There is power in questions. The right questions. Questions which make you think, reflect, introspect. Questions which push you out of your comfort zone, which burst a few bubbles, which show you the real picture, which make you understand and realize many things.
Asking the right questions to yourself come sometimes be the best gift you give yourself. Simply because when you ask the right questions, your thoughts are channeled in the right direction.
As I look back at my own life, some questions have been eye-openers for me.. Some have changed my outlook to life.. And many have changed my life.
In this post I’m sharing some of those powerful questions with you in the hope that they compel you to introspect and internalize life’s many lessons.
1) Am I doing things that I love?
If you are doing things you love, then great. If not, then you probably would give one of the following reasons –Circumstances out of my control, Other Priorities, Unplanned / unexpected situations, Never ending Constraints, Commitments to be honored, Personal Limitations. Well, do remember that every human-being anywhere on this earth (either today or generations ago) had / has one / many of the above at one / many phases in life– So you are not alone. And yet, some people always find or make the time to do things that they love. Maybe you need to just squeeze in that little time to do things you love or make a vocation of the things you love. Doing things you love will almost always make you happy. Even if it is for 10 minutes a day. For some this joy comes in reading, for some in writing, for some in watching TV, for some in sleeping, for some in creating something worthwhile.. Whatever it is.. Discover.. Make time for it. and Do it! It makes a difference
2) Am I learning enough?
Learning is a very important dimension to personal growth and development. It does not matter what you are learning, from whom you are learning, how you are learning, how much you are learning – But what’s important is that you learn consciously and invest some time and effort regularly to learn new things. If in your own assessment you are not learning enough, then it’s important to identify what you want to learn and set aside time on a regular basis for learning. I honestly believe if you love yourself, you will make an attempt to learn something new regularly. Try it and see for yourself if you don’t believe me
3) Am I content with the current state of my overall health?
The fact is that your overall state of health and well-being will determine the quality of your life today and tomorrow. Hence, it is imperative that you take time to invest in your overall health and wellness. In reality, you know your state of personal health the best, and hence you would be the best judge. If you are not content, then it’s time to ask yourself what is it that you need to, want to do and should do to improve it?
4) Am I really happy with myself?
Another very profound question – But the answer to which can sometimes be a revelation to you. Simply because you try to make everyone around you happy; and end up unhappy with yourself. While it is great to make others happy, it is also important that you invest in your own happiness. So do mull over this and see if you need to change one / many aspects of your own life
5) Am I spending time with those who matter to me?
Again, time is one of your most valuable personal assets. So use it wisely, and ensure that you earmark some time periodically for those who matter to you – It can be your family, friends, staff, acquaintances, colleagues, soul-mates, etc. But sharing your life with those who matter strengthens relationships and does wonders to your happiness quotient
6) Am I living life to the best of my potential?
You are endowed with infinite potential – Some you are aware, some unexplored and some ignored. But if you ask yourself this question again and follow it with Why? Why Not? – You will get the answers. Not just a Yes No kind of answer, but more importantly answers which will enable you to live life to the best of your potential
7) Am I happy with the current state of my immediate living environment?
Your current living environment – be it at work or office or anywhere else affects your thoughts, your energies, your productivity and your creativity. So make sure it is clean, well-organized and the way you want it to be – to get the best out of yourself
8) Have I made peace with my past?
Many of us tend to hold on to our past; and how ever hard we try we are unable to let-go. And in life it’s important to let-go and make peace with your past – especially the negativity. Just accept it and release the baggage (Easier said than done, but it is not impossible!). Of course, it is wise to take the lessons along. And then focus your energies on the present and future
9) Am I giving enough?
In life, you give some and you get some. Most of us tend to receive more than we give. In the long run, it’s important to give – To friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, an unknown face, a needy soul, someone less fortunate, another living being.
And what can you give? A smile, an advice, a thought, a good deed, an idea, a motivation, an inspiration, time, knowledge, support, a shoulder, a ear, a helping hand, a life lesson, wisdom..
10) Am I really experiencing life?
Are you really experiencing life – Love, Laughs, Romance, Tears, Cultures, People, Heart-breaks, Passions, Rainbows, Disappointments, Failure, Trials, Experiments, Cuisines, Technology,….. In the moment.. In this moment… And are you making the moment count? Because the more open you are, the more your experience, the more you enjoy and the more fulfilling life is…
Those are my questions for the day? What are your questions? And what are your answers? Leave a comment to let me know
And just I was about to Publish this, I came across an excellent infographic titled “The Self-Reflection Manifesto” : 101 Questions to ask yourself. Truly powerful questions, right? Now read and answer for yourself
Originally published here
The Working Mother’s Career Continuum: FOCUS. FLOW. FLEX
Let me start with the wishes. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to you and your mother and all the mothers who made a difference in your life! Mothers are indeed the reason you and I exist, and most often the reason why we are what we are today and possibly / probably the BEST thing that happened in our lives (If you don’t believe me, ask your mother / someone who lost their mother!)! Take a moment to say THANK YOU for the fact that you have your MOTHER in your life.
Ever since I became a mother, I have a new found respect and admiration for any / every working mother.
No matter where she works
No matter what her work entails
No matter where she lives
No matter what her circumstance is
She is a STAR!
Not for a day.
Not for Mother’s day.
But for every single day!
Let me start with the facts | It is TOUGH… Really TOUGH to be a working mother. It tests you at every level in very many ways almost every single day, and you have to find a way to pass. You can fail for a day or two, but then you will to get up, move forward and find a way to pass. No grace marks really! First, there is sheer physical exhaustion in getting through each day at work and at home. Then there is mental stress (again both at work and at home). Following closely are the the emotional pangs (of guilt, fears, anxieties, worries, concerns about your role as a mother and your children). Next are the expectations of the family, spouse, work, the education system (both from the children and from the parents) and last but not least, is the collective impact of the society we live in (in terms of continuous judgment, expectations, day-to-day operational issues / constraints / dependencies, etc.). Every single day is a tight-rope balancing act. You fumble a little, lose focus, lose balance and the entire equilibrium is disturbed. And yet, as working mothers you have to find a way to make it all fall-in-line.
Now first is the much-debated decision of “To Work or Not” after you become a mother. There is no right or wrong. It is a personal choice and depends on your personal context / situation and circumstance. Some mothers find that full-time-motherhood is their calling and give up everything else. Some are forced to become full-time-mothers by family pressures. Some mothers have to quit for lack of any alternative / support systems. Some mothers have to work due to financial commitments and liabilities / to put food on the table / marital discord. Some mothers find alternate career choices (not corporate careers) and make it work because they passionate about something / because full-time-motherhood is not their cup of tea. And some mothers find their place in the corporate world. There really no-one-size that fits all and yet, it has to fit RIGHT for YOU!
A lot of times I am asked for my views on what it takes to be a working mother. In this post, I’m sharing my opinion based on my personal experiences in a corporate career, and what I’ve seen in other working mothers.
As a working mother, if you are serious about your career and want a fair share at success, your career continuum should have 3 foundational pillars
As a mother, to have a career, you have to be focused
As a mother, to have a fair chance at career success, you have to be super-focused
The one MUST HAVE mantra for any / every working mother is FOCUS. Without focus, you will really not be able to survive or thrive at work.
Following are the things which you should be focused about:
(i) Your work tasks for the day – Know what you should get done for the day, Plan for it and Just do it.
(ii) Your career objectives for the year – Ensure you define / know them and work towards achieving them. You will only go so far without knowledge / clarity on your career objectives
(iii) Your career goals for the long-term (say 3/ 5 / 10 years) – Be clear (somewhat) on where you are headed in the long term. If you have a view on the end, chances are you will reach there. If you don’t, chances are you will spend enough time in the journey without reaching anywhere. And if that is what you want, it is fine too. But make sure you acknowledge this to yourself.
As a mother, to have a career, you have to flow today
As a mother, to have a long-term-career, you have to keep flowing today and tomorrow
By flow, what I really mean is “career continuity”. I cannot emphasize how critical it is to be in touch with your work and to keep going no matter what. Sometimes you may be compelled to take a break / brake. Sometimes, you may have to choose “not-so-great” options / career paths / alternatives, but in the long run being in the “flow” makes all the difference.
Why? One, you earn (whatever little, it does wonders to your own self-confidence and independence). Two, you learn. Three, the “gaps” in your resume will not really go against you. Four, you stay in touch and enhance you knowledge, skills. Five, you are at the table, so more visible than when you are within the confines of your home. Six, you have more opportunities to network and build professional relationships.
As a working mother, there will be times in your life when you have to take career breaks / put a brake on your career. The issue for most mothers becomes that they don’t really decide on the duration of this and plan around it. Consequently, it gets harder to get back to active work. First, it is your own inertia to get back to work which is a huge impediment. Then there is the lack of ‘relevant’ knowledge and skills due to the time away from work. Lastly, there is the issue of lack of a commensurate compensation in lieu of the career breaks.
Following are the things which you should know about “Flow”:
(i) It is better to be in a state of flow than being stagnant for too long – especially if you have a corporate career / harbor entrepreneurial ambitions. If you flow, chances are better for you to move ahead, right?
(ii) Ensure that you are focused on “being in flow” with respect to your work / career. This will be the most crucial with respect to career longevity and growth
(iii) While flow without focus (i.e. a definite end goal) is good in some career phases to give you career continuity and longevity, make sure you “time-box” these phases.
(iv) While flow is important, once in a way make sure you pause – for career reflection, introspection, insights and course corrections. Being in a state of perpetual flow does not help either
As a mother, to have a career, you have to make flex work for you today
As a mother, to have a chance at success in your career, you have to make flex work for you almost every day
No working mother ever managed without a little or a lot of flexibility. It is the only realistic way to manage the elusive work-life balance.
Following are the things which you should know about “Flex”:
(i) “Flex” is great if you have “Focus” and are in the ”Flow”
(ii) There is no universal definition / agreement on what “flex” working is. Make sure you know and understand what it means to you and to the people / organization you are working for / with. The lesser the gap and mismatch of expectations, the better your chance at success
(iii) DO NOT abuse / misuse the “flex” work option. It does more harm than good if you are caught on the wrong foot – Both for your own career and the larger cause of “work flex” options for other working women / mothers.
As I sign-off, my mantra for working mothers
Ensure you flow
Make “flex” work for you
What are your views of the career continuum of working mothers? Leave a comment to let me know
Do you have goals?
Do you want to achieve them?
Do you know how to get there?
Hmm.. Well.. If you’re looking for some guidance, then this is the post written for you based on all the I have observed and learned in my life…
D1: Discover your goals for life
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” BY Albert Einstein
Discovering your goals is the first step to get there. And discovery can sometimes take a lot of time, effort and also support from those around you. But discovery is really the process in which you think through what you want to achieve. For e.g.: I would like to write more often can be a broad goal that you discover for yourself
D2: Define your goals in a clear and concise fashion
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” BY Bruce Lee
The next step is to precisely define what you really want to achieve. The more specific you are, the better are your chances in reaching your goal. And the best way is to define SMART goal (Simple Measurable Action-Oriented Realistic and Time Bound). For e.g.: I will publish one blog every month of this year is a good target to start off with for any blogger
D3: Design a plan to achieve your goal
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” BY Larry Elder
Once you have defined your goals, design a realistic plan to achieve your goal. I emphasize on realistic as you need to be cognizant of your current commitments, circumstances and constraints; and model a “personalized plan” factoring all of these. For e.g.: I will wake up at 6 AM and write for 30 mins on Tuesdays & Thursdays; as I need to reach work only by 9 AM.
D4: Develop your skills and everyday routine in line with your plan
To reach any goal, you usually need to develop new skills on some areas and also possibly hone and enhance skills on some areas. The best way to do this is to integrate specific tasks into your everyday routine. For e.g.: Let’s continue with the goal of writing. Every writer needs to read continuously to hone their writing skills. So one specific action plan is to set aside 15 mins everyday (say during lunch time) when you will read diverse articles from diverse authors. Not only does this reading enable you to become aware of writing styles, but also increases your own knowledge base on one / more topics.
D5: Be Dedicated in doing what you have to do when you have to do it
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” BY Paulo Coelho
Next and very important is that you need to be personally dedicated towards achieving your goals. If this means that you make some sacrifices and choices to achieve this, then so be it. But be dedicated, sincere and put your best foot forward to reach your goals.
D6: Be Determined to achieve your goals
“know what you want, work to get it, then value it once you have it.” BY Nora Roberts
The road to any goal has its share of ups and downs. And what will make the difference in helping you reach your goals is usually how determined you are. So stay focused, objective and positive; and when things get rough and tough – be a little kind on yourself, but never lose sight of your goal.
D7: Dream about your goals at every opportunity you get
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” BY Rabindranath Tagore
One of the most important dimensions to achieving your goal is to dream about it at every opportunity you can. Dream the moment .. Create a visual memory .. and live the dream everyday. Before you know it, your dream will be reality and your goal will be well achieved..
On that note, Dare to Dream BIG; and work towards achieving your GOALS in LIFE!
About Kiran Manral
Kiran Manral has worked as a journalist before she quit to be full time mommy. Her blogs, www.thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com and www.karmickids.blogspot.com, are both in Labnol’s list of India’s top blogs. She blogged at Tehelka Blogs on gender issues. She is also considered a ‘social media star’ on twitter by the TOI and IBN Live named her as among the 30 interesting Indian women to follow on twitter and among the Top 10 Indian moms to follow on twitter for 2013.
Post 26/11, she founded India Helps, a volunteer network to help disaster victims post 26/11 and has worked on long term rehabilitation of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack victims and 13/7 Mumbai bomb blast victims, amongst others.
She is part of core founding team behind CSAAM (www.csaawarenessmonth.com) and Violence Against Women Awareness Month (www.vawawareness.wordpress.com), two very well received social media awareness initiatives across twitter and the blog-o-sphere.
Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland in 2012.
Regular readers of this blog know that in 2012 I hosted a series on this blog called Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous. It has been undoubtedly the most popular series I’ve ever done as a blogger. While I started with a very simple and ‘noble’ intention to present diverse voices of people from diverse walks of life with diverse life-stories (struggles and successes) and diverse perspectives, I gained and learned phenomenally from every rendezvous. They key focus was that there should be a key take-away for me and you from each Rendezvous. From some of these posts we learn, some compel us to think, some make us feel a deep human emotion, some inspire us, some motivate us, some compel us to share and spread the message. I was very regular and successful with bringing out at least 1 rendezvous / month all through 2012. However, this series involved a lot of time and effort from my end, and 2013 has been an extremely busy year for me personally and professionally, so I didn’t do too many of these last year. In 2014, when I was offered an opportunity to connect and converse with an amazing woman / writer / mother, I just could not let the opportunity pass.
So the star of today’s rendezvous is the well-respected, much-loved and very-popular KIRAN MANRAL
I first “connected” with Kiran in the online world. Going down memory lane, I came to know of her through Preeti Shenoy’s blog about 1.5 years back. I visited her blog and followed Kiran on Twitter. As I got to know more of her, I really liked her thoughts, words, spirit and attitude. If I had to say a few words about Kiran’s words I’d say she is honest, keeps her writings simple and real, is realistic in her world-views and her words and yet is almost always really and realistically optimistic about the future. And that is probably why I enjoy her writings. And so I am excited and honored to bring to you this conversation with the very lovely gorgeous and stunning Kiran Manral.
Nischala: Firstly, Kiran Thank you for your time. Secondly, Congrats on the launch of your new book “Once upon a crush”. Let me confess, I really liked the name and the cover page – Something which took me back in time to my teenage years and youth! That lipstick is gorgeous :) So tell us a bit about your book, the inspiration and the main characters
Kiran : Thank you so much. I’m a new convert to red lipstick myself. The book is about a single girl in Mumbai, who has kind of drifted aimlessly through her career, hasn’t a love life to speak about, and is being pressurized by her parents to settle down with a suitable partner. She has a hopeless crush on the resident good-looker on the premises and the book is all about what happens as she realizes that she can’t keep drifting through life and career and needs to take some decisions.
Nischala : Sounds interesting and fun! I look forward to reading it. So my next question is obviously about writing :). What makes a writer? What makes a good writer? What makes a best-selling writer?
Kiran : What makes a writer, I would say an urge to write that will not be denied or suppressed. What makes a good writer, I dare not be so presumptuous to answer that, I would say writing is like a muscle, a performance art, you need to keep writing everyday and keep reading everyday and practice. What makes a best selling writer, I wish I knew. But as a reader, I would say, simple stories that everyone could connect with–writing that leaves a bit of itself behind in the reader after the last page is closed or the kindle is switched off.
Nischala : Hmm.. Moving on, There is much debate (online / off-line) and almost always one session in every literary event on the vast differences between a “literary masterpiece” and a “best-selling” book. What are your views on this? It is like the movies. The actor / actress who gives block-busters may not necessarily have the best acting talent, right? There is some secret sauce that makes them what they are. So what is that sauce?
Kiran : Who are we to judge was is good writing, whether a best selling book is or is not literary, and such. I think that anything that connects with an audience, is a valid piece of art, whether with words or with film. Each person brings a different expectation in the audience, one cannot please everyone, at the best as a creator one can hope to put as much creative honesty in what one creates and hope that someone in the audience will connect with it.
Nischala : Moving on, do you think childhood upbringing / environment / experiences / dreams influence the writing process of any author?
Kiran : Everything. We are cannibals of our experiences. I think an author draws upon not just his or her own life but also the stories they hear, they read about, the narratives that come down to them from their families. Also, we are constantly trying to resolve our childhoods in our writings. Now that I have written a few manuscripts, I can see the pattern in the characters I create, and no matter how I camouflage it subconsciously, the childhood always peeps out.
Nischala : What is your inspiration for writing?
Kiran : My inspiration for writing is reading. When I read, I am driven to write.
Nischala : As a writer, what do you see as the main differences between publishing a book and a blog?
Kiran : A blog to me is something you write for yourself, and not for an audience. A book is intended to reach out to an audience. But I do understand there are bloggers who are focused towards writing for an audience, so they might differ here. A blog can be revised, a book can be revised only at a next reprint, revision stage. I like to think books, being paper and print are more real and tangible gratification for a writer than blogs could ever be. But then I am an old fashioned person, I still can’t read books online.
Nischala : So I don’t really know you personally, but I do know of you based on all that I have seen and read of you in the public domain. And my next question is something I’ve wondered for a long time. How do you manage your time? As a school-gate / hands-on mom, writer, author, someone who takes up social causes that you believe in and last but not least, you look gorgeous and are a “style diva” / “yummy mummy” – in my view :). What are your mantras to make the magic work!
Kiran : Ha ha ha. The style diva and yummy mummy is selective posting of only good photographs. Don’t get taken in by those. How do I manage my time. Honestly, I am the world’s worst home keeper. Luckily I have my mother-in-law who lives with us who completely handles the home so that frees up a lot of time for me to concentrate on other things. I also don’t work full time, I work around my son’s school and swimming schedule. I have always believed that if you want to do something you will make time for it.
Nischala : You are lucky! I always think that if you have a supportive mother-in-law or live close to your mom that is really a blessing for any mother! One should have done good karma for this :) So my next question is about the readers. Many times I ponder on the world of writing / reading and books. In the context of India, there are so many Indian books being published every year, and so many new authors in the spotlight every other day. Also with the number of distractions available (like Social media and the fact that attention spans are few seconds / minutes long), so who do you think is reading?
Kiran : Hmm. I think everyone is reading. The young students are reading. The older people are reading. I think this is a wonderful time in Indian publishing where Indian voices have gained a substantial presence and people are looking for stories they can identify with.
Nischala : Writing a book, Publishing a book, Marketing a book : What should a first time author prioritize and why?
Kiran : All of them, and in that order of course.
Nischala : For the benefit on my readers, can you share a little about #CSAAM (Child Sex Abuse Awareness Month) Initiative. How did it all start? What has been the response? And the real-life impact?
Kiran : In 2011, I and few bloggers, including Monika Manchanda were returning from the Lavasa Women’s Drive and got talking about incidents of CSA (Child Sex Abuse) we had heard of, and as parents of boys we both realized that there was a prevailing myth that this did not happen in ‘our kind of society’ and that boys were not at risk.
We decided to build awareness about the issue via social networking websites. The first CSA Awareness Month happened in April 2011 with an entire team of volunteers from across the world working together to create and disseminate awareness about CSA and its prevalence across the blogosphere, on twitter, on Facebook. In the initial years, it was rather difficult building conversations around CSA. Things have changed since. There is much more awareness, a willingness to speak out, to discuss it, to educate oneself about it. Parents, educators, counsellors, therapists, people who are responsible for children, survivors, have all been part of the CSA Awareness Month, either through blogs, twitter chats or through other inputs. We only hope this will grow over the forthcoming years.
Nischala : What are the other social causes you support?
Kiran : I have India Helps which a group of volunteers who work with disaster victims and Violence Against Women Awareness Month that happens every October.
OK Kiran, Now let us move on! I’m now going to take the liberty of doing a rapid-fire with some fun questions (Much like the Koffee with Karan section :)
Nischala : If you had a time machine, would you go back to the past or into the future. Why?
Kiran : To the past definitely. It was a gentler era.
Nischala : Your happiest moment as a writer and Why?
Kiran : When complete strangers write in telling me they’ve enjoyed reading my book.
Nischala : Your proudest moment as a writer and Why?
Kiran : Cliched, but signing book copies. Always dreamed of doing that and still can’t believe I’m signing copies of my books.
Nischala : Your favorite Indian author and Why?
Kiran : Tough one. I get to choose only one. Then Ruskin Bond. His stories are simple, timeless, universal.
Nischala : 3 books to read before you die – I mean for anyone
Kiran : Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Nischala : 3 people whose biography you would like to write?
Kiran : Tough one. Mary Kom, but it is already written. Naina Lal Kidwai. Amrita Shergil.
Nischala : Who would you like your autobiography written by?
Kiran : Me?
Nischala : If you had to choose 1 boy / man to write about who would it be – Your dad, Your spouse of Your son. Why?
Kiran : My father. I knew him too little, for too few years. I’d like to know more about him by researching his life.
Nischala : Your favorite food
Kiran : My mom’s cooking. Anything she cooks. Considering I’m a hopeless cook.
Nischala : Lastly, how did you become a “reformed nutella addict” – We share the addiction :)
Kiran : Ha ha ha. I just got tired of going through doors sideways and having every mirror shave off my hips at the sides.
Nischala: That’s it for now Kiran. This was fun. Best wishes for your new book, and I hope it does really well. Till we connect next, Take Care , Be good and indulge in Nutella once in a way :)
Kiran : The pleasure was all mine
About the Book (I First Had a Crusk)
This is a rom-com chicklit and here is a brief synopsis about the book:
Rayna De, stuck in a dead end job with a boss from hell, zero love life and the big 3-O looming large on the immediate horizon, has started to panic a bit. No, make that panic a lot. Enter new object of lust in the office, Deven Ahuja, and Rayna is overpowered by inappropriate visions of Cupid aiming his arrows straight into her heart, with turtle doves doing their billing and cooing act in the backdrop.
Alas, Deven is completely out of Rayna’s league despite the contradictory messages he seems to be sending out, and is, as decreed by page three supplements of the city newspapers, the man in the life of the gorgeous, light eyed model turned actress Sharbari Raina.
As Rayna battles with her unseemly, going nowhere crush, shaky employment status and dithers about signing up for domesticity with the vetted by her parents, Sid Bose, of the multi zero pay package, the two and a half bedroom house in a suburban gated complex and the very cultured, respectable family, she discovers that life has its own plans….
The book can be pre ordered here:
The twitter hashtag is #OnceUponACrush