Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Luck By Chance

image by 13dede, sxc.hu

Think Of Luck As Stable, Permanent, By Your Side Always

A dull, boring social gathering can be brought to animated life in very little time by throwing down the gauntlet of "whether success and fulfillment in life is obtained by 'luck' or by 'pluck'". It takes just one person to take a stand, to instigate some other person in the gathering to leap up to their feet and present a diametrically opposite stand, complete with their own anecdotal experiences and philosophy. For every human being who rose to the height of their aspirations by the sweat of their brow, there is another human being who won the lottery with a ticket that they had left behind in the back-pocket of their jeans when they shove it in the laundry machine. And usually, it takes a very tough moderator at the podium to ensure that the animation does not degenerate into mayhem.

image by alifarid, sxc.hu

The spectrum between believers of pluck and believers of luck is evenly distributed. People who believe in pluck think that one's actions directly affect one's outcomes. Period. But people who believe otherwise, think that there is this, the invisible Hand that guides destinies. And should the Hand so decide; the best of efforts and the most strident of actions will not fructify into the desired outcomes. And so this second set of people set forth to locate the Hand, and if that is an impossible goal, then at least to find ways and means to appease It. Taking a leaf out of the psychologist's book, the pluck-believers hold that the locus of control lies within them, while the luck-believers are open to the possibility of an "external" agency too controlling their destiny.

image by nkzs, sxc.hu

Nothing wrong with the doctrine of providence, which is what the belief in an external agency guiding one's destiny is. Everybody is walking on their own path of self-development, deserving all respect. The problem comes when we allow ourselves to be washed by circumstances away from the shore of our aspirations, when we succumb to the choppy waves of problems, and when we begin to drown in the sea of disaster and failure, moaning all the while that the Hand is no longer guiding us. We look at Luck as fleeting and impermanent. It is there for some of the time, and it "runs out" from time to time. This approach has a most unfortunate consequence of loss of persistence. The first sight of some problem, and we throw up our hands. Aw, Shucks! Luck is not by my side this time!

image by haiinee, sxc.hu

This particular category of luck-believers finds it hard to motivate themselves to not give up midway, but to exhaust all alternatives before concluding that there is really no way forward. And after acknowledging failure, this particular category finds it especially difficult to identify the problem in the core concepts of their thinking which led to failure in the first place, so that the core concepts can be reworked upon and the task begun afresh, in the same or a new avatar. Gradually, a pattern builds up which keeps recurring in all areas of their life, till a stage comes when such people give up taking all action and start leading a "vegetable" life of inaction. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, this belief in a) the concept of luck, and b) that luck is fleeting and impermanent. You can't get them to discard their favorite principle, but you also can't see them wither away. Then what do you do?

image by davepd2, sxc.hu

The key point here is the thought in the minds of some of the luck-believers that "luck is fleeting and impermanent". As self-developers, instead of taking any extreme-pole position of discarding the providence doctrine altogether, suppose we shift our thought from the fleeting and impermanence aspect of luck to one of luck being forever stable and forever permanent and forever on our side? Formulating this thought in the mind immediately leads us to strengthen our belief in ourselves. A confidence that, come what may, the victory cup is ours - grows in us. Faced with the choppy waves of problems, we will not succumb. We will not throw up our hands. Instead, armed with the "knowledge" that luck is by our side, we will be driven by the confidence that help is round the corner somewhere, and we have to "simply" seek it.

image by woodsy, sxc.hu

This eclectic approach has two advantages. One, the luck-believers do not have to root the doctrine of providence out from their value systems; usually ingrained by parents and seniors since childhood and therefore very difficult - if not plain impossible - to do so, and it is not required anyway. And two, they get to use the belief of a powerful, "supernatural agency" always being by their side to guide them at all times. If there is somebody you know who is leading a vegetable life of inaction because they fell prey to consistent bad luck, then - who knows? - this eclectic approach might transform them into a dynamo of action.

image by leagun, sxc.hu

[Belief in oneself is the core driver for all successes. It is belief in the self that drove the pilot to successfully crash-land his plane on the surface of a lake so that everybody emerged unhurt and safe. Similarly, it is the belief in the self that drives a tiny little rail engine, entrusted with the task of freighting toys to the next station, to overcome all challenges and complete the mission. Would you like to read the inspiring story of this little blue engine? Here it is: "How Tillie Pulls Out Of The Avalanche".]

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Getting A Ferrari By Wishing For One

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Critiquing The Principle Of "Ask, Believe, And Receive"

There has been a lull, of late, in news on the "Law of Attraction". There are no new websites being launched around this concept, on the contrary quite a number of sites set up with much fanfare, since Rhonda Byrne wrote her book, are quietly being shut down. It has been more than a year, if not more, since any of the gurus have made any fresh pronouncements on the matter. Spam mail senders too stopped flogging this law to entice me to make use of their services long ago, and have already reverted to informing me of the great fortune that has befallen me as some gullible innocent woman somewhere wants help to remove the treasure of her dead father or husband, and can she have my bank account details, please, where she can deposit the money?

image by sauru, sxc.hu

Thanks to Ms. Byrne, several hundred careers got launched in the domain of self-development in these past three years. Suddenly, key words such as "ask, believe, receive", "attract abundance", "New Age" and of course "the secret" began being bandied about in the hip intellectual / semi-intellectual / pseudo-intellectual crowd at parties and social do's. Visiting cards proudly began proclaiming their owner's interest / expertise in the Law of Attraction. The book by Ms. Byrne began appearing on coffee tables in the drawing halls of houses of all economic strata, reminding the guests and visitors of the spiritual heights conquered by the dwellers. Never mind if even the first page has not yet been turned. Forums began being populated by discussion threads with members trying to outdo each other in their knowledge over the subject by quoting this or that author or expert, the discussion degenerating into slanging matches as it often happens.

image by arte_ram, sxc.hu

Seminars began to be organized by "Gurus" who claimed to have known the concept of the LoA "much before Ms. Byrne discovered it". People began practicing before the mirror the "smile of serenity" that has come to stand for those who have imbibed the law in their style of living and tasted success, if not direct communion with The One Who Wrote The Law. A stage came when you could recognize these people from afar just by the wonderful smile of serenity they wore, and you would search for alleys to escape into before they could catch hold of you to listen to their profundities.

image by lizevans, sxc.hu

And websites, ah websites, that great vehicle for generating money 24X7, blossomed forth like lilies in spring. The same wonderful smile now came attached to a face which had a halo behind it, which we would like to believe was bestowed by The One Who Wrote The Law, but was most likely created using the latest version of Photoshop - "Give the halo a touch of sunny yellow at the periphery, Jonny" -. All their home pages beginning with a personal sad story, just like Byrne - and how they achieved their version of enlightenment and how they want to share their "new-found" knowledge with the rest of the world. In fact, some doctoral research student might find it immensely interesting to base their thesis on the subject of the websites created during the period 2006-2009, all clones of the "The Secret" theme.

image by barunpatro, sxc.hu

Sensing the ebbing interest amongst consumers - if the seminar hall doesn't fill, then you end up paying for the hall's rent out of your own pocket; if the website doesn't generate money, then you end up paying for the site's rent from your own capital -, people did try to come out with mutants of the original LoA. "The things they hid from you in the film", "The second secret", "the untold secret"... grey cells went into overdrive coming out with the right turn of phrase that would keep them coming. However, every fashion has its expiry date; that is the Supreme Law of Nature; and the fashion of Law of Attraction is no exception. This is why the lull in the news about this New Age principle.

image by tilfeldig, sxc.hu

Now that the hype and the hoopla about the "Law" has all but died down, this might just be the right time, to dust the books and the material that got collected over these past three years and give them a relook. To blow away that which is fluff; and focus on that which is solid. To dip under the bonnet, so to speak, and understand which domain of knowledge this law fits in, what its axioms are, what its scope of operation is and where its limitations lie. It is sad when somebody launches a brilliant discourse on LoA, and recites entire passages from this or that author's work, but who grapples for words when they are simply asked to place the subject in perspective within the Body of Knowledge accumulated by mankind. Instead of being lulled by the beautiful quotes and sayings of the self-styled gurus and experts, it will do a lot of good if we reflect on how this "law" might have impacted one's own life in subtle ways already. And work out how we can use the principle to shape the quality of our thoughts.

image by eza1992, sxc.hu

[It is great to know that there exists a Law, called the "Law of Attraction", which governs our thinking. But is that the only law? Does this law fully and comprehensively explain all that there is to know about how Life functions in this Universe? Is this the only principle that one can base one's thoughts upon? As this article explains, there are several instances around us which the LoA does not explain, because they fall outside the scope of its operation: "The Law Of Attraction Is Not Enough!". Read, and reflect!]

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Focusing On Happiness And Fulfillment

image by doriana_s, sxc.hu

Living Life Positively Psychologically

Mankind has been wrestling with, since Time immemorial, issues and questions about itself and about the Universe. We know that some of the questions have been answered, and that there are many more whose answers continue to elude.

image by ba1969, sxc.hu

Of these unanswered are some very deeply profound questions, such as "Who Am I?", "Whence I Came?", "What I Am Doing Versus What Am I Supposed To Be Doing?", "Where Shall I Go, Or What Shall I Be, After Death?", "What Came First - Chicken Or Egg" - which continue to jog the minds of philosophers and intellectuals, and which apparently will continue to do so for some more time to come. We are all waiting for that one out-of-the-box, ground-breaking idea or thought to rise in some ripened mind somewhere on this earth, a thought which has non-dogmatic foundations, and which will give a clue to the underpinnings of Life in general.

image by topsoft, sxc.hu

Leaving the eggheads to their devices while they wrestle with these profound issues, we ordinary mortals are happy if we keep receiving continued assurance that we live in a benign universe that has brought us to this planet and plunked us right in the midst of a family and / or community, not to heap on us hardship and strife and shortage and sorrow, but to make us feel happy and contented. This basic psychological need - that there is Someone or Somebody who is taking care of us -, is what drives the devout and the religious and the non-atheists amongst us in droves to our places of worship on designated days. The communion we seek to establish with an entity - who we have been conditioned since early childhood to look upon as our savior - in those silent, calm moments in the place of worship is sometimes the only bright stretch of time in an otherwise bleak day.

image by kkesler83, Kimberlee Kessler Design, sxc.hu

The past decade or so has witnessed a sea-change in our thinking about how we lead our lives. More specifically, this change has occurred in our view about how we view our lives - some sort of a "meta-view". While we have always been alert, since the ancient times, about what we think and why we think what we think and how our thoughts can impact our sense of happiness and fulfillment, it is thanks to the internet and a shrinking world that the body of knowledge on the entity called "mind" has been unlocked from the ivory tower of intellectualism and brought to the mainstream of human consciousness.

image by vassiliki, sxc.hu

And, thanks to newly evolving knowledge such as positive psychology - of which self-development and self-help are a part, including this blog and this article that you are reading right at this moment -, the bright stretches of time have lengthened, and can easily cover the entire day to wipe away all bleakness, if we want to. Positive Psychology gives us the ability to look at our problems constructively, without suppressing them or repressing them or brushing them away beneath the proverbial carpet. This body of knowledge helps us to root ourselves firmly in the one singular thought that happiness and fulfillment are our birthright. While circumstances may conspire to give us some very bad times, it is ultimately the thoughts that we harbor in the mind that make all the difference. It is ultimately how we react to the circumstances that influences our sense of happiness. This is not self-delusion or fantasizing, but a "conscious" decision that we make that nothing, but nothing, should disturb our peace of mind.

image by lusi, sxc.hu

Ever since the then President of the American Psychological Association chose positive psychology as the theme of his term as President in 1998, this body of knowledge has witnessed explosive growth. June 2009, 18th to 21st, will see the first "World Congress" on Positive Psychology being organized in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here is where you can register for the event, and learn for yourself how you can keep your waking - as well as dreaming - hours bright and cheerful, despite the negativity of the situations you are in: http://ippanetwork.org/wcpp/world-congress.html.


[Thoughts have a way of tiptoeing into our mind when least expected. Every so often, the mind wanders to the past, analyzing incidents and events that appeared to be very insignificant and trivial at that point, but later turned out to have life-changing impact. It is but natural to be wistful. How we wish that we had acted or reacted differently from what we did! Usually, the line of thinking begins with two innocuous words, but which this article says are the two most dangerous words that can drag our mind back into the valley of emptiness and loss: "Two Most Dangerous Words To Beware".]

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