How do we measure progress? A bunch of variables, benchmarked against what is being exhibited by people around the world. We have been trained to do so! Measuring ourselves against the competition that is “Out There” is not just phenotype but is ingrained in our genes.
Our world is a relative world. The idea of which is succinctly defined in this short conversation I heard/read (consumption of content is so high, I barely remember the references)
A rich 🤑 person goes to a village and sees immense poverty. He wants to make hardships go away. So he goes ahead and asks his guide, who is a local, whether a sum of million dollars will make him happy! To which he promptly replies, yes. He then wants to know how many families reside in the area, so that he could give them each a sum of million dollars. The guide’s smile is no longer ear to ear and the glow begins to fade…..
This is not out of contempt, or jealousy which is what a lot of us might think it is. This is more deep rooted. This is because the guide is now getting serious about how others will also use their million and how his plan of taking over the entire village with his share is fading away. He is getting serious about how other might make more millions out of their one, while he might not be able to do so if he fails.
How much money we make, how happy we are, how beautiful our partners are, everything is compared in the small compartments of our brain. The entire identity of self is relative. Why do we compare though? Why are we so serious about others having it better. Why does the goal-post keep moving looking at extrenal stimuli rather than internal requirements? How does it help? And to what extent? I don’t have answers 😛 All I know is these are some good questions to ponder over and overcome on a Saturday afternoon. However, I have a relevant piece to share that might help us together to get out of this conundrum!
In his book, “The Art of Possibility” Zanders tell us that we have two selves:
The Calculating self is always in the survival mode. Trying to outpace the rest of the world in order to feel comfortable and secure. The part we don’t realise is, when we crossed the chasm from being savage animals, to becoming a more accommodating species, we tried to put this uncertainty behind us. Not everything that other’s do threatens our survival and is an attack on us. So we can be at ease and not be so reactive to all the signals being thrown at us 24×7
The Central self is a softer, brighter, and lighter version of ourselves — it’s ego-less. Instead of putting ourselves at the centre of the universe, the central self makes us more appreciative of other, what they do, what they are trying to achieve, without a hidden agenda.
It was exhilarating breaking out of the calculating character, when I recently stayed at Yol, a small town near Dharamshala for 15 days. How? It is a story for a different day! Just being away from the hustle and the grind of Banglore, Delhi, work from home and everything, also seeing a big mountain in front of you, changes the frame of mind a lot. The mountain isn’t waiting for you to come and applaud its glory! It stands tall, furious from the distance, but friendly when you try to ascend it. It shows you how important it is to let others conquer their inner fears, make them feel joyful, provide them with happiness without expecting anything in return! And how by doing so, you not only momentarily change their current state, but give them enough tid-bids to carry for the rest of their lives.
Uber point being, in this world of contantly thinking about the next level, we (or at least I) start moulding ourselves into characters. These characters abide by the role they have cast themselves into, required by the environment they function in. The frame of reference gets smaller and smaller as we continue to tread relentlessly on this path. The measurements get more intricate, the character gets more stern. We are paralysed by the fear of failure, paralysed by the shame of not achieving what others could and so continuing to be in the mould keeps on making more sense. Averse to being scorned at.
Breaking out of the mould is important. Not saying that ambition shouldn’t be built in. Without ambition, nothing gets done. We reach our limits, shatter goals only because of ambition. And that should be taken seriously. However, you should not yourself too seriously.
“I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously” Alan Rickman
What is the meaning of not taking myself too seriously? Allowing myself to be vulnerable, breaking out of the mould, the character is what it means. Imagine, Johnny Depp turning towards the screen in a movie and saying “Siddharth, hope you are enjoying this yaar. I put in too much effort.” This is excatly what is means. Being open to laughing at yourself, exposing your vulnerabilities, giving others the comfort to make a joke on you, is what helps breaking the mould. Shame resilience is something that helps. Go ahead and do your thing, live your skin. It might be pointless and foolish, but what’s the worst that can happen? The mind needs freedom to achieve its potential. Freedom comes by breaking out of charater. Explore its deepest ends and farthest corners by not measuring yourself up against some paltry parmameters.
“The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it isn’t open.” Frank Zappa
Reputation is something you control, and not the onlookers. The grandeur of the Himalayas doesn’t diminish if someone remarks from the top that view isn’t remarkable. Not everything you do risks your self-worth. Life is too short to be a serious person. Breaking out of measurement is important. Dropping the ball is important. A lot of situations are out of your control. Make a sturdy boat, prepare to protect yourself, but then flow with the river. Go where it takes, don’t try to paddle against it. Fear of making mistakes made has made people do more mistakes. Let it happen.
And like the mountain, don’t take others too seriously. Their context is different, their phenotype is different. You are not responsible to make yourself feel likable. If they like they can come along, be most welcoming. But don’t stop to listen their opinions about you! Shine your light onto others. Give everyone an A+. Be ready to take a F from them and not give a F about it.
Easier said, but needs to be done!
A graduate from BITS Pilani, class of 2019, I am currently working as a Product Manager at Flipkart. I like to write about things that get stuck in my head. By writing I make sure everyone knows what absurd thoughts I have :P Thanks for visiting.