Tag Archives: life

Books To Ease an Anxious Soul

I’m prone to anxiety. I overthink, I react too quickly, I get upset. And then, I can get really upset and anxious.

I can’t control it because my thoughts get overwhelming. It’s a like a reactor that only goes in one direction. Once I start, I spiral. And when I do, a panic attack can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 7 hours.

It’s like I described in one of my spoken word poems. Here is just a quick description of what it feels like to me.

“ When your entire being opens into the darkness and loops about unending

when every flicker of light is seen with malice and hatred,

when every piece of your worth is measured against the white wall,

when your intelligence and happiness give up on you

That is the beginning of an anxiety attack.

When your worlds collapse onto each other, repeatedly

When you are burning yourself to find your light,

When your mirror stops seeing you for a long, long time

When every reason is made an excuse

That is the duration of your anxiety attack.”

 

To sum it up as light-heartedly as I can – it’s not fun. It’s obvious then that I need ways to cope with it. One way for me is by reading.

I read as much as I can. It’s still not enough, but it’s a start.

And it was while I was reading to heal myself, I realized maybe someone else can benefit from my reading list. I’ve limited it to 5 books so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.

Here goes –

  1. Presence – Amy Cuddy
  2. The Big Red Book of Rumi – Coleman Barks
  3. Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  4. The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
  5. The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

I’ve included the Goodreads excerpts of the books below, in case you want to know a little about them.

Continue reading

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On Choosing Mentors – 3 Things to Look at

How often have you asked your dance teacher about the mechanics of astrophysics? Have you ever gone to a basketball coach to ask them about tennis? My guess? Rarely, if ever.

Then, when it comes to your career, the one thing you’ll be doing for over 40 years of your life, why do you go to the most convenient sample?

Often, especially when you are starting out, you go to your parents and teachers. While that’s an excellent support system, they are not always the apt system that you’re looking for professionally. Mentors play a massive role in shaping your future. They don’t control it. But they can make your career path easier, better, and sometimes, faster. 

There is a notion that a mentor chooses you. Sometimes. Maybe. But for the most part, you choose your mentor. You make yourself available and active in circles where you’ll find your mentors. If you sit at home all day, your parents automatically become your mentors. If you go to networking nights designed for tech startups, that’s where you’ll find mentors for the Tech fields. If you go to networking nights for artists and singers, that’s where you’ll find mentors in those fields. So, finding mentors is a two-way street where you actively seek them out and they reciprocate your initiative by mentoring you. 

While finding mentors is an essential aspect of any field, looking at the current trends in bias against women in workplaces, the right mentors become even more important for women. Vittoria Adhami, a  Professional Life Coach, also corroborates that these biases against women are ingrained in society and can hurt women’s chances of success.

All this discussion points to a very important statement- we need to choose our mentors wisely. We need to choose people who believe in our capability, have been in our field long enough to guide us and have the ability to adapt.

People who believe in your capability

While it’s all good to surround yourself with ambitious go-getters, not everyone is a type A personality. People learn and act on their own pace. Finding people who are ambitious but differently ambitious from you may actually hurt you more than help you. They won’t be able to see your work the way you do and so they can’t guide you as well as someone who knows how you work.  Your mentor must see your capability and your potential. Choose a mentor who sees the future you as opposed to the present you. Don’t find someone who flatters you. Definitely not, but find someone who gets you and is willing to guide you.

Have been in your field long enough

20-year-old CEO’s sound like a great idea. They are inspiring and envy-inducing. But do they make good mentors? Let’s see. To become a CEO today, in the start-up culture specifically, is honestly, quite easy. Anyone can become the CEO. It’s not surprising then, that 90% of all start-ups fail. Experience counts for a whole lot in life. Mentors who’ve ‘been there, done that and survived it’ are the ones who will help you tide through the tough times. From bad business deals to a shifting topography to hostile company take overs, an experienced mentor can help you through it all.

Ability to Adapt

While society’s attitudes take a while to change, their behavior can easily change. The market works on behavior. The global market is a dynamic caricature of society. It shifts and molds itself according to the way the world is changing. The Internet changed everything. Tomorrow, something else might. Find a mentor who is changing with the times. A mentor who has continued to grow in her/his field and personal life. After a certain point in someone’s life, our professional and personal lives tend to mesh. A mentor who has grown personally will take those learning to her/his professional life and will be able to learn some new, some useful and some futile tactics. She/he will be able to guide you through those learning as well.

How Can You Be Persistent?

Some things are easy. Doing them every day is easy. They become a routine and we don’t even question them. Writing, however, is not one of those things. Writing is easy when it isn’t careful. When writing is a form of telling instead of showing, it becomes easy, or easier. However, when you write in order to show the world how you think, writing ceases to be about conveying a better opinion or about expressing petty differences, writing becomes a way to introduce people to your mind, your thought processes, and of course, your being.

This new year I decided to write every working day. And I have been. But it’s hard. It takes time, effort, and considerable cognitive resources. Writing is fun when the ideas just flow onto the paper (or screen) and convey every thought that you wanted. It becomes a chore when your ideas take longer to express and harder to condense. Writing becomes a menace when the sentence doesn’t fit quite right or the word doesn’t seem exact. Now, no one is asking me to be perfect or write a Booker Prize piece nor do I expect myself to write the next ‘viral’ post, what I do expect, though, is excellence.

Excellence as a concept is fickle, but as an idea it’s magnificent.

The idea that I can be the best I’ve ever been at it, is exhilarating. It’s like the rush of sky diving, just without the cameras and the height. I may be better tomorrow, but today I’m better than yesterday and the day before and the month before that. Today, I’m the best I can be, as far as writing this piece is concerned. This piece, this idea, is excellent. And for now, that’s enough.

A lot of people have asked me what it means to persist.

This is what it means to persist. Writing for me, was easy, but then it wasn’t as good as it could be and probably will be in the future. When writing got hard, I learned more, I struggled more but I didn’t give up. To persist is to keep doing something even when it’s hard. To persist is to not stop. When you persist, you make time for whatever it is that you want to do.

To persist isn’t an abstraction, it’s a difficult reality.

When you persist, you’ll learn things you never knew before. When you continue to learn them, it’ll get difficult. What was once easy becomes convoluted. And that’s the beauty of persisting. You’ll change what you knew and alter everything you already know. In that way, you’ll grow.

Persisting is doing a little bit extra today than what you did yesterday.

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Image by Scott Webb

5 Ways to Be More Confident in Public Speaking

Public speaking is slowly becoming one of the most desirable soft skills on the market. Every profession requires it in some form. Be it the conference room for a presentation or the TEDx stage to spread an idea, public speaking is an important facet of life. Having been a national level debater, given more than a dozen motivational talks and two TEDx talks, I’ve realized that while different settings require different approaches, some aspects are common to all forms of public speaking.

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My TEDx Talk At University of Manipal

The first rule of public speaking is confidence. That confidence can be built up with a little bit of help. And here’s 5 tips on how to be more confident in public speaking –

  1. Wait before you speak  – Starting to speak as soon as you stand on the stage can seem as though you are fumbling or nervous. As soon as you get onto the stage, take a moment of silence before you begin your talk. While it may seem awkward to you, the audience will often perceive it as confidence.
  2. Close your mouth fully – Every time you take a pause, even if it is to breathe, close your mouth fully. If you leave it open, it seems as though you have forgotten something, or are trying to remember something.
  3. Speak Slowly – Whatever your usual speed, try to speak slower than that (unless you’re really slow already!). It’s hard to resist the temptation to speak fast, but on stage, when one is nervous, one often tends to speak faster than when one is not nervous. Hence, on stage speak slower than you usually would.
  4. Pause – People take time to understand and digest what you’re saying, so take pauses in between new ideas.
  5. Ignore the frowns – Many times people look serious or frown or shake their heads. Ignore them completely. You don’t know what’s going on in their minds. So, instead of thinking negatively, ignore them.

Public speaking isn’t a talent, it’s a skill that can be worked on. Practice your speech and rehearse the above steps for your next talk!

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My Guest Talk at Mody University

Don’t forget to sign up for my email list, because I talk about extra tips and insights that I don’t share on my website!

The Art Of Complimenting

At least once a day, I see and hear compliments that, though feel nice, seem superficial. They feel half-hearted and incomplete. In fact, there are only about a handful of times that I’ve received a compliment I liked and that genuinely resonated with me.

The more I looked around, the more I saw people feeling the same way. And then I realized that complimenting someone is an art form. To really compliment someone, is an art that takes time, effort and energy. Complimenting someone is a form of communication, and like most types of communication, compliments too, are a dialogue that can have a lasting impact on someone.

The beauty of compliments is that when done right, they bring out the best in people and remind them of all that is wonderful about them. Compliments remind people of their best selves and become a way for them to see what they are putting out in the world.

While many time people give compliments for the sake of it or to flatter someone, a genuine compliment is one that can really strengthen a bond, create a bridge and deepen connections.

For that reason, I urge you to stay away from fake compliments and to try and embrace genuine compliments.

Most people we know, have something good about them. Find it.Take your time and really search a person. See what makes them, them. Find their strengths. Try to see people for what all they put out in the world and all the good that they do. If you have to, take a little longer and search a little harder and when you’re ready follow these simple guidelines –

 

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The Fear Of Running Out Of Things To Say

Any blogger will tell you this, at some point in their lives, they’ve wondered what to write about. And that’s a reality.

Even in life, at times we don’t know what to say. With friends, we can reminisce about the past, about future plans, and about the present.  With strangers or acquaintances, we don’t know what to say. We stare at the ground awkwardly and hope someone will talk about something other than the weather, traffic or the upcoming movies.

This fear of running out of things to say, and the awkward silence that follows, is actually an amazing way to connect. Seriously.

When we run out of things to say, often two things can happen – we blank out or we dive in further. Going blank, helps our mind wander away, to day dream, and to simply stop thinking for a while.

If we dive in further into the conversation, we are introduced to a whole new side of a person. Often a sensitive vulnerable side, that we didn’t see when we first began the conversation. Of course, we may come across people we don’t particularly like, but that’s okay too.

Not knowing what to say, doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It doesn’t have to be a buzzkill. It’s just a pause. Not a full-stop, but a pause and every conversation, relationship, and situation in life needs a pause.

Being Nice

For a while, and until quite recently, actually, I hated being called nice. At family functions, relatives would lionize me for being a ‘nice, responsible’ child, at school, my report card always said ‘sincere’ and then at college, ‘oh, she’s nice’. It became a staple of my existence. What bothered me about it though, was seeing my niceness being taken as an expectation. People assumed I would be nice. They expected me to be more responsible. They expected me to be more caring. They expected me to want to always be nice. India, or America, this expectation never left me.
‘Nice’ became a standard that people simply expected, in all situations. Relationships, academics, arguments, eve-teasing and even debates. If I wasn’t nice, I was aggressive.
If even for a minute I stopped being someone else’s idea of nice, then I was subjected to a torrent of shaming and insults. So, two years ago, I abandoned being ‘nice’. I gave in, without realizing, to the stupidity of the dichotomy that our society loves so much. For two years I forgot, that I am, complete within myself. That boxes, don’t apply to me. I got so overwhelmed by the jejune duality of people’s categories, that I figured the best way to break out of the ‘nice’ box, was to not be nice.
But the problem was, that I AM nice. I enjoy being nice. I enjoy seeing the best of a situation and a person. I enjoy being with people who are nice.  I really do. And so, it was only natural that I was so conflicted.
Yes, I was (and still am) nice, but that’s not it. I am nice, but I am also agrumentative, ambitious, opinionated and I’d very much like to be all of it.
Then it came to me, as it always does, on a warm evening this summer. One of my characteristics had been reduced to an obvious gender role.
Women are encouraged, by society, to be quite, to be ladylike, to be docile and to society, that is a ‘nice girl’. ‘Nice’ is teaching us to silence ourselves and our needs, it’s teaching us to be perfect and to never make mistakes and it’s teaching us to never stand up for what we want.
But that is not being nice. That is being silenced, being stereotyped, being reduced. 
Being nice, is a characteristic, which frankly everyone should possess. Being silenced is being denied the right to ask or say what you want to say, being silenced is being expected to be a certain way and to never break away from the mold.  Being stereotyped, is being placed in a certain category that others think you represent or suits you best. Being reduced, is when all you are is a silenced stereotype.
And it’s strange how many ways people can find to hold ‘being nice’ against you.
Second Year College – “Oh you’re a feminist? But, you’re so nice!”
First Date with Mutual Friend – “I have another Indian friend, but she’s not as nice as you. Aren’t all Indian girls suppose to be like you? You know, nice and stuff.”
Family Functions – “No, no, she’s a nice girl. She doesn’t do stuff like that” (They were talking about dating, little did they know)
 Anyway, I decided to follow my own advice, and continue doing what I do. Continue being nice. Many times though, it’s still hard to be nice, and have people realize that it’s JUST  a characteristic of your being. But I guess that’s what happens when we live in a world obsessed with reducing an entire being to mental tick marks.
So, no matter what one chooses, what one is, who one is, they will be shamed for it.  And I’d rather be shamed for everything I am, than anything I’m not. 
Because for me, in the end, being nice is a choice. And choice is always a good thing.

5 Steps To Stay Inspired

“Inspiration is a moment. Its impact is a lifetime.”

Inspiration is fleeting. It comes and lasts for a minute before it evaporates and gives way to the monotony of life. Being inspired and staying inspired is a whole different ball game. How does one hold onto inspiration and use it to remain motivated?  Inspiration can be of any form. Sometimes inspirations lead to epiphanies, sometimes inspiration leads to desires or even sorrow. More often than not, inspiration leads to action or a  tangible idea. An idea to do something or make something. These ideas, no matter how big or small can lead to amazing life changes and decisions, however, many times these ideas get buried withing the first few days as lethargy and inaction take over.

As life moves on, we condition ourselves to let go of our inspirations and ideas because we think we’re too busy or that we aren’t inspired anymore, whereas in reality, we never truly break down our inspiration into a workable tangible solution and hence we lose motivation.

In order to keep the motivation and inspiration alive here are 5 steps to follow whenever inspiration strikes.

I – Innovate

To remain inspired, innovate upon your inspiration. Whatever your inspiration led to, try to make that idea better. Try a bunch of different ideas to make your current idea better. Look at it from different perspectives, different angles.

D – Design

Once you’ve figured out two or three of your favorite innovations for your idea, pick one and design it. As in, take it to completion in theory. How would your idea look if everything went right?

E – Expand

The next step is to expand on that idea. See what other components can be incorporated into your idea. Expand your idea to

A- Alleviate

Alleviate all the other ideas. At this time, stick to one idea. Design it. Expand it. And then alleviate all other ideas to stay focused on one idea.

S – Start Over

Once you’re done, now you can chase a new inspiration.

To be inspired is a gift. In this monotonous life, we often lose the joy of being inspired. So when inspiration strikes, take it by the horns, disregard what someone else says and follow it through. Many times your inspirational ideas may end with no major impact in your life or in society, sometimes they may also disappoint you, however, don’t stop being inspired. Take a step back and then start over. Always start over because even inspiration can’t evade you forever.

Hope inspiration finds you soon. Till then, let’s be friends on Facebook and Twitter?

I’ll see you next week,

Love,

sr

What ‘Change’ Really Looks like

“A change is a consequence of  your actions and all the conditions you imposed on that change”

Ever wondered what life would be like if everything went your way. If you were where you wanted to be right now and if you were just the person you wanted to be?

I have. But more than once, I’ve been disappointed, let down and even angry, that all the changes that I wanted and needed weren’t happening. That everything I wanted to be I wasn’t. Then, I grew out my hair. From a bob in freshman year, I decided to grow out my hair till my waist. It would look prettier, I would look prettier. I figured that if I couldn’t change all the physical or personal traits, I could at least alter one of them. I chose hair. It seemed the easiest.

I’ve been disappointed, let down and even angry, that all the changes that I wanted and needed weren’t happening.

I would oil it, wash it, condition it. I never dyed it and didn’t apply any heat. That should have worked. But even then, some days it would be okay and most days my hair would be rough and gross and all over the place. The worst weeks were when my hair reached awkward in-between stages. I could do nothing with it. I could have straightened it or curled it, but I didn’t want to spoil my hair with so much heat. I hated the process. The only reason I kept going was because it looked better than my bob did. One day at a time, my hair grew. Slowly, painstakingly it grew. I had thought that it would me a maximum of two years to get my hair to my waist. It’s been three years now and it’s still just at my mid back. But now, it feels good, it looks good. I can handle the awkward in-between stages, the right amount of shampoo and conditioner (even though I still get it wrong some days), the time and patience and the pace. I finally got it. Almost.

Change in life is like growing out your hair. It’s annoying, time-consuming, it has awkward in-between stages and it will take time.

The point (finally) is this – change in life is like growing out your hair. It’s annoying, time-consuming, it has awkward in-between stages and it will take time. Many times, you don’t get it right in the first twenty times, but then you begin to get a hang of it and even then some days, you fail.

Basically –

Change is slow. It will take time for you to make that change. Whatever it may be – career goals, emotional goals, physical goals, they will take time.  The start to the end will take time, patience and persistence.

Change is imperfect. Things will not go exactly as you planned. Some days will look better than others, but a lot of days especially in the beginning of the change will be riddled with failures and unseen issues and seemingly inconsequential roadblocks.

Change is tiring. To constantly have to work towards a goal, is tiring. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. It will become a habit someday, but today, or right now, it won’t be.

Change is confusing. Many times you can do all the right things and still not be where you thought you’d be. It’s something different, it’s something you’ve not done before, it’s not a habit. Of course, you wouldn’t know exactly what’s happening.

Change is conditional. Change is something different. Not necessarily new, it’s just different. It’ll only go as far as you go or as far as you take it. Change will be a consequence of your actions and of all the conditions you impose on that change. 

A change in your life will not happen overnight. An epiphany might, but the decision, or consequences of a change will take every bit of who you are and every bit of what you want to be.

So, keep striving, keep changing and I’ll meet you next Monday.

Love,

sr