mind explore new frontiers. Reading can take you back centuries into the past or let your mind travel into the future. With the values that you learn by reading, you can shape your life and become achieve greatness.

"A man who does not read good books, has no advantage over one who can’t read them"
- Mark Twain

"Reading all the good books is like a conversation with the finest men of past centuries" – Rene Descartes

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Simple Living, High Thinking !!

Mahatma Gandhi was once asked to describe an ideal life style and he responded by saying "Simple Living and High Thinking". I completely agree with his thoughts and have tried (though not fully successfully) to emulate this in my own life.

Simple living is the right way to live. One does not get lasting happiness by living a flashy lifestyle. We do not need branded clothes to wear or have wardrobes full of designer clothes. Simple fare would be far better than straining our system with huge variety of exotic food frequently. Partying every other night neither wins us lifelong friends nor does it permanently remove our boredom. To commute one does not need top end vehicles - I am not advocating public transport (esp. in India) for those who can afford private transportation. However, no point in having huge fuel guzzling vehicles to move around.

If we were to reduce our needs to the bare minimum, we would start being less demanding on the precious and limited resources of the earth. We would start showing consideration for our fellow beings (human and others too) who may not be as well endowed as us. By reducing our demand, we would check inflation and help in making things more affordable for the poor.

High thinking is what will help us in our evolution path. Human beings are superior because we can think far better than other beings. We should make use of this faculty to probe further into the real purpose of our existence and what we need to do to reach our goals. High thinking also refers to rising above petty and mundane issues. As ones spiritual growth increases, one tends to think about higher things and does not get trapped and lost in the usual worldly matters.

Just look all round; Look at the ocean, look at the sky; How can you manage not to be simple and not to be humble? - Osho

"Most people try to know more to become more clever every day, where as I attempt to become more simple and uncomplicated everyday." Zen expression

Monday, June 1, 2009

Have Faith !!

Broadly the world comprises of 3 kinds of people - The Theists, The Atheists and The Confused. Most of us who call ourselves as believers of God or Theists actually belong to the last category. Why do I make such a provocative statement? And how does this fit into a site dedicated for values? Let me explain..

Most of us firmly and proudly proclaim that we believe in God and we demonstrate this by periodically going to places of worship, spending time praying, keeping suitable pictures / books etc. We feel that this is a sufficient proof of our belief and faith. And life goes on till we face some problem. Problems come in many forms and often, unexpectedly.

When that happens, to start with, we might pray harder for a solution. But if that is not in sight or our prayers are not successful, we become depressed, upset, worried etc. Soon, our doubts about the fairness of God, the existence of God etc. begin to make their presence felt. And some of us, who are extremists, start denouncing God and the system and anything and everything we can.

Real faith is one, where we strongly believe that God exists and has our best interest in His heart. It is like the faith of a small child who, when thrown in the air by his father, screams in delight as he knows that his father will definitely catch him. The child never doubts the ability or the intent of his father. Likewise, even if we momentarily do face problems in our life, our strong faith should help us cope and deal with the situation. Having steadfast faith gives us courage and determination. It makes us happy irrespective of the situation we are in. It gives us hope and it makes us fearless.

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light – Helen Keller

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see: The reward for this is to see what you believe – St Augustine of Hippo

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when not feeling it. I believe in God even when He is silent - Author Unknown