Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away.
A lady we know is embroiled in a legal dispute over her property with her siblings. Her matter has been pending in court for over 25 years. She said she was at her “wits’ end” and wanted to know this: “How much more patient must I be?”
I shared with her my perspectives on patience with solving problems.
When confronted with a problem the human mind responds typically with impatience – you want it solved in a jiffy, immediately. Or the mind wants to live in denial, it wants to run away from the problem. What we must realize is that both responses are wasted. Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away. Only when you accept a problem, only when you start living with it, does the problem – even though it may drag or linger on – reveal its teachable point of view. Every problem we face is teaching us something about ourselves. And only through learning from our problems do we evolve into better leaders of our Life.
In the lady’s specific case, her problem was not just that she was fighting over property with her siblings. It was also that she was fighting over it in an Indian court. So there’s being impatient is absolutely futile. She has to recognize that a resolution will take long and possibly may not even arrive in a lifetime. When she is in that state of acceptance – and clarity – she can either let law take its own course or opt for an out of court, mediated settlement. Not will to go with either choice will only cause her suffering. Which actually explains her current frame of mind, what she is experiencing right now.
More than anything else Life, teaches you patience by throwing you in the deep end of the pool or by hanging you from the edge of precipice. Yes, you have a choice to be impatient with Life. But when you are impatient, you are suffering simultaneously. Patience with a Life situation does not mean your problem will be solved immediately or that it will go away. It only means that you will not suffer, it means that you will learn to endure the pain while working diligently on resolving the situation.
Today’s blogpost appears as a Podcast. Listen here: 4:08 minutes
In this Podcast, I share why I feel we must detach ourselves from the problems we go through. As long as we are clear that we are not the problem we are faced with, we will not suffer. This is the key to inner peace and happiness.
Examine what’s it that’s disturbing you and weed out that factor from your Life.
I met a senior banker the other day. He said, “A banker’s Life is a dog’s Life! I used to love my work. I still believe I love it. But I don’t know why I am unable to enjoy what I am doing, and of late, I am even unable to sleep well. The stress keeps me awake,” he confessed. I told this gentleman that if he is unable to enjoy whatever he is doing, and if it has reached a point where he is unable to sleep well, he must seriously pause and reflect. I advised him to step out of his “work-work-work zone”, take a vacation and think through his Life!
This is the nub: nothing, nothing at all, is worth losing your sleep over. If you can’t take your mind off work it means one of three things: 1. You don’t have enough reliable support (staff, material, resources) to do what you are doing 2. The system (colleagues, bosses, clients, work culture) at your workplace is highly disorganized and stress-ridden. 3. You are a lousy leader and manager. There could be other reasons. But these three are principal among them. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then you must go do what you love doing. Simple. And if you enjoy your work but if any of those reasons is/are prevalent in your work Life, you must get down to fixing them. Simple again!
The idea of living is not about obsessing over earning-a-living. It is not about slogging for 40 years and then hoping to find happiness, inner peace and freedom to do what you want to do at the age of 60. You have been given this Life so that you can be yourself, so that you can go do what you love doing. Now, when something disturbs your equilibrium, you must zero in on what it is and weed it out. Rather than suffer and endure a Life that you don’t want, you must make choices that help you with your inner peace, and help you to find and follow your bliss.
Learn to be free in Life. There will be problems. And you cannot escape those problems. Intelligent living does not mean being free of problems. It means being free, living free, despite those problems. It means choosing not to be a slave to whatever you do to earn a living and not to feel like a hostage of circumstances. What is the point of this Life if you cannot be who you want, do what you want to do, live the Life that you believe in and, at the end of the day, get a good night’s sleep?
Just stop feeding your “fears”!
Someone I know, a young man in his late 20s, is petrified that he will have a heart attack soon. Reason: he has been having a nagging pain in his chest and back regions; on the left side. He’s been through a battery of tests and nothing alarming has been reported except a suspected orthopedic condition which is being treated with regular physiotherapy. He wanted to know how to get rid of his “fears”?
This is a favorite human hobby: to conjure up worst-case scenarios and live in desperation and despondency. We must all remember that the worst that can happen to us, absolutely the worst per a worldly view, is that we will die. But this is known to all of us. So why live fearing our inevitable death?
I told the young man to stop feeding his fears. He’s done what he can. He has got medical advice. Now, he has an option to trust the doctors he is seeing or see another set of specialists. Or he can cower in fear and live a Life that’s full of suffering. His choice. But the one thing I will recommend is to let go and live free.
Negative thinking will lead you to depression. To flip your thinking switch and to break the negative spiral, you need to elevate your thinking. And the only principle that works is this: simply don’t connect the dots forward. Instead, rise above and see things from a 30,000 ft-level. When you fly in a plane and look down at the ground, you will find the tallest of structures looking like specks from the sky. Similarly, the gravest of our problems, as we perceive them, are but pimples, when seen from an elevated, zoomed out, perspective of Life! They will disappear just as they appeared. And if we don’t give them attention, they will not bother us. Only if you are anxious about them all the time will they seem like something grave and serious.
In Life’s grand theater, things will sometimes happen that you least expected or wanted and when you are least prepared for them. Such is Life. Don’t try to connect the dots forward or interpret each event and imagine the worst. What you fear most seldom happens. So, live well. Live happy!
You don’t have to know everything or have all the answers. It is fine to be clueless. In fact, it is great to just be.
I am in a familiar zone this morning. I have no idea of what’s going to happen. (Now, I know, the truth is none of us can ever know what’s going to happen!) But I am referring to all our efforts at putting our business back on track, the way we want it to be, that have come unstuck. Yet again. It surely is unsettling at a practical, material, everyday level. But this is not something that we don’t have experience dealing with. Vaani and I have seen this time and again, that whenever we don’t seem to know what is happening or why it is happening and what we must do, Life has always shown us the way. That way may not be something we would have known of or liked to take, but we implicitly trust Life and allow ourselves to be led by it. This is perhaps why we don’t suffer despite our often excruciating circumstances.
The human desire to know why something is happening to you is what causes your suffering. The simplest way to avoid suffering is to stop asking why or why me. Stop wanting to know all the answers to questions that fox you. Stop wanting to solve all your problems at the same time. In fact, there will be times in your Life, when you can’t solve even one of your problems – let alone all. You will just be pushed to a corner by Life, button-holed and made irrelevant. Of course, you will be irritated, you will feel helpless and totally, completely, lost. This is when suffering will arrive in your Life. But it will lay siege only if you want answers, only when you seek solutions, only if you ask why. Instead if you just accept that being clueless, being helpless, being solution-less is fine, you will not suffer, despite the pain.
So, when I am in that zone, where I am this morning, I don’t ask why. I simply surrender to Life and say, be my light, show me the way and give me the strength, the stamina, to further endure the journey. I have learnt, that it is best, when you don’t know what to do, to simply play along with Life – as in this immortal song from Dev Anand’s Hum Dono (1961, Amarjeet/Vijay Anand, Mohd. Rafi, Jaidev, Sahir Ludhianvi)!