A millennial software professional once fell in love with the daughter of an army colonel. After courting her for some time, he decided to meet the colonel to solicit her hand in marriage. She cautioned him” My father is very strict, please be polite with him”.

“You don’t worry” replied the boy, “I know how to make my way”.

Next day, he went to meet the colonel and entered his room with a pack of cigar as a gift.

“So, young man,” the father said, enjoying the puff of cigar, “I hear that you wish to be my son-in-law.”

“That is not true sir,” said the boy, “but if I marry your daughter, I don’t see how I can avoid it.”

It is immaterial to discuss what happened to that marriage proposal, but ironically with this attitude, most of us approach our work and the life around us.

For example, we want to enjoy a good pay package, the comfortable lifestyle that a stable job offers and all the perks around it but we are not at all at ease with the “necessary evils” that a job carries. The office politics, a difficult boss, competing colleagues and nagging subordinates. Do we really know, how to make our way?

A friend of mine, who worked with the government office, was once talking to me about the problems in his life. His primary concern was about his work life. He said “I don’t feel like going to my office, the place is really awful filled with crappy people. And my boss is such a pessimist with no joy in life. If only, I worked with a corporate, like you do, it would have been such a blessing to change my job at will.”

I asked him “Have you ever thought about this, if you get a job at a new place with a completely new setup and different bunch of people, how long will you remain happy?

The human nature will remain the same everywhere. You will face the same insecurities, jealousies and greed for power, I don’t see how you will like the new workplace for long.  

This brings me to the core idea that I want to highlight in this article today. Most of the people spend around 8 hours of their life every day at the workplace or doing professional work. How successful and content we are, does not depend much on these 8 hours but rest of the 16 hours of our daily routine and how well we spend it. If these 16 hours are largely wasted and we are not content with the life outside the workplace, chances are very high, that we will remain dissatisfied at the workplace as well.

We can verify this first-hand. Just pay a close attention to those who are highly successful in life. The high flyers who always look like winners and have risen through the ranks have one thing in common.  They have a pretty balanced life and they are using the ’16 personal hours’ very effectively.

Like in my friend’s case, his daily routine outside his work hours was to watch TV, spend time with his smartphone and gossip with others. I asked him “Do you exercise regularly and read any books”. “No, by the time I am back from work, I am too tired for it”, he replied. I found out, he was leading a completely nonproductive life in his off work hours which was directly impacting his attitude towards life and impacting his life at workplace.

I realized since his habits had been making him feel low, he had gotten into a zone where complaining about his workplace had become a source of joy for him. This reminded me of an interesting story I had heard once from someone really wise:

A young man was once recruited in the army and sent for a rigorous orientation training with a group of other new recruits. His daily routine involved running 20 KMs to the top of a nearby mountain carrying a 15 KG rucksack on his shoulders. By the time the recruits returned to the base camp, they would be terribly tired and almost always collapsed to their beds. But, they all noticed this peculiar phenomenon. When this young man removed his army boots and socks, he would always have swollen toes and ankles. He would then invariably start abusing his commanding officer and all his seniors for making his life so miserable. This would go on till he fell asleep.

His friends sympathized for his situation but were sick and tired of his daily cursing. Then, one day they found out the real reason behind his agony. The army boots he had been given were actually a size less than his normal shoe size. This would cause a terrible pain to the young man when he exerted his feet so much.

“What are you doing to yourself”, they said to him. Let’s go to the unit store and get a new pair of shoes which fits you well. With current ways, you will kill yourself very soon.

The man absolutely refused to go to the store. “This cursing and abusing are the only pleasures I have at his tiresome place”, he said. “By changing my shoes, you want to take away my solitary support. I will never allow this to happen.”

This is the common problem with our young workforce now a days. They have entrapped themselves into a cycle of negativity and are refusing to come out of it. So, what is the way to lead a positive life and be a winner in whatever we intend to accomplish in life? Here are some rules that I have learnt from my years of experience and self-reflection:  

Take control of the non-working hours and use them productively: In order to stay positive, full of energy and buoyant, it is important that we pay close attention to every hour that we have. Divide the time well, and spend minimum 2 hours on exercise/yoga/dance or any other form of rigorous physical activity. Improved confidence and self-worth are key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. Exercise, releases a chemical called endorphins in the body. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. The feeling that follows a strenuous yoga/run/workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, referred to as a “runner’s high,” goes together with a positive and energizing outlook on life.

Dedicate some time to reading everyday: Reading is therapeutic and adds a new dimension to our perception every time. I have seldom met a well-read person who is not also an interesting person.

Besides, the more information we have, the better equipped we are to handle many of life’s challenges. Reading also is an antidote to today’s fascination with multi-tasking: writing an email while keeping an eye on the phone, drinking coffee and working on the spreadsheet. This habit splits attention and hinders productivity. At the end of the day, one gets very little done.

Reading improves our focus, something that is deeply lacking in our society. Making time to read 15-30 minutes every day can improve our ability to focus and in turn helps us to be more productive.

Get an inner balance, spend some time in self-reflection: Last but not the least, at the workplace or outside, we will get to meet variety of people with their own idiosyncrasies. If we don’t have the inner peace and balance, it will be very difficult to maintain the calm and composure. It is important to create a slight distance between our inner core and the mind so that we learn to respond and not react.

Spend minimum 15-30 minutes everyday in solitude where even your own thoughts can not disturb you. Learn to be with your inner self. The peace that it will create will give you the strength to face any adversities at work place or life outside it.  

Ending today’s article with a beautiful poem by famous Sufi poet Rumi:  

“Make your last journey from this strange world 

soar for the heights where there is no more separation of you and your home,

God has created your wings not to be dormant

 as long as you are alive you must try more and more

 to use your wings to show you’re alive”.

May the true inner peace light up your path.

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Ashutosh Om

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