If anything, life is a series of choices; a flow chart of decisions, a game of snakes and ladders, the world’s most devious bhool bhulaiya (maze).
In order to avoid getting lost, we need a North Star, a Guru, an almanac.
But when we do get lost, we need inspiration; divine inspiration.
I was in a similar situation a few weeks back.
My mind was troubled by paradoxes and many of them of my own creation. Should we free our mind of pseudo-negative thoughts or should we invite a scold (I suggest reading both the blogs to understandthe paradox)? How can we keep ourselves motivated when we believe in “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana”, which says that reward is not guaranteed? Without hope for something nice can any mortal really give their best? How can we motivate ourselves to be benevolent without expecting a return (as is suggested by one of the principles of the Koenig Ethos)?
The paradoxes were unlimited and I was going crazy thinking about them.
It was in a state of stupor that I entered Starbucks last weekend hoping that a dose of Americano would do the trick; it was a hope against hope, a race against time.
Coffee in hand, eyes piercing through the sky and a surrendered mind, I prayed for an answer.
It did not take long. In a flash it dawned on me that all the paradoxes were like two sides of a coin; inseparable, equally valuable, and equally worthless. They are just the means to a goal. The goal is something else.
The goal is to grow: Keeping our minds free of negative thoughts enables 100% positive activity, but at times inviting a scold might be in our best interest even at the cost of transient negativity (as explained in my last blog). We flip between the two approaches but our goal remains constant.
To explain “Karmanya”, we let our mind focus singularly on karma (deeds). We do not get discouraged if results are not achieved as expected, but by keeping the work tempo, ultimately we are successful.
Being benevolent without expectation, by adopting a benevolent approach, we do maximum good for maximum people, majority of whom pay back which more than compensates for the few who don’t. By following this maxim we maximize returns without experiencing the hurt of the few who don’t pay back. Goal achieved once again.
However, these paradoxes play put in our day-to-day living as well. We may not notice them immediately, but we never have to look too far to find them. For instance, consider your day to day relationships.
When we’re working to maintain a relationship, we have to flip between being sensitive and thick skinned (occasional bullying is the norm in any relationship).
Imagine you’re driving a vehicle…which is that one thought, which does not leave your mind even for a nano second?
How risky would it be to drive a car being forgetful of the destination? How often do we risk our own life by loosing sight of our goals?
When trapped as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, James Stockdale had a very slim chance of getting out. But he did not lose hope, nor did he not prepare himself for the worst. By practicing what is now called the Stockdale Paradox, he was able to come out. His goal was to finally emerge free, for which he flipped between optimism and pessimism. In his words “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
How do we resolve the paradox of compassion and justice when both seem non-negotiable and mutually exclusive? The goal is the good of the maximum number of people. Compassion is good, but being compassionate to a criminal might encourage crime (quite in-compassionate to the society)…keep flipping…
Coming back to the title of this blog (Shakespear’s Hamlet). IMHO, when Hamlet was contemplating suicide the contemplation should have been whether living or dying will better serve the purpose of his life.
Keep flipping, but judiciously.
When the goal is clear, deciding the right approach becomes so easy.
Ever since this epiphany I consider myself a transformed man. I discovered how much of what I was doing everyday was actually not aligned with my goals. For example, in a meeting it is important to reach the right conclusions. On many occasions I was only trying to prove my point without hearing others out.
I sincerely believe that clarity of goal is the ultimate North Star….