14 ways I have tried to get there!

Have we ever felt as vulnerable as this before? All the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, which we have only read about, seems to have walked into our lives. I have realised that all my learning and practice around equanimity has never been challenged like this before. In the past, there have been moments when we have been through the throes of emotional upheavals, but never have we experienced such state of negativity and uncertainty all around us. Some of us have managed these uncertain times better than others by being more equanimous.

Equanimity, at its simplest, is the state of having an even mind even in trying times. While all religions have espoused this virtue, there is hardly anything religious about it. In fact, to me, it is more a state of being and a way to live. Equanimity is a disposition of psychological stability and composure, which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause some others to lose their emotional balance.

Daniel Goleman, who popularised emotional intelligence, while de-constructing the concept talks about emotional competencies of self-awareness and self-regulation. This, in essence, is what equanimity is all about. Talking about well-being, Goleman says “Well-being is a state of being content with things as they are”. He goes on to say, “A major component is equanimity. A form of happiness that is not dependent on external circumstances, on what someone else does or says. It’s an internal state where you’re continuously reminding yourself that you’re okay as you are.”

In the language of psychologists and EQ practitioners, equanimity is forestalling an ‘amygdala hijack’ — an emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and disproportionate to the stimuli. The attempt is to even out the peaks and troughs of our emotional state.

In today’s world, the quality of equanimity is perhaps the only way to exist, not only for our own well-being but also for the well-being of the people around us. Equanimity for me has manifested in greater self-awareness, improved stress tolerance, better impulse control and more independence (from being at the mercy of others and one’s own emotions).

As equanimity is a skill of one’s mind and heart, hence the solutions that have worked for me, may not fit others. Here are a bunch of options that I have experimented with, in my pursuit for equanimity:

1. Staying in the Now. Neither the regrets of the past nor the fear of the future is worth wasting your present on. The Japanese concept of Ichi-go Ichi-e teaches us to focus on the present and treasure the unrepeatable nature of every moment.

2. Ego and equanimity don’t live together. When others are at their wit’s end, there are bound to be moments when they may act in a way that has the potential to hurt your ego. If you let your ego interfere, it will not be easy to be equanimous.

3. Fake it till you make it! I have tried to practice consciously maintaining a relaxed state of my whole body.

4. Being non-judgemental. I read somewhere ‘Judging a person does not define who they are; it defines who we are’ and it has stayed with me. It helps that this is also a professional competency I need to display as a coach.

5. Believing in the universal law of impermanence. Everything is transitionary and will pass, so why let things get to you?

6. Practising letting go. Nothing is worth clinging to, be it thoughts or things!

7. Slain by multitasking, saved by mindfulness. Mindfulness for me is entirely focussing on the one thing that I am doing. Just a couple of minutes of mindfulness, a few times a day, takes me to my alpha state.

8. Meditating. Quieten the mind for the soul to speak. I attempt to connect with my inner self, my being, the eternal source of all my energy for 10–15 minutes every day. Just sitting there and watching my breath, some days I am better at it than others!

9. Practising “being the observer and the observed”. My exploration of spirituality introduced me to this concept. Occasionally try and observe yourself — What am I doing? What am I feeling? What thoughts are conjuring up? Seems abstract but believe me anyone can get to do it, with just a little bit of practice.

10. Watching nature. Observing the perfection in the imperfection and being amazed at the creation where everything is in harmony. For me, my morning runs are an ideal time to do this. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, they talk about wabi-sabi which teaches us to appreciate what is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete!

11. Resetting myself in moments of emotional highs. Sometimes through meditation and sometimes physically — just a good run or few sets of push-ups is all that I need to reset that spiral of negativity, as it helps me shift the focus.

12. Breaking the thought > emotion > actions pattern. Through techniques like opposition thinking espoused by Robin Sharma, you can check my negative thoughts as soon as they form and consciously replace them with positive ones. Without negative thoughts, negative emotions have no fuel to thrive on.

13. Sometimes, the reverse (actions>emotions>thoughts) also works. At times, it is easier to act your way into new thinking than to think your way into new actions.

14. Counting my blessings and showing gratitude is another sure shot way to help you feel good about yourself and focus on the positives that you have. This helps counter negative feelings and the sense of hopelessness, which we occasionally encounter.

As a final word, I learnt that one cannot cross the river merely by standing and staring at the water. Go ahead and take a dip, explore and experience to know what works for you and thou shalt find yourself in a better place!

Coronavirus disruption — use your slack time productively!

As the hourglass topples
As the hourglass topples
Illustration credits – Sanjana Jain

(What to do now that you have the time to do more?)

When we thought nothing could slow us down, came Coronavirus (COVID-19). We were just about warming up to 2020 and everything we wanted to achieve in this year and before we realised, we have been thrown into one of the most chaotic times of the decade. In a time when everything is available at the tap of a button, we are preparing ourselves for scarcity that we may never have experienced before.

If anything, in this turbulent period, we seem to have more time at our hands, maybe more than ever before. We have to accept that for most of us the pace of work has slowed down. Even if quite a few of us are working from home, things are not at as intense a pace as we might see on our regular days. It is up to each of us as to see how we will use this time; we can crib and fear the unknown or binge on all the OTT content until our eyes become blurry and red or we can use these precious moments to do things we have not been able to find the time to do. 

Now is the time to focus on those important rather than urgent things, which you always wanted to work on but never had the time as the excuse of lack of time has somewhat diminished. Friends I have spoken with have the following items on their list and maybe some of these will also inspire you to make your own ‘slack time’ to-do list.

Purpose and Direction: Thinking about where we are and where we want to be. Are we happy with what we are doing and where we are, in work and life? Is your current agenda leading to the larger purpose that you are looking for? If you want to do some course correction, this is the time to reflect on the same.

De-clutter: We have spent our entire life hoarding things — clothes, souvenirs, gifts. Now could be a great moment to take stock of all that we have but we don’t need. It is time to de-clutter your wardrobe and your storage spaces, giving out what you don’t need and creating space for more in life or even living a more minimalist sustainable life.

Organise your finances: I am always surprised when I realise that even CXOs, who manage large companies, hardly focus on their personal finances. Many of us don’t know how our funds are deployed, we haven’t revisited our financial decisions in years and have not done any conscious retirement planning. The fact that this may not be the ideal time to make fresh financial decisions should not hold us back from at least organising our financial information. This could be the time to review how optimally your funds are deployed, with what time horizon perspective and to take stock of returns for each of your investments (ignoring the immediate upheaval in financial markets!). If you haven’t done any estate planning or written a will, this may be a good time to do that as well.

Catch up on reading: All the books that you bought and never read and all the ones that you want to read but never got yourself to order, this is the time to do it. Either order a hard copy (most of these are still getting delivered in a day or two), else even better just get yourself some e-books and go on a reading binge.

Take that online course: Which are the personal development areas and upskilling initiatives that you have been putting off? You may already know what you need to work on, else refresh yourself with the last couple of years of appraisal forms and ask around, to zero in on those one or two areas you want to work on. Find yourself an on-line course and get started.

Exercise: Gyms may be closed, but that doesn’t stop you from getting on to an exercise routine, especially when you have the liberty of time at your hand. Get up, move, do those push-ups, planks and start with the runs (if possible) that you always wanted to start with but never had the time.

Connect with family and friends: Being at home means your immediate family is more accessible, use this opportunity to connect and pursue activities together within the confines of your home. Friends may not be physically accessible, but this could be the best time to pick up the phone and renew connections with people you have lost touch with. This is one time when your excuse to yourself that ‘they may be too busy to take your call’ is not a good enough rationalisation.

So, what does your slack time To-do list look like?

Also, while we attempt to productively use the extra time that we have, let us find few moments to express gratitude to the medical, para-medical and sanitation community, government bodies and many others who are working overtime to contain this pandemic and keep us safe.

What lessons does delayed gratification hold for life?

Good things come to those who wait!
Illustration credits – Sanjana Jain


Virtually everything is a click away today – anything you want can be delivered to your doorstep within 24 hours or less, the choicest of foods across a multitude of restaurants are only but a few minutes away and all the entertainment you seek can most likely be streamed on this very device right this instant. It makes you think whether, for today’s one-click generation, delayed gratification is even relevant. In this world that makes it possible for everything to happen now, why wait till later?

Maybe the concept of delayed gratification can be construed as a sign of maturity, a concept that has not even touched the lives of many of the current generation. Though, if you come to think of it, it’s relevance has not depleted in the least; rather it has become all the more significant. In today’s world when everything is within reach, delaying gratification is a test of one’s resolve. But, then why delay what is easily available? I think there are enough reasons to do that:

  • It helps you value what you get. As they say, anything that comes easily is not valued as much – be it money, fame or relationships. However, if you have worked hard for them, you value these achievements or acquisitions much more.
  • It can be a source of motivation. When you set a goal for yourself and decide that you will enjoy the gratification only once you have achieved those goals, delayed gratification becomes a source of immense motivation.
  • You learn to live within your mean. Not only is everything easily accessible today but also the money to access the same is just there, thanks to the credit cards and pre-approved loan limits which banks are falling over each other to offer to you.
  • You compel yourself to think. Once you deny yourself instant gratification and delay the fulfilment of the desire, you pass over that refraction period immediately following stimulation during which your thinking is suspended, your faculties regain control of the mind and compel you to think whether the need is genuine enough to require gratification.
  • You cut your clutter. The later you accumulate the more you are living with your current options longer and hence delaying the building of clutter for yourself. Clutter breeds its own tension of organising the same and de-cluttering at some stage, which can be an energy-draining exercise
  • You may just skip the desire. If you pass the instant gratification opportunity, chances are that you may completely skip the desire. Avoiding trips to the mall during shopping sales, invariably means you don’t end up buying at all, once the sales frenzy has passed over.
  • You also do something for the planet. Not only for yourself but you also help the planet by delayed gratification of your desires. Most of the things that we consume come at a cost to the environment, the later we gratify ourselves, to that extent we delay our carbon footprint or even sometimes avoid it completely, as the need to gratify passes over with time since the desire was never backed with a real need.

Try putting delayed gratification in action and see if it works for you, earn the fulfilment of every desire by aligning it with goals and outcomes that you want to achieve.

Delaying gratification leads to long term satisfaction.

Some insights from Thrive by Ariana Huffington

Mentorbox was a great way to gain quick insights from the book Thrive by Ariana Huffington. The key theme of Thrive is that life is not only about Money and Power, it has a third pillar – Wellness, which is the ability to survive and thrive in this chaos. Wellness means focusing on well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. The book suggests a list of possible things one can do to cultivate Wellness:

·      Unplug – from technology, at least two hours during your waking time – no phones, no television, no screens. Use the time instead for improving your health, mental wellness and cultivating wisdom.

·      Mindfulness – Sit with yourself in silence for a bit. Just start with a minute or two during the day, sitting still and focussing on your body or just observing your surroundings.

·      Meditation – Mindfulness is the beginning of meditation. Just sitting still and counting your breadths for those few minutes is a great start.

·      Giving – Altruism is a sure way to happiness. Give – even if it is just an honest compliment and do it every single day.

·      Life of Value – Life should not only be about how much you take or receive but more about how much value can you give back. Re-frame your work goals with a giving attitude. Imagine everything you do as exchange of value. What value are you giving to the world?

·      Wisdom – Everyday become a better version of yourself. Pay attention to what really matters, learn more or try something new, get out of your comfort zone.

·      Wonder – Ask the big questions, about the meaning of life. Why you are here and what is the purpose of life? By doing this, you will push yourself to be what you are meant to be.

·      Gratitude – Gratitude induces happiness and improve relationships. Every day, before going to sleep, remind yourself of five things that you are grateful for during that day.

·      Sleep – Do not ignore sleep. Sleep brings energy which leads to action which results in success. Give yourself the 7-8 hours of sleep that your body deserves. Be disciplined – sleep and wake up at the same time, avoid screen time at least one hour before sleep . . .

Thrive is about all of the above and much more with tools and tricks to get going!

Sandeep Jain

After 25 years in various finance and business leadership roles, I now work as a Strategy Consultant and Leadership & Life Coach, besides mentoring Scale-ups and Start-ups. Follow me on LinkedIn or feel free to write to me at sandeep.jain@value-unlocked.com

What is holding you back?

I was recently coaching a client who works with an MNC, and had engaged me in his personal capacity to help him restore his work-life balance.

After a couple of coaching sessions, he realised that what manifested as adverse work-life balance, had its roots in his ‘not so adequate’ time management skills which in turn stemmed from his inability to say No. He realised that at work, he just could not say no to people who kept intruding on his time, which resulted in work piling up; the only time he managed to get to work on his own was after office hours! It is not surprising for such revelations to surface during coaching sessions, where treating symptoms of issues may not help solve the actual problem.

As a Coach, I believe that individuals have all the wisdom within themselves to solve their challenges. It is just that they don’t get the time to think through their problem or don’t know how to take a deep dive within to find solutions or just need to find the right motivation to bring the desired change.

It will be a pleasure to exchange notes over a call/skype or catch up over a coffee cup coaching session (completely gratis!) to understand what is holding you back and if I could help you with any of your challenges.

After 25 years in various finance and business leadership roles, I now work as a Strategy Consultant and Leadership & Life Coach, besides mentoring Scale-ups and Start-ups. Feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn or write to me atsandeep.jain@value-unlocked.com

Get out of your comfort zone!

A comfort zone is a beautiful place... But nothing grows there.

How often have we heard the phrase ‘getting out of your comfort zone’? While all of us relate to the phrase and use it extensively in our feedback discussions but do we really explain what it takes to get out of one’s comfort zone?
Comfort zone is being in a situation where one feels safe or at ease. It is a much-used method of working that is so ingrained in our minds that it requires little efforts or thinking but at the same time, only yields barely acceptable results. Comfort zone by its definition, minimizes stress due to a sense of familiarity and security in that space and mitigates risk due to certainty of outcomes from doing tried and tested things.
Getting out of our comfort zone means doing or maybe initially, just braving an attempt at tasks and activities that we have not done before. When we get out of our comfort zone, we are exposing ourselves to stress and anxiety because we are not quite sure of the outcome or our reaction to the new situation. However, this risk-taking ability is what all of us need to imbibe for the sake of our evolution. Whether we succeed or not in our attempt, the idea is to move towards getting comfortable with something completely new. Trying out new things outside of your comfort zone and getting used to them is bound to expand our comfort zone. Consciously or unconsciously, trying out new things is a natural course which we take to expand our horizons; the more we get out of our comfort zone, the more we expand our comfort zone, little by little!
What can you do to get out of your comfort zone?
· Pick up a new hobby – art, music, dramatics, writing, or anything else
· Try a different form of exercise – from what you are used to
· Change your routine – if you are a late riser, try getting up an hour earlier
· Join a continuing education program, even if it is a short one
· Read an author or a genre which you normally don’t
· Learn a new language
· Go on an adventure trip
Just do something that you haven’t done earlier!
As Robin Sharma writes, ‘As you move out of comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes the new normal’. Taking risks is what helps us grow. Hence, seizing every opportunity to get out of our comfort zones lets us expand our horizons. We should really thank people who push us into such situations.
Let us all attempt to ‘get comfortable’ about getting out of our comfort zones!