EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT FOR THE “PEOPLECAPPED”

Have you seen that ancient Arjun Rampal movie Aankhen, in which three blind men rob a bank?

Watch it in your free time if you haven’t, but here’s the gist – Amitabh Bachchan’s character uses these three blind guys to rob a bank. His point? No one would believe that three blind people could pull that off all on their own. He trains these guys meticulously to memorize directions, maps of buildings, location of objects and people etc. so that no one realizes they’re blind, even when they’re robbing the bank! Long story short, this is Bollywood, so they succeed, even though – plot twists – not without glitches.

Why am I talking about a Bollywood action thriller from 2002 when I’m supposed to talk about serious stuff like emotional quotient (EQ)? What’s common between Arjun Rampal and things like, say, salary negotiations or networking? Any guesses? Do I see any hands?

Well, well…not hundreds, but quite a few!

Exactly people. Surprise! Surprise! I know it too.

For those of you who’re fortunate enough to be still wondering where this is going – we are those three blind guys. We. The “peoplecapped”. People like me who’re born introverts and/or with low people skills. We’re like those three blind guys, pretending to be able to see things like everyone else. Except we can’t. We just watch others and learn.

“What’s appropriate behaviour in XYZ circumstances?”

“Why would someone think I’m rude because sometimes I read books during lunch instead of chitchatting? Only sometimes!”

“Would it be considered intrusive if I ask her where she works? Or would I be considered unfriendly if I don’t?”

These are the kind of questions we have to worry about day in and day out. At every human interaction.

We are the ones with the lowest of EQs. Our scores on life’s people skills test are like Miley Cyrus’ on the IITJEE. If she took it.

We’re the Differently People Skilled.

People + handicapped = peoplecapped.

So if I’m blind why am I talking about how to see things? ’Cause those of you who can already see can … well, already see. It’s the EQcapped/peoplecapped like myself, who have had to literally start learning how to navigate a sea of people they practically don’t understand. I’m by no means an expert. I’m an apprentice. A novice, more like. But I can tell you something – if I can learn it, you can learn it. No seriously. I’m not being humble. Those are the plain facts.

’Nuff about me. Let’s get down to business. So here are some of the very rudimentary, very basic rules of thumb I’ve learnt in my journey of life so far. If you struggle with this aspect of life like me, maybe they could help you too.

  1. Be aware, be prepared: A “why me” approach is about the worst way you can deal with a people handicap. Or with any limitation/disadvantage you face in life which is outside your control.

Plenty of people are born with partial deafness, partial blindness, diabetes, migraine, hypertension, asthma etc.

Do these conditions pose a challenge to their lives? Yes.

Can they make it go away? No.

Can they manage it? Absolutely yes. 

Likewise, the key to overcoming a people skill gap is to not deny it, not try to wish it away, but to manage it.

Be aware of the fact that if you’re an asthmatic, you probably wouldn’t become a Michael Phelps. And that doesn’t have to be – and IMHO shouldn’t be – your goal.

But can you function normally and lead a happy, fulfilling and successful life without accidentally asphyxiating yourself? Absolutely yes.

Similarly, if you’re one of those people, like me, who’re born with low people skills – sure – choosing marketing, media or corporate communications as your professional field probably isn’t the smartest move. But that’s all the limitation you face. Nothing more.

The key is to be aware and alert at every new interaction.

Some people can naturally sing and their voice wouldn’t sound out of tune even if they’re absent-mindedly humming to themselves. Others have less natural talent, and need to concentrate very hard if they have to carry a tune.

It’s exactly the same with human interactions and a low people-skilled person. You have to be extra careful every time. 

I know. “That’s all very nice but how?” You must be thinking.

  1. The rule of the pause: If I could meet my 17 year old self right now and had to give her just one rule of thumb on how to navigate the adult world, it would be this – pause.

Whenever you’re in a conversation with anyone outside your most trusted and closest people, and they say something which gives rise to some sort of emotions in you, just pause. Just take a break for a few seconds before you say anything. It could be any emotion – fear, outrage, annoyance, resentment … even happiness (this would be rare but even double rainbows happen sometimes, so…).

What keeps us safe and functional in the world – is our rationality, and emotions make us lose that for a brief moment. That moment, hence, is NEVER the right time to interact with anyone.

Let that moment pass. Give yourself time to respond. Don’t react.

I know it’s easier said than done.

If you’re like me, the first thing you’re thinking right now is, “But if I say nothing doesn’t that mean I’m accepting whatever the other person is saying? Doesn’t it mean I’m letting people walk all over me?” OK, so you don’t want people to walk all over you? You want to give it back to them in their own coin? You want to express your annoyance/disappointment/sense of stress or urgency? Sure. Do it.

Just three seconds later.

But what difference do a few seconds make? It gives time for that momentary emotion to pass. It gives you a chance at getting your rationality back. Most of the “reactions” which land us in “people issues” in professional or personal lives, are reactions which we wouldn’t have shown if had to respond to exactly the same situation an hour later.

  1. Strategic sensitivity, not aloofness: Contrary to popular belief, calibrating your response does not mean turning into a cold stone. It does not mean acting like a machine devoid of emotions. The world is populated by humans, and humans have emotions. Your coworkers/friends/family/random-guys-on-the-street know that. In fact acting stoic and aloof regardless of the situation will paint you as way “weird”er than you really are. So, no. That’s not the solution.

The answer lies using your emotions strategically.

You’re facing a tight deadline? Please, by all means feel free to show to your team members some of that stress. Create a sense of urgency. This is not only OK, but also an effective leadership trait.

But don’t make others feel so stressed that their morale and productivity suffers. Don’t make them afraid of you.

Someone’s trying to shirk responsibilities/take credit for your work/push you over at work? For God’s sake don’t act cool. Speak up. Let your bosses/team-members/whoever matters know that you’re outraged and disappointed and that you won’t take this lying down.

ppun0102But again, don’t make anyone feel your emotions are in control of you. Be the boss of your emotions. Use them to your advantage, don’t let them dictate what you do.

In other words, measure. Calibrate. Pause. Always pause.

So those were my three cents on how I’m trying to work on my non-existent EQ. What’s your recipe for me? Bring it on in the comments.

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.

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LIFE IN A CUBICLE…OR NOT: OF PURPOSE, REGRETS AND LIFE CHANGES

(Image Source: HERE )

Hello my dear readers!

It’s been a long time since we spoke last. Hope you’ve been doing great (though I also hope you’ve been missing me a bit 😉 ).

Today we talk about regrets.

When our editor, the inimitable Chiradeep da, presented us with the upcoming Candles Online blog topics a couple of weeks back, I thought the chance to talk about regrets couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Today I stand at a unique point of time in my life.

Tomorrow is my last day at work with my current employer.

“What’s so special about that?” You might think.

Nothing except tomorrow is also (what I hope to be) the last day of corporate employment in my life!

Yes, dear friends, tomorrow I become a proud career-shifter!

“That’s all very good but how is all this related to regrets?” You must be thinking.

Let’s get to that.

In case you remember almost a year back I poured my heart out to you, talking about the all-encompassing sense of ennui that had engulfed me, mainly due to things not really working out in the professional front. Life had become a “futile series of repetitive actions” to me. Meaning, fulfillment, a sense of achievement, alignment with my values – essential elements of a successful and rewarding professional life – were all missing from mine.  

To be honest, the signs had started to show at quite an early stage of my corporate career stint (Ooooh the joy of that edit!). As early as 2012-13 I was already toying with various ideas of alternative professions. I would ferret out details of illustrious alumni of my alma mater in alternative careers (i.e. non mainstream corporate/start-up) like the current director Dr. Ashish Nanda, Prof. Ravi Jagannathan, Rashmi Bansal, Sidin Vadukut etc. I had considered everything – from becoming a school teacher, to becoming a CAT/MBA coach, government servant, full time blogger… (I already took a few steps in this direction, and www.loveinindia.co.in is the result!). You name it, I’d thought about it. I considered academia too, but the 5 year gestation period in the form of PhD studies was a deal-breaker. Or so I thought. 

And then that fateful day happened. I describe a particular experience at work in my earlier article:

“That was the day I cried. I was finally at a point where I was being told my performance was not up to the mark, was allowing my basic human dignity to be taken from me in the name of performance-orientation, and was being penalized for having ethical standards.

After more than three long years of spending a disappointed, perpetually demotivated, depressed life, I had finally hit rock bottom.”

What I didn’t mention then is that that special day was also the day it suddenly struck me like an elephant in the room – academia was the only way to go for me. 5 years, 10 years… whatever the expected PhD duration, it couldn’t be worse than wasting the rest of my life in a cubicle having zero impact on the world and zero meaning to myself. Suddenly it all started to make sense.

I had never liked anything better than the pursuit of knowledge. 

Things like math and coding gave me more satisfaction than any other activity.

Everyone in my immediate and extended family is an academic. There are few people more familiar with and influenced by the academic way of life than me.

OMG! How could I not have thought of this obvious path earlier? I was going to pursue doctoral studies and eventually a career dedicated to research and teaching. It’s evident right?

Today, exactly a year from that day, do I have regrets to have wasted 5 of the most productive years of my life in cubicles being a keyboard monkey? Yes. As hard as it might be to admit that to myself.

At a deeper level, do I regret having invested time, money, and humungous pre-admission preparatory efforts in going to the top b-school of the country to earn an MBA? Absolutely yes. I’m a lover of science at heart, and doing an MBA was definitely a WRONG decision. Did I say “wrong”? Wrong!

You probably realize how challenging it was to admit those giant, weighty facts to myself when we, as a family, first took the decision that I was starting over.

It’s extremely hard to acknowledge regrets, ’cause that usually means largely irreversible suboptimal life decisions, the repercussions of which would affect us for the rest of our lives. It freaks us out. But I’ve learnt it’s important to guard against falling into the all too common vicious cycle of telling yourself lies in a vain attempt to avoid regrets. If you have made a mistake, the sooner you accept that it was a mistake, the better. If you tell yourself this was somehow “meant to be” you risk being stuck with a suboptimal life! And that’s a bad kind of forever. 

(Image Source: HERE)

I believe this was part of the reason it took me so long to accept the truth, let sunk costs be sunk costs, cut my losses and move forward. I, like most, had spent too much time trying to tell myself that I didn’t have career regrets and it’ll all somehow work out. But you can’t square a circle and you can’t teach a fish to fly.

Yes 5 (work) + 2 (B-school) years of my life were basically… umm… let me put it this way – a waste. Well apart from the life lessons, the whole coming of age coaching which 5 years of corporate (I guess any kind of) employment gives you. Oh and the road trips around Mumbai. 🙂 

But here’s the thing – I’m glad the waste is 7 years and not 37 years. It could be the latter. I could’ve accepted life as an everyday drudgery like the thousands of top MBA graduates, who, like me, realize a few years into “real life” that being a corporate high-flyer is a daily challenge, and not in the way you think. Even if you earn a ton of money, which many (not all) of us don’t, if you take into account the cost of living in the megacities where the highest paying jobs are, like Mumbai, London or the San Francisco Bay Area. Just ask any MBA who has graduated within the last 7 years.

It’s also important to be honest with yourself about which ones are your real regrets and which ones aren’t. If you make a mistake here, you might again be stuck with wrong decisions.

For a long time I thought I was just going through a “grapes are sour” syndrome professionally. Maybe I was bitter I couldn’t bag a plush day zero job? Maybe I didn’t have what it takes to become the most successful in the corporate world, like a CEO, or a partner or something? And then I tried to place myself in their shoes and asked myself, “What would I feel like if I were made a partner tomorrow and I was earning 5 crores a year?”

I really tried to picture that.

I would still die with my only achievement being probably improving the bottom-line of a few companies. Most of who sell soap. Or steel. Or software.  

“Today I die content to have helped sell a million more sachets of shampoo in India than would ever have been possible without me! Oh and I helped create the brand identity of a totally new detergent!”

Nah.

PS: Incidentally, yesterday I had coffee with the same ex-boss referred to as Bob in the last article, upon his invitation, “for old times’ sake”, before leaving Bombay for the foreseeable future. Lol. (Did I say “permanently”? Did I say “forever”? “For good”?? Boy I can hardly contain my perhaps foolhardy excitement. Goodbye isn’t always a bad word. And some goodbyes are meant to be forever. They signify happy endings. I wish my farewell to corporate employment is one of those.)

Sulagna D

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.

7 LITTLE KNOWN GOAL SETTING TRICKS

Lesson 1: The most important rule of writing your goals down is that you must follow if you want to achieve success.


Most of us already know that it is vitally important to write your goals down.The simple mechanical act of writing makes your goal visible and tangible.That’s no longer just a thought! Now it’s a commitment. But there is one rule you must follow to succeed that very few know.

It’s not enough to write your goal down…

… You have to describe it in complete detail!

Make it as specific as possible.

Compare: “I want to buy a new home” and “I want to live in a new two story gorgeous Victorian style home with 4 spacious bedrooms, luxurious living room with a fireplace and hardwood floors. I will enjoy my large backyard with swimming pool and patio…”

 “I want to make a lot of money” is not the goal. It’s just a wish.

“I want to make $10.000 monthly with my business by July 1st.” Now that’s the goal.

fountain-pen-1053697_1920After writing your goal down in complete details don’t forget to make it visible! You can write it on a yellow note and stick it on your computer. Or even better-print it so it would fit 4×6 picture frame, then frame it and put it on your desktop. You can also print it on your business card and put it in your wallet. Try to surround yourself with little reminders. This will help you to stay focused on your goal and create a clear mental image of what you want.

Lesson 2: The one question you must answer before you take action.

There is one question you must answer before you start achieving your goal. Failure to answer that question will result in lack of motivation and failure to follow the plan. Take a piece of paper and answer this question in writing:

WHY do you want to achieve your goal?question-mark-1026527_1920

No, not just because “I want”. There are reasons behind your dreams, usually dozens of them. And if you realize why you want to reach your goal, you’ll be most likely to follow your plan till the end.

For example, why would you want to lose 15 pounds in 2 months?

  •  To look good
  •  To feel good about yourself
  •  To fit in your favorite dress
  •  To impress your spouse

List every single reason. Try to imagine all the benefits. The truth is that the longer the list, the stronger your motivation will be. Read your reasons first thing in the morning. Even better, frame them and hang them on the wall. It will keep you focused and motivated.

Lesson 3: How to trick yourself to finally get started working on your goals and stay on track until the goal is accomplished.

I’ve heard this hundreds of times.

“Think Big!”

“Dream Big Dreams!”

“Make Your Goal As Big As You Can Imagine!”

run-1013729_1920So, okay… I’ve written down my BIG, almost out-of-reach goal. After all, I don’t want to underestimate myself. I know I can do this but…But often after a full day at work I’m just so exhausted…to start working on my big goal. I don’t have enough energy for BIG goals. So I make a dinner, watch TV, do the homework and think “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

But tomorrow never comes.

Every evening I’m too tired to work on my goal. Day after day I’m feeling more and guiltier. As weeks pass by I’m getting more depressed….Have you ever been in this situation? If yes, there’s a small trick that will help you to get started no matter how big your goal is. Every night write down a small task for the next day. Make it as tiny as you can. Something that would take 10-15 minutes. Let’s say your goal is to lose weight and you decided to work out every day for 30 minutes. You could write down your assignment: “Do one exercise for lower abs 10 times.”

Yes, just one exercise, just 10 times. It would take you about 3 minutes. The secret is that the most difficult thing is to get started. Once you got started you’ll 95% most likely finish the whole 30 minutes work out! Even if you just do one exercise for 10 times, it is better that nothing. You wouldn’t feel guilty and depressed  you’ve fulfilled your assignment! And if you do more you’ll feel even better! The trick is to give yourself a really small task: To make a phone call, or to read one page of a textbook. And once you get started you will actually find out that you won’t mind doing more than you planned!

Remember, set big goals, but make your tasks small.

Lesson 4: One simple yet powerful technique that drives you into action every day and helps overcome procrastination.


writing-427527_1920Unfortunately very few recognize the astonishing power of personal success journal. It takes only 10-15 minutes a 
day to write down your achievements and the tasks you’ve accomplished. But these 15 minutes a day have the power to transform all your life.

Success journal motivates you: By writing down your achievements you will be able to feel the progress. You will see how by small steps you’re moving closer and closer to your goal.

Success journal eliminates temptation: It will be easier to resist temptations since you know that you have to write down what you have done tonight.

Success journal simplifies your life: Things become much simpler when they are written down. A journal makes you more tolerant of life’s distractions.

However you should be aware of three rules of keeping a success journal:

  1. Write only what you’ve done: Don’t write what you still haven’t done and what you have to do tomorrow. List only accomplished tasks and achievements.
  2. List even small things: Everything counts! A phone call, a chapter of a textbook or your decision to pass by the chocolate cheesecake…
  3. Make it a daily habit: Don’t skip days! Even if you’re exhausted make sure you write at least 1-2 sentences in your success journal. Even if the only thing you did was thinking about your goal.

I urge you to take a notebook and start to list all your completed tasks. In 30 days you wouldn’t possibly be able to live without it.

Lesson 5: The secret formula that helps you define the perfect moment for working on your goal.

clock-1060458_1920Are you waiting for a perfect moment to work on your goal? Are you sure you will be able to recognize the perfect moment when it comes? There is one simple formula that instantly tells you the perfect time to start achieving your goal.

The perfect moment = NOW!

Yes, right now, this very second is the ONLY perfect moment to start working towards your goals. No, it’s not tomorrow or Monday or the first day of the month. Right now. Don’t waste your life waiting for a perfect conditions or perfect opportunity. They don’t exist. Use what you have, start right now, never ever procrastinate! Have you ever noticed that all the successful people are very dynamic? They don’t lie on the couch…waiting for the perfect time to start doing something. They get up and DO it. If you’re still trying to put things off and make excuses to do it later, in the next lesson you will learn how to overcome procrastination and become a person who loves the thrill of getting things done.

Lesson 6: How to stop putting things off and convert yourself from procrastinator into productive, effective person who loves the thrill of getting things done.

Are you the person who always puts things off and promises himself to do it later?

Then this technique is for you. Next time you catch yourself trying to put important tasks off, take a piece of paper and answer three simple questions.

  1. Where you are?
  2. What do you want to do?
  3. How you will feel while doing it?

While writing down what do you want to do you will already imagine yourself doing it. And it won’t be very difficult for you to get up and do it.

dreams-1015613_1920Let’s say you’ve been putting off organizing your closet. You always find more important tasks to do and it’s never enough time to clean it and put everything in place. Just sit down, take a piece of paper and begin writing: “It’s Saturday, 3:45pm. I’m sitting in the living room couch, drinking tea. I want to organize my closet. It will only take me about 1 hour and I will feel energetic and satisfied that I finally got it done. My closet will be clean, everything will be sorted and in place….” Just as you’re writing it

you feel the desire to get up and do it. Because you want your closet organized, you want to feel satisfied and you’ve already imagined yourself doing it.

Remember, all you have to do is to answer three questions. Where you are, what do you want to do, and how will you feel while doing it. It’s a very simple technique but it works like a magic!

Lesson 7: The one simple technique that will make any boring task a pure fun and increase your productivity by more than 125%!

Do you know how to turn monotonous boring task into fun? Make a game out of it!

folder-1016290_1920For example, time yourself and keep trying to improve your time. Let’s say you have to peel 20 potatoes. Challenge yourself! Set a record of how many potatoes can you peel in 3 minutes. Then try to beat your own record. Or you can time yourself to see how long it takes you to peel one apple. And beat your record again! The good thing is you will always be a winner. You can turn any boring task into fun game. Just use a little imagination! This simple trick has proven to increase productivity by more than 125%! Use it and you’ll notice that you’re getting more work done in a less amount of time.

So that’s all from my side in this edition. Enjoy your weekends, achieve your goals, and don’t forget to have fun!

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run. 

BENEFITS OF BECOMING AN EARLY RISER AND HOW TO BECOME ONE

Recently, a friend of mine asked me about my habit of waking at 4:30 a.m. each day, and asked me to write about the health benefits of rising early, which I thought was an excellent question. Unfortunately, there are none that I know of. However, there are tons of other great benefits.

BENEFITS OF RISING EARLY:

Now, let me first say that if you are a night owl, and that works for you, I think that’s great. There’s no reason to change, especially if you’re happy with it. But for me, switching from being a night owl to an early riser (and yes, it is possible) has been a godsend. It has helped me in so many ways that I’d never go back. Here are just a few:

  1. person-110303_1920Greet the day. I love being able to get up, and greet a wonderful new day. I suggest creating a morning ritual that includes saying thanks for your blessings. I’m inspired by the Dalai Lama, who said, “Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up,   I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my  energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the  benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry  or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can’.” 
  1. Amazing start. I used to start my day by jumping out of bed, late as usual, and rushing through things while being late for everything. Not a great start to your day! Now, I have a renewing morning ritual, I’ve gotten so much done before 8 a.m., and by the time everyone else gets in to work, I’ve already gotten a head start. There is no better way to start off your day than to wake early, in my experience. 
  1. woman-601568_1920Quietude. No babies crying, no quarreling, no cars, no television noise. The early morning hours are so peaceful, so quiet. It’s my favorite time of day. I truly enjoy that time of peace, that time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe. 
  1. Sunrise. People who wake, late miss one of the greatest feats of nature, repeated in full stereo-vision each and every day the rise of the sun. I love how the day slowly gets brighter, when the midnight blue turns to lighter blue, when the brilliant colors start to seep into the sky, when nature is painted in incredible colors. Sometimes I do an early morning run during this time, and I look up at the sky as I run and say to the world, “What a glorious day!” 
  1. cereal-556786_1920Breakfast. Rise early and you actually have time for breakfast. I’m told it’s one of the most important meals of the day. Without breakfast, your body is running on fumes until you are so hungry at lunchtime that you eat whatever unhealthy thing you can find. But eat breakfast, and you are sated until later. Plus, eating breakfast while reading my book and drinking my coffee in the quiet of the morning is eminently more enjoyable than shoving something down on the way to work. 
  1. running-573762_1280Exercise. There are other times to exercise besides the early morning, of course, but I’ve found that while exercising right after work is also very enjoyable, it’s also liable to be cancelled because of other things that come up. Morning exercise is virtually never cancelled. 
  1. Productivity. Mornings, for me at least, are the most productive time of day. I like to do some hardcore studying in the morning, when there are no distractions, before I check my email or website stats. I get so much more done by starting on my work in the morning. Then, when evening rolls around, I have no work that I need to do, and I can spend it with family. 
  1. goal-976853_1920Goal time. Got goals? Well, you should. And there’s no better time to review them and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing. You should have one goal that you want to accomplish this week. And every morning, you should decide what one thing you can do today to move yourself further towards that goal. And then, if possible, do that first thing in the morning. 
  1. personal-885550_1920Appointments. It’s much easier to make those early appointments on time if you get up early. Showing up late for those appointments is a bad signal to the person you’re meeting. Showing up early will impress them. Plus, you get time to prepare. 

HOW TO BECOME AN EARLY RISER

  • Don’t make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.
  • Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give in. And if it is the early rising that gives in, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to bed early, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed, or practice relaxation techniques like deep-breathing etc. for falling asleep. This way you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
  • Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If it’s far from your bed, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
  • Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My habit is to go straight to the kitchen and make a cup of tea. By the time I’ve done that, brought it to my study, sat at my desk and started drinking it, I’m awake enough to face the day.
  • Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
  • Have a good reason. Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This reason will motivate you to get up. I like to study in the morning, so that’s my reason. Also, when I’m done with that, I like to read all of your comments on my website!
  • Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. A good reward is to read a book that you want to read, after working for about 2-3 hours in the morning. I read spiritual books at this time, which fill my mind with peace and prepare me for the rest of the day. Other rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
  • Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early just to read your blogs, unless that’s a major goal of yours. Don’t wake up early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a head start on studying, working on any pending stuff, on planning for the rest of the day (when I set my daily goals), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time 6:30 rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day!

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.

REJECTION IN A RELATIONSHIP – WHAT IT MEANS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

Do you remember how you felt when you failed that math test back in 5th grade?
Or when your application for inclusion in that sports team was rejected?
Or more recently, when that job application didn’t work out?
Even more recently, when you felt rejection in your relationship as your last girlfriend dumped you?
We’ve all been there. Rejection has been, and will be, as normal a part of your (or anyone’s) life as your daily mail.
Still it hurts. Even though we’ve experienced it a hundred times, each rejection is a new wound.

no-585302_1920Rejection hurts and it’s real

What is rejection?

Rejection (in the context of a relationship – social or romantic) basically means exclusion – from a group, an interaction, information, communication or emotional intimacy. When someone deliberately excludes you from any of these, your brain tells you that you’re experiencing rejection. The psychological term for this type of rejection is Social Rejection.

Does rejection hurt? We all know it does – it feels lousy, especially in the context of a romantic relationship.

Should it hurt? Many self-help gurus and personal development books will tell you that it shouldn’t, using one or more of the following myths.

Myth #1. Happiness is a choice, not an outcome. You can choose to be happy irrespective of external circumstances.

Myth #2. You don’t need anyone’s approval in order to feel happy. The only person whose approval you need is yourself.

Myth #3. If you’re not happy alone, you’ll never be happy in a relationship.  

Truth is, that each of these has been proven as scientifically untenable through psychological research.

According to Prof. C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, of the University of Kentucky, the need to belong, or the need to have strong and fulfilling relationships is as fundamental to human nature as is the need for food and water. (Source: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/rejection.aspx)

Research establishes that it’s not only natural to experience severe mental agony as a result of rejection, but it’s also as “real” as physical pain (Source: Eisenberger, N.I. & Lieberman, M.D. (2004). Why rejection hurts: A common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 294-300, http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/WhyRejectionHurts(TICS).pdf).

no-68481_1920How to handle rejection

So does that mean there’s no way to alleviate your pain of rejection?

Fortunately, that’s not the case. You can’t wish away the pain of rejection, but you control when you feel rejected, before the pain sets in. Here are 7 proven steps to do just that.

1. Be conscious of differences – Each person in this world has a different reality. In any given situation, two people can never think or react in (exactly) the same way. No one else sees the same world as you do. Hence it’s not only possible, but in fact likely, that people will behave differently from how you expect them to behave (in other words, how you would’ve behaved if you were them) in a certain situation. This expectation-reality gap often gives rise to feelings of rejection and hurt in people. The first step to avoid unwarranted feelings of rejection is to acknowledge this difference.

2. Force yourself to think of more than one possible outcomes – The rule of thumb that I follow to avoid surprise reactions from people in any situation is, instead of having one particular expected outcome in mind, I force myself to objectively imagine at least two possible reactions, one mandatorily less positive than the other. I also try and find a few supporting reasons why each reaction could occur.

3. Have reasons for each possible outcome: Let me explain with an example. Let’s say, you’re going to ask a girl out. Don’t expect that she’ll accept (in which case you’ll feel rejected if she doesn’t), but don’t expect that she’ll reject either (in which case you might be so under-confident while asking her out that she might reject you anyway! ).

Tell yourself, “There are two possible outcomes of this situation. First, she could accept my offer because I’m a handsome, smart, fun guy (use whatever reasoning you want, but make sure you come up with at least 2-3 reasons). Second, she might also reject me because at the moment she might not be interested in dating at all, she could be already seeing someone else, or she might need different qualities in a potential date/boyfriend than the ones which I have.”

4. Be objective in your analysis: As you can see, this reasoning exercise achieves two goals. One, it forces you to visualize, objectively, both the positive and negative outcomes of any situation, thereby mentally preparing you for the negative outcome. Secondly, it also looks at the negative outcome in a way which is as objective as possible, thereby minimizing the feelings of personalization associated with the negative outcome. Notice that in this particular example, you’ve identified three possible reasons for a rejection-two of which are entirely unrelated to you or your qualities. At the same time you’re also being honest and realistic by including one possible reason which involves you. However, even in that case you’re being highly objective by rightly pointing out that it’s not about whether you and your qualities are good enough for her or not, it’s just that she might need something different from what you’ve got to offer.

5. Avoid personalization of every outcome: This brings me to one of the most important aspects of handling rejection successfully, which is totally avoiding feelings of rejection where they are unwarranted and unnecessary. Again, I’m not here to tell you that you can avoid feeling hurt by feeding yourself some distorted version of reality (in other words, some variants of “positive self-talk”). I’d only like to draw your attention to the fact that often you (and I, and most eople) interpret a situation as a rejection (your exclusion from something) when it is not. I’m talking about the common human tendency of over-personalizing negative outcomes.

Going back to the earlier example, it’s important that you recognize that any rejection in general is largely unrelated to whether you are good enough for something (or someone) or not. It only means what you’ve got to offer, and what is needed by someone (or something) are not the same. Look at it as the lid of Bottle 1 not fitting Bottle 2, simply because it’s not made for that purpose, rather than for not being “big enough”, or “small enough”.

6. Actively seek alternative connections: However, when it comes to relationships, unfortunately all possible sources of rejection are not so simple. Feelings of rejection can be caused by issues like your everyday expectations not being met by your partner, an incidence of infidelity or a real shocker like a sudden announcement by your partner of their desire to leave. In such cases it’s not possible for you to be prepared for the feelings of rejection.

It’s real.

It hurts.

And you have to deal with it.

The healthiest and quickest way to recover is to find a sense of belonging through other connections. According Prof. Eisenberger from UCLA, lead researcher in the domain of psychological research on rejection, positive interactions with people cause a definite mood boost in humans, by releasing chemicals which facilitate pleasurable reactions in the brain.   

Actively seek out friends and family if you’re going through a phase of experiencing feelings of rejection from your partner. Try to invest yourself emotionally in these relationships.

7. Reduction in emotional dependence actually strengthens love: Shift your focus from your partner. Use the pain of rejection to find other reasons to live. Pick up an old and forgotten hobby, maybe. Pursue it and connect with like-minded people.

In some time you’ll find you’re able to derive emotional nutrition from these connections. That will not only help you recuperate from your emotional hurt, but also prepare you for solving any issue at hand together with your partner in the near future.  

Am I telling you to force yourself to fall out of love with your partner? No. What I am telling you however, is to stop being emotionally needy. Remember, loving your partner and being unable to function without their emotional support are not the same thing at all. The first is healthy, while the second is not. In fact once you’ve been able to overcome your emotional needy-ness, your relationship will improve greatly as your partner finds fresh reasons to fall back in love with the new you.

Next time you face rejection (and trust me, there will be a next time, ‘cause that’s how life is) try to apply these techniques and you’ll find you’ll be way better off in handling it – channeling it constructively even – if you can do it right.

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.

THE TWO GOLDEN RULES OF HANDLING FAILURES

Handling Failures

I’m going to get to the point right off the bat here. There are two golden rules of handling failures.

Just two, basic, unassailable facts of life.

#1. NEVER EVER think of ANYTHING or ANYONE as your ONLY option

Failures cause heartbreaks whenever we fail to separate our identities (who we are) from our roles (what we have got to offer in a particular context).

Meet Abhishek. A young MBA graduate who had been fantasizing about McKinsey – the world’s most famous strategy consulting firm – ever since he joined b-school. But as life would have it, he didn’t make it through campus placements. Not even when he tried again after he’d worked in another consulting firm for a couple of years.

Naturally, he went into a depression. Based on a completely irrational understanding of the situation, of course.

Abhishek’s not alone. If you’re a professional who didn’t get that dream job – you’re not “good enough” because you’re only one of the many options your employer has.

If you’re a student rejected by some prestigious school – you’re rejected because you’re only one of the gazillions of applications they’ve received.

If you’re a man/woman turned down for a date by your crush – you’re “not interesting enough” because you’re only one of the many choices they have.

No one has rejected you as a person. No one even knows you, or is even bothered about you as an individual.

Your employer wants a brain and a pair of hands that can give them a desired level of output from a certain job role. Your dream school wants a certain minimum level of test scores, GPAs, subject-specific experience etc. – a profile. That guy/girl wants a certain height, a certain level of physical attractiveness coupled with a set of other characteristics such as career standing, intelligence, sense of humour etc.

They aren’t bothered if it’s you, or a Tom, Dick or Harry. Then why are you bothered about whether it’s Company X, university Y or individual Z, as long as your professional/educational/personal goals are fulfilled?

Personally, I don’t even like the idea of dream universities/companies/mentors/…. The moment you use the words “dream” and “employer”/ “university” in the same sentence you’re mixing emotions with practical transactions. They just don’t mix. You’re viewing someone (an employer/a target educational institution) with emotions, but the feeling isn’t mutual. Don’t bring emotions into a relationship where they won’t be reciprocated. Do not EVER set an individual – be it an organization or a human being – as your goal. Focus on setting better goals instead. Refine your objectives even further. Obtain as much clarity as possible on exactly what you want from a particular organization/human being. And then be completely agnostic to the particular organization or human being that can fulfill those requirements.

Which brings me to the second golden rule of handling failures – the Rule of the Ultimate Goal.

#2. Focus on the ultimate goal

We often get bogged down by failures to achieve intermediate goals, losing focus on our ultimate goals.

Take the Great Indian Career Goal – cracking the IIT entrance. Every year thousands of students take the entrance examination. Many of them fail to crack it. But if you ask them what exactly they want from an IIT degree, most would fail to give you a clear answer. Heck – most kids don’t even know which subject they want and use an “IIT vs Department” optimization algorithm to choose a department-IIT combination based on their ranks.

Still, let’s take Ratna – who knows she wants to go to a top 10 US university for a PhD after her IIT degree, and she has – gasps – failed to crack the JEE.

Has she really failed? No. Only one of the multiple paths to her ultimate goal stands closed, not others. If she does her research she’ll realize there are enough non-IIT engineering colleges that regularly send students into her target grad schools, provided these students score excellent GPAs, demonstrate research experience etc.

Similarly, ask yourself what is the exact set of goals (financial as well as experiential) that you’re trying to achieve when you apply for a particular job. Which other roles in other organizations can offer you the same?  You haven’t failed if you’ve failed to crack a particular interview. You’ve failed if you’ve failed to get, say, at least 2 interview calls per month based on 5 applications per week that you make. That’s how specific and objective you need to be when choosing your goals.

Those are my two cents on how I see failures, and how I try to handle them. What’s your experience? Don’t forget to share in the comments.

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.

The Positivity Scorebook: How I Handled My Struggles with Negativity

Positivity Scorebook

For many years of my life I was a self-help junkie. I loved reading the warm fuzzy positive, motivating stuff. I drew inspiration from them. I believed I could do anything if I set my mind to it. And I strived to put a positive spin on everything.

That was life as a student.

This philosophy served me well – I was quite successful throughout my academic career. I cracked every damn exam I took and got myself admitted into the choicest of schools at graduate and post-graduate levels.

And then reality happened.

As I moved through business school, my first job, my second job and marriage, I found myself growing increasingly tired of trying to find the positive in life.

My first job was about SOX and financial control.

How boring does that sound?

Enough to put out the hope in the eyes and the enthusiasm in the heart of a newbie with the country’s most sought after MBA just entering the professional world, I assure you.

My second job wasn’t much better.

Moving from a traditional mansion with a garden by a 200 acre public park in Kolkata to a one-room flat in Vakola (Mumbai) with a 6 hour running water connectivity was a shock that calls for a novel of its own.

And to top it all – my husband lost his job just before our marriage and spent two long years working for less than half the pay in his earlier job.

I could no longer ignore the sad contradiction of vowing to see everything in a positive light and having to put in so much effort to do so. Positivity started giving way to reality. The old “I can do anything” mantra felt like hollow chicanery in the face of real life which was so full of chance and things outside our control.

As I thought about life, I felt more and more convinced that the whole concept of self-help was a giant lie built around nothing.

“Failure is just a name we give to things.”

Really? What is success then?

“There are no failures, only lessons.”

If I’m supposed to feel that neutral about failure then how am I supposed to feel strongly enough about success to be motivated to pursue it?

“There are no real negative experiences. It’s only about how we look at them.”

No there’s no positive way of looking at bereavement.

No there’s no positive way of looking at a job loss which makes the very food on your plate uncertain. No it’s not the opportunity to start your own business that you were waiting for.

It got to my head. I felt hapless but smart. Thinking positive felt puerile. Thinking negative was thinking real.

I had “figured it out” – life was a divine conspiracy. A giant punishment to put us laughably puny humans in our place. To make us realize how powerless we are – funny little puppets jumping around, fighting tooth and nail to gain an iota of control on our insignificant lives, only to have a single stroke of bad luck blow our nice-looking dreams and plans into smithereens.

Life was zombified. A meaningless series of repetitive actions.

In the meantime a senior person joined as my superior in our department, along with his team which he had poached from his previous employer. Let’s call him Bob.

Bob and his team were average talents with ruthless ambition, rock-solid cohesion and no principles. Just the type you need for fantabulous business success…But I digress.

Proudly unprofessional in handling interpersonal communication because he had only ever worked with people who wouldn’t produce results unless dealt the stick, Bob would frequently lash out nastily at his subordinates, including me. His team was exceptional at office politics, backbiting and generally “doing what it takes”, which, with their talent, meant finding ingenious “shortcuts” (read ethically questionable ways) to solve every problem.

Working as part of this team was a whole new low in my already plummeting sense of well-being. Every time I saw them I felt sick to my stomach.

One day I got rudely blasted for telling the truth about something to someone instead of a lie that would’ve actually been “only commonsensical.”

That was the day I cried. I was finally at a point where I was being told my performance was not up to the mark, was allowing my basic human dignity to be taken from me in the name of performance-orientation, and was being penalized for having ethical standards.

After three long years of spending a disappointed, perpetually demotivated, depressed life, I had finally hit rock bottom.

What was I doing with my life?

I was letting my colleagues whom I didn’t respect in a job that I didn’t take seriously take over my life!

While wrestling reality to “see the positive” in everything might be foolish, why was I going out of my way to find the negative? While it’s true that life is mostly about fate, when did I start conniving with mine?

That was the day I looked into the mirror and realized somewhere along the way my thought pattern had changed from “stay real” to “find the negative”.

It turns out I wasn’t alone. In their 1998 path breaking paper “Negative Information Weighs More Heavily on the Brain: The Negativity Bias in Evaluative Categorizations” Prof. John Cacioppo and team presented scientific evidence of the “negative bias” of the human brain. “Negative information tends to influence evaluations more strongly than comparably extreme positive information,” they concluded. And that’s kind of intuitive, ’cause as cavemen our survival depended on our ability to anticipate and avoid danger. Hence it made perfect sense for our brains to evolve so as to over-emphasize “bad news”.

That was an “Aha” moment. If I’m biologically wired to think negatively, I would always be sad and demotivated if I let my thought process take its “natural course”! Why on earth was I letting every minor thing that went wrong in my life balloon into an Apocalypse?

That’s when the idea of the Positivity Scorebook struck me.

I was desperate to feel normal. I needed an emergency dose of positivity, and yet I was committed never to invent bizarre fairy tales of make-believe positivity.

In a last-ditch attempt to take control of my state of mind, I started noting every little positive event that took place in my daily life. I would also score them according to importance. To remain true to my principle of “No lying to myself”, I would do the same for negative events too.

On any given day my dairy entry would go something like this:

1. Didn’t have to wait too long to get a cab in the morning (Those of you who’ve never lived in Bombay wouldn’t know how serious this is!): +5
2. Replied to that long pending email: +7
3. Bob wasn’t in office: + 20 smile emoticon
4. Maid was absent: – 10
5. Bad traffic: – 5

You get the idea.

At the end of each day I would add up all the scores to rate the day. And soon – to my utter shock – I found most of my days ended up with a nice little positive score! I wasn’t having exceptionally horrible days at all. I was in fact having mostly normal days with a smattering of bad days in between.

This simple strategy helped me see reality for what it was. What it did was force me to see life objectively. It forced me to stop catastrophizing the negative and ignoring the positive. That’s the magic of numbers.

The Positivity Scorebook helped me find peace in the midst of an ocean of negative thoughts and disappointment without having to invent lies.

Have you ever found yourself drowning in self-created negativity? What was your fix? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Author’s Bio: Sulagna Dasgupta has been writing about self-improvement and relationships for more than 5 years. Her websitewww.loveinindia.co.inis India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog, also offering FREE unlimited anonymous relationship counselling. Her mission is to facilitate more open thinking about love & relationships in India in the long run.