Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Self as an Instrument of Change

Every one of us wishes, enjoys and thrives on living their potential, or so I believe.  The potential as that which is seen in personal achievement, professional feat, nurturing a happy family, creating community impact or uplifting the society.  We all bring an inherent potential to accomplish in many an area, each of which requires change, with the word ‘change’ here encompassing the twin meaning - transformation as well as growth.

Whether one wishes to realize something for oneself or contribute towards collective accomplishment, the fulcrum to reaching one’s potential is always - ‘Self’.  Mohandas to Mahatma, Mandela to Madiba, Agni Sharma to Valmiki, Siddharth to Buddha or even the newspaper boy Pakir to Bharat Ratna scientist turned President Abdul Kalam – each of these stories of unlocking one’s potential are a testimony to the role played by Self. 

Transcending oneself beyond limiting beliefs, flirting with risk & vulnerability and experimenting with unthinkable, has been the hallmark of people who have demonstrated and achieved the extraordinary, despite the ordinary or sub-ordinary start.  In the next-door businessman’s story of rags to riches, your boss’s endurance feat at the Marathon, neighbour housewife’s emergence as a celebrated author or the President of your Rotary Club mobilizing impressive resources to impact community – the accomplisher herself/ himself in each of these examples has been an instrument of change. 

For every single demonstration unlocking one’s potential, perhaps there are hundreds who are standing just short of the threshold which will shift them into the next orbit.  In my experience as a facilitator, trainer, coach and an organization developer, I have come across many an individual, who by virtue of their own (in)actions remained on the southern side of the threshold. People who crossed the threshold in pursuit of their true north have demonstrated one key difference and that is their place on the “Euphoria çè Cynicism” continuum. Before I unravel this continuum, let me also submit that there may be multiple lenses to look at the key differentiator.  I am but presenting just one of frameworks that has not only helped me personally & professionally but proved invaluable in my ‘helping relationship’ roles. 

In a fresh relationship, a new job/ project or a resolve for better health etc., most of us start with a sense of excitement; possibly, an all-pervading euphoria that fills us with energy & determination.  As time passes, there’s a tendency to slide down towards cynicism; perhaps attributed to others, circumstances, or one’s own beliefs. The achievers display an awareness of their location on this band and make a conscious effort to stay in the generative zone.  A zone that propels one to overcome the difficulties of crossing that limiting threshold that keeps one at their sub-optimal. 

Staying in a net positive energy zone where the real hope of success is greater than the fear of failure is the key contributor to crossing a limiting threshold.  Here, the word ‘real’ is an operating word; for, the popularity of book “The Secret” and aftermath resulted in so many pseudo positive psychology practitioners that their surface-level grasp of the underpinning has only created more agony. 

The net positive energy zone provides advantage of operating in optimism quotient.  The diagram here would help mitigate the need for verbose explanation.  Staying in this zone requires periodic calibration of one’s pursuits, environment and supporting actors.  The true achievers do not hesitate to step of out of limiting environment and/ or create an optimistic one for themselves, even dumping the other actors in favor of walking alone or finding new partners.

Bringing this model to the fore in my practice and interventions, has eased many an executive to cross the threshold towards their true north.

Unfortunately, I have also experienced, quite a few people slide down the continuum. Over the past two years, my close relationship and association with a few people, who slid-down rather rapidly, prompted me to observe & study the underlying causes of such an erosion.   My finding in each of the cases - invariably it was caused by jealousy, obsession with self or a competitive zero-sum attitude.  At least one of these three factors have played the role in all the three cases I studied.  Someone sliding down this continuum in their sunset years doesn’t bother me much. However, in an era where I see many a role model nonagenarian, to see people in their prime become victims of these factors has saddened me.

For the moment, my conclusion basis my observations is – when the gratitude evaporates, so does the energy to excel. The slide that sets in, not only drowns the person concerned but sometimes even their dearest loved ones.  While absence of gratitude seems to pull one down on this framework, I am curious to know if cultivating gratitude would turn the tide up?

Keen to read/ hear more perspectives and stories of your experiences.  Please do write in, or connect with me -- harish at potentia dot in.

*With gratitude to Yawar Baig who presented the continuum over 25 years ago and Bhupendra Sharma who triggered a generative thinking through his program over two decades ago.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Embrace the Benign Shit

Over a year ago, I was invited to become a donor for a patient suffering with recurring intestinal infection.  When the problem first surfaced, I shuddered at the thought that I may have to offer a part of my intestine. But thankfully, the contribution needed was not that grave.  The need simply was, ‘could I donate my poop to this patient?’  The need arose ‘coz the healthy bacteria in the patient’s stomach had decimated due to excessive antibiotics usage.   The best remedy in this case was to inject, naturally healthy bacteria into the stomach; thereby through Fecal Transplantation making feasible, the resurrection of healthy bacteria.

During the four visits to a medical facility as a donor and in the following months, this episode reinforced for me, a human growth principle that perhaps all of us are aware of, but perhaps not as mindful.  Many a times, the shit that comes our way is far more useful than the nicely wrapped and labelled bouquets we receive.  The benign shit that possibly sounds awful and may raise  a bit of a stink sometimes, is often the feedback we need to grow.  How open are we to receive such authentic critique from a benefactor? For, ‘acceptance’ of such feedback determines whether we can truly unlock our potential as exemplary performers, leaders, reformers, parents or change-agents.

Sometimes, in our desire to feed the narcissism within, we surround ourselves with people who are constipated in the face of our position/ power.  When one is intoxicated with power, they receive only the musical farts from sycophants, which sound lyrical to a pair of self-obsessed ears.  Blissfully unaware that neither their choked nose allows them to experience the stink nor their myopic eyes, reveal reality.  Hope you haven’t shut the door onto yourself by being trapped amidst such constipated well-wishers. 

Offering benevolent poop is even more difficult than receiving it; for, it requires us to shift our focus from a close-easy-convenient connect to a bigger purpose, larger good and long-term impact.  Additionally, it demands that one is willing to expose their vulnerability as well as take some risk.

Let me explain this with an example. In an organization, I saw a role holder was abusing power. My relationship with this role holder was very friendly, comforting and fulfilling to my own needs. Gradually I saw, in his egoistical pursuit he started compromising organizational values. Now, if I chose friendship/ comfort/ my needs over organizational demand than I would be choosing close-easy-convenient.  Continuing with the same example, let’s understand why this could be a vulnerable choice. When I raised the issue in a manner that gave rise to some stink; my relationship with the person tanked right down to a new nadir.  Additionally, another close colleague described & labelled me as ग़ोबर (cow dung).

The higher one’s position or bigger the responsibility, the greater is the role of benign shit.  While it requires high degree of authenticity and risk-taking to surface this, it requires open-mindedness and agility to receive & benefit from it. 

Are you ready to receive and offer benign shit to build your immune system better and cultivate antidotes to the organizational germs?

Do write back and keep adding manure to grow #CelebrateTheRight.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

An Anatomy of Thriving Relationships

My last blog ‘Set the Soul Free’ prompted a reader to ask me, “Harish, since you say every relationship comes with an expiry date, are you saying - no relationship sustains through life?” Before I respond, let me pose a question: have you ever pondered & found an answer to, “what is my definition of Love?” 

Anyone interested in meaningful relationships must understand ‘love’. 

When does one experience, ‘two people are in love’?  My bias – “two people can be said to be in love, when they support and rejoice in each other’s growth”.  When that happens, relationships thrive.  There are siblings, couples, friends or parent-child dyads whose relationships thrive through their lifespan.  In these relationships one’s joy becomes other’s smile.  A thriving relationship demonstrates that each one tends to contribute more to it than expect more for self.

In current era, characterized by an increasing number of divorces, breakdown in business partnerships and colleagues turning competing adversaries, most relationships do come with an expiry date.  Few instances to clarify -- a parent-child dyad where they cannot see eye to eye and avoid each other despite living under one roof; two colleagues by complementing one another created a series of innovations, product launches and built a flourishing enterprise until one day when their inter-personal equation got on a slippery slope that culminated in closure of business, a toll on their health and broke their spirit.  Though not every inter-personal tension turns degenerative, yet, there are many which do.

Sometimes, despite signals of breakdown in a relationship, one or both sides persist with selfish motives (e.g. two brothers slug it out to inherit property left by their father) or one up man ship (e.g. between colleagues) or simply an ego-trip.  Although persistence to stay on in the relationship appears a noble intention however, the result often is a corrosive erosion that engulfs even others in proximity.

Thanks to western influence, societies have moved from collectivistic to individualistic communities; while this meant celebration of every individual’s freedom & independence, a major downside that unfolded - breakdown of relationships at an unprecedented pace.  The fallout of this has been an ever-increasing number of people who are lonely.  The glorified and chiseled individualism hasn’t improved the happiness quotient in families or community; rather, misplaced ideas of self-sufficiency & autonomy have blunted the resilience required to strive for increased compatibility.

Given that our inherent biology was designed to lead social lives[i].  The true strength can only be found in ‘belonging’, ‘connection’ and by developing abilities to nurture and maintain ‘social bonds’.  In turn making the thriving relationships the sine qua non of fulfilling life and wholesome being. 

Before, I unveil the anatomy of thriving relationships let’s examine the facets that make a relationship go bitter.  In Bollywood flick Ki and Ka, one gets to see, how in a perfectly complementary & compatible couple, relationship turns sour. Serving the fanatics’ palate, the movie had a happy ending; but in real life, there are very few fairy-tale-endings in such scenarios.

The root-causes of languishing relationship are -- competition, jealousy and/ or self-obsession.  A self-obsessed being fails to see the other’s perspectives, jealousy leads to contempt and the competition breeds win-lose mindset. Toxicity surfaces when one persists in a relationship without mitigating these root-causes.  When a relationship pedals on a slippery slope, the bystanders get to see plenty of denial, drama, blame, manipulation and aggression (or passive aggressive behavior).  It’s always better to expire a relationship than be a victim of toxicity.

In an increasingly individualistic world where, 3 am friends are diminishing rapidly, we must cultivate a few thriving relationships.  Certainly, freeing oneself from toxic relationships, if any, is the crucial first step to creating a room for thriving relationships. 

However, walking out of every relationship in which one does not perceive the other to be Ms. Perfect/ Mr. Right is unlikely to be a solution.  Walking rapidly out of relationships, could be a pathway to locking oneself in a ‘Lonely Room’ with neither the keys to unlock nor the strength to break it.   The second step is to preserve, nurture and celebrate those relationships, which provide some uplifting moments. One must try her/ his best before hitting the incompatibility curve.  Cultivating a habit of celebrating imperfect parts in others and developing a funny bone around one’s own flaws are the ingredients to navigate the second step successfully. 

The third step is to shed the facade and make one’s authentic self, visible.  Flirting with difficult emotions and being vulnerable are integral to one’s Authentic behavior. Perhaps, only machines work with perfection & precision; when one recognizes the adage ‘to err is human’, it helps to build relationships that last.

Finally, but not the least, in romantic love or any rewarding relationship it helps to periodically calibrate our authenticity quotient and gratitude factor.  These two aspects not only help preserve the thriving relationships but also reboot one, where it appears to slide down. 

In writing this blogpost, I have used some of my biases; to me both the terms ‘love’ and ‘relationship’ have a specific meaning.  To me the acquaintances & transactional role connects don't constitute relationships; and ‘Love’ is not confined to romantic pairs or blood relationships.  You may have different connotation to these terms.  However, in my experience whenever I have been able to bring to fore, a sense of abundance, I have been able to enjoy many loved relationships.  The factors of abundance are – (i) Empathy (ii) Authenticity (incl vulnerability) and (iii) Gratitude for what that relationship provides/ has given

Wishing you an abundance of thriving relationships.

[i] https://www.neuropsychotherapist.com/wired-to-connect/ à We are wired to connect: Current research indicates that humans are interdependent at all ages. Studies of adult- hood and aging all point to the vital role of friendship and social connection for adult health, well-being, and longevity. Loneliness is particularly toxic to one’s health…

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Set the soul free

My mother was a very dynamic & progressive woman by all contemporary standards, back then, her resilience intact even at the ripe age of 80 years.  13 years ago, she was fighting her last battle in the Manipal Hospital Bangalore. After a botched-up surgery, she seemed to be breathing her last; for over 48 hours she was surviving on life support system and non-responsive.  At that moment, my sister went close to her and whispered in her ears that ‘she was free to go’ if she chose.  That perhaps was my sister’s way of letting the soul realize its freedom and not keep it chained in relationships.

How often can we grant freedom to the significant others’ souls?  The moksha for a soul is not just what happens when one departs from the world.  A soul seeks moksha in one’s life perhaps several times.  How often do we recognize and honor it?  Every relationship comes with an expiry date, which no-one knows nor  can predict precisely. However, there exists an expiry date certainly and holds true for all relationships, be it your spouse, children, colleagues, business partners et al.

When one doesn’t honor this law, the suffering triggers and it is a two-fold suffering for the soul as well as the body.  Misery to the soul – for, a soul is never happy in a body that has ceased to enjoy; the entrapment in the body thus becomes a source of suffocation.  Any forcible continuance is bound to create loss of spirit for the soul.  Diseases for the body – any demand on body to contain free spirit leads to multitude of ailments for the different organs.  Every single relationship, that outlives the symbiotic integration of body & soul, tends to suffer from this. 

When one learns to let go – this becomes easier.  Otherwise, the possessiveness begins to chain the soul with body or vice versa.  In a relationship when we don’t learn to get better of the possessiveness, we torture the body as well as soul.  The question arises then, how should we discover in a relationship (say between a parent and child) that it’s time to set the soul free?

My take from some of my recent experiences – in any bond, when you notice that to continue the relationship, one or both sides increasingly require facades or masks; or when you notice that the congruence takes a back seat and the primary play between the beings is for the gallery,  Then these are the first signs for you to do something about it.  Be mindful though that if the 'authenticity deficit' continues to widen and/ or 'mutual gratitude' evaporates, then maybe it’s time to grant that relationship, a release (moksha). 

And that release may not be forever – maybe in the same life time, the relationship will begin to thrive one more time.  As has happened in many a parent child relationship, teenagers/ young adults who experienced release (not the possessive controls) often, after a liberated detachment, rediscover the symbiotic magic in the relationship such that they live happily ever after.  On the contrary, the parent-child relationships where entrapment of the soul far exceeded the desire of that soul, then finding such an equilibrium remains elusive throughout life.  The same pattern is visible in many couples, business partners and employee-employer relationships.

In many cultures when people pass away, the occasion is celebrated.  In our family too, we celebrated departure of my mother; for, we believed that her soul lived a fulfilled and contended tenure with all of us.  We were sad but didn’t carry remorse.

The relationships in which you (or the other person) is consciously moving away, are occasions to celebrate.  You have a choice whether to cherish those or repent.  No prizes for guessing what I prefer to do in my life.  TS Eliot has beautifully said (the first stanza of BURNT NORTON)

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Power of Words

I feel blessed to have been exposed to Appreciative Inquiry at the turn of the century and over the past 12 years this philosophy has overshadowed my other propensities.  This life-glue has provided a number of opportunities to experience the impact in my personal and professional life.  I wish to discuss one profound facet of positive psychology and other strength based approaches (like AI) here.  The choice of our words – expressed or otherwise often determines our well-being or otherwise.  This has been reaffirmed repeatedly for me as a parent, sibling, and a friend or as a Leadership & Business Coach and Organization Development catalyst. 
I have seen that the word-choice – howsoever, unconscious (or conscious) alters the happiness quotient or stress quotient in one’s life.  The choice of words adjusts the cellular signals emergent in body, feelings, thoughts, and opinions; also, of course the judgements about people/ situations.  The word choices made (or triggered unconsciously) modify our emotional being and the decisions we take.  Further, through mirror neurons[1] that we possess, to a large measure, our choice of words influences people around us, the environment and eventually many an outcome that we achieve/ miss-out.  The gift that every one of us has is – the ability to cultivate an orientation for desirable words; upshot being -- power to create contentment at will and when one is persistent enough to make this a habit, it raises the joy & fulfilment index.
Before offering examples to understand this phenomenon and share experience of how to harness this power, let me share with you a link to a video that helped me imbibe this principle viz.  historia de un letrero (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9Yttlp5F-k), a 5-minute multiple awards winning film (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1378259/).  This film made me realize the spirit embedded in the quote “Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change”[2]                                                                          
Let me share two examples from my practice last week.  Currently I happen to coach an accomplished CHRO of a company who’s committed to delivering his best for the organization.  Backed by a rich experience of over 20 years he understands the organizational nuances, be it People, their Prejudices or Politics at work. He confided his restlessness about increase in his short-temperament caused by these three Ps.  He said, after narrating a long incident “…under these circumstances there’s no way but to react like this…”. As he spoke, I sensed the change in his breathing and pain in his voice.  A nudge to reflect on his feelings in the moment revealed the impact of the word “react”, when encouraged to describe the emotions he acknowledged feeling stressed.
Before we dive deeper let me share another coaching session with a senior executive.  This executive brings impeccable credentials to her new job & role as the change catalyst of a Fortune 200 company.   She was using the coaching session to bounce-off her multifaceted situation of -- high expectations & faith of seniors in her, difficult to decipher market reality, trying circumstances in personal life, her ambivalence in dealing with a peer group dominated by male dominated older colleagues with long vintage in company and her own desire & impatience to add value.  As she described scenario, heaviness & confusion was evident in her quip, “…it’s all very overwhelming”.  My nudge to reflect revealed to her that her choice of the word ‘overwhelming’ had accentuated her feelings of helplessness & anxiety
In both the above examples as you see, the choice of words had produced emotions that appeared energy draining.  As a coach what I did in both those situations was to ask the person, if (s)he were to replace that word (“react” and “overwhelm” respectively) with another word what would that be.  The words which emerged in these situations were “respond” and “challenge” respectively.  As soon this dawned and they rephrased their statements their exhausting feelings got replaced with the more refreshing and bouncy ones of keenness, anticipation, curiosity and interest.  As these separate explorations progressed further one couldn’t but notice the common thread of buoyant emotions and a ‘can do’ approach with locus of control firmly with the person.  Not only had their inner emotion changed but even the outer one as well.
Over the years, I have experienced, experimented with and guided others to cultivate a muscle memory that helps one to change conscious and unconscious vocabulary spoken or otherwise.  We can certainly draw an inspiration from a 200 years old poem by Letitia Elizabeth Landon[3]
 ‘Tis a strange mystery, the power of words!
Life is in them, and death. A word can send
The crimson colour hurrying to the cheek.
Hurrying with many meanings; or can turn
The current cold and deadly to the heart.
Anger and fear are in them; grief and joy
Are on their sound; yet slight, impalpable:--
A word is but a breath of passing air.

In the next part of this blog, we’ll tap into the neuro-psychological knowledge, to help us understand how to rewire within and achieve a positive upward spirals of thoughtsàwordsàemotionsàactionsàresults

[1] Mirror neurons are a kind of ‘neural wi-fi’ that triggers cellular activity and feelings that contagious and impact not just within a person but even in people around; we’ll cover this fascinating truth some other time
[2]   Ingrid Bengis
[3] courtesy -- https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-power-of-words/

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Discover pleasure embedded in pain

This morning a colleague shared the vision and anxiety of a newly appointed ‘professional’ CEO of a thoroughbred pedigreed family business.  This CEO working for a century old trusted business house in India, sought my colleague’s consulting support to unlock employee potential towards increasing market-share of their business.  Armed with a vision to grow and keenness to transform the organization, the CEO had only one request ‘support us to cascade my vision through our loyal people; they must change and embrace ‘the new now’, shed their inertia, increase commitment… BUT do make sure that there’s no pain’.

Compare this with what a 24 year old quipped, “I wish to sculpt my body to be beautiful, agile and strong I want to work smart and get there avoiding all the pain”.  Similarly, few months ago a friend posted on FB that, “It is an irony of human nature that sometimes we take so much pleasure to go through pain!” commenting about someone having completed a triathlon or other such effort of human endurance.  He ended the note with a resolve From now on, I’m going to volunteer only for joy and pleasure!!

My colleague’s response to the CEO, my reaction to the 24 year old youngster and some of the readers’ reactions to the FB posts carried common threads; that not every overt pain is truly painful and that many a times the pleasure underlying the transiting pain is more rewarding.   Like, when one runs a marathon she’s not shopping for pain, rather looking for joy which eclipses the pain of every aching muscle into a sweet reminder of the passion, the pursuit and the resilience to transcend beyond the known comforts. 

It appears that the pursuing Aristotelian quip, “The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain” has crippled many among us and made them lead sub-optimal lives; sometimes bringing our lives to standstill.  Idioms such as ‘don’t upset apple cart’ or ‘don’t rock the boat’ appear to have become entrenched beliefs in the psyche of many a leaders. 

In our consulting practice when we encounter situations like these, we know that for this leader or organization to truly unlock their potential, they will have to transcend pain.  Often the very first step for us is to catalyze ‘confidence building’ in that leader.  Upfront we admit and establish that ‘we cannot eliminate pain’; just as our family physician had said years ago, when I took my adolescent son complaining of body pains, labeling those as ‘growth pains’.   Likewise, consultants cannot eliminate the pains of growth; we can convert it into a pleasurable experience by facilitating the organizational muscles to develop an attitude of ‘celebrating stretch’, by preparing organizational bones to endure aches akin to an athlete anticipating to successfully completing a marathon.  Just as the bones & body of a couch potato decay at a faster pace, similarly, the organizational leaders who haven’t learnt to ‘rock the boat’ cannot hope to cross the ocean that by very nature carries the waves of possibility.

Wishing you all a happy 2017.  Hope you find the confidence to get onto a boat that may sometimes rock in your pursuit to cross the ocean.  Hope twenty seventeen helps you to discover the resilience and fortitude to turn up the boat even when it tumbles, as sometimes it will. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

...the half born child and obsessed parenting...

                         The last post http://celebratetheright.blogspot.in/2016/08/the-mother-father-midwife-and-half-born.html which was a metaphor for an existential dharma sankata[1], resulted in quite a few reactions.  There were some other interesting visualizations such as “…the baby is afraid to be born through mermaid, for it fears of a form that wouldnt be beautiful or functional and someone who was aware of my dilemma quipped “…the baby can choose another womb where it feels safe and give the hell to this mother (for not making it feel safe)…”

Most reactions wished for a healthy child being born without any harm to the mermaid, like one said “…the passion of the mermaid, the love of the man and the faith of the midwife will win and influence baby's evolution.  The moot point being, just like a bollywood movie, most people wanted a happy fairytale ending, resembling my dear friend Vidyas comment on the blogpost that reads The story will end most gloriously man's deep desire, the woman's will mid-wife's unflinching faith deliver a golden baby.

Earlier this month, I was in a tehsil in Vidarbha, Maharashtra to address a group of 70 women who had assembled to celebrate their wholesomeness.  I started my interaction with them by narrating the metaphor of The Mother, the Father, the Midwife and a half-born Child.  Most of their responses converged around mother has to push harder and she will; it was very clear that, in their view the complete onus of bringing the child into this world rested with the mermaid.  Deeper exploration with them revealed that their only focus appeared to be the half born child.  They were completely obsessed with the childs well-being and not one of them expressed anything about the mermaid.  Along the same continuum a friends message read The child has to be born, this is the moment when their belief of creating their perfect world is being tested the world they are seeking can happen only when this child comes into being if the child does not find life, the man and the mermaid wouldnt be same again…”

What do these convey about our psyche? In these responses I find guiding beliefs and obsessions of parenting.  During the past several years, I have observed across the country - from remote parts of Telangana to industrialized patches of West Bengal; even in distinctly different cultures - working mothers in Nigeria to women entrepreneurs in London most assume an obsessive & onerous duty of bringing up their progeny.   Underlying their disposition of try harder for my child appears to be a belief that these women are solely responsible for the evolution and well-being of their children.  Often, in this belief, they sacrifice everything.  Recently, a Nielson report[2] pointed out that about 87% of the women in India are most pressured for time; embedded in that report is the dominant cause of it (pressure for time) - that has to do with the children.

Its not as if only the women are obsessed parents; even men when obsessed with the idea of a perfect/ most glorious future for their children, more often than not end up being the most significant stumbling block in their childs ability to realize his/ her true potential.  The visible characteristics of such parents appear to be
  • ·         Possessiveness
  • ·         Over-protectiveness
  • ·         Continuing to wear kid-gloves even in a childs adolescent years
  • ·         Self-sacrifice & pampering
  • ·         Yearning to control the child in her/ his teenage and
  • ·         Continuing to be preoccupied with affairs (no pun intended) of grown up children

Mostly, these parents have never recognized the ability and willingness of their child to explore and embrace the world at her/ his terms.  A flawed idea of love at the root of their behavior leads to excessive interventions, regulations and an overwhelming presence till the child suffocates. 
Every time I was able to let go of my obsession as a parent, my children delighted; but have I truly got over my preoccupation perhaps not.  However, whenever I meet a parent who truly treats their child as an equal and rejoices in her/ his explorations, I get inspired.

Last week, I happened to be conducting a program where the organizers had invited Mr Harvir Singh Nehwal, father of Ms Saina Nehwal[3] (pride of India); while responding to his audience, he narrated his own life by quoting a poem that left a deep imprint on him and am sure he would have offered the same to his daughter that made her embrace life's adventures.  This is by Hindi poet Ayodhya Singh Upadhyaya 'Hariaudh'. Bear with me while I attempt an English translation alongside -

एक बूँद
ज्यों निकल कर बादलों की गोद से
थी अभी एक बूँद कुछ आगे बढ़ी
सोचने फिर फिर यही जी में लगी
हाय क्यों घर छोड़ कर मैं यों कढ़ी
मैं बचूँगी या मिलूँगी धूल में
चू पड़ूँगी या कमल के फूल में
बह गयी उस काल एक ऐसी हवा
वो समन्दर ओर आयी अनमनी
एक सुन्दर सीप का मुँह था खुला
वो उसी में जा गिरी मोती बनी
लोग यौं ही हैं झिझकते सोचते
जबकि उनको छोड़ना पड़ता है घर
किन्तु घर का छोड़ना अक्सर उन्हें
बूँद लौं कुछ और ही देता है कर !
A droplet

Leaving the bosom of the clouds
As the water droplet proceeded a bit
She hesitated and thought
Why did I leave my home?
What’s there in my destiny -
Will I survive or disappear in dirt
Will I vaporize in a fire?
Or embrace a lotus petal
The moment brought such a gust of air
Reluctantly she drifted towards sea
Where lay a beautiful shell with open orifice
She fell there to become a pearl
People hesitate unduly
When they leave their cocoon
Yet leaving their home often
Brings them a transforming breeze

And those of us parents who do not recognize this spirit, continue to keep our child in the half born state even though the child demonstrated her/ his ability and willingness to take the biggest risk known to humankind, when as an unborn child (s)he decided to step outside the womb and embrace all the uncertainty and ambiguity. 

Amidst the scenario where, with every passing generation, the degree of obsessed parenting seems to increase, theres a need to recognize the downside of such parenting orientations.  We may not be conscious of the lopsided mental model, notwithstanding the purest of intention we carry, this triggered behavior causes immense damage to our children by denting their ability to realize their own true potential.  I do hope parents are able to see the delusional attitude they carry whether it lies in role-modeling they imbibed as a child themselves or with the fact that they are fixated with giving the very best to their children or whether it emanates from their flawed understanding of love.  

Let us bless our children to experience and receive an enlivening, spirited & sorted parenting.  As the Alchemist[4] says “…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it…” Let us all, as parents dream of evolving to such a notch that would make sure that no child is left half born.

[1] One of my teachers Raghu Ananthnarayanan defines dharma sankata as a dilemma between two rights
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saina_Nehwal -- Born 17 March 1990 is a professional badminton singles player has been a world no. 1 and maintained her world ranking in the top ten since 2009 Won over twenty international titles has represented India three times in the Olympics  the Arjuna award winner and a Khel Ratna, the Government of India (GoI) conferred on her the Padma Bhushan - India's third highest civilian award
[4] The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho