Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mindflex: A Personal Glass Barrier

When climbing up the corporate ladder there are certain biases like gender, age, race etc. which limit us as we move up. We find ourself rising only up to the pre-set level,  after which we get stuck, unable to progress beyond. These unseen attitudes, biases and prejudices affect our organization as well.

We experience a lot of unfairness at work. Others’ likes and dislikes affect our growth . Often our competence does not count in promotions. Because of this, we find it difficult to fulfill our ambitions, even when we are sincere and capable. This is external limitation imposed by others in the organization.

How about our own internal limitations? These limitations are not set by others but by our own selves. We say “I am not good at Maths”, “I can never keep accounts“, “house hold management is not my cup of tea”, or  “cooking is something impossible for me”. These are limitations drawn for ourselves by ourselves. There may be reasons for drawing boundaries. But the question is whether we are actually stopped by them? Can we not go beyond?

As children we draw comparisons with others and conclude “I am not good at this or that”.  Some of these conclusions remain with us all my life! As adults, given enough time and resources we are capable of doing almost anything we want to. We can solve most problems without get stuck. This is the topic we are discussing today.

A lot of things are possible if only we believe in it. Is it possible to swallow fire, walk on glass, walk on hot coals bare feet? Can four persons in our group lift a person using just fingers?

Could you have believed in the possibility of mobile phones 50 years ago? People walking on the street converse with others walking on some other street in a different continent! These things seemed impossible once upon a time, until somebody cames and proved it possible. These limitations set by ourselves are called our personal glass ceiling.

Are we comfortable living with these limitations? OR Do we want to break through this glass ceiling and go beyond? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves.
Where do we stand?  Do we want to prove that our dreams are impossible to achieve?  OR are we willing to prove that it is possible?

Many people ask me for help with their problems, after they have already decided that nothing can be done. They come to me only for confirmation of their beliefs. What should I do with them?

However, I am am optimist. In such cases, I ask these persons some basic questions. “Have you explored all the possibilities?”, “ Why?”,  “Why not?”, “Who told you this?”,  “Where did you learn this?”  At least it sets them thinking.

Why should we go beyond the ceiling? Why not be satisfied with status quo? After all we should be satisfied with one bird in hand, instead of making ourselves unhappy about two birds in the bush.

My question to you is this. Suppose you break through the glass ceiling, and achieve more than you believed possible, how would you feel about yourself? Would you feel good or would it not make any difference? If you feel good about the breakthrough, then it is definitely worth exploring.

Most of the time we give reasons: ‘it is too difficult’, ‘ it is not worth it’, ‘too much effort’, ‘too much investment so not worth it’, etc. How much it is worth? Whether the reasons we give to stay where we are are genuine or only excuses? We need to ask our selves sincerely. 

Giving excuses is to be dishonest to ourselves. Such statements like “I am not good at math,  I can not learn it” are dishonest statements. It only means that I had previously difficulty in learning math. Some of us are slow learners. If we have learnt that 2+2=4, then it does not matter if we learnt it at age two five. The learning is firmly with us.

Most of the things like dealing with difficult people, balancing accounts, taking care of our own home, dealing with our kids, in laws etc, require little bit of encouragement and effort to master. Unfortunately lots of us are already discouraged that it is not worth learning. 

The solution here is to associate with people who encouraging. Associate with people who have already dealt with this before, and exchange notes with them. Lot of times we leave it to expert to handle. But in practical life, we need to do things our selves. Experts became experts because they took the time and interest to do the job. Experts did not became experts overnight.

Like doing a PhD, if we love learning and spend adequate time in exploring, we will become expert sooner or later. What is required is willingness to take the trouble, learn and experiment. When we say it does not work for us, it means that we have not understood what went wrong, hence we do not know what to do.

Understanding requires study with plenty of patience and objectivity. It requires courage. Only when we love our self adequately will the courage to solve our problem come. When there is love, we find that working for the solutions is worth the effort.

In today's world there is no lack of resource, even if we plan on going to Moon. The resources may take some time, some organization, and some luck. Most of the things we wish to achieve are possible if we begin taking the steps. There will certainly be obstacles. Obstacles are part of the adventure. When we say things are impossible, we are cheating ourselves by limiting our possibilities.

A better life is possible and it is also worthwhile. We deserve to reach it. There will be obstacles. Life is an adventure. Areas of difficulty are our growth areas. Improving relationships, losing weight, are some growth areas we generally target.  Growth areas entail endless possibilities.  Sky is the limit. The question is whether we have sufficient time, resources, and interest to realize the desired goals.

We can not force a person into anything against his interest. We  need not look back and say that these pursuits did not interest me in the past and so I am not motivated now. The future is not a mere extension of the past. The Future is different. When we extrapolate the same past into the future, we experience Transition. If we wish to have different future, we need Transformation. The choice is ours! Do we want transition or transformation?  In transition we remain stuck within the glass ceiling. In transformation we break through the glass ceiling.

In sports when the 4 min barrier in 1KM run is broken by Roger Bannister, within a few months sixteen more people broke the same barrier. How did it happen? People realized that it was possible. With this reinforced belief, nothing could stop them. What stop us is not people or obstacles. We are stopped by our own beliefs. We need to go beyond such beliefs. 

Everything else are mere details and details do not stop us. What stops us is the belief that something is impossible. This is in essence, our personal glass ceiling.

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