Being Right vs Being Happy

All our lives, we are taught to do things that are defined as good for us, not things that make us happy. We carry the same attitude to our jobs, trying to do things that would be ‘right’ for our career, doing things to get close to the ‘right’ people, getting that rating, or a role title that would further our careers and all this while we forget to be happy, just who we are. And while we are at it, we analyze other people’s behaviour, manage our reactions to them to cause least damage to our ‘professional interests’. We don’t just make ourselves miserable without knowing it, we continue to analyze other people’s misery and determine our reactions to it.

We tie our self-esteem and happiness to a client appreciation email, to a number at the end of the year that is determined by more factors than we can count, and to a promotion that supposedly ‘expands’ our reign. Yes, the same ‘reign’ that didn’t make us happy to begin with.

So, what are we doing to our lives we are not happy? What is the damage to our lives if we become inauthentic to become ‘right’?

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I won…

Life requested me to smile when I was so tense with not meeting deadlines that my face hurt if I moved a brow. Smile I did and life smiled back in the face of that strange-faced woman who was plucking the extra strands of hair on my upper lip with a thread.

Life asked me to take a nap when I was trying so hard to be a superwoman that my shoulders ached from the weight of the world. Boy! I took a nap and what a nap it was. I couldn’t open my eyes but my mind was counting thoughts, moments and results. Life calmed my mind with a song in the voice of a laborer painting my building from outside.

There is something in me beyond the pressure to be someone who would be good enough for a marriage, for a career, for earning money, for getting sex, for finding success.

That something comes to me only when I am willing to look beyond the pressure to fit in, the pressure to win a rat race and the pressure to live everything that is supposed to be right for everyone else.

Life has delivered a strange sermon through my body, told me not to be complacent, forced me to think about life and death too, and showed me how impermanent are those moments in which I run after attention and acceptance for the seemingly beautifully packaged body, trying to be thin, trying to ‘fit in’ when I really don’t.

Life told me not to take anything for granted, neither my weight nor my age, nor the few moments of peace I attain after a long, chaotic struggle.

Does life work in the most loving of ways yet the subtlest too? Or is it just me? Maybe I find love because I want to?

Maybe both, maybe neither, who cares? Not me! As long as I keep finding love and love keeps finding me, we are all good.

Deadlines are long dead, I have lost the rat race of this office, I have not lost weight, neither have I found a one relationship that would stay. Yet I smile as I write this, I don’t know why. Yet joy is flowing out of my eyes as I write it and I don’t know why.

I won something that I cannot put into words, I cannot explain to anyone and neither can I show some tangible result for it.

Yet I won and I know it.

Another Leadership Insight…

I was organizing a fun event with some team games, an idea sharing session and cake-cutting for the birthdays in this month when my boss said we should do it on a Friday.

Now, I respect my boss’s demand for bringing out new ideas. His demand for more creativity has really kept all of us on our toes and research deeper; think more, to give more to our work. But Friday evening is when weekend begins. I felt people have plans with their families and friends and we should respect that. Of course there are exceptional days when the projects require you to stay and then you stay. But this was something we could schedule on our own.

I casually mentioned it to him to not to schedule it on a Friday because people might have plans and he said we will schedule it on a Friday, it doesn’t matter. I again mentioned it to him that we can do a poll of whether everyone is ok to do this on a Friday. After all, how much enthusiasm and energy would you be willing to put into new ideas, brainstorming and connecting with your team if you had to cancel movie plans with your wife and kids or postpone a dinner with friends to do it? Unless of course, you are only a work-centric person and you have nothing else to do, which is not the way most of the people in our team are.

But polling too was a suggestion rubbed aside. My boss said we will do it on a Friday because he wanted it on a Friday. I didn’t ask him his reasons but agreed to it and scheduled it on a Friday.

This raised questions in my mind about leadership and motivating people. One was about how do we approach decisions about people that are bound to affect their personal lives in small ways? While conversing with my boss, I realized that the democratic way is the best way. My boss was doing nothing wrong by urging people to look for ideas and share them with the team. Our business has benefited from the previous such sessions already. But it’s the way we ask the team to do it is what will determine their interest, motivation and enthusiasm. And all that is possible by letting them have a choice in deciding how we plan for the event, things we do in the event and how we conduct it.

When polling idea didn’t work, the next day, I bargained for a 15 minute session at the end for allowing people to give their suggestions and share their experience of the event. I got my bargain. I hope we can keep it too on Friday, when the session really happens. And I am going to make sure we keep those 15 minutes.

The next question in my mind was about what can I do in my capacity to bring in the democratic values despite not being the recognized leader or a boss in this situation? Till now, whenever I have seen something like this (and trust me I have seen plenty of this pushing things down people’s throat everywhere), my choice was to get demoralized, stop giving myself passionately to my responsibilities. But that really killed my spirit. I would get demoralized and frustrated, bitch to other colleagues about my boss and maybe who knows I was demoralizing them too.

I do not know what changed but I am grateful to God that something did change this time. I could appreciate what my boss was trying to do. And I could bring in the conversation about the democratic approach to leadership in whatever way I could find. Maybe, next time, I can bring in a little more.

The best thing I realized – I am not angry and destructive about things that are not in my power to change as of now. Maybe, just maybe, this girl is becoming a woman and thanks heaven for that:-)