When you make choices based on what makes you happy, you can never go wrong.
I was waiting the other day to record my Podcast at a studio. One of the visitors there got talking to me about Life and relationships. She asked me if it is okay to be “blunt” with people, especially with those in “close relationships”.
I told her that it’s a personal choice. Now, there’s nothing wrong in being nice, being accommodative, adjusting and understanding. But if you try to do all of that at the cost of your inner peace, you will end up feeling miserable. So, it really is a decision you have to take – do you want to be happy and peaceful or do you want to feel unhappy and suffer trying to please others?
I shared with the lady an experience I had had earlier in the day. My cousin had called Vaani and me. She was inviting us to play godparents at her son’s engagement ceremony coming up later in the month. She is a single parent and her own father is no more. Her brother is not likely to attend the ceremony and so my name, as a male member of the family, was proposed. While I was humbled by her invitation, I was very clear, even as she proposed the idea, that I was not going to sit through any rituals. Besides, I had issues with any ritual or tradition that accorded men special privileges. All her Life, she had raised her two children, but just because she is a woman and she is single, “tradition and culture demand” that she could not be leading the engagement ceremony? I found this idea both regressive and lacking empathy. I told my cousin that I was not going to accept her invitation and instead advised her to lead the ceremony herself.
In taking this decision, I employed my time-tested principle of asking myself the following questions: 1. Do I believe in what I am being asked to do? 2. Will I be happy doing this for myself? I have noticed that whenever I weigh any option based on what gives me joy or makes me happy, I am a lot clearer with what I want to do. Or I am sure about what I don’t want to do. So, appraising any situation on the happiness question is an important and efficient way to make choices.
Over the past few years, I have become very distant from rituals – and religion. I have also stopped seeing marriage as necessary for people who want to live together. So, I was clear that I was not going to play godparent to my nephew to “simply perform some rituals that are meant exclusively for men”. I told my cousin exactly that. She respected me for my forthrightness and left the matter at that. I appreciate her understanding.
So, as is evident from my experience, conversations must be honest – you need not necessarily bother whether you are being “blunt” or “rude”. Being honest is more important. Your being honest may make the other person uncomfortable but it will always leave you peaceful. As I said earlier, it is always, finally, your call, a personal choice.
Whenever in doubt, whenever you are unconvinced about doing something for someone or even for yourself, ask yourself – will doing this make me happy? If the answer is no, simply don’t do it. There are no two ways to be happy. Choosing to be happy is the only way. And you can never go wrong with being happy!
In today’s Vlog, I share from personal experience how Life has cut me down to size and has humbled me. Clinging on to things, opinions and even ego, I have realized, is a sure cause for misery.
View time: 3:19 minutes
Denying a problem does not make it go away!
All your suffering comes from what you deny. Facing Life and taking a problem head on is what can make you solve it and live in peace.
But we invariably don’t like to exorcise our demons. We somehow have become comfortable suffering, feeling tormented, preferring to stay debilitated than feeling liberated. Because continuing to be miserable seems far easier than having to work hard to rid ourselves of what makes us miserable!
I met someone recently after a couple of years. He, in his own opinion, was financially ‘very well off’. Yet he found his Life ‘incomplete’. He spent entire days, daily, in a prominent five-star hotel’s bar, literally being there from the time it opened to when it closed! He lamented to me that his wife no longer loved him and all she wanted was ‘his credit card and a certain sum of cash monthly for her shopping sprees’. His 26-year-old son, though married, was not exactly doing anything significant and ‘lived off’ the family wealth. His daughter was the only one who understood him but their relationship too in recent years had come under stress. She wanted to go overseas for higher studies but he got her married instead because that was the norm in his ‘community’. He said to me, in a tone reflective of a defeated man, “I have lost it in Life. I have done no wrong. Yet everyone around me has let me down. I am suffering. I wish I could die.”
We have had this conversation many times before. So, I told him one more time: “My friend, you are the problem. For, as far as I know you, you have been drinking entire days for years now. You have a drinking problem – spurred by a lack of Purpose in your Life. You have enough and more money. So, because you don’t know how to be useful and productive, you are indulging in something that has already ruined your family Life and is on the verge of consuming you.”
My friend suddenly got up. He ended our meeting and drove away drunk in his car, despite my request and protests to leave his car behind and engage an Ola or Uber.
I wish he understood that unless he faced the brutal reality of his Life, he may really be unable to make it any better.
Many people, like my friend, live in denial. Either they don’t see reality. Or they refuse to see reality. They deny whatever is their problem__whatever it may be, from a relationship to a lousy job to a ruinous habit__hoping that denying a problem will lead to it sorting itself out, eventually! This is one area where no one can help you. You have to face your Life situation, accept it and then work on solving it – yourself!
But facing the truth is scary. How does one see the reality?
Simple, there are no two ways to can change your current realities or end your suffering! So, if you are feeling miserable about anything__or anyone__in Life, sit down and introspect. Diligently make a list of actions that you must take to end your misery. Resolve to do it. And just get down to doing it. Don’t give yourself the license to make excuses. The only way to solve a problem is to first accept that it exists.
When you must un-cling, well, you certainly must!
A reader wrote to me saying “letting go” is never easy: “If only letting go were as easy as closing a book! We are expected to play some roles, perform some duties, irrespective of what we feel, and everything becomes just one big pretend.”
I agree with his perspective. This has been my experience too. But the truth is that “letting go” is sometimes not an option any of us has; in certain situations it is perhaps the only way. It is therefore important that we understand clearly what “letting go” means and what it certainly is not.
“Letting go” means the ability to detach yourself from a situation, person, event or opinion; it simply means un-clinging from whatever you are clinging on to. It certainly does not mean abdicating responsibility or running away. It is clearly not recommended as a way to avoid performing a duty or dropping ownership of a situation.
When you don’t let go of something, or someone, you suffer. This is a plain and simple truth about Life. Clinging on brings misery. So, “letting go” means making a conscious choice that despite all the pain, despite all the trappings of attachment, despite the emotional burden on you, you choose not to suffer. “Letting go” is a gift of freedom that you award yourself.
Let me explain this with an example. My friend’s parents are ailing; they are both bed-ridden. My friend is going through a separation with his wife because the lady refused to partner with him on his responsibilities as a son. The parents are conservative folks, very ritualistic and demand a lot of attention. My friend has taken the separation from his wife in his stride. He says the “burden of guilt” – for having let the marriage break-up owing to his “sense of duty” towards his parents – is enormous. But he says he has forgiven himself for it. He says he realized he cannot please everyone. So, he forgave his wife for her choice, forgave himself for his choice, forgave his parents for being who they are, the way they are, and he’s at peace with his reality. This is “letting go”. He says he practically does not have a social Life because apart from keeping his day-job, all his waking hours are consumed by tending to his parents or fulfilling religious rituals on their behalf. So, he makes his peace with his personal Life by staying up late every night and watching a movie on his laptop while having a couple of drinks. This is “letting go” again!
Of course, “letting go”, in my friend’s case could have also been admitting his parents to a senior citizens’ home and choosing to be with his wife. Had he made that choice, I would have still not called it dereliction of duty. I, for instance, have made a similar choice with regard to my own relationship with my parents.
There is no right or wrong way to “letting go”. In some situations in Life, “letting go” is the only way to inner peace. Clearly, “letting go” comes from accepting your current reality, and from knowing which parts of your Life you can control and which parts you cannot, from knowing what you want from Life, in a given situation, and what you don’t want – and, important, knowing the difference! So, while “letting go” may not exactly be easy, it is simple, it can be done. You decide when you want to un-cling and, well, just do it!
Honest conversations are critical to make relationships thrive.
A business leader confessed to me the other day that his biggest learning from 2016 was not to trust his direct reports implicitly. He cited the case of his CEO not living up to the values of the organization. “I think I sold my trust cheap. I have learnt now that my people must earn my trust,” he declared.
Team leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs often lament this situation. Almost everyone in the corporate sector has at least one story of misplaced trust. When I led a team, I too have felt let down, when some of my team members took me for “granted” and “misused” my trust. But over the years of learning from Life I have realized that trust is over-rated. And I have come to believe that if you feel let down by someone, it is because you have failed at setting, or establishing, the contours of the relationship.
Let me explain my point of view. If you think about it deeply, trust is nothing but an expectation that you place on someone. You are saying to yourself, without even expressing to the other person(s) explicitly, that because you are well-intentioned, compassionate and objective, you expect them too to be the same way to you. Since this expectation is often unexpressed, it remains within you. And when it is met or exceeded, you feel your trust has paid off. And when it is not met, you feel your trust has been betrayed. Now, where is the question of your trust coming up when you have not even stated your position, your expectation upfront? Which is why I feel that, in most contexts, this ‘betrayal of trust’ lament is a bogey. And which is also why, in any relationship, corporate or otherwise, work or personal, the contours must be drawn up clearly. What works, what does not, what excites you, what does not, what you expect and what is expected of you, it is better these aspects, and more, are spoken about clearly. Upfront. Not so much in a cookie-cutter, Standard Operating Procedure format. But as honest conversations. Then the relationship starts off on a clear note. As you can see, this is not about work-related relationships alone. Even between spouses and companions, among parents and children, among siblings and among neighbors, these conversations help in fostering harmony and avoiding heartburn.
Raising this argument to a spiritual plane, can you have such contours drawn up with Life? Can you claim to Life that since you are hardworking and ethical, you must be given a fair deal? Will your submission even be considered by Life which operates with a mind of its own? Yet, in this lifetime, is there a choice you have with trusting Life? You have to. Period! You have to accept that since you have been created you will be provided for and looked after. Your lamenting that your expectations from Life have been betrayed will cut no ice. Life will simply go on. So, then, when you can’t really do anything but accept Life’s ways, why are you getting so keyed up about the way people treat you?
Take a chill pill. Stop setting expectations on anyone. Instead, set the contours in any relationship upfront. Say how you like to live or work with people. If they respect your choices or invite you to visit common ground, fine. If not, move on and be happy without such people in your Life – whoever they may be!
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