Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Second Education

I'm going through another large change in my life, which involves relocation and a new job; feeling a little nostalgic I was going though the soft copies of the transcripts of some of the sessions I had as a trainee at Synapse - from being a Trusted Advisor and Managing a Project and learning how to Do What Needs to be Done. But the one that really got me a little nostalgic is this one, which Gourav handed over to us way back in 2002. This is just one of the brilliant sessions we had back then, which unfortunately the new people at Synapse have no clue about. Take a little time off and read it slowly, maybe it'll make sense to you too.

The framework of this essay is taken from an article by Madan Birla, the president of However, this essay has been altered, edited and rewritten significantly from the original.

We live in a complex, interconnected world, but where we find ourselves in our lives is not by chance. The relationships, health, job satisfaction, leisure- everything that goes to make the life we enjoy, are all a result of the choices we have made. These choices are inevitable. But since we don't have time to examine and evaluate every choice from scratch, we make choices that are influenced by a previous history of what we know, how we feel, and the feedback we get from our environment. We all have a script of internalized messages from the environment (what communication experts call a 'Frame of Reference') and we often live our lives based on that script. If society's definition of success is money and all the things that money can buy, then most of us are likely to internalize that definition of success and it will become the driver of our choices.

But we can choose to reject the definitions of society. And find a way to create our own balance of life. Finding the Balanced Life can possibly be thought of as a Four-Step Process:

  1. Visualize the balanced healthy state that reflects all human needs on the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual plane. Make this picture richer by gaining knowledge about yourself and the world.

  2. Become aware and Identify the root causes of imbalance in your life - internal and external. What is preventing you from living your life according to the picture you have in your head?

  3. Develop a personal action plan to address the deficiencies that prevent you from getting to the life you want to lead. Get abilities that you need to take you where you want to go, overcome shortcomings that hold you back, conquer fears and anxieties that plague your mind.. .

  4. Take action in the external environment to implement the plan. This will be the real test of your will ...

Most humans have the same needs. Recognition and Esteem 'I want to be known as somebody'. Power 'I want to have the money, social status and opportunities to be able to do what I want to do'. Love and sexuality 'I want to belong to somebody' and I want someone to belong to me. Mutual support, affection, shared experiences, group membership 'I want to be with people I like and enjoy spending time with'. Identity and Self-Respect 'I want to be somebody to myself'. Respite and relaxation 'I want to have fun and enjoy myself'. Spirituality "I want to have a sense of meaning and coherence in life'.

These are not a collection of isolated components, but one integrated whole. And expansion in one component cannot compensate for a missing component. The ceiling to personal happiness is set by the component of lowest satisfaction.

And Happiness will not result from what happens to us but what happens within us after what happens to us.

Apologies if this seemed a little preachy - but really, go back and read it again. Everybody I know has had quite a reaction to this essay, for obvious reasons. Let me know if you did.