Which Are The Moments That Make You Happy?

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

Shouted Tanav, my 10 year old son.

It seemed as if whatever Deepti, my wife, was answering was falling on deaf ears..

In fact, it was worse. Every time Deepti suggested something to do to him, it was met with a loud “No!”, “No!”, “No!” and then the set of same questions came yet again:

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

The dramatic effect soared greater heights with every new iteration. Deepti’s attempt at maintaining calm was fading away. Tanav was on a roll (well, literally) on the floor, and the overall audio-visual effects accentuated the impact!

As you can guess, the situation was soon out of control.

That’s a common story at our home. Every other day these questions set come back. And, I don’t recall even once when any of the options presented by me or Deepti have been received in a welcoming way. Not once.

“Why’s that?”, I have often wondered, but never have I found a convincing answer!

But I have kept searching for the answer. They say, “What you seek is seeking you!” and I finally found the answer in an unusual way, and without even realizing it.

What happened is that I myself ended up being in a situation where I didn’t know what to do. With my life.

Deep down within myself, I ended up shouting out the same set of questions:

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

“What should I do?”

I asked friends too. And each time someone advised, I too, like the kids, was infuriated and shouted, “No!”, “No!”, “No!” and, before long, the set of same questions came yet again, and again and again.

I was trying to find what was the right thing for me to do. However, I couldn’t find any help with that!

It was yet another meanigless morning. I was struggling to even find a reason to get dressed for work. The sameness of my days was haunting me so much that I was tempted to ask myself, “Is it yesterday or today?”

I paid little heed to the words emanating from the kitchen. It was Mom, who has a habit of singing old, long lost phrases while working in the kitchen:

Kiya karo kuch kiya karo udhaed kae bhi siya karo. (Hindi)

Do Something. Anything.  Even if it means to unstitch a cloth only to stitch it again. (English translation)

Although I had hardly paid any attenton to that, but I believe that phrase had a seminal impact on my ‘decision’ in the evening.. a decision to do something.

I decided to stand for the position of President and VP-Education for our Toastmaster’s club. Something that was out of my comfort zone – a stetch goal but not an unrealistic one. I felt better. Happier.

I considered why I would be the right person for the job. How will I serve the members. I prepared a speech. (You can find the speech here!) I did this. I did that. I had a purpose. I was busy working toward that.

I understood the way out of the situation when you don’t quite know what to do. In that sutuation, no matter what anyone suggests to you- your boss, your spouse, your friend, you will never find happiness in that.

Even if.. the suggestion came with the best of intentions.

Even if.. it was the right thing for you to do.

Even if.. it was the most fun thing to do.

“Why?” you’d ask.

Well, simply because it was their decision and not yours! That’s it!

The only way out of the situation is to decide yourself. Do listen to others, but then (and don’t delay too much!), after all, decide yourself – it’s fine if that decision is impeccably right, or downright wrong. Decide to do something. Decide to not do something. But decide. And yourself.

“Why?” you’d ask again.

Because more than the coutome, you will be happier that you decided: Something. Anything. Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. Whether it will succeed or fail. It’s your’s after all. That’s why you will cherish it.

After the election process was done, I achieved my goal of being a part of the Executive committee for the club.

I reached home and shared the news, “Know what sweetheart, I am the VP-Education for this term“. Of course everyone at home cheered.

A little later, Dinky, my wife asked me, “Are you happy?

I said, “Yes I’m happy I am the VP-Education! But I’m even more happier for the moment when I decided I want to be so!

Coincidently, I held that position before as well, but that time it was just offered to me and I took it. The happiness didn’t last a day. It was all over even before it started. This time is different though. It’s my baby. I love it.

As for my real babies, I had barely finished writing this blog, when Sohana, my 5 year old daughter asked, “What should I do?”

I put my laptop aside and said “Well, as for me, I have decided to go out for a walk, may be you can decide something to do too!

Next thing I see is that Sohana and her brother are wearing their jackets and boots to step out in the chill to play in the park.

I have my script ready for times to come when this question would be asked.

Well, as for me, I have decided to ___, may be you can decide something to do too!

Only pre-requisite: Be upto something yourself too. Soon, it will rub off on them. Fill the ____ with what you have decided to do at the time. Such as:

___ : write a poem for family

___ : read Becoming by Michele Obama

___ : go for a morning walk

I thought they might be perplexed with that response. To which I would simply respond, “It’s okay sweetheart. Now Decide. Commit. Believe. Act.


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What Is Your Happiness Score?

“My boss is unnecessarily complaining about my work. It’s painful!”

“My boss asks me to do the things exactly as he wants. Why can’t he understand that I’m not him?”

“I am sitting idle since last 2 weeks since I have joined the team. I feel so unwanted!”

These are some real life dialogues from my interaction with people just last week. Many if not most people in the corporate world are unhappy with their work life. And since work life is a large part of your overall life, they’re unhappy in their life in general too!

Lot of them don’t even realize that something is going seriously wrong with them, until it is too late. They know it only when they have developed serious anxiety issues, stress or even depression.

John Lennon knew the purpose of life when he was 5 years old, and yet so many of us as mature adults keep forgetting that.

In the classroom, the teacher had asked the little John Lennon, “What do you want to be when you grow up?

His reply, “Happy!

Teacher said, “You didn’t understand my question, John.”

to which John said, “You don’t understand life, Teacher!”

Life’s purpose is to be happy. And it begins where we are at – at home and at work. We spend a considerable part of our life at work. So, we must know how we’re doing on our happiness levels and whether we need to do something about it.

With that in mind, we created a system –Your Happiness Score(TM) – and tested it as well for months! We have seen the Happiness levels increase significantly every time we use this system, consistently on a daily basis. This is based on the 5 keys to being joyful at work (French: joie de travailler):

Rate yourself on a scale of one to five on each of the following happiness keys :

  1. Freedom – If your boss wants you to do something “exactly like he wants!“, it doesn’t look like a place where you are getting enough creative freedom. Moreover, you don;t know what’s in his mind. The only way I can create something exactly like someone else wants it is when I am him. Which is usually not the case. Although reviews and feedback is alright, and is required for improving the deliverable further, but there is a thin line of difference between constructive feedback and forcing someone to being someone they are not! This thin line is quite significant to determine you happiness score.
  2. Connectedness – “Don’t speak with Gopal and if you do take me along!“, my boss says. Well, that itself is a cause for concern. Being connected to people in the team and outside too openly is important to your being. You should be able to talk to everyone without any fear, openly. You should be able to bring up the ‘elephants in the room’, without mincing words. How are you doing on these things. Are you able to discuss matters of significance with your team? Connectedness is a human needs and plays a key role in our happiness levels.
  3. Interesting Work – “Just do it because I say so!“, says your boss. Well, that’s not what makes the work meaningful for me. I want to know the reason why we’re doing it, what value am I adding to whom in the process. The bigger picture of the impact my work creates to a larger cause to the society, community or industry is what determines whether the work will be interesting to me or not.
  4. Being of use – “I am on the team for two weeks without anyone asking me to do anything!“. This is commonplace at work, and it creates a havoc in the minds of people who are sitting idle. We humans enjoy being useful and being idle only makes us feel worse. We may not believe it but it is true. If you’re sitting doing nothing, its not at all a good news. It i a serious cause for concern. Take some action if that’s the case or quit such a job. Believe me, you’d be better off.
  5. Well Balanced Life – “I come back so late that I don’t see my children during weekdays!” Well, is that worth it? I don’t think so. There is talk of the work life balance changing to work life integration, with the technology tools and changes in the work arrangements. But whatever we call it, we ought to do things other than just office work. Getting up in the morning, listening to some light music, some yoga or exercise, morning prayer with family, reading something different, attending to family functions and conferences, pursuing your hobbies, spending time with family making memories.. those things ought to be part of your life too. You can’t wait for the retirement to do all that. Life is a gift and we must live a portfolio life which is a mix of all of these things.

Well, not that you have rated yourself on 1-5 on each of the above parameters, add up your individual scores and determine your Overall Happiness Score. The maximum your Happiness Score can be is 25 and the least is 5.

If your score is between:

  • 5 – 12: Situation is alarming and you need to take some steps today. Talk to someone you trust and make a decision. It could be as drastic as moving out of the project, organization or even that career.
  • 12-18: It’s concerning but you can possible do something to increase the score. Look at the areas where you are really low and see what can be done to address those areas. Continue to do what your doing on areas where your individual scores are good.
  • 18-25: Congratulations! You’re doing well. Your life is under control. At these scores, all you have to do is manage your scores in days to come, so they don’t come down.

Some people would ask, “What about Money? Fame? Parties? .. Don’t they bring happiness?”

Well, most of these would bring instant but temporary happiness, which often leads to long term distress. Of course we need money to sustain ourselves, but beyond a certain point, money won’t add to one’s happiness. For lasting joy, one must focus on things beyond these material things.

Well, that’s what I think. What about you?

Are there any other parameters you would consider to come up with the Happiness?


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What Were You Doing Then?

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

― John Lennon

John Lennon got it right very early in his life. Above everything else we want in life – that luxury car, a dream bungalow, family trip to Hawai’i, or even an appreciation note – is our desire to reach that Destination: Happiness.

“Your days are your life in miniature”. Happy days convert into successful days which over time convert into successful life. Therefore, it is important to be happy.

Okay.. so we all want to be happy, but what does it take?

The best I used to do about it was hope that it would all work out on its own one day, perhaps praying to God would help get there faster, or may be I will need a happiness Mantra.

I did some research to see what successful people did to ensure happy days. And, I found a common theme. They didn’t leave their happiness to chance. Instead, they reflected on one question – “What was I doing when things were working out?” 

It’s so important and yet such an easy one to forget. You have to have your list to be able to repeat those things. That would multiply your chances of having happy days.

I started doing that myself and have realized that I am able to accomplish a lot more things than otherwise. I haven’t reached that destination yet – No way! But at least I am enjoying the journey.

So, here’s what I was doing when things were working out for me:

  1. I was getting up early – at 5 o’ clock!
  2. I was spending time with myself – Reflecting, Exercising, Learning, and Meditating. Everything else I did had a unique difference on days I spent time with myself!
  3. I broke down bigger problems into smaller ones – Call it WBS or lag measures. My five year old son, Tanav asked me a few weeks back, “Papa, do you do big things or small?” The question got me thinking and I replied, “I do only small things. The ones that are BIG, I break down to smaller ones. That way, I only have to do a bunch of small things that are manageable and it gives me a sense of accomplishment as I go along.” That didn’t impress him much though, and he said, “Papa, may be you should consider doing BIG things too!”  
  4. I was spending time with family“Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.”
  5. I was present in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about home while at work and about work at home.
  6. I was listening to the best of the best music. I once had a rule to listen only to music that touched my soul and settle for nothing less!
  7. I was planning for growth“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for two things, the people you meet and the books you read.” – Mark Twain.
  8. I was spending time in nature.
  9. I told stories to Tanav. Tanav has become an amazing story teller himself. I really love that because stories create such a lasting impression.
  10. I had faith. I didn’t let the day go by without laughing. I wasn’t worrying: A survey has revealed that 40 percent of things we worry about never happen; 30 percent have already happened and cannot be changed; 22 percent regards problems which are beyond our control; only eight percent of what we worry about are situations over which we have influence. So, why worry. It’s pointless!

The list is not etched in concrete, but for now, this is what it is. It will change as I mature and learn more.

It’s certainly not easy for me to follow it but one thing is certain – if I choose to follow it, I will be successful. After all, this is my personal success mantra.

So, what is your success mantra? Do you have your answer to the question, “What was I doing then?” I’ll love to hear from you.

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Don’t Look For It And You Will Find It!

This was about a month back. I had brought a new board game for children, Carrom. My nieces were over and I was excited to introduce them to the game which I used to love playing myself as a child.

But my excitement soon turned into disappointment to hear that kids had lost it’s striker somewhere. Striker is a vital part of this game, you can’t play the game without it.

I asked my niece, “Saesha, where is the striker?”

She smiled and said,“I don’t know. It is lost and we just can’t find it.”

I was furious and this was not acceptable. How could she lose something and so conveniently say she can’t find it.

I said, “Okay, so you have searched for it and can’t find it, right?

She said, “Yes!”

I said, “Okay. Then keep searching for it until you do find it!”

I soon got busy with something and about one hour later, I saw all the kids except Saesha were watching TV. I asked and they said she was still in the playroom. I went there and found Saesha still looking for the lost striker. Her eyes full of tears just waiting to come down. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “You had asked me to keep searching until I find it. I still can’t find it.”

I was ashamed of myself for being so harsh on my little sweetheart. I had to do something to make her feel better. I suddenly recalled that as kids, we used to also lose a lot of things.

I had once lost my favorite mouth organ and Mom had told me, “You can’t find it, right? Now don’t look for it and you will find it.” 

It is hard not to look for it but when I eventually did, I magically found it!

The trick worked every time and this had almost become a game for us as kids. Whenever any one lost something, we would shout, “Don’t look for it and you will find it.”

I decided to use the same trick with Saesha and told her not to look for the striker and then she would find it. At least, that brought a smile on her face. I realized that her smile was worth more than the price of any game. 

It was only a matter of time and the lost striker appeared from somewhere. The trick had worked and we cheered!

I was more surprised than Saesha that this trick worked now too! I used to believe it as a child but it was different now. I was now grown up, and had dismissed this long back as being just a coincidenceAfter all, I had become logical and rational and it was silly to think that not searching for something can have a greater chance of finding it than searching for it. That would be ridiculous and at best a nice childhood fantasy. 

But life has made me reconsider that.

Recently at work, I racked my brains trying to solve an issue. I had already spent many conscious hours on it, in vain. I was once referred to as the Troubleshooter, a title that gave me a great sense of pride. And now, I could not solve what I would classify as a Medium complexity issue. I could not digest that. But it was late and I had to call it a day.

While driving back home, I was simply looking at the skyline and enjoying nature’s mystical beauty. And Bam! The solution to that problem at work unfolded in my head so clearly and so completely. I had found the solution when I didn’t look for it! It was like Magic. 

The trick that worked when I was a child really did work now too! 

I am pretty sure others have experienced this Magic too. However, most, like me, have grown up to brush these aside as sheer coincidencesBut coincidences are God’s way of telling us He exists! 

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ― Albert Einstein, The World as I See It

I now try to be intentional about making time to forget the problems of work and life. To simply look at the sky, the trees or a flower. Whenever I do that, I get a deeper understanding of life and everything that is part of it.

If you don’t believe me, then it’s not as if trying it out for yourself will cost you something. Don’t look for it and you will find it.

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