Monday, August 31, 2009

How to take feedback

Each of us, irrespective of what we do in life (unless we have renounced everything), need feedback to find out how well we are progressing. Only people who genuinely care about our well being would take the effort of giving us feedback. Feedbacks are really a reflection of the impression that others have have formed on us. It is in our interest, therefore, to seek feedback regularly and welcome every feedback that comes our way.

Sometimes we may get appreciation and praise from others. At such times, it is important to retain our poise and listen carefully. Our mind should distinguish the genuine admiration from the flattery. We must make it a point to mentally reconfirm whether we share the same belief and, if required, seek clarifications and examples of instances. We should also not brush away praise by appearing too modest.

Usually, we get feedback on our deficiencies and on occasions where we have faltered. The natural reaction, during such times, of defending ourselves needs to be curbed. We should be alert to both the spoken as well as the unspoken words and hear intently to get the full import of the message. Our body language should convey an openness to receiving the feedback. By asking suitable questions, we should remove any lingering doubts on the feedback received.

We must end each feedback session with a heartfelt thanks to the person communicating. Where we agree with the negative feedback, we must quickly admit and respond on how we plan to improve. If we have a different view, we could keep that for discussion at a different time. Listening without defending does not mean we are in agreement with the feedback. In every case, our words and actions should clearly indicate that the message was well received and we have gratitude to the giver.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning" - Bill Gates

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Compete with yourself

A few months ago, a colleague came to me for some advise. He stated that he was very unhappy and wanted my help. I found out he was unhappy because his performance bonus & increment was lower than some of his peers and he had been rated poorly in comparison to his peers.

My advice to him and to all those who suffer on account of such comparisons is that it is incorrect to compare our condition with others. If at all, we should compare our respective achievements and knowledge levels. This kind of comparison will spur us to greater heights. In my view, comparing with anything else is not worth it.

When we compare ourselves with others, it is natural to find that there are some who are better off than us and some who are worse off. It is silly that we get our happiness or sorrow based on the condition of someone else. It is almost impossible for us to be on the top of the heap forever. There will be conditions which come by which someone may be left behind by us and someone may leave us behind.

It is best that we compare our state with our own state in the past. If we have been making progress as per our plan or have been able to maintain our position, we should be satisfied. Each person is running a different kind of race. While someone is making a 100 meter dash, someone else is running a marathon. How then can we compare the postitions of each?

Make yourself happy. Stop comparing with others :))

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." - William Faulkner

"The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." - Steve Young

Friday, August 28, 2009

What's your poison?

In parties it is fashionable for the host to check the guest's preference of drink by asking this question. Based on each individual's taste, the choice drink is served. There are, of course, some people who ask for non-alcoholic drinks. Such people who are not addicted to alcohol may have some other addiction in their lives.

A few years ago, I used to come home late each night from work and after a quick shower would sit in front of the TV and have my dinner watching an English movie. It was a daily addiction which eat into my family bonding time and I didn't even realise it. After a very long time, it suddenly dawned on me and I curbed this malady of mine.

In life, we often acquire habits and vices without our knowing it. Not all of them can be classified as dangerous or as vices. For some, it could be as simple as the cup of coffee in the morning or reading a newspaper or watching news on TV. For others, it could be vices like smoking, drinking etc. If we do not get our daily fix, we often feel uneasy and upset. Sometimes it manifests as a physical problem too.

It is important for each of us to look within ourselves and check if we have any such addiction. If the addiction is helping us grow into better human beings or it is playing a role in meeting our chosen goal, we may cultivate it. If we find the addiction taking control over us and it is a vice or unnecessary habit, it is best if we ditch it. From time to time we should demonstrate to ourselves that our habits do not control our lives.

"The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." – Jim Ryun

"Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart." - Confucius

Your time is running out!!

All of us, who are born into this world, have a common end in death. While the lifespan may differ for each individual, the end game is the same. All around us we notice the inevitable happening in different forms. Each time we see, hear, read or think about death, we should be reminded that we shall also encounter it, sooner or later.

When this realisation hits us, we should be aware that we have a very limited span of life and, therefore, cannot afford to waste our time. Whatever be our chosen field of endeavour, we should be consumed in it as if there is no tomorrow. We cannot afford to postpone things that matter most. For, a time may come for us to say goodbye and leave behind unfinished tasks and unfulfilled promises.

Whatever be your desire - do it today and do it now. If it is a task which would take longer, no time like now to start it. Invest a little time in listing out your priorities. These can be formal as well as informal; official as well as personal; small as well as big. If you want to tell someone that you love them, do it now. If you want to express gratitude, do not delay. At the same time, let this sense of urgency not make you rush through important things.

Take an inventory of all that you do. Chuck out those activities and tasks which have no bearing on your purpose or priority. Make time for the really important tasks. Be aware that time and tide waits for none. While we are lazing around doing nothing or doing perfectly useless things, our clock is steadily ticking away.

"Begin doing what you want to now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake" - Marie Beyon Ray

"Every morning you are handed 24 golden hours. They are one of the few things in this world that you get free of charge. If you had all the money in the world, you couldn't buy an extra hour. What will you do with this priceless treasure?" - Author Unknown

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stop doing karma

Hindu philosophy believes in the concept of Karma. Every action has consequences. If we do good deeds, we get good results and vice versa. The result of our actions may happen in the same life or in the next life (Yes, Hindus also believe in reincarnation). Actions become karma only if done with a sense of attachment and expectation. So, for example, if we do charity with the hope that we will be benefited by it, we are creating good Karma.

In effect, therefore, Karma is like a bank account whose balance we can keep increasing by doing good karma and we can keep increasing the negative balance by doing bad karma. However, bad karma cannot be offset with good karma. We have to suffer and enjoy the consequence of both - which probably explains the ups and downs of life.

As long we keep doing karma, we are bound to this existence. Doing good karma may result in our enjoying a better life but it still binds us. As long as we keep taking births, there are chances of us succumbing to temptations or be misled by bad company and end up with bad karma. We also know that as long as we live, we will go through some good and some trying times. How can we break free of this endless cycle?

Our seers have taught us many ways of breaking this cycle of life and death. I would refer to one here as the topic relates to that of karma. Lord Krishna advises Arjuna in the Bhagvad Geeta to keep performing actions without expectations of results. Perform actions / duties without any attachment and do everything as an offering to Me, says Krishna.

If we do this, we stop accumulating new karma. And when we exhaust the fruits of all our past karma, we have broken free. We attain Nirvana or oneness with the Lord. It is the destination that we all are moving towards - consciously or subconsciously. Lets break free of karma and attain final everlasting beatitude.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ask your conscience

When values are being discussed, everyone has a view. There are no restrictions of age, sex, colour etc. for having or stating a view. Individual views may differ sometimes due to exposure, local practices, practicality etc. On a broad basis, however, usually there is consensus on what constitutes values and how they may be applied in day to day life.

Everyone (yes, me included) usually also would claim that they are the champions of each value. I have not come across too many people who would candidly confess to violating values. Perhaps, we want to make an impression and build our reputation in society. But in each of our lives, occasionally there arise situations when we are in a dilemma. There are temptations to break values and there are confusions about what is the right value.

At such times, we may not have the courage to seek clarifications or help. How can we then decide what course of action to take? Within each of us, we have a conscience which is like an eternal witness. Our doubts should be addressed to our conscience and we are sure to get the answer as to what is right.

While we may take a purist stance in front of others, it would be worthwhile, from time to time, to ask ourselves as to where do we stand on value adherence. When we know where we stand, it can help us to course correct (should we so desire) and reach the desired levels. At the end of the day, we will stand to benefit when we are honest with ourselves about ourselves.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's your goal?

Years ago, I went to an interview and was asked this question. At that time, I had only short term goals and was living life by the day. My immediate thought was to say "My goal is to get this job" but I managed a more polished "I haven't made up my mind on this yet". Later, this question made me think and come to the conclusion that it is indeed important to have a goal in life.

Without a goal, we are aimlessly drifting and our actions seem disoriented. We move from activity to activity in a random manner. Our interests are short term. We soon get bored with them and crave for new interests. Without a goal, we live and exist but do not dream or aspire.

When we have a goal, we are like men possessed. The desire to attain our goal consumes our every waking moment. Even when we are asleep, we dream about our goal. Our minds thinks of a hundred different ways of achieving it. Like Arjuna, who could see nothing but the eye of the bird that he was about to shoot an arrow at, we too develop a sharp focus.

Each of us have taken birth with a purpose. We need to think about it and, if possible, seek help from a Guru to understand it. It should be something that will make our life seem fulfilling. Only when we have taken a decision on this will our life and actions seem more meaningful. And once we have decided on our goal, we have already taken that first big step towards attaining it.

"Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I'll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I'll give you a stock clerk" - J.C. Penney

"You are here for a purpose. There is not a duplicate of you in the whole wide world; there never has been, there never will be. You were brought here now to fill a certain need. Take time to think that over" - Lou Austin

"You are only as strong as your purpose, therefore let us choose reasons to act that are big, bold, righteous and eternal" – Barry Munro

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happiness is a journey

We sometimes hear people saying I will be happy when I get this or that; when some specific event happens etc. We also hear people saying I was happy when such a thing happened in the past etc. People speak of happiness as an event which has occurred in the past or will occur in the future and lasts for a specific period of time.

Any good feeling, if temporary, is not worth much. So, we should be striving to change the expectation of happiness in terms of time. It should last much longer if not for ever. Also, while striving to achieve future happiness, we tend to sacrifice our present and go through much pain. Unfortunately, even if we do attain happiness it tends to be short lived.

That brings us to the main subject – should happiness be the journey or the destination? I submit that happiness must be also be in the journey. Our life itself is a journey and if we were to make happiness as part of that, it will make our life worthwhile. While we are in the process of achieving our goals and targets, we should attune our minds to seek happiness along the way.

Imagine you are trekking and climbing a mountain. If you are so intent on the climb that you do not notice the scenery around you; the exotic flowers and the rare birds; the cool breeze as you reach higher altitude; the faces of the people who pass you along the way etc., you have missed much of the fun. Take a look around you and you will see joy aplenty and that is sure to give you the joy you are seeking.

In the context of happiness, think “I am” rather than “I was” or “I will”.

Anyone who thinks sunshine is happiness has never danced in the rain - Author Unknown

“Happiness is found in doing, not merely in possessing” - Napoleon Hill

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have. It depends solely upon what you think” – Dale Carnegie

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Enhance your greatest wealth

What is your greatest wealth - something that is permanent and losing which you lose everything ? Our true wealth is not our possessions represented by money because it can be lost and is not permanent. Also, we can earn it again even if we lose it. It is not our relatives because they will leave us one day. It is not our knowledge because as we age our mind becomes feeble and we may forget it. It is not our health which is so fragile. What, then, is our greatest wealth ?

If we think about it, our real wealth is our character. Our knowledge and learning's are of no use unless it gets converted into practice and becomes our character. Character becomes our unique identifier and wealth too. If we lose it, we may never be able to recover it. If we have it, we do attract all other types of wealth. What is character but a combination of values ? If we embrace good values and inculcate them in our daily thought and behaviour, we indeed become very wealthy.

There are many values that we have spoken about. Each one of us may choose a combination of values that will become a hallmark of our respective character. Mahatma Gandhi chose non-violence and became great. King Harishchandra was known for his commitment to truth and King Yudhisthir for his steadfast adherence to Dharma. Determination and courage describes the character of Abraham Lincoln. What will we be known by? The choice rests entirely with us to acquire a stainless character.

Choose to see the omnipresent Lord in all beings and thereby become selfless. Look at our fellow beings with love, speak words of love, think of the well being of all and give up unholy desires and traits. Each one of us has the power to become great and promote our greatest wealth. You and I can make this world more beautiful and peaceful by leading a life of values.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Think Win-Win

Some people think saying no is difficult and saying yes is easy. However, there are situations when we find ourselves often saying no. Take for example a parent responding to a child's requests. Another example that comes to mind is when we are in the process of negotiating for purchase, sale etc. In such situations, we find it difficult to come to an agreement. Only weak negotiators say yes easily. Most smart ones will try to extract their pound of flesh before grudgingly saying yes.

I read an interesting book called "Getting to Yes" a few years ago. The author describes the process of arriving at an agreement. He says that unless we want an aimless and endless discussion, we must strive to conclude the deal. My big take away from the book is that we should think win-win. If we are only thinking of our interests, we would find it difficult to strike deals. We also would have a lot of people with grouses against us.

Even as we prepare for a discussion, we should consider what the other party's reasonable expectations could be in addition to listing out our requirements. In our minds, we should think of a position which would be acceptable to both parties. When we are discussing each others demands, we should also probe / disclose possible reasons for our respective expectations. When we know why someone needs something, we can think of alternate ideas to fulfill the same.

I read a story of a girl and her brother who arrived home famished and both claimed a single apple that was in the fridge. In normal circumstances, they would have ended up sharing half an apple each. But when they discussed their requirements, it turned out that the girl only wanted the skin to bake a pie and the boy only wanted the flesh to make a milk shake. With this discovery, they both got what they wanted. Otherwise, they would have come to a sub-optimal solution.

When we think win-win, we are thinking solutions. Instead of being stuck in positions and appearing adamant, we are taking a step forward and looking positive. Everyone is happy with the outcome. Our gains and victories need not come with a loss or pain to others.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Art of saying no

Swami Vivekananda had said that everyone has good intentions and every action begins with a good intention. All of us crave to be recognised as good and nice people. Sometimes we put ourselves in trouble or inconvenience because of this. In order to please people, some of us tend to say yes for everything. Even if we disagree with someone, we pretend to agree so as to not hurt the speaker. Similarly, when we are asked to do something, we find it hard to refuse.

I remember when I was a youngster; a few of my 'friends' tried to cajole me into smoking my first puff. Thanks to fear of my mother, I managed to say no to smoking despite a huge pressure on me. If I had succumbed to their persistent efforts, I might have ended up being addicted to this and spoilt my health in the bargain. Yet, there have been times when I found it difficult to take an opposite view. Fear of peers, bosses and significant others getting upset with a refusal is a very strong reason why we tend to say yes quickly.

The ability to say no is an important and useful trait. What also matters is how we say no. One has to be tactful and refuse without appearing hesitant. The ability to put across our refusal along with a proper reason for it would usually do. In fact, before we agree or disagree, it would make sense to think through. Giving an impromptu response is best avoided unless one is already thought about it and taken a decision.

Contrary to what some of us believe, people do not hate us for saying no. Many people appreciate our confidence and honesty. Rather than saying yes and not honouring our commitment by giving last minute excuses, it is much better to say no and stick to it. The intention of this blog is not to encourage readers to say no every time to everyone. The idea being conveyed is that, occasionally and when appropriate, we should be willing to politely decline without any feelings of guilt or fear lingering in our minds.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sharpening the saw

As a young boy, it was my dream to finish education soon and start working. School seemed so boring and people who are working seemed to really enjoy themselves. I suppose each one of us goes through such thoughts. When I went for my first interview, I realised how little I knew. Whatever I had learnt and prepared for, were not the subjects discussed in the interview!! In the various jobs that I have worked in, I understood that unless one is abreast of the developments in ones field, one gets left behind in the career.

There is a story of a woodcutter who thought he can become more productive if he cuts trees non-stop. After a few days, he knew that it is necessary to sharpen the saw in order to become more efficient. This is true for all of us irrespective of what is our chosen goal. We need to keep learning and sharpening the saw.

There are very few gifted people with razor sharp memories who remember everything that they have learnt. For the vast majority of us, we remember the broad concepts and forget the details over time. Therefore, it becomes necessary to brush up and re-learn whatever we have already learnt from time to time. One way to do this is to involve the concepts in our day to day work. That way we stay in touch. The other methods are to take time to read, discuss, think and teach about the subject of our interest.

Besides the above, it is also important to learn about the new developments in our chosen field. Books, Magazines, Journals, Internet etc. provide rich information about the changes. One should cultivate the habit of being in touch with the subject and learn new skills. Our ability to talk with confidence on our subject and hold the interest of our audience is enhanced if we are obsessed with learning. Never stop learning.

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” - John F Kennedy

Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily - Chinese Proverb

Friday, August 14, 2009

Practice makes us perfect

Lord Krishna, while answering Arjuna's question on how to control the mind, tells him in Bhagvad Geeta that, although mind control is indeed very difficult, it can be achieved through Abhayasa Yoga (constant practice). We can draw an inference from here that any task can be accomplished if we are sincere and serious about it and practice it.

Every task looks difficult in the beginning. When I began learning driving, I found it very difficult to coordinate the hand, feet and eyes. If I had to change the gear, I would look down and the vehicle would move dangerously to the other side of the road !! With continuous practice, I became an expert driver. Likewise, when we attempt anything new, it seems like a complicated task. That should not deter us. It should rather make us more determined. As we repeatedly practice and perform it, we become masters at it.

I once heard some one saying that for every task there are four stages. The first stage is one of unconscious incompetence - when we don’t know that we are not competent. If we have not tried to do something, we may not know that we don't know. The next stage is conscious incompetence - when we discover that we are incompetent. After practice, we move into a stage of conscious competence - when we are good at doing something.

The fourth stage is the most interesting - when something becomes second nature to us. We can do it without making any conscious effort. It is like sub-consciously chanting your prayers without paying attention and the mind wandering somewhere else. After some time, we discover that we have finished chanting but the satisfaction that comes from having the consciousness is missing. It will be good if we can restrain ourselves from moving into the fourth stage.

" When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win "- Ed Macauley

"I am not afraid of a fighter who knows thousand different types of kicks, but I am afraid of one who has practiced a kick thousands of times" - Bruce Lee

"Living a life of values becomes easy if we continuously practice it with determination" - Vishwanath Seshadri

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beauty in modesty

According to a popular saying in Tamil, a woman's real beauty lies in her modesty. I think that modesty as a characteristic makes everyone attractive and appealing. People possessing this trait feel no need to publicize their beauty or accomplishments. They typically seek to underplay things and prefer to let their actions speak for themselves. Leaders do not talk about what is already done. Their minds are set on the next goal.

Contrast this with people who rush to stake their claim to everything. Their self disclosure becomes boring very soon. They have such a low self esteem that they want a constant reinforcement for themselves. Even if they have no talent or have not actively contributed, they would love to be claim credit for every achievement. Most of their sentences begins with "I".

People normally do have a view about each other. They know who is capable and competent and who is not. They know each others abilities and character. No one forms a view based on our respective claim to fame. In such circumstances, isn't it better to be humble and silent about ourselves? Do we achieve anything by talking about ourselves? When someone boasts of a certain trait, it could provoke people to dismiss it or attempt to disprove it.

When other people discover our beauty, talent or traits by observation, they will automatically appreciate us and even inform others in passing. By not disclosing it ourselves, we are giving others a chance to talk about it which makes it far more credible. After all, true beauty cannot remain hidden for long, can it ?

"It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels" – St Augustine

"Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others." - William Boetcker

"Only an attitude of mind free from egoism, ostentation and attachment can be called humility." - Sri Satya Sai Baba

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Silence ushers peace

We live in a fast paced activity packed world. Everyone seems to be in a tearing hurry and wants to achieve much in a short time frame. It is a age of "instant" everything. This is especially true for urban and developed centers. For instance, I have seen people commuting in public transportation, listening to their music system and reading some magazine and texting messages at the same time.

When we tax and push our brains to the limit in this manner, it leaves us dizzy and stressed. We are overcome with fatigue but we fight it off with some medication. In the hope of living life to the fullest, we end up with health issues affecting body and mind. In such situations, is it a wonder that we become irritable and with low tolerance levels ?

Mahatma Gandhi used to observe silence one day a week. On such days, he would avoid verbal communication and used to write if there was a dire need. In silence, his entire system would slow down. This is like a combination of meditation and fasting. It gave him huge strength and courage to face the challenges of the world. Yet, it made him peaceful, calm and controlled. There is a free 10 day course on Vipassana Meditation, available in India and few other countries, which uses silence very effectively.

When we practice silence, we are really going deeply inwards. Our other senses get enhanced and we absorb much more. We start observing our thoughts as they arise without feeling the urge to do anything about it. When we practice silence, we learn to accept things as they are without being reactive. Silence is the process through which we communicate to God.

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after truth.” - Mahatma Gandhi

"It is better to be silent and be considered a genius, than speaking aloud and disclosing our ignorance" - Vishwanath Seshadri

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tolerance makes us strong

When we see an unacceptable behaviour, we typically begin to get hot under the collar. We lose our patience and begin to fume. Depending on the level of irritation and the situation, we may get provoked to speak out our minds and even take other forms of action. Taking the initiative to make a change is good. It indicates courage and a spirit of bravado. I am reminded of many revolutionary freedom movements which were successful due to this.

However, intolerance is good only in certain situations. If this becomes our second nature, it could lead serious consequences and breakup of relationships. I have seen people priding themselves in being intolerant. They make statements like “I just can’t tolerate this” or “I have tolerated this for too long”. There are many situations where tolerance is a virtue and makes us stronger.

The key requirements for tolerance are patience, maturity and a broad mind. Instead of being reactive, if we become “reflective”, it will help us see things with a wider perspective. Viewed with a long term perspective, small irritants seem insignificant. We learn to take things lightly and overlook them. In children, we see high levels of tolerance as they do not have high expectations and they have the knack of acceptance.

With tolerance, we gain control over ourselves. People who have control over themselves are strong indeed and have the magnetism to be able to control others. When we are tolerant, people get a sense of comfort dealing with us. Our relationship network expands and so does our ability to influence others.

“Until you have learned to be tolerant with those who do not always agree with you, you will be neither successful nor happy” - Napoleon Hill

"The highest result of education is tolerance." - Helen Keller

“He that can't endure the bad will not live to see the good.” Yiddish Proverb

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is one’s best teacher” - Anonymous

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Be clean

Everyone will readily agree with the title. After all, we have learnt while still as kids that "Cleanliness is next only to Godliness". A question to address ourselves would be in order here. Do we practice what we know ? If we do a mental audit of all our activities, will we get a reasonably high score ?

In India, it is a tradition not to wear footwear inside the house. As soon as we come back home, we need to wash our hands and legs before doing anything. Similarly, there are cleanliness rules for other occasions. Thanks to the influence of various cultural invasions into the country, many of our healthy practices are getting replaced by "modern" practices.

When we think of cleanliness, we should not just restrict it to ourselves. We need to keep our homes and surroundings clean too. It cannot be ignored under the presumption that it is someone else's responsibility. It can be clearly seen that the spread of various contagious diseases is contained if we keep ourselves and our environment hygienic.

Most importantly, we need to watch our minds too. Do we have clean thoughts? When we do get unclean thoughts, do we take the efforts to purify our minds? Are we obsessed with the desire to be clean? If we are, we can be rest assured that our lives will be healthy and happy. And by watching us, others will also get influenced to do likewise.

Lets resolve now to enhance the cleanliness in our lives.

"Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world." - George Bernard Shaw

"You make the world a better place by making yourself a better person."- Scott Sorrell

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A question of confidence

Very often motivational speakers and writers exhort people to live life with high self-confidence (HSC). They tell people that if you have HSC, you can achieve anything. Your credibility and charisma get enhanced when you have that attitude of HSC. Your communication becomes stronger and people tend to trust those who have HSC. Perhaps, I too have covered this in an earlier blog.

As children, we have often received contrary communication and advice. Our parents, elders and teachers have told us not to get over confident (OC). They tell us, especially before tests and exams, that we need to prepare well and keep revising our studies without becoming OC. If we are OC, we tend to become negligent and casual and it may reflect poorly on our results. As adults, we are told this more subtly in order not to offend us.

Both views are correct. When there is a question of what level of confidence is right, there is no right answer. If our standards are too high, we might become too critical and start having self doubts. Our nervousness is a sure indicator of disaster lying ahead. Likewise, if our standards are low, we might start taking things for granted. This creates an impression of arrogance or nonchalance leading to a different set of negative results. One has to be balanced and moderate while evaluating oneself.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life the laws of the universe will be simpler" - Thoreau

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" – Eleanor Roosevelt

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.” – Anna Freud

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Admit your mistakes

Many years ago I had read a story which made a deep impression on me. It was about a group of boys who, whilst playing a game of cricket, had broken the window of a neighbour. While most of the kids ran away in fear, there was one brave lad who stood his ground and, when the neighbour came, took ownership for the accident. The neighbour, pleasantly surprised at the boy's honesty, forgave him. It was a powerful story which talked about courage, honesty etc.

How many of us behave in that manner? How many of us have the boldness to acknowledge mistakes that we, as humans, sometimes commit? What is the point in pretending to be super-humans or perfect beings incapable of committing any error? When we admit to an error, we are not only being honest but are also making an unspoken promise to be more careful in the future. This is quite similar to the intention of confessing our sins in church. People start trusting those who have this quality in them.

Some people presume that denial is the best method. It gives them a feeling of ego boost, because they have not admitted any mistake. In reality, they cut a sorry figure in front of others when denying mistakes. There are some people who, when confronted, will start making counter allegations to divert attention. Alternatively, they will go to great lengths to defend their positions. They convince no one but, perhaps, themselves in the process.

The first step towards any progress is acceptance. We can make a move to a better position only when we agree that our current position is weak. If we feel everything we do is "perfect", we begin to stagnate. When we adamantly deny, we risk getting isolated. The choice is, therefore, very clear. Avoid making mistakes and if you do make it, accept it and move on.

What do you say?

"To err is human, to admit is super human" - Doug Larson

"I'd rather confess I'm wrong and be right, than claim I'm right and be wrong" - Maria Fontaine

Saturday, August 1, 2009

To serve with love

Many of us know that our ego is the root cause of our problems. Our ego manifests itself as an association of ourselves with our body. Due to this, we develop selfishness and pander to our body and everyone associated with it. “I” and “my” become the most important things for us. This gives rise to feelings of joy and disappointment.

Is it possible to live without ego? As long as we exist within this body, some level of ego is necessary as we have to sustain the body. Otherwise, we may ignore feeding and taking care of our bodies leading to death. Only highly realized persons can be in that state. The ego creates problem only when it is beyond a certain limit.

What is the way to control the ego? Wise saints have recommended many methods of controlling the ego, one of which is covered in this article. If we see the same “self” that is in us, in others too, we have taken a huge step towards controlling the ego. When we treat others just as we treat ourselves, we have begun to rise above our ego. The first step therefore is to serve others selflessly.

Most people work with an expectation of reward. An act of service is one where we do not expect a reward. We serve others with love and affection. We get pleasure in the act of service itself. Images of Mother Teresa and Mata Amritanandamayi comes to mind. One can start this in a small way within ones family by serving the elders. Then one can look for ways of serving our neighbours and community. This spirit can thus be cultivated over time to cover the society at large.

As we keep serving others and get immersed in the joy of service, we begin to contract and control our ego.

“Selfless service is the ideal to be aimed at” - Sri Satya Sai Baba

“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobile rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

No one’s head aches when he is comforting another - Indian Proverb

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy.” - Rabindranath Tagore