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.

Being Straightforward Vs Diplomatic

This topic has been a pet peeve of mine for many years. Growing up, while in college, I always considered it better to be straightforward as against diplomacy. My friends and I were proud to be called a forthright person and proudly proclaimed it. So what changed now??

Well, life happened, and we realised that being straightforward is not suitable for everyone. With limited exposure in college life, we did not see the pitfalls of this attitude. As we were among equals, we spoke honestly, and there was a limited range of responses to expect. We either appeased the group, or we angered them. We either hurt feelings, or we invigorate people. Whatever was the reaction, we knew the response that we could expect. Things were simpler.

In the present day, I see people being straightforward and notice the same set of reactions as before. However, what has changed now is that I have become conscious of the emotional toll it takes on the listener. It is a different thing when you hurt a person and make them cry, the ones to take special notice of are those who get hurt and not express it. Either, they have accepted our remarks as truths and diminished their self-worth, or their hurt is getting pent up. It will express itself violently at a later time.

The same applies when we freely express our discontent and dissatisfaction. It causes the opposite person to become demotivated, disheartened and lose faith in the process. This would not matter earlier because there was much less stress in the society and the youth. Nowadays, everyone is so high strung that a small remark is enough to start an avalanche of emotions.

As compared to being straightforward, a diplomatic person manages to soothe or appease the fragile mind of the opposite person. Such a person is not necessarily a liar or someone on the fence. They just don’t forcefully express their views as compared to a straight talker. It may appear that a diplomatic person is not firm and steadfast in conveying their point of view or that they are people pleasers. However, I feel that there is nothing wrong with softly and sweetly relaying one’s opinions rather than being forceful. I believe that it is not worth hurting a person just to make a clear statement by straight talk.

What are your opinions on this matter? Do you agree with me, or do you oppose?

How True Are Our Prayers?

“Atmasuddhi leni acaramadi ela ?
bhandasuddhileni pakamela
chittasuddhileni Sivapujalelara ?
visvadabhirama vinura Vema !”

This poem was written by Yogi Vemana. Yogi Vemana is a famous Telugu ascetic. He wrote a series of poems that spread wisdom, morality, and ethics based on the social fabric of south Indian society in the 17th-century. His poems highlighted the flaws and inconsistencies in society in his times. Sadly, they are relevant in society today as well. The above verse is close to my heart, I hope you see the wisdom in it too.

This verse in Telugu, speaks about wholeheartedly understanding and supporting your beliefs. Vemana points out the futility of your faith when your heart and mind is not invested in it. He tells that there is no sense in following the ceremonies when the heart and soul are not invested in it. It is the same as cooking a fancy meal in a dirty kitchen with soiled utensils and impure ingredients. He questions you about the purpose of all your prayers when your intentions are not genuine.

This poem rings true in most of the current situations that the world is facing. We have laws, constitutional rights, being used and abused to serve evil intents and purposes. We also see god’s gospel is misused to spread the wrong message. People are following the rule of law in word, not in spirit. We see people offer insincere apologies, offer assistance that will only hurt you more than it helps or offer a helping hand while pulling the rug from under you.

Doing What You Want, When You Want To

All of us would love it if we could do whatever comes to our mind or takes our fancy at that moment. Alas, the truth is that we cannot do it most of the time. Propriety, social decorum, law, family obligations, moral responsibilities etc, are always holding us back. Having said that, we come across people who manage to pursue whatever takes their fancy. I am not talking about those who plan and prepare to pursue their dreams, nor am I speaking about the immoral pursuits of criminals who steal, pillage or wreck others lives. I am speaking about those impulsive beings who manage to do just what they want. They speak their mind without consideration of consequence, pick and drop jobs as per fancy, travel around like a gipsy, try everything interesting etc.

Such people are a distinctive set who usually, is the life of every party. They are everyone’s BFF, the apple of the eye to their parents, the only ones to get away with mischief, etc. Spontaneous people have many admirers and just as many enemies. I do not have any personal enmity toward them. However, their reckless behaviour has left me feeling like a fool, on one too many occasions. Let me narrate what happened.

I am the kind of person who plans their actions before starting anything. I like to be prepared for any eventuality, I think through on most of any decisions before acting on them. However, my friend was the exact opposite of me. He is the most spontaneous person who makes decisions on the fly. I was accustomed to this attitude until this incident. We had discussed at length, whether we should apply for a certain job opening or not. We then decided that we would go ahead and apply for the job. On the day of the interview, my friend did not show up. I was there and passed all the rounds to get the job. Later, I asked my friend why he did not show up. He said that he did not see himself doing a 9 to 5 job, so he did not bother to come to the interview. Though I felt bad that he did not inform me beforehand, I did not mind it. What really set me off was his unexpected decision to go backpacking. He decided to become a travelling photographer after watching a video on Youtube. His decision shocked everyone. His parents looked at me with accusation in their eyes, for not consulting with them. They did not believe that even I was not informed either. I was just as astounded as them. After my friend took off on his trip, I was left to face the music.

This is a common occurrence with him, and I hate it. Yet, I envy him because he gets to follow his dreams while I do the mature thing. Spontaneous people are fun to be around until we face the negative consequences of their actions. Such impulsive people are often expressive and dramatic, so they create a great following of friends everywhere they go. It almost feels like they keep spare friends just to be prepared to lose a few along the way.

Do I sound like a resentful person? Well, I am merely distrustful of such persons. I have realised that we all want to do whatever crosses our mind without concern for the fallout. Yet, we cannot do it as we are restrained by our family, friends, job, colleagues etc. This sense of obligation stops us from doing reckless things. Even when we make a hasty decision, we are fraught with doubt and remorse. Every future decision we make has a shadow over it. This sense of duty and commitment is what keeps me from being extemporaneous myself. It keeps all temptation in check, as I cannot deal with the guilt and fallout later. This is my way of justifying myself. Please feel free to share your point of view and your opinions too.

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.

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.

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.

No One Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent – Eleanor Roosevelt

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’. This is a very powerful quote from the former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. This quote conveys that unless we allow insults and words to affect us, they cannot harm us. The opinion of people will not matter to us unless we take them seriously. I do not intend to say that we are inviting the insults. I do not mean that we have to brush them off like dust either. I only mean that we should not believe them to be true.

To explain my point; let me take an example. We all know and agree with the fact that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. We believe in this fact so strongly, that if anyone tells us otherwise, we do not believe them. We will not accept any explanation to prove otherwise. We take it for granted that the speaker is either making a joke, trying to deceive us or is simply stupid. The person may even show us photographs or videos, but we will still disagree. That is how strong our faith is in the fact that the sun rises in the East.

We should have such a strong belief in our ability that no matter what anyone says, we know the truth. We know our true worth, and we will not let people state otherwise.

The same applies to praises and accolades too. When we know and believe in our ability, even flattery and false praise will not affect us. Isn’t that a kind of Zen-like state of mind.

There is an old proverb in India, which loosely translates as follows: A wise man is like a lotus leaf. He can stay in mud, slush and dirt all his life, yet stay unaffected by it. You can dunk the Lotus leaf in dirty water, have a frog sit on it all day long. Yet it comes out unaffected by the dirt. I know that such a strong mind is not easy to maintain. But, what is the fun in easily achievable goals? True enjoyment of success is after some struggle. So, let us work to make our mind and self-belief strong enough to withstand the world.

Do We Need A Tragedy to Come Closer

The past 2 weeks have been difficult for my family and I. There has been a slew of bad and sad news from relatives. Two deaths that were particularly difficult for us. Both of them were close family and deeply loved by all. The worst part of the whole matter apart from their death is that I never took time out to appreciate them.

As I have mentioned before, the deceased had a special place in my heart. They were both, in their way instrumental in bringing people together. While they were alive, I hardly spoke to them once in a while. I loved them, but I never took time out to chat and express my appreciation. This fact made me feel worse.

All our life, we spend time disagreeing with people, arguing with them, protesting about things, ignoring people on issues. All these issues may be a genuine difference of opinions, silly misunderstandings, personality clashes etc. They seem very important and critical at that time, but once we realize that the person is no longer with us, these differences ceased to matter. What was once an insurmountable barrier appears to be a stubborn mistake. I know that many of the readers will think that such is life.

My question is when we can be wise enough to recognize our foolishness now, why not see it when they were alive. When we can brush off an issue as inconsequential at this point, we could have done it a week before and spent time with that person. Our busy schedule doesn’t matter when we know that a person has passed away, then why was it so important when that person was alive.

I can only regret my misplaced priorities and hope to not repeat them. Please stop and take time to reevaluate all the small fights and disagreements you have with people. Don’t hang on to petty issues and miss out on all the time you can spend with friends and family.

Are You Living With a Depressed Person?

Every time we talk about any mental health issues, we only talk about the patients. We talk about their mental state, their emotions, their needs and we prioritize on them. However, it is very important to talk about the people supporting these patients as well.

Mental health issues in themselves are difficult to handle because of all the stigma associated with it. A patient is generally not willing to seek help because of the fear of ostracization and ridicule from society and peers. And this fear, ridicule and alienation are faced by the people taking care of them as well. In fact, I would say the caregivers face a bigger challenge than the patient themselves. They do not have the wounds to show, but they have to bear all the pain and stand strong for the patient and take added responsibility.

I have had the misfortune of witnessing the kind of responsibility faced by the family or friends of the patients. The most common statement they hear is, “You should have been more responsible when you know the situation”. It is almost like it is their biggest curse for being the caregiver. It does not matter how difficult the patient is being, the caregiver always ends up taking the blame. The worst part is that we do not have to verbally blame them or say anything. Their conscience will not let them rest for even the slightest of mistakes. That is generally an enormous strain for anyone. It could end up causing problems for them in the future too.

I do not have a solution or suggestion for this concern, as I am not a qualified professional to deal with mental health issues. I can, however, bring to light this concern and hope that those in the know can show us the way forward. Please leave comments and suggestions if you have any.

The reason for any misunderstanding

A man once asked Swami Vivekananda about the reason behind all misunderstandings. His answer was, “We see people as we are, but not as they are.” I was amazed by this response as it made a lot of sense.

Swami Vivekananda

As the very word suggests, a misunderstanding occurs when we mistake the meaning or the intent of words or actions. In any situation, everyone involved enters with a certain perception or impression of what has occurred. A misunderstanding happens when we close our minds to all other perceptions that are different from our own ideas. When faced with a new concept, we tend to get defensive of our thoughts.

What Swami Vivekananda tried to tell us is that we should step away from our dogmas. If we want to clear misunderstandings, don’t just put yourself in their shoes, but look at it with their eyes too. Often times, we put our self in the other person’s shoes but still retain our stubborn ideas and judge harshly.

My idea behind this post is to give food for thought. I do not intend to pass judgement or tell you how to think. We are all capable of thinking on our own, but we might need a little guidance on picking the right path. I only hope to help you pick the right path.

Make informed decisions… Not emotional decisions

Most of the classic Indian movies are built around strong emotional values that are based on family, friendship, love etc. It is always the emotional decisions that win in the end. This is one of the fundamental differences that I see between Hollywood movies and Indian cinema. But, I am not here to discuss movie plots, rather I would like to highlight the futility of emotional decisions as against more informed decisions. As always, this post is also inspired by a random thought that I had while retrospecting on a few choices I made in the past. As is the purpose of all retrospection, I was thinking back on where the priorities changed and what moved my path to its current course.

I have always been a bit of an emotional person. I have known this about myself and always tried to make sure that it does not colour my judgement. I would like to say I was successful at doing it, but it would be a lie. I was, in fact, retrospecting to see how many of my decisions were taken emotionally. This made me realise something about myself. I saw that most of my strongest memories were an assortment of emotions that I experienced at that time rather than the exact details. For example, when I think back to my sister’s marriage, I don’t remember the menu or my favourite dish or what was said about the bride or the groom or the elaborate rituals that we followed that day. I only remember that the food served was a simple and traditional cuisine that everybody enjoyed. I loved the curry that I ate (though I do not remember what it was). etc. I enjoyed that day and I returned home dog-tired. Same was the case when I tried to recollect the day I got my job. It was a hot summer day, I remember I had a headache due to sunstroke. I remember taking my mum along because I was new to the place and I had no friends to help me. I don’t remember the questions asked by the interviewer or how many rounds there were. All I remember was just the hot sun, the headache, the long distance travelled and my joy after getting the job.

This realisation made me understand why I took emotional decisions. My mind mostly stored what I felt at different stages of my life and ignored all the finer details. So, every time I made a decision, I always made sure that I did not end feeling specific emotions. What I am trying to say is, I made all my decisions so that my loved ones or I did not have to face disappointment, hunger, anger, loss or failure. I always tried to protect myself and the people I care for, from harsh reality. I did not take a risk and always made safe decisions, lest I end up feeling tasting failure or disappointment.

I forgot the fact that failure and disappointment are, after all, stepping stones to success. We have to face them to learn the lessons that will shape a future that fits us best. Every time we make a decision, we have to weigh in the facts, the pros and cons, rather than limiting our self to a fixed course of action so that we do not face the unknown. As my grandmother says, only when we taste sour will sweet taste sweeter.