Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles, and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success. Never again. There is a better way.Way back in school, during a Moral Science class, our teacher narrated an incident that involved her cousin who was elder to her by a decade. The cousin she spoke about was a highly educated woman, who also happened to be the CEO of a well-known publication house. She never bothered to get married as she didn't see it as a priority in her life. However, she was moneyed and did live in with the man she loved until the day of her demise. Exactly three days after she passed away, her partner sat and sifted through her stuff to reminisce and relive some of the best moments he had lived with her. During this indulgently nostalgic session, he found a cardboard box with a transparent cellophane top with a beautiful silk scarf inside. The box had evidently been opened once. He remembered that he had given her the scarf at least seven years ago, and she had smiled like a little girl on receiving it. She had hugged the box tight and proclaimed that she would wear it only when the day was special enough. In seven years, she hadn't worn it even once - hoarding it like treasure. Does that mean that not a single day was special enough in seven long years for her to actually wear what she had loved so much at first sight?
- American author Augustine "Og" Mandino II
- American author Augustine "Og" Mandino II
Well, isn't this what most of us do in life? Constantly search for a better tomorrow while today slips away unnoticed and underutilized? Waiting for that special day and not even considering for a second that today could be that special day? And when it's not about a better tomorrow, it is always the glorious days of the past that keep haunting us, gnawing at our souls with questions as to why those days are now past. Why, oh, why did this and that and what not happen?
The truth of the matter is, no matter how vehemently one denies it, both happiness and sadness are states of the mind. OUR mind. The mind WE are totally in control of. All it takes is the WILL and COURAGE to face the truth and accept life with open arms; not fighting it all the time. And because I know how my previous sentence can be misinterpreted, let me clarify that it definitely doesn't mean that one should give up on seeking a good life by dreaming of improving his circumstances, and opt for a life that is nothing more than a stagnated stupor. No. In fact, it means the exact opposite. It means that one should dream and then expedite the process of turning the dreams into reality.
It is grand and rather brave of a person to dream of becoming an exponent of the classical Indian dance form of Kuchipudi at the age of 35. It is brilliant actually. But just thinking will hardly suffice. And if you keep postponing it, well, before you know you will be 40 with even lower motivation levels. Here, what you should do is just pick up the phone, find out a good school that teaches Kuchipudi, take a bus to the school, and admit yourself to learn what fascinates you substantially. And all this has to be done today. Not five months from now because there are very high chances that the fifth month will never arrive.
But how to go about doing it all? Of course, speaking about it is very easy, but to actually enroll yourself in a dance class today will need some logistical adjustments. You have to genuinely consider those and make changes accordingly. Agreed. But just using considerations like "who will take my kids to the park and my dog for a walk", "how will I make dinner on time", "how will I get into a bus with a hundred smelly, perspiring people", "how will I key in the numbers on an ATM to withdraw cash lest my French manicured nails chip" as excuses and doing nothing to juggle things around is sad, lethargic, and very uninspiring.
Believe me, you will find what you actually want to find for yourself. If you wish to find time, you will find time and be able make way. You will become a better time manager and squeeze out some time to do something you badly wish to do. The human ability to push limits is super high and well-known. And if you are hell-bent on finding excuses, well, God is exceptionally benevolent in letting you find just that - a whole bundle of hollow excuses at the end of a long life. You take a call, since only you can. If you ask me, I will give you a very simple, linear, clichéd piece of advice - live each day in a way that when you close your eyes at night (or at 4.30 a.m. like me), you have at least one pleasant vision or memory from the last 24 hours to make you smile. Sounds boring, doesn't it?
Where are the lofty words that string incoherent bits of philosophy together to entangle your brain further? Sorry to disappoint you, folks, but life detests being convoluted if she is given a choice. Quit shifting responsibility and accept the fact - you convolute your own life in irreparable ways. YOU choose to give up, YOU choose to stagnate, YOU choose to expect, YOU choose to ignore, YOU choose to not act, YOU choose to not mend problems, YOU choose to decide when it is too late. It's all YOUR CHOICE.
Life just becomes what you make it. Shirking responsibility and blaming it on destiny and nature and God knows what else is the best way to push happiness away. And I understand why people do it. All of us do to some extent. The state of wallowing in a happy past is a very addictive state to be in. It is well-cushioned and very comfortable because it doesn't involve taking newer risks, or pushing the mind to do anything whatsoever. You're in a lazy limbo that you gradually begin to love profoundly. It's convenient. There are no major shifts that take place, and your lifestyle doesn't involve sitting on super hot ovens at all. You know things might not get better, but you are sure that they won't get worse. It's a well-known terrain. Guess what, the thing about convenience is that it's a shifty minx. What seems comfortable and convenient today will cause you so much pain and inconvenience tomorrow, that no amount of aesthetic sensibilities and cosmetic surgeries will be able to mend the ugly face of reality then. Convenience hates its greatest lovers.
Mantra #1: You are Alive Today. Carpe diem!
Since no one knows the size of the spacecraft we might see hovering near the horizon tomorrow, or whether the secret battalion of Merfolk will choose to attack tomorrow or not, and considering that these things can happen, consider life to be a luxury that you must indulge in today. Right now is the time when you are breathing, isn't it? Care about what might happen tomorrow or dream about it, but don't stop living today. Or, your tomorrow will be a mirror image of your sad today. I mean, when you have a small stone in your shoe bothering you to no end, you don't wait for a special tomorrow to remove the stone, do you? You deal with it today. Stop procrastinating to clinical extents. I am a seasoned procrastinator myself, and I know why it must never be allowed to get out of hand. Carpe diem. Big time! Tattoo it on your hand if you must.
Do all of this now, or within the next 24 hours if you are in the shower right now. Just get the gist and do whatever it is you have been meaning to do for eternity right away, and I cannot stress enough on to what extent time is of essence here. And trust me, once you have done it, the rush you will feel can be duplicated only if Utopia suddenly springs up around you.
Mantra #2: The Only Person You Must Please is You.
True. If you cannot be and please yourself, you cannot please anybody. Not your family, not your friends, not the world, not even God. Even when you choose to do something for someone else, do it because it will make you happy. Or at least, do it in a manner that will leave you satisfied, even when you are doing it in spite of your wishes. The satisfaction must spring from within. If that doesn't happen, no amount of external applauding will fill up the internal vacuum. Be honest to yourself. Seek happiness proactively and happiness will seek you. Ask and you shall receive. Believe in the Law of Attraction. And I am not saying that you need to become Atlas and lift the world on your shoulders to enjoy that sense of accomplishment to experience ultimate joy. The process isn't Herculean at all. The simplest of things can give you joy. You just need to dig out some time to experience them.
See how little time it takes to make happiness a lifestyle? Happiness can be derived from the tiniest of things with the tiniest alterations in perception.
Mantra #3: Stop Cribbing. No Negotiations.
We all have challenges thrown our way on a daily basis. Things that disrupt our schedule, circumstances that make life a little more complicated and tedious than it needs to be, things that none of us are deliriously happy about. In an ideal world, these would not have happened. But we aren't living in an ideal world. Existence would be rather boring if we did. Death rates would be the highest due to tedium and monotony. Not really a glorious thing to happen. Trust me. So, turn every uncalled-for, pesky little disruption to your favor by making adjustments and modifications as per your discretion and liking. Examples you seek?
All three instances had immense scope for cribbing and all of us did do just that for a while until others chased us with daggers to make us stop, but today we are glad that these things happened. All a matter of perspective.
Mantra #4: Don't Push Yourself Unnecessarily.
One of the biggest mistakes we commit day in and day out is definitely the act of forcing ourselves to dredge through things that we absolutely hate. What will the world think if we don't? What will happen if I do? Why can't my situation miraculously turn in my favor while I do nothing to mend it? Well, my man (or woman), since you have proclaimed yourself to be God's best creation for so long, that makes YOU God's miracle. So, you are to take care of it. No one else can. Take a stand and go through with it.
I know that they say that man's perseverance can move mountains, but don't move it if you don't want to move it in the first place. Don't do anything because societal norms have set certain parameters that you are expected to meet. You make your own parameters and do what you feel comfortable doing. Testing your limits is not about killing yourself in the process. It is about achieving things that you really want to achieve. For instance, you might be terrified of heights and yet you want to go bungee jumping. That is something YOU want to see yourself do. If you go ahead and do it to conquer your fear, that would be called testing your limits. But you know what is plain stupid? When you have a super abusive romantic partner and you know that things will only deteriorate if you go ahead and marry the person, and you do it nevertheless. STUPID! Really. No other way of looking at it. Whether you do it because you think too many people already know about it and it would be convenient to just go ahead with it, or you do it to test your ability to change his/her violent ways, it still shouts STUPID all over the place. Love does not conquer all. Ok, it does, but be practical about it.
If things seem hard, take your time to cope with them and in your own way. If things become too overwhelming to handle, just breathe and do things to deviate your attention until you regain a grip over your senses. There are a lot of individuals who do that. One particular lady I know watched only South Indian movies for four long months - day in and day out - to get away from a very confusing and stifling conundrum in her life. Her mental autopilot took over until she could think for herself again. Once her system was steady enough to take over again, mostly because she did not consciously dwell on her troubles and took some time off, she could untangle the situation all by herself in a matter of two days. There isn't any other option but to give yourself space and time sometimes.
Don't let someone else define things for you. For example, I have a cousin who is supremely gamophobic. The utterance of the word "marriage" physically freaks her out. She is of marriageable age and very "marriable" really. But she won't do it just to please people around her. It is remarkable to see her holding fort against all those who question her ways. She respects people who opt to marry. She is all supportive of them. But she doesn't see herself fit for the institution and it isn't her priority. And she has built an enviably beautiful life for herself and her family without doing anything that she never felt an innate need to do. In fact, she had recently shared this brilliant photo on a social networking site, that read:
Perfectly sums it all up for her.
Just LISTENING to the voice within can help you discover yourself in multiple rewarding ways. Understand who you are and what things fall in your list of priorities. Don't go about doing things blindly because they have been tried and tested by others. No. Things happen. Find your calling.
I know that a lot of people will raise their eyebrows at my last suggestion because financial viability matters a lot. I am not in any way denying the importance of raking in the moolah. It isn't an option; it is a must. The essence here isn't impracticality, rather it is the exact opposite. Strive for excellence and be the best in whatever you love doing and you will find a way to do it profitably. The keywords are "love doing" and "be the best" in the last sentence. If you listen to your heart and fail, the fact that you tried what you felt was right for you is very laudable. Very few people really have the courage to do it. You may regret it, but at least you will regret doing something that you came up with yourself, and not something that was thrust upon you by people who hardly have a clue as to who you are. You still get to pat your back for trying and failing in doing something than not doing anything at all.
The best way to look at failure is to look at it as a solution to a doubt you had. You didn't know what would happen if you tried doing something, so you did it to arrive at a conclusion. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the conclusion turned out to be that it wouldn't work for you. At least you will have scratched an itch to get rid of it once and for all, rather than living with it - miserable and uncomfortable for the rest of your life.
Mantra #5: Take in the Best and Discard the Rest.
Here's something that will actually help to cut out a lot of the useless noise that usually addles with our ability to listen to our inner voice: learn to sift through layers of all that you perceive, only take in what is of consequence, and leave the fluff behind. Of course, this will only happen with some practice and some inevitable hand-burning experiences, but once you consciously make an effort to do it, your instinctive filtration process will kick in and strengthen by the day. Like knowing that only the stone has to be removed from the shoe and thrown away. The entire shoe is not to be discarded. Learn to spot the lotus, and not the dirty water in which it blooms. I agree that it is easier said than done. Sometimes it's very difficult to distinguish between the crux and the peripherals. But I reiterate, try and you will get there.
A very simple scenario might help draw a clearer picture. During an appraisal meeting, we receive feedback - positive and negative. Most often, our first instinct is to defend our stances with vehemence, explain our points of view, lose a little bit of our objectivity, digress from the point of discussion, and then sulk over the injustice of it all for the rest of the week. This happens even when our friends and family try to give us feedback. Discussions seldom remain objective discussions and go on to become arguments that are mostly unproductive, with everyone hyperventilating. Happens to the best of us. But believe me when I say that it would make a world of difference in your life if you gave productive feedback a chance. Just one chance. How?
Yes, the first few times there will be a few errors in judgment on your part as well, but gradually, you will get the hang of it. Take in the constructive and build on it. Discard the unproductive as it really isn't about you. People around you are human beings who are victims of life's mysterious ways themselves. Sometimes they vent their frustration from continuously bearing the weight of life's yoke on others. That doesn't make them God, or their views absolute. Once you can use your mental sieve to not let the unimportant jargon percolate through, you will be a lot more clear-sighted and way more happy as an individual. Garbage is to be kept out. Life is too short to do otherwise. You will see an instant lightening of your moods if you know where you stand as an individual. Use what others say to strengthen your character, not mutilate your self-confidence. Besides, discovering yourself is a lot of fun. Narcissism and self-obsession are not really lost causes, if you know what I mean (*wink*)!
Mantra #6: Never Lose Faith.
We all falter when it comes to faith some time or the other. No exceptions. When life goes about bursting our bubble with the sharpest tack in the box and we haven't a clue as to why terrible things befall us, we are all very tempted to renounce faith and God and all that we call our own. We challenge the order of the universe with a vengeance and question the very existence of justice. Yes, there is no denying that things spiral out of control and darkness grips our heart like it will never let go again at times. Things are genuinely bad. But there exists only one antidote that can successfully combat dark times with sheer perseverance - faith. Faith injects you with strength and positivity, it holds fort when the world around is collapsing, it helps you heal, it grasps your hand tightly and crusades against depression valiantly, and keeps you from surrendering to the dark crevices of the human mind without a fight; it gives you the biggest boost to bounce back. In short, faith helps save the day.
But, there's a "but" and a crucial one at that - you have to hold on to faith as strongly as it holds on to you. Don't let go. No matter what happens. I know that faith needs to be restored once in a while in order for us to retain it, and all of this sounds rather textbook, and philosophy textbook at that. But it's the truth. Faith makes the world go round. Faith lights up the darkest moment of your life. Keep it. Tell yourself everyday that things are good enough and they will only get better.
If you have hit rock bottom, have the faith to make that the solid foundation on which you rebuild your life brick by brick, one step at a time. Never abandon faith. Believe and your beliefs shall transpire in ways you cannot even fathom.
Mantra #7: Count Your Blessings and Be Thankful.
This doesn't really need any explanation, does it? We were all taught to say our prayers before every meal or going to sleep. Very few of us do it regularly. Of course, praying is not the only way through which we can allow our gratitude to manifest. No. Religious habits are very personal in nature and how you go about them is totally up to you. What I am talking about is being aware of all that we have to be thankful for. Precisely what Wally Lamb meant when he said,
I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.
Know how well off you really are in your own way. No matter what, there will always be someone who is worse off than you. Gratitude is very humbling, and with humility comes the understanding of our greater purpose in this Universe. Very lofty, I know. But imagine how liberating it is to know that you are not redundant. In fact, far from it. You are special. You mattered yesterday, you matter today, and you will matter tomorrow. Be thankful for all that you are and your life is, strive to make it better, keep smiling, and make every breath count.
All of these things will only facilitate one thing - your happiness. Love, live, pray, eat, read, perceive, and exist like there is no tomorrow. Do at least one thing that you absolutely love doing every single day. The more you choose to be happy, the greater meaning life shall have for you. Don't squander away the opportunity you have today in search of a hypothetical tomorrow. Your mental well-being will strengthen you to build a better tomorrow proactively. We reap tomorrow what we sow today.