• gauri nadkarni choudhary

The enemy within

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

When you think of the word enemy what image do you get? An evil, cunning monster out to get you? An enemy is a person who causes harm or has a potential to cause harm to us. The harm could be physical or psychological, perceived or real or merely an attempt to stop us from progressing in life.

So who is the real enemy? The one across the border? The one with the job we wanted or the girl we wanted? The society and its views? The government and our system? I know most of us would respond to it as all of the above.

We often need a reason to explain our failure. A target preferably external which can explain why we did not achieve what we wanted to. We start very young. The out of syllabus questions in an exam, the teachers who were partial, the boys who cheated in the match or the group of friends who are spoiling my innocent son/daughter. It is the society, our culture and the education system is responsible for us not doing well as an adult. And there are always the in-laws to blame for our marriages to not do well.

Let me ask you honestly, are these the real enemies? Are these the real reasons we struggle in our everyday lives. Truthfully, no!

The real enemy lies within all of us. The enemy that we are unwilling to acknowledge and therefore grows stronger and stronger till it destroys all sense of rationality.

So who is this enemy? This enemy is the “what if” fear. What will happen if I do this or don’t do this? What if I don’t succeed? What if he/she says no? This enemy has defeated many of us and tortured even more of us.

To defeat the enemy you need to know it. Let us see the battle strategy of our enemy.

We have become so used to a mechanical world that we want guarantees for everything. But life is not a washing machine. It does not come with these guarantees. Neither does the washing machine for that matter!! We have to take risks in life. Every coin has fifty-fifty probability of landing either heads or tails. Similarly in our life we have a fifty-fifty chance of success and failure, be it in career or in relationships. What we can do is tilt the balance towards success. In other words try our best to reduce the possibility of failure.

Most people avoid doing things because they fear they will not succeed in it. Would they stop breathing because there is no possibility of immortality. Or do they stop driving because there is always a possibility of getting stuck in a traffic jam.

We worry about taking up task because we fear we might not do well or rather we may not do as well as we want to.

I met a young girl’s parents who wanted her to take up engineering for further studies despite the girl’s vehement protests. She wanted to be a chef. Their argument was that the guarantee of success was higher for an engineering graduate than a chef. She could always be a chef after she did her engineering!

Another young man was afraid of taking part in a competition because his chances of winning were slim. But did not participating take the chances down to zero?

And couple were afraid of committing to each other because of the high chances of break ups and divorces.

So what do we do? Leave everything to fate or Karma. No most definitely not. But we do need to remember that if there is no guarantee for success neither is there a guarantee for failure. We can work towards reducing the probability for failure and not work towards eliminating it all together.

Tipping the balance towards success is manageable. To begin with let us accept that the possibility of failure always exists. The best laid plans can go haywire. Nothing can ensure success but not doing anything can definitely ensure failure.

The most successful people are not the people who planned for success but who planned how to deal with failure. The smart way to plan is to plan with a margin for error. Would it not be easier to leave ten minutes early than to expect people on the road to suddenly behave sanely?

It is important to keep in mind that all things are not under our control. We waste most of our time in trying to control things which are beyond our control. The condition of the roads, the reaction of people, the competition, the way the stars align…..

Instead it would be simpler to try and control my fear of “what if”. A wise man once said “ I had many worries most of which did not exist”. We tend to live in anticipation of failure. We focus so much on the possibility of failure that we disregard the possibility of success.

We can always try. The worst that can happen is that I won’t achieve what I wanted. However if I don’t try the best that can happen is I will live with regret.

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