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!

Your experiences count – make them memorable

Between experiences and achieving goals or buying things, choose experiences. At the end of your Life, those experiences will matter most – both to you and to those you have had those experiences with!
Last evening, while on our walk, we crossed a young man walking with his two sons – one of them aged 6 and the other possibly was 9. The father was ribbing his boys and the three were having a good time laughing as they walked. I reflected back to the time, 15 years ago, when my own children were of that age. And I could not recollect a time when I had taken them on a walk like this. I was busy building my business and was chasing a dream to create a global consulting Firm. So I worked 18 hour days. And I worked on weekends too. If I was at home, I was either trying to relax watching TV or was going over mails and reports from my team members from all over the country. I remained available to my colleagues and my clients, 24 x 7, more than I was ever available for my own family. So, I missed my kids’ annual days and sports days at their school, on most occasions, though I never missed a client’s board meeting or Annual General Meeting of shareowners. Not that I was bad spouse or father. I tried to be the best provider but I guess I never made myself available. The only time I did something like “create a memorable experience” was when my son, then barely 17, suggested that he and I travel to Rajasthan – he decided not to join my wife and daughter who were going to the US to be with my wife’s sister who was having a baby. That four-day Rajasthan trip, when we visited Jaipur and Ajmer, remains etched in my memory. The year after that “father-and-son vacation” my son went away to pursue his undergrad education in the US. And he comes home barely once in two years. As he builds his career and grows his family, I guess we will be seeing him less frequently at home and for shorter stays. Awakened by my learning of missing much of my son’s growing up years, I made amends as my daughter went into high school and later to college. Whenever she has the time, I make it a point to goof off with her or share and learn from her. I have realized – ever since our Firm went bankrupt and we lost all our money – that achieving goals and buying things are important and relevant – but only momentarily. Our experiences create our memories. And the more beautiful experiences we have to reflect on, to lean on, the more fulfilled we will feel about the Life we have lived.
Earning money, buying a home, having a bank balance, saving for retirement – all these and more are important. But they are not more important than living your Life – everyday, fully, doing what you like doing and doing what’s more meaningful to you and to those people who you call your own! You are never going to be the same age again. With each passing moment your Life is growing shorter. Remember – every moment that you are living in drudgery or worry or insecurity, you are missing out on experiencing its magic and beauty.
Do this exercise. Take your age and multiply it by 365 to arrive at the number of days for which you have been around on this planet. Ask yourself how many of those days have been memorable. Now, if you start thinking, you have lost the game. You ought to be living each day of your Life memorably. That’s why you have been created. If you believe that your most memorable days have been only those when you vacationed or when you celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, you have lost the plot. Completely. But don’t despair. It is never too late. At least from now on concentrate on experiencing your Life fully. Even if it is about work – choose to do only meaningful stuff where you can enjoy yourself, create value and touch lives daily. And never, ever, miss an opportunity to be with your family – never kid yourself that you are working hard so your family can enjoy what you have created/provided for them. If you don’t believe me ask your family – they will much rather have you around than have all the things that you buy for them!

The most important point to remember in Life is that our experiences create the memories that we will need to last the evening of our lives. Let’s make sure that those experiences give us joy, are meaningful and memorable.