February 27, 2008

You And A Cup Of Coffee

You are like a cup of coffee. What is visible to the external world is the cup and not the coffee inside. What is visible to you is the coffee. And your experience of life is the warmth, taste and aroma of the coffee. The experience can only be felt. It is not visible to anyone including you.

The cup is how you come across to the world. The cup represents the visible actions that you take, the things that you do and the words that you speak. The world makes a picture of you from what is visible to them. They have no idea of what is inside. They do not know how the coffee looks. The coffee inside might be awful, but if the cup is made of delicate ceramic, the world would look at it positively. On the other hand, you may be a very good person inside but the world may ignore you as a cheap plastic cup because your goodness is not visible to them.

The coffee inside is what you are to yourself. It comes from what you think and believe. It comes from all your thoughts, actions, experiences and feelings from childhood till date. You are the only person who has witnessed everything about you. Others may have caught a glimpse here or there, but it is only you who knows what you are. Normally, what we are inside is never closely related to how the world sees us. Many of us have experienced this very closely. This is simply because the coffee inside is not visible to others. They can only see the cup.

Finally, the experience of having the coffee is your experience of life. It is not visible to anyone. Only you can feel the warmth, taste and aroma. A good experience makes you feel satisfied, relaxed and at peace, whereas a bad experience fills you with stress, dissatisfaction, and discomfort. The experience is given by your value system, your acceptance of yourself, and your acceptance of how the world sees you. You enjoy your coffee best when you are not concerned about how the cup or the coffee looks; rather you are focussed on enjoying the coffee. The look of the coffee and the cup does influence your experience of having coffee. But if you introspect, most of you will see that the biggest spoilsport is your non-acceptance of yourself, and of how the world sees you. Most happy and satisfied people are those who accept themselves, and also accept how the world sees them.

To accept yourself and to accept how the world sees you, the coffee and the cup needs to be in sync with your value system. So go ahead and live life in tune with your value system, and enjoy each moment of living it. It doesn't matter whether you are a beggar or a king.

Acknowledgment: This article is inspired by Rick Abelson’s “The Coffee or the Cup?

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February 21, 2008

Re-Energize And Renew Focus In Short Breaks

You can re-energize and renew focus by taking short breaks to clear out persistent thoughts from your mind.

On any average day, thousands of thoughts flow through our mind. Each of these thoughts can flow away in a split second or it can persist in our mind for hours. The thoughts can be just about anything; previous day’s experiences, concerns for tomorrow, events that happened years ago, dreams for the years to come, something in the news and so on.

At any time your energy and focus are influenced by multiple factors such as mood, type of thoughts, physical health, fatigue, and many more. One of the important influences is the number of thoughts that are persisting in your mind at that time. We normally start our day fully energized and with no persisting thoughts. As we progress through the day more and more thoughts start accumulating in our mind affecting both our energy and focus. On some days you are flooded with thoughts within a few minutes of waking up, on others you have a calm morning and the thoughts build up slowly. In any case, on most days your mind is full of thoughts by afternoon.

Short breaks, to clear your mind of all persisting thoughts, can work wonders on re-energizing you and renewing your focus. These breaks can be in the form of a 20 minute nap, or a 10 minute walk, or even a 10 minute break while sitting in your chair. If you take a walk, preferably in a park, try to notice the people, the trees and the beauty around you. Make conscious efforts to ignore all thoughts that pass through your mind, just focus on everything around you without any reactions and judgments. If you take your break in your chair, put your phone off the hook, sit straight with your eyes closed, and focus your thoughts on any one thing such as your own breathing, or a vacation you had on a lovely beach, or anything else that brings back pleasant memories. You will feel your mind getting cleared of persisting thoughts, it would feel like a huge load coming off your shoulders, and you would be ready to get back to your regular life.

Try to take at least one such break every day. Take more breaks on days when you are more stressed. These breaks are guaranteed to bring down your persistent thoughts to a bare minimum and to enable you to get back to whatever you were doing with lots more energy and focus.

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February 15, 2008

You Are What You Think You Are

Your future will be consistent with your self image. You can change your future by changing your self image.

Most of us have a self-image and we live life consistent with that image. All our actions and decisions are influenced by what we think we can or cannot do or achieve. Our self image is our judgments and beliefs regarding our capabilities. Whenever we are faced by any action, decision or planning we evaluate each possibility with our self image and move forward accordingly; “I think I can do this...”, “I can’t do this...”, “I can never become a ...”, “I am sure, that one day I will...”.

Our self image is shaped primarily by our past experiences - successes and failures, feedback and comments received from others, our upbringing and childhood events. If you carefully analyze your self-image you will be surprised to find that many of its aspects are shaped by a single event, or comment. You will find that many significant aspects have been shaped by experiences that now seem very insignificant and almost forgotten, yet they have had a permanent effect on your self image. Clearly these aspects are worth a second thought.

Since we act consistent with our self image, we reinforce it with our actions and decisions and ensure that our future would also be consistent with the image. If you want your life to be different in future, you need to work on your self image today. If you want to be a more confident person in future, create a more confident self image today. If all your actions are driven by “I do not have the confidence”, you will never have confidence. However, if your actions start getting driven by “I have confidence”, then you will definitely find your confidence improving.

You need to take your self image seriously since it defines what you are going to be. You need to identify and remove the aspects that hold you back. At the same time you need to bring in aspects that are consistent with your desired future.

Changing your self image is not easy, but it is possible with conscious effort and a strong desire to shape your own future.

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February 13, 2008

Prophecies Can Come True

If you truly believe in a prophecy, your actions and decisions will make it come true.

A respected gypsy woman looked in her crystal ball and prophesied that the beautiful young girl sitting across the table will get married to a Greek gentleman. Years passed and many suitors came for her hand in marriage, but she turned them down as they were not from Greece. Her beauty attracted many handsome and rich men to court her, but she did not let herself fall in love with anyone. Till one day, she came across an average looking Greek gentleman looking for work. She invited him home, and helped him get a job at her father's factory. She knew he was the man for her as prophesized by the old woman. She did everything she could to help him and take care of him. Eventually he fell in love with her and they got married.

If you believe in a prophecy, your actions and decisions will make it come true. Prophecies have the power to put your being in action for making them come true. All your decisions are influenced sub-consciously by what you expect will happen in the future. And your decisions eventually create the future that your subconscious mind was expecting.

You can make this work in your favor. Declare your dreams as a prophecy and have blind faith in them. If you can make yourself believe in the prophecy, all your decision and moves in life will take you towards realisation of your dreams.

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February 10, 2008

Learning Of Education

Education is only a small source of learning. The primary sources of learning are your interactions and experiences with yourself, others, nature, and the environment

Education is information and experiences imparted to students in a regulated, protected, experimental and stimulated environment. However, education is only one source of information and experiences. Other primary sources are the interactions that we have, since birth, with people, nature and environment around us; and the interactions that we have with our own self in form of introspection, dreams and self-conversation – the voice in our head.

Learning is the assimilation of information and experiences with our ‘self’. Learning is analyzing the information and experiences that we have received, relating them to our existing learnings, putting our own interpretations around them and making them mean something to us. Each piece of learning makes a difference to who we are. The difference may be small, or it may be transformational. It may be positive or negative. In any case, it contributes to the evolution of our distinct and unique personality.

The education, information and experiences that we have received becomes useful and makes a difference to who we are, only after we have passed them through the process of learning. All other education, information and experiences that we have gathered is relegated to some corner of our mind.

All of us have very distinctly experienced that it is not possible to judge anyone on the basis of educational qualifications alone. It is possible for highly educated people to be with very poor learning if they are not in touch with their self, others and the environment. On the other hand, people with poor education can be very learned if they are present to themselves, their environment and the people around them.

February 6, 2008

Common Sense Is Not Instinct

Common sense is acquired knowledge. Unlike instinct, you are not born with it. Common sense is unique for each individual.

Most of us have gone through the frustration of dealing with people who do not seem to have common sense. Very often, common sense appears to be most uncommon and rare. Unfortunately it is true. Common sense is very uncommon. This is because what is common for you may not be common for someone else. Common sense is something that is acquired through experience. Since everyone goes through different experiences in life, common sense for each person is unique.

In England, it is common sense that shoes left outside the door by hotel guests need polishing, whereas in US the common sense is to throw them in trash. For the Japanese it is common sense to sit on floor if all chairs are taken, whereas for the French it is common sense to stand along the sides. For young drivers it is common sense to speed up on wide open roads, whereas for aged drivers it is common sense to drive near the kerb and make place for speeding cars. For most doctors, it is common sense to listen carefully to the patient, whereas for most lawyers it is common sense that their clients listen to them carefully.

Common sense varies not only by nationality, culture, age or profession; but also by education, upbringing, neighborhood, work place, etc. etc. Essentially everything that you experience in life shapes what you consider as common sense. Since all of us go through unique set of experiences in life, what we consider as common sense is also unique.

Whenever you come across someone, who does not seem to have common sense, look carefully. You will see a person who is different from you. There is no reason why your commons sense should be common for him or her.

February 4, 2008

Make Friends With Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a truth of life. Take action despite uncertainty. Do not wait for certainty before taking action.

We are normally apprehensive of uncertainty as it takes away our feeling of control over the future. Uncertainty, however, is as certain as death. You have no way of being certain about how your life would be a year or a month from now. In fact you cannot even be sure of tomorrow, or even today. In this article, I do not intend to deal with uncertainty relating to natural calamities such as unforeseen earthquakes, or health risks such as sudden heart attacks. My focus is on uncertainty in our day to day life.

The root cause of uncertainty lies in the very design of life. I had touched upon it it in one of my earlier posts; Life is Like a Game of Cards. From this perspective, life depends on four primary factors. The cards that got dealt to you, the cards that got dealt to others, the way you play your cards and the way others play their cards. Of these four things, you can only control how you play your cards. The other three things add to uncertainties in your life, as you cannot foresee how others will play their cards nor can you have any control over the cards that got dealt to you or others.

The best way to deal with uncertainty is to accept it as a truth of life. Uncertainty does make it difficult to predict and plan for future. However, it also opens the door to unforeseen opportunities and positive turn of events. Instead of trying to avoid or fight uncertainty, make space for contingencies when you design or plan your life. Be open to revising your designs and plans as life unfolds. Look for new opportunities. Be open to taking on opportunities that do not exist today, but might result in the future.

Make friends with uncertainty and make space for it in your life. Your friend may be a pain at times, but she also brings you the flowers of opportunity.

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