I was an electrical engineer with Hewlett Packard when I decided to upgrade my career to be a life coach. Here I was, suddenly moving out of my white-collared job to be a monk, live in an ashram, and become what’s called a ‘life coach’.
So many of my friends, those who had studied with me at university, those who were with me at HP, had gone way up. Many of them were CEOs, directors of MNCs in the Silicon Valley, and here I was, upgrading my life to be a monk.
I was wondering how I would cope with this fear of missing out (FOMO) and here’s what I learnt as a monk from the ancient spiritual heritage of India:
1. The art of focussing on myself and my self-development
The more our attention is going to be focussed on others, the more we’re going to think about what we’re missing out: I am missing out on the nice car he/she has. I am missing out on the nice job he/she has. I’m missing out on the nice vacation he/she took. I’m missing out on the opportunities he/she has.
When you focus on others, the only emotion you’re going through is that of missing something in life. On the other hand, if you learn to focus on yourself, you will look at not what you’re missing but what you’re blessed with: the opportunities you have, the gadgets, facilities you have, the incredible company you have.
The more you focus on yourself, the more you will focus on self-development and won’t be a victim of FOMO.
2. The problem with social media
We’ve made everyone’s private life public. You’re in Mumbai but you are seeing that a friend is having a great time in Singapore. So you’re looking at him in Singapore and not relishing your time in Mumbai. You have a friend who is a couple and they recently got married. It was their wedding anniversary and say, the guy posts a picture with his wife, hugging her, having a great time, and you’re having a tough time with your wife. Now you’re thinking—man, this guy is having a great relationship. I’m missing out.
This is idiocy because you don’t even know that your friend who just put a romantic picture with his wife had a horrible fight with her this afternoon.
Therefore, we can only effectively deal with this FOMO mentality if we shift our focus and attention from others to ourselves.
This is how I dealt with FOMO. If I would have focussed on my friends in the Silicon Valley or my friends who are CEOs, I would have thought I am missing something. Here I am, as a life coach, reaching out to thousands if not millions, trying to do my bit and completely satisfied with what I am doing. But the question, of course, is how do to shift our attention to ourselves?
3. Use moderation
The key element of technological addiction is moderation. We have to start understanding one thing: it’s not the phone we use that gives us happiness, it’s who we talk to and how we talk that gives us happiness. This is why the quality of our relationship is crucial.
But our offline relationships are badly compromised in the name of our online relationships. Likes, comments, and shares are a validation to my ego. And therefore, tomorrow when they don’t validate to me, I feel rejected.
The truth is that online, no one cares a damn. They’ll put a crown on your head today, tomorrow they’ll pull the crown and drag you down. Your 30k followers on Twitter, 100k on Instagram won’t sit outside ICCU. Your mom, dad, child, spouse, close friends will but because you were online, you didn’t have time for these offline relationships. Tell me, if there is anyone online who will do anything more than sending a crying emoticon and typing praying for you, get well soon? Will they come to support you in your time of greatest need?
Remember that when we live a life of validation of ego, we easily feel thrashed when you don’t receive it. Therefore, moderate it, moderation is key for a balanced life. Use technology as a tool, make online friends but not at the cost of your offline relationships,
But how do we do it?
In order to lead balanced lives, we need to first start living a life of awareness—we need to become conscious of what area of our lives needs attention. Today, we live such mechanistic, routine, autopilot lives that we’re not even conscious of what needs attention: sometimes, it’s weight loss, pending work, broken relationship, or a broken friendship that needs attention.
Balance is not a frozen concept. It’s a concept in a state of flow. You have to be aware what area of your life needs attention.
I’m sure you’re wondering, what does it mean? What is that one thing we can start doing now?
Simple, we need to start living a life of being mindful and being present. It might sound absurd but the first thing we need to do is to start eating when we’re eating, no TV, no phones, no talking. We need to feel and taste the food. It’s actually not about the food, it’s about training your mind to be more aware about what you’re doing, to be in the present.
When we start doing simple things that are practical and possible, our consciousness starts getting trained. It then extends to the other areas of our lives as well. This self-awareness begins with micro things and expands to macro things.
4. It takes sadhana
You only get better at something when you practise it. When we talk about focussing on ourselves and not getting distracted by the surrounding, the question is how much have we practised it? We’ve only practised being distracted with everything around us, we’ve only practised focussing on others, looking at what he/she has, and never practised focussing on what we have.
Which is why spirituality and the great heritage of this great country teaches us practice, which in Sanskrit is called sadhana—meditation or chanting. It takes you from the outside world and puts you in the inside world. Whether it is 20 minutes a day, 15 minutes a day, or 10 minutes a day, what you’re doing is training your mind to focus within.
Once you start doing it, it will percolate down into your relationships, into our work, into our daily life because attitude is agnostic, it doesn’t discriminate between spirituality, work, relationships, or personal life. If you cultivate a certain attitude in your work, it will percolate into your personal relationships, your life, your spirituality and if you percolate a certain attitude in your spirituality, it will percolate in the other areas. Which is why, the key element to really start focussing on yourself is spiritual practise.
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