Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choice of Habits

There are two ways of living your life: (a) sequential life-long, or (b) balanced daily.

You can plan your life on a sequential basis over the expected full life-span. For example, as a student, study; working, make money; retired, go travelling. There are merits to this approach of living because it can be very efficient. You may be the brightest student in class; you may be the best employee or the best businessman or the best investor cum speculator; you may be the best traveller around the world or you have explored every bits of China or India. Many have lived successful lives as such.

But there is an assumption - that you will live through the entire life span of a normal person, say, 80 years. This is a strong assumption - some would say heroic. You may not live that long, for one thing. For another, your plans are sequential - the current phase may depend on the last phase. If one phase fails, the others falter.

The other approach to living is to design a balanced daily life. You may be able to get the balance you want on a weeky basis, or monthly or yearly life. But at least planned a more balanced routine on a shorter time scale.

You may be amazed how enjoyable a balanced daily life can be. You get to do all the things you really want to do everyday. You get to sleep well. You get to work and solve problems. You get to meet friends. You get to indulge in your hobbies. You get to eat nutritiously.

To do all the things you want to do everyday, you must form good habits. You get to earn your money, make your contributions to society, spend your money, have time for yourself.

I think it is a harder life to live if you are over-emphasised on different things at different times of your life such that you are constantly verging on the extreme. One moment you are an extreme smart alecky student, next moment you are the blue-eye of the boss, next you are the most successful speculator in the market, next you are the most travelled with lots of time and money to spend. You are constantly the best. But, you are also extreme.

A more balanced daily life makes for a much nicer person, a person who takes time off to smell the stink in the corridor along the way - and knows that there is a stink there, and the hue of that stink. You become intimately wholesome in yourself and with your immediate environment, being part of it; instead of being an extortionist who gets what you want from a place and then bolted when satisfied.

With a balanced daily life, you are satisfied everyday and are quite happy to go anything. You are at peace. You are happy. You are confident. You start investing in the place your stay. You start enriching your surroundings. You start creating a viable society in your vicinity. I think a lot of rural life has these things.

Even in an urban setting, it is quite possible to design a balanced daily life. Communting to work can be a great time for planning what you want to do for the day - provided you do not get mad at the traffic. The trick is to keep the core of your life simple; the rest can be treated as extraneous - fun or interesting but not defining moments.

Life is nothing more than just a series of habits, and the challenge is to cultivate good habits. It is these habits of individuals collectively that create a culture and if the subsequent generations like it so much, it becomes tradition.

Adjustment to change is merely a change of habits. It is therefore quite hard to engineer change. It is sometimes necessary for a destruction of the old in order for the new to arise. Dynamism therefore means a fluidity of habits and ideas - the ability to undertake variations around a central theme. Manufacturers call this fuzzy logic. Parents call this adaptability. We call it creativity. Philosophers call this paradigm shift.

For the nation to be dynamic, we have to have fuzzy borders around our ethnicity, culture and sense of identity. We all tend to identify with the winning race - and that race should be of a national character - this is sometimes called adaptability - although for individuals we would use the world maverick or, if unkind, chameleon.

It is the formation of good habits for the nation that the nation will grow and mature and have a sense of itself. Else, the nation will be caught in the rut of selected facets of our past, unable to extricate ourselves without loss of limb or mind. But we may be an adolescent nation still controlled by our hormonal rushes.

Good habits comes from a good heart.

1 comment:

de minimis said...


I think I'll start calling you Lin Yu-tang from here on. These posts are elements of your version of "The Importance of Living". Keep 'em comin'.