Monthly Archives: February 2018

How Am I Doing?

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.

Apologies

Apology – I am not sure I understand its real purpose or meaning. Of course, some of you might say there is no need to understand it – follow the norms, and I will be fine. But, I am sorry – I have to explore this whole apology concept. (Pun intended).

When to say sorry? The different examples of sorry situations
1. I am texting on my phone, and I walk into somebody – I apologize.
2. I was throwing tissue box to my colleague, and it hit another person – I apologize.
3. I told somebody – that this solution is not going to work and that hurt them – I had to apologize.
4. Somebody lost the interview/job/marriage – I apologize.
5. And if you are in England you start your emails with Apologies (because you are asking for something).
6. Some cases we apologize in advance.
As you can see, there are no clear rules on when to apologize – a lot of it is in a person’s head, or the societal rules dictate the situations.

What does it mean?
The dictionary meaning states that an Apology means “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.”
So is it an acceptance of the fact that you have offended somebody? But, we are all unique individuals, and our lives are no different from the dramas that air on Netflix/prime, etc. So how am I supposed to know that I have offended somebody?

The Greek origin means (Greek apologia) ‘a speech in one’s defense. Does it mean we are defending our actions?

Why Apologize?
Before we answer this, it is essential to be clear on who are we apologizing to? Is it me, another person, society or the world in general.
It is also important to note that apologizing cannot turn back time – What is done is done. There is no point in crying over split milk.

What next?

Apologies are not about right or wrong. It’s not about who offended whom; it is about starting fresh – be able to let go of what happened and start fresh. It requires one person to accept that it is their fault and another to forgive. Sorry – it does take two to tango. I am sorry for using sorry so often.

There is another quote which says, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” But, even apologizing requires strength – it is hard to subdue your ego, hurt and apologize because you care for the other person.
And sometimes you might apologize, but the other person does not forgive – so what do you do? Then you wish the other person well and let them live in their unforgiving world. It’s their life – you did what you could.

When we apologize, it is first of all an acknowledgment to self that yes, something needs to change here. Second, it is not about changing the situation – it is about accepting that it happened and the last step is to figure out what next and how to avoid this in future.

And sometimes life becomes a lot easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got!

Decisions – Right vs. Right

I am reading this book called “How Good People Make Tough Choices?” And Rushworth Kidder the author makes an excellent point. He says that when we make decisions – a majority of them are not between right and wrong but between right and right. When I examined my decisions or choices, I found it to be correct.

The decisions I make do not usually have a solid line demarcating right and wrong. For example: If somebody stole an iPhone from another person – it is apparently wrong. There is no question in my mind whether that is wrong or right. But let’s say I have an employee at work who has been making mistakes for about six months – now should I let him go or give him another chance?

For most of such cases, there is no correct answer – but the author makes the point that if we at least think about these choices, explore them in more detail our decision would be an informed one as opposed to a gut reaction at that moment.

I am watching the Law and Order old seasons, and they are also of a similar nature like DUI – If you kill somebody while DUI you cannot be charged with murder because you did not know what you were doing. To me, it doesn’t sound right, but the driver genuinely had no intention to kill somebody. These are very tough decisions. And it does not help that society’s view of right an wrong change too. Slavery was ok at some point, it was ok to own people as property but now its not. Polygamy was required at some point for the human population to grow, but now it is not (well, in most cases).

Even obvious scenarios may have may layers underneath them – for example – we all know it is wrong for one person to kill another person – but what if it was in self-defense or to protect your daughter from being raped or your spouse from being abused.

How can we be prepared to deal with such situations then? Well, one could read such books and watch such videos/shows that would exercise that part of the brain and make it aware that there are two sides to a story – sometimes even more. Second, examine your values – what can you live with and what can you not live with? How much of stress can you handle? You may decide to let that employee stay because you don’t want him to lose his job but then are you ready to put in the extra hours of work without any grudge. It is your life, and you have to live it.

Prof. Rao who teaches the Creativity and Personal Master course said that justice for us means revenge, not forgiveness or mercy. We want the person who hurt us to be hurt. Now, if we take an eye for an eye we will all be blind but then again do I have it in me to forgive, be merciful and live fully.

Positive Intent

Have you ever woken up in the morning deciding to make someone’s else life hell? If yes, then it is better that you don’t get out of bed. Jokes aside, earnestly when have we wished to hurt another person. If you are like an average person then your thoughts will be focused more on you – I am already running late, I need to do a zillion things, traffic is going to be worse. Etc etc.

Then why do we assume somebody else would want to wish us to harm intentionally?

For example, you are driving to work, and somebody cuts you off – how often do we jump to the conclusion that he did it on purpose. When in reality the other driver might not even be thinking about you – all he wants to do is get to work like you.

Or, at work, if somebody forgets to do what you asked them to do – the immediate response is a judgment on his ability when in reality the server might be down, and he could not access the work he had done to bring it to you.

You go to a party, and the hostess takes one look at you and does a 180-degree turn. You think she does not like you, but it is possible she realized she just left her purse in the toilet.

Now, in most cases, we will never know what the other party intended but what is in control is our reaction to the situation. This is where you choose to feed the dog and not the wolf within you.

Dalai Lama, said, “Love and Compassion Are Necessities Not Luxuries, Without Them, Humanity Cannot Survive.” Look at the world around us, the circumstance in which we live – we need more of the positive energy, and we can do our bit towards it.

It doesn’t have to stop with us. If you have a friend or a companion, who jumps to negative in everything try and plant a good possibility in their minds. And of course, if somebody has decided to live in a world where everybody assumes harmful intent towards them then wish them well and make sure you protect your well-being when you interact with them.

All significant journeys start with one baby step. The first step here is to become aware of the fact that you are not assuming the positive intent. Most of the times our minds conditioned to see the worst in the people – that mental model needs to be modified. And for it to evolve first we need to know in which situations do we use that mental model – shine a light on it – and the very act of shining the light on it will at the very least decrease the intensity of our response or adverse reaction.

Another way to incorporate into our lives would be when you are preparing for an awkward conversation with a loved one or a colleague – make a conscious decision to assume that they have the best intentions. This would take out 80% of the stress from our lives due to such situations.

And the best way to learn something is to teach it – so if you can spread your light to another person, the light will only get bigger.