Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The mythical mantra of success

In addition to less flattering instincts, we humans are born with the desire to make sense of our lives. Thereby, we spend a lot of time introspecting on our thoughts, feelings and actions. The rigidity of the past and the uncertainty of the future rankle us. We need answers. Now! And in this search, we might often reach a dead-end question:
how can I make perfect decisions when I don't even know why I am here?

What I've noticed amongst very many successful people is the exact opposite. They don't seem to be plagued by doubt. On the contrary, they seem to feed their lives with a diet of certainties. Per se, this is inspiring. The less fortunate amongst us can look up to these souls to derive solace and confidence. Yet, there is one questionable attitude in some of these successful people. And it is a result of the following linear reasoning:
1) My life has been a series of challenges which I countered with courage, stamina and a lucid perspective.
2) As a result, my life is a great success story.
3) Therefore, I must have stumbled upon the secret of the universe.
4) And it follows logically that if others follow my path, they too will find success and fulfillment.

To be fair, this linear reasoning isn't confined to the un-doubting successful people of our world. We've all done this at some point in time. Some of us indulge in it more than others, especially when we talk about domains that we appear to have "conquered." And the issue here is point #4. So long as our reasoning is restricted to points 1 to 3, we might just develop arrogance, an inability to empathize etc. But point #4 turns us into preachers.

Let me explore this phenomenon by alluding to a person who told us about the importance of perspective. She said that no matter what challenge we are facing in our lives, we can "switch" - like a light bulb - into a new paradigm of thinking, thereby allowing us to feel empowered and act accordingly. It's a beautiful concept.
If you think your life is difficult, your feelings will dishearten you and your actions will be laboured and ineffective. But if you change your thinking and say: "Life is beautiful!" then you will feel elated and your actions will deliver magical results. In other words, how a situation "occurs" to us determines our behaviour therein. Simple enough.
But can this be taught?
The speaker can say it and the listener can intellectually understand it. But can he accept it? Shouldn't he have to experience the "truth" of this statement? And what about those people who try it out and reject it as unworkable? Does it mean that the idea is untenable?
The issue here is not the idea but its dissemination. Life's lessons are better left open-ended. The most a teacher can say is: "Hey, here's an idea. It's worked well for me. See if it fits you. If not, another idea will come along."

The humblest amongst us might decide that self-awareness is a never-ending process. No matter how much we achieve and where we reach, we can continue to approach every situation with curiosity and wonderment. Such people will not see the situation as something "known." Instead, they will see it as something "new," an opportunity to learn and develop. And in this space, they will no longer feel the desire to extrapolate and "help" others with their findings.

P.S: The very fact that I wrote this essay means that I'm a long way away from attaining this ideal. :).


  1. 'Success' today is a very narrow minded entity. If your in the news, earning a handsome sum or making heads turn, your branded successful! Yes, you probably are! But that takes 'success' farther from anybody whose put in efforts with equal (if not more) sincerity and dedication towards achieveing what is important to them. But unfortunately, the world does not see them as 'successful individuals' because they don't make headlines! If i've given my best shot that day, i believe i've had a successful day. To put it simply, success is satisfaction :) It truly is how you look at it! Wish you more success and happiness in the year ahead :) Cheers!

    1. Thats a fantastic way of putting it, I am literally thrilled at the way you have put it down Anuja, it is soo true..Thankyou.

    2. Delayed consumption of RCGE does not matter at all, the topics covered there in resonates with deeper aspects of a being....the lingering freshness of the thoughts put in writing remain ever so fresh...this reinforces so much positivity in me... Thankyou for the same... hope and pray you find time to continue to write something like this however small it is when ever possible, need not be scheduled time...a venture like this needs to be kept alive....:)

  2. Great thought, Anuja. I wish you the power to determine the extent of your own success every single day of your life. Thank you for sharing your views.

  3. Well,I wonder what would your thoughts be on this topic now, Eshwar?? :)

    1. Not much has changed in this topic, Sowmya. I'm still wary of asking people to follow a mantra. I constantly stop myself from espousing any "truth" that I might believe in.