You are wasting each moment that you don’t celebrate!
“I am not able to enjoy my happiness. I have everything that I have wanted in Life. But I am forever fearful of losing all of it. How do I get rid of that sinking feeling in me,” asked a close friend. We were having tea. And I took another sip of the wonderful Darjeeling brew I was having before responding to the question.
First, it is important that we understand Life. Everything that we have with us, our material wealth, our relationships, our Life itself, will be taken away some day. Everything will be gone. Even you will be gone. So the fear of losing something or someone is a wasteful emotion. It serves no purpose thinking that way. Don’t expect that fear not to arise though. The human mind is such that it will spew out such thoughts from time to time. Just don’t given them attention. If you don’t feed that fear, it will go away.
Second, realize that every moment that you don’t celebrate what you have, what is, you are wasting. Living either in the past or imagining a future which has not yet arrived are of no use. Please recognize that the only Life you have is in the present moment.
So, if he has every reason to be happy because he has “everything” he wants in his Life, my friend must celebrate every moment. He must not squander his happiness thinking about the inevitable. Life is like good music. It must be enjoyed fully. When you are listening to music, if you start intellectualizing the moment and say that you are listening to music, then you lose the magic and beauty of the music. So, don’t intellectualize Life. Don’t ask what if. Don’t analyze. Just live the Life you have. Simply be. That is what happiness is.
In this Podcast, I share candidly about how disturbed I had been losing my favorite pen some years ago while, paradoxically, I am very calm dealing with our numbing bankruptcy now! Understanding that everything is transient has helped me stay anchored.
Listen time: 5:36 minutes
Winning is not about a acquiring a title, reaching a position or being feted with a reward or recognition. Winning is the ability to enjoy – and trust – the process of Life!
Last evening (IST), in a last-ball turn of events, West Indies defeated India, in the T20 game played in Florida, USA. Had anyone else been the cause of India’s defeat, we cricket-crazy Indians would have perhaps shrugged it off. But the man that fell to the wily Dwayne Bravo was MS Dhoni, our Captain Courageous, Captain Cool, World’s Best Finisher….and the Mr.Infallible! A Twitter post that surfaced within seconds of the game finishing, read: “Is it the end of the Dhoni era when he causes an Indian defeat?” And this morning’s Times of India led with this headline: “India done in by Dhoni!”
Very uncharitable, avoidable sentiments, I thought.
The reactions to this game’s outcome reflect how culturally unforgiving we are as a nation, as people, and how obsessed we are with winning and success that we find it difficult to be graceful in defeat or failure. It is this attitude that’s evident in all that we do – we are so driven by wanting to succeed, wanting to win all the time, in whatever we do, that we are quick to pounce on anyone who slips, stumbles, falls and make them feel incapable and incompetent. And because we see so much of this happening to so many people around us, when we do fall, we are very harsh on ourselves too. Such rabid stances are totally irrelevant and uncalled for in Life.
Life, like cricket, is just a game. In cricket at least you can go on appeal to a Third Umpire or a Match Referee. In Life, there is no appeal possible, no review possible. You simply have to keep on playing the game, keep on living with what is – no matter what happens! Over their lifetimes, everyone gets their share of glory, their share in the sun, their moment in the spotlight. In fact, after you journey through Life long enough to have seen success, money, name, fame, love, loss, sorrow, shame and awakening, you come to a conclusion that it’s the process of Life that makes it interesting. The process only involves living Life well, enjoying each moment by living it fully, thoroughly. In the end, it will not matter what you won, how much you won, who you defeated and how you lost or how much you lost. The only regret that you may find meaningful enough to review – and perhaps traumatic to handle – is of the Life that you did not live. So, our only focus and priority must be to live the Life that we want to live. And live it very, very well – each day doing the best you can in whatever you love doing. If you are an actor, be the best actor you know – it doesn’t matter if you get an Oscar or not. If you are a gardener, be the best gardener that just immerses herself in her plants – don’t worry or bother whether others think highly of you and your choice of vocation. We must have the spirit that Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet spoke about: “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying who listens or what they think.”
My own awakening has led me to believe that in Life, the journey, the adventure is the reward. Success, failure, win, loss, victory, defeat, these are just social labels. They, without doubt, come in the way of happiness. And so these labels must be expunged. Only then, to quote Rumi again, can we “enjoy the pure wine being poured without complaining about the dirty cup!”
Whatever you do, do it for the joy it gives you – don’t do it to be the first or the only one or to be famous!
Yesterday a young man remarked to me that I needed to become more aggressive, and perhaps commercial-minded too, to stay in sync ‘with the times’. He surely means well – dealing with a bankruptcy and trying to put a business back on track for several years can perhaps take the steam out of you. So, I did take his perspective in its spirit. But what he said got me thinking.
Last night, as I lay in bed, I thought of the younger me, from just 15 years ago. I was not just aggressive, I was rabid at times as well. I could never take ‘no’ for an answer. If something was not prying open – a lead, an opportunity – I would gatecrash, barge in. If someone was not willing to listen to me, I made sure they did – I literally dug myself in, often in their face, until I got them to hear me out. And, above all, I was intensely, fiercely, competitive. Times have changed. In the last 8+ years, I have faced so much rejection and seen so many closed doors (I have talked about my experiences and learnings from this phase in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal – Westland). But I am no longer impatient. While I still don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, I don’t stick myself up in people’s faces anymore. And though I don’t enjoy competing anymore, it’s not that I have lost my aggression or ambition. It is just that I now value the journey equally, if not more, than wanting to get to any destination!
Our education system is such that it forces us to be competitive even before we understand what it means to compete. The whole social environment of a child (particularly in India) is focused on a skewed sense of academic excellence. Memory, not knowledge, is rewarded by our system. What a child knows is irrelevant in the context of how much the child remembers. And that is measured not by how much the child has learned and imbibed, but by what grades the child has got. So, naturally, there is anxiety among young, impressionable children – they all want to be the first in class – even if not for themselves but to do their parents proud! However, the nature of any competition is such that there can only be one first. Everyone else will have to follow. So, the ones who do not get to be first in class, continue to compete, often vainly, rabidly. And the one who stood first is competing to protect and so becomes possessive of her or his first position! This continues through college. At work. And in society. Look around you. You will find this evident in all walks of Life – even in a queue in India, where people simply have to push and jostle to get into a movie hall or a plane!
Let me clarify. I am not against competing and winning. But if competing is going to make you miserable – thinking about winning all the time and feeling depressed if you don’t win – then what’s the point in doing whatever you are doing? A constant state of urgency and the often-avoidable aggression, takes away the joy that any activity can deliver, especially when the focus is only on winning, on coming first, on being hailed, on becoming famous!
Whatever you do in Life has to fundamentally give you joy! If you are not feeling the joy when you are doing something, it is simply not worth doing it. Good coaches will always inspire people to strive to be the best, deliver what they are truly capable of, while enjoying themselves in the process. If what gives you joy also gives you wealth, fame and recognition, great! But if you work with only wealth, fame or recognition in mind, if you play the game only because you have to be the first – it may just not always be possible. Because, chances are, someone may be better than you are on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are worthless. But your hunger to win and your lusting to be Number 1 will make you believe you are good-for-nothing. The Bhagavad Gita explains this simply, beautifully. Krishna says: ““Don’t focus on the result at all!” – just make sure the “motive is pure” and the “means are right (ethical)”. Offer whatever you are doing to “Me”.”
Look at any great artiste or sportsman or actor or business leader. You will find one trait common in all of them. They simply lose themselves to whatever they are doing. They are not bothered about what people are thinking or about winning or losing or about coming first. They are offering themselves, and their craft, to Life (cosmic parlance for the “Me” in the Gita!). When the doer becomes the deed, when the singer becomes the song, when the painter becomes the art – magic happens. If the magic delivers a world-class performance, and with it material rewards, fantastic. But even if doesn’t, a truly great professional will not bother. Because she or he has enjoyed the process of doing thoroughly!
How you live your Life and are you enjoying living – these are far more important aspects to consider than what you won and who you defeated! So, the next time you are placed in a competitive context, compete by all means. But do so only so long as you don’t lose the joy of living, or your sleep, over wanting to win or be the first or the only one!