Defining success in challenging times

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Dear Madam,
I passed PUC with 84 per cent and I am willing to do engineering. I have a unique problem. I am confused about many things in life. Two years ago I started reading the scriptures of different religions. I also listen to the speeches of Dr Zakir, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar etc. We hear a lot of things like achieving something in life, becoming great, becoming successful etc. But what is achievement in life? What is success? Is becoming a Shah Rukh Khan or a Sonia Gandhi success? Or is working in a foreign country in the best companies and getting a good salary success? When I started reading religious books, success is altogether different from what the educated people think today. Does success lie in following in the footsteps of Moses, Muhammed, Jesus or Buddha?
I haven’t been able to concentrate on my studies as I am spending time on things like idol worship, going to hell etc. I don’t have a clear picture of what I am going to become. How can I get out of this? Should I balance both? My parents are telling me to stop reading the scriptures, but I feel life is lame without them. Please help. I want to have a clear picture in my mind about my future.
Man UTD

Dear Man UTD,
I can see that you are in search of  ‘something’. The names you are giving it are achievement and success. Perhaps, because you constantly hear these words bandied around. Let us start with the dictionary meaning of these words. According to the Chambers dictionary, achievement is ‘a result gained by effort’ or ‘an accomplishment’. Success is defined as ‘a favourable or desirable outcome’ or ‘the attainment of wealth, favour or eminence’.

Quite fascinating, isn’t it? The meanings do not give you a specific outcome, for e.g. if you become like Shah Rukh Khan you are successful or if you earn ‘X’ amount you are successful. It is left to you to decide what you consider an achievement or success.
Let me share with you a few lines from the book, ‘The Present’ by Spencer Johnson. This as a conversation between an old man (O.M) and a Teenager (T).

T:  Is The Present something that will make me rich?
O.M:  Yes, in a way it can, The Present can lead you to many kinds of riches. But its true value is not measured in gold or money alone.

T: You told me earlier that when you receive The Present, you enjoy your life more.

O.M: Yes, and you are more effective, so you can do things better, and that makes you more successful.

T: What do you mean by being more successful?

O.M: Being more successful means getting more of what you need, whatever you think is important.

T: So, I get to decide what success is for me?

O.M: Yes, we all do, and we may change what we think success is at different times in our lives. It may be to have a better relationship with your parents, getting better grades, being more productive or feeling more peaceful and better about yourself.

T: What is it for you?

O.M: At this phase of my life, it means laughing more often, loving more deeply and being of greater service.

I hope you have got an idea of what success is. And if you are curious about ‘The Present’, do get a copy of the book (not expensive and worth having).

Incidentally, I focused on your question and enjoyed answering it. I feel successful!

Dear Madam,
My sister is 17 years old and presently doing her 2nd PUC. She is least interested in studying but has managed to get into 2nd PUC. Looking at her present performance, my parents and I are worried about her future because she’s not doing that well in her exams. She was a very good student till 10th Std and also a high achiever. She got 88 per cent in the Board exam. Since she has joined college I have noticed changes in her personality and attitude towards her studies. She only enjoys talking to her friends and sleeping. We are not exerting any kind of pressure on her but we still cannot observe any improvement. How can we change her attitude towards studies? My mom has confiscated her mobile phone but it hasn’t had much impact on her. Please guide.
Mahima

Dear Mahima,
Let me give you an analogy: What will you do if you have a headache? Most probably you will take a pain killer. You get relief, however your headache comes back again after a few hours. This shows that you treated a symptom and not the cause. In the same way I can, at best, give you some help based on assumptions, given the limited data provided by you. It could point you in the right direction.

*She does not like the subjects she has taken.

*She cannot cope and has therefore lost interest in studying.

*She took the first year easy and now does not know how to recover and make a come back.

*She did not know how to handle the sudden freedom of college.

*Talking on the telephone is a lot of fun.

*She is not able to stand up to the peer group and say no to them or maybe she wants to be part of a popular group.

*She has no goal in mind, making it difficult to plan a pathway.
The point you have made about her sleeping a lot makes me believe that she is trying to put off something that she is unable to face, or is feeling uncomfortable with. I think she is procrastinating as she lacks the confidence to live up to her earlier performance and achievements.

Here is what you and parents can do:

nHave a conversation with her to ascertain the reason/s for her not studying. Ask her what help and support she would like from the family.

*Ask her what her career options are. Help her to make a plan of action to reach the goal.

*You say that there is no pressure on her to perform. I can see that there is indirect pressure through the worry and anxiety that all of you must be expressing. This may not be in words but through body language. The need to perform should come from within her.

*Confiscating the telephone is not an answer. It can create a rebellious attitude and anger against all of you. Instead negotiate with her on the time to study and the time to relax.

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