As a young boy, I was always super excited about Independence Day. Apart from a sense of patriotism and pride, I was always happy with the celebrations that ensued, like flag hoisting, march past, and even some sports events we used to have on that day in our school. Of course, we had learnt about our freedom struggle in our textbooks and through stories of elders around us, but could never really fathom the enormity of the freedom struggle at that age. Think of it like a soldier, a war veteran telling you their story of war, you can be captivated by it, but not truly understand it.
This got me thinking, what does it mean to be free? Do each one of us have our own freedom struggle, externally as well as internally? As a nation we got our independence on the 15 August 1947. It was a tremendous struggle which our Freedom fighters waged, day after day. Only after this, were they able to change the minds of our colonisers, who eventually left. But are we really free from what keeps us down, from truly achieving our potential and blossoming as the best version of what we can be?
Negativity and self-doubt are something we must stay away from, and yet given the complexity of the human mind, they tend to find their way into most of our minds. I was no different either. I remember once when I was in this bout of negativity. Looking at me, my father asked me a question, what’s the difference between “comparison” and “competition”? And I had no answer.
His advice has stood me in good stead, all my life. He said, in “comparison” the feeling that you would get is one of jealousy. Whereas in “competition”, the feeling would be of zeal. Competition is good, comparison is bad. Negativity starts coming in when we start comparing ourselves. If you are competing and you are zealous about some task, or something you want to achieve or something you want to contribute to society, then you are in a different league, then it may give you happiness. But if you are comparing yourself to somebody else, that may lead to jealousy and negative thoughts.
Just a simple difference between comparison and competition can mean negative or positive, can mean jealousy or zealousness! We must decide what drives us forward, what motivates us, and it can redefine our thought process.
I decided that I must get better with each passing day, sharpen myself, rather than compare with someone else. This to me was very liberating, this to me was freedom over negativity. Over time it also got me the respect of my competitors.
But isn’t comparison a natural thing to do? A lot of us want to be free from the trap of jealousy. But it’s human to aspire to do more, want more, want better. With this, a lot of us tend to look at what others have with a sense of envy. This happens more on the materialistic front of course. I was no different, when I had a cycle, I aspired for a Java Motorcycle, after I got it, I aspired for a car and then a bigger car and so on.
After a point of time, you realise that these materialistic pursuits do not give you happiness. Chasing them and trading off, living a fulfilled life for them is irrelevant. We must learn to be free from these pursuits and that is only possible if small things in life make a difference. Sometimes, it’s a conversation with your loved ones, sharing a meal or a roadside cup of chai, the happiness of your children, the time travel that a good book provides or even the comfort of talking to an old friend. These are some of the things that make us happy and leave a smile on our face, something we tend to overlook when running after things we see others have and so desperately want to possess ourselves as well.
It’s not wrong to pursue things in life, it’s just very important to know when to stop, and even more important that we realise the value of being grateful for what we have. It’s usually adversity that reminds us how little we need to be happy, but let’s not wait for it.
A few months ago, I got my hands on a brand-new Java Motorcycle once again, and I can tell you I was so happy, happier than all the joys that the most expensive car would have ever given me.
A lot of us feel there are habits and behaviours that are a deep-rooted part of us, and somehow, we are not able to change these. Ultimately, we do not take any step towards this change or transformation, thinking that’s how things are. It’s only when we go beyond the trap of the status quo and evolve towards the greater good is when we are truly free.
Meet every aspect of life with a smile on your face, and you will even see opportunity in adversity and that is the day, you have broken your inner shackles and are truly free!