December 25, 2007

Have a Complete Holiday

I am currently holidaying with family in the tea estates on some beautiful hills. Holidaying during this time of the year is very peaceful since a large part of the world is holidaying. Almost everyone is away from work. So there are no phone calls, no pending work and no stress. It seems like a complete holiday.

My next post will come after the holidays. My best wishes for happy holidays to all my readers.

December 23, 2007

Happiness is Your Natural State of Being

You are happy when you are nothing else. To be happy, stop trying to be happy, and start trying to be nothing else.

Here I am not talking about temporary phases of happiness that come from specific achievements or events, such as winning an important deal, or a close friend’s marriage. These phases do not last very long since we have a tendency to quickly shift our focus to what we have not achieved, and events that have not happened.

I am talking about happiness as a state of mind that makes you feel at peace and calm inside. You feel positive and have the inner confidence to meet any challenges that life throws at you. You live in the present while continuously creating a more powerful future.

This happy state of mind is your natural way of being. This is how you were born. You can be happy, if you can stop being stressed, worried or negative. Meditate daily for ten minutes to identify thoughts that create stress, worry or negativity. Consciously ignore these thoughts. They will keep coming back. Keep ignoring them.

December 21, 2007

Secret of Leading a Great Life

Choose a big problem, stand up for a cause, or set high goals for yourself and dedicate yourself to them.

Most of us avoid problems, set achievable goals, and are fence-sitters for the causes that affect us. This may help us lead a good life, but it cannot make us feel great.

To lead a great life you need to pick up a big problem, set impossible goals for yourself, stand up for a difficult cause, and work towards achieving them. The bigger the problem you choose, the more difficult the cause you stand up for, or the more impossible the goals you set yourself, the greater would be your life. Look at everyone who you think is leading a great life and notice the problems, causes or goals that they have dedicated themselves to. Mahatma Gandhi picked up the problem of India's independence. Martin Luther King picked up the cause of racial discrimination, and Alexander set himself the goal of conquering the world.

It is your life. Be satisfied with a good life, or choose to lead a great life.

December 18, 2007

Come Out Of Your Comfort Zone

For any significant achievements in life, you need to come out of your comfort zone and embrace change.

Our comfort zone is the environment that we are familiar with. Irrespective of how good or bad it is, we have a natural tendency to stick to our familiar environment, and resist change. Familiarity makes the environment seem predictable. In a predictable environment you can prepare for the worst and feel in control. A change in environment makes us feel helpless, as we do not know what to expect.

This discomfort is a natural feeling and it cannot be wished away. So whenever you plan to achieve something you need to consciously accept being uncomfortable during the initial phases. Instead of struggling with your discomfort you need to focus your energies on your achievements and in getting comfortable in the new environment.

Make Your Dream-Map. And Believe In It.

Normally our dreams are lost in the thousands of thoughts that pass through our mind everyday. Creating a Dream-Map, makes your goals clear to your mind and your belief in the same puts your being in action for achieving it.

Your Dream-Map is your list of top 5 dreams (or less, or more) that you want to achieve over the next few months or years. You do not have to put in too many details; however do try to be as specific as possible. Put up your Dream-Map at a place where you can see it from time to time. It is natural for some items on the list to change with time. However, it would be a challenge to achieve anything if you find yourself changing your Dream-Map frequently.

The Dream-Map would provide focus to your mind. As long as you regularly review the Dream-Map, this would happen without any conscious efforts. Similarly, if you strongly believe in your dreams, then your each decision and each move would be favorable to achieving your dreams. This is because decisions are always based on gut feel, which, in turn, is strongly influenced by what you believe.

December 17, 2007

Get Your Good Luck Charm

Next time you go for a walk, find a small round pebble that you can carry around with you always.

This pebble will be your good luck charm. It would bring you good luck as long as you carry it with you. In good times it would remind you to be grateful for your good luck. During bad times it will keep you aware that things could have been much worse, if not for your good luck.

The only condition is that you have to have complete faith in your good luck charm. If you doubt the power of your little pebble, it cannot work as your good luck charm.

Don't believe me?......Try it out. Get your good luck charm.

December 15, 2007

Play to Win

Some people lose. Some win. Rest live in mediocrity.

We are careful in whatever we do. We tread cautiously to ensure nothing goes wrong. Most of us succeed in not losing. And we live happily ever after in mediocrity.

Reducing caution increases your chances of losing. But you have no other option. You cannot win a football game by just defending your goal. You can, at best, stop the other side from scoring, and hence not lose. If you want to win, you need to play to win. You need to weaken your defence in order to improve your offence and score goals.

Reduce caution and take risks. Play to win instead of playing to not lose.

Some Yet-To-Be-Fulfilled Dreams

I requested a few people to share their 'yet to be fulfilled' dreams. Here are some of the responses.

Tali: Can i ever! It seems like in everything I do there's an incompleteness, waiting to be completed. My latest dream is to see my business, The Pinup Shop, grow into a world-wide success! Wish me luck...

Midwest: Hmm, that's a good question..We do have a lot of dreams and for me it's a bit challenging now to look for one that I really want to be fulfilled. But let's see..I think one of the dreams that is yet to be fulfilled is having a better life, a happy family and being less worried about life's little drawbacks..
MarkDykeman: I dream of writing a book and having it become a best seller.

elf_fu: I would love to sell my first piece of art. Not for the money, surprisingly. It's the thought that something I have made moved someone enough to know that they HAD to own it, to have it. That would be an amazing thing to happen.

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December 14, 2007

Stop Imagining Things

Live in the present. Imagining negative events infects your feelings and moods.

Our brain does not distinguish between real and imagined events. It uses the same mechanism to manage both real as well as imagined events. Thus, they have similar effect on our mind and body. If this seems difficult to believe, try this exercise. Think of a very close friend who you have not met recently. Close your eyes and imagine meeting your friend. Both of you are spending time together and doing what you like best in each other's company. Imagine this scenario, in full details, for a few minutes. Most of you would experience similar feelings as you are likely to feel in actually meeting that friend. Similarly, if you imagine something unpleasant, it generates associated negative feeling.

Whenever you are doing something, your brain is busy imagining all kind of outcomes. Imagining negative outcomes is likely to generate fear of failure. On the other hand imagining positive outcomes is likely to make you overlook actual risks. The best strategy is to focus your mind and efforts on the work that you are doing, without imagining outcomes.

Imagining positive outcomes occasionally is okay, since it motivates you. However, imagining negative outcomes should be avoided at all costs.

December 13, 2007

Make a Decision Today

Often you do not have what you want simply because you have not yet made a decision to get it.

Make a decision today, and be very specific. e.g. "I have decided that I will not smoke any more, no matter what". Or, I have decided to double my income in one year, no matter what. Or, I have decided I would spend at least 3 hrs daily with my family, no matter what.

Make a firm decision and speak it out loud to yourself with conviction and sincerity. Speaking it out loud forces you to overcome your internal resistance and commit yourself to the decision. It forces you to come out of your comfort zone and actually make the efforts to get what you want to have.

Treat your decision with respect. Repeat it to yourself regularly. Tell others about your decision. Print it out and pin it up where you can see it often. Do what is required to keep your decision fresh and alive in your mind. This is the first step to making your dreams come true.

December 12, 2007

Fear of Failure is a Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Are you afraid you will fail?... Yes?... You will fail.

Fear of failure puts you in a negative loop that generates self doubt and reduces your confidence and belief in success. This in turn reduces your commitment and efforts, leading to actual failure.

Very often the reduction in your own commitment and efforts are the primary reasons that cause you to fail.

Ref: Strong Belief is the Key to Success

December 10, 2007

Practice Using Your Subconscious Mind

Using your subconscious mind can substantially increase your productivity and your multitasking abilities.

We have two minds, the Conscious and the Subconscious. The conscious mind acts within our awareness. It works under instructions and/or approval from ‘Self’. The subconscious mind acts in the background. We become aware of its activities, if at all, only after the activity has been executed, hence it is spontaneous and fast. Our 'Self' does not interfere with the actions of the subconscious mind. There is no self doubt, no dilly dallying, and no instruction or approval delay.

We use our conscious mind for activities that we are not used to. With practice and experience, the sub-conscious mind can take over most activities. For a new driver, stopping the car requires him to consciously step on the brake pedal, look into the rear-view mirror and steer the car to a side. An experienced driver can stop the car, without consciously stepping on the pedal. His subconscious mind would take care of all the necessary steps. Similarly, if a writer is experienced at typing, his conscious mind can concentrate on the article, while the subconscious mind can do the typing.

You can increase your productivity and multitasking abilities dramatically by letting your subconscious mind take care of more and more activities. In addition to practice, it would also require conscious efforts to develop the confidence of leaving things to your subconscious mind.

December 9, 2007

Knowledge, Wisdom and Skills

Knowledge helps you understand. Wisdom helps you decide. Skills help you execute.

Knowledge is your ability to analyze and understand all aspects of any situation. It helps you identify the possible alternatives with their associated risks and benefits. Knowledge is your repository of information and learning. Knowledge comes from conscious mind and is based on logic. Knowledge is limited to your memory. What is forgotten is not known.

Wisdom is your ability to choose an alternative from possible alternatives. Wisdom comes from subconscious learning and is built based on all your experiences since birth and your natural instincts that came with birth. Wisdom is not based on logic, and is not limited by memory. It is not isolated by events or happenings. It comes from a consolidated subconscious experience of life and the natural instincts for survival.

Skill is your ability to execute and it comes from practice. Once your knowledge has identified the possible alternatives, and your wisdom has chosen one of the alternatives. Your skills help you move forward on the alternative.

December 7, 2007

Life is Like a Game of Cards

You need to play at your best, irrespective of the cards that got dealt to you.

The outcome of the game depends on the cards that got dealt to you, and the way you play your cards. It also depends on the cards that got dealt to others, and the way they play their cards.

You cannot do anything about the cards that got dealt to you or to others. You also cannot do anything about the way others play their cards. The only thing in your control is how you play your cards.

Playing your cards well is necessary if you want a positive outcome. But it is not a guarantee since others may be playing better. However, not playing your cards well almost guarantees a negative outcome, because at least some of the others would be playing their cards well.

December 6, 2007

Understanding Stock Market Behaviour

[Prior Reading: The Concept of Groups]

The Stock Market is a perfect representation of group behaviour.

Millions of individuals (and Financial Institutions – run by individuals) participate in the buying and selling of stocks. Each individual takes a buy, sell or hold decision for each security based on his/her perception of the expected price movement. The actual price movement, in turn, depends on the sum total of the buy, sell, or hold decision taken by each individual. In a cyclic process the individual decisions are influenced by price movements, and the price movements are influenced by individual decisions.

Despite the Stock Market behaviour being a reflection of the consolidated individual behaviours, no individual or entity is able to consistently and correctly predict the price movement. People form perceptions on the price movement with all kind of analysis, but no one can be sure. There are heavy weight opinion leaders in the industry, e.g. large fund managers, historically successful investors, etc. They can influence the perception and behaviour of a large number of investors. Yet they are not able to predict or influence the actual price movement.

Sometimes positive sentiments create a self reinforcing cycle, often termed as the Bull Market. The prices of stocks keep on rising despite no major fundamental change. The Stock Market moves up. The investors feel that it would move up further, and hence they are willing to trade at higher prices. This in turn, further pushes up the stock market. The reverse is termed as the Bear Market, when the prices start falling without any fundamental change. This happens when the negative sentiments get triggered. The trigger may be something completely unrelated.

Despite all expertise, analysis and experience, the Stock Market behaves like an independent entity with a life of its own. Each and every individual influences the behaviour of the Stock Market, yet no single individual can understand, control or predict its behaviour.

December 5, 2007

Group Character is Unique

[Prior Reading: The Concept of Groups]
Individuals in a group are influenced by their perception of the group character. The sum total of this influenced individual behaviour gives the group its character.

Individuals rarely behave as themselves in a group. In most cases they try to fit in with the group and/or try to impress the group. They do this based on their perception of the character of the group. Very often, more than one groups are dominant on an individual, hence his (her) behaviour is simultaneously influenced by multiple groups. The character of the group is sum total of the character being demonstrated by each member in the group.

The perception of the character of the group, that influences individual behaviour, normally arises from the actions of a very small number of individuals. It spreads very quickly through the group as more and more individuals perceive that behaviour as the group behaviour. Sometimes a small action of just one individual is enough to spread a fire across the entire group.

In the initial stages of a football match, the "Lawyer Group" and the "Spectators Group" is dominant on a lawyer in the stadium. At the same time, the "Celebrity Group" and the "Spectators Group" is dominant on a film-star in the same stadium. Both of them are likely to be cheering their teams, as expected from spectators. The lawyer may be doing it in a subtle manner that befits a lawyer. And the film-star may be doing it in a flashy and dramatic way as expected from celebrities. However, as the match becomes exciting, and draws towards a nail biting finish, the "Spectators Group" becomes more dominant on both the lawyer and the film-star. They now behave very similar in the way the cheer and shout in support of their teams. As the match is only 5 minutes from finish some spectators get very excited and stand on their seat, within moments almost the entire stadium, including the lawyer and the film-star are standing and shouting excitedly at the supporters of the other side. Outside the group, the lawyer or the film-star could not have imagined being the way they were during the last 5 minutes of the match.

December 3, 2007

The Concept of Groups

Understanding the concept of groups is required to be able to appreciate the insights on group behaviour that I would be posting over the next few days. The insights on group behaviour are important because our behaviour is almost always masked by the perceived group behaviour.

Groups are a set of people with some common characteristics. A group can be as broad as "All Men on earth" or it may be much smaller such as "The Class of 1997, Harvard". Groups may be temporary, e.g "people on Times Square on 31st Dec 1999". Or they may be permanent, "All women born in the year 1985". All of us are part of many groups. We may be part of a group by choice (e.g friend circle, work group, club); by birth (religion, ethnic group); by situation (e.g. At Times Square on 31st Dec 1999); by force (e.g. passengers on board a hijacked flight); or by many other criteria.

Some groups are almost always dominant on us, e.g. family. Other groups are dominant for a brief period, e.g. the diners in a restaurant. At any given time our behaviour is heavily influenced by the groups that are dominant on us at that time. The behaviour of the group, in turn, is the sum total of the actions of each individual in the group. This is a self reinforcing cycle. On one hand it can lead a group to lay down their lives for a cause; and on the other, it can lead to violent mob behaviour that can shame mankind.

December 2, 2007

Be Confident – Support your Gut Feel

Confidence is the faith and respect that you have for your gut feel.

You make hundreds of conscious or subconscious choices every day. Many of these choices result from decisions. As discussed in an earlier post, a decision is choosing an alternative from logically similar alternatives, based on your gut feel. Each alternative is equally good or bad, intelligent or stupid, safe or risky.

You appear and feel confident when you support your gut feel and focus fully towards achieving the objective of your decisions. Your focus and commitment helps you achieve the objective, which in turn increase your faith in your gut feel, and hence increases your confidence. This is a positive confidence building cycle.

When you do not support your gut feel. You start doubting your decisions from the very beginning and attempt your objectives with fear, apprehension and concern. Your lack of support for your decisions often leads to failure which further reduces your faith in your gut feel, and hence decreases the confidence. This is a negative confidence destroying cycle.

To increase your confidence, start supporting your gut feel. Your gut feel cannot be wrong because the outcome of your decision depends more on the support and respect that you have for your decision, and less on the decision itself.

December 1, 2007

Honesty is Not Always the Best Policy

Honest intentions are more important than honesty itself.

Here I am equating honesty with telling the truth. Often in life we are faced with situations, mostly with our loved ones, where telling the truth does not seem to be the best thing. In such situations, check your intentions. If your intentions are honest, then go ahead and do what seems right to you, even if it requires you to be dishonest, i.e. tall a lie.

I recently met someone whose life got saved because by someone who lied about his identity to a mob during some riots. Had the mob realised the truth, both of them would have been killed. This someone, who saved his life, told a lie, put his own life at risk, and saved his life.

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