Zen and the Art of Taking Decisions

To live a complete and full Life you must be decisive. Without you taking a decision, you are going to make no progress.

But decision-making is not a very comfortable process. More often than not, it involves making uncomfortable choices. And you will try to duck taking the responsibility and accountability for your decisions.

The problem is not just with you. It is with all of humanity. And it is because of our upbringing, our conditioning.

As children, parents have taken all our decisions. What to wear, what to eat, where to go, when to play, when to watch TV and so on. And then teachers decide what to teach, when to teach, when to test and when to grade. Then it is the girlfriend or boyfriend who decides, and then it is the boss, and often it is the government too! So, in effect, if you have succumbed to that conditioning, that’s really the way you will remain. Indecisive, always shirking responsibility and afraid of taking risks. And which is also why you remain unhappy, muddled in the head and why you merely exist on the face of the earth. You are not alive to the moment, you are not living a full Life!

The reason why you also dither is because you are fearing the unknown. The known is so comforting. But an unknown experience, while it tempts you, is scary. Yet, if you want to live fully, embrace the unknown. Decide to do what you have never done before. Try it. And if you didn’t like it don’t do it again. And if you liked it, but felt it is not the right or appropriate thing to have done, then again, don’t repeat it! But if you enjoyed it and know that this what you want in Life, go for it. It is only through deciding to live fully, by venturing into unchartered waters, by experiencing the unknown and by deciding which part of it you want to relive, without guilt, without remorse, will you truly encounter inner peace and joy.

Apply this framework to any decision that you may have been dithering on. You will then realize what living fully really means!

The door to happiness is always open

Last evening, I heard this song “Tujse Naaraaz Nahi Zindagi…” from Masoom (1983, Shekar Kapur, R.D.Burman, Gulzar, Anoop Ghoshal). It’s a beautiful, soulful song! A line in it, “…jeene ke liye socha hi nahin, dard sambhalne honge…”, holds the key to why we often struggle with Life! The line means, “I never thought I have to deal with/manage pain to live Life!” Interesting, isn’t it? Almost all of us have encountered pain__and resultantly suffering__without preparation. As kids, our painful moments would be anchored and cushioned under the protective care of our parents. But when we step into adult Life, our first experience socks us. And the reason why we are numbed by the first episode of pain in our independent lives is that we have never been educated on Life in our early years. We haven’t been told that:
  •          Life never guarantees any fair-play
  •          Life will keep on happening to us – no matter what we want or expect
  •          Pain in Life is inevitable
  •          The only way to be happy in Life is to decide to be happy – no matter what!

Had we been exposed to these truisms about Life, as much as we have been introduced to Math, Science, History, Geography and the languages, perhaps, we would have been better prepared for Life.
Nevertheless, it is not too late either. You can make a beginning now by deciding to be happy!
Once you make that decision, make sure nothing comes in its way. You are standing on the threshold of happiness, knocking on the door to open. After much knocking you will realize, much to your amazement, that the door was always open. All you had to do was to DECIDE to push it, than keep knocking on it, for you to enter the kingdom of happiness. This is what you are doing with your Life too. You are choosing NOT to be happy. Being happy means being so despite your circumstances. But you choose to stand on that threshold and hope that your circumstance will change and THEN you will be happy. How will you? If you can’t be happy with what you have, with what is, with what you can see, with your present, what are the chances you will be happy with what you may get, in a future that you can’t see yet?
So, stop running from pillar to post, stop the procrastination, stop knocking, just decide. Your one decision can change your Life!

Decide to be decisive in Life

There’s nothing good or bad, right or wrong about the way you live. Life is all about making decisions. And we are making them all the time. Obviously, no one wants to make wrong choices or decisions. So, even if you take a questionable__in the eyes of an onlooker__one, you keep at it because you believe it is the right thing to do. So, in reality, Life’s essence is about learning from each experience__drawn from decisions and choices you make__and being happy!

Understand that decision-making is intrinsically, always, fraught with risk. So if you are scared of the unknown, if you are afraid of taking risks and decide not to take decisions or exercise choices, now, that itself is a poor decision and a lousy choice. Let us say, this Monday morning, you have a choice between catching up on your mail or on facebook on the commute to work. You are here and reading this post because you chose facebook over mail. There’s a possibility you could have chosen your mail over facebook, in which case you would have missed the learning this post has to offer. Or possibly you could have chosen to do neither and simply ridden to work in silence. Now, riding to work quietly, choosing not to be distracted by anything, is a decision too. Any of these three decisions could mean something or nothing at all. Spending time on facebook could have cost you a customer opportunity. Or wading through hundreds of banal work-related mails, you could have missed connecting with an old buddy from school on facebook. Or you could have missed energizing yourself through embracing silence during the hour-long commute. So anything could have happened.

There are no set ways of doing things. Just as there are no assurances of outcomes. Simply, Life offers no guarantees. Life’s really about deciding what’s right for you at a moment, making that choice and standing by it, while learning from it.

Often times, your decision may blow up on your face. The world will say, “we told you so!”. But get up, dust yourself and move on. If not now, sometime soon, you will learn that it is perfectly fine to lose money, lose health, lose relationships and lose people in Life. Because nothing is permanent. And when you realize this through decisions and choices you have made, your awakening will be that much more complete. You will then know that although French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596~1650) championed that all choices must be logically thought out and only then executed (‘Cogito ergo sum’ – I think therefore I Am), too much analysis also leads to paralysis. It is enough if you know that every moment of your living, waking Life, you are making decisions. Some of them may work well. And you learn from them. Some of them may not work for you at all. The key is to learn from them too and resolve never to make the same mistake twice!