These 5 books will help you realign with yourself

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Reading is a practice that contributes immensely to our mental, emotional wellbeing both of which are intricately connected to our physical health. However, there are too many of us who are not taking advantage of this amazing source of information and collective wisdom. In this post, I have encapsulated a collection of books that have personally contributed tremendously to my own personal growth and wellbeing especially in terms of bringing clarity to what gives my life meaning and what is important to me.

Those who know me well know that I am a voracious reader. I truly believe that reading is an extremely effective way of gaining insight into other people's experiences and wisdom. We can be inspired and motivated by others who have led a rich and meaningful life on their own terms. This post, in particular, is about books which will help you to realign with yourself and your purpose. With that, given below are five books that you can pick up today that will change your life in one way or the other.

(This is the first in a series of posts that I will be writing every month or so on books and resources that you will likely benefit from)

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

This book is a powerful guide to finding meaning in our lives. It gives a different perspective on what we know about happiness. Social scientists are now proving what philosophers have known all along; that the pursuit of happiness actually makes people unhappy. Emily Esfahani Smith identifies four pillars upon which meaning rests: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling and Transcendence.

In this book, the author gives an insight into what determines a life lived purposefully. She stresses on the fact each of us has different strengths, abilities, insights and talents and we will need to be aware of these and have knowledge about ourselves to live a life filled with purpose. She goes on to show that those of us who have a purpose in life, contribute towards the goal that we set for ourselves, ultimately lead lives which are more satisfying and meaningful. A must read for anyone who is looking to find ways to incorporate purpose, belonging as well as happiness in their lives. The Power of Meaning  by Emily Esfahani Smith (October 2017)

 

 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This book is one of the books that I tend to read again and again. This is the book which first brought awareness to the fact that rather than focussing on how we can do more and more, we need to focus on doing the right things. So rather than trying to fit everything in our to-do list and our life and suffering from overwhelm, overscheduling and stress we can learn how to say "no" to things that are not important and start focussing on the right things.

In this book, the author writes about the staggering choices that we are forced to confront on a daily basis which keep us stuck as we battle decision fatigue. The information overload in the digital age and the myth that "you can have it all"  is contributing to the stress in our modern life. As an alternative, the author shows us ways to apply more selective criteria to understand what is truly Essential and saying "no" to what is not.

Personally, this book has helped me to revaluate the decisions that I make on a daily basis and helped me to focus on what is really important in my life. This book will help you to discover your priorities and provide you with a template to "do less, but better." Essentialism by Greg McKeown (April 2014)

 

 

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

This book was initially written as a blog post by a palliative nurse taking care of terminally ill patients. After working with such patients her life was transformed. She wrote about it in a blog post which encapsulated the most common regrets of those whom she had cared for at the very end of their lives. This struck a chord with people all over the world and it was read by over three million people.

This encouraged her to write her own personal story as well as the top five regrets of those at the end of their lives. At the end of the day, this book is not so much about dying but about how to actually live a life with peace, clarity and purpose. Read this book to gain an insight into finding out what truly matters to you, what you want from life and how to garner the courage to walk your own path.

This book has brought immense clarity to my own life and has taught me just how precious my life truly is. While the writing style may be a bit difficult for some of you, do continue with this book and read it to gain an insight into how you can live a life that is well lived and worthwhile. The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware (May 2017)

 

 

Mindset by Carol Dweck

This book is written by a professor of psychology at Stanford University and is the book on "growth mindset". The author and her colleagues did a groundbreaking experiment with a group of students which showed that contrary to popular belief, their mindset played a key role in their achievements and motivation levels. They also found that by changing their mindset they were actually able to improve the outcomes.

This research showed the way in terms of how success in school, work, arts, sports and many other areas in life can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our skills and abilities. This book can help us to change the way we think about failure, foster resiliency and transform our life.

This book has helped me to change the way I think about effort, failure and my own abilities. I have been able to apply these principles in different areas of my life including parenting, work, business and relationships and have seen firsthand it's transformative power.

Read this book to learn more about "fixed" vs "growth" mindset and how you can work on your own mindset and build the right mindset in children in particular.  Mindset by Carol Dweck (January 2017)

 

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Fransesc Miralles

Ikigai is a word that is used to describe our reason for "being." I came across the word"Ikigai" a couple of years back and it has stayed with me ever since. It is a Japanese word/concept which means "a reason for being" and has a profound effect on longevity and the quality of life.

Our Ikigai may be different for each of us, but we are all searching for something that gives meaning to our life. Knowing that what we are doing with our life is at the intersection of our values, our passion and contribution to society give us the strength and the conviction to carry on even during difficult and uncertain times.

I am truly blessed to be one those fortunate few who is in the centre of this convergence in my own life and I urge you to make an effort to work towards your own beautiful whole. Read this book to find begin your search for and discover your own "Ikigai". Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Fransesc Millares (September 2017)

 

These are the 5 books that I would like to leave you with at this time. I will be sharing such books and resources on various topics which will contribute either directly or indirectly to your health and wellbeing. Books are a major part of my life and help me to learn and grow in more ways than I can count. I hope that you will take advantage of what I have shared and give yourself the "gift" of reading.

As someone had said wisely..

A book is a gift you can open again and again

Rocks, pebbles and sand…the key to knowing what is important in your life

Reading Time: 7 minutes

(You may have read my earlier post "Do you know your WHY?" that I had written recently on finding our true purpose in life. I am writing a series of 6 weekly posts on various interrelated topics where the goal is to infuse our life with purpose, clarity and calm. As you go through these posts I suggest that you keep a journal handy so that you can reflect upon and write down answers to the questions that I ask along the way. And of course, I would simply love it if you would share with your experience of going on this journey of self-exploration with me)

In this SECOND post, I am focussing on the fact that we need to always be clear on what is truly IMPORTANT to us not only in terms of work but in life as a whole. Sometimes we forget that our life is an indivisible whole and that just like a spider's web when we pull at one end there is bound to be an impact at the other end. We may not realise that each time we choose to do or NOT do something, we have already made a decision and that this decision has an impact on our lives. We may also not realise that we are making CHOICES all the time- what food to eat, what clothes to wear, whether to let go of anger or a grudge, forgive, become grateful/remain ungrateful and even how we respond to unfavourable circumstances. The problem for most of us is not whether we have a choice or not, the issue is that we may not be clear on what we want.

Why is it that some people...

achieve what they set out to do where many others give up on their hopes and dreams?

seem to have it "ALL" while so many others are just busy "keeping it all together"?

know exactly how to maintain their physical, emotional and spiritual health as well as the health of their family, relationships while others "let go"?

What is it that makes them different?

The difference is that they know what they want from life as much as they know what they do not want. 

This is quite evident in observing those people who have achieved what they set out to do with passion and enthusiasm. This clarity allows them to take decisions on a daily basis from a place that is aligned to their values and goals. These decisions have a snowballing effect that ultimately over time culminates into the life they wanted to create for themselves in the first place. This is not to say that things will not and do not go wrong in their lives, it is just that these people have the ability to bounce back much earlier from their setbacks than do most others.

The thing is, if we are not clear about what we want, how can we make the right choices?

In my own life, as I have become clearer and clearer on what I want and why it has become much easier to make decisions that are leading to a well-balanced and harmonious life. It has become easier to say "NO" to the opportunities/activities and people when I need to that are not aligned with my values AND at the same time focus on what is important to me.

Once again, I come back to a question I had asked you in my earlier post

"What do I want from life?"

(Reflect upon this and revisit it from time to time, it may give you a sense of direction)

As someone wise had said, "The way you do one thing is the way you do everything"

Even if we are clear on what we want from life, due to our modern way of living we are being constantly distracted and sidetracked from what we set out to do. While growing up each of one of us had certain dreams that we aspired to fulfil when we were older. Yes, some of these may have been hopelessly idealistic and impractical. Also true that circumstances in life can AND do get in the way at times. Yet it is also true that many people who inspire us by doing amazing and previously unthinkable and/or unachievable work did so because they did not let impossible stand in their way. They were brave enough to stick their neck out and stand apart from the crowd as they reached for their goals. Can you find ways to do the same?

Take some time out to ponder and reflect upon the questions below-

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Would you do anything differently than what you are doing now?

What is the ONE thing that you would change and the FIRST step you would take towards it?

(Do take the time and write down the answers to these questions- the answers may surprise you and bring you some clarity that you seek)

We are actually not at all different when we are born but somewhere along the way our conditioning (mostly subconscious) takes over and keeps us from doing the best that we can to become the "best version of ourselves" (courtesy Matthey Kelly in his book "The rhythm of life"). Fear takes over and shackles us whether we ever realise it or not. But mostly, we forget that we have the power to CHOOSE.

And as a result, as we grow older we lose the gift of knowing what needs to be done and of making healthy decisions. We start worrying about what to feed our child, which 'diet' to follow, how to parent, which exercise regime to follow and so on and so forth....you get the idea! We start relying on "experts" to tell us what to do. We lose sight of what is important to us and feel disoriented or confused as we move from activity to another living on automatic pilot. It often takes a wake up call like a health or financial crisis to wake us up from our stupor and start making changes. However, if we know what we stand for and what we want it makes much easier to make decisions that are good for us.

Image result for urgency

This also translates into the activities that we do on a daily basis as well. Due to the frenetic pace of modern life, many of us are affected by an "urgency addiction". Rather than doing the things that matter to us and which will propel us towards our goals, we end up spending the majority of our time putting out mini fires that feed this addiction. That is not to say that we should not be focussing on those things that need to be tended to on an urgent basis.

The problem is that we fail to realise that many activities which are actually "important" to us gets overlooked and even ignored in this process. As we move from one "crisis" to another, we get so caught up in the "doing" that we never stop to reflect whether it really needs to be done in the first place.

How much more fulfilling life would be if we... 

did not wait for some kind of crisis or a wake-up call?

did not wait for our health to fail, our relationships to die or our children to grow up while we were too busy earning a living to start making changes and focussing on doing what really mattered most?

took out the time to understand what is truly IMPORTANT for us and then worked towards incorporating it in our lives?

silhouette of man holding two childrens on shore during daytime

Take out the time and write down YOUR answers to the questions

What’s important to you or what matters to you most?

Why is it important to you?

Lastly, I want to share with you a beautiful exercise that I came across in the book (I highly recommend this book if you would like to work on knowing what is important in your life and how to schedule your priorities rather than prioritise your schedule with endless to-do lists etc) "First things first" by Stephen Covey. You can buy the book HERE.

The story goes like this....

At a seminar, an instructor was teaching time management to a group of students and asked them to participate in a quiz. He pulled out an extremely large jar and set it on a table. He took out some fist sized rocks and asked " How many of these rocks do you think will fit into this jar?"

Once the students had made their guess, he placed them, one at a time, into the jar until the jar was full.

Then he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “Let’s see.” He took out some gravel and dumped them in. He shook the jar, causing the pieces to fall into the spaces between the big rocks. He asked the students again, “Is the jar full?”

His class was catching on. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied. He then brought out a bucket of sand. He dumped the sand in and it went into all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the class, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

“Excellent!” he replied. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

He then asked, “What is the point of all this?”

One student said, “You can always fit more things into your life if you really work at it.”

The instructor replied, “That’s true, but that's not the point.”

The point is if you hadn't put the big rocks in first…… would you ever have gotten any of them in?

What do YOU think your BIG ROCKS are? I would love to hear from you!

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing ∼ Stephen Covey

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Do you know your ‘WHY” ? (And why you should)

Reading Time: 6 minutes

(It has been a while since I wrote and I am really looking forward to getting in touch with you on a regular basis. This first post is a series of posts that I intend to write over the next six weeks on interrelated topics ranging from discovering your life's purpose; prioritising what is important in your life in your daily schedule; reconnecting with yourself; practising self-care in order to reach our health and wellness goals)

Why is it that...

so many of us live the majority of our lives wandering around in the wilderness with seemingly no direction and no sense of purpose?

so many of us climb the ladder of success only to find it perched up on the wrong wall?

instead of choosing to embody the "best version of ourselves" we choose to become a "mediocre" version at best?

These questions had never even been in my field of awareness until a few years back when we were struggling to deal with our daughter's health crisis. This was an extremely difficult period in my life which forced me to get out of my comfort zone and grow into the person I truly needed to become in order to be able to fully contribute towards my role as her primary caregiver. The reality of the circumstances at that time acted as a mirror that I had no choice but to look into and confront on a daily basis. I did not know it at that time, but this phase of our lives would end up changing all of us and lead me on a path to self-discovery and self-exploration. This journey was neither smooth nor comfortable and was filled with uncertainty. However, something deep inside made me decide to keep an open mind and continue on the path one step at a time- it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

At the end of this path, I found a way to heal my daughter, found my calling as Health Coach to help others like her who are suffering and set up the first Functional Medicine Health Coaching practice in India. Just like me, each one of us has our own life journey with innumerable forks in the road where we have to choose between one of the two paths ahead of us. And we need to choose wisely, as our choices eventually become our destiny. What I found is that as I got to know myself better, these choices became clearer and easier to make even though I never really knew what the actual outcome might be way down the line. But first I had to know myself well enough and trust myself in order to go with my own instinct to make the decisions that I felt was right at that time for me.

So the question you need to ask yourself is: What do I want from my life?

And no, this NOT a rhetorical question. It is a question which deserves time and respect. It needs to be thought through and then written down in a quiet and clear frame of mind (do take some time out ponder and write down answers to this question preferably in a journal as this should give you some insight into which areas of your life is in alignment with your principles and which are not). However, this is just the beginning of your journey into self-exploration.

 

Research shows us that when we devote ourselves to a difficult but worthwhile task- think of your role as a parent, or as a caregiver for your loved one, taking care of your pet or even pursuing a noble cause or growing a plant- our lives feel more significant. Psychologists call this the "Ikea Effect"- i.e, putting together furniture makes people like it more and it is true even when we apply this to aspects of our lives.

German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’

The pervasive "busyness" of our adult lives can mask the lack of a sense of purpose, something that gives our lives meaning. This "purpose" is our first and foremost reason to get out of bed each and every morning knowing that we are making a difference in this world and leaving our mark. This feeling makes our struggles worthwhile and gives us the strength to push through even when there is no end in sight. This kind of purpose can also to help us to take risks and move beyond our comfort zone to GROW and maintain momentum over long periods of time. But all this is really hard to sustain when we are not clear on our life's purpose and what is most important to us.

Indeed, there is no one right way of doing this and no one person's purpose is bigger or better than someone else's. There is simply no comparison since we are all unique individuals with unique ways of thinking and circumstances. But no matter how different we all are, one thing is clear, as research (AND literature AND philosophy) shows us that true happiness is tied to having meaning in our lives since happiness without meaning usually leads to a shallow and even self- absorbed life. In fact, research also shows that when we have a convergence in a clear sense of purpose, (comprehension) being able to make sense of life experiences and (significance) perceiving one's life to be worthwhile we have a truly rich and meaningful life.

Some of us are fortunate enough to have found a way to be able to reach a place of convergence where various aspects of our life come together as a beautiful whole. I came across the word"Ikigai" a couple of years back and it has stayed with me ever since. It is a Japanese word/concept which means "a reason for being" and has a profound effect on longevity and the quality of life. To figure out your Ikigai, Dan Buettner (author of the book The Blue Zones) suggests making three lists- your values, things you like to do and things you are good at.

 

 

There are five basic pillars to Ikigai (based on the book Awakening your Ikigai by Ken Mogi)

  • Starting small
  • Releasing yourself
  • Harmony and sustainability
  • The joy of small things
  • Being in the here and now

Knowing that what we are doing with our life is at the intersection of our values, our passion and contribution to society gives us the strength and the conviction to carry on even during difficult and uncertain times and prevents burnout in long run. I am truly blessed to be one those fortunate few who is in the centre of this convergence and I urge you to make an effort to work towards your own beautiful whole.

If this concept appeals to you can delve deeper into this with the help of the book (you can buy it HERE).

Unfortunately, many of us end up with a lifetime of regret that is filled with a lot of "I wish I had..." and "If only..." instead of having loved and lived by being the "best version of ourselves". As a result, we may end up with a life filled with regret and unfulfilled dreams as we have waited until it was just too late.

Don't you think it would be a tragedy if we...

∼wait till the end of our lives to realise that we have lived our life not being true to ourselves and the way we truly wanted to?

∼never take the time out from our busy lives to reflect upon whether the path that we are on is the one we have chosen with intention?

∼leave this world with our gifts unopened, never having really shared them with the world?

In fact, the top 5 common regrets as recorded by a palliative nurse Bronnie Ware in her book "Top 5 regrets of the dying" are given below. Her patients had this to say as they were facing the end of their lives...

I wish...

I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

I hadn’t worked so hard

I’d had the courage to express my feelings

I had stayed in touch with my friends

that I had let myself be happier

So let us dream and let us take out the time to reflect on what is truly important for each of us. Let us find the courage to face up to reality and make the changes necessary to live in our TRUTH. To look at ourselves in the mirror every single day and be proud of who we are. At the same time be able to view life compassionately as we deal with our own pain and suffering and that of others.

Let us live our life knowing that we did our best to become the "best version of ourselves". 

If not, we may end up as the poet, Rabindranath Tagore said so eloquently-

The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.

 

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