Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Excelling in life is Not about winning the battle against external odds

Excelling in life is generally seen as winning the battle against external circumstances like poverty, or against competitors, or even against tough situations. But it is none of this; it is about Winning one's battle against oneself. We cannot win the battle against oneself in one go, we have to win this battle one step at a time.

For instance, we make multiple choices in our lives to develop our strengths slowly and steadily. Excelling is about making most of those choices right. But in life, we also encounter 'forced' situations that we cannot choose. We need to use these forced situations and not be at their mercy. And, more than anything else, winning the battle against oneself is winning the battle of mind. It is battling the fear of carrying one's mashal (flag) alone despite others telling us that we could be carrying a wrong flag. Let us explore this further.

Excelling in life is about winning the many 'micro' choices that we take every day to focus on something (or defocus on something else) to develop knowledge in our areas of strengths. When we decide to play, and not study, we are making a choice of which strength to focus. When we decide to study on English, and not maths, we are making a choice of English versus maths. When we decide to see a movie, we are choosing to focus on arts and find meaning in life. When we decide not to ask a question to teacher, even when we have not understood anything about the subject, we are making a choice that directly influences our progress. When we decide to drop from the essay competition, we are making a choice of not choosing the path of writing. When we decide to break away from a studious friend who speaks English well, we are making a choice of learning English in a difficult way.

But excelling in life is not only making choices in 'unforced' situations. Excelling in life is also about using every forced situation (good or bad) that comes in our life in a way that will help us win. We do not always have the liberty to choose situations in life, many a times we are forced into a situation. Winning in forced situations enables us to use these situations to complement our strengths ( be it in English, Maths or Art). Mental growth is using situations to develop qualities such as patience, motivation, confidence, tolerance of different views - that will help you complement your strengths. For instance, excelling in life is about using the forced 'poverty' to motivate yourself , it is about using forced TV/Internet culture to hasten learning instead of just entertainment. Sometimes excelling is about tolerating incompetent teachers to discover your own learning difficulties, while sometimes it is about using difficult social environment to learn the qualities of patience and waiting. Sometimes excelling in life is about encountering death of close family member and learning to use it appreciate the fickleness of life.

Lastly, but more importantly, winning against oneself is winning the battle against mind's hidden demons.  When , despite our knowledge of physics, we fail to score poorly in physics exam, we have to tolerate the mind getting swamped by failure.Winning the battle of mind is learning to battle stress ( that accompanies any uncertain task) even when stress threatens to derail performance. Winning the battle of mind is about avoiding the distractions of environment that threaten to defocus our mind.  Winning the battle of mind is about conserving mental energy during 3 hours of exams so that one can answer all the questions to the best of one's ability. And more importantly, winning the battle of mind is reminding oneself again and again that it is OK to lose a point or even game ( or even match) to win the ultimate battle: the battle of excelling in Life.

In short, excelling in life is about making the right choices in unforced situations to gain knowledge in your strength area as well as using forced situations to grow mentally while battling with the mind's demons that we have not deciphered. As you would realise, this whole battle happens in one's mind and cannot be monitored from outside. It is therefore battle against oneselfFor better understanding, see how Andy Murray won his battle to win the US Open.

Surprisingly, we need only one key to win this battle against oneself. We will learn about that key in the next blog.

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