Monday, 2 May 2011

Positive Thinking and Power of Choice – A framework for life

How many times when you ask someone, “Key chha haal khabar” do you get these answers? – “Kei chaina … khattam chha…bawaal chha…paani chaina…batti chaina…neta haru …”. I recently had such answers from one of my acquaintances. Further down our conversation my friend mentioned about his new house and forthcoming baby. Then I thought, “Hang on! My friends could have chosen to celebrate a bit more of the positive things in his life”. My friend’s initial response, by any means, is neither new nor unusual. However, it triggered further questions for me on our contemporary psyche. I attempt in this piece to pen some of them down. 

Enough have been already said and written about positive thinking – from the ancient scriptures to the contemporary management literature. The concept must have some merit to survive the millennia. There are ample writings available about the power of positive thinking in many languages. So I am not going to delve deep into it here. I will however make an attempt to analyze what I observe in the contemporary Nepali society in relation to positive thinking. It should be noted before proceeding that views expressed in this writing is a much generalized outlook.

Positive thinking is powerful. Our thoughts guide not only the words we speak but also the actions we take. If we kept on repeating “khattam chha…dess ko taalai barbaad chha…kei hune wala chaina yaha …”, we will surely be heading downhill, rapidly. On the other hand, we have a choice; choice of thinking differently. Our mood, actions and outcome might be different if we train the voice in our head to repeat something like “I am going to try my best to do this” or “I will achieve this”.

I am not ignoring the sorry state of affair of our country that has now been ongoing for decades. However, without specifically naming, we have some tremendously successful individuals and organizations in Nepal. So the evidence is there - if you try, you can do it! The chaos in the country has not prevented them from achieving what they have achieved. It is a completely different matter that had there been a favorable and stable politico-economic environment, the number of successful cases may have been higher. However, we have had a number of marvelous lotuses flower in the mud. The successful individuals and organizations also operate in the same environment the rest of the population does. No, they are not lucky. What they did differently, I think, is that instead of choosing to sit back and die the fatalistic death (lekhe po painchha, afno ta lekhekai rahena chha…and so on), these courageous bunch choose to live a life full of self belief, hard work and dedication among many other positive attributes.

Look around us and you’ll find our society full of negativism. You only need to look at the newspaper headlines, behavior of those who are supposed to lead us by example and peek at the neighborhood. I observe that majority of the population, probably for their own valid reasons, end up engulfed by a black hole of negativism compounded by the intricacies of personal life and family complication. Nation’s political insatiability is the one most of us are quick to blame. So much so that we would like to think if we fixed this we are taken care of. That may not necessarily be the case. We have seen the guards change over the past few decades a number of times now. Has it solved our problem?

Let us look at the nation’s sorry state of affair this way. What has happened in the past and what is happening now is not our individual or a particular group’s fault. There is no point self bashing or pointing finger at others. In today’s world there are numerous variables, national and global, that determine the course of action of a nation. Our next door neighbors China and India have not recently become world’s economic powerhouse on their own. Neither have our other neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan, delved deep into turmoil just because of their own domestic issues. Time, context and most importantly their policies and actions has propelled both these groups of nations where they are today.

The problems we have in Nepal today are a function of numerous variables including inherited legacy, present day leadership (including other than political) and global phenomenon. Let us not forget the role of time and context. We are in a very different world today than we were fifty years ago. As an individual, we are not going to fix all the problems we have in our country. However, we can do ourselves a favor by being accountable and responsible for our own thoughts and actions. As a matter of fact those are the only things that are in our control. Nothing else is. Instead of trying to attempt the impossible task of changing others and the whole world, why not choose to change ourselves? It may be hard but it is possible.

Problems are omnipresent. They are reality of life. They have always existed and will remain to do so. Wars, famine, natural disasters…you name it. The important question is how we look at it and how we allow it to effect us. Are we going to get depressed thinking the economic depression has hit the world so hard that there are no opportunities for us when thousands of people are loosing job every day? Are we going to be scared that if a similar earthquake that hit Japan recently hit Nepal, we all are going to die? Global financial meltdown has affected every nation and earthquake can happen anytime anywhere. Can we personally influence these attributes? No. Do we have any control over them? No. So why stress out our poor dura mater by thinking about things that we have no influence at all. However, we have influence on how we allow problems impact on us – get depressed or face the facts and get on with life. The choice is ours. It is as simple and straight forward as that.

I read a story a while ago about the power of choice and positive thinking, which goes like this. Twin boys are born in a family with an alcoholic father. When the boys became men, one of them ended up being a drunkard and the other became a doctor. When asked, the drunkard said that he always saw his father drink and beat his mum; he could not concentrate on his studies and life hence ended up being an alcoholic himself. The doctor said the same thing; always seeing his father drink and beat their mum. But he also said that becoming like his father was the last thing he wanted in his life. He wanted to be different; he wanted to become a better man. He chose to be different and he took actions to be better than his father.

I know it is difficult to think positive when you have to deal with tens of hours of daily black out, rising cost of living and ever eroding socio-cultural values. I know it is hard being in the quick sand and yet keep thinking positive. Again, we have a choice. Keep calm and think how you are going to get out of the quick sand or franticly throw hands in the air. Keeping calm may not necessarily save you from the quicksand but panic will surely sink you faster. We have lots of good things happening around us. Let’s take some time and have a look. There are certainly good things happening in our lives and in our nation.

The point I am trying to make here is that as an individuals each one of us has the direct control of only one thing - ourselves! No more, no less. Rest of the world, including family and friends, are merely the function of degree of our influence. We may influence them, but we have no control over what anyone other than ourselves does, says or thinks. If you imagine concentric circle of influence, you are the nucleus with total control. Your influence gradually diminishes with family on the first orbit, friends on the second and so on. Literally, you are the centre of the universe. Your universe.

I have here talked about a framework of life. It is something that has worked for me for quite a while. I have miserably failed to communicate if I seem to imply this is the way of life. It is only a way. As the apex race in the universe, every individual has been equipped to do one thing that no other species does better – think.

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