Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Patience / Gentleness

"When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time."

Saint Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

"Lucky are those who are flexible. Inflexible are damned to be bent out-of-shape." We seem to become inflexible on things that are not important to us but which matter to our solely to inflated ego.

It indeed is worthwhile to stand firm for things we truly believe. But, standing up does not mean being obstinate and thus risking bent out of shape. Standing up means  firm resolve to achieve the end goal even if that means letting go of a few things on the way. "Pick  right battles to fight if you want to win the war." "Life is a war won by choosing intelligently battles NOT worth fighting." "Marathon runner focuses on 26th file and not on first 100 ft".

With time and patience, everything works out. Not that we have to become complacent and do nothing. But, trying something too hard to achieve instant results does not work. It is like  trying to lose 50 pounds in one week.

It's amazing to observe how rich the rewards of the habit of not giving up and plugging along pays of eventually. In a survey they found that a large percentage of high level executives did not reach that position because of their IQ but because of sheer perseverance. That is not to discount the importance of IQ but over certain threshold what matters is being able to patiently wait for opportunities to make a killing. "Good luck is the perfect timing of preparation meeting opportunity."

Some of the highly successful investors simulated their trading strategies for years before they invested a single penny in the market. They would apply complete rigor of the investigation and all analysis as though they were investing millions of dollars. It just is not easy to develop that kind of seriousness.

The above quote also talks about gentleness. What does that mean? First of all gentleness is being gentle to ourselves first. It is very easy to get into self-guilt, self-pity in no time. Some hard skinned or confident people may be able to defer feeling inadequacy and hopelessness little longer than ordinary mortals but despair does not spare them as well. If we have to be
able to have any energy left to carry us thru temporary problems, we should make sure that we do not become victims of despair. Every time we despair we suck up all the energy that we desperately need to remediate the situation.

How do we avoid being despaired? There is no better alternative than being able to do something you really like. I think Dale Carnegie mentions of a person who used to smoke cigar leisurely for a couple of hours when serious worries hit him. Okay, ignore the cigar part as using nicotine to fight stress is not a good strategy at all. But, the essence was that he was
purposely defocusing from the problem at hand to think about other things so that subconscious could work on the problem

Even those who are doing admirable things such as meditation and yoga etc. to get mastery over physical and mental responses, need to be careful not to be too harsh to body and mind. I think Buddha says somewhere in 'Dhammapada' or
in one of the jataka tales that he practiced severe austerities for several years which only made him terribly weak and hindered his spiritual progress. Same goes with mind. It should not be over elated using nicotine, caffeine or other drugs. It should also not be over depresses ed with  brooding, sense of failure etc. It should maintain a status quo. Buddha recommended 'madhyama marg' (middle path) which emphasized moderation in everything to attain your goals.

"This too shall pass." is not the attitude of a lazy person. It is the attitude of a mature battle scarred person. You can make out the wisdom content by two things 1) who is it coming from 2) what experience this person has with the situation that he is commenting about that this too shall pass.


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