Wednesday, December 12, 2007

STEALING TIME

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”
- H. Jackson Brown

Do you sometimes think it’s ironic that despite all the time-saving gadgets we own, we always have less time? It feels like the days have got shorter and work has expanded to fill the waking hours. Even our sleep is disturbed.  

The first instinct is to go on holiday, get away from it all, escape the grind. While the benefits of a holiday are not disputed, perhaps it is only a temporary solution. When we return, it’s back to the routine, hectic as ever. 

Let’s set aside crises situations, advanced deadlines and last-minute preparations that go well into the wee hours. Let’s focus instead on long, boring, routine workdays.
Recognise that there are 24-hours in a day. No more, no less. About 7 hours would go in sleep (lesser, with a looming project deadline). Our personal grooming takes about an hour. Meals, snacking and tea breaks take about 2.5 hours. Depending on where we live, our daily commute to and from work would take about two hours a day on average (more, if you add commute to meetings outside office). We’re left with about 11.5 hours, most or all of which go into work.
While our session this month, The 70-minute Hour featuring Dr. Jim Hennig, will elaborate on how we can stretch the hour when it comes to work, here are some ideas that could make life simpler bothe at work and away.
- Grooming. The simplest way to stop spending time wondering if your shirt, trousers, tie and shoes match, is to have them all match each other. One doesn’t need to overdo the standardization and wear the same colour every day, although people are known to have done that as well. Women, particularly, have it tough on this one, but once they set their mind to it, they also figure out how to cut down the daily-decision-making on what to wear. Also, if you tend to work irregular hours, keep a spare set of clothes and some basic toiletries at work.
- Use your commute time. If you are driving, avoid taking calls at this time. Use this time to catch up on music or audio books on the car stereo. Listen to music of your choice instead of simply turning on the radio. If you have a driver, you could catch up on phone calls during the commute, read trade publications or simply, plan your day.
- Get to work on time and not just when the company sends out a memo on late-comers. It’s a precious quiet period to plan, schedule and strategize before the office becomes a beehive of activity. Simply put, it’s professional to get to work on time. The same goes for meetings – get there on time, and decide beforehand how long you’ll stay. It brings a sharper focus to meeting agendas.
- At work, cut out non-work distractions. Networking websites, your cousin’s wedding pictures on a photo storage website, batchmates calling, your own urge to call batchmates, forwarding jokes on email or sms. All these act as holes in the drain, when it comes to time – individually small, but collectively, adding up to a lot in an average work day.
- Use the best means to get a task done. One of the best ways to stretch the hour, get more done is to make your fingers do the walking. Sometimes we can get the same task done in the shortest possible time using the telephone or email. Other times, we may simply have to delegate the task to the right person for it to get done on time, and perhaps get done better.
- Breaks. Tea breaks are important as ‘me-time’, but before you know it, you’ve spent twenty minutes catching up with colleagues on what happened to that programmer who quit last month. Let’s not forget drop-by visitors who have not scheduled to meet you. While sometimes it’s unavoidable, accept that you can say ‘no’ most of the time.
- Tame the email/paper tiger. Find ways to get rid of email/paperwork from your desktop. The objective is to ensure your desktop isn’t a resting place for unnecessary email/paper. Read any email/paper that comes to your desk and then, file, pass, trash or shred. Act immediately.
- Problem-solution. Every time someone from your team approaches you with a problem, if they have a couple of suggestions on how to handle it alongside, it drastically cuts down the time spent on that discussion. In any case, the solutions are often the same, and you will be delegating some of the problem-solving to them anyway. The same goes for when you’re approaching your boss with a problem. If the onus of handling the problem is yours ultimately, it might make sense to line up some solutions before approaching the boss. It also shows that you’re proactive.
- Draw the line on technology. Use only those gadgets that are relevant to you. Recognise what’s helping and what’s not. If viewing email attachments is critical to the nature of your work, a Blackberry that doesn’t allow you to do so is just another electronic leash. Prioritise - not every call is important and not every email is urgent. Some emails are only to inform you, seeking no response. Voice mail and answering machines help maintain contact while you’re doing a task requiring high priority. It’s especially useful while spending quality time at home.
- Sleep deeper. Back home, are you flipping channels because you’re wide awake at bedtime? Doesn’t work - TV actually keeps your brain active long after you’ve switched it off. The same goes for books, except maybe instruction manuals or academic books that guarantee sleep in 3 seconds flat! Ditto with surfing the Internet. If you’re trying to keep track of priorities in your mind, jot them down and take the load off your mind. Have a ‘sleep-mode’ ritual that your brain could associate with shutting down for the day. It could be to meditate for a minute, listen to soothing music or simply look at a calming picture. 

Implement just one of the above ideas and save time that could be better used. If you’ve had success putting these into practice, we’d love to know about it. Also, do write to us with your own simple and innovative ideas on stretching the hour.

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

HEALTH QUOTIENT (HQ) - 3 : Commonsense Health – Food for Thought

In the June 2007 newsletter, you read about mindsets to getting healthier as well as pointers in the area of exercise. We’re now talking diet and lifestyle changes.
To repeat: If you want to start getting healthier, first, get a medical check-up done. Most companies fund these as part of the medical allowance. If you're not suffering from any major ailments, wresting your health back into your hands fundamentally requires you to change your attitude first.
FOOD
- It's easy to cut out unhealthy things that we're not tempted by. If you don't particularly have a fetish for French fries, simply don't eat it.
- Making a change in your diet does not mean you deprive yourself of your favourite food – it simply means you eat enough other healthier things to loosen the hold that your craving has on you.
- What you eat is what you crave. If you are in the habit of eating a samosa every evening, sure enough, on the one evening you don’t, you’ll have samosas on your mind. Using this principle, try substituting with something healthier. Soon, enough, you’ll be craving salads instead.
- Our greatest enemies reside in us – our taste-buds. It's almost as though they have minds of their own! As a result, we miss out on so much that's good for us just because it isn't cheesy, sweet or spicy. Try a little less salt, sugar and seasoning. Have you tried snacking on peanut barfy? It’s a lot better than junk food! Try a weak black or green tea some time.
- Portion Control. Our stomach is just about the size of one closed fist. Does it really need all that we are shoveling into it? A little hunger between meals is good, unless you have a health condition that requires you to have frequent meals. At the same time, erratic and irregular eating habits confuse your body clock and you could end up with indigestion, constipation and heartburn. Try cutting back by 10% lesser – specially the carbohydrate like rice or chapathis. Downsize your eating plate.
- Eating Out: In a buffet, take a tour of all that's on offer. Start with salads, then move to other food. Try skipping the rice, pasta and breads (incl rotis) and stock up on the side dishes.
- If food is going waste, don't be its saviour. It costs more for that food to be inside you than if it was thrown away. The stomach isn't a dustbin. If in a restaurant, do learn to order an appropriately small portion and then ask for more if necessary. If something is going waste, either let it go or pack it for donating to the house help or the watchman.
- Remember that liquids have calories too! The best thirst quencher is a glass of water. If you feel very thirsty, it means your system is dehydrated already and is in 'Reserve' mode. Carry water with you if you don't have ready access or are on the move constantly. For the tea-guzzlers of the world – substitute at least one cup of milky sweet tea with one cup of sugarless weak black tea. You just might acquire a taste for it! Also, check if your diet otherwise is making you crave for the milky-tea. Another issue is that during meetings, people keep constantly offering us coffee or tea. Ask for a glass of water next time.
- Choose fruit over juice – the fibre in the fruit is where the nutrition is. The sweeter the fruit, the more sugar it contains. Eat a fruit in the morning when your body is able to absorb it well. This way, your activities during the day burn the sugar-calories off. Opt for the fruit in season – it's fresher and costs lesser than out-of-season fruits.
- We already know that most food in its raw form is good for us, provided it's hygienic. Nuts, vegetables, fruits – you get nutrition first-hand with these.
- Opt for food with the least human intervention. During processing, some of the essential nutrients are contained in exactly the things are thrown away in the midst of processing. Then, some of that nutrient (that was removed) is put back in and is called 'enriched with xyz'. The five white 'villains' are: white sugar, white rice, white flour (specially maida),white salt (use sea salt) and white pasteurised milk. Read more about this online.  
- Traditional Indian food had an ample dose of whole grains or coarse flour. For example, rice had intact, the endosperm, the bran and the germ of each grain. However, because of refining, not only the hull that covers the grain, but also the bran and the germ are disposed, thereby, literally throwing away the nutrients. Opt for whole grain choices. Read the link in the Further Reading section for more on the benefits of including whole grains in your diet as well as some tips on increasing intake.
- Eat as many vegetables as possible in a given week. Sometimes, it may make sense to have a meal timetable. You can work in various vegetables across the week. Purchases are planned, so food is fresh. You can also slot eating-out and ordering-in. A lot of the time, we order-in food as we draw a blank about what to have for dinner at home. Evolving a food calendar in agreement with the person who owns the kitchen turf will be a challenge initially, but it really does help in the long run.
- When food is cooked, it loses some of its nutrients. There are more effective ways of cooking to retain as much of the nutrients as possibleРsteaming, saut̩ing, baking, dry-roasting, grilling etc. Whenever possible, choose baked or steamed in the place of fried. A deep-fried Bhatura will have more calories over a Tandoori Roti.
- Finish your last meal at least two hours before you go to bed.
LIFESTYLE
- Getting healthy doesn't mean you will never get a headache or a cold or any other health problem. It means that you are minimizing the risks of a lifestyle disease while increasing your ability to cope with the others.
- 'Getting on a diet' will not work. It's just as easy to 'get off it'. The same applies for exercise. Begin by making small but permanent lifestyle changes. Make a good habit or break a bad one. Make these habits consistent by doing them for at least a month.
- If you’re not in the mood to go to the gym, you could follow some of Mr Suresh’s exercises.. Too often, we use the ‘getting-ready’ process as an excuse to not get exercise.
- 21 days. That’s the time it takes to create a new neural pathway in your brain. What does this mean? If you do something consistently for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Try it.
- Learn about health at every given opportunity. Talk to people who you consider in the pink of health, and ask for their secret. Read books, magazines or websites about health. If you want to know more about the Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Pilates or Power Yoga, just get on the internet and find out.
- Ask a lot of questions. Even with that nice old man who's been your family doctor for the past three decades. If someone mentions that it's unhealthy to have milk products at night, ASK WHY. If you are told that a pinch of powder ABC will cure a headache, ask what it contains and how it works. If a doctor prescribes medicines for a backache, ask what effect the medicine will have. Will it treat the symptom, which is the pain, or the real problem?
- Take decisions. In any given situation, we have the choice to eat something healthier. Yes, you can do that even in an eating-out situation. If you can't climb stairs for a meeting you're late for, you can take the stairs down on the way back.
- If your excuse is that you don't have time for exercise or change your eating habits, take a look around. Who does? You’ll find enough examples of extremely busy heads of corporations making the time for exercise as well as people with all the time in the world, not lifting even a finger. Time is not the critical factor here, motivation is.
If all this sounds a little extreme, stop right now and assess how you feel mentally and physically. Plot that on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being down in the dumps and 5 being in peak form).
Those above 4 keep looking for more ways to optimize their health. Invariably, those who plot themselves below 3 are in denial. Don't wait for a serious medical condition to trigger a forced change in lifestyle. No matter where you plot yourself, you already know you could be in better health and as a result, have a better life than the one you have now.
FURTHER READING:

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)


HEALTH QUOTIENT (HQ) - 2 : Commonsense Health - Dumbbells on our mind

As human beings, we are endowed with the ability to think, imagine and plan for the long term. Our massive ego is the other quality that sets us apart from animals. This is the reason we consider ourselves superior in the animal kingdom. We believe ourselves to be the chosen ones to rule the earth and its resources. Why, we're even setting out to prevent natural disasters due to global warming!


Doesn't all this sound a little hollow considering that we want to save the world when we don't even have control over our own bodies? If we did have control, we would be eating more responsibly, squeezing in some exercise, handling stress better, deciding on a close-out time for our work every day and not be tied to our electronic leashes. This is commonsense and we already know it, yet we jeopardize our health anyway.


Today, our bodies belong to our employers and crazy work schedules, junk food outlets and over-processed food, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. We maintain our cars better than we do, our bodies.

If you want to start getting healthier, first, get a medical check-up done. Most companies fund these as part of the medical allowance. If you're not suffering from any major ailments, wresting your health back into your hands fundamentally requires you to change your attitude first.

THE MIND:

- All attempts towards good health begin with the person taking a deep breath and a decision – "Starting now, I take the decisions on my health. This body belongs to me. It will listen when I do something in its favour and I will listen when it tries to signal a problem."

- Stop being a perfectionist and a procrastinator. "I won't start going for a walk because I can't sustain it." "I can't go to the gym because I don't have fancy gym-wear or the latest shoes." "I'll start eating healthier after this holiday when the temptations are gone." There is no better time to start than NOW.

- There will always be this voice inside your head saying that an extra slice of pizza won't kill you. Eating one less won't kill you either. Most of our trouble with sticking to healthier choices is because of that voice of temptation. It's the same voice that whispers that you won't be able to go for a walk because of that twinge in your foot. How will you know until you try it?

- Don't link self-pity to diet and lifestyle. If you're in a job you don't enjoy, that's no reason to eat four gulab jamuns at one go. De-link your emotions from your body. In situations with high stress and depression, we are too embarrassed to go to a psychotherapist for a long term solution, but instead expect comfort food to do the job of a psychotherapist. You can't fill an emotional void with something as physical as a burger!

- Recognise that you will make mistakes and give in to temptations. Don't be a mercenary who kills himself for his army's defeat. Be a warrior who rises every time he falls. Just get back on the bandwagon immediately.

- Most importantly, start with yourself. Don't expect the world to understand. Be graceful about this and don't evangelize anything until you've made it a habit that has worked for you. Accept that one's spouse and children will not adapt immediately. It may take years of observing you before they reluctantly evince an interest.

- Walk the talk. As the old adage says, Actions speak louder than words.

- Take up yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. These are taught almost in every neighbourhood and there are also video CD demonstrations of the techniques.

EXERCISE

- Start a family tradition by going for a walk together in a park or along the beach on weekends.

- If you want to get fit more intensively, walk, jog, run, swim, hit the gym.

- At a macro level, you could consider discussing corporate gym-memberships with your HR department. If you already have a gym at your workplace, schedule sessions three days a week to begin with and work closely with the trainer.

- Overkill does indeed kill. A sedentary individual, who is suddenly inspired to exercise, will overdo it, thereby laying a self-made trap to jeopardize the attempt. Walking for twenty minutes six times a week is better than doing two hours at one go once a week. Consistency is key.

- Do sip water if you feel like it, when you exercise. Many of the cramps that newbie exercisers experience are because of dehydration.

- The day you don't feel like exercising without reason – that's the day you need exercise the most. Challenge yourself.

- Set yourself a goal. Participate in a half-marathon, for instance. Take the help of someone who has done it. Running a half-marathon requires consistent training over many months. The goal will keep you motivated even while you're grappling with minor sprains. Or take a dancing class. It'll keep you moving and help develop that sense of rhythm. Walk to a place of worship. Time yourself climbing a particularly steep gradient near home, then challenge the time.

- Play a sport. Join a cricket team that plays on Sundays. If you have access, play tennis, badminton, squash, basketball, throw-ball etc.


Pointers in the area of diet and lifestyle changes will be covered in our July 2007 newsletter.


(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)


HEALTH QUOTIENT (HQ) - 1 : Stress

After one turns forty (the new benchmark is thirty, these days), most doctors will shake their heads grimly and tell you that your cold/fever/headache/infection is stress-related. Now add to that a blood pressure reading and a cholesterol level that puts a frown on the doctor’s face, and you’re definitely under scrutiny for stress-related disorders.

Stress is the by-product of the body’s self-preserving instinct to face or flee danger. It’s called a fight-or-flight response. When the brain signals the body that there’s danger ahead (be it an approaching deadline or an approaching tiger), the body sends itself into high-alert. Stress is a result of overdrawing of the body’s resources in these situations of perceived threat. As a result, the body’s effective and efficient functioning is disrupted time and again, leading to dis-ease.

Earlier, this would happen for instance, when one saw an approaching tiger. Today, our perception of ‘danger’ ranges from the aforementioned tiger, right down to, say, running out of staples in the stapler. Sure, somewhere in the middle is that important board meeting next week and the sudden absence of that Sales Manager you hired last month.

In effect, what we must recognize is that the mind and body are not independent of each other. What ails the body, ails the mind, and vice versa.

Why do we get stressed?
  • Technology : With the rapid changes in technology, we are 24/7 workers. There’s simply no getting away from the ‘electronic leash’. Don’t believe me? Just count the number of calls you get after work or on holiday.
  • Circle of control: We don’t see the difference between situations within our control and those outside our control. The only thing we can control in the latter case, is the way we handle ourselves. It’s unhealthy to nurture a ‘Kick the dog’ attitude, where we take our angst out on someone least connected to the situation. By the way, it’s also unhealthy to assume you’re that person and kick yourself for it! Hit the ‘Pause’ button and gauge this.
  • Imponderables: Things go wrong. Chaos is part of our lives no matter how technologically advance a race we are. It’s better to simply accept that and sometimes, even anticipate imponderables when you’re at planning stage of a project.

While eliminating stressors or withdrawing from one’s stressors is one solution, stress-management techniques help in fortifying the person so he/she can better handle situations that possibly can’t be escaped. Psychotherapy is one solution, but meditation, physical exercise and a balanced diet certainly work on a healthy, every-day basis. Add to that Pranayam (breathing exercises) and yoga that are seeing resurgence today.

Do remember that the change towards a less stressful life begins with you.

Read the second part of this article, HQ – Common Sense Health, in the next issue of Best of Crest.

SOME USEFUL LINKS:

Stress - http://www.lifepositive.com/stress.html

Mind-body medicine - http://nccam.nih.gov/health/backgrounds/mindbody.htm

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

FINANCIAL QUOTIENT (FQ) – 2 :Creating Wealth

While many of us are well into the investing mode, it might be worthwhile revisiting some basics.

So how does one go about creating wealth? A good place to begin would be to know the difference between Savings and Investments. Savings is the money left over from after your expenditure and taxes. An investment is putting that money into an instrument so that it generates more wealth for you.

Knowledge about financial instruments is key to creating wealth. You may have already invested your money in instruments like Fixed Deposits, Mutual Funds, the Stock Market or Insurance. But do you know all that you need to know about the instrument? See our Further Reading links at the end of this article, for a start point. Read books, surf online for articles, talk to people who seem to have it right – in short, ask a lot of questions. But remember that any advice you get is only an opinion.

Risk is another key factor in investing. Most of us are risk-averse. However, the golden rule in investing is to ‘manage risk’ for better returns. This fundamentally means we risk only as much as we can afford to lose.

Sure, we’ve had chit funds promise us the moon, and we’ve ended up with a handful of dust. This is a clear case of not asking a key question – What’s the catch? Beware of offers that look too good to be true!

Taxes. Do you know if your unique financial profile has some tax-exemption benefits that you can avail of? Remember, it’s exemption, not evasion. Exemption is legal – evasion isn’t.

Think of the millionaires we read about in media. While they may have a flock of investment advisers hovering around them, every decision with regards to money, is still theirs. None of them say that somebody else makes the money-decisions for them.

Unless you monitor these investments, you may miss some great opportunities to make them work harder for you. Think - Is this the best instrument I am invested in at this point? (Do remember that a financial distributor makes more money from you every time he makes a transaction on your behalf – be it investing, liquidating or switching between subtypes. So, it’s better that you’re sure about your decisions.) Unless we take ownership for our financial wellbeing, we will forever be worried about being unable to afford something or provide for our families. Just knowing how much of our money is invested and what kind of returns to expect, will help us focus on how to spend that money.

Do you at this moment know exactly how much of your hard-earned money is invested in which instrument and how much the returns are?

FURTHER READING:

- Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

- One Minute Millionnaire –Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen

- The Richest Man in Babylon – George S. Clason

- Useful link:

o Basics of Wealth Creation - http://www.dallasfed.org/ca/wealth/1.html

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)



FINANCIAL QUOTIENT (FQ) - 1 : The Psychology of Money

To understand the role money plays in your life, do this some time. Try spending a working day with minimal cash in your wallet and no plastic money. Do you feel lighter, less burdened or do you feel anxious by the absence of spending power?

Each of us has a unique relationship with money. Our financial sense is inherited to a great extent from what our parents inculcated in us from childhood and our own experiences as adults. No two individuals are alike and neither is their individual relationship with money.

In the ancient days, people bartered goods and services. One would take pots from a potter and in return, fix his roof. If the blacksmith wanted to buy wheat from a farmer, he would offer a few implements in exchange. That was how business was done.

Money came into the picture, perhaps when people felt that they were getting an unequal deal in the barter. A concept like money would affix value on each good or service, and these would be traded at an agreed price. Even then, money was still considered a means, and not the goal.

Making money is not necessarily a bad goal, as it can get us focused on creating wealth. As someone rightly put it, if creating wealth wasn’t a goal, how would you go about achieving it?

Greed is not necessarily a bad word, it needs to be better defined for today’s times.

Money-making is only as good as where it leads to ultimately. The crux is whether you choose to be defined by the money you make.

Every philosopher, ascetic and prophet has said that if we have our heart set on material things, we will always be disappointed. What do they mean by that? Simply that one can’t fill an emotional void with a physical object. If there’s an emotional void in the area of love, a Tissot watch will not fill it. It will merely distract us for a while. The need of the hour is to find a way of filling that emotional void – spend time with older relatives, children and the underprivileged. Having said that, there’s nothing like celebrating a milestone by gifting oneself a luxury product. Here, the object symbolizes an emotional reward.

There are deeper emotions that dictate one’s relationship with money.

For example, take a spend-thrift or someone very deep in debt. If you analyse the person’s relationship with money, you will probably find that he/she has a deep-rooted belief that they don’t deserve money. So, when money comes along, some inner part of them jeopardizes any attempts to save or invest it. The temptations are bigger, brighter and more colorful and before they know it, they’ve spent it.

Take for instance well-off people who hoard things. It’s a challenge for them to get rid of things they no longer use. If they still manage to send off one truckload of things, they go out and buy two sets of every item they use, just in case. They derive comfort from having things around them. This could be a carry-over from a time when they were financially deprived and couldn’t afford essentials. The feeling of deprivation is so strong that it manifests itself years or even decades later when they are able to afford much more.

Here’s another more common example. A teenager’s need to buy more clothes, accessories, footwear, make-up and the latest mobile phone. It’s not a need to buy as much as a need to keep up with one’s peers. A need for acceptance. There are anxieties that one isn’t attractive enough and there are attempts to fill that void by buying a new pair of jeans when one already has seven others in the wardrobe.

So, what does money mean to you? What role does it play in your life?

Read the second part of this article, FQ – Creating Wealth, in the next issue of Best of Crest.

FURTHER READING:

http://www.asaecenter.org/PublicationsResources/EUArticle.cfm?ItemNumber=11868

http://www.aarpmagazine.org/money/moneystyle.html

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/finance_shiv_invesmtdecisions.shtml

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SPIRITUAL QUOTIENT

As one of the oldest spiritual traditions, India has a whole host of books, teachers and experiences that foster the process of inner rumination and connection with the self. At the outset, one of the fundamental distinctions we need to draw is between Spirituality and Religion. Through this distinction, the definition of each will be clearer.

Spirituality has been defined in many ways. One of the most common definitions is that of a person’s innate bond with a higher power. It has also been described as the relationship a person has with his/her deepest self or soul.

Religion is a physical manifestation of spirituality. As William Irwin Thompson said, "Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization." It channelises one’s spirituality with the help of organized rituals like prayer, worship and norms for the same.

No matter what faith one belongs to (or chooses to be irreligious to), we all have a relationship with our deepest selves. Rituals are fundamentally the means of making that connection.

Spirituality is a broad term and has both breadth as well as depth of meaning. There are so many streams of the study of spirituality and each stream is like a hyperlink which you can access deeper for greater understanding.

In relation to self-development, spirituality embraces so many fields of study, but fundamentally, it all boils down to one’s relationship with one’s self or a higher power.

Ponder the following questions and step back to observe your thoughts on these. Dwell on the answers. Revisit these questions from time to time. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

- How connected are you with your deepest self? Do you sense a duality in yourself? Or are all your dimensions aligned to you and your purpose

- Do you revel in who you are or are you comfortable being yourself? From where do you derive the strength of your connection with yourself (be it a deep bond or a tenuous link)?

- How much influence does peoples’ opinion and expectation have on who you are today? How have some expectations shaped you and some made you feel disconnected with your true self?

Some common spiritual experiences that you can touch frequently by fully being in the present:

- Be in the midst of nature and sense your awe at how the world and everything in it, came to be. Muse over the whorls on a finger tip, the nature of waves, the intelligence of the house crow or about how children think.

- Visit a place of worship and feeling connected to the higher power and fellow-worshippers. Notice the sights, sounds and smells of a place of worship.

- One of the most common ways to touch a spiritual high is through meditation. You can learn to meditate through a faith or even irrespective of it. (See the link in Further Reading)

FURTHER READING:

- The Wooden Bowl by Clark Strand (read a review here - http://www.positivehealth.com/Reviews/books/strand50.htm)

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE & QUOTIENT

Increasingly, all of business is becoming ‘people businesses’. Employees no longer want to be ‘managed’, but ‘led’. As a result, managers are at a loss to understand the emotions behind the actions of employees. It’s a classic case of an excellent IQ falling short in a communication situation. This is where Emotional Intelligence comes into the picture.

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE?

John D. Mayer, along with Peter Salovey, is credited with introducing the term, Emotional Intelligence to our vocabularies. On his website, he defines it thus: “Emotional intelligence refers to an ability to recognize the meanings of emotion and their relationships, and to reason and problem-solve on the basis of them. Emotional intelligence is involved in the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them.”

Mayer goes on further to define the concept as “involving the abilities to:

· accurately perceive emotions in oneself and others

· use emotions to facilitate thinking

· understand emotional meanings, and

· manage emotions”

Although John Mayer introduced the term and concept, it is psychologist Daniel Goleman who is credited with popularizing it in his ground breaking books, ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ’. He says on his website, “Like Mayer and Salovey, I used the phrase to synthesize a broad range of scientific findings, drawing together what had been separate strands of research – reviewing not only their theory but a wide variety of other exciting scientific developments, such as the first fruits of the nascent field of affective neuroscience, which explores how emotions are regulated in the brain.”

The Byron Stock Associates website defines it simply as “Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others. You can use the information about what you're feeling to help you make effective decisions about what to say or do (or not say or do) next. Emotional Intelligence is NOT about being soft! It is a different way of being smart – having the skill to use your emotions to help you make choices in-the-moment and have more effective control over yourself and your impact on others.”

IQ vs EQ

Susan Dunn MA, compares IQ and EQ thus:

  • EQ gets you through life vs. IQ gets you through school
  • Appealing to reason and emotions to convince someone vs. Trying to convince someone by facts alone
  • Using your emotions as well as your cognitive abilities to function more effectively vs. Relying solely on your cognitive skills
  • Knowing how and why vs. Knowing what
  • Knowing how to motivate each person vs. Treating everying as if they operated the same way which they don't
  • Managing emotions and using them for good results vs. Being at the mercy of emotions because you don't understand them or know how to work with them

Emotional Quotient vs Emotional Intelligence

Steve Hein, author of ‘EQ for Everybody’ draws a difference between Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Quotient as “distinction between a person's person's innate potential versus what actually happens to that potential over their lifetime.” He defines EQ as “a relative measure of a person's healthy or unhealthy development of their innate emotional intelligence.”

He also offers ten suggestions to develop one’s Emotional Intelligence:

1. Become emotionally literate. Label your feelings, rather than labeling people or situations.

"I feel impatient." vs "This is ridiculous." I feel hurt and bitter". vs. "You are an insensitive jerk."

"I feel afraid." vs. "You are driving like a idiot."

2. Distinguish between thoughts and feelings.

Thoughts: I feel like...& I feel as if.... & I feel that

Feelings: I feel: (feeling word)

3. Take more responsibility for your feelings.

"I feel jealous." vs. "You are making me jealous."

4. Use your feelings to help them make decisions.

"How will I feel if I do this?" "How will I feel if I don't"

5. Show respect for other people's feelings.

Ask "How will you feel if I do this?" "How will you feel if I don't."

6. Feel energized, not angry.

Use what others call " anger" to help feel energized to take productive action.

7. Validate other people's feelings.

Show empathy, understanding, and acceptance of other people's feelings.

8. Practice getting a positive value from emotions.

Ask yourself: "How do I feel?" and "What would help me feel better?"

Ask others "How do you feel?" and "What would help you feel better?"

9. Don't advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others.

Instead, try to just listen with empathy and non-judgment.

10. Avoid people who invalidate you.


FURTHER READING:

http://www.danielgoleman.info/

http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/

http://eqi.org/

http://www.positivepath.net/ideasCT3.asp

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Dunn157.html

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Street Food of Delhi

Delhi-belly - a term I’d like to see done away with, considering the symptoms affect alike, people holidaying in Bangkok, Karachi or Dhaka for that matter. The accused in every case is street food. But ask a local, and pat comes the reply, “I see my food being prepared on the spot, so I don’t suspect the hygiene.”

Writing about Delhi’s street food is a tough act. Do I begin with the variety of fare? Or should it be the history of each type of cuisine? How about the favourite haunts? But in the interest of appetite, perhaps I should categorise the array into levels of richness and how heavy one feels after a meal?

Here’s an advice from a local - the fare is so varied that one is best advised to sample it while taking in the sights. This is also one way of avoiding what is called, ‘eat in haste and repent at leisure’. So, perhaps the objective of this article is really to equip the seeker of good food with a basic vocabulary of street food and an approximation on where one can find these in Delhi.

Mughlai food takes its name from the Mughals and the famed culinary expertise of their khansamas (chefs). A plethora of spices infuses richness and flavor to the Biryanis, kormas, Nahiri (beef/lamb stew) and rumali rotis (handkerchief-thin chapathis). Let’s not forget the succulent kababs (kebabs) that are on offer, like shammi kabab, sheekh kabab and boti kabab. The area around the Jama Masjid is one great Mughlai eat-athon, burgeoning with food vendors especially during Iftar (breaking the Ramzan fast).

During the Indian Independence in 1947, the influx of people into Delhi especially from the Punjab region, increased. The feisty Punjabis brought with them their famed culinary expertise and a passion for food. Tandoori Chicken, Chole Bhature (chickpea gravy with a deep-fried bread like poori), Channa Kulchas and Parathas with a variety of fillings are their contribution to Delhi cuisine. Chandni Chowk – that great market square since the time of the emperor Shah Jahan – is a warren of streets with eateries at every turn. The Parathewaligali is a street where parathas (unleavened bread) rule the appetite. There are parathas with every conceivable filling, from nuts to mince to the humble cauliflower. This is close to the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. Do note that some people pronounce the word ‘paratha’ with a nasal twang - paraNtha.

For light eats, there’re always alu tikkis (potato patties), samosas, raj kachori (lentil filled fritters), dahi bhallas and the ubiquitous chaat comprising golgappas (also called puchkas in Kolkatta and pani Puri in Mumbai), papri chaat and the like. The combination of sweet, sour and chilli in Chaat, is personalised to the customer’s taste. Try these at the Main Colony Market and Gol/Bengali Market. Try the pakoras with hot milky tea at Bhikaji Cama Place.

For the workforce around Connaught Place, there are stalls serving South Indian food like idlis and dosas. There’s also the roti-sabji-dal (Indian bread-vegetable-lentils) combination that mimics home-food in its simplicity.

In areas like Janpat, you can’t miss the Fruit Chaat and Aloo Chaat vendors. Fruit chaat is a fruit salad tossed in the signature sour-sweet chaat masala. Aloo chat is boiled potato tossed in the same masala with a dash of lime and some sliced onions for variation. The street food experience is incomplete without dessert - jalebis, phirni, kheer, gulab jamun, shahi tukda. The Jalebis and gulab jamuns are deep fried and marinated in sugar syrup The shahi tukda is a deep-fried piece of bread, soaked in sugar syrup and served with rabdi (thickened milk pudding) and a garnish of finely sliced pistachios. Kheer and phirni are really variations of milky rice pudding.

There is also a range of the usual roasted corn, peanuts, pop corn, hot milky tea, sharbat and sugar cane juice to stave off hunger pangs until the next indulgent meal.

A recent court ruling prohibits the making of food on the street in Delhi. The ban is, thankfully, yet to be implemented and there’s still time to sample the uniquely-Delhi street food experience.

(An edited version was published in the December 2007 issue of 'At A Glance')