Tag Archives: #change

Every Moment – Change

In the ten-day Vipassana course, Goenka Ji tells us lots of stories. My mind wandered over to the following story today.
Goenka Ji asks that the light bulbs we have in our houses – they appear to remain the same for a long time, if they do not change then why do we pay electricity bills?
Similarly, the candle flame appears to remain the same, but after a few minutes or hours it grows smaller in size, right?

Even though the candle flame and the light bulb appear to remain the same – they are changing every second. Every second the old flame dies, and the new one takes its place. But it happens so fast that our naked eye cannot see it – hence the illusion that the flame/light bulb remains the same.

Similarly, we change every moment too – that is why we grow old. The change that happens is not only at the physical level but also at a mental level. We are adapting every minute and at some point, the change accumulates, and it manifests itself. Whether, we like it or not, whether we believe it or not change is the only constant in our inner selves.

If change is the only constant then why do people find change so hard not only in ourselves but also in others? When I lived in London, I had a thriving social life, and that meant talking to a lot of people mostly about the same topics. I told my ‘story’ around the theme so much that the story became a reality and then a belief because I invested my emotional energy talking about it. For example, I was a devoted Bikram Yoga practitioner for two years, and that meant for two years the story was that I go to Bikram yoga every day – it was the staple fodder of all my conversations for those two years. And one day I woke up and decided that I have had enough – it was more work to relay the change in my story to others after that – because in thier and my mind I was going to do Bikram Yoga every day forever. And who knows how many of those two years was because of the story I was telling myself and others – if I did not have the story then maybe I might have stopped sooner.

Bikram Yoga is just one example, but this permeated in every aspect of my life. I felt bound by the stories I was telling others because it was harder to change them even if I had moved on from that old story. When I moved to Columbus, it was freeing because I could be who I wanted. And it gave me the space to explore, try and fail and adopt new realities.

I am not advocating that having social circle is a problem, all I am pointing out is that change is the constant and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves and others prevent us from making a change because the story continues to gain our emotional energy and becomes a prison from which we find hard to break.

What story will you break free from, today?

Do You Own It?

Scenario 1: Do you brush your teeth every day? Do you floss every day? Do you take care of your teeth religiously, making sure that they are healthy?
Scenario 2: Do you skip brushing your upper teeth because you can do it the next day? Who cares whether you brush your teeth or not?

The chances are that you fall in scenario 1 – you take care of your teeth. You do not just wake up and not brush because who cares right? You do, you care about your teeth, your health. You are important to you.

Now, let’s get to work. Have you ever done something half-heartedly because you did not care about it? Have you not done a spell check because you didn’t think it mattered or rather you did not want to do it?
I am sure all of us know somebody at work who always goes the extra mile – goes above and beyond what is needed. And we all know that one person who wants to do the bare minimum – a sloppy job too!

What distinguishes the two people? They both come to work, get paid the same amount then why are they so different. Look at the image below and tell me what comes to mind?

They were not doing it for themselves. They did not make the work their own. They lacked ownership. One might argue that it is work – and work is different from the rest of your life? Is it? I ask you – well, then a big chunk of your life is not your life anymore because your work is ‘different’ from your life.

We use this as an excuse for not showing up our best selves every moment of the day. We live in the moment, and we forget that we are all connected – everything that we do has an impact. Us making a choice, not making a decision has an effect on you, your life, your family, your community and your world. Your choice to not show up at work a 100% impacts the earth in some way or other. If we really could experience the universe as our own body then would we deface it by cutting down trees, by using plastic. No, we would feel the pain and stop. But now, we can ignore it because we say it does not impact me.

Some people might say, but I genuinely do not feel the connection, and that is ok but are you 100% true to what you feel connected to? What do you feel connected to? And how do you show up there? Change starts from within, and this is no different – first let’s be aware of how we are fully present for something in our lives and then spread it to other areas of our life. We might have all the time in the world, but we live in a moment and then moment to moment. And how you show up at the moment defines your life on this planet earth.

How are you showing up this moment?

Choreograph or Improvise

Have you ever said to yourself – “If only, I had done it this way – it would have worked out.” or “Why did this have to happen?” Have you ever been able to get things executed precisely the way you planned?

Neither have I – best-laid plans gone awry, right. I am a project manager, and I have come to realize that one of the reasons why we need project managers is because things rarely go to plan. If everything worked as its supposed to then, we wouldn’t have to manage them. Life would work similarly – if everything in life went as we planned we would all be robots (maybe an exaggeration but you get the picture)

I recently came across the book “Gallop to Freedom” – a book about two horse trainers who have a very different way of training horses – with compassion. And one of their leadership principles is “Improvise and not choreograph”. And like all things I need to learn – this stayed with me. We try to plan our life just like we choreograph a dance. But unlike dancing life is not a one-person show – we live in a society where there are so many external factors ranging from people to weather that it is impossible to account for all the different outcomes.

How about if we decided to improvise our steps in the dance depending on who shows up. We might have a very well choreographed Bollywood song but what if the music presented is a ballet song. It does not mean that we should not plan for things at all – remember the golden mean. Instead, choreographing can help us when we improvise. Life is no different – we prepare for various or often one outcome, and hence we are unprepared mentally when life throws a curveball. If we were improvising, then we would continue without breaking a sweat. The amount of emotional energy getting over not being able to use our choreography will not exist, and we will ride along taking in whatever comes our way – not only making it our own but improvising on it too.

The best thing about improvising is that you are always where you are supposed to be – there are no regrets, and it is up to you how great you make it. If life hands you lemons, then you make lemonade, or you cry. The choice is yours, and you own your choices.

Improvisation also ties into the principle that we do not have control – all we have is the illusion of control. Unexpected things happen all the time – either we get overwhelmed when things don’t work our way or make what is happening our way and carry on. If you are a realist, then the following quote probably resonates with you. You can only invest in the process and not the outcome – but if you improvise you can create your outcome.

My friend and I were visiting Palace of Versailles in France. There was a long line to get in. We decided to play dumb charades and entertained ourselves and others around us. The funny thing is that’s what I remember about our trip, not the actual palace – Improvisation makes for good memories too!

Tame The Elephant

An elephant and its rider are trying to get somewhere
1. The Rider has no clue where he wants to go – he and the elephant meander needlessly.
2. The rider knows his destination, but cannot decide which route to take – he and the elephant stay in the same place.
3. The Rider knows where he is headed and has a path to get there, but the elephant is stubborn and does not want to move.
4. The Rider knows how to get to the destination, the elephant is attuned to the rider, and they reach their goal.

What do the elephant and the rider have to do with us? This is a theory from the book The Happiness Hypothesis (http://www.happinesshypothesis.com) where the author, Jonathan Haidt states that we (humans) have two sides:
An emotional/automatic/irrational side (the elephant)
An analytical/controlled/rational side (its rider).
And in order for us to change we have to keep the two in balance.

It sounds effortless on paper – keep your elephant and rider in sync, and you are in utopia. Every day in our life it is all about maintaining that balance.

Let’s say you want to exercise. If you read tons of book on exercising and watch videos but don’t step outside of your home – how will you achieve your goal. And on the other hand, you are outside but have no idea how to exercise – that also does not do you any good.

How would you apply the elephant and rider theory correctly to exercising? Your rational mind the rider needs a clear goal – Exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week. It is a specific goal for the rider. For the emotional side, you have to appeal the emotions – you can keep an image of what you will look like when you exercise or maintain a visual target of weight that you want to get to or watch videos of people who have lost weight to get your elephant motivated. Once your rider knows where he is going, the elephant is excited for the ride – the next step is to shape the path – which is clear instructions on how you go about doing so. An example of developing the road could be – getting a Fitbit, load up a playlist on your iPod, and keep your running shoes/socks/clothes outside your closet. This way when you come home in the evening, you will have no choice but wear the running clothes and go running.

This theory is explained in the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath

Shaping the path requires practice – you cannot clear a path in the jungle overnight – it will take time and patience – you will make a lot of progress some days and very little progress on other days – but if you keep at it – you will shape the path for the elephant and the rider. Similarly, it will take time for the elephant and the rider to sync as well – like any good team they will have go through their forming – storming – norming – performing cycle.

Taming the elephant takes time. I am hoping my latest book “Make Your Life Easy” can aid you in that process.

Listening – Muscle

I have a hard time listening to others. I am very good at listening… to myself – I am beginning to realize that I love the sound of my own voice. And recently with the change in my role as a people leader I find myself coming back to the listening more and more. Maybe, its because I am realizing that unless I learn to listen I won’t be efficient. And like everything else this is also an ability that can be learnt and it will take time.

I have given this matter – “Why I don’t Listen?” some serious thought.

REASON 1: I believe I know all the answers. I believe I am smarter than others and get to solution quicker. And maybe I can but that’s not the end – is it? I would never do something if somebody told me to do it – unless I realize that’s it something I want to do usually it means I have thought about it. So this applies to other people too. And it depends on the situation – if you know somebody is running towards fire then you will do your best to stop them and not listen to why they are trying to burn themselves. Most situations in life aren’t that dangerous or crucial.

REASON 2: I don’t have the time. I have other things to do and cannot waste my time listening to people talk. Really! That is not true. And irony is if I don’t slow down and listen now, then I will always be hurrying. If I have to make life easier for me then I have to slow down and listen to people.

REASON 3: If I am just listening then what value am I adding? I have to realize that listening to people, truly listening people is the greatest gift I can give them in this world. And it is definitely more valuable than talking.

Or sometimes I wonder if it is the fear of silence, un-comfortable feeling that arises when there is silence – does it mean I have to hold off a little longer. Give people some more time before wrapping it up or filling it in?

Talking takes up a lot of energy and most of what I talk is utter nonsense. Just to fill the space. There is a very little part of what I say during the day that really has to be said. Rest of the time I am just trying to prove how smart and important I am. Now – that has its own place but not all the time. So, even though I know all this then why is it so hard for me to listen? Because I forget, and old habits die hard. But all great journeys begin with one step. And I set the intent to listen every day. Even I fail to do that the intention is there and that is the first step.

Why do I feel it is important to listen? Because I feel it and at this point in my life it is something that I need to learn. Like my dad had said – “I am trying to increase my listening capacity.” He and my husband, Adam would know as they listen to me all the time. I am grateful for that.

I am on a journey and hopefully I am at a different station when we talk about this topic next.

That person does not exist

I recently attended a CPM alumni retreat in London. And it has been a decade since I took the course first at London Business School. In the first class Prof. Rao invited us speak about what we want from the class. And at that time I was at crossroads in my life journey – on how I want to live my life. I asked – “I would like to know by the end of the course what choice should I make?” And prof. replied, “Well, I am not sure if you will find answers but you will definitely have more questions.”

That answer did leave me perplexed because I believed that all things should have an answer – a very clear, direct, black and white answer. And CPM started me on a spiritual journey and I haven’t looked back since then. I started doing yoga, meditating seriously, hanging out with the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Ramana Maharishi and recently I discovered Michael Singer. And ten years have gone by and I meet people who are starting on the journey. I find that my language has changed since I started and sometimes I am not able to relate at that level. And I discussed this with prof. and he said, “Of course, that would be the case because the person who took the course first time does not exist anymore.”

That was that – as simple as that. And it is true isn’t it, all of us are no longer that person anymore and that is how nature intended – change is constant after all. But some of use refuse to let our old selves go and we hang on to them and wonder why we are not evolving.

It’s like you had a tiff with somebody ten years ago and you decided you are going to remember the hurt forever and in some cases we even say, “I will remember this for seven lifetimes.” Well, have fun hanging on to the hurt that was probably caused by some misunderstanding on your part. This is just one example of how we do not let ourselves go. Yes, we hang on these bits and add to the building blocks of our prison.

Our existence on earth is not a sprint its a marathon and you have no way of figuring out who started out when. But, if you believe that you have evolved then you act as a guidepost for other people who are on the same track like how people ahead of you did for you. All the people in your life, all the interactions you have are sign posts to guide you on your journey. It doesn’t matter whether you liked them or not. For example, you are on your way from A to B and a signpost points to the left and says B <-- This way. But you decide to go forward because you don't like the color of the signpost. It doesn't matter what the color is - what matters is the direction on it.

That person does not exist anymore – it is really powerful to know that at many different layers.

Long Term – Strategy

In my current role I have to manage a team of people – mostly project managers. And every month we have a strategic meeting and some kind of a fun activity either within ourselves or with other teams we work with. If I chair a meeting it has to be fun at least for me – otherwise why would I have a meeting that I myself don’t want to attend. And at the same time they have to be useful.

Brainstorm Ideas why meeting should be over

What do I in my meetings – in the strategic meeting every month we go over Road-map/NW news/Continuous improvement and about 30% of the meeting is dedicated to watching a movie – a soft skill one, like this time we watched the four agreements summary a) Be impeccable with your word b)Don’t take it personally 3)Don’t make assumptions 4) Do your best.

And for our fun activity we met with the scrum masters in our area and played “What color you are game?” and a trivia about each person.

I never thought about why I do what I do – until one of my team members made a comment that I seem to like these sort of things. It is true – I love the people aspect of it, it is very important for people to know each other as opposed to just coming to work. Whether we realize it not workplace is a social place for us where we spend most of our lives.

But there is another reason why I invest in people. Because in my mind it is the long term strategy. All of us our acutely aware of how hard it is to bring change in ourselves. We also know that unless we change ourselves there is no long term improvement. Changes will happen at the superficial level or will not be full committed too and we revert back to our old ways of working. Otherwise – we would all lose weight by just reading the book, right? So in my mind unless we bring about change in people themselves there is no long term improvement or change.

And I am also aware that I cannot change people but what I can do is create an environment where it is easy for them to be a)aware of the change b)make it easy to adapt to the change. Awareness is a big step in itself.

For example: as a project manager we work with a lot of people and different kinds of people. Not only in rank but also in styles. And as a project manager your maim aim is project delivery. And at the end of the day a project manager is a human being who comes in with her own views too. With all these it is very easy to assume that a team member exists solely to make your life miserable – and when we are so busy with other things this story subconsciously gets embedded in our mind and we start behaving that way. But, if we realize that he is also looking out for the project success we will approach the whole thing differently.

So the key thing is here is not telling the project manager that she should work on her “Stakeholder Management” or “Team Building” skills but shine light on the fact that she may have made an assumption about the team member. And if you know something about that person like they might have the same hobby as with you – you are less likely to make the assumptions.

So this is my long term strategy at work and have fun while you are at it.