Proprioception

Every muscle in the body is able to communicate back to us about what its state is. It is easy to figure out where our hands are placed, it is called proprioception. Every one who has been through personal training would be very familiar with this word. It is one of the key factors in creating a proper sense of balance in the body so that we don’t injure our body. The first time I tried it, I was asked to stand in front of the mirror in the pose shown in the illustration below.

It was way too easy for me to stand that way for more than a minute. Then I was asked to close my eyes and try the same, this time I could not hold for more than 10-15 seconds. Which meant that I was solely relying on the feedback from the eyes but not from the muscles, so I had been ignoring the signals from them as I did not know how to read them. Getting those proprioception exercises helped me in getting trained better than when I did without one.

The situation is very similar when it comes to thoughts, perceptions and impressions. In today’s fast paced world with information overload and ample communication, less time is spent for the individual self. Every one of us rely on the feedback, performance evaluation done by others to assess where we stand and what we do.

We are capable to know more about ourselves than be evaluated by others. All we need is some personal time, good readings and reflections. Feedback from outside world is necessary but it only tells us more about the giver than the one who receives it. We need to learn to listen to our inner voices, understand our priorities, reflect on past and take corrective actions that will propel us forward.

Wild Wild West

Whenever I travel to the western countries from India, the one thing that amazes is the standard and quality of living of the people. America with its abundant natural resources and advanced technology provides its people with great creature comforts with nominal price. Cities like London have very well connected and reliable public transport system which can question the existence of cars. Spending money earned in India in US/UK will be hard to digest and may put on the back foot on our spending if we convert the value in exchange rate. I have always used 1:10 conversion rate for dollars which helped me plan my spending.

If I use the conversion rate of 1$ for every 10 Indian rupees; then high speed internet, state of the art gadgets, abundant energy in form of oil and electricity are very cheap. Many luxuries are very much affordable as necessities, like fine dining or vacations. The flip side to getting everything cheap is that lots of things go waste. I hardly find a place without air conditioning even in places where temperature is very pleasant the year throughout, hotels don’t provide incentives for consuming less energy. Every cup of coffee which is consumed within 30 minutes creates good amount of trash, supermarkets encourage you to buy more than what is required by pricing the smaller sized ones very high, super sized meals cost just a dollar more than the regular ones. There seems to be a lot about of awareness in the recent times about green and sustainable planet but the amount of trash is the same except it is more of a eco friendly or bio degradable form. The society consumes non vegetarian food as the staple diet which in my opinion is a severe strain on natural resources. The relatively less density of population and cheaper resources has not put strong dent in the finances of people or the natural resources of the country.

Sadly this style of living is penetrating into the Indian metros where one time use disposables are taking over the place of cutlery, crockery and cloths. With very high density of population, lesser natural resources, inefficient civic bodies and limited technology it is not a sustainable style of living if India does the western style. Non vegetarian food which used to be a delicacy is slowly becoming an every day treat, a co-worker has collected his thoughts on similar lines on why he chose to become a vegan. Some of us can start making difference by reducing dependencies on carry bags, paper towels, disposable cutleries, non veg food and much more. Emulating the inefficiencies should not be seen as a sign of rich economy or growth which the west has been used to. We should strive to leave this place better than how we found it.

Niggles

I read somewhere that your spending pattern varies according to the denomination of currency you have. If you are out shopping and have 500 rupees as a single note then the first buy is delayed as long as possible but the entire amount gets spent soon; if you have 500 rupees as five 100 rupee notes then the initial urge to spend is less but it takes longer to spend the entire 500. I thought this might not be true until I observed my snacking habit on weekends. I have the habit of snacking on biscuits in the evening while watching TV, most of the time I end up eating the entire pack. One weekend I ended up buying individually wrapped biscuits instead of the regular pack, to my surprise I did not consume even half of what I used to have regularly.

How the seemingly expendable wrapper can alter the behavior or consumption of someone? Our brain is wired or conditioned to be in a state of anxiety neutrality which in other words is a comfort zone. The inertia to stay in the comfort zone will be too great that there must be a strong justification of the increase in comfort or well being has to be justified in order to come out of the comfort zone. Niggles play an important part on how someone either breaks a bad habit or catches a good habit. Most of the bad habits are niggle free to catch on and will cause utter discomfort when quitting, a great example is smoking. In my case the individual wrapper is a niggle which prevented me from consuming more than what I require.

Every workplace has lots of niggles, I have seen people not using the intranet site just because it requires a password or times out frequently. A very good example so far I have observed is the reading habit and the library policy. Man power shortages have reduced libraries in many small/mid size companies to mere shelves with locked doors. Checking out the book through a system is mandatory even for reference to prevent loss of books. While this may sound to be a fool proof system to save books from getting lost, it defeats the purpose of books as there is an entry barrier.

Some niggles are not too obvious, my mom was finding it difficult to get used to cell phones and was next to impossible to keep her phone on. One weekend spent a good amount of time trying to get her into the comfort zone of using cell phones, but she said if all that you want me is to have a phone then get me a landline where I can lift the receiver to speak and put it down to switch it off. She was right, I was trying to force my way of using phones which is very new while she had used phones the old way for 40 years. Niggles prevent effective communication between developers and clients across different timezones over the phone, the same client who had relied on many senses is now forced to rely only on hearing. This niggle may cause the person to avoid calls and stick to more comfortable form of communication.

If the urge to catch on a good habit is strong or the potential benefit of overcoming the niggle is tangible and big enough then the niggles on the way wont matter much, but if we don’t understand what they are or what the benefit of overcoming it then we would perform less efficiently than what our resources, time and environment permits us to do.

Waiting at the railway station

I was late for work – forgot to set the alarm, no time to warm up the water, breakfast not ready. After a freezing cold water bath and a glass of milk rushed to the railway station climbed up the floors only to find out that there was a power supply problem and the next train will take as much as 30 mins. I was at the height of frustration. So were others, loud sighs and angry faces everywhere. I noticed a toddler, could not be more than 2 yrs old. On comparing the face of the child and the rest of us in the railway station the kid was in a different world. How true, this child need not worry about the complicated things happening around.

My mind begun to travel back in time and reached a point where my family had been on a summer vacation during my primary school days. On our return we rushed to the railway station platform just to know that the train is delayed. I was a kid and my bro a toddler, both started playing in the platform and my mom had a tough time keeping us within her reach. My dad appeared too anxious and kept on glancing at his watch, then the platform, and also keenly listening to every announcement. In the middle of the play my bro and I asked for dairy milk chocolates from the platform stall, in the height of his frustration my dad gave a red eyed look. There were no words exchanged but the message was delivered, the next moment the disappointment vanished and we were playing again. When the train arrived, all the people rushed to their reserved berths, I didnt want to break the game and move on; But a cold response from my mom made me budge in to the train compartment. I heard my dad cribbing that he is going to end up late in office tomorrow and my mom was worried that she will have less time to pack us to school. I just remember lying on the berth, when I woke up I was at home. My dad’s was hurrying up for office literally stamping and kicking everything on the way before he finally left for office. My mom was so busy that she would have wished that she had 10 hands. “Apart from children and monks, can you point a person who is living their life?”, yuppie I was living my life. I took the same time to get ready to school; no rush, no thoughts running at the back of the mind. Business was as usual for me.

I did a comparison of myself in these two different time frames.

1. When the train was late, I didnt care; but now, lots of processing going on how to push the day.
2. When I didnt get something, I was dissapointed but carried on with what I was doing; but now, disappointments grow into frustration.
3. When it gets late for me, I didnt speed up; but now, I run at break neck speed.

When we all were children we wanted to grow up faster, begin to earn, spend at will and enjoy life. When we grow up we wish we were kids and lived under the shelter of someone. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but we cannot get back to the greener past.