My New Year Fuck-its

There’s a new framework in town for the notorious new-year resolutions – the new year fuck-its.

Just stumbled upon an inspired blogpost that inverses the concept of resolutions from serious things that I will do to serious things I won’t do. Doesn’t that instantly ease the pressure off? Instead of abandoning resolutions altogether, why not explore a more positive concept (namely, fuck-it) and make it work for you. Always enthusiastic about such psychological trials, I’ve decided to give it a shot. So here goes:

My New Year Fuck-its:

1) I will not care about doing everything right, as long as I can do some things right. I heard of this phenomenon all my life; yet fell straight into the trap of classic adult-woman expecting to be awesome at everything – keeping that body, excelling at work and homemaking, etcetera. 2013 from that perspective had me looking like the duck that keeps bobbing up and down to keep afloat. And I say, having it all is not all that it’s quacked up to be. I’ve now decided women who say they have it all are lying. What they do have is the ability to choose and make peace with their choices. So I choose to fuck having it all

2) F* long-term goals: Goals are meant to be realistic and long-term is not realistic. So I’ve decided to set short-term goals, like weekly. If they’re visible, they’re probably doable. So if I can exercise for one week and reset the goal after that for another week or defer it for a week because of other commitments and so on, I will have met my one New Year fuck-it.

3) I will not always be mature: maturity by definition means full development. Is everything ever fully developed? In 2014, I will not waste my energy in pretending to be mature in emotions or actions, when it isn’t possible. Maturity is overrated, boring…and ineffective. General consensus is that we were happier as kids and there was nothing mature about us then. So this year I plan to use all that energy that goes into the trial and fail exercise of maturity into something more meaningful – like beating friends at Taboo and being competitive about it (by embracing immaturity, I embrace that winning IS the most important part of playing :P)

4) F* Moping: I can safely say that after 29 years of being a moper (albeit, a silent one), I have learnt that it leads to nothing. Moping about having too much to do, about annoying patterns of life or not holidaying enough, is a colossal waste of physical and mental energy. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not an outlet and only lends fuel to the cyclical nature of moping.

5) I won’t necessarily do things perfectly. F* perfection. It only makes you procrastinate. I’ve waited long enough for the perfect comeback post for blogging (and clearly this isn’t it) or perfect idea for a new venture. But as they say, perfection is the child of time…and time is the child of wind (okay no one says that)…there’s no point in chasing it. So, I choose that 2014 be imperfect, yet awesome.

Cheers to that! Happy New Year y’all 😀

(p.s: Those interested in the inspiration for this post, please read: https://medium.com/life-tips/494224e0f983)

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New Endings…before new beginnings

That’s always been the paradigm for me.  Before I get excited about the new beginning part, I get overwhelmed with the new ending that precedes it.New beginnings signal that life as we know it is going to come to an end.  In tough times, that’s a relief; but often, life as we know it, is life as we love it.

And when change knocks on that door, it comes with a bag of mixed feelings. Nostalgia, fear, nervous excitement…

Nostalgia has always been a tough cookie for me. Safe to say, I have no idea how to deal with this emotion. It hits me the minute I have to make a big change, and I’m left wondering, should I look back at happy memories and feel good… or sad that they’re over?  If I miss the past or about to be past so much, then do I want to go back to it or make time standstill, or make progress and move on?

My personal record has been to move on but not without the memories in tow – souvenirs, mementos, I carry my entire life till-date with me that makes every commute a bitch and settling a bigger bitch. Letting go doesn’t come naturally and logically to me, as a result of which, my past lands up becoming present perfect. It is perfect in the present because that’s how it always is. In hindsight, everything was always possible and perfect. Isn’t it always just in the present that perfection evades us?

Memories overwhelm me, good and bad. A heavy heart always limits that skip in the step towards the new and I’m thinking about all of this suddenly because I find myself doing the same thing all over again. In about 20 days, I’m going to have to change cities again, get back to studying after 3 years of working, and that brings its attendant responsibilities: making new friends, discovering new places, etc.  With that, the apprehension that will today’s present, the one that I love, ever return?

But that’s the thing.  I don’t think it’s meant to return. Life is full of new endings and new beginnings. The only sense I can make of it then, is that nostalgia is a pre-programmed emotion within us to be able to process this continuous change. Because it’s not always possible to just get up and leave without looking back. Because what has passed is the anchor that hosts what will happen.

Over the years, every move and change has helped me grow. I’ve been influenced by every city I’ve lived in. For instance, growing up in Mumbai, above all things, taught me about ambition. The restlessness, money, crowds, melting pots of people and down to earth glamor taught me to aspire for the best, yet stay grounded.

In Boston during my M.A. , I discovered another important thing about myself – that I operate best when I’m in discomfort. It taught me about hard work and survival – from managing a personal budget to compromising the small pleasures for the big goals.

Delhi, and this is highly grudgingly accepted, as I get ready to bid goodbye to it, also taught me something. For those of you who don’t know the city, it is known (notorious) for its flashy loud culture that is founded in blatant acquisition and display of the big brands and names. While Mumbai remains the fashion capital of India, the real fashion haven is in Delhi. Not a fan of the city when I moved here 3 years back, I have now realized that somewhere along the way, in an invisible, yet highly resisted process, I picked up on this flashiness, not as a way of life, but as a way of self-motivation.  Delhi taught me how to reward personal successes with frivolous, yet meaningful acquisitions that can sustain aspirations. Being the place where I got my first job, first promotion, first pay hike, it taught me that nothing succeeds like success and what’s a little success without a little reward like the first LV bag, or Armani sunglasses?

As I gear up to make my next move (third in 6 years), I know I will have to first get past this nostalgia phase again to finally arrive at the nervous excitement for the future. And so this time, I’m prepared for it. But once it does pass and I’ve consolidated what has passed here, the new-ness will bring hope that all new beginnings do, the fear of the unknown that brings spice to life, but most of all, the smug smile over the fact that fear of change and another ending did not stop me from moving on, from making progress…

That life as we know it, became life as we knew it, right when that second passed. You never know what happens next – but at least we have nostalgia to process the constant churn.

To new endings…

 
 

Cheers and Clinks! (2007, the Last Night at Boston)

Cheers and Clinks! (2007, the Last Night at Boston)

 

Options>>Delete Cookies – in real life?

All I’ve read recently are my own B-School essays.  As much because of lack of time, as because of a chain of uninspiring reads. I haven’t had much time to travel or watch movies either, and hence the virtual absence since October. I promise to catch up though; I’m working on the top 100 books of all times and evading my own book purchase decisions for a bit by relying on friends’ recommendations (currently reading – Secret Garden by Frances Burnett).

Delete Cookies

That was a mini-defense for preparing to deviate from the theme of this blog; but I really do want to write about my current reads – my application essays. Maybe I’ll post them here once I’m done and lose my entire readership and people will understand what I meant by my initial warning of having a “monkey mind”. But there is a point to this, I promise.  The process for writing these works of art really did get my ruminative juices flowing.  Yes, business school essays got me ruminating.

Have you ever considered the amount of interesting introspection that goes in these applications? I say introspective because questions on your background, choices, accomplishments, strengths/weaknesses etc really make you think hard…and interesting – because this thinking is not for reminiscing, or reflecting or discovering yourself, but for selling yourself.

 Now that changes perspective entirely – all of a sudden you’re not only introspective, you’re retrospective. If I had chosen Math as a joint major, it would make it easier to discuss why I really want to go with microfinance after I graduate. I can and will contribute to the diversity of Class of 2012 given my rich educational record of study in International Relations, but shouldn’t I have then done IR in say, Denmark instead of plain old Boston, USA?

 You get the picture. In all this retrospection, I realized I was constantly looking for a fresh perspective and angles to sell my experience. Unfortunately, once you go through an incoherent first draft, it’s kind of hard to shake out of the incoherence of it and look at the last draft afresh…similar, I would say, to many things in life.

 It makes you wonder, this retrospection thing – wouldn’t it be great if we could just not want to change a thing in retrospect? What is in retrospect anyway, who created this? I think retrospection makes us futureskeptical – skeptical about the future, given how awfully awry some of our choices have finally landed up being. It mars our thinking going forward because no more are choices about the here and now, but about what was and has been that we affectionately term experience.

 Experience is all very good when it augments our future decisions, but it also has a tendency to become a baggage many times in daily life. Can’t we perhaps delete cookies when we want? For instance, I would definitely delete cookies with my first driving experience, which was comedic and horrifying at the same time. I have since never been able to conquer what has now become a monster task for me. I would like to delete that first experience and start over. This is top of mind recall because in a city like Delhi, you absolutely must know driving to get around.

 Let’s see…I severely need deleting cookies at work too. A consistent feedback on my essays – the tone of the content was all business speak, where is the personal, aspirational touch.  To quote one of my wise friends, “Adding value is an ugly industrial term. Do you want to be a faceless value-adding cog in the wheel!”  Somewhere in the midst of “adding value” at work and “communicating impact fully” in sales meetings and “forging mutually beneficial” partnerships, I lost touch with my personal conversational style. Certainly could do with fresh perspective at work.

 But what would life really be without growth from the past? In love, deleting cookies probably means going back to our first relationship – most of us would probably delete the word relationships from our vocabularies if we had to go through that again! If you don’t feel this way, then, you may not enjoy this post. If you do, then think of this as a microcosm representative of deleting cookies in other spheres of life. 

 The truth is deleting cookies is not so attractive when actually applied to life. Think about it, even B-schools rephrase their questions to get to the bottom of your “biggest mistake”, “why a personal goal could not be met”, “what is the one thing you would want to change from your past choices”.  B-school people are busy people. Busy people don’t waste time on questions that don’t mean anything; it seems to be an institutionalized fact that imperfections create stars.

 And of course, retrospection is almost always accompanied by its half-sister – regret. But there is no end to the “what if” cycle of our minds. As someone rightly said “There is no end to regret. You cannot find the beginning of the chain that brought us from there to here. Should u regret the whole chain, and the air in between, or each link separately as if you could uncouple them? Do you regret the beginning which ended so badly or just the ending itself?”

 And so as I thought about it more, I kind of started buying into the whole spiritual idea of keeping the experiences, but letting go of the negativity. Don’t worry, I’m not a fan of Buddha, or rather Buddha is not a fan of me.  I can think about something upsetting that happened years back and still get all red, angry and dramatic about it. But I like to think I’m getting better at deleting cookies in real life.  Not with computerized clicks but with the awesome can-be done-yourself toolkits only humans can boast of: sleep, humor, friends, wine, food…and giant chocolate chip cookies the size of my head.

 **Coming up next, Christmas and New Years specials

Blink, Don’t Think- What explains the famous “Gut Feel”?

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

Speed Dating is Speed Thinking. Does that make sense?

How often have you made snap judgments and been amazed at how spot-on they were? Classic one-liner follows, “I went with my gut”.

How often have you not gone with your snap judgment because you felt it wasn’t an “informed decision”. But all your due diligence lands you with the wrong decision anyway. Another classic one-liner follows, “Damn I knew It!

And then there are times when your judgment call has simply been wrong and you wonder how your instinct failed you this time ( This time, “but my intuitions are always right…”)

All of us have had the above experiences at some point or the other. Blink hooks you into reading further in the first few pages itself because you are as familiar as you are confused by your gut feel and want to know more.

Personally, reading this book was a little like therapy for me, I have to confess. Notorious with friends and family for taking intuition-based decisions, or not taking a decision because it didn’t feel right, I was joyous as I found scientific explanations for this kind of decision-making, and childishly clapped on reading about the accuracy and soundness of such decisions (Thanks Malcolm, much gratitude!).

Let’s face it; some people are at peace with the process of decision-making. I am certainly not one of them; in fact, decision making for me has been historically so stressful, that I sometimes actually wish there were no choices to choose from (this is heightened at grocery stores, in the cereal aisle, where I temporarily become anti-capitalist each time).

But can’t run away from them, can we? Our life is almost entirely, a representation of the decisions we have made. They are a part of daily life: which bridges to burn, which ones to cross?  Which career paths to go for, what friends and partners to select? Some of us need a little help. Blink it seems can provide some of that.

This is interesting. After all the flak we have received for being judgmental, about people, situations, events in the first few seconds without knowing “enough”, it turns out those few-second judgments are critical. These are what term as gut feels/intuitions/hunches.

But Malcolm doesn’t like to call it any of that. What he says about calling them intuitions explains the flavor of the entire book, the scientific inquiry that has been built up through the chapters to prove that those two seconds are thinking. It’s just thinking that “moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with thinking”. So if you’re looking for a spiritual explanation for your epiphanies, this is not the right read for you (although if you do happen to find one, please let me know)…

In those few seconds, our brain engages in “thin-slicing”, i.e., the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. This is the reason why stress is known to improve performance, because in situations such as war or emergencies, extraneous information falls out and the brain focuses only on what’s critical.

Hence, Blink. Don’t think. It made me wonder that maybe that’s why blinking is such an important part of our everyday cognition. I think maybe we do need to miss out on a little bit of information all the time as we close our eyes to blink, so that the mind can make sense of the world.

The chapters of the book have been masterfully organized to demonstrate these thin-slicing experiences, in wars, police encounters, WW2 Code breaking, medical malpractice and so on. There are others we may relate to more such as Speed-Dating. This is a classic thin slicing experience, where you’re allowed few second/minutes to get a “sense” of the other person with limited time for more information.

It makes you stop and think when a man like Malcolm Gladwell, a science and business reporter, explores the gray areas in snap judgments to finally recommend that for vital matters such as your profession, or your life partners, “the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.”

At this point, I really sat up thinking, Are you Serious??

And actually, think about it, does your unconscious ever kick in for routine decisions? Like the cereal aisle, my gut has never leaped out and pointed at strawberry versus honey bran. Our “sense” doesn’t want to expend itself on matters such as cereal apparently.

It is however reassuring to know that science backs the hunches because taking calls based on hunches is both very difficult and very easy. Easy because it comes instinctively…difficult, because it may turn out to be a second guessing nightmare, especially if it is not backed by evidence, or rationale to fall back on in the moments that need reassurance.

Because sometimes these judgment calls can be wrong. In fact, one of the lessons of Blink is that to “understand the true nature of instinctive decision-making is to be forgiving of the people that are trapped in circumstances that imperil good judgment”…bodyguards who could not prevent assassinations, police encounters that killed the wrong people, your own mistakes that resulted from rushing headfirst into a catastrophe despite knowing otherwise. These are moments when we go “mind-blind”, and judgments become fragile. This is perhaps the reason when otherwise normal people take significantly and catastrophically wrong decisions. This is why it is important to know the perils of wrong judgment. This is why, in some cases, we still need information.

Gladwell acknowledges that combining rational deliberation with judgment is then the biggest challenge…we see it in our lives too; entrepreneurs looking to decide on a product despite contradicting market intelligence; women and men going head first into relationships and marriages, despite warnings from friends, families that the partnership may be bad news.

I wonder where all this fits into experience. Experience does call for good judgments. The book says it too. But doesn’t experience then by definition mean more information and this all becomes  a little contradictory? As the old adage goes, good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. 25-35 is a better age-box because a lot of our bad decisions are out of the way, paving way for more sound ones. Those bad decisions, I guess then become a part of our backstage inventory of biases, and come back in the form of judgments when needed…maybe what experience does is that it trains us to identify the perils of rapid cognition. There are people, who after bad experiences, introspect way too much. Those people perhaps fall into the other peril of introspection, where everything is over thought through, is confusing and impairing for the brain’s ability to focus on what’s important.

I wish Gladwell delved deeper into how all the bits come together. It is good to know that snap judgments are not necessarily reckless and for the intuitive decision makers like me, very insightful indeed. But it would be nice to know more about how to differentiate situations when rapid condition must be accompanied with analysis and when we can entirely trust the gut.

Let’s hope Gladwell publishes a sequel soon and delves deeper into the unconscious…till then, please feel free to enjoy snap judgments, if nothing else, they are certainly much more fun than introspection. So make that judgment and either buy the book, if u have it, then read it, if you have read it, then do share your thoughts on it…Till then, I’m going to clap some more at the thumbs up for speed thinking.

Disclaimer: This is not a review of the book,  given that I am not qualified to review a book like this; these are my personal ruminations and comments  on the read. For a more formal review, please visit New York Times, Reviews

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