You need to S.T.O.P in Life.

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We all lead such busy lives that we never really stop to think about what we can do to improve its quality. We have silent battles with ourselves every single day. ‘I really wanted to do all the ten works I had planned for today, but couldn’t’, ‘I wish I could go to the gym every day like I had planned’, ‘Why am I not getting new ideas?’, ‘Why am I doing this? What really is the purpose?’. If you are someone who goes through the routine facing such conundrums every single day, then join the club. Prior to writing this, I was reading about certain topics via bits and pieces of articles online, and I could come up with a short slogan.

“You need a STOP in life”

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I don’t mean you need to stop and take a breath and then things will be back to normal. No. I mean you got to have,

S – Self-discipline

T – Time Management Skill

O – Out-of-the-box Thinking

P – Purpose

(I got the inspiration of this acronym after reading the article on Rifath Sharook, the 18-year-old Indian boy who designed the world’s smallest satellite (What?!). He says we need to have DOSA in life. Go check out what it means.)

  1. Self-Discipline:

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I like Taylor Swift. If any of you have ever watched one of her interviews, you would know that all of her answers reflect a degree of smartness. Once when she was asked, ‘What does creativity mean to you?’, she replied saying, ‘Creativity to me is having an inspiration and that lightning bolt moment when you get the idea, and at the same time also having the hard work ethic to sit down and write it out’. The second part of the answer is something I strongly agree with. A lot of people, including me, find it hard to build self-discipline, mostly because you need to do things which are not always very interesting. If you want to be a Doctor, you cannot bypass remembering a million terms. If you want to be a Singer, you need to keep writing more, even when you’re satisfied with your ideas. If you want to be a Writer, your room must be surrounded with a hundred crumpled sheets.

We all struggle with this problem, and I once saw a video which could probably help some of you. It says, take a shower in cold water for a minimum of 30 days (or hot water for those who like cold water showers). As you start exposing yourself to doing an activity you don’t particularly find pleasant, something happens psychologically and you will be relatively more willing to do the things which you had denied beforehand. It doesn’t even have to be this exercise particularly. This one is ideal as you don’t spend any extra time every day as bathing is a routine (hopefully).

         2. Time-management:

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You want to sit and study, but you also want to go out with your friends for dinner but then there is that TV show whose last episode you haven’t seen yet and you just want to curl up and read a novel. Sounds familiar? Time-management is a struggle not just for students like us, but for every millionaire and billionaire out there too. Over the years, a lot of people have asked me, ‘How do you manage time so well?’, and I always think to myself amusedly, ‘But I don’t’. You can never be perfect at it. However, there are a few things you can do.

Cut down on movies and serials:

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I mean it. I know people who binge watch series all the time. It’s okay to sit back and once in a while do this, but all the time is not going to really help you. There was a time when I watched TV series like a mad person, and I remember it didn’t add much value to my life except whiling away the time. Even now I watch, but it’s very rare and I try to limit myself to maximum of an hour. On the other side, sometimes watching it helps me because once I’m done watching, I feel guilty and my work efficiency increases.

Start your day with a plan: Some of us like to create grand plans for an entire week or month (whether we stick to them or not is a different story). Some of us like to be spontaneous and allow things to follow its course. Whichever category you belong to, waking up and drafting a plan inside your head shouldn’t hurt. Think about all the things you can do in a span of the next 16 hours and allocate time for each. I have been doing this for over 3 years and it works like a charm. On a side note, I loved every single day at NITT because, in spite of me planning what to do, there were always new surprises, unexpected work calls and unplanned dinners with friends. A rich mix of both

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Think about what you do every day, for a week: Of course, we all know what we do every day, but we never reflect upon it. But when you sit down and really think about all the activities you do in a day, you will start finding these gaps of time. Gaps of time which are wasted and add up to a significant amount. Even now as I think about everything that happened today, I can count the number of hours when I did nothing. If you keep doing this for over a week, you will get an idea of how you can use that intermittent time.

        3. Out-of-the-box thinking:

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This is probably the hardest ability to master and the most rewarding. People say creative thinkers are born, and not made. This is probably true, but nobody said you cannot improve your creative ability as you grow. This quality is so important especially when you are in college as you fill out so many application essays and sit through gruelling interviews. Interviewers and evaluators expect you to be different, and we cannot blame them. If my job is to read through 100 essays every day, I yearn for that one that will make me re-read it and feel good about my job. Even when someone asks us a simple question, ‘Can you introduce yourself?’, it takes us a few seconds to gather our thoughts and try to give a smart reply. A few days ago, I was talking to a boy who was in College preparing for placements. I was helping with a few questions that he can anticipate when suddenly I turned to him and asked, ‘Can you introduce yourself?’. It took him a minute to think of something and what he said was not satisfactory from any angle.

A recruiter that I had met recently lamented about how he does not see any spark anymore in the students. When we say, India is fighting against unemployment, we should also look at the mistakes that we, as students, commit instead of blaming the companies and government. We need to think about some basic questions about our lives,

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(Hi5 to all dog lovers out there)

‘What do I thoroughly enjoy doing?’, ‘What is it that I did recently which made me happy?’, ‘Where do I see myself in a few years? Where do I want to see myself?’, ‘What has been the biggest failure?’. Answering these questions won’t just help them know you better, but it will help you know yourself better.

And coming to thinking out-of-the-box, I can suggest a few tricks which you can practise.

  1. Solve short puzzles online. I truly believe I am not a creative person by birth, and I still struggle to come up with new ideas on spot. I always have this feeling, ‘Damn, why did I not think of that?’. But I know that I have improved by solving puzzles. I don’t mean paragraph long questions that take you forever to solve, look at short puzzles that test your left-side of brain. Quora is a brilliant place where such questions are asked often and people come up with very creative solutions. The first step to developing this quality is to read as much as possible about how people give creative solutions.
  2. Try to take something ordinary and look at it from a very different perspective. Let’s take a spoon for example. We all know it is used to eat food or say drink soup. However, it can also be used as a hanger or even as jewellery. These are things which you can force yourself to do in your intermittent free time, when you are waiting in an elevator or riding your bike.
  3. Apps really help. I like to download apps at times when I feel bored. Some really cool ones that I found which tested my brain cells were ‘That game again’, ‘Skillz’ and ‘Dark Stories’. Obviously there are million more and you just need to click on the Play Store option to help you. Another thing that you can do is convert your alarm into a puzzle solver, say a math puzzle. As annoying as it might be, you will learn to be quickly aware even in your semi-conscious state.
  4. Sing a song by changing the tense. This is just something that I randomly did one day and I felt good after that. Take your favorite song, convert all the ‘he’s to she’s (or vice versa) or try adding a specific word after every ‘the’. Try having a conversation without the alphabet ‘e’. Try telling your mental voice to think in a language that you don’t usually think in. All of these things will act as an exercise for your mind to think and come up with solutions faster.

These are, at the end of the day, just my ideas which I feel worked well. However, they are very subjective and I guess you need to find something that works for you and keep doing it.

       4. Purpose:

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It is a lot of fun asking this question to people, just to catch them off guard (most people).

Your purpose is your why. It drives all of your actions and fuels your passion. Living without a purpose is similar to looking through a blurry vision. The novel ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl emphasizes on how important it is to have a purpose in life and how it can get you through even the most unbearable ordeal in life.

It is almost impossible to force yourself to find this purpose unless you do it out of self-interest. I do feel one simple activity can help you with this: Break up with THE ONE. Many of us struggle because we try to find that ONE thing that we are meant to do; but trying to find only one thing is the reason why we feel like something is missing. Let go of this line of thought and start trying new things. Instead of always worrying about the future, try living in the present. Anyhow, I will stop this preaching before it becomes blasé.

However, I believe we all can agree on something here: being happy is somewhere embedded in that purpose. And obtaining this happiness is again subjective. Although I feel many people do things that they think are sources of happiness but they are just sources of passing time. So many times, I have done some activity which I assumed would help me feel ecstatic but it simply let me down. But I do know one thing that really gets me excited: making myself useful. When someone approaches me to tell that something that I said or did really helped them, that is what completes my day. I am sure you all have this one thing that lights up your day. Now, what is it? Think about it.

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P.S. Just for fun, I was searching and found some very strange yet funny questions that apparently will help you find your purpose. I’m pasting below three of them.

  1. What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?
  2. What makes you forget to eat and shit?
  3. How can you better embarrass yourself?

Image sources: Google

This article idea came out of the blue one day. I would love it if someone suggests an idea because that way it will prove to be more useful. Till then, cheers!

 

 

 

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