Problems That Need a Name

A problem that does not exist, needs no solutions, isn’t it so? Unless we recognize the existence of a problem, we will not start thinking about ways to repair it. For this reason, the first step towards problem-solving is to recognize and define the problem. A problem can be anything that endangers your welfare or anything detrimental to your future well-being.

For over a year, I have been suffering from persistent headaches, that sometimes last days at a stretch. Initially, I thought it was sinusitis. Later, the blame was pushed on to stress and bad weather. Whatever the cause, the only solution I could see was painkillers. I had work to do and could not stop to rest. Even when I had the time to rest, I would hesitate to think, “How often will people around me put up with my excuse?”

As time passed, I was able to identify some common features of my problem and finally, the doctor diagnosed my trouble as migraine. Rather than disturbing me, the diagnosis gave me a sense of relief. Since the problem has been identified and named, I no longer feel disconcerted. I can research about the condition and take necessary precautions. I can try different options such as changing my diet, meditation and exercise instead of going straight for the painkillers. This incident got me thinking about the importance of “Identifying the problem”.

We don’t often take the time to introspect about the whys, whats and hows. We find it easier to point fingers at others, the circumstances or our fate. Our deficiencies become our neighbour’s fault or the devious plan of some evil imaginary force. Either, we build up bad vibes for the so-called ‘enemy’ or pray to the heavens for divine intervention. We fail to recognize the fact that unless we work on the problem, it will continue to thrive. That brings us back to our main point; unless we acknowledge the problem we will not work on it.

To acknowledge the problem, analyze every situation and assess your role in the crisis. Think about all the various possibilities like, “What if I had taken a different approach?”, “What if I had prepared for the exam?” or “What if I had alerted the appropriate person?” Is there anything that you could have done that would result in a better outcome? During this process, it is important to be truthful to yourself. This line of thought will lead you in the right direction.

Once the problem is identified, our mind will automatically start looking for solutions. My personal experience has been that I was able to improve myself along many planes. It also helped me become a better person and improve the quality of my life compared to two decades ago.
Tell me about your experience or if you have anything more to add to this topic. I would love to hear from you. Have a nice day!

To Change Or Not To Change

I have a bit of an enigma, to change or not to change. Everyone says change is the only constant in life. If we want to adapt to any change in our life, then we have to change ourself, else, we might become obsolete. We have to try to improve our self. In fact, it is strongly believed that those who stick to the old ways often get left behind. Acclimating to change is the only way forward.

Just when I’m convinced with this argument, my mind says, but we have to be strong and stay true to our convictions. We should not keep changing colours and end up losing our individuality in the crowd. We should adhere to our way of life. Change means to quit on our opinions and taking a cowardly way out.

How do we choose which is correct?

Be Mindful of Your Words While Expressing Yourself

Words are the most powerful tools that we use to express opinions, intentions, ideas, plans etc. Understandably, our words can make our life easy and smooth sailing or they can invite trouble and unwanted risks. Many times, though we speak the truth, if we are not careful of our tone or choice of words, our message is not conveyed correctly. This can potentially wreck a relationship, business deal or lifelong friendship.

When we let our anger, envy or pride colour our tone of speaking, we could end up conveying a very different message. There are few situations when our emotions are justified, however, they get communicated in a more sinister way because of the words we use. We often describe it as righteous anger and intend to point out the evil intentions behind an innocuous deed. However, our emotions and inner turmoil can distort our speech and make us appear jealous and resentful.

There are many examples of such mishaps in our daily life. I had recently encountered a conflict that was blown out of proportions because of this reason. It was a lesson I wanted to remember and hence, I have written this blog. I hope to bring this to the attention of my readers.

Jimmy Kimmel Reminds Me of My Uncle

I was watching Jimmy Kimmel’s show and was rolling with laughter watching the pranks he plays on Aunt Chippy. Though I feel sad for Aunty Chippy, I can’t stop laughing. Jimmy plays a lot of pranks on the people close to him and challenges the audience to try some pranks too. Jimmy reminds me of my childhood, particularly my uncle. He was also someone who enjoyed playing pranks on people around him. It was always amusing to his audience and distasteful to his victims. Just like Aunt Chippy, his victims protested but none of them took it to heart.

I was about seven years old when we once had an earthquake in my city. It was just a mild tremor and no damage was done to person or property. We just felt a jolt and some tremors. Uncle came home and asked us to co-operate with this prank he was going to play on my aunt. When he walked into the room, he told her that the earthquake caused the Charminar (a giant historic monument in the heart of Hyderabad) to move at least ten feet.

We all gasped. We were just helping uncle in his prank. My innocent aunt at first stared in disbelief and said, “Shut up! What nonsense are you saying?”. Then uncle added, “People are shocked and it is the talk of the town. They might put it up on the evening news today and it will surely make headlines in tomorrow’s papers. People are thronging to see the Charminar.” By this point she had started to fall for the prank and started asking questions lapping up all the fake news. That’s when everyone burst into laughter and she realized it was a prank.

On another occasion he convinced my then three-year-old cousin that he was not his mother’s baby but was actually adopted from a beggar on the street. The poor little boy fell for it; hook, line and sinker. He burst into tears and hid his face in his mother’s lap. Later, we told him that it was a joke.

There is no end to the stories about his pranks. Even to this day, whenever we talk about him we end up laughing until our bellies hurt. Today he is an old man with a frail body frame that is slightly bent over. He lost a lot of his hair and wears glasses and even today he always makes us laugh with his antics. I can say with confidence that his pranks brought all my cousins closer together and bond with each other because of the wonderful and funny memories we share. 

Make Fear a Positive Driving Force

In all the heroic tales from our childhood a great king, warrior or knight is depicted as someone fearless. Since he is fearless, he is deduced to be brave and courageous. We are always taught to be fearless to become great. It is true to some extent as fear cripples us and makes us behave foolishly. We tend to lose all common sense and rationale in the face of fear. But, it is not true always. Fear can be a positive driver that will push us toward success.

While it is true that we all want to achieve greatness in our life, we do not have to be fearless to be exceptional. Lacking fear can make us reckless and take needless risks. I believe greatness requires Courage. Courage means to face our fears and overcome them. So, we should all aim to use our fears and overcome them to reach greater heights in success.

Fear represents all the things that we want to avoid in life. So, where fear makes us want to run away, it could also make us want to fight to avoid being in that situation. The best example could be; the fear of detention makes students behave in class; injections made me eat beans and peas when I was young; failure pushes us to work harder; disease and death encourage us to medical inventions and discoveries.

So when we teach children about virtue, stop making them believe in the need to be fearless. Instead, teach them to face their fears and fight it. There are many ways to overcome our fears. We can face it with logic, reasoning, training, discipline, hard work etc. All the qualities that I have listed here are needed to be a successful person. Confronting our fears and making it our motivator will pave the path to greatness.

After reading this blog post, you might think that I have trivialized the crippling effect that fear creates. The intention was to point out that we can use this fear as a motivator, rather than seeing it as a crippling factor. Facing our fear will show us what we are made of.

Don’t Let Self-Pity Become A Hurdle To Your Growth

There is a well-known and universally accepted saying, “Failures are the stepping stones to success.” As the saying goes, we should treat every setback as a learning opportunity. We must try not to repeat our mistakes, anticipate hurdles at every step and plan measures to overcome them. This is what we are taught in every business school, every seminar on achieving success etc. Many of us live by these rules too. But, after every failure and before the next attempt to succeed, there is a phase of self-pity. All of us encounter this phase. Wise people and pragmatic leaders ignore this sentiment; they push it aside and rise above it. The rest of us falter at this step. We hang onto self-pity though we succeed in our next attempt. This is what separates the leaders from the regular people.

To understand how to rise above self-pity, we have to understand how it works. Self-pity means to pity one’s troubles and life situations. Every time we encounter any difficulty, it is natural for us to feel bad for ourselves. We usually curse our fate as to why all bad things happen to us. But eventually, we all realize where we went wrong in our attempts and rectify our mistakes. We try again by executing a better plan etc. Eventually, we let go of the failure and get busy with our next moves. The problem starts when we do not let go of the past and keep recalling all our ordeals at every step of the way. We forget to enjoy the present and get stuck in the past. Despite recovering all losses from the failure, we refuse to let the memories and the pain fade away. This is when the situation becomes dangerous. It does not matter how successful we get or how comfortable our life becomes, we continue to complain about all the pain and humiliation over and over again. Slowly but surely, we get stuck in a vortex of negativity which starts to influence our quality of life and performance.

Initially, the feeling might seem natural and harmless. However, the more you indulge in it the sadder you get. All the old hurdles will appear higher than they were; the chains will feel stronger than they were. We might defend self-pity as nostalgia or simply remembering where we came from. That is not true in all cases.

Another danger of self-pity is the diminishing worth of struggles. Where our struggles were praised initially, upon constant reminding, people get bored with the same story. They start undermining the worth and start ridiculing the efforts. We run the risk of mocking our story. Self-pity soon becomes tiresome for those around us. The constant reminder becomes a shadow on all future attempts to succeed.

The best defence against falling into the trap of self-pity is to avoid it at all costs. We must accept all challenges as a natural outcome of the process, rather than as a conspiracy of fate. It is essential to accept the fact that everyone faces similar situations at some point in their life and that our troubles are not extraordinary.

Maintaining Our Cool In A Volatile Situation

Two people were having a very loud argument in the park. We could understand that they were two friends who were disagreeing on the meaning of an action. One guy felt that it was an innocent mistake that was misconstrued. The other guy saw something more sinister behind the act. Soon, the argument came to blows. Initially, it was just two people fighting. All the others were trying to mitigate the situation or just standing and watching the fight. But now, the silent bystanders also joined the fight and the mitigators started to take sides. This whole matter was getting too noisy. Luckily, someone in the crowd shouted that the cops were coming and immediately, most of them scattered. The few that remained were waiting for the two friends to decide whose house to crash at.

I observed this incident and noticed something interesting. The whole fracas started with a simple difference of viewpoints between friends. Many people tried to subdue the matter peacefully, but they soon got dragged into the fight too. The bystanders just came to watch the fun and have a few laughs. But soon, they started to add their views and fanned the flames. The few sane people in that group tried to maintain peace but got pushed around. Sadly in this confusion, everyone had a momentary lapse of wisdom. It took a simple scare to break the crowd and remove all the unnecessary distractions to resolve the matter.

Here, I have given a very simple example of all conflicts. They start with a small disagreement and the people around, though well-intentioned, inadvertently become part of the problem. It is easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment and make snap judgments. It requires a controlled mind to rise above the chaos and bring order.

Since this incident, I tried to recollect all the arguments that I’ve witnessed. I wanted to understand if I could maintain my calm in conflict. I discerned that I had failed on several occasions and the best I’ve managed to do, is keep my mouth shut in cases of arguments. That was helpful to a certain extent, but that’s not a solution. Have you had better luck than me? Were you able to diffuse a volatile situation or managed to keep your presence of mind in a fight? Share your thoughts with me.

Discipline Is Not Just An Old-World Concept

Discipline, hard work, and loyalty are all terms we hear about when we speak to someone from the armed forces, sportspersons or in speeches from old people. Today’s generation does not understand or recognize the value of such concepts.

It is a sad truth that I have realised only recently. During a farewell speech from an old colleague, he spoke of the value of these concepts. He told the new joiners that this was the only secret to success. But, the sad thing was that most of the crowd was rolling their eyes and mumbling under their breath. They all saw his advice as just another lecture from an ‘old guy’. They proudly spoke about smart work as against hard work. Bending rules to achieve success against discipline and abiding by the rules.

I do not intend to complain about a specific office. The grouse is about the general attitude that denigrates ideals. It has become a ‘cool’ attitude that is celebrated around the world. I sincerely hope that my readers agree with my philosophy that values like discipline, hard work, loyalty do not belong to history lessons and old-world stories.

Beware Of The Urge To Hoard

As a child, I observed my grandmother clean the kitchen. She disposed of all the unnecessary things, scrubbed every surface by washing and wiping them diligently. At regular intervals, she repeated this process with every room in the house. My mother, I can say with total confidence, is the chip off the old block. Keeping things organized and clean is not just her habit but also her hobby and passion. I wonder where those genes disappeared when it came to me. I clean my house no doubt, but that passion is completely missing.

For almost the last ten years, I have been living in the same old house. It has two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a laundry room and a storeroom. Every room, including the laundry room, is large. The problem with large spaces is that we tend to accumulate things. Over the decade, we had collected many things. Moving out from that house was nothing short of a nightmare.

It is at this juncture that I realized that I have been hoarding. Embarrassed by my situation, I got into a feverish pace of disposing and giving away things that I don’t really need. Things that we usually collect and pile up in corner cupboards are:

  • Old clothes: We stop using clothes that we grow out of, but somehow we don’t throw them away. They just sit there collecting dust. Removing old clothes is a very good way to declutter the house.
  • Old newspapers, books and magazines: What do I say about this one! Both my son and I love to read. We have a collection of books that we don’t have the heart to throw away. I managed to dispose of some and give some away yet, I have quite a few books that I am emotionally attached to. But, clearing them frequently is what I advise.
  • CD’s/ DVD’s/Records: This one was a surprise for me. I never expected to see so many CD’s/DVD’s in my house. The more I cleaned the more I found. We cleared at least fifty per cent of what we had and still, I have more to sort through in the collection.
  • Old electronic items: This category includes old phones, chargers, gadgets that no longer work and a few gadgets that we do not need anymore. They just lie in a corner covered in dust and grime. After a while, I don’t remember if it’s useless or otherwise. I had been lazy in getting them fixed or disposing of them. Now we have a ton of things to ship to the garbage bin.
  • Old expired items: This category is a critical one. We need to regularly check the expiry date on medications, cosmetics and food items stored in the kitchen. We need to get rid of items that are past their expiration date. This is one thing that I never miss out, fortunately. Laziness in this area means putting the whole family at risk.
  • Old bags: Yep! That’s what I said. Old handbags and school bags, lunch kits have a way of getting settled into cozy areas of the house. We tend to collect them out of nostalgia but, they should be cleared at the earliest.
  • Recycling Projects: These projects intend to use up the leftover and unwanted items. Make something interesting out of them and reduce the unnecessary stuff. However, the end result is often the opposite of this. We end up accumulating more waste with a project in mind, but never come around to finishing it.
  • Unfinished projects: This category is linked to the above pointer. I collect things with the idea of making some craft item but, these things rarely see the light of day. I have a hard time letting go of such projects. Every time I look at them, I hope to finish the project and make an art piece. I had to close my eyes and throw away all those things. From now on, I am setting a time limit of six months on such projects. If I don’t finish in that time, I have to throw those things because it means I will never have enough time to do it.

Finally, after clearing out all of these things, the house felt lighter and brighter. Our new house is smaller than the old one; the downsizing has helped us a lot. Cleaning the house is a never-ending task. I decided to devote a day or two, every month, for decluttering the house. If you have any other suggestions on this topic, I will be very happy to hear from you. Feel free to write your opinions in the comments section below. Enjoy!

Image Source: IStock

Is There Anything Like Too Much Self-help?

For those of you who read my articles regularly and follow me, you would know that I am a believer of self-help and self-improvement. I strongly believe that every one of us has the potential to be better and greater. We just need to recognize the hidden potential and constantly improve our self for a better tomorrow. For me to find a friend who shares a similar attitude was a blessing. I felt that the universe was giving me a sign. It turned out to be that the universe was actually, teaching me a lesson.

I am a staunch believer in self-awareness and self-improvement. Any problem or issue that we face can be handled or eliminated without outside meddling. I believe this is the best way to handle them. At my workplace, I found a friend who thinks in the same way as I do and believes in the same things. I felt like I found my sister from another mister. We shared information and knowledge we gathered on self-help. We researched all the programs that were being conducted in our city and attended a few. She would often come up to me and tell me about some new teacher or self-help guru. She was always finding someone new and better, who ‘made it so much easier to learn’.

Too many cooks spoil the brotth

Initially, I tried to keep up with her and followed every new guru that she found. However, as I adapted myself to the teachings of one, she would come up with a new guy who, apparently is the best person out there. Soon, I started to recognize a pattern, my friends would start following a teacher and praise them sky high in the beginning, but once they got down to handling the issues at the core, or when they asked her to face her fears, my friend ditched that teacher. She would look for someone new. She would make an excuse that the old teacher didn’t understand the situation and that the new teacher had a better way of handling things.

Through all this, I noticed that she was not achieving anything. She was not solving her issues, or facing the real problem. Since I was riding along with her, I ended up confused and disoriented myself. I couldn’t follow the teachings of one teacher and my mind was a mixture of so many different thought processes. I realized that I had put my hand on too many things and lost focus on the actual goal of self-improvement.

So, what have I learned from this experience? Self-improvement is a solo project. It is not a team effort. Take your time to pick the right teacher, but once you find someone you like, stick with them to the end. Do not try to jump ship halfway through the journey.

Is The Internet a Knowledge Hub In The True Sense

The virtues and dangers of the Internet is a topic of discussion that has been done to death. People have made very strong arguments for and against the impact of the internet on youth. So, when I speak of this issue, I am not talking about anything new. I am only sharing my story about our dependence on it and the way our dependency is turning into our weakness.

When I was in school, the internet was still in its nascent stage. It was still an unknown entity and we were not aware of its uses. During this time we were given a project about the seven wonders of the world. Back then, I had to go to the good old library and refer to different encyclopedias to collect information about them. Some of the structures on this list did not exist anymore. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Lighthouse of Alexandria etc. were destroyed long before man invented photography. The discussion that we had in class was about the validity of such structures being deemed as wonders. We grumbled about spending precious time in the library to research something that we could not see. As part of the research, I spent more time reading other facts on World wars, European architecture, psychology etc. It was an informative project for totally different reasons.

At the end of the project, I learnt more than just the seven wonders. That was the beauty of going to the library. I went there to research on one topic but, ended up gathering information on many others. I also formed my own opinion on them. For example, while referencing about the Taj Mahal, I found out about the pollution from the industries and the river Yamuna. While researching on river pollution, I found out about the factories that dump waste and the apathy of the government. 

Nowadays, we turn to the internet for all our information and research. In theory, I should have access to more information on the internet while having the same ease in obtaining facts on any topic, issue, or subject. Well, I was in for a surprise. While I researched on the internet, I found bare minimum facts, but more of conspiracies, people’s opinions, theories to support one thought process or the other etc. 

I found that, on the internet, I was not given information to form my own opinion, but I was being fed other people’s opinions. One website felt that the Taj Mahal was being destroyed because of industrial effluents and not vehicular or air pollution. Another article blamed the ravages of time and natural deterioration. Some blamed the government, some blamed the rampant tourism. Even the most acclaimed article hinted subtly towards a communal angle for the deterioration.

The reason for the destruction of Taj Mahal is just a smokescreen. The main focus of the articles is to spread the propaganda or the thought process of specific groups. I am sorely disappointed with the lack of correct and complete information. The example I quote of the Taj Mahal is just to show that the internet has become a place to promote one’s ideology rather than a place of knowledge and information. People are using it to spread incorrect information and confuse the truth with various smokescreens. It is important for everyone to recognise facts from opinions, truth from propaganda and information from conspiracies.

Think Before You Forgive a Person

‘To err is honest and to forgive is divine’. This has been constantly and consistently drilled into our subconscious. We have been taught to be forgiving people; Although it is a different thing that we do not always forgive.

The saying basically tells us that we all make mistakes, but only a great and wise soul can forgive. It encourages us to look beyond the mistake and see the true worth of a person. I agree with that part of this teaching. We need to look beyond the action and try to see the true reason for the error; however, it is truly difficult to forgive someone for any transgression. It can be a simple lie or forgetting something that is important to us or using our things without permission or disregarding our feelings with their actions etc. Most of the time, it is simple things like these that we tend to forgive.

The more serious actions like a betrayal of trust, showing a lack of integrity, blatant disrespect for boundaries and law etc. are some instances when forgiveness should not come by easily. This type of behaviour indicates a deeper flaw in character. When a person leaks out a secret, throw a friend under the bus to save his skin, tries to enforce their own will on others by any means possible etc. it indicates a deeper psychological problem. Forgiving such a person who lacks loyalty and integrity or a person who doesn’t respect boundaries and authority could imply that we find nothing wrong with such behaviour. It shows that we ourselves belong to the same character and personality type. By forgiving these people, we end up insulting our character.

A person should always think twice before forgiving anyone since we also need to ensure that the transgressor learns his or her lesson. In today’s world, we see many instances where bad behaviour and bad attitude is forgiven in the name of ‘Free Speech’ and ‘Freedom of Expression’. Repentance for one’s mistakes, errors or wrongdoings should be paramount. Only with repentance can we be sure that a similar situation does not arise.

Take time out to think back at instances when we faced such dilemmas. Think back if it was really helpful to forgive such people. Write back to me if you want to share any instances, I will gladly add them to this post.