“The world we live in is made up of different communities around us each of which has a listening of its own.”

‘Can you submit the monthly MIS report by the end of the day?’ I asked Subbu. He nodded with a synchronous ‘yes sir’. I took his affirmation for granted and didn’t check with him on the progress even once during the day. Not finding the report on my table when I was about to wind up for the day, I thought I’d check with Subbu. His colleague, who shared his intercom, answered my call saying that Subbu had left for the day. I was angry for a moment. Things could have been different. Had I been in my previous company, I wouldn’t have put up with this sort of behaviour. But being new to this company, I thought I should not mess it up and miss the lesson, if any, the incident could offer.

The next morning, the first thing I did was to summon Subbu to my cabin. As he entered my office, I found myself uttering. ‘I didn’t expect this from you Subbu!’ Despite all my conscious effort to control my emotions, the puzzled what-has-gone-wrong look on his face annoyed me even more and I could not help the rising decibel level of my voice. I had to literally remind him of the report he promised to deliver by yesterday evening. He immediately trotted out a ‘sorry sir’, which sounded the same as his ‘yes sir’ the previous day, and went on to give me an explanation. The more I persisted in making him admit his mistake, the more reasons and justifications he came up with.

In the end, I was left bemused by the incongruence between what one says and what one does, and my listening to the person altered for ever. I have translated what I heard in terms of how I would listen to the person henceforth. ‘Sorry sir’: I have got my reasons and will not mind repeating it in future; ‘I didn’t know it was important’: I don’t take whatever you say as important. When I asked, ‘then why did you say “yes” when I asked you for the report by eod?’ his reply was ‘How can I say “no” to you sir?’: I say “yes” so as not to displease you; beyond that, my “yes” doesn’t mean anything; ‘you didn’t ask for the progress later during the day’: if it is important you should follow up and not merely rely on what I say; ‘the super boss won’t ask for these reports’: nor do I take what you ask seriously, unless the super boss wants it.

You would probably remember the story of the shepherd boy who cried wolf and was devoured by his own lies. Beyond the simple moral that once a liar, always a liar or rather, always seen a liar, the deeper insight I get now is that the world listens to me in a way that I occur to them. The world we live in is made up of different communities around us, each of which has a listening of its own. And how I occur to each community will be a function of the community’s past experience with me. There are occasions I do not stand by the commitments I make to the people around; yet I expect them to believe I would stick to my promises next time around. The saying ‘what you are shouts so loudly into my ears that I cannot hear what you say’ slaps me in my face. But how can I alter the way the world listens to me? It can happen only when I establish a complete congruence between what I say and what I do. If you stand fully committed to fulfilling every expectation that arises from your spoken words, your world starts relating to you as your word. Or to put it simpler, honour your word as yourself. Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, in their book ‘The Three Laws of Performance’ have lucidly spelt out three laws that have the power to rewrite your future. Along the way, you’ll likely see and transform much of what is holding you back, both professionally and personally. Zaffron and Logan’s approach to leadership is to turn conversations upside down and dig beyond the words that are said to get to what’s really going on.

Here are their three laws that have the power to rewrite the future of your organisation:

  • How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them;
  • How a situation occurs arises in language;
  • Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.

Let’s delve a little deeper into these laws.

How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Another way of saying this is: “There’s what happens and what you make it mean.” It’s never what happens  that upsets us – it’s how we perceive what happens and how we judge what happens. It’s the conversations we have with ourselves about what that means. For example, let’s say that you’re sitting in a room and someone gets up, leaves the room and slams the door. You might think that the person left the room in anger. What happened? He left the room. The door slammed. What did you make out of it? He was angry. But see, he could have gone in a hurry to attend to something urgent or it could be anything else other than anger. And that’s where communication and perception breakdowns create a mess that no amount of skilled leadership could solve, unless you know how to manage that. The only way to change behaviour is to change the perception in the mind and the heart.

How a situation occurs arises in language. The second law is about the language we use: How the world occurs to us is a direct function of the language we use and how we view the world around us. If someone is introduced to you as a friendly person, you listen to him with great attention; if someone is introduced to you as an offensive person, you try to protect yourself from him. Thus, how we think and act is based on linguistic description – we don’t know whether a person is friendly or offensive. So if we can change our words, we can change our behavior. The best way to understand this concept is with the example from the book by Helen Keller. Helen describes how she thought with her body, how she cried without understanding the emotions behind the tears. Once she learned to communicate, a whole new world was open to her. The world literally occurred differently for her because she could now name and communicate emotions around it. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. The third rule is about focusing on the future. If one’s thinking is locked in the past, one cannot move into the future. We can think and analyze the past, but more importantly we have to think about how we will create the future. The things to build our future are very different from the past because conditions and people change. It is language that generates something new – a new future – a different experience.

The Three Laws of Performance is a not just another must-read for every leader but a book for having organisational conversations around. When the Three Laws in this book are applied, performance transforms to a level far beyond what most people think is possible and it can happen so momentarily, as individuals and organisations rewrite their future.

For Further Reading:

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.


“Bogged down by deadlines? Stressed out at work? We let you on to the biggest secrets of beating those blues!”

Job stress is something that bothers a large cross section of people. An interesting perspective to deal with it would be by acceptance, rather than avoiding it. Yes! Accept the fact that we all have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, appointments to make and approvals of numerous projects on the anvil. The most unfortunate limitation is time. Better time management is always possible with a few tweaks inside our brains. Just as the decision of our mind always directs the sleight of our hand in making the most of buffet dinners, conquer the workplace just as you would conquer the buffet dinner!

Here are some tips to keep the blues away:

  • Cheer up

It is an absolute necessity to have a pleasant mind that is relaxed, tension free and ready to take on the task head on. When you get to the workplace, always do the basics right. Smile and greet the colleagues sincerely, sit and take a few long breaths, preferably with eyes closed. Practitioners of yoga tell us that the breathing pattern largely contributes to the state of mind. Why not start off with all that is nice and calm?

  • Plan it, pen it

The first hour of work is for planning. Most high performing companies warm up the first hour by having a meeting together to form the day’s agenda and penning it down to ensure that everybody is synchronized on the same page. Whichever field of work, sharing of vital information and forming that synergy? Will pretty much clear unnecessary stress. If you work alone, the first hour could be the focal point of planning.

  • Picture and Prioritise

The brain retains and retrieves far better information without stress with an imaginative picturisation. There are a plethora of online ‘mind mapping’ tools available for free. Even on a piece of paper, draw a flowchart of ideas that flow when you think of problems to a solution. Awaken the creative instincts and lateral thinking intelligence in you. Stress is often defined as the reaction produced by the mind’s inability to solve problems. Lateral thinking builds new bridges to avoid stress arising from beating around the bush.

Success comes knocking and all stress vanishes when you prioritise the right way. Do not proceed to read every top headline or breaking news. Do not check your personal mail and proceed to view the ‘inspiring’ presentation or the wonderful ‘never to be missed’ Youtube uploads on Facebook. You may ‘like’ doing them, but remember that the human brain is super charged up and efficient in the mornings post breakfast. This time is an ideal boon for hi-fi productivity. The routine time killers as the above, if avoided, will save at least one to two hours of work time.

  • Promises and compromises

After you prioritise, the ongoing workflow should follow the desired path, and failed promises will disrupt the flow of work and induce enormous guilt-fuelled stress and coping mechanisms. Why promise when you cannot deliver? With the limited resources at hand, do not take up responsibilities that you cannot meet.

It is a necessity to compromise too, sometimes. The mind could sometimes relentlessly pursue perfection in many things. Except for critical situations, most everyday chores that take up time to do are best done quicker to sufficient accuracy than hitting the bull’s eye. Remember, your brain is needed elsewhere for better things!

  • Condition and control

Every breath you take and every move you make are all vulnerable to be conditioned in a certain way. The way one reacts to a certain stimulus, the mind’s temper and attitude could also be a reason for the unwanted stress that one accumulates at the work place. Condition the place where you work to be airy, with plenty of natural sunlight. Play some soothing instrumental music at low volume for a while. Drinking lots of water, avoiding stress induced overeating, cutting down on caffeine and avoiding smoking would reduce work time stress to surprising levels.

Deep inside, our minds are enormously calm and serene. Our brains can handle far better amounts of work if negative and destructive thinking is avoided. Learning to be busy with the right things to do will kill the cancerous negativities that are the foremost inducers of unwanted stress. Think positively and clearly: you can handle it! Meet any challenge, head on.

  • Play!

Leading an engaging life outside the office cubicles is what shapes up and chisels one’s personality to greater strengths. Make new Friends (not on Facebook!), reduce television and other mundane pastime activities and get moving. It may sound clichéd but it is so true that learning a new language, playing a musical instrument or going cycling or trekking blesses one with pleasant breaks from work-related thoughts and thereby relaxes the whole system, making you ready to take on newer and fresher challenges at work. Not to mention the confidence boost that comes added with it. Above all, learn to smile at problems rather than getting fidgety and worked up. Saint Thiruvalluvar has aptly crunched it in the Thirukkural: There is no better way to handle problems, than smiling at it. This positive attitude is the best way to be!


“While the civil society strives hard to remove corruption in governance, a private corporate organisation tells us how it has managed to run a corruption-free business for years together.”

Honesty is not the best policy, it is the only policy. These are the words of Suresh Hundre, Managing Director of the Belgaum-based Polyhydron, which manufactures hydraulic equipments. Polyhydron has been known for successfully running an ethical and corruption-free business for more than two decades. It clearly wasn’t a case where the company was into ethical business right from its inception. The company had indulged in bribery, but an incident transformed its outlook towards running an ethical business.

Hundre traces the story of the transition, “I was to pay taxes amounting to Rs. 11,340 in 1983. To save the tax, we indulged in mischief. It ended up badly. In 1985, a tax official found out that we were guilty.”

A case was filed for tax evasion. Hundre’s wife was also involved in the business and she had to frequently appear in court. The complications increased manifold. It was then that a thought struck Hundre, “Was this even worth it?” The incident shook him, and he resolved to run a purely ethical business. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Polyhdron became a subject of study when it came to business ethics. In a paper titled ‘Resisting Bureaucratic Corruption,’ S. Ramakrishna Velamuri, Associate Professor, China Europe International Business School, and Marc Sosna, Research Assistant, IESE Business School, Spain, studied the approaches that Hundre took towards making his business corruption-free.

Immediately after the tax evasion case, Hundre started paying taxes meticulously and changing old business practices with clients and other stakeholders. While earlier they used to sell materials without bills, this practice was stopped and they started accounting for every transaction. With this, dealing in black money (cash income that has not been declared to the tax authorities) was brought to a stop.

“I did face many issues when it came to dealing with cor­rupt government officials, but I openly and explicitly declared that I would not pay any bribe, whoever that maybe and for whatever reason.”

In the world of business, where bribes and black money are common, Hundre chose to be different, but the path wasn’t easy. He had to deal with many people who would not do business until a bribe was offered. So, how did he deal with that situation?

Hundre says, “I did face many issues when it came to dealing with corrupt government officials, but I openly and explicitly declared that I would not pay any bribe, whoever that maybe and for whatever reason.” He remembers a tough situation he faced on his challenging anti-corruption mission, “Once, I had to get electricity supply and the official told me he would not sanction it until I bribed him. I stood my ground and refused to give any money. I had to battle it out, and this continued for a long time. Eventually, I succeeded, after many visits to Vidhana Soudha and a couple of meetings with the Chief Minister. Finally, the official was transferred. Such people should not be spared,” he says.

That wasn’t the end, though, for Hundre. The fight against corruption was a tough challenge, but he did not give up on his ideologies. “People pay bribes because they make black money. They become weak when they start cheating the government,” he says.

After many experiences in dealing with officers who wanted bribes, he developed a great quality – patience. “Persistence helped me gather strength and all these incidents made me a stronger person,” he says.

Hundre describes his attitude as follows, “If I do not know some law, how can I be right? I may be wrong, but that doesn’t matter – whatever I know I should be able to manage as per the requirement, and I came to the conclusion that if you are 60% right, nobody can touch you, because the government officers are not knowledgeable of even 50% of the law. This was the thumb rule I made for myself, and I told my managers that whatever happens they must maintain this – there is no alternative and we are not going to bribe anybody from now on.”

This decision was the first step on a long and difficult road to become a company known for its resistance to corruption.

Hundre also created new policies for his companies. He says, “I can list more than 30 things that are followed by most of the organisations, but not by us.” For one, the company does not bribe anyone. There is no AC in his room. There are no lights or fans in his office. The buildings are cellular blocks resembling a close-looped honeycomb and ordered in concentric circles, indicating coordination rather than hierarchy. Most of the walls have large glass windows to enable a clear view of the surroundings and to provide air and light.

“Recently, a Netherlands-based company was looking for a supplier, and two companies were shortlisted, ours from India and the other from China. We bagged the project. They chose us because they wanted to deal with people who did ethical business.”

Transparency is the core of the organisation. There are no supervisors to overlook the work of employees.

Hundre pays Rs. 50,000 per hour as tax. “Today, I get my income tax returns in crores without even going to the tax office,” he explains.

Till last year, Hundre was the highest tax-paying businessman in Belgaum. “This was revealed to me by the IT official,” he says.

Hundre also brought in the concept of wealth sharing. He says, “We first calculate the wealth created and then we share 30% with employees, 5% with shareholders, 1% with society and the balance 64% remains in the business for growth. Of course, this is all after paying corporate tax as per existing rules.”

This enhanced the productivity of the employees and there has been no labour turnover. The productivity was Rs. 35 lakh per person per year last year. Hundre is looking at productivity to be Rs. 40 lakh per employee this year and Rs. 45 lakh the year after.

Also, the company has consistently given 100% bonus in the last 5 years.

Last year, the company made a turnover of Rs. 76 crore. “This year, we aim to make Rs. 86 crore and Rs. 100 crore in the following year,” says Hundre.

His anti-corruption policy in both business and personal life has given him peace of mind. His ideologies were a huge boost to the business as well. He says, “Recently, a Netherlands-based company was looking for a supplier, and two companies were shortlisted, ours from India and the other from China. We bagged the project. They chose us because they wanted to deal with people who did ethical business and we are well known for doing business in the right way. This year, we exported 40% of our goods to China.”

He adds, “Our ethics and honesty are now paying off with respect to business.” Hundre, sure is a happy businessman.

When organisations are busy planning their tax, Hundre leaves those thoughts behind. “There is no tax planning, we plan to pay tax,” says Hundre.

The company had successfully adapted and implemented its own versions of Just-In-Time (JIT) production, the Kanban Card System, Kaizen, Enterprise Resource Planning and other innovative management practices.

In addition, the company has built a meditation centre where the employees can meditate before they start work. The meditation centre has a collection of books on spirituality, religion and the art of good living. The company has built a facility for the employees to perform yoga and has a good gymnasium. The company won the President’s Awards (National Confederation of Small Scale Industries – Small Industries Management Association) for excellence in management instituted by the National Confederation of Small Scale Industry in Chennai in 1992.

This year, Polyhydron successfully completed 25 years of corruption-free business. A reason indeed to celebrate the resistance to corruption and for sending out a message that business and ethics can go hand in hand with each other! Corporate world, are you listening?


 

“Many a time, we wear a smile even when our heart frowns in disapproval. Perhaps, communicating what we really feel could help handle the situation better.”

Let me start with a small episode that is supposed to be a joke: A passenger on the hind seat of the cab touched the driver from behind to ask him to stop. The driver screamed, lost control, nearly hit a bus, went upon the footpath and stopped close to a shop window. For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said, “Look, don’t ever do that again. You scared me so much!” The passenger apologised and said, “I didn’t realise that a little tap on your back would scare you so much!” The driver replied, “Sorry, it’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. I’ve been driving a van carrying dead bodies for the last 20 years.”

How funny is that? Frankly, I did not find it funny enough, maybe I have a poor sense of humour. But I was rather caught up in a chain of thoughts. What struck me was the driver’s awareness of the cause of his behaviour. If he was not aware of what caused the panic in him, he would have gone on to find something external to him to rationalise his erratic behaviour so that he does not have to feel bad about it. Let me explain. For instance, if he were to think something like, “why are these passengers so insensible and don’t they know that distracting the driver while driving can turn out to be disastrous?” then he would not have felt anything abnormal about his behaviour and would have happily(?)continued with the same behaviour.

Don’t we often do it? We can recall at least one situation in which we did something and then said to ourselves, “Why did I do that?” These situations may arise because we are not aware of ourselves – our patterns of behaviour and the underlying emotions. Becoming aware of and recognising patterns of responses to various situations is one of the prerequisites to having some control over reactions and increasing self-directedness. One of the first and most basic steps for raising our emotional quotient (EQ) is to identify our feelings by name. The first step towards emotional literacy, according to Mayer and Salovey is “the capacity to perceive and to express feelings. Emotional intelligence cannot begin without this first step.”

The purpose of developing our emotional literacy is to precisely identify and communicate our feelings. When we do this, we are helping Nature fulfil its design for our feelings. Thankfully, we have a plentiful vocabulary with which to describe and identify our emotions. But unfortunately, most of us are never taught to make full use of this rich vocabulary.

A good place to start is with simple, three-word sentences such as these: ‘I feel sad. I feel motivated. I feel offended. I feel appreciated. I feel hurt. I feel disrespected’. Sometimes just by naming a feeling, we begin to actually feel the feeling. It is, as if by naming it we give the brain permission to access the emotional part of the brain. This step of identifying the feeling by name is essential to a high development of one’s innate emotional processing abilities. Feeling words not only express a feeling, but they also express the intensity of the feeling. By expressing intensity, they communicate the degree to which our needs are being met and our values and beliefs are being upheld.

Often, it is socially unacceptable to directly express certain emotions. We are too afraid of offending others or appearing unhappy. Sadly, we live in a world where appearances matter more than reality. So instead of truthfully expressing our feelings clearly and directly, we express the same emotions indirectly, either through our actions or our body language. Sometimes we actually outright lie about our feelings. When we start to hide our feelings, lie about them, or tell people only what we think they want to hear, we impede communication and distort reality.

Let me share with you some of the ways in which we miscommunication our feelings:

Masking Our Real Feelings: There are many ways we mask our real feelings. I know it is a plain lie, when I, at times, say I am fine, though I am obviously irritated, worried or stressed. Sometimes, we intentionally or unintentionally substitute one feeling for another. For example, if I say “I hope I don’t fail”, I might actually be feeling afraid that I will!

Inconsistency: Often, our tone of voice or our body language contradicts the words we are saying. None of us can totally hide our true feelings, but many of us do try to disguise our voices to go along with the act. People who are especially superficial even adopt the cosmetic voices like TV actors in order to further conform to societal expectations and further mask their true feelings.

Overuse: One of the ways we corrupt language is to overuse a word. Consider the word “love.” We love corn soup, cricket, and our mothers. Doesn’t it seem that we should use a different word for the way we feel about our parents as opposed to food?

Exaggeration: When we exaggerate our feelings we are lying in order to get attention. People who need to exaggerate have had their feelings neglected for so long, they have resorted to dramatisation to be noticed and cared about. Unfortunately, when they send out false signals, they alienate people and risk becoming like the boy who cried wolf. As the story goes, because he sent out too many false alarms, he was ignored when he truly needed help. Consider these exclamations, none of which are typically true in a literal sense: ‘I feel devastated; I feel decimated; I felt run over by a truck etc’.

Minimisation: Many people minimise their feelings, particularly when they are upset, worried or depressed. They use expressions such as: ‘I’m fine. I’ll be alright. I’m okay, don’t worry about me. There is nothing wrong’.

Indirect Communication: Because we are not skilled at directly expressing our feelings, we often use indirect communication of our emotions such as by using examples, figures of speech, and non-verbal communication. Let’s look at a few of these forms of indirect communication.

Using sentences that begin with “I feel like…” may be the most common form of communicating our feelings. The literal result is that we often feel like labels, thoughts, and behaviours, as we can see below:

I feel like (a label) – I feel like: … an idiot … a baby … a failure

I feel like (a thought) – I feel like: you are crazy. I feel like it was wrong. I feel like he is going to win.

I feel like (behaviour) – I feel like: … strangling him … shooting him … wringing his neck … teaching him a lesson … quitting … giving up … jumping off of a cliff.

We typically use lot of such expressions, which actually camouflage our feelings and when we use them we don’t get in touch with our feelings.

Non-verbal Communication: Studies show that up to 90% of our communication is non-verbal. When we communicate non-verbally our bodies are literally expressing themselves. For example, we think of those who will not look us in the eyes as untrustworthy, dishonest, afraid or insecure. Our eyes have the power to judge, to attract, and to frighten. Through our eyes we can show interest, boredom, disbelief, surprise, terror, disgust, approval and disapproval. Our faces often express what we are not saying verbally. Our lips may tremble when we are afraid. Our forehead wrinkles when we are concerned or confused. And when people tap their fingers or feet they are usually feeling impatient.

After we learn to find the right word for our feeling and its intensity, the next step is explaining why we feel what we feel. At this point, our analytical brain is called into action. We actually make things much easier for ourselves and others when our language is clear, direct and precise. When what we say is consistent with the non-verbal cues we unconsciously send out, we gain respect because we come across to others as a person of integrity. Clear, truthful communication is not only helpful in personal relationships, but also essential to a society. We will simply be much better off, when we all follow the good old rule: Say what you mean and mean what you say.

For further reading:

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

 


A break in your career might actually be a blessing in disguise. It can give you the time to know yourself better and to align your future accordingly.

“Life will always be to a large extent what we ourselves make it” —Samuel Smiles

People may be unemployed at different points in their lives for a wide variety of reasons. This state could be at the start of a career, a repeated phenomenon, mid-career after a long stretch of work or even after retirement. Career gaps can be experienced by job hopefuls as disappointing, frustrating, depressing, irritating, shameful and demotivating. Very often, in this context, they believe the career gap happens because of reasons that are completely beyond their control – slow economy, lack of opportunities in a particular field, corruption, favoritism…. Some see themselves as inadequate, a failure or simply unlucky. This is negative and defensive thinking. Every thought we think is creating our future and whatever we voice, we begin to attract. So, where does such thinking lead one!

“I’m never going to get a good job,” Mohan repeatedly tells himself as he prepares his resume and application. “My mother is right; I’ll never amount to much.” he says. Distracted, he thinks about yet another interview he has to face the next week. “All this is purposeless!” he mutters to himself. “I bet this too will be like all the others!” These thoughts, words and behavior stem from Mohan’s perception of himself. We all have a mental picture of who we are, how we look, what we are good at and what our weaknesses might be. We develop this picture over time, starting from when we are young. Self-image is the term used to refer to one’s mental picture of oneself, and is based on interactions with other people and personal life experiences. This mental picture contributes to our perception of ourselves, others and the situation we are in. Our self-image depends on how much we feel valued, loved, accepted, and thought well off by others — and how much we value, love, and accept ourselves. People with a healthy self-image feel good about themselves, appreciate their own worth and take pride in their abilities, skills and accomplishments. They have confidence, reach out for new challenges and are winners. People with an unhealthy self-image imagine that no one likes them or accepts them, or that they cannot do well in anything. Hence they do not set appropriate goals or do not reach them. They blame themselves or others when things go wrong, instead of learning from the event and moving on. This causes them to be unhappy and insecure.

May 2011(1)

This perception develops throughout our lives based on our experiences with different people and activities. The way we were treated by our immediate family and the people who were close to us in childhood can have a significant impact on our self-image. Probable reasons for low self-image include negative experience with family members early in life, being teased by friends or teachers on a regular basis and so on. We can also develop a poor self-image by modelling our parents, as they often pass on their fears and emotional difficulties without even noticing it.

The good news is that self-image can change over time. So if you feel that you are suffering from an unhealthy self-image, you can take steps to change it. The first step is to understand your perception of yourself and others. To facilitate this review, let’s play “A day in the life of …. YOU”

Read the instructions given below – then sit back, uncross your arms and legs, shut your eyes and follow the instructions.

  • Video the past 24 hours of your life on your mind’s video-recorder. Start it yesterday when you woke up. Film the events (at home, with friends, at work or job hunting) of the morning … take it through lunchtime … the afternoon … the evening … night. Notice what happens when you prepare to sleep … what was your thought when you woke up today.
  • Now rewind the video super-fast before moving to the next instruction.
  • Review your video to intuitively create a ‘blob’ on the grid given below. The position and size of the blob represents the proportion of time you spent feeling each of the four ways described in the grid.

Were the past 24 hours typical?

The blob you have drawn probably covers all four quadrants to different extents. However, do you find yourself more frequently in one of the quadrants, particularly in stress situations?

From each of these quadrants, we see the world in different ways and hence we act differently. At any given moment we are in one of these ‘life positions’ holding corresponding views of ourselves, others and life in general. Our attitude and behaviour from each position is shown in Figures 1–3.

To help you understand yourself in the context of the career gap and to get in touch with the voice in your mind, answer the following questions.

  • What do you think of your qualities, abilities, skills and education?
  • What are your thoughts of employers/interviewers?
  • What are your beliefs about the career context you are in?
  • Are you looking for a specific type of job? Why?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is no probability of finding a job) where do you place yourself?
  • What are your thoughts after an unsuccessful interview?

On the basis of the answers to the above questions and the quadrant which you are in predominantly, you can decide where you want to move to.

This shift can be made at two levels. At the conscious level, doing things indicative of accepting yourself as you are and also accepting others as they are. Inviting the unconscious to release the current self-image and form a new pattern by repeating the following affirmations at least 10 times each day.

“I love and approve of myself. I trust the process of life. I am happy and peaceful.”

Here are a few things that you can do right away, everyday, to enhance your self-image and shift to the ‘I am OK, you are OK’ quadrant:

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Accept yourself for who you are

No one is perfect. Instead of thinking about what you are lacking, consider what is unique about you. An easy way to do this is to maintain a ‘golden book’. Each night, review the day and write down all your good qualities you have used through the day. Also list all the positive recognition you received from others – from a smile to specific compliments. Writing uses the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic channels and thus enhances intake.

Face your fears

Fears can be real or imagined. Real fears have a protective function and they send signals that you need to expand your resources and strategies to deal with your situation and get what you want in life. Two most common imagined fears are the twin evils of failure and rejection. Such fears are paralyzing. These fears are intensified by obsessing on the worst-case scenarios. Imagined fears are time and energy consuming, and tend to hold you back from achieving your goals. A good way to overcome this is to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. The book by Susan Jeffers with this title gives specific techniques to do this.

Learn from your failures

Do not take failures or rejections too seriously. It is not the end of the world if you fail. Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Think back to the time you learnt to ride a bicycle. You probably fell several times, but with each fall, you got up and brushed off the dust. Before you knew it, you became pretty good at it. The same applies here. Initially, you have to work on your skills to overcome your failures. Redefine and reframe it in your mind to lessen the negative emotional impact and the fear. Regard failure as feedback. Learn, change and move on.

Forget about things that are beyond your control

Being preoccupied with things in life that you cannot control (such as the weather, the traffic, other people’s attitudes and problems, etc.) will stress you out. You can relieve yourself of a lot of stress by letting go of these unnecessary worries. Rather, shift your attention to things that you can take charge of. Perhaps you cannot control some situations, but you can control your own response to it and how you want it to affect you for the rest of your life.

Prepare for the career you look forward to

  • What do you know about the position you are aiming for?
  • What are your reasons for this choice? (Hopefully, it is not remuneration or saleability in the marriage market!)
  • What type of work will you are required to do in that position?
  • What type of competencies, knowledge, skills and experiences will you need to be considered for that position?
  • Do you have these competencies, knowledge, skills and experiences?

You should be able to write the answers to these questions quite easily if you have done sufficient research about the position or job you desire. If you are having difficulty answering these questions then it is time to do a bit of research. Collecting first-hand information from several sources about your new position is an important initial step, so go back and spend some time on it if you have not already done so.

Try new things

“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” — Richard Bach Experiment with different activities that will help you get in touch with your talents and take pride in new skills you develop. Feeling good about yourself can be especially difficult when you are having a difficult time, or when others are overly critical. Do not let this prevent you from building a positive self-esteem. Look for support from friends or loved ones, or speak to a professional who can talk you through your challenges and feelings. Finally, lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and do things you enjoy. Appreciate yourself for your achievements and remember to think positively.


“De-roling yourself from that temporary anger or disappointment could make life much easier for you and for others.”

“Bharath, please come out of the role! You are not the salesman anymore. You are Bharath attending this training course!” thundered Himanshu Choudhri standing right in front of me. Momentarily, I realized that the angry salesman was still in me, holding some grudge against his boss, i.e., my co-participant Jacob, who played the sales manager’s role in a five minute role-play session. When Himanshu’s words struck my ears, I shook my head and laughed at myself. I rose from my seat, went and deliberately shook hands with Jacob. By this, Himanshu had demonstrated how important it is to de-role the participants after a ‘role-play’ session. Role-play, as you may be aware, is an experiential learning method where a set of participants are asked to enact certain preassigned roles in a given situation and post role-play, the debriefing is done to dissect the experience and bring the learning out of the exercise. By ‘de-roling’, the trainer brings the role-players back to their seats as learners without getting stuck with the temporary roles they had assumed in the role-play.

Role-trapping

But I was left with a bigger learning that day. I realized that even a few minutes of playing an artificial role can affect us emotionally and unless we consciously try and come out, it can have a lasting effect on us, without our being aware of it. This being the case, what could be the impact of the incidents we go through day in and day out, where we get emotionally involved? I realized that this de-rolling has a larger connotation beyond role-play and can significantly help in understanding and altering our mood swings in our real lives.

Become conscious

Some evenings, when I return home after work, I feel completely drained for no specific reason. I used to assume that my mood swings were like climate changes and could get cloudy at times. But when I started making a conscious search for the root cause of such mood swings, most often it would be a trivial incident or even a momentary gesture by some stranger that would have played the spoilsport. For instance, if I did not heed the incessant honking of an impatient car driver, who wouldn’t wait for the signal to turn green, I need not necessarily have to be bothered about his rude gestures. But I did and that showed up in my mood.

How do we de-role?

As we live our day out, we take upon us different roles at different times with different people – some roles for a short while, some endure longer and some are for a lifetime. As we move from one role to another, we often are still left with the emotional after-effects of the previous role. The residues of a yelling boss or an irate customer may remain long beyond the event and may be draining all our mental and physical energies. How do we get out of the small mole before they turn into big mountains in our minds? When it comes to this kind of small stuff, do not go to big gurus who will talk big stuff like yoga, meditation and so on but listen instead to the master of Small Stuff, Richard Carlson. I have always admired the simplicity of his approach and his two-pagers running to hundred give practical ways to get over the small stuff. Here are a few from his hundred that can help you de-role yourself out of the small stuff.

Hundred years from now

The fact that a hundred years from now we will all be gone from this planet can add a great deal of perspective to our lives. What if someone acted a little unkindly towards you or if you had to listen to some unwanted advice? How would it matter a hundred years from now?

Choose your battles wisely

There will be occasions when you will want or need to argue, confront or fight for something you believe in. Many people, however, turn their lives into a series of battles by arguing and fighting over practically everything. There will always be people who disagree with you and people who do things differently. Is it really important for you to prove to everyone that you are right and they are wrong? A more peaceful way is to choose consciously which battles are worth fighting for and which are better left alone.

Lighten up

These days, almost all of us seem to be too serious and uptight about almost everything – being stuck in traffic, witnessing someone look at us wrongly or say the wrong thing, waiting in line and so on. The root of it is our unwillingness to accept life as being different, in any way, from our expectations. We spend our lives wanting things, people and events to be just the way we want them to be – and when they are not, we fight and suffer. A good exercise is to try to approach every single day without expectations. Do not expect people to be friendly. When they are not, you won’t be bothered. If they are, you will be surprised.

Drop the ball

If someone throws the ball at you, you don’t have to catch it. It is a normal tendency when someone throws you a concern, you must catch it and respond. You need to remember that you have a choice. Answering a phone when you are really busy is a form of catching the ball. By answering the phone, you are willingly taking part in an interaction you may not have time or energy for at that point in time. By choosing not to answer the phone, you are taking responsibility for your own peace of mind. The same idea applies to being insulted or criticized. When someone throws an idea or comment in your direction, you can catch it and feel hurt, or you can drop it and go on your way. The next time you find yourself emotionally entrapped, tell yourself, ‘hey, come out of the role!’