Tag Archives: connecting with others

Personal Growth Relationships

What if those close to you are negative?

There is a lot of personal development literature out there that talks about the importance of keeping good company. I have myself written about it in a lot of posts.

I feel the company we keep affects our attitudes and, consequently, the direction of our lives. The opposite seems to happen too, we affect the attitudes of the company of which we are a part.

A balance of energy

If you stay with those whom you find negative, you feel a pull down in your enthusiasm for life. There is, I feel, a balance of life force that happens when you are with other people. If they are negative compared to you, they feel a bit pulled up in your presence but you feel pulled down. On the other hand, if they are more positive, you get the benefit of an upward pull while they are pulled down.

Also, in the case of a crowd,  this balance seems to tilt in favor of the majority. If you are a lone negative with a lot of positive people, you will be constantly motivated to improve while they might feel just a little pull down. If you are a lone positive among a lot of negative people, they might feel only a little pull up, but you will feel pulled down a lot. When this continues long enough, your positivity gets pulled down for good and you get habituated to the new balance, until you decide enough is enough and break out of this company.

In light of this realization, it is only natural to look for positive company, something at least at par with your own attitudes.

But…

What if your family is negative?

There are certain humans you are dealt with.  There is a certain place and a certain society you were born into. You didn’t choose them, they were given to you. Some, who believe in past lives and karma, or the Law of Attraction, might say we choose our parents and surroundings. But, for the sake of this article, I will assume that we don’t.

When those around you seem full of negativity, should you severe the deep bonds you have with them and leave for more positive people? Or should you stay where you are and try to make the best of what and whom you were dealt with?

If you stay, you will probably be pulled down into negativity. If you don’t, you might be severing ties with those whom you have had a long and deep connection with.

Let me add another question here…

Would a continuous improvement path leave you with no friends in the end?

If you are looking for positive company all the time, where does this bond-snapping stop? No human is perfect and you will never find one. When you continuously improve, you might find those whom you see positive today, seem negative and below your level some day. Wouldn’t that leave you totally alone in the end?

There are probably no straight answers, no black and white guidelines here. The only thing that I will suggest here is – listen deeply and intently to what your heart is saying.

If your heart says stay, stay. Work to make the best of what you have. If it says detach, then detach.. It is OK to move away from your nearest and dearest. As I mention in this post, it might be good for them too.

I also think it is important that you separate your heart’s voice from that of the ego’s. Don’t decide in anger, or sadness, or fear… decide in calmness, in peace and in awareness. If you can’t find that calm within you, try to create it first. It is important to connect to the heart before deciding.

To create the right state of mind, you can try following these steps – 5 steps to creating a conscious life.

When you keep following the heart(your intuition), it seems to me that you sort of shut yourself from external stimuli. The negativity of those around doesn’t affect you as much, if at all. All your senses and your focus are aligned to one point, and that point is deep within your self, it is your essesnce speaking to you. You then witness your attitude and your life unfolding naturally from within you.

When you following this voice truly, it is my experience that there is no sense of separation from others, not for long. In time, you see a deep connection with them and start working towards common good. The detachment, if it happens, is now just a physical thing, you still see the far deeper bonds and know they are always there. The question of being left alone vanishes.

If you decide to leave…

If you feel it in your heart to leave, here are a few things I would like to say to you :

I think most people blow the idea of leaving their loved ones out of proportion.

When you leave, it is not like you leave them for ever, you are just detaching for a while. There will be lessons that you learn, new realizations, that you might not have had, had you stayed. You might start seeing their actions and attitudes in a new light and they may not affect you anymore. Or you might find some problem in your own outlook and will see how you can improve.

In my experience, there comes a time when you will feel the urge to get back to them. But this time, you are a changed person, you handle things differently, you also have new insights and realizations, insights that not only help you but potentially you loved ones too.

You might find that your bond grows deeper as a result of such a detachment.

So, if you see that you have to leave for a while, don’t resist it out of a sense of loyalty, you will only be stifling your heart’s natural path. Let it happen, flow with it, enjoy it, learn from it.

What about the feelings of your loved ones?

In the meantime, how would your loved ones cope up? I think, there will always be a certain discomfort. Most people resist change. They are comfortable with the way things are, even when they are complaining about it. But past this discomfort, they will find a way to continue. In fact, your decision to leave might even make them face the problems they had been avoiding and work on them.

This of course requires sensitivity on your part. If a family member is prone to depression and has a heart problem, you don’t want to give that person a rude shock by just walking out. Be sensitive, compassionate yet firm with them.

*****

Remember that whether you stay or leave, neither is a better choice over the other. Don’t judge yourself or feel guilty because of your choice.

Your heart will lead you to a lot of learning, it will lead you to discomfort sometimes, but it will keep you close to your essence, it will keep you growing and expanding into your best self. And I have a strong feeling, that, in the long run, it will ensure you act in a way that improves your life and that of the people around you.

Until next time…

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Consciousness Courage Personal Growth Relationships

The allegory of the cave

Below is a video representation of a very popular and interesting allegory(A story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning) by Plato called, The Allegory of the Cave. Different people might arrive at different meanings from it and that makes it even more interesting. Go through it once if you will.

When I first came across this allegory, it re-raised some of the questions I have faced before. I will discuss them in short but, for those who decided to skip the video, …

A short description

In short, there are people inside a cave who are tied in a way that they cannot see the entrance to the cave. They have been in this state for ever. They only see some shadows forming on the opposite wall and think these shadows are real(as opposed to being caused by something else). One of these people becomes free and goes outside the cave for a while. He gets to see that shadows are not real and are caused by other ‘real’ objects. He sees the world, the sun, the Earth, different forms of life… everything.

After getting this better understanding of reality, he decides to go back to the cave where his former friends are. Because it is dark inside, he has difficulty seeing things. His friends are busy discussing the shadows they see. They notice that the enlightened one cannot see as well as before.

When he tells his freinds that what they are seeing is unreal and that these shadows are infact caused by some other things, they laugh at him. They say he made a fruitless effort to go outside and check things. The only thing he managed was a poor eye sight. When he persists, they fear he will corrupt others and decide to kill him.

This allegory, among other important insights, shows what effect an individual’s improvement in wisdom has on his relationship with others around him.

Here are some questions that this allegory raised in my mind –

Should the enlightened one return to the cave?

Should the enlightened one go back to the cave, knowing that trying to talk sense into the people there can be dangerous?

Maybe you can relate to his plight. Maybe you have progressed in life and have now come to a place where, when you look back to the people you were once among, you feel they are burdened by a lot of illusions, fears, myths etc. Would you go back to them and try to help them see reality in a better light? Would you try to improve their lives at the risk of being misunderstood, mocked or worse, punished? Or would you leave those ignorant and ungrateful people behind, knowing that trying to help them can backfire on you, and just move on ahead in your life?

If you decide to go back, do you think you will be able to cope with the loneliness of being the odd one out? Would you be able to cope with the initial suspicion and hostility? Would you be able to cope with the uncertainty?

In other words, would you be, what Plato calls, the sun who provides life to all creation by burning itself in the process?

Or maybe you have decided not to go back. Do you think you are generally happy with your life? Do you feel satisfied and feel no pull towards your past?

Probably a middle path can be carved out. But what could be such a path, that ensures your safety(to whatever extent it can be ensured) while you still try to help people? And you will still be leaving a lot of comfort and security, and accepting discomfort and doubts.

The wise man’s burden? Is it?

Do you really know better or is it just your ego?

And how does one know (s)he is enlightened?

Does making more money make you enlightened? Do you become enlightened just by spending more time on this Earth? Does seeing different people and experiencing different cultures make you enlightened? And correspondingly, those who don’t go out too much(but probably look a lot inside), are they necessarily unenlightened?

If you think about this allegory, the people sitting inside the cave also believe they know reality. In real life, all of us think we understand things well enough. Things are probably more clear to us about the allegory because we are observing the events in third person, because the illusion here is about something we all agree upon(whether shadows are real objects or formed by something else) and find very simple to understand. But when we are among people and are discussing not so obvious things about life, how do we know that we know better than the rest?

Remember that Plato’s Guru, Socrates, said that “All I know is that I know nothing”.

Is the pursuit of enlightenment a path of sorrow?

Does the search of enlightenment and wisdom invariably lead to loneliness and sorrow? Does it necessarily have to invite hostility and mockery from others?

Most spiritual texts might say that ultimate enlightenment takes you to a state of bliss, it takes you away from the sufferings of this mortal world. But then who knows?… As far as can be seen from this allegory, the search of wisdom is not comfortable. It can lead you to your death too. Is it really worth knowing these truths if they result in alienation and mortal danger?

Can ignorance be really bliss? If you believe ignorance is bliss, then, once you are out of the cave, would you wish you had not gone out. Would you wish you were just sitting there with your old friends, discussing the nature of the shadows and anticipating what would come next, feeling very smart in the process? If you coveat ignorance, would you really want to be an ignorant child again, believing in fairy tales, ghosts and what not, dependant totally on your parents and guardians for sustenance in the real world?

*****

For this post, I felt like not providing my own ideas on the questions raised. I just wanted to raise some doubts and questions in your mind and then leave you to grapple with these questions, ponder over them and see what answers appeal to you. I would love to read your thoughts in comments below.

Until next time…

Career

Managing individual and collective goals

I often say that we are social animals and need to connect and work with others to feel fulfilled. We have an inherent drive to communicate, to connect, to work and to share with others, to offer something of value, to make a positive contribution to society. This probably explains why solitary confinement has been used as one of the worst forms of punishment.

Societies and organizations are necessary to help us live together and work together towards common goals

But, we also have our own, individual goals that we privately aspire for. When individual goals diverge and come into conflict with those of the organization, a lot of friction is created.

The big challenge that we as individuals, and every society or organization as a whole faces, is how to conciliate these disparate goals. How to respect both. How to let both flourish and be attended to properly.

What causes these differences?

I think, this difference in goals happens largely because most goals, both individual and collective, are formed out of fear and greed.

So many people do certain jobs because they are considered ‘safe’ or because ‘they earn well’. These people are looking for their own safety and comfort, and have only selfish and self centered goals. They have little time or inclination to think of the collective. They will come into conflict with other people of their type(who are pursuing their own selfish goals) and also with those who are genuinely enthusiastic about their work(since enthusiastic people will also be working towards collective benefit, apart from their own goals).

Over time, such people will increasingly develop a feeling of meaninglessness and bitterness for their work, since they never really enjoyed it or had an aptitude for it. Such unenthusiastic and bitter employees are as much a problem for organizations as they are for themselves.

Similarly, when organizations create their work culture based on fear and greed, a lot of friction is generated. When organizations believe that employees can not be self motivated and need to be constantly pushed, friction is created. When they believe the only way for the organization to work well is by recruiting and retaining as many ‘obedient'(read scared) employees as possible and getting them to act like robots, just following organization made rules and structures, friction is created. When the leaders themselves are driven by fear and greed, rather than an enthusiasm for what they are doing, friction in goals is created.

I am sure there are individuals and organizations that strive seriously towards creating a positive work relationship. For those who haven’t done so, these differences can be overcome by cultivating the right attitude individually and cultivating the right culture at an organization level.

Here is what I think can be help.

At the individual level

An individual’s task is to connect with his/her Inner Voice. See where it wants to lead them. For this, one needs to let go of fear and greed, and allow their hearts to help them find their purpose. Then they need to see which groups and organizations will help them towards it.

When a person does what he/she feels enthusiastic about, the urge to connect and work with others comes to the fore. There is more of a craving to share and enjoy, than to hoard and safe guard.

At the organization level

An organization starts with certain goals. Some people come together with a shared vision and start it. To stay on track, it is imperative that they choose the right people to join them and work with them.

Having said that, human beings are too complex to be just expected to act according to what one anticipates of them. People have their own goals and aspirations. they also have their own growth curves. So, the organization can do its best with recruitment, but, once the member are recruited, it has to be ready to try new directions based on how the collective culture develops. Of course you started it. But once others join in, you cannot expect them to forever work and think the same way you want them, you cannot expect them to have the same goals and aspirations as you have.

An example that comes to mind is that of Steve Jobs, who had to leave the very company that he started because the vision of the majority of board members diverged from his own vision. But he did well once he left. If you listen to what he says of the incident during his famous Stanford address, he has only positive things to say. It brought him back closer to his heart. Once he let go, all the energies that were being spent in holding on, became available for doing things he loved doing. He did well again and found more fulfillment. The fact that he later joined back Apple is of little importance to me. The big thing was letting go, following his heart and finding his happiness back.

What matters most, I think, is connection. Deep understanding and connection with the members. Treating them as thinking, aspiring, respectable human beings. What works is not only trying to make them learn and understand, but also being ready to learn from them. Not only changing but allowing yourself to be changed too.

It will a unique mix of holding on and letting go that only your heart can best lead you on.

Motivation

A lot of organizations start with the premise that they have to hold back their employees at any cost. For motivation, they make use of scaring them(market is bad, jobs outside are not secure), addressing their greed(foreign assignment, raised salary, better titles). But I say, it is better to let go of this idea and just focus on understanding what individual employees will be most happy with, what will best align with their purpose, and edging them on towards that. If this means letting go of certain employees, so be it. Instead of seeing this as some loss, I see this as a win-win situation.

When you try to hold on to your employees and dictate how they act according to your own vision and goals, you create a negative environment for your self to manage. People are not happy, unenthusiastic and not focused on growth and learning. You create a situation where you have to keep making lots of efforts to make even the smallest things happen. You have to continuously prod, scare, satisfy greed etc to make things work.

On the other hand, if you let go of the urge to control and collaborate with your people a win win situation is created. Though some people might leave, the ones remaining will be the ones who are enthusiastic about their work. And when groups consist of enthusiastic, self motivated employees, magic is created, miracles are performed. They don’t need to be prodded, they work on their own. They themselves will take on responsibility and perform beyond expectations. They will pull in others like themselves too.

The ones who leave will be thankful to your for edging them in the right direction. They will see the honesty in your efforts and will push others, who might fit in your organization, to you.

Motivating by example

Motivation seems to happen best by example. When the manager is happy and enthusistic about his work, he, without saying a word, motivates all around him to be the same. People take on the good vibes by themselves.

Believe in their own power to change their life, to do miracles. You act just like a friend, raising good questions, maybe making them face the uncomfortable questions they are avoiding and that are holding them back, maybe giving them a friendly shove in a good direction that they have been ignoring.

When you treat employees as people who can think well, who are honest, sincere, capable, it is reflected in their work. When you make space for them to work on what excites them, and then let them do it without much fuss, you will find them doing it sincerely and better than anything they had done before. They won’t require constant monitoring.

Image: jscreationzs

Relationships

Changing others for the better

In our living room and coffee table discussions, so many of us wonder why people(especially the ones we consider less in stature than us) can’t see what is so obviously good for them. Some of us also strive to change these people for their own good.

Their attitudes and habits often lead to uncomfortable situations that irritate us. We feel an even stronger revulsion to their attitudes and an even stronger urge to change their ways.

And this is not limited to those lesser in stature, so many of us try to control our peers in office, our family members and our friends. We try to change them because we know what we are doing will be for every one’s good. It will make everyone happy in the long run.

What makes people happy?

I think before trying to change others, one needs to decide what really makes people happy. Is it different things for different people? Is it, at it’s core, the same set of things?

It has been my experience that, on the surface at least, different people like and enjoy different things. Different people even have different ideas of right and wrong. In fact, most fights among individuals, or groups, seem to be the result of such differences.

Now, for us as individuals, it is a huge task to understand what makes us happy ourselves. Most of us, if we look back at our lives, will find that we have pursued happiness in different things, only to find later that we were looking in the wrong place. So many of us, at some point in the past, craved for the very job that we so hate now. So many of us wanted to be in a loving relationship. Only now, it is not so loving anymore. So many of us wanted to make money. And today, inspite of making more of it than we ever dreamed of, we don’t seem to be any happier than when we started out.

No, it is not easy for us to find what really makes us happy.

So what is the point in deciding for others what we can’t seem to decide for ourselves? While it is difficult to find our own happiness, it is almost impossible to find what makes someone else happy.

Why don’t people do what is right for them?

How many of us find ourselves guilty of not doing what we know to be right? We know what we have to do to feel better(exercise more, watch less TV, spend less time on the internet and more with friends and family, take less stress at work etc etc), yet we just can’t seem to get ourselves to do all this.

It is so difficult to get our own selves to do what we have decided in our minds to be right. It is difficult to break out of our comfort zones. So what is the point in expecting others to follow what we think is right?

So what is the best we can do?

The best we can strive for, is to look for what makes our own selves happy, and to try regulate and control our own efforts.

Let go of the urge to control others. Just decide your response to what others do. Does someone try to make fun of you? Would you ignore this person? Would you leave their company? Would you fight back? Whatever you decide, understand that it is your own response that you can modulate.

Now here is something interesting – when you focus on finding what makes you happy and change yourself to get there, you motivate others, through your example, to do the same. In other words, when you change yourself, the world around you starts changing.

It doesn’t happen in a controlled way, it doesn’t happen according to what someone may have anticipated. But it happens in a very pleasant way. You start feeling good when you focus on changing yourself. And it gets better when others take a cue from you, on their own, and start making some changes in them selves.

Things start falling in place, you start enjoying the world around you. Note that this change happens in 2 simultaneous ways – first, you stop expecting the world to change, you adapt to it. This kills expectations and the troubles caused due to them, And second, when you stop trying to change the world and focus on yourself, the world takes notice and starts adapting to you!

This is how positive change happens. The world surrounding you starts changing when you focus on improving yourself.

Societies change when individuals in it start looking inwards for change and happiness.

*****

Letting go off the urge to control others and only focusing on your own response makes things so much easier and simple. When the focus moves away from controlling others, you get to see them for what they are, you can now start connecting with their core self. It is now that you will start sharing happiness with them.

 Image: Salvatore Vuono

Motivation

Using group energy to move out of hopelessness

Are you suffering from a lack of enthusiasm for life? Do you experience a general sense of pessimism and hopelessness? Does everything and everyone around you seems to strengthen the idea of a sad and bleak world?

If you find yourself in this state, your company probably consists of friends who have similar attitudes. If you ever try to break out of your funk, the company of your friends pulls your spirits down. They don’t do it intentionally but their sense of hopelessness convinces you of the uselessness of your own efforts.

At the same time, I am sure you can recall at least one instance when, just being in the company of a positive person or a group of positive people lifted up your spirits. It probably felt magical to see the positive shift in your attitude. It probably left you yearning for more.

Recently, I had a similar experience. I attended a club here in Bangalore, by the name of Game Changer Forum. I had no idea what it was about and just went to check it out. And what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be! I met with a group of positive, courageous and motivated people. And my spirits found wings!

Group energy

Crowds have an energy of their own. During riots, people in a crowd can do things that they otherwise won’t consider doing, that they might consider downright wrong.

This is true of being in a positive group as well. You find that in a positive group, the group energy will pull you out of your fears, limiting beliefs and doubts, and make you cross over into exciting zones you have never dared venture into.

Energy is infectious, and it multiplies in groups of similar minded people.

So choose the right groups

The most noteworthy thing here is that, while you become susceptible to group energy and do things you would otherwise not do, you have the choice of associating with the right groups in life. You are not left at the mercy of your situation. Just move to a more conducive company. Company that can help lift you up, company where you can lift others up, and share in their happiness, enthusiasm and hope.

You may be feeling down in the dumps, you may be feeling that you don’t have it in you to go all the way. But you don’t need to go all the way alone. Just get yourself into good company.

Let them help you on your way, let the Universe support you in your journey.

Until next time….

Image credit: jscreationzs