Sunday, 27 April 2014

Galvanize your higher purpose

We are witnessing a global awakening of epic proportions today. Millions of people around the world are searching for their reason of being alive and trying to find ways to align their lives with a higher calling and deeper purpose. There’s a constant pull from within, a yearning for more meaningful work, deeper relationships with others, and a desperate desire to share one’s unique talents so as to leave behind a lasting legacy and help make this world a better place.

Many are wading through unknown territory. There’s no clear roadmap for this new consciousness. Our education has taught us not to nurture our highest aspirations but to ensure basic survival. We have been taught the necessary skills to labour away in our jobs, but we have not been empowered enough to be passionate, creative people who can collaborate and think beyond-the-box to forge a new path ahead together. Society currently seeks to maintain the status quo and has not yet encouraged us to develop our highest potential and make a meaningful shift into the future.

So what prevents most of us from discovering our higher purpose in life and fulfilling it? Shockingly, many people give up on their true calling because of all the perceived trouble that comes with making it come true. We have enough excuses to augment our argument, ranging from ‘My parents won’t approve’, ‘It’s way too difficult’, ‘It’s not realistic’, ‘It won’t pay my bills’, ‘It won’t work’, ‘It’s too late’, to ‘I am comfortable the way I am.’ We resist a more meaningful life because we choose to trip ourselves up. Worse yet, many have simply buried their life’s purpose to such an extent that they don’t even know where to begin to find it. Tragic, yet true!

So where does one begin the journey towards discovering one’s higher calling? First, discard all the obsolete redundant beliefs that have been ploughed into your head over the decades. Realize that you exist for a reason, and you have a key role to play as we transition from the ‘Materialistic’ era into the ‘Wisdom’ era. Galvanize your higher calling by accepting new beliefs about yourself and your place in this new epoch. Realize that you are extremely fortunate to be alive at a historical turning point of human evolution. Understand that civilization is in the process of realignment. Social structures are starting to disband and brand new chapters are being written, such as the rise of women to occupy an equal role in society and intolerance to any form of racial discrimination. Business ethics and corporate governance is changing rapidly, which in turn will impact our financial beliefs and our attitude towards politics and businesses. Societies globally are fusing together into one big melting pot even as unique cultural identities are being preserved and revered. For the very first time we are waking up to the reality that we no longer just have to ‘exist’, instead we need to ‘live with a higher purpose’! 

The next step is to take a journey within to discover your unique talents and skills. This includes tapping your physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual states to help you further narrow down and identify your goal in life. Ask yourself ‘What do I enjoy doing & why do I love doing it?’; ‘What are the unique talents bestowed by the universe upon me?’; ‘Why are these talents important?’; ‘Where do I really find my bliss and why?’; ‘What have I always found meaningful and why has it held significance to me?’ Gauge your feelings as you start unearthing your answers....the answers that surge you with positive energy hold the real clue to your true purpose in life. This entire process will not only help you discard areas that are irrelevant to your life’s purpose but more importantly identify the distinctive capabilities to help you rise to a new state of being.

A key area to avoid here is ‘self-sabotage’. You are most likely to get in your own way during this journey of self-discovery. Years of habituation and irrational fears will act subconsciously to make you believe that you have no purpose. You may simply want to quit. Or worse yet, naysayers will ridicule your endeavour and attempt to devalue your purpose. Push past all this resistance and just keep at it. Let go of your fears, get out of your own way and follow your heart.

Finally, take the all important bold step of liberating centuries of outdated conditioning and obsolete habits to embrace your true calling in this new aeon. Your work, relationships and behaviour will resonate with a sense of purpose. Life will no longer be a drudgery undertaken due to guilt or compulsion, but a celebration for undertaking tasks that are an extension of your higher purpose and your true reason for existence.

It’s important to note here that discovering your purpose is the easy part. The tough part is keeping at it on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point that you converge with your purpose to become that purpose.

If you wish to go beyond simply staying alive but finding something worthwhile to live for, then take the bold step of discovering your true calling and galvanizing your higher purpose. Remember, you were created to live out your purpose, to achieve your greatest potential, and to do so fearlessly.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Be careful what you aim for...

42 year old Neil had a dream job heading a billion $ global multinational conglomerate, a generous seven figure salary package, an all expenses paid business class travel that involved jet-setting the globe and schmoozing with the who’s who of the business and entertainment world, all the latest tech-gadgets and a host of other magnificent perks that came with the territory. Everything he had ever aspired for and more! Neil had it all...or did he?

Neil was twice divorced and his third wife was already uttering the dreaded ‘D’ word. He had fought for joint custody of his two daughters from his first marriage, not that it mattered as he was never around to attend their piano recitals or attend parent-teacher forums. Their disappointed faces were a constant poignant reminder of his failure as a father. He could never take leave from his work, and even weekends were repeatedly interrupted by streams of urgent phone calls and text messages from investors, clients and his business managers. One would imagine that at his level Neil could turn off the phone and refuse to stay wired to his computer - after all, it was a weekend. But Neil had worked too long and hard to attain this level of success, and he wasn’t going to let down his stakeholders, not to mention, let his guard down as alpha dog!

But two decades had taken its toll and the cracks were starting to show in Neil’s marriage, family affairs, state of mind and health. A nagging feeling of despair, uncertainty and emptiness had started overwhelming his psyche. He was feeling more disconnected and uncertain about the road ahead. A gnawing realization had started setting in that this was not what he truly wanted when he embarked on his career two decades ago. If Neil’s story sounds familiar to you or someone you’re close to, maybe it’s time to take stock and ask yourself if this is really what you had wished for.

Most of Gen X fondly reminisce about the good ol’ days, and rightly so, because they were good! Even if creature comforts and technology were mildly adequate, we can probably all agree that today’s family and work dynamic is more complex than ever before. Even the lingo used is so much more complicated: You’re not “Busy”; you’re “Overscheduled.” There are no “breadwinners”, now we’re classified as “DINK’s” ie: Double Income, No Kids.” Children are no longer those sweet innocent kids who roamed around the neighbourhood on bicycles and played hop-scotch-jump around the kerb, oh no, your 7 year old could be internet-savvy enough to hack into the Government Treasury Department and bring down the entire grid.

So what really happened? Did we become more driven by necessity, more obsessed with desires, more motivated by our aspirations? Were liberalization and the burgeoning economy a prime driver that fuelled our ambitions? Were we simply competing with our peers, or just trying to prove a point to ourselves? As the race picked up, we strived to have it all by becoming more efficient, mobile and indispensible, therein spending more and more time away from our loved ones. We wanted it all...the great career, model marriage, luxurious home, great kids, and the envious lifestyle. And we wanted it all NOW! The scales started tilting, and in a span of two decades the consequences of our frenetic pursuit lay bare for all to see. A society filled to the brim with self-serving, acquisitive, career-driven people, who exert endlessly to etch a semblance of sanity and equilibrium between their desire to have the best at work and maintain a sense of connect with their families. It all came at a high irreversible cost!

When you begin to relate going to work to entering a torture chamber, and you spend more money on prescriptions than you do groceries, you may be ready to hit the pause button, reflect and take a relook at whether what you have is really what you wished for, and whether it has all been worth it! Whilst I am certainly not advocating chucking it all up and heading off into the mountains (after all, there are tangible and intangible costs to making any desire come true), I am certainly advising an examination of whether the benefits attained are outweighing the costs.

Let’s first analyze the theory of the dream job versus the lucrative profession. A dream job is often a matter of personal penchant, and normally well suited to the individual's personal situation. Therefore a person who is fond of baking would prefer a job in a bakery churning out the best of pastries and constantly learning new techniques to upgrade his skills in this area of work. That such a job may be exceedingly lucrative is open to debate, but nevertheless, he is at least integrating his passion with his choice of career. Unfortunately the highest-paying professions including Medicine, Law, Information Technology, Marketing & Sales, Banking and Airlines are rarely childhood dreams for many and take the highest toll on your work-life balance. The costs in pursuing these glamorous and well-paid professions range from the tangible such as the monetary cost of education to the intangibles including the long work hours and the high levels of stress involved. There’s also the cost of ‘uncertainty’. Being the top dog in your profession means always being on your guard and wary about your job being snatched by a more ambitious person around the block, or worse yet, layoffs in such a recessionary scenario. The expensive lifestyle and glamorous facade pursued and created to impress your neighbours now becomes the very noose around your neck.

Of course, there are obvious benefits of chasing those money-spinning, super glamorous, much aspired for careers. Most of us have secretly yearned for name, fame, money and an enviable glamorous lifestyle when we were young. The resentment in our peers faces as we raced ahead to the top acted as a drug that further fuelled our ambition. The only question here is whether we were aware of the price we had to pay to reach the summit, and once attained, was it all as amazing as portrayed to be? Were we told in college about the layers and levels of sacrifice that would be required to reach the top? That aiming for the top meant ‘Do or Die’? It would mean losing spouses, friends, relatives and peace of mind. A lifetime’s play of patience, ambiguity, ridicule, triumph and failure. The gut wrenching loneliness that you experienced once you reached the top. The euphoria on reaching the summit would last barely a few days, but after that a realization would set in that it was not as worthwhile as you thought it would be!

Maybe this sounds extreme, but I rarely know of anyone who has had an easy ride to the top. Not to mention the constant stress involved in staying at the top! Ultimately, it’s your choice. Whether the benefits of reaching the top of your profession outweigh the physical and emotional costs, or vice versa, is a matter of personal choice and preference. From decades of personal experience I can only advise that no matter what you choose, do try to choose a career where you like what you do. Choose a domain that’s a natural extension of your personality, talent and skills. Let your work become a bigger life goal than simply a means to earn that paycheque at the end of every month. Embrace a career that serves as an extension of your core identity, something that you take on with love and passion, in the process hopefully inspiring your family to extend the much needed support to create the necessary balance during the strenuous moments. When you genuinely love what you do, irrespective of the price involved, you’ll still feel motivated and happy in the knowledge that you have fulfilled your life’s purpose and left behind a better world. The glamorous rewards, if any, will only be a by-product of this rewarding life journey and fortunately not the main goal that you imprudently embarked upon at the start of your career.

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Centuries later, Confucius’ theory holds even greater significance as many ambitious yet perplexed youngsters roll out of the educational system and choose their rightful place in the complex and ever evolving corporate world.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

If the Social Media Mirror Crack’d?

In my previous article entitled ‘Are you Invaluable’ I received a lot of feedback from youngsters on the pros and cons of the growing precedence today of creating well crafted profiles across multiple social media platforms, all aimed at strategically boosting their visage and thus their ‘self-worth’. Interesting point of view, and a noteworthy subject for debate and discussion.

We live in an age where people are quick to judge and asses others based on subjective perception rather than objective reality. Where ‘packaging’ is treated as being more important than ‘content’. At a time when people are in doubt of their genuine self-worth, unsure about their future goals, and are in desperate need of their real selves being seen, heard and appreciated, this contemporary scenario may be counterproductive.

The Social Media scene vindicates this fact. No other medium enables people to reach others so rapidly with the power of ‘perception’ overriding ‘reality’. You may have 5,000 FB friends, 12,000 Twitter followers and 1,500 LinkedIn connections, but does this define your true value and impact? It only showcases your ability to effectively construct an online identity and habitually feed it with well crafted information and visuals required to further embellish the fashioned identity. The perceptual power of social media platforms have allowed people to position themselves as self proclaimed ‘gyaan gurus’, while the real experts are yet to be discovered or have decided to share their knowledge with niche target groups via selective interactive sessions.

The way people use their social media vehicle reflects not only their intellect and persona, but also the deeply rooted feelings they have about themselves. It reveals their level of self-worth, willpower and originality. People with lower self-worth worry more about what others post about them on the medium, whilst those with higher self-esteem spend more time building their personal brand, adding greater value to their audiences with original information provided. And of course, there are those with phobic tendencies who spend more time monitoring their FB wall, replying instantaneously to messages received and deleting unwelcome posts that affront their perceived self image. The more hours you spend addicted to these social media platforms, the more you feel that the items posted in the virtual space are an extension to your real identity.

Social media is still an evolving platform which requires a greater level of comprehension, commitment and responsibility.  If you are active on social media only to increase your number of friends and connections without offering any real value during the process then you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. The aim is to add value to the audience that you are connecting with, and if you don’t value yourself, you are being irresponsible to those who expect value from you.  

These virtual platforms must not become your only mirror for “self-valuation”. Unfortunately many people have become obsessed with managing and tracking their online presence only because they have falsely confused it as a platform of evaluating their ‘self-worth’. I shudder to think of a day in the future if the social media mirror cracks! Will that distressing moment expose the real value of a generation that grew up on believing that this medium aptly captured and reflected their ‘self worth’?

So how does a youngster differentiate his self worth between the falsehood of the number of likes received on these online platforms versus the real thing? To begin with, juggle your time prudently between building both online and offline channels of connect and communication. Balance is vital. How people respond to you, your views, thoughts, opinions and actions in the real world need to be similar, if not better, to that present in the online domain. You have limited time in this world, so use it well and create a positive and lasting impact. In the end, that’s all that you will be remembered and valued for.

Don’t waste your time in comparative assessments. Whenever you compare yourself to others, you risk losing your identity and further minimizing your value. It’s appalling to see how many talented youngsters spend valuable time regurgitating someone else’s quote, opinion, dream or product rather than valuing their own selves enough to create their own unique ideas. Drive yourself to innovate constantly. The minute you indulge in a cut-paste display of someone else’s content you have weakened your ability to think out of the box, innovate and grow. Instead focus on your exclusive skill sets, views and passion, and create your own unique magic.

As elaborated in my previous article, stop linking your self-worth to the expectations of others. It’s disheartening to see so many able youngsters blindly following the herd and allowing their views and their lives to be defined by others. If you are living or portraying an image that is linked to someone else’s expectation, then you are living a lie and wasting your life. Discover your true identity, take charge of this real identity, be true to who you are, and fearlessly uphold your true self-image in the virtual and real space. Surround yourself with online and offline friends who believe in your dreams and add value to your self-worth, not those who repeatedly pull you down or falsely, or worse yet, consent to all your views, therein completely distorting your self-image.

As we evolve to a value based era, it will become vital for the youth to balance knowledge with application. They will have to become living examples of what they preach. And for that, inner value, trust and strength are critical. These espoused values will become the foundation of their self-worth, their handiwork, their legacy and the pillars around which future generations and economies will be created. Originality and innovation will become imperative. Values and real ‘self-worth’ will become more central than ever before. 

It’s a thin line between real and perceived ‘self worth’. While spending adequate time on these social networks can boost your self-esteem, getting obsessed with your online identity and others perception of you in the virtual space may border on narcissism and paranoia. Social Media is a mere extension and enforcer of society’s need to connect as also its obsession with itself. While these sites can help build connect and in the process enhance your identity, they are not short-cuts to building self-esteem. Building genuine ‘self-worth’ is a long and tedious road, and can only be achieved by balancing genuine relationships and accomplishments in both the virtual and real world.