Happiness is an attitude

December 31, 2008


This is my last post for the year 2008. Few hours later, we shall be saying good bye to 2008 and welcoming 2009, wishing each other Happy New Year. So, I feel like writing on happiness. What should we do to be happy? Can happiness be created even though we may not have control over events that happen to us or around us?


No one is happy all the time. We all go through failures, setbacks, frustration that makes us feel low and unhappy. What is important is to be able to come out of such moments as quickly as possible. That is why I believe happiness is an attitude.


Let’s first believe that happiness can be created, if not always but most of the times. A two-pronged approach will help in developing an attitude of creating happiness.  


First, do things that make you happy. I used to enjoy playing Cricket with my friends. Even when we finished college and started working, we used to find time to play on weekends. It kept us in touch with each other, and made us all happy. Then, life took friends to different places, making it difficult for us to meet so regularly. Now I play with my children and their friends on weekends. A short game with them gives me the same amount of pleasure as it does to them. This is just one example. We can pursue a hobby, learn a new skill, read a book or watch a movie to make us happy. Make a list of things that make you happy, and find time to do them. This could be one of your new year’s resolutions.  


Second, find your happiness in happiness of others. Ask yourself: What can I do today to make someone happy? Just look around and see people in your surroundings. You don’t have to do big things. Small acts like spending time with a lonely or elderly person will bring cheers to both. Buying gifts for those who generally don’t get gifts will do wonders to your spirits. One of my friends told me that he visits hospitals whenever he has the time to meet with poor patients who are admitted there. He spends time with them, buys them fruits and medicines. He says, “ the day I do this, I feel so happy with myself. I look forward to my next visit to them”. Through our small acts, we can help people, making them as well as ourselves happy.

 To conclude, let me share a couplet from a famous Urdu poet:

Ghar se masjid hai bahut door chalo yun hi sahi,

Kisi rote hue bachche ko hansaya jaye.

(the mosque is too far from home. So be it.

let’s make a wailing child laugh instead)


Wishing all a very Happy New Year 2009!


S.Mohammad Afsar/Opening doors



Going an extra mile!

December 26, 2008


People visit the library of our office on a regular basis. Our librarian is very helpful to colleagues and outsiders, providing books/journals/publications available in the library – fulfilling the job of a good librarian. However, what she once shared with me is a perfect example of going an extra mile. Before I share this, I must add that she does not want to be named saying, in all humility, this is her job. How beautiful the world would be if such an attitude of feeling ‘accountable’ was universal..


          A young research scholar once telephoned her from a small town, enquiring about some reference books she needed for her thesis. The research scholar had been struggling to source the books for some time but with no success. As a result she was behind her submission deadline.


Our librarian listened to the caller patiently. She informed the caller of the books that she could provide. In addition, she offered the contact details of other libraries that the researcher could approach. The prompt information delighted the caller who informed that she intended to make a trip to the city to research the material. She had one query: Would it be possible to access all the books, including visits to other libraries in one day so that she could return by evening? This would save her the hassle of arranging for an accommodation.


On the morning of the caller’s scheduled visit, she was pleasantly surprised to find books staked on a table in our library. These books were placed alongside publications that didn’t belong to our office – a sign that our librarian had gone that extra mile. She had taken it upon herself to contact her counterparts in other libraries and run by the caller’s list of reference material. Then she requested the respective libraries to send across the short listed reading material for a day when the researcher was coming to our office. She had empathized with the caller, understanding her unease at staying the night in a new city.


The researcher was extremely grateful to discover all the books under one roof, and that someone had taken that effort to source the books as per her check list. If our librarian had only provided books that we had in our library, and given information about other sources, she would have still done the job of a good librarian. But sourcing books from other libraries, and keeping them available for the use of researcher was the extra mile that had saved the researcher time and resources. At the end of the day, it was an extremely satisfied and grateful researcher that shook hands with our dear librarian.   


We can do a lot within our areas of influence to help people. Let’s remember this episode, and try to emulate this in our lives/work.


One more point before I close. When it comes to doing something for people close to us – our friends, siblings, relatives – we all do whatever we can. We explore all possible options, and knock at several doors. But when it comes to people we do not really know, we are generally not so forthcoming. So, next time a stranger seeks your intervention, think before delivering your verdict. What would have been your response to the request had the stranger been your friend or cousin or aunt? Go ahead and do the same for new faces too. The term ‘going that extra’ needs to extend into life and reflect in our everyday behaviour.      

Building confidence in public speaking

December 20, 2008

One of the most common questions asked by people regarding public speaking is about measures to build confidence.  

Low self-esteem is the most important cause for low confidence in public speaking. Setbacks/failures faced in life, doubts about physical apprearance, voice quality, lack of adequate command over language – lead to a low self esteem and pull our confidence down.  It is important to work on self- esteem.  As self-esteem is what we feel about ourselves, we only can change it. Please refer to the earlier post steps for building a high self- esteem.  

In addition to working on self-esteem, the following will help in building confidence in public speaking:

  • Take initiaitve to speak in small and informal gatherings initially.  Speak on subjects of your interest, hobbies, films/TV shows, current affairs, etc. This will give you practice of putting your ideas in a perspective, and be able to share with people  in your circle. Speaking in small groups in informal settings is an excellent strategy. You will gradually learn the art of putting your ideas in a more effective manner.  Make it a habit. We all can do it on a  regular basis.  
  • Accept speaking assignments such as giving a short welcome speech, a vote of thanks, a farewell speech etc. These are easy to prepare and give confidence to speak in public. 
  • Preparation gives confidence. So, prepare as well as you can. Updated knowledge on the topic of your speech is a must. Think how best you can present your thoughts.  You are prepared well if you have successfully answered the key question: why should the audience listen to me? 
  • Find a mentor. It is always useful to get some help from a person you trust can guide you well, and with whom you can share your inhibitions as well. Bounce off your ideas to your mentor, and seek his/her advice.    
  • Practice public speaking. You are the first audience of your speech. Read it to yourself, and see how does it sound. You can record it and listen it to make necessary corrections in the tone, clarity, speed of delivery, lengths of sentences, emotional appeal etc. You can then do mock sessions with a smaller group: friends, colleagues etc.  Speaking in smaller groups does a lot of good. You overcome fear and build your confidence gradually. 

Finally, just remember every thing is difficult before it is easy.  How did we learn driving or swimming? Initially we praciticed under a trainer for a few weeks regularly and then it became easy. Those who gave up after a few attempts could never learn. Same is the case with public speaking.  Don’t give up, practice regularly and see the difference. Your confidence will grow everytime you speak.