Yoga Day Special: Understanding Our Worries

This Yoga Day, let us expand our understanding of ourselves, including what worries us, and how we can manage those worries.

yoga day image, guy meditating in worry to show ways to do focused yoga

Two friends, Anita and Esha were having a conversation over coffee. Anita looked worried. When asked what was wrong, she said what many of us must have felt at one point. Some of us may also be feeling this way as we read this.

‘Everything worries me. Every decision I make, I overanalyse. I worry about everything. It’s as if the overthinking will never ever stop. I feel anxious all the time, and I haven’t been able to get anything done on time. It’s really affecting me.’

Esha listened, and gently comforted Anita, saying, ‘We all are consumed by the overthinking monster every once in a while. It’s okay, you can manage this. Trust me.’

‘How? I have tried relaxation techniques. It helps a bit, but only temporarily. Yoga usually helps me but these days, even that is not helping.’

Esha went in further and said, ‘How about you try this yoga to control the mind, and manage? Yoga won’t help much unless you know what you wish to manage through the Yoga practice. Whenever you find yourself on one of your overthinking sprees, see which one type seems to be bothering you:

Anita listened with curiosity and nodded. Esha continued:

‘If you constantly find yourself ruminating over past decisions, past mistakes and bad feedback, you are most likely a past analyser.

‘If you constantly find yourself worrying about the future, and anticipating problems which don’t really exist at present, you are most likely a future analyser.

‘If you constantly find yourself over analysing any decision, and find yourself unable to actually make a decision, getting in a state of analysis paralysis, you are most likely an over-analyser. ‘

Anita seemed to have found her problem as a gleam of recognition came into her eyes. ‘What to do when I find myself into one of these states?’

Esha went on,

‘For the past analyser, scheduling a ‘worry time’ during the day might help, where one sits with these feelings of worry, and find out which of these worries can be solved, and which can be left in the past. The ones which can be solved can be dealt in a head on way.

‘For the future analyser, visualisation exercises might help, where you imagine yourself overcoming these anticipated hurdles. This small perspective shift can help a lot.

‘For the over analyser, understand that perfection is a myth, and that mistakes are part and parcel of life. Any path we take, we can always course correct. There is no need to analyse each and every detail- trust that you can figure things out as they come.’

As Anita listened to this, she felt her anxiety ease up a little. The knots in her mind slowly started to loosen up.

We all must have been in Anita’s state of mind. Overthinking.

Wondering why our relaxation techniques, and a disciplined practice of yoga isn’t helping.

Wondering when will this overthinking monster leave us.

The key to make the best use of our abilities is to understand what kind of worries consume us, and our minds, and finding ways to manage those. Yoga isn’t just about asanas and postures- it is an active practice of understanding ourselves, and finding the best possible way to make the best use of that understanding of ourselves. Yoga encapsulates practices of introspection, and practices to make that introspection meaningful, such as meditation, visualisations, and countless such centring practices.

This Yoga day, let us remind ourselves that we have an incredible ability to manage our minds. Yoga when done with a sense of purpose, and with the right focus and with the right technique, can help us become calmer and more centred individuals. In turn, we can become individuals who are in tune with our inner and the outer world, leading to professional and personal success, peace and prosperity. What’s more, now we can Overcome the Overthinking Monster.

You Need to Take Break even from the Work you Love

image about low battery

Have you ever had a very frustrating day where whatever you tried just never gave results?

Well, Sunny was having one such day.

He looked tired and frustrated as he was working on a coding project. Raj noticed it, and asked if everything was alright.

‘Oh no. I have been stuck on this since hours. Coding is supposed to be my passion. How would it all work if I cannot work on my passion endlessly. Turning your passion into a profession is supposed to be easy, isn’t it?

‘No, my friend.’ Raj began to explain:

‘Somehow the popular culture makes us believe that if we choose a profession we love, that is, something we have a passion for, we would enjoy it so much that we would feel we need not work a day in our lives. That is a wrong belief. No matter how much we love what we do, there will be times when we need a break, when our job will put some pressure on us. We will feel tired while working on it. We shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It is natural to feel overwhelmed and pressured with our work at times. You can choose to either let it push you forward or backward.’

There was some relief but also some guilt in Sunny’s eyes. ‘I did indeed feel overwhelmed. Been feeling so since a couple of days. So much so that I took a little smoke after years yesterday…’

‘Oh my, don’t do this to yourself!’ Raj exclaimed. He went onto explain again,

‘Don’t you remember how it used to be when we were children? Even with the games we loved to play, we would sometimes win, and sometimes lose. Sometimes we would be out of form. It is completely normal to not be our hundred percent from time to time. Don’t let the fixation to be perfect consume you and don’t take up unhealthy habits to reach an unrealistic goal.’

Finally, it all made sense to Sunny, and he said to Raj, ‘You are right. I have been too fixated on this problem, and I am letting it consume me. I think I should step back, and take a break. I will start working on this tomorrow again, anew. Care to join me for a walk to the riverfront today evening?‘

‘Of course!’ And the two friends wrapped up their work for the day and left to go for a walk in the cool evening breeze.

The anecdote above gives us some crucial lessons. Let us have a quick look at these:

  • No matter how much you love your work and your field, there will be times when you will feel tired and overwhelmed from it. You might even dislike your choice of career for those few moments or even hours! The popular saying that do what you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life is not always true.
  • That being said, one shouldn’t have extreme responses to this. Getting frustrated at a job you love doesn’t mean you should quit it, or resort to unhealthy habits or think that you made a mistake in choosing your career. Remember that the pressure, the frustration, the overwhelm are all temporary and more or less fleeting. Usually, each one of us goes through phases of easily doable assignments as well as the trickier ones.

This finally leads to the last point to keep in mind.

  • Just as a symphony of music has high and low notes, similarly, the work we do, our professional targets and aims, our working also goes through high and low notes, and all other notes in between. As the anecdote suggests, sometimes, we are in great form, and sometimes, it takes time to get on track. That doesn’t mean we are worthless entirely. Or that our love for our work is gone. Or that we will never be able to do great work again. We must remember that it is the variety of notes that makes a piece of music worth listening to- otherwise it would all be unpleasantly stuck on one note.

Understand the music that the work we love doing is, and we would be able to learn more, do better work, and have a great time working!

The Potential of Bad Days

Good days may not always provide the opportunity to show how good you are at your job. It is a well-handled bad day that could show your full potential and value.

We all have bad days. Horrible days when nothing goes as planned, and every worst-case scenario seems to be happening at the same time. As lyrics to a popular song by John Mayer goes, ‘bad news never has good timing’.

While all that is true, what is also worth thinking about is the bad days are also wonderful opportunities.

Bad days have the potential to be turned into a very good day.

Opportunities? Bad to good? How?

What is so opportunistic about that sale going to the rival company? What is so good about multiple clients giving ultimatums? What is so good about all tech glitches during important presentations? What is so great about multiple crises happening on the same day?

As a blogpost by Farnam Street points out- you are only as good as your worst day.

It is very easy to be calm, collected and feel like you have made it in life when things are going well. It is only during the times of crises, big or small that you truly get to display your skills, competence and experience. It is only during one of those days when you truly learn how much you can handle, how much pressure you can take and the incredible potential you have to overcome any obstacle.

Those bad days are the days when all the skills and wisdom you have developed over the years come in handy. On smooth sailing days, we are mostly on the autopilot mode, and in a way end up doing very monotonous and ordinary work. The bad days shake things up and force us to up the game.

Take for example this article by a writer on Medium. She was in the middle of an important presentation when the projector decided to give up. Technical glitches are out of our control at times, and can bog and demoralise even the most prepared speakers. What did this person do? She had to show some charts and graphs about quarterly profits. So, while she did the talking and added some humour in the situation by simply acknowledging the bane of a technology-dependent existence, she passed on her laptop to everyone, and by the end of her ‘presentation’, everyone had a personal view of the profits ‘thanks’ to the glitch.

It was the glitch that enabled her to be resourceful, use her wit and deliver. A smooth sailing presentation would have enabled her to simply show the quarterly profits and how good she was at her job. The glitch enabled her to show how she is not only good at her job, but how she is also good at handling unpredictable situations, how resourceful she can be and how quick-thinking she is. All those soft skills that must have been listed on the resume got their live demonstration and justification, right there.

Horrible days are not only great opportunities to showcase your true full potential and find lessons for ourselves, but also times when a shared humanity is on display, leading to lessons for others as well.   

Take for example someone, say, a fresher who may have been sitting in the audience of this person who handled the projector issue well. By acknowledging and overcoming the issue, the presenter not only showed her skills, but also showed that it is very human to encounter these issues, and there is nothing that can’t be figured out. This must have been an important lesson for the fresher, and the presenter must have proven to be a good role model. As we say, the best way to teach someone something is to model that behaviour ourselves.

It is also the worst days that enable us to value ourselves more. When we end up being productive on a day when we thought it would be impossible for us to be productive, we gain a new sense of self-respect anda rise in self-esteem. We realise what we are capable of.

So, the next time you realise that you are having one of those days, instead of getting bogged down in a pit of resentment and frustration, consider it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Consider it as an opportunity to explore the depths of your potential, resilience, and resourcefulness. Consider it as an opportunity to renew your self-belief. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Align Your Actions to How the World Works…

….and the world will do the work for you!

Question! What is that one tiny but major, basic but elusive secret to being a happy, successful, level-headed professional and human being?

Answer: According to research and this article by Farnam Street, it’s by working with keeping the basic principles of how the world functions in mind, and aligning one’s actions in that direction. Now that might sound confusing, generic and somewhat vague. Let us delve deeper into this.

Universal Principles:

 We will start by taking a very general example. We have all heard truisms like ‘health is wealth’ since ages. We know being healthy is a basic step to living a good life- everything else comes secondary. We know that without good health, we can’t enjoy the fruits of our labour. And yet, if we were to be honest with ourselves, how many times do we neglect our health in the day-to-day life? We forgo little chances of leading a healthy life. We scroll endlessly on our phones late into the night, or decide to keep the homecooked lunch on the side and opt for that vadapav.

Or consider waiting. Investments, be it financial or personal, take time to show results. We must wait a bit. We know this. But do we have the patience or willingness to wait?

Or how kindness leads to kindness, and fire leads to more fire.

Do you find yourself thinking of similar universal principles? Think principles around return of investments, savings, compounding, effort-reward, reciprocity of actions and so on.

Our peculiarity as human beings is that we tend to ignore these basic universal principles a lot of times. We know that we are ignoring, but we continue to ignore, and sometimes only follow them when we are forced to.

No one is an exception to these rules. Everyone needs to put in effort to live a healthy life. Everyone needs to wait for their investments to come to fruition. Everyone needs to put in effort to maintain and improve the status quo, whether we are talking about our professional or personal life. There are no exceptions to these universal principles of effort and returns.

Instead of aligning our actions to these universal principles, we tend to steer away from them, even when we know it’s not a good idea.

Where the Magic Lies:

The magic of universal principles and sticking to them is that once we start aligning our actions to them, the world will do the work for you.

All you need to do is align your actions to these universal principles. Nothing complicated. Whenever confusion arises, all we need to do is remind ourselves of these universal principles and align our actions to those, the rest would just be noise.

Nervous about an interview? Just think about the universal principle of effort and returns, and work on it accordingly. The rest will fall into place.

Confused how to approach a supposedly difficult client? Just think about the universal principle of reciprocity of behaviour, and approach them with a behaviour that you’d want them to reciprocate. The rest will figure itself out.

Wondering why a project seems stuck? Just think if you have waited long enough for the investment to show, and if you have waited long enough, think about the alignment that we talked about in our older article about working hard easily.  

One could also think about this in micro terms. Consider your office or field of work as a world. How does this world work? What are some ‘principles’ that seem to be embedded in its functioning? Find those out, and align your actions to those principles, and chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised by how perfectly and easily it all fits.

‘Alignment’ is the word to keep in mind. As we align our actions to how the world (and the multiple ‘worlds’ we inhabit) works, and stay true to ourselves, the world will do its magic for you.

Working Hard, Easily

We often associate working hard with slogging and trudging along. But working hard is often more about getting into an easy state of flow, a sign of being deeply engaged with our work.

Tired of trudging along and pushing forward?

Here’s a slightly different advice- stop and reevaluate, instead of pushing harder.

In this hustle culture, it is often a sign of grit and motivation to keep pushing when it gets harder. If you are a working professional, it is rarely that someone would tell you to stop and revaluate. Most of the motivational advice out there is to keep working harder. To try again and again and again until you succeed. To rise in one’s career, or to come up with a million-dollar idea, or to run a business or to be the star employee, the chief advice is to slog and work hard. Work harder. It’s always about being more disciplined. More focused. To push against all odds.

But is that always good advice? Does achieving something and working hard always mean we must feel like we are constantly swimming against the tide? Would it not be better if we could rather swim and flow amidst everything? Is there a different interpretation to ‘working hard’?

An insight by psychologist Julie Gurner is worth paying attention to. Speaking on a podcast for the online mindfulness and motivational page Farnam Street, she says: 

“I think we talk about discipline because it feels tough to do. We’re doing the hard thing. We’re slogging through. But when we are at our best, we’re not slogging through. Great people are obsessed and they’re not slogging through. They are driven. They are motivated. They are deeply, deeply engaged. … If it starts to feel like a slog and you’re pushing yourself every day—I mean, we all have periods of that—but [do it] too long and that really becomes laborious. To me, it’s often a flag that perhaps you shouldn’t be in that area at all.”

Haven’t we all, at some point, found ourselves working in a state of flow, working deeply, losing all track of time and finding a deep sense of accomplishment within ourselves?  Was that about ‘pushing’ harder? No, it was about flowing with our work. It was about being so engaged in what we were doing that we felt one with it. It was hard work that didn’t feel like ‘hard’ work.

Good, hard work should put us in a state of flow. It should engage us. After some slogging, after some pushing, if we still haven’t reached that state of flow, of the state of feeling engaged enough, perhaps it would be a better idea to reevaluate things instead of continuing to slog and push harder. Revaluate, so that we can find a way to flow.

Revaluating could involve changing our approach, or changing our thinking. It could also involve changing our objectives. It could also involve changing our path, in a minor or major way. The point is to aim for a state of flow, of deep engagement with what we are working towards, instead of feeling the slog.