Saturday, August 5, 2017

2. New Year Resolutions

There is something common between New Year Resolutions and Election promises. Both are made with a lot of gusto but remain largely unfulfilled. Yet, we deliberate seriously on what resolution to adopt for the new year, just as we look forward to what every party has to offer on the eve of an election!

I would like to share my own experiences on new year resolutions.

I always consider the birth of a new year as an opportunity to set, reset and modify my goals. So, I adopt resolutions promising myself what I would do and what I would stop doing in the new year. The first thing I do to receive a new year is to buy a diary (if nobody presents me with one!) and record the resolutions mentally passed by me already. Don't experts say we have to write down our goals if we want to achieve them?

Incidentally, I also renew my habit of writing diaries every year. I have to renew this because this refuses to develop into a habit. People say habits die hard. But my habit of writing diaries dies an early death every year. In fact it dies before it attains the status of a habit! But I am proud to say that writing a diary has a longer life than have new year resolutions.

To be fair to myself, I do not entirely forget new year resolutions. I remember them quite often. In fact, I remember them every time I violate them! I have tried to analyze why I have not been able to keep my new year resolutions. And I have found the reason. Every year starts as a new year but becomes old after a week or two, at any rate after a month. Since there is no longer any new year, the new year resolutions also cease to exist. So, I am not at fault for not keeping my new year resolutions!

A friend of mine wrote a book on how to succeed in life. (I learnt much later that if there is one thing that anyone can do, it is writing a book on how to be successful. The beauty is you don't have to be successful to write a book on success. After all, you are only advising others. Just as people who smoke a lot will assertively advise others not to smoke, people who can't succeed can also advise others about achieving success!) It was an interesting book outlining the steps you should take to achieve success. It is as easy as saying one, two three. You should have reached success when you counted three. Otherwise, read the book again!

Since I knew that my friend cannot even be remotely called a successful man, I asked him how he could write such a book. He divulged his secret to me. He said that the book was nothing but a compilation of all his new year resolutions which would have brought him success, if he had followed them.

New year resolutions are in some ways like our Government's five year plans. The goals are well set, the objectives are clearly defined and even the strategy is outlined in detail. But the plans themselves are never properly implemented. However, to be fair to our planners, I will concede that five year plans are implemented a little more seriously than new year resolutions.

One thing we should remember while making new year resolutions is that they should be kept within ourselves and should never be revealed to anyone, particularly to those who are close to us. The closer they are, the more secretive should we be. There are two reasons. One, we are likely to be discouraged by such people. They will mock at our resolutions and assert that we could never live by our resolutions. 'What happened when you decided ....?' More importantly, if we don't tell anyone about our new year resolutions, nobody is not going to know that we didn't implement them!

I have always made it a point to adopt one resolution at the beginning of every year. Though I have repeatedly failed in sticking to my new year resolutions, I have not given up.

For this new year also, I have adopted a resolution that I will never adopt any new year resolution in future!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1. Know Your Limits

Know Your Limits
Sometimes I wonder whether people realize that there are limits to their behavior. Even if they are aware, do they take care to ensure that they don't cross these limits?

Lakshmana set a limit to Sita by drawing a line and asking her not to cross it. (Though this incident does not find a place in the original version of the Ramayana by Valmiki, this story is popular among people and the term 'Lakshman rekhaa,' meaning 'the Laksmanaa Line' is a popular expression in India.) But sita crossed the line (as the story goes) and got herself and others into trouble. It would have been understandable if she had questioned the limit set by Lakshmana. But after accepting it, she shouldn't have crossed it.

This is what many of us do. People cross the limits but when confronted, they challenge the very limits.which they had accepted all along!

People who are close to big people try to take advantage of their closeness and when snubbed, accuse the big people as having become arrogant with money and power. 'He has no consideration for friends' will be the sweeping judgement passed by them! They don't realize their own folly in crossing the limits.

There are several instances quoted from the lives of famous people illustrating presumptuous actions of people close to them causing embarrassment to themselves and the luminaries in the process.

A man who boasted himself to be a close friend of Napoleon told a friend of him that he could even light his cigarette from the cigar of Napoleon. When his friend didn't believe this, he challenged his friend to prove his claim and bet hundred francs.

During a party, the man went near Napoleon and told him about his bet and asked him, "Can you help me/" Napoleon said, 'yes,' with a smile and handed him five hundred francs! The 'friend' would have got offended but he should blame only himself for this humiliation. He had crossed his limits and paid the price for his indiscretion. Anyway, I would think that the man was lucky in that he lost face but at least didn't lose money! 

Another man was not so lucky and lost both his face and money over a similar misadventure. He boasted to his friend that he would make US President Roosevelt speak to him at least three words. When he got a chance to meet the President in a party, he went to him and said, "Sir, I have a bet with my friend that you will speak at least three words to me. What do you think of this?"

His expectation was that  Roosevelt would flare up and shout at him and in the process, would have spoken more than three words. But Roosevelt was too smart to oblige him. He kept his calm and said, "You lose!" By speaking just two words, he made the adventurist lose both money and face.

What we witness everyday everywhere is the sight of so many people crossing their limits, some knowingly and some unknowingly. Look at the traffic. When you are on a road, just observe how many motorists and cyclists cross the yellow line.

Many people just don't bother about time limits. No limits exist for them. They will ignore the deadlines for paying various bills and rush just before the due date or end up paying the bills with penalty after the new date. Not that they had no money or couldn't arrange the money in time. They just don't bother to stick to time limits.

The tendency to cross limits is a symptom of indiscipline in our society. It is also a reflection of our scant regard for other people's rights. Renowned writer A.G. Gardiner sites an example in one of his essays. A lady was walking on a busy street in London with a walking stick. She was freely swinging her stick in all directions as she was walking, causing nuisance to other pedestrians. A gentleman politely requested her not to swing her stick too wide. She protested, "This is a free country. Don't I have the freedom to  swing my stick as I walk?" The gentleman replied, "You do have the right to swing your stick, madam. But that right ends at the tip of my nose!"

So, let us realize that our rights have common borders with rights of other people. We should take care to see that we don't trespass into other's territory.

But there is a limit for crossing the limit too! If you cross that limit, it will lead to destruction. This is what the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar says, "If one climbs up to the top branch of of a tree and tries to climb still further up, it will lead to one's end.'

Well, I think I have said enough on the topic of crossing the limits. I am aware that there is a limit for preaching to others and I shouldn't cross it. There is also a time limit for speakers set by the organizers. I shouldn't cross that limit either. So I here I am standing near the limit and take leave of you with the message, "Know your limits."

(Gist of speech delivered at the Alumni meet of Ramanathan's Public Speaking Institute in 1988)