Being happy is neither an act of selfishness nor of irresponsibility.
Someone in the audience at a Talk I delivered the other day asked me if it was not ruthless, and selfish, to be happy when people around you are having their own Life challenges. Specifically, he wanted to know, if I was not feeling guilty that I was able to be happy, even as I owed people money, which, in return, may well be causing them pain.
I am glad I was asked this question. In fact, people close to me too often allude to this point. My take on this comes purely from my experience.
For the longest time, I have felt guilty and grief-stricken over being unable to repay people that we have borrowed from. Surely, several of them have given us money despite their own challenges. They have done that while blindly trusted us. Money is money after all. Everyone can do well with a little more. Yet, there are some who have loaned us money, who need it – and we know they need it – but they have never asked for it back because they know our situation is unique. They know it oscillates between being grave and being in survival mode most of the time. They implicitly believe we are fighting a good fight and that Vaani and I will claw our way back from here and repay them. Now, when you think of how compassionate and understanding people are, you do feel guilty. Earlier on, up until 5 years ago, I would have let that guilt and grief get to me. We have a poster pasted inside our closet, in our bedroom, which has the names of all the people, 179 of them, to whom we owe money. (I talk about this poster in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal too – Westland, 2014) We open the closet several times in a day. And each time we see the poster, we send out a prayer in gratitude to the people who wait patiently for us to repay them. I carry the poster on my phone as well. And when I am sitting idle, waiting for meetings to start or when commuting, I pray to these 179 Angels again. Through this process of continuously visualizing that we will repay everyone, not just once daily, but several times, I have personally let go of that debilitating feeling of guilt and grief. Because deep within me, I know our intention, and integrity, will be rewarded by Life. Besides, both Vaani and I don’t let this long, disappointing spell, of our sincere efforts to put our business on track not yielding expected results, depress us. We own our intention to such a serious extent that we are wary of depression setting in – after all, the only chance we have for recovery, and our creditors have for getting their money back, is for us to hang in there and keep making efforts till the last rupee is repaid. We have realized that the key weapons in our arsenal, that keep depression at bay, are our inner peace and happiness. Only by being happy and anchored, are we able to focus and take diligent measures to do what we can do best to overcome our situation – daily. It’s our happiness that gets us out of bed every morning and gets us a good night’s sleep no matter how harrowing the day has been – facing legal proceedings on some days, encountering rejection on the business side on others and dealing with numbing cashlessness on several other days!
On a broader plane, why should anyone feel scared of being happy? Please understand, happiness is who you are. If you postpone your happiness because you are waiting to solve all your problems and dissolve all your worries, you may just die unhappy. Every minute of Life spent postponing happiness is a minute that’s unlived. And with each passing moment, you are closer to your death than you were before. So, postponing happiness is very poor judgment; postpone worrying instead! Only when you are happy do you deliver peak performance in whatever you do. This is an unalterable law of Life. Check it out for yourself. In whatever you do, when you are doing it with inner joy, you lose yourself to it. And it turns out very well – whether it is painting, singing, cooking, preparing a presentation or writing a report or even having sex! There’s also the other argument that people try to kid themselves with – they want to sacrifice their happiness for another’s sake. Now obviously, we are not talking of a immature choice to party when someone you are close to is very, very sick. I am referring to the urge to proclaim martyrdom, of choosing to deprive yourself of your inner joy by unnecessarily being willing to adjust and accommodate for another’s sake. This is not uncommon. This happens every time you give up what you believe in, what you love doing, only so that you look good in front of someone. That’s why, on all such occasions, you end up suffering and why such sacrifice is meaningless.
Please seize the message, and the moment, my friends. Your happiness leads you to living a fuller, more productive and profitable (in all aspects) Life. For this, however, you must make the choice to be happy. You must help yourself to happiness!