“Something wonderful begins to happen with the simple realization that life, like an automobile, is driven from inside out, not the other way around. As you focus more on becoming more peaceful with where you are, rather than where you should be, you begin to find peace right now, in the present.”
Last week, in the first part of this series we had looked at a different philosophy of life as given by Charles Schulz (the creator of Peanuts.) We had also attempted the two sets of questions that Schulz had posed for us and drawn some interesting conclusions. This week we will look at the six mottos that will help us in traversing this delightful philosophy of life with peace and equanimity. Let’s start with the first one.
- You are Lucky
I have a dear friend who is in the same profession as me and doing extremely well. He is healthy, in a very senior position in the organization (in the top 0.50% to be precise), blessed with a loving family and a whole lot of inherited as well as accumulated wealth. He is otherwise very pleasant but tends to start every sentence with, “with my kind of bad luck …”. Of course, many a time he doesn’t mean it but mostly he is convinced that he is getting a raw deal from life. If you read his antecedents once again the irony of his Takiya Kalam (catchphrase) can’t fail to hit you. Forget about my friend in this story, in the next few minutes I will prove that all of you who are reading this piece are indeed lucky.
You are lucky to be born; you are lucky to be born as the most evolved species that God has created; you are lucky to be born in a country where you have true democracy and your human and civil rights are protected by law. Since you can read and analyse this post your faculties are in fine fettle. You are using a Laptop or Smartphone, so you can’t be too badly off financially. So, before we move ahead, Thank God for “small” mercies – the very fact that you can hear, see, walk, eat three meals a day, itself a miracle. Why compare with others and feel unhappy.
Scientists have recently estimated that there are approximately 8.7 million species of plants and animals on earth but only 1.2 million of these have been identified so far. They believe that 1-2 million of those species are animals which total to around 20 billion. Congratulations for being at the zenith of evolution out of a staggering 8.7 million species and 20 billion animals. You may not consider it to be a lucky fact so sample this – we have over seven billion humans in the world today, but there are more chickens (over 18 billion) than humans. Do you know what would have been our fate if we were born as chickens? Remember the song from the movie, 3 Idiots? Murgi na jaane ande ka kya hoga; life milegi ya tawe pe fry hoga (a hen doesn’t know the future of the egg laid by her; it may survive of be fried on a pan).
Few of you may be shrugging and muttering to yourself, “Big deal; if I had to be born why not in a developed first world country?” Let me give some information to you about the most prosperous country in the world, the USA. It is ranked as one of the 20 most dangerous countries in the world. Gun violence runs unabated in the USA and every year about 49000 Americans commit suicide. About a quarter of adult Americans are suffering from mental health issues so very clearly being wealthy is not bringing in much cheer to them.
On the other hand, the Ovarian Lottery may have landed you in a country like Brazil, South Africa or Nigeria, rated as the three most dangerous places to live by a Forbes survey of 2019. Or indeed, you may have born in countries which have a total of 844 million humans beings without access to clean drinking water. How about being born in countries like China and Pakistan where minorities are being systematically persecuted and killed under their benevolent governments. We must admit that we are indeed lucky – we just need to change our lenses with which we view the world and our life.
- You are Rich
Hmmm, this statement might get your goat- how could I be construed as rich? Firstly I am born in a poor country like India and secondly, despite being a middle-class person, the government is taxing me so heavily. So, let’s look at some more data of wealth of the nations. As per capita GDP (PPP) the highest-ranked country is Qatar at Rs 6.40 lakh per month while India has an income of Rs 33,000 per month- horrible no? But wait, how about being born in the lowest-ranked country the Central African Republic (CAR) which has an income of 681 $ (Rs 3,500 per month?
Add HDI indicators to this income and tell me where you will like to be born – CAR or India? Even in India, at our pay (Rs 15 to 20 lakh per annum) we are top 0.9% of Indians. If your annual household income is greater than Rs. 1.6 lakh, you belong to the richest 20% of the country. Take a bow, you are rich – never ever crib about money hereafter. In any case, money is just a medium of exchange which, beyond a point, fails to add happiness to our life. A minimum amount of wealth is a must which should be adequate to fulfil our basic needs and allow us to live a dignified life, but anything more just confirms to the Law of Diminishing Returns.
- You are Peaceful
The world gives us adequate opportunities to be angry, irritable, depressed, anxious and so on. But the same world gives us opportunities to be happy, joyous, cheerful, contended et. al. It is how we look at the events/persons/circumstances etc. There is this principle that I try to follow – never judge or criticize anyone/anything. I am gradually becoming more adept in this philosophy but my success rate is hovering around 70%, but even that is bringing a lot of serenity in my life. Let me share a few methods to maintain your balance amidst the chaotic happenings in life.
- Everyone behaves as per his/her Prakriti or basic nature which is due to the baggage of past births dutifully carried by their souls. It is very difficult to change anyone and why should you? Would it not be better if you accept everyone the way he/she is? This world is a rainbow and requires all the colours to look as beautiful as it is. Resist the urge to correct others, their incorrectness is as seen from your prism, which may well be negatively tinted.
- Choose your battles wisely. We all have some core values which we deeply believe in and would do anything to defend. Please do that but first define for yourself what these core values are? You are not a custodian of all things in this world and hence everything going wrong (your perception) should not make you react. Learn to operate within your Area of Influence and nothing beyond that.
- Whenever you feel like blowing your top, count up to ten … very slowly, and mentally recite this serenity prayer – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to differentiate between the two.
- There will be many occasions where you will have the choice to be right or kind – choose kindness especially in family and close relationships. You might win an argument but lose a relationship, it’s never worth it.
- Work at becoming a patient listener and understand the viewpoint of the other person. Most of the times, we don’t listen and are either immersed in our work/smartphones/laptops or formulating our reply even before the other person has stopped speaking. It will also be good if you don’t interrupt others while they are speaking or try to finish their sentences.
- Don’t get too happy with praise or unhappy with criticism – they both are sides of the same coin. Your worth doesn’t rise and fall with the opinion of others. NDA government won an absolute majority in 2019 elections and yet their vote share percentage was only 45% – more than half the voters didn’t want them leading the country.
- Don’t let the attitude or bad mood of someone else affect you. Richard Carlson, the author I have quoted at the beginning of this post writes – if someone throws the ball at you, you don’t have to catch it. Be equanimous and patient.
- You are Unique
Once upon a time a crow lived in the forest and was very happy till one day he came across a swan. “This swan is so white”, he thought, “and I am so black. The swan must be the happiest bird in the world.” Meanwhile, the swan was muttering to herself, “I have no colours, but that parrot has two of them, and so bright. The parrot must be the happiest bird in the world.” But the parrot was glum and thinking of the peacock, “I have only two colours, the peacock has so many, he must be the happiest.” The peacock in the meanwhile was longingly looking out of his cage in the zoo towards the crow, “I am trapped in the zoo because of my beautiful colours, wish I was black as a crow, at least I would have been free.”
It is very clear from this parable that whenever we compare ourselves with someone else, we are bound to feel unhappy. On every parameter of life, we are going to be inferior (as per our perception) to some other person in the world- money, height, physique, house, possessions, achievements; the list is endless. Roger Federer is a vastly superior athlete to me (well, even this comparison is blasphemous – he is the God of tennis.) But, I am better at writing, being a published author of two books, with the third one barely a few months away. Also, I am a pilot while Federer is not, but then Federer must be better at so many things. In fact, this comparison is ludicrous and serves no purpose. The point is that both of us or indeed every single human being is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. Learn to harness your uniqueness – there is no one else like you on planet earth. Take a bow.
5. You are Responsible
This is a paradigm many people struggle to get hold of. If someone comes and bangs your car from behind while you were driving in your lane and well within speed limits, how can you be responsible for this accident? Or, you are walking by and there is an under-construction building on the way. As you cross this building a brick comes falling down and hits you on the forehead. Obviously, it is due to the clumsiness of the person working above, so how are you responsible? Both fair questions- let’s analyse further.
We have to first establish whether you were one of the causes in both these mishaps. You have to admit that you were right there where these freak incidents happened. You decided to leave your house on a particular route, at a particular time, at a particular pace and so on. All this was done with such precision by you that you placed your car (in the first instance) and yourself (in the second instance) in the harm’s way- in front of the reckless driver and below the clumsy mason. So, you have to admit to taking responsibility for your part of the incident.
Now, are you at fault for both these incidents – obviously not? The fault clearly lies with the other persons in these incidents. However, what you do after the incident is part of your responsibility. You can go up, holding your bleeding forehead and pick up a fight with the mason or seek medical assistance, this is your choice. This is what I mean by responsibility- Response+Ability= ability to respond rationally.
For anything to happen there is a multitude of agencies involved other than you. For any outcome, all these agencies have to work in unison and precision and various permutations and combinations of their actions can result in tens of alternative outcomes. Well, a microsecond’s delay could have resulted in a fatality in the second incident as the brick could have hit you smack on the middle of your head causing a brain injury. So, were you actually lucky or unlucky in this case? Please re-read the first motto of this life-philosophy – you are lucky.
Things will happen the way they are supposed to happen, both good or bad. You have to accept your part of the bargain and be responsible after the event has taken place. Please mull over this “fault and responsibility paradigm.”
- You are NOT your Thoughts
It is estimated that an average human being has around 60 to 70 thousand thoughts in a day (don’t ask me who’s doing the counting!). With so many thoughts swirling around in our heads it sometimes gets difficult to maintain one’s poise and balance. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are not our thoughts and can’t be at their mercy. The thoughts are merely electro-magnetic and chemical impulses shooting across the synapses in our brains. And yet, we choose to be dictated by our thoughts – feeling happy when we have happy thoughts and vice versa.
Why is it that your perfect day gets spoilt by an angry remark from your boss or a rash driver cutting you off? It is because these events trigger a series of angry thoughts in your mind. Refuse to be a slave to your thoughts – they are a part of you, they are not you. Many a time we have some unpleasant events or situations which make us lose our balance. Richard Carlson provides a delightful way out – ask yourself whether this event will matter to you one year/one month/ or even one day from now? The answer will be invariably an emphatic NO. So, why spoil your today for an event which is of no consequence to the vista of your life?
Always live in the NOW, the present moment, not a day in the past or in the future. If you notice, most of our thoughts are either rumination about the past or anxiety about the future. Live in the present moment – John Lennon says, “Life is what’s happening while we are making other plans.” Or to quote Mark Twain, “I have been through some terrible things in life, some of which actually happened.”
Please write if you liked the 6 mottos of life and whether you have some different or better ideas to lead a happy and peaceful life. I am also eagerly looking forward to your feedback on my books, ‘The Millionaire Mechanic‘ and ‘Musings of a Financially Illiterate Father’.
Read more from Anand here: