We all constantly crave for better things in life – better car, better house, better food, better clothes, better college, better grades and, of course, better phones. Don’t we?
You may have the latest iPhone but the moment you hear of a new iPhone version hitting, suddenly the one in your pockets starts looking oh-so-old (even though only six-months old). Why? Because it is packed with tons of new features – the latest Snapdragon processor, finger print unlock, 108 megapixel camera with top-notch sensor for those drool-worthy, Instagrammaable photos. Sounds familiar? Well, quite.
But as humans, do we stay the same all our lives? Do we also try to become better, smarter versions of ourselves? We may have finished our formal education but are we really educated or just about literate? Now, please try to understand it -there is a huge difference between them. What are we humans born with? Are we really learning new things with time?
What exactly defines us humans?
The Chhandogya Upanishada (छांदोग्य उपनिषद) has this beautiful story of a teenager who goes to a gurukul for education and when he returns as a 24-year young adult, he is full of stories of what he learnt there – a whole lot about astrology, economy, statecraft, society and the like.
But the father is hardly impressed, “But did you learn something more abstract, invisible and untouchable, something you can’t see or feel?”
The father had a story to tell him.
“Let’s say there are two clay pots of different shapes and sizes -one can keep things fresh, while the other one keeps them cold. Now, the most important thing about these pots is the clay they are made of- the essence of clay. But you can’t see or touch or feel that essence but it remains their most important quality.”
Likewise, for us humans, our most significant possession remains our mind. You certainly can point to your head as the residence of your brain but where is the mind? You can’t see, touch or feel it? Simply because the mind is not a physical entity; rather, it is purely abstract. We are just minds only – our thoughts, attitudes, ideas, beliefs, fears, values, insecurities, dreams and complexes. Our thoughts make us as they drive us towards action. And it is our actions that determine our destiny. Period!
What happens inside this all-powerful “controller” (the mind) decides our plans and their execution. WE are our BELIEFS only. Nothing beyond! Look at the seemingly incredible feet of an amputee (Arunima Sinha) scaling major mountain peaks, which proves what a focused, powerful mind can achieve despite physical odds. So therefore, it is our mind only, which can help us changing ourselves- becoming better or worse versions of ourselves. We all know of the frail, tiny frog, who reached the top of a pole by outclassing its older, more capable fraternity simply because it didn’t hear and react to others’ taunts (It was deaf, actually!). The winning, deaf frog can hear only its inner voice – to emerge a winner while the rest listen to the onlookers.
Now similarly, we all know about that young baby elephant kept tied with a chain in a circus. It doesn’t succeed in freeing itself; rather, it gets hurt and bleeds and “learns” that it’s not possible. Later, the baby elephant turns into a full-blown adult elephant but the earlier, childhood beliefs stick. It may be strong enough now to break the chain, but it doesn’t even try to because its experiences have drilled into its mind certain beliefs about its own failings.
The result: The elephant will remain tied to the chain all its life! So is true of our perceived drawbacks, inabilities and limitations. Just think of it: How many of them are a result of your childhood conditioning?
In fact, the blockbuster movie Three Idiots was so full of messages of all kinds. Remember Raju Rastogi? The guy who had no belief in his own talent and is into all sorts of superstitions and mumbo-jumbo. Now contrast him with Rancho, the cool, supremely confident guy with so much belief in his abilities despite the opposition. We all know what he was finally achieved vis a vis Raju. Of course, Farhan was clueless about what he wanted from life.
So, if I really want to develop a better myself, first and foremost, I need to appreciate the fact that beyond this body, I am a mind. In fact, our excessive body consciousness is a major obstruction on our way to glory. I need to step aside and look at myself as a mind full of untold potential and ask myself: What do I really want to make out of this life? Only then we can I hope to train my mind in the desired direction.
And mind you, beliefs can not only change your life but can also create impact on others around you. There is this fancy name for the phenomenon – Collective Consciousness, which I have also used with my team to great effect.
Regarding human mind, I am reminded of certain people for whom the glass is always “half-full”. These half- full glasses always look at the stars and never let the twinkle in their eyes become dim. They may be up against a rock, with not even a distant hope in sight, but they always remain full – of hope, optimism, positivity and enthusiasm. Now, can you think of some such well-known people –the “incorrigible optimists”?
You can think of people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helen Keller and Bangari Mathai- all of them fit this definition perfectly well. They were all so full of – optimism, openness to future, sense of responsibility and impeccable integrity. In more recent history, we saw an amputee Arunima Sinha do something virtually inconceivable- climb the Everest. Now the very thought of doing so can send shivers down the spine of a lesser mortal but then it’s a different stuff such heroes are made of. She, too, could have wallowed in self-pity or ended her life the way many others in similar situations do. But her innate optimism did the trick for her. A word of caution here. Being optimistic does not mean that one never has a bad day or a bad mood. Rather, it implies a constant sense of hope, even in the middle of great odds. It reminds me of John Milton, who wrote his best works after having gone blind. In his classic Paradise Lost, he says that our mind is its own place and it has got the power to create a Hell in a Heaven or a Heaven in a Hell. Such is the powerful human mind!
These qualities really made them the kind of humans they were. But on the flip side, you have pessimistic, rigid, dishonest and irresponsible people. So it all boils down to – where do I want to see myself in future? The answer to this one is the key to the path your life will take.
Openness: Being open-minded is the golden gate to optimism. With an open mind, I can explore many more possibilities and avenues, which show me some light at the end of the tunnel. It ultimately makes me more positive and hopeful about my future. Here’s a case in point. You may have heard of a Mumbai builder Suraj Parmar, who ended his life simply because some politicians and government officers were harassing him. He had (hold your breath!) Rs. 3000 crore lying in his bank account. And ironically, he won the legal case after his death! And the Coffee Cafe Day founder VG Sidharth’s case is still fresh in our memory. His suicide note talks of financial difficulties and harassment at the hands of government officials. Now, think of it for a while.
Do you genuinely think they had nothing left in the world to offer even a small glimmer of hope? Did they lack enough resources for a decent life? Couldn’t they think of better alternatives to solve their problems?
Let me come to my personal story. I have been privy to quite a similar case, that of my husband, who committed suicide. And the reasons were pretty much the same- loans amounting to Rs. 60 crore, stalling of his building project, hundreds of court cases and harassment by government officials. In retrospect, I believe it was his belief system only that propelled him to a point where he began thinking that his world was crashing and there was no hope left. Had there been someone around when he gave into the suicidal impulse, he or she could have convinced him of the futility of his beliefs. And I am not saying so without reason. Look, if I, a homemaker and an absolute newcomer to this male-dominated business world, could successfully rebuild the business, repay our creditors and tackle the numerous court cases, in comparison, he was much more capable and experienced than I am. Just think of the potential possibilities he could have visualized for his business, only if he had the right beliefs ruling his mind.
Our beliefs make us, our dreams, goals, achievements and therefore, our life itself! A very interesting thing is that our beliefs can change and there is only one person who can change them – look into the mirror and you’ll see that person. Yes, you heard it right! You HAVE the power to change your beliefs, and therefore your life. In fact, we all change with time. Think of it, are you the same fellow, who you were, say 10 years ago? Certainly not! As humans, we may be born “genetically blessed” or “jinxed”, but we constantly interact with our environment and the people out there. And it is these interactions that shape and train us continuously- every single moment. Rather, I would say if you haven’t cultivated a new belief or haven’t shed an old one in the past 10 years, check your pulse. You may be dead!
As a child, I used to place great stock in a loving family. I remember, I had read a novel wherein the sick protagonist walks out on his wife and children and how they suffer as a result. Therefore, a loving husband and a happy family remained my priorities for long. In fact, I can recall telling my university friends about it, who would simply laugh. Their reaction was a given, considering that I was a gold medallist in my LLB and LLM classes. But I had a certain dreams of having a caring, loving husband and a small, happy family and that’s what I created.
But the tragedy made me change my belief system. I consciously decided to shed a particular belief and replace it with another belief. Yes, you can do that. You can change the way you think! In fact, you can choose the thoughts you’d like to enter or leave your mind. It’s entirely up to you. And I did that. Quite successfuly! I trained my mind to think in terms of “A lion needs no company”. And now, I longer missed my family and didn’t wallow in self-pity like – Oh! Am so lonely. Were I so inclined, I couldn’t have evolved a better version of myself.
As a kid, I had a great stage fear; my legs would begin to tremble. But my college hostel stay during class XI brought another problem – inability to speak English fluently like my classmates. Books proved to be a messiah for me in those troubled days. All The World Is My stage – Well, reading this one drove away all my fears, insecurities and phobias. Here too, a conscious and deliberate change of thought had done the trick. So I could see all my thoughts about inferior complex, being a small towner, having problems with English- they vanished in a second and I could see a newer, better myself – more confident and ready to take on the world.
My husband’s suicide taught me an extremely important life lesson- of minding my mind. No matter how wealthy and healthy or physically fit you are, a badly or poorly trained mind can undo everything. The tragedy hammered into my mind the supreme role of a healthy, strong, right-thinking mind for a successful, productive life. Again, I consciously trained my mind in this direction – and helped not only myself and my kids do so but also thousands of other people and brought a positive change in my own and their lives.
My love affair with books went on. And I must say they have played quite a part in my life. And now I have a strong conviction – that humans have unlimited potential. But unfortunately, our beliefs are a limiting factor in what we are actually able to achieve. I hope you remember the British athlete Roger Bannister, who became the first one to finish the mile race in less than 4 minutes in 1954. Before he did it, there was a widespread (but erroneous) belief that a sub-4 minute mile race was physiologically impossible i.e. the human body was not made for it. But Roger, a neurologist himself, challenged the notion and smashed that mental barrier forever. His record remained a record for just 46 days because soon, there was a long galaxy of athletes smashing his mile race record. Back home, there was a long-held belief a double century in an ODI was impossible. But Sachin Tendulkar did that and made history!
Watch this video
In the process of my personal evolution, the most important lesson I learnt during my entrepreneurial journey was – my team is everything. Like the Ethiopian saying goes – if tiny spiders work together, they can tame a lion. I adopted a teacher’s role everywhere. And today, my team is my biggest strength. We are what we are only due to our team. I learnt to appreciate the pivotal role they played in not only turning a misfortune into a fortune but also successfully coming up with a new, 70% biodegradable product (in replaced chemicals). So come what may, hope is the eternal flame that needs to light up our path through the toughest phases of life.
Charlie Chaplin’s case is an excellent example of how hope can give a fresh life to a suicidal man. His mother’s soothing words became the beacon of hope for him and look, where he finally ended up! Likewise, Beethoeven, the great musical genius, felt quite depressed and wanted to end his life. But a noble soul inspired him to create his great classic Ode To Joy. But possibly the greatest example of modern times is Nelson Mandela’s, who had launched a struggle against the then prevalent racial discrimination (apartheid) and was put in the Robbin Island jail for 27 years by the white-led South African government. But look at the man who never lost hope through those trying times and finally succeeded! And to top it, he didn’t have even an iota of rancour or ill-will against his captors. Such grace and forgiveness!
Rosa Parks, the gritty American woman activist, whose struggle triggered a civil rights movement in 1950s and brought about racial equality in public life, was equally driven by her beliefs. Similarly, the Padman i.e. Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a low-cost sanitary pad vending machine, was motivated by a strong personal belief to improve the lives of poor women. And lastly, the Milk Man of India Dr. Verghese Kurien, who brought about the Milk Revolution in India and helped it become the number one milk producer globally. His belief in his ideas and a desire to improve the farmers’ incomes were critical to his success.
Such is the power of human beliefs! I can vouch for it – If I could transform myself from a homemaker into a successful entrepreneur, it’s only because of my changed belief system. Your beliefs can let you climb those dream heights. So challenge yourself constantly, come out of that comfort zone, break those mental barriers and make history!