Across the world, there are a lot of different ways of saying Hello. In England talking about the weather is a way of starting a conversation – even though the weather doesn’t change – it is just gray, gloomy and dark. In most places – “How are you?” is the common greeting. At work especially – as you pass somebody in the corridor, in the elevator – the conversation starter is, “How are you doing?”.
And my answer is Good most of the time. A couple of the times I had somebody question me, “Really?” I was taken aback, and I responded back with, “Why – should I not be feeling good?” And this got me thinking and hence the blog.
For most people, the way they feel depends on what is happening in their life.
A disagreeable meeting with a stakeholder – lousy day
Had a promotion – good day
Boss unhappy – bad day
Got bonus – good day
The list is endless – but what this means is that you have no control over your mood. Your well-being is dependent on the events that happen in your life, and you are a slave to them. And as such you have no control over your happiness.
I fundamentally disagree with this approach. I am happy regardless of whatever happens in my life. Just because I had an awkward conversation with one of my team members does not mean I am going to be upset. The level of peace and contentment in me does not vary because of that one incident. Now, don’t get me wrong – it does not mean that I don’t think about it, wonder what I could have done better, or give myself a pat on the back if it went well – I do all these things, but they don’t affect my mood. They are the exception as opposed to the norm.
It is simple to me, but I am finding it is a complicated concept to explain to others. For them that is the way the world works – you should be upset if something terrible happens and overjoyed if something good happens and they are ok with the emotional roller coaster.
I have made a conscious choice not to do the above. At some point in my life, I had the same mental model – I got a call for the interview I was delighted – the sun was shining, and birds were chirping. I did not get the job – Why is it so hot? And do the birds always make so much noise. But I realized that I could not live my life like this – as I have no control over the outcomes and to tie my happiness to something I have no power over sounded silly and I started working towards it to get to a point where I am equanimous most of the time. With equanimity comes the knowledge that change is the only constant.
Your inner peace is the genuine measure of happiness, not the events that come and go through your life. We are like the ocean – we experience the waves as they arise and pass away, but the ocean is the constant.