It Is Time To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Often in life, we all reach a point where we are unhappy with the way things are going, yet we are unwilling to try something new. We feel that the known devil is better than an unknown angel. We might have faced many struggles before yet, we find it daunting to work our way out of this predicament. We pacify ourselves that the difficulties don’t outweigh the rewards yet. These are all classic symptoms of getting stuck in a comfort zone.

This comfort zone might be in our relationships, workplace, the projects we choose or life in general. On whichever front, it is just as detrimental to a person to stick to their comfort zone. It forces us to settle for less than the best. Even though we know we can be better and achieve more by taking a risk, it does not matter. Our fear of taking a chance just dulls our senses and distorts our objectivity. Comfort zones are like quicksands that appear harmless until they have pulled us in and we are stuck too deep to fight it.

Our fear to try something new, the inertia to change, the pessimistic attitude towards risk, and so on can hurt us on many levels. They are not just hurting us emotionally and financially but also psychologically. Many people waste their life stuck in the same relationship or job because they are scared to spread their wings.

As with all my posts, this one is also inspired by personal experience. Earlier, in my job, I was so comfortable in my own misery that I stopped seeing it as hell. I made excuses for bad managers, horrible hours of work and less pay. I perceived them to be industry standards. I felt enjoyable work is a myth, and everybody hates their job, so I would just suck it up and carry on.

I have since changed my job and even changed professions. I do not claim that life is better. Yet, I remember why I took the decision to change and that it was a valid concern. So as long as I know that my reason to change, I will not regret jumping out of my comfort zone.

There is no easy way to get out of this. One just needs to find the determination to change. The best way to fight your comfort zone is to keep pushing and challenging yourself. Having a loyal support group to help you change can be a big help.

At the same time, never forget why you have decided to change. As long as the reason is valid, we will always find the strength to keep fighting. Sometimes an honest and rude shock from reality can also wake us up. There are many ways to help you recognise the trap of comfort zones. We just need to be willing to take a step ahead.

Why The General Disdain For Rules

Breaking rules is generally considered as one of the traits of the ‘cool’ kids. The more disdain you show towards rules and authority, the cooler you are considered. Even in urban parlance, ‘goody two shoes’ is a term meant as an insult, and bad boy/girl attitude is adored.

When it was all fun and games, even I agreed with this concept. I saw people skip classes, flout rules, talkback, and just be all around unruly. I would laugh it off and thought it was fun.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many weaknesses in human society. The general disdain for following rules is at the foremost. This attitude for rule-breaking and being rebellious was considered cool before the pandemic. However, the need of the hour is disciplined citizens who are what the world lacks the most today.

As a child, we were taught to patiently stand in a queue in school and wait our turn. I would scoff at it and break the line when no one was watching. But now, I see people doing it while standing in a queue to get vaccinated. It makes my blood boil.

When Mahatma Gandhi started the civil disobedience movement during the freedom struggle, everyone praised the idea for being a non-violent way of protesting against the rules laid by the British government. When I see people willfully not wearing masks, disregarding all the rules set down by the government for our safety, I do not see civil disobedience. I see anarchism.

Anarchy is a fun concept when everything is peaceful with no pandemic, calamity or impending danger. During difficult times, anarchy never helps. Discipline, working together and following the rules is the only way out of a difficult situation. I hope people recognise and snip the anarchical behaviour, at least now.

Going Back to Roots

This past year has been an eye-opener for many reasons. For one thing, it has highlighted some of the problems that globalization brings. We all speak of the economic and social concerns. This time, globalization brought forth a new health and science scare. The pandemic was exacerbated due to relaxed boundaries and free and easy travel. It has also strengthened the fight against it by creating a global forum for vaccine development and distribution.

Anyway, my post is not about globalization or the problems thereof. The whole conversation started off during a fun discussion between my friends and me about how the situation felt like an Indian soap opera. The year marked the return of the rebellious kid back to his parent’s home.

If you are confused, let me explain. Mankind and his best friend Science walked out of the family home after a dramatic fight with ayurvedic medicines, herbs, sheltered living and other such traditions. Mankind, with the help of its trusty sidekick, Science set out to carve a new and better future, away from their parents Nature and Earth.

When faced with the magnitude and ferocity of the pandemic, Mankind was stunned while Science was overwhelmed. They were inundated with too many variables that were out of their control. They were forced to return to herbal and natural medicines like ginger, giloy, neem, tulsi etc., to keep up immunity till Science found a cure or a vaccine. Like a rebellious son returning home with his tail between his legs, Mankind returned back to Nature to heal its wounds.

Covid-19 posed a risk too huge and widespread for Science alone to tackle. We had to use traditional techniques of isolation, herbal teas, natural immunity boosters and such remedies till we could find the vaccine. Social media was flooded with various recipes of health foods, natural sanitisers, herbal disinfectants and such.

Nature also got a break from all the interference that Science brought. Without any road traffic, animals started coming out and visiting us. With factories on break and road pollution at an all-time low, stars seemed to twinkle brighter. This has been a big boon that the lockdown has brought for us. People also stopped and took a forced break from their busy schedule to spend time with family.

By the end, my friends and I were joking that in true soap opera style, we could hear a fast-paced tune on sitar and tabla playing in the background to indicate a happy ending.

Time Flies

During the teens, you can’t wait to spread out your wings and have a test flight.

The twenties lets you travel far and wide to explore this wonderous world and meet your match, who makes your heart flutter.

The thirties bring responsibilities; you have a nest and, “the early bird gets the worm” is your mantra.

The forties are for keeping a hawk-eye on things and saving up for the long and cold winter ahead.

In your fifties, you are tired of flying around. You want to rest a bit and crave a second chance to admire what you missed in a hurry.

The Sixties is when you want to return back to the nest.

The seventies makes you crave for your nest to be as filled and be noisy as it was during the thirties.

The eighties are like a bitterly cold winter storm that drags on and on, and you just can’t wait to get over with it.

The nineties are about silently staring at others going through the same thing that you did all along.

When you hit a century, it’s a celebration for everyone around you but you.

It’s Not Yours Unless You Take It

The first time I heard my manager say this to me, I thought he meant to encourage me to reach for my promotion. The next time he said that to me, we were discussing my team’s poor performance. The team was performing poorly due to the willful actions of a particular member of the team. This was dragging the entire team down. I felt that since I was the team leader, it was my responsibility. I tried to correct, teach, chastise even threaten that particular member, but to no avail. My manager felt that the person was a lost cause, and I should not waste time on him. In both situations, the same advice taught me to work for my ambitions, and let go of the dead weight.

Many years later, I heard the same advice from my friend when I complained about an insulting situation I had to face. She advised me that the insults were for me as long as I took them. Once I stop taking them, they are just words that hold no meaning to me. I thought that she was being just philosophical and not practical. Now I see the true meaning behind the words.

It is not yours till you take it, be it a promotion, responsibility, insult or praise. Be it happiness or sorrow, it can only affect us as long as we let it do so. A problem is ours to solve, only if we consider it as our problem. Responsibility is ours to carry only as long as we choose to fulfil it.

These words can be understood in two ways. It can be used as a way to either shirk responsibility or get rid of an unnecessary burden. To ignore good advice or to undermine praise. To brush off insults or to seek out blame. Which option we choose shows our attitude in life. When you feel burdened or stressed out in life, or if you lack direction and purpose, then maybe it is time to change your attitude.

Be The Change You Want To See

I have not coined this term, ‘be the change you want to see’ however, I want to endorse this statement. If you are a sceptic, we can rephrase the term as ‘Practise before you preach’. Motivational speakers will say, ‘Lead by example’. Religious people might connect to the statement, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Whichever way you choose to word it, the meaning remains the same. If we want to bring about a change in this world, it starts with us. 

Anyone who observes the current situation in the world today, we can all agree that we need to change. We need to change our attitude, outlook and approach to viewing, handling and resolving issues. The issues we are facing are not new and unsuspecting, they have been brewing for quite some time without any signs of abating. Until now, all our efforts to resolve have only served as bandaids on a fractured bone. We have missed the mark one too many times. One of the reasons that the same issues continue to fester time and again is the lack of change. We need to make fundamental changes to the way we approach the problem, change our perspective. 

As a party to this conflict, our perspective, opinions, solutions often, tend to be biased, one way or the other. Asking an oppressor or an oppressed for their opinion will yield results coloured by their experiences. To correctly identify the root cause, we need to see the problem with an unbiased set of eyes. This unopinionated set of eyes are the most difficult to come by. 

I know that some of you are thinking that the only unbiased set of eyes can be that of aliens 😜because everyone else has already picked sides. There is, however, another solution, be the change you want to see. If you wish for the oppressed to stop complaints and be thankful, then you start practising it. If you expect the oppressed to stand up for what is right and speak up at the right forum, then you practice it. If you want to see tolerance in this world, then you be tolerant of people who disagree with you. If you desire to see friendly faces, then you smile and be open to friendship with strangers. 

I hope my message catches you in good spirits, that you see my perspective too. Have a great day

Image Courtesy of canva.com

Dishwashing

I was reminiscing on my childhood while washing dishes, and naturally, all the memories triggered were related to dishwashing. During the 1960s in South India, the main ingredient used for washing dishes was ash and the scrubber used was coconut fibre. The same was the case with my grandmother. Ammama (grandma) had a tin container filled with the dried coconut fibre that she collected every time she used a coconut. (In India, they retain a portion of the coconut fibre as it is used in all households).

She had a big copper water boiler that supplied all the hot water required for a daily bath. She used a combination of charcoal and Pidakalu (dried cow dung cakes) as fuel. She purchased these items from the local market. The water boiler itself is an antique piece, it is a pity we did not save it. Once the fuel burned and the water heating was done for the day, she collected the ash from the bottom tray and stored it in a separate box.
If at any time, the housemaid complained that she is unable to scrub the burnt food with the coconut fibre, my Ammama gave the maid a piece of tablet foil. Tablet foil??? If you are wondering, back in the old days in India, almost all tablets were packaged in metal foil. We never saw tablets packed in plastic until much later. She had a separate collection of this rare item, the tablet foils. She rarely used medications as she relied heavily on her home remedies.

For particularly greasy dishes, some flour was sprinkled generously and scrubbed and removed. The flour absorbed all the grease, and the utensils were ready for the next round of scrubbing.

The utensils used back then were all made of metal. Ammama had copper utensils, iron pots and pans, steel serving plates and cutlery and some aluminium containers. Not a single one was made of plastic. Ammama’s house was built in such a way that there was a separate area designated for washing dishes that was almost like the back yard. Dishes were never washed at the sink in the kitchen.

Later on, as years rolled by dishwashing powders dawned in the market. Sabena dishwashing powder was popular. Vim powder also used. The next stage was the use of dishwashing soap cake. Today the market has a plethora of dishwashing gels to choose from. The coconut scrub is long gone. Instead, we have all kinds of metal, sponge and plastic scrubbers to choose from.

Today one need not manually wash dishes, it can be done by a machine. Even if you do the dishes by hand, it is not such an unpleasant experience like yesteryears. However, I am not sure if we made a change for the better.

Where does all this soap water from the dishwashing go? Obviously, we are polluting the environment we live in. The second question is, how can we be sure that all the chemicals from the soap are 100% rinsed out from the dishes? If any soapy filmy residue stays on, then that goes straight into our body. There are some anti-bacterial and antifungal agents used commonly in dishwashing soaps that are harmful to our health. The other chemicals used in these soaps are said to cause skin rashes and allergies.

Bringing back Ammama’s methods of dishwashing is not possible for various reasons. Our kitchens consist of a lot of plastic and non-stick containers, we don’t have access to ash and coconut fibre.

Even though back then, through the eyes of a child, the process looked quite unpleasant, today I appreciated how much safer those methods were and how environmentally friendly they were.

Keep An Eye On the Backdoor

One lazy afternoon, a cat softly walked up to the backdoor of a house. The door was left ajar; he stood there for a few tense moments assessing the danger level. When no one noticed his presence, he quietly stepped into the house and quickly sneaked into the kitchen. Within the next few seconds, he climbed up the countertop to lap up all the milk in the container.

The lady of the house caught him red-handed and chased him. The startled cat jumped to the ground and instead of exiting through the backdoor, he ran into the dining room. The lady went yelling and, running after the cat, but he kept dodging her. To escape her, he ran under the dining table and rushed into the living room to hide under the couch.

All through this chaos, the lady’s daughter was fascinated and excited by the cat. She protected him by not revealing his hiding place. After some time, the little girl started petting the cat. The cat quickly recognised the friend and the foe. He avoided the lady who chased him to spend most of his time with the little girl who befriended him.

Gradually, he made the house his home and soon two other cats joined him. All attempts to get rid of the cats were futile. Even if the lady chased them away, they found their way back into the house. They knew the little girl was ready to accommodate them. The little girl even suggested that these cats could get rid of the rats in the house. But, nothing of that sort happened. The rats and the cats all lived in the same house.

Art By Sharda

All-day long, they purred at the girl and relaxed in her lap. They stole food from the kitchen and slept on piles of freshly washed clothes. If anyone tried to get them out of the house, they showed their temper. They did not spare anything in the kitchen; they clawed the couches, destroyed the plants, knocked things down, and generally speaking, created a mess.

I have nothing against cats but observing the events in the above story, I can draw parallels to other events in our lives. When the cat first entered the house, it was totally accidental. If both the mother and child chased away the cat with the same fervour, the cats would have avoided the house. Because the lady chased them away, yet the girl encouraged them; the cats made the house as their home.

Bad habits enter into our lives in the same way as the cats did in this story. The first time is usually an accident or a coincidence. It is how we react to this event that decides our fate. If we chase the habit out of our life, then chances are that the habit will exit. But, if we cover them up or defend them, it will become impossible to get rid of the bad habit.

Just as one good habit attracts other good habits, one bad habit also attracts many other undesirable habits. The bad habits could be as simple as being lazy/procrastinating or something as serious as drug/alcohol abuse. Be mindful of what is entering through that backdoor silently. It might, at first, look innocent and harmless but eventually, it will show its true colours. Like stray animals are always prowling around looking for a quick meal and a comfortable place to settle in, the same way at every stage in life we are prone to several dangers. It is important to recognise them early and nip them out of our life.

I used the analogy of a cat’s behaviour in this story to explain my point about bad habits. However, I don’t want anyone to think that cats are bad nor should anyone ill-treat cats or any other animal for that matter. Cruelty to animals is a bad habit in itself. All I’m saying is keep an eye on that back door; all things evil and undesirable sneak in from there. If you liked what you read, please let me know. Until next time, Stay Safe.

The Irony of Life

When we are young, we just can’t wait to grow up. I used to scan through my mother’s cupboard and admire her collection of sarees. My sister used to try out my aunt’s high-heel sandals. She even sprained her ankle once while walking in them. Sometimes we imitated the behaviour of grown-ups during role play.

Today, after leaving childhood far behind, I miss those days. My cousins and I reminisce about those wonderful times and unforgettable anecdotes with great pleasure. It is ironic that when we were actually going through those early years we never paid attention to the present, our sights were set on the future. We never thought that we would miss those times. Future seemed rosier than the present.

Childhood is the age of innocence. We laughed and smiled as easily as we cried and threw tantrums. Bitterness was forgotten as soon as we saw something sweet. Even a false compliment took us sky high and perched our spirit on the treetop. If we had friends to play with and treats to fill our pockets with, then we were rich. Back then, we felt quite powerless and looked up to the older folk and envied their authority.

With age came understanding. My company of friends is now filled with wise-brained adults. Something as simple as a smile can be interpreted in numerous ways, depending on the facts and circumstances. We seldom cry, at least not as often as in childhood. Compliments are dissected to see what’s behind the words. False compliments are now called ‘flattery’. We exercise authority over the children in our house yet we envy their carefree life. This is the irony of life.

The age of innocence was filled with curiosity about every aspect of being an adult. Our heads were filled with “Why?, How? When?”. As all queries met their answers, curiosity died. Life turned into one big chore. Today, excitement is not a feeling we experience often. For this, we were desperate to grow up!

Now as our legs are racing to the future, our heads turn back to see what we are leaving behind. The heart still longs for that beautiful world of innocence. Now we try to bring back to life the little child inside us that we left ignored for decades. This is the greatest irony of life.

Always Finish What You Start

Have you ever started something that you were very excited about, but have quit midways? Have you started a project with one idea in mind and when things didn’t work out as you planned, you lost interest. It has happened to me a few times and I have burnt my fingers to learn from this mistake. Never quit midways. Always have the patience to wait until the end. If you have confidence in your convictions then it is worth the effort, I speak from experience when I say this.

While in college pursuing my undergraduate degree, I had taken up a computer programming course. My intention was to earn enough programming certificates so that I can take a job in either the programming field or my chosen field. The plan seemed simple at that time. A little into this course, I realized that it was not that simple after all. My programming certificates were not equivalent to a degree in computer science, so I may not get jobs as easily as I hoped. This disheartened me and I quit my course halfway through to continue with my undergraduate program. After graduation, when I started my job hunt, I faced tough competition at all interviews. Any additional qualifications that one held became important. I lost a few lucrative job opportunities, to someone who had done a certificate course in programming. This was a hard punch to me, though I had knowledge of programming, I did not have the patience to complete the course and get my certificate. This was the first time that I learnt this lesson.

Though I learnt my lesson, I did not quite remember it. Later on in life, I faced a similar problem. I decided to get fit and enrolled in a fitness program. To join this program, I quit my yoga class halfway through. Again, I lacked patience and was in a hurry to get healthy fast. A week into my new health class, they started yoga training. I was upset, I told them that I just quit my yoga class to come here so that I can get on a fast track. The cherry on the top was that, if I had finished my yoga class, I could have leapfrog this level. Since I quit halfway through, I had to redo the whole thing. 

There are many such situations in all our lives, some funny, some not so funny, where we ended up paying dearly for our impatience. Call it lack of foresight or impatience or lack of planning. Either way, we paid dearly for not finishing what we started. Consider yourself lucky and learn from my mistake, if you have not faced such situations. 

Many of us, would have set up New year resolutions hoping to better themselves. Make sure you follow through on your resolution and not quit. You never know when this resolution will add a new lifeline for you. So, I resolve that this year, I will finish all the endeavours that I take up. Here’s to hoping that I’m successful in doing it. Cheers!!

Attitude For Gratitude

Everyone must develop an attitude for gratitude. This is one of the main lessons that is taught by all self-help gurus, life coaches, personality development speakers etc. They always say that we must be grateful for what we have. We must say thank you to God or the universe or the people around us. Who you thank depends on what you are thankful for.

Every time I heard this phrase, I thought, “What do I have to be thankful for?” My job was a dead-end one, my personal life was going nowhere; I saw people around me moving forward while I felt stagnant. I had a very depressing sense of life. Every time I spoke to my sisters, I would always complain about my problems. Sometimes they would just listen, sometimes they would correct me on my thinking. My friends would try to reassure me and make me see the good in life around me. Some friends even introduced me to life coaches to help me find joy. My parents supported me by being patient and understanding. I appreciated all their efforts and yet, I found nothing to grateful for.

My mood continued to be sad for a few months. I don’t quite remember what made me turn to God for help, but I did that. I went to a temple, sat down and told my troubles to God. I asked him, “What is there to be grateful for in my life?” That was when my question was answered.

Before you think that I went crazy, let me explain, God did not actually answer my question. I had an epiphany while I was going to work. Though I have always complained of not having anything to be grateful for, I forgot about the biggest gift I always had, ‘someone to speak to’.

I always had my sisters, whom I ran to with my complaints. My friends tried to cheer me up. My parents never complained about my sour moods. My relatives also tried to help me find a way out. I have so much to be grateful for right here.

My job might be a dead-end one, but it keeps me busy through the day. My pay might be bad, but it keeps a roof on my head and food to eat. I have difficulties, but I have people who will listen to them. Whenever I feel lost, I have people who will show me the way back home. If I am moody, I have friends to cheer me up. What more can I ask for in life?

Indeed, I am not as successful as I could be or as rich as the next person. I might not lead as fulfilling a life as someone else. However, I still have the potential to achieve them. I have the means and resources to turn things around for myself.

That day, I thanked God, the universe and life in general for giving me all this. I found a direction to move forward in. Each and every one of us has the potential to be the best. We can achieve greatness and reach the highest point in our life. We just do not realize what we have. We always look at things we do not have and we feel bad. It reminds me of a proverb that my mother told us. There was once a man who was bothered about picking up the grains of wheat that fell down in front. He was so busy picking them, he missed all the tasty fruits and melons that were behind him. It is time we wake up and build our attitude for gratitude.

Women’s Rights vs Equal Rights

If you are following the news in India, you will be aware of the recent events of crimes against women. The number of incidences of rape, police apathy and mob justice and crimes against women has increased. This caused a renewed concern for the safety of women and women’s rights in society. As bad as it is to hear about the cases of women being brutalised, killed and raped, it is worse when we hear the comments of people. Some say that women are weak and that is why such things happen to them. Labelling women as weak and wrapping them in cotton wool does not reduce the chance of crimes against them. Such labels only strangle their chances to fight back against injustice. Now they will be restricted even more from chasing their dreams. Would it be a wrong time to raise the debate of women’s rights now?

At the cost of sounding insensitive, I would like to point out that rape, assault against women are as grievous as the assault against men, racist crimes, hate crime etc. Every crime done against another human being is just as bad as the others. They should al be punished just as severely as the other.

I believe in equal rights for men and women, although I am not a feminist. It appears that since I do not believe in ‘women first’, I cannot be a feminist. However, there is no field of study, work, research, or society that should be barred for women or for men. Both women and men should be praised, applauded, tried, tested and punished equally. Both genders should be given equal opportunity to greatness and stupidity, justice and crime, prosperity and destruction, virtue and vice etc. Everyone should be treated equitably, hence all crimes against everyone should be treated uniformly. However, I agree that this is an idealistic view.

Women should not be treated like porcelain dolls that are unable to withstand rough conditions. At the same time, when hard work and labour is required, women should not back down. I do not mean offence, but I have seen women use their gender as an excuse. They try to escape certain work with this reason. To be fair to women, most times we are not assigned some work, though we are ready to take on the challenge. We should stop expecting men to open doors for us, let us enter first or wait on us in the name of chivalry. We cannot ask for equal rights and special treatment at the same time.

Time and again, women have proven that they are as strong as men, both physically and mentally. From armed forces to scientific research, from arts to business, from sports to politics, women have proven their mettle in every field. When we can work shoulder to shoulder with men, we should not expect them to pave the way for women or protect us from crimes.

Disclaimer: I have sourced the image from Google images. I do not own the image.