Do You Really Want Your Neighbor’s Wonderful Life?

Are you feeling angry? Tired?  Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone.

Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.

Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?

Facebook version of reality

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.


Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.

Frustration commonly has similar roots.


The real world exists.

We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.

Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.

Grown-ups’ problems

tantrumAs children, we are often pampered. If we want something, we go to our parents, and demand we get it. If we don’t get our way, some of us throw a tantrum.

And then we grow up.

Control and compare

The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.

We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.

Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.

From here, where?

So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.

angryWhere is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?

No, and no.

You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.

So what is the answer?

We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.

Think about it.

You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.

Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.

Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.

Do you want his whole life?

This is the real clincher.

Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.

LamborghiniYou drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?

Pick and choose

That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.

Live happily ever after?

And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

Where now?

You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.

Accept reality

You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.

Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.

What matters in life

Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?

If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.

JunkThe car will lose its shine. The new car smell will fade. Eventually, it will go to the junk yard.

Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.

The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.

So what should you do?

  • Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
  •  Be Grateful!

    Be Grateful!

    Be grateful for all of them.

  • Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
  • Focus on friends, family, love.
  • You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.


Success or Bust: Why We Keep Chasing Our Tails!

“When I grow up, I want to become the biggest failure in the history of mankind!”

“I want to aim for the title of the worst tennis player on the planet!”

You never hear these sentiments from anybody. Nobody shoots for failure. All of us want to aim for the heavens, to become the biggest stars in the firmament.

We want to succeed.

Lack of failure?

However, we have difficulty defining success. We do not want to fail. But avoiding failure is not the same as succeeding.

Be the best?

Well-meaning slogans surround us. “Be all you can be!” But what exactly is that? How does anybody know that they have become all that they could become? Unless, of course, they are the best at what they do. And who would decide that?

Judging the best

The Best!

The Best!

In some fields of endeavor, this is easy. Tennis has its championships. So does golf. Even team sports have so-called “world championships.” A baseball team is on top of the world today. But next year, they might be down in the dumps. Has the best suddenly become the worst? And how much is the difference between the best and the worst?

Shifting goals?

Say you are a golfer. You are ranked number one in the world. Then you go on to lose the next few major tournaments. You lose your crown. Are you no good now?

Well, you might still be among the top ten players. Is that a good enough definition of success?

What if you drop to number thirty in the world? Are you still successful?

And these rankings keep changing every few months, if not more often. Is it reasonable to define success on a quarterly basis? Is that a reasonable way for people to judge their lives, their efforts, their careers?

That elusive success

In the field of sports, you can get a report card, or a ranking, or a score card. But what about other spheres of life?

Are you a successful parent, or spouse? Are you a brilliant lawyer, doctor, electrician?

Try defining it!

The achievement of a goal, aim, or purpose, is how success is often defined.

Others call it the attainment of popularity or profit.

“The correct or desired end of an attempt” is the opinion of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Judging by results?

Let us look carefully at those definitions.

Attempts are supposed to be successful if they have the correct or desired ending.

What is the correct ending? The desired result of human endeavor? Some pursuits have no ending. Doctors are always “in practice.” There is no perfection.


We like to see results, especially good results, or desired results. But results are not always going to be favorable to us, and the world does not revolve around our desires.

There are other people on this planet, too, and they have their own desires. Two teams compete, and one has to lose. Is that team a failure, no good?

Real life


Let us take other examples. Say you have children, and you obviously do your best to raise them well. But do you always get the desired results? You might want your kid to go to Harvard. If, however, he ends up in the local community college, are you a failure as a parent? And is your child doomed to fail in this world? Not necessarily. Many people who went on to achieve greatness studied in average colleges, and some did not attend college at all.


Are teachers rich?

Some of the people who have had the most profound influence on me have been my teachers, especially middle school and high school teachers. None of them were rich, and none were famous. Many of them are no longer alive. But they live on in my mind. Were they successful?

Actions and results

If we keep judging success by results, we will invariably end up feeling miserable, or at least dissatisfied, in the long run.

The reason is two-fold

Results are transient. A star manager can, and often does, get fired. Successful shows on TV do not run forever. Mansions on the beach frequently end up as fodder for divorce lawyers. Even Tiger Woods could not maintain his dream sequence of golf championships. And then what?

Results are not under our control

This is one of the most bitter pills to swallow, especially in the modern world. We are taught to work hard, play hard, climb the ladder, and rule the roost.

Except that there may not always be a roost to rule.

Actions rule

Common sense dictates that actions are, for the most part, under our control. Especially our own actions. After that, our sphere of influence narrows considerably, and often stops.

But we continue to want to control everything: other people, events, results. And we continue to feel that that will make us happy and successful. We might be proved wrong, but we do not learn; perhaps because we do not want to learn.


We keep doing what we are programmed to do by society, because we are afraid that the alternative will mean failure, unhappiness, and loss of face.


We cling to an antiquated belief system, because “everybody does it.” Everybody chases money, and fame. And becomes disillusioned, but does not want to admit it publicly.

Where does that leave us?

We need a new approach, based on age-old wisdom.

Success, happiness, and satisfaction are not found in external circumstances. The key to these lies within us, and can be found with introspection, clarity of thought, and a sense of perspective.

People living in miserable conditions have shown remarkable courage and achieved a state of peace that most of us cannot even imagine.

Concentration camp survivors have described methods they used to rise above their circumstances.

Nelson Mandela did not let years of imprisonment make him bitter, and radiated an inner joy which enabled him to forgive his tormentors.


  • External circumstances are transient. Using money, fame, and material possessions to determine our worth is likely to lead to frustration.
  • Living in the present, and making the most of the present moment, brings peace.
  • The past is gone. We should learn from it, and then move on. Constantly reliving the past will not bring joy or satisfaction.
  • The future is uncertain. It is not guaranteed, and is not under our direct control.
  • Human beings share this planet, and are more alike than different. A sense of empathy and kindness, and a focus on others, rather than always on us, will bring inner peace.
  • A strong feeling of gratitude, rather than of entitlement, will lead to humility, and lasting joy.
  • Focusing on appropriate actions, which are always under our control, rather than on results, which are unpredictable, will lead to satisfaction.
  • A successful life is a life of enjoying the moment, acting compassionately, responsibly, and without undue concern about outcomes.

What do you think?

I would love to know!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands!

People get richer; countries get richer. Yet, happiness remains elusive.

Do we know anything?

If you want to pursue anything, or search for anything, you need to know what it is.

If you want a tiger, but keep chasing rabbits, you will end up disappointed.

So what are we looking for? What do we want to measure? Can we even measure it?

Money? Satisfaction?

All of us want to be happy. Or so we say. Sometimes, however, our actions suggest quite the opposite. So either we do not know what we are looking for, or we only pay lip service to the pursuit of happiness.


Quite often, we believe that becoming rich will automatically make us happy. So we make vigorous efforts to earn money, hoping that happiness will follow. We are disappointed when it does not.

Much has been written about the connection between money and happiness. There is some evidence that above an income level of $75,000 per year, money does not contribute significantly to happiness, or at least day-to-day feelings of joy. This is discussed further in a previous post:

Satisfaction can be another issue. Nobody is ever satisfied with the amount of money they are earning, and most of us would like to earn more.

Happiness in the world

Human beings are keenly interested in money. So countries have long been ranked according to how rich they are, as broadly reflected by their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the realization soon emerged that the richest countries are not necessarily the happiest.

But how do you go about measuring happiness? It is tough enough in an individual, never mind a country. The first World Happiness Report of 2012 showed us the way, and the latest report is from 2015.

Gross National Happiness


The king of Bhutan coined this term in the 1970s to emphasize the importance of spiritual values and human emotions, and not just simply dollars and cents in evaluating the well-being of people and nations.

In 2011, the United Nations passed a resolution to make happiness a part of its agenda of global development.

The concept of Gross National Happiness stresses good governance, environmental awareness and conservation, cultural values, and sustainable development.

Mexico? Costa Rica?

The World Happiness report of 2015 lists Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway as being the top four happiest countries in the world, with Canada being the fifth.

costa rica

Interestingly, Costa Rica is at number12, and Mexico at number 14, just above the United States at number 15. India is ranked number 117, out of a total of 158 countries listed.

What are the criteria?

Happiness and well-being are important markers of social progress. Public planners are increasingly focusing on these goals for the citizens of their respective countries.

Measuring these parameters objectively, and presenting data which cut across international differences is a challenge, which the authors of the World Happiness Report have been increasingly successful at meeting.

This report ranks 158 countries along a scale of happiest to least happy. The basis for the ranking is the quality of life of the people interviewed in those countries.

Six major factors


Three-quarters of the differences between these countries were felt to be the result of six factors: the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.

To prepare their report, investigators asked people to rate their lives on the whole using a numerical scale: 0 being the worst and 10 the best possible life.

GDP and life expectancy of the population obviously reflect the wealth of a nation, but the other factors mentioned above are indicators of autonomy, trust, and a sense of security. These are not necessarily related to wealth.

Rich country, happy country?

Not necessarily. The US was ranked eighth in GDP per capita (although it has the world’s largest GDP) and fifteenth in happiness. Canada has a GDP 20% lower than that of the US, but its happiness rank is higher at number five.

Social connections


People are growing richer in the US, on average, but their sense of social connection is going down, resulting in a lower ranking on the national happiness scale.


Fewer Americans now feel that they can trust other people. Nationally, 80% say that they can count on their neighbors. In some regions, this is much worse. Santa Monica in California recently combined data from surveys, social media, and administrative sources, and found that only half of their citizens felt they could depend on their neighbors.

So where does that leave us?

Right where common sense has always led us.

Money continues to be important, to allow people to keep body and soul together, and for countries to provide vital services to their citizens.

What we seem to have lost lately is a sense of perspective, of balance.

The mindless pursuit of wealth and sensory pleasures has had a numbing effect on individuals. We are losing a sense of purpose, of community.

Similarly, countries are neglecting investments in social capital, and chasing global power and hegemony.

Call to action

It is time for us to introspect.


Family, friends, spirituality, and community are essential for human beings to flourish. And when individuals flourish, so do countries.

Eating, sleeping, and reproduction are not unique to humans. Animals do much the same.


Let us seek and cherish traits that make us special. If we do that, we will not need to ask ourselves if we are happy. We will be too busy helping others.

Enjoy the Present of Life: Let Go of the Past & Future!

“My parents did not love me as much as they loved my younger brother. My whole life is ruined. I will never amount to much.”

“All my friends are millionaires. In the next five years, I need to earn at least five million dollars. Otherwise, how will the world truly appreciate my value?”

We take perverse delight in dwelling in the past, or worrying about the future. In the process, we ruin the only thing we have, and can control: our present.

The past


News flash: The past is gone, over, done with. That is why it is called the past. In grammar, it is appropriately called the past tense. It has passed. But it still makes us tense.


Most humans take delight in thinking about the past. That is all right, to some extent. It is, after all, a part of our lives.

Nostalgia can bring us some pleasure. We relive some of the happy moments of our lives, and our sense of joy is rekindled. That can give us a new vigor to move forward with optimism.

Problems with nostalgia

However, nostalgia can also hurt.

The word itself is formed by joining two Greek words: nóstos, meaning “homecoming,” and álgos, meaning “pain, ache.”

Swiss mercenaries who fought wars far away from home in ancient times obviously suffered from anxiety. A 17th century medical student labeled this as a medical condition, and called it nostalgia, which was felt to be a type of melancholy.

Good old days


Many of us get emotional when thinking of the past. If we have happy memories of people or places from our past, we think of them frequently. This can improve our mood. Positive feelings of self-regard have been documented in people who have a “sentimental longing for the past.”

However, our vision can also be biased. With the passage of time, we acquire rose-tinted glasses, and tend to have a distorted image of previous occurrences. Positive experiences are highlighted. Painful memories are sometimes suppressed. It is not unusual for us to lose perspective when reliving the past. Thus nostalgia often has a bitter-sweet undertone.

There is also a tendency for people to want to return to the “good old days,” which may not have been that good in their totality. For instance, the old days in South Africa included the abhorrent effects of apartheid. Similarly, the past in the USA was not that pleasant for African Americans.

Habitual worriers

Nostalgia has been shown to create problems for a group of people who worry “all the time.” This becomes a habit for them, and they have repetitive and automatic thoughts which they cannot control. They are constantly trying to resolve issues which have been festering for a long time. Quite often, the chronic problems are not solved, but the worriers are left with residual feelings of anxiety and depression.


In such habitual worriers, dwelling on the past often leads to a worsening of their chronic anxiety and depression. This appears to happen even when they think about pleasant events in the past. The reason is usually a stark contrast between what they think was a pleasant past, and their current unsatisfactory reality.

Ignoring the present

No matter how good or bad the past was, it is now over. One should certainly review the mistakes one made in the past, and learn from them. Beyond that, dwelling on the past is, at best, a waste of time and mental energy. Life is led in the present moment, and spending that time focused on the past means frittering away a precious resource.

How about the future?


Quite often, when we are not occupied with the past, we start worrying about the future.

Most of us have goals, ambitions, and plans. We have a vision for our future: a successful career, a wonderful spouse, great kids, a house in the suburbs. We have it all figured out. And we want to pursue that vision vigorously.

However, while we are all wrapped up in that planning, we overlook a few key details.


“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

-Woody Allen

It is well and good to make plans. That is probably better than leading a completely unstructured life. Most people have goals, and that focuses their minds.


However, it is wise not to get too engrossed in your plans. Plans, no matter how meticulously made, do not always come to fruition. That is why people make a “Plan B.” Even that does not always work out.

So the best bet is to make a broad outline of what you want to do, and how you want to do it, and then focus on the present, asking yourself what it is that you can do right now which will improve the odds of success in the future. And then get to work in the here and now.


“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

-Yogi Berra

When we are not dwelling in the past, we are often preoccupied with the future. Everybody wants to have a secure, happy, and successful future. So we spend a lot of time worrying about it. We think of all the bad things which can happen to us, and then mentally conjure up methods of tackling them. From time to time, we visualize some of the good things we would like to occur to us down the road, and then worry about how bad luck could undermine our success.


The problem with this strategy is what Yogi Berra jokingly pointed out in the quote above. We are unable to predict the future. A lot of the bad things we worry about never happen. Some of the good things we would like also do not happen. We can plan, work hard, worry, and fret all we want. We cannot control what will happen in the future.

This is not to say that we should never plan, never make an effort. No. We should do the work which is under our control. And then we should let the future take care of itself.

So what is the answer?


Live in the moment. Live the present to its fullest. The past is gone. The future is not knowable.

So be mindful of the moment. Because that is all that is promised to you: the present moment.

And life consists of a series of present moments.

Mindfulness meditation

This is a discipline which focuses on recognizing the value of the present moment, and living in, and taking pleasure in, the present moment.

A fundamental aspect of this is deep breathing, which we have discussed in a previous post:

Advantage of living in the moment

This is the most productive use of your time.


It allows you to enjoy life, and also focus on the only things which are under your control: your thoughts and your actions.

The ancient Indian epic, the Gita, explains:

Karmanyevadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachan (Gita 2:47)

“You have control only over your actions, and never on the results of those actions.”

Do your duty; be happy

This is one of the most important keys to leading a happy and satisfying life. Do what is right. Do your duty, your job, to the best of your ability. After that, let go of the past, and don’t worry over the future. Let the chips fall where they may.

Want to read more?

The above issues, and more, are discussed further in my book: How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons from the Gita, which is available at:

Secrets of Pride, Anger, and Social Emotions

“You are a genius!”

“You are such a total failure!”

Each one of us has an inner voice which keeps nagging us. It keeps a running scorecard of everything we do, and regularly passes judgment. One second it can take us to the top of a mountain, and the very next, bring us crashing down.

Why is this so?



This is a convenient target to blame. We are wired this way. We cannot help ourselves.

To some extent, that is true.

Living beings need to survive, and propagate the species. Social animals want to move up the social hierarchy, because that improves the odds of survival and reproduction.

And thus are born instincts and emotions, which warn us against danger, and help us get ahead in the world.

Is this relevant today?

Yes and no.

Dangers to life and limb are of a different nature today. The stress system previously triggered by the roar of a tiger in the wild is now brought into play when we are sitting in traffic, fretting and fuming because we are late for a meeting. The hormones pouring into our bloodstream (cortisol and adrenaline), which were meant to aid fight or flight, now end up raising our blood pressure and blood sugar.

Are primary or basic emotions still useful?

To some extent, they are. They still alert us to the possibility of harm.

Anger, joy, sadness, surprise, fear, and disgust develop in the first 9 months of an infant’s life


These basic human emotions have characteristic facial expressions which accompany them. An early signal of both fear and surprise is a widening of the eyes, which increases our field of vision, allowing a better chance of fast escape, as we can see more of our surroundings.


The emotions of anger and disgust show the same initial facial expression, a  wrinkled nose, which was likely designed to reduce the potential for breathing in particles dangerous to health.

Modern role

Many researchers believe that emotions affect our cognition, influence our thinking, and influence the way we make decisions.

Gut feeling

The human brain can take in vast amounts of information, process it rapidly, and present to us a plan for rapid action, without our having to think about it at a conscious level. Our emotions play a key role in this, through our “instincts,” or “gut feelings.”

In many situations, the amount of information available is so much that analyzing it carefully and consciously would take a lot of time. You might be in a car showroom, with the salesman pushing you to close a deal. But your brain sees a red flag, and tries to warn you. You start getting an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. You do not know what it is, but your brain has been there before, and it is warning you that something is fishy, and you should leave. Only later do you find out that the sales person has a track record of duping customers. Your instincts, however, picked up some subtle cues and warned you in time.

But it can work against you

Emotions act in a very simplistic manner. They present you information about your surroundings and circumstances rather broadly, and you react to that without too much conscious thought. This, however, can also create problems in the modern world. When things do not go your way, you tend to get angry, and this could become a recurrent pattern. Chronic anger can create health problems, such as high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

Self-conscious emotions

These emotions can cause even greater problems.


Pride, hubris, guilt, and shame are commonly considered to be “self-conscious” emotions. They develop later in life than the basic emotions of anger, fear, etc. (which can be seen by 9 months). Pride, for example, develops by the end of the third year of life.

These emotions depend on an interaction between a person and the society in which he or she lives.

Pride and social status

Society and culture often dictate what kind of a person we are expected to be. Pride helps us to regulate our behavior to gain the approval of society. It also motivates us to avoid actions of which society disapproves. Thus it helps us to avoid feelings of rejection.

Pride is an important building block for self-esteem, helping us to attain and maintain a certain status in society.

Pride and goal setting

People constantly evaluate social norms, and then set goals for themselves. If they meet or exceed those goals, they feel a sense of pride, which promotes further achievement. A failure to meet those goals leads to a sense of shame or guilt.

Thus pride depends on constant self-evaluation.

Is pride two emotions?

Pride and hubris are being studied afresh these days.

It is commonly felt that the difference between the two is only of degree. An excessive sense of pride is commonly called hubris, which is detrimental to emotional and social development.

Some researchers feel, however, that we need to distinguish between an achievement-based pride and a hubristic pride

Pride in achievement

Almost all of us have experienced this.

You run track, and come in first in a tough competition. Or you are a musician, and win an award for a fine performance. You might, perhaps, receive praise and a promotion for completing a project which wins your company new clients.

Most human beings would feel proud under these circumstances.

Hubristic pride

This is more problematic.


This is the pride a person feels because of who he thinks he is.

Most people in this category have a distorted sense of self-perception, and may have delusions of grandeur. They are often arrogant and conceited.

They feel that they deserve praise for who they are, not just for what they have achieved.

Impact of pride

Psychologists feel that an achievement-based pride helps to develop self-esteem, and promotes “good behavior” and the promotion of societal goals.

Hubris and narcissism

Unlike “regular pride,” hubristic pride is a clearly negative emotion, with strong ties to narcissism.

Such people frequently have deep-rooted insecurities. They might feel inadequate, and often harbor feelings of shame. To protect themselves from these emotions, they adopt a cloak of arrogance and self-aggrandizement.

This is a defensive process, and is maladaptive in nature.

Demonstration of pride

This depends on the cultural and social norms the persons grows up learning.

In Eastern, “group based” cultures, demonstration of pride aggressively is frowned upon, and pride is often considered a negative emotion.

However, in the more individualistic societies of the West, pride is usually considered a virtue. Rather than condemning it as a vice, Western societies like to encourage pride in both children and adults.

A deeper truth?

Even achievement-based pride can create problems.

This pride depends on positive results. However, results of our actions are never under our control. We can only control our own actions.

Results, pride, and self-esteem

If you praise yourself, or your child, mostly for achievements, you might be sending the wrong message.

You can try your best, and yet fail in an enterprise. Other times, you could cruise through your assignment, and still get positive results purely through luck. What would you rather praise and encourage, the effort, or the result? What is more likely to stand you in good stead through the course of a lifetime?

So what is the bottom line?


  • Emotions are deeply ingrained in the human psyche.
  • We receive an evolutionary benefit from emotions, as they alert us to danger and promote prompt, subconscious action.
  • In the modern setting, many emotions are triggered inappropriately, or excessively, and they can hurt us, causing significant unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.
  • Chronic anger, excessive sadness, and inappropriate fear can ruin many a life.
  • Excessive pride and shame can also have deleterious effects.
  • Emotions trigger thought and action.
  • It is vital that we understand and control our emotions and their triggers, in order to moderate our responses, and avoid becoming slaves to our emotions.
  • There is often a lack of association between effort, action, and achievement. Be careful what you praise and encourage.

Emotions, happiness & satisfaction

You can read more about this connection in my book, available here:

Is Pride Good, Bad, or Indifferent?



Are you proud of what you have achieved in life? Are you a proud man? Is there a difference? Is pride good or bad? What is pride anyway?


These questions have been confusing mankind for centuries. One reason might be that research has been limited because pride is not usually included in the category of basic emotions.

Basic emotions

These emotions are not limited by culture or nationality, but are felt to be truly universal.



Anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness are commonly accepted as the basic emotions.

Another characteristic of these emotions is that they are accompanied by non-verbal expressions, which can be understood by almost anybody living anywhere in the world. For example, the facial changes which occur when a person is angry are usually not subtle, or limited by nationality.

Secondary or complex emotions

These develop later in the life of an infant, and depend on an ability to evaluate aspects of society, culture, and a sense of “self.”

Some of these emotions are combinations of the basic emotions.



Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment.

This issue has been dealt with in a previous article here …

Self-conscious emotions

I did it!

I did it!

This is an interesting, and at times confusing, set of emotions, which require a complex interplay between a person and society or culture.

The person develops a sense of individuality or “self.” He or she then looks around to see what society expects. This leads to goal-setting, and finally an evaluation whether those goals have been met. A sense of success or failure is the common result of such an evaluation.



This complex process is felt to be responsible for our “self-conscious” emotions of pride, hubris, guilt, and shame.

Why do we have emotions?

Emotions are clearly evolutionary in nature. They help us to survive, reproduce, and move up in the food chain.

Emotion and reason

We have the capacity for both. And they serve different functions.



Take a basic emotion like fear. In the good old days, when we heard a roar in the wild, it alerted us to danger to life and limb. We did not sit around, form a committee, and debate rationally the probabilities of a tiger attack. Instead, we were immediately gripped by a mortal fear, our fight-or-flight response took over automatically, adrenaline poured into our bloodstream, and we ran like crazy. And lived to fight and reproduce another day.


In addition to just living, we also wanted to adapt and thrive. Here our rational being came into play. It helped us to venture out, capture animals, avoid danger ahead of time, develop agriculture, and enhance our welfare by forming tribes and societies.

Social good

Group living helped us, but also led to the development of more emotions. Individual survival now competed with group survival. An aggressive individual was of value, but could lead to trouble within the group.

Thus social and cultural norms and hierarchies were born. You could kill invaders, but not your neighbors in your tribe.

The tribes also needed leaders, and followers. The leaders enjoyed unique privileges. There was often competition to become a leader. Certain traits were valuable in a leader, and others were frowned upon.

Thus arose pride and shame.


There is another theory of emotions.

Human beings have desires. Some of these are basic, while others are conditioned by society or culture.

All of us have a desire to live. We also want to be successful, to be liked, to move up in society, to be accepted and admired.

Events in our daily lives either lead to the satisfaction of these desires, or their frustration. These events produce mental and physical changes in us, which we recognize as emotions.

For example, the presence of a tiger threatens our desire to live, so we experience fear.

Moving on up?

Moving on up?

Buying a flashy new car satisfies our desire to move up in society, and so we feel joy.

Denial of a promotion frustrates our desire to be recognized and admired, and we feel anger.

 Where does pride fit in?

Pride is confusing.

The Greeks both admired it, and detested it. They valued pride in their warriors, but also recognized the problems with excessive pride, or hubris.




Most of the characters in Homer’s “Iliad” were led to their ruin by pride.


Since ancient times, Christian teaching has talked of the seven deadly sins, of which pride is one.



He was not bashful about his opinions. He considered pride to be the deadliest of the seven deadly sins.

Pride and the Gita

         Dambho darpo abhimanashcha krodhah parushyamevacha

          Ajnanam cha abhijatasya Partha sampadam asurim  (Gita 16:4)

This epic of ancient Indian philosophy and religion narrates how Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, described to his pupil Arjuna the specific traits of people born with a demonical nature: hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness, and ignorance.

Emotions and happiness

So what can we take away from this?

Do emotions help us?

In the modern setting, can they hurt us?

Is pride always good, or always bad?

Complexity can be reduced

By studying emotions in greater detail, we can understand their evolutionary benefits.

Similarly, we can also understand their potential to derail our pursuit for happiness and satisfaction in the modern world.

We will discuss this further in subsequent post.

Stay tuned!

Want to read more?

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

The pursuit of happiness and satisfaction is discussed in more detail in my book available here …

Do Not Let Envy Derail Your Happiness!

Most human beings have the ability to achieve happiness fairly quickly in life, and without enormous effort. Then why don’t we?



We let negative emotions create potholes on a road which would otherwise be smooth.

Envy, jealousy, and resentment: These are common human emotions, and cause uncommon suffering.

A little soul?

“Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point…”

-William Hazlitt

Envy or jealousy?

People often feel that these two emotions are similar, but they really are not, at least not technically.

The emotion of envy essentially implies that someone else has something that you lack, and really want for yourself. You covet that possession, or situation, or attribute.


Jealousy implies that you are afraid of being replaced by somebody else. It is often used in situations where you feel that someone you love might start loving somebody else more. So you have something (usually a relationship), and this is being threatened by a third individual.

Primary emotions


Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, shame, grief, and disgust are found in most cultures all over the world. Even young children have been shown to display these emotions.

Non-basic (secondary) emotions

Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment. These are more complex, and depend on the child discovering cultural and social rules as he or she grows up. As such, they develop later than the primary emotions.


Some of these secondary emotions result from a mixture of the basic emotions. Jealousy, for example, contains elements of fear and anger. Similarly, feelings of guilt can be a summation of sadness and fear.


Fundamentally, you feel envious when you do not have a quality or object which somebody else has. In addition, you feel that this situation is unfair, or wrong.

Poor self-esteem


People who are troubled by severe envy often feel inadequate. They are frustrated by the sense of not having achieved their goals, and are angry at others who have.

Envy can lead to maliciousness, and a desire to harm or humiliate the other person. A perverse wish to scratch your neighbor’s brand-new Ferrari falls into this category!

Invidious hostility, such as gossip, backbiting, and defamation are some of the other consequences of envy.



This is a complex emotion, and is usually a combination of anger, fear, and disappointment.

It is often directed against a person whose social status is higher than yours.  The underlying feeling you get is that you have been treated unfairly, and you are not in a position to do much about it.

It can even be the result of envy, if you feel that you have worked hard, and have not received much recognition or reward, while another person, who you think has not worked as hard, has gone ahead in life.

Quite often, resentment can leave you feeling bitter and depressed.

Resentment can be mistaken for pure anger, but the two emotions frequently have distinct external expression. People often express anger in an aggressive manner, while resentment is commonly internalized, where it can “burn the person up” from the inside.


The Greeks were no strangers to envy. Phthonos was their spirit of envy and jealousy in ancient times, and he also had a more popular female counterpart.


She was the Greek goddess of jealous retribution, the female counterpart of Phthonos. Her domain was indignation, especially directed at subjects who were felt to be undeserving of their good fortune.

Ill effects of envy

Envy can seriously undermine one’s mental health. It creates unnecessary stress, and leaves the victim feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety, hostility, and depression are common results of envy. Irritability and anger often follow, and the envious person suffers the loss of friends (who do not want to hang out with a grumpy person) and descends into a chronic state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.


This is a common result of chronic envy, resentment, and jealousy. These negative emotions extract a heavy toll.

Count whose blessings?

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”

-Harold Coffin

Long lasting

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”


The Gita on envy

murudeshwar-172586_1280 (1)

The Gita is an ancient Indian epic dealing with philosophy and religion. It addresses most of the common roadblocks on the path to happiness.

      Ahankaram balam darpam kamam krodham cha sanshritah

      Mamatmaparadeheshum pradvishantoabhyasuyakah  (Gita 16:18)

In this verse, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is explaining to his disciple Arjuna the character traits found in people who have demonic personalities. He says that such people are egotistical, violent, arrogant, and full of lust. They are angry and full of envy. They forget that God is present in their bodies, and the bodies of all other human beings, as their soul. By harboring these destructive emotions, they abuse and dishonor their innermost sacred selves.

So what to do?

Feelings of envy, jealousy, and resentment are deeply ingrained in our psyche from millennia of evolution. Human beings have survival mechanisms which alert them to danger, and enable them to take action. These days, however, these emotions are triggered subconsciously, often at inopportune times, and have harmful effects.

  • First, become more self-aware.
  • Analyze your emotions and responses frequently, and identify what triggers envy, anger, resentment, and bitterness in you.
  • Recognize and remind yourself that talent and rewards are not always evenly distributed in this world.
  • Remind yourself often of your own unique abilities and gifts, which many others may lack.
  • thanks
  • Develop a sense of gratitude for all that has been given to you, rather than moan about what you don’t have. In other words, count your blessings! Frequently! You can read more about the value of gratitude here:
  • medit
  • Take up meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. The technique and benefits of deep breathing are described here:
  • If you still feel that these emotions are not under good control, consider consulting a trained mental health professional.


The pursuit of happiness is made unnecessarily complicated by a host of negative emotions. Recognizing and controlling them will go a long way toward improving your satisfaction with life.

Read more about leading a happy and satisfying life at









Can Education Guarantee Wisdom?

The Greeks knew a thing or two about philosophy. Sophia (Greek for wisdom) is a central tenet of their religion and philosophy.


Wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance (or self-restraint) were the key virtues which the Greeks considered essential for the development of human character. Of these, wisdom was felt to be the master virtue, because without it, the other virtues could not be channeled properly.


It is commonly felt that education is the most important thing in life. It is not. Wisdom is.

Theodore Roosevelt on education


“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”

Add and remove

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

-Lao Tzu

Knowledge versus wisdom

For both Plato and Socrates, philosophy was philo-sophia, or “a friend of wisdom.”

It is important to acquire knowledge, but it is not sufficient to do so.

After all, leading a satisfying life requires lots of skills, many of which have to be learned. Our forefathers had to learn how to make fire, how to make clothes, how to make a wheel, how to make weapons to hunt animals, and also to protect themselves from predators.

When and how to use those skills requires judgment, wisdom.



“Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”


“If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?”

-Thomas Henry Huxley

We have a lot of information available to us. All the literature of the world is now readily accessible. We are drowning in facts. We are surrounded by knowledge.

Then why is mankind still struggling with unhappiness?

Why do we still have war, famine, poverty, human bondage?


Applying our knowledge judiciously is perhaps the foundation of wisdom.

Facts and figures by themselves are often not helpful. We need to organize them. Then we need to process them.

And finally, we need to ponder their meaning. To put them in perspective.

If this perspective and meaning can be channeled into helpful and healthy behavior, to benefit society, we can have the beginnings of wisdom.



Why do we need wisdom?

Human history is a tale of misery.

It highlights accounts of people, of societies, making the same mistakes, over, and over, and over again.

Why do we never learn the lessons of history?

That requires wisdom.

Improve, grow, and evolve


Even bacteria evolve.

If you keep throwing antibiotics at them, they get smart, and find ways to resist those antibiotics, and then pass on their genes to their offspring. That is how we get antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A species needs to acquire information, put it together, analyze it, reflect on it, and put it to good use, for the betterment of the individuals as well as the entire group.


That is called learning, and acquiring wisdom.

A group which does not learn, does not become wise, keeps repeating its mistakes, and then dies off.

History tells us of groups which were successful for a while, and then were wiped out. Remember the Mayans?



We have plenty of them, as a race.

Not too many people are very happy, or very satisfied with their lives. We wear smiles, but hide an emptiness which seems to fill our hearts and souls.

We are connected to the internet, but have trouble connecting with hearts and souls.


A large part of the world is awash in the latest gadgetry, and fancy, high-end consumer goods, which, till just a hundred years ago, would have been the envy of kings and royals.

And yet, significant numbers of people struggle with war, poverty, sickness, sexual trafficking.

Do we have the wisdom to solve these problems, or even address them seriously?

Where to find wisdom

The Greeks suggested teachers.

And, before them, so did the Indians, who then went a step further.

Look inside


The path to wisdom begins with self-analysis and self-discovery. What is right, and what is wrong: that is the initial judgment we need to be able to make. And for that, we should not need the expert opinion of scholars.

Most of us know innately what is right, and what is not. Does an adult need a legal scholar to tell him that cheating is wrong, lying is wrong, stealing is wrong?

So why don’t we do it?

We are so wrapped up in the matters of this world that we do not want to spend time to step back a little, retire to a peaceful spot, and indulge in some reflection, some soul-searching. If we did, we would surprise ourselves by the answers we discover on our own.

The Gita and wisdom

murudeshwar-172586_1280 (2)

This book of ancient wisdom from India, written about 5000 years ago, emphasizes that wisdom lives within all of us. Each of us has a body, and within that resides a soul, which is nothing but a small part of God himself. And with this inbuilt wisdom, we are able to tell right from wrong, if only we do not let our thinking get muddled.

          Avritam jnanam etena jnanino nity-vairina

          Kama-rupena Kaunteya dushapurenanalenacha  (Gita 3:39)

In this verse, Lord Krishna, a Hindu God, tells his disciple Arjuna that we have an innate wisdom, but that is covered by our ever-present enemy, namely desire, or lust. This enemy is like a roaring fire, which can never be satisfied.

We become so wrapped up in seeking the objects of our ever-expanding desires that we smother the spark of wisdom inside us under layers of ignorance.

So what to do?

Step away for a moment from the hustle and bustle, the noise and the chaos of daily life. Take a deep breath in. Think with an uncluttered mind. And look inward. You will find enlightenment. You will find pure wisdom. You might also find your soul.

Want to read more?

The Gita is an epic with more than 700 verses, offering solutions for the age-old problems of mankind, which are as bothersome today as they were 1000 years ago.

If you would like a synopsis of how the universal lessons from the Gita can lead to a satisfying life today, you can find it here:





3 Great Cultures Which Valued Moderation


Plato (c. 4th century BC), the Greek philosopher, spoke about four key virtues in his book, the Republic.

Cardinal Virtues

Wisdom, courage, moderation and justice, as described by Plato, are now called the four cardinal virtues in the Western world. It is felt that moral character is built on these foundations, and Western civilization has been heavily influenced by these concepts.


Aristotle was a pupil of Plato, and he wrote extensively about virtue, feeling that human happiness depended heavily on its cultivation.


This has become a four-letter word these days. You are supposed to go all out, to give it everything you’ve got.

Your job nowadays consumes your heart and soul. You are “on” 24/7, tied to your smartphones, your fax machines, your video links. There is no down time. Staring at the short wavelength blue light of your telephone and laptop monitors, you have difficulty switching off and falling asleep.


And that is a badge of honor: the ability to get by with very little sleep. Who has time for sleep? The market place demands efficiency, productivity, and profits.

Whom are we kidding?

Sleep deprived zombies are sickening themselves and killing themselves. Sleep is not just down time for the brain. It is a time for repair and restoration. We pay a very steep price for incurring a sleep deficit. You can read more about that at and at



This is another area where moderation has fallen by the wayside. We are convinced that we can keep stuffing whatever we want, whenever we want, into our mouths in huge quantities, and that we will not gain weight. The results of our excess are obvious all over the world, as the planet earth groans under the weight of human beings, and we start developing chronic “lifestyle diseases” at an alarming rate.

Plato and moderation

“Moderation, which consists in an indifference in little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance.”

“The man that makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily. This is the man of moderation, the man of manly character and wisdom.”


When Pandora lifted the lid of her famous box, Sophrosyne escaped. She was a good spirit, the goddess of moderation, self-control, and restraint. She abandoned mankind and went to Olympos.

It appears that our problems with excess must have started then!

Temple of Apollo


This famous temple in Delphi, Greece, has an inscription, “Meden Agan,” or, “nothing in excess.”

Hesiod and Plautus

The Greek poet Hesiod (c. 700 BC) urged human beings to “observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.”

He had a kindred spirit in the Roman dramatist Plautus (c. 250-184 BC), who noted that “moderation in all things is the best policy.”

Taoism and moderation

Moderation is not a concept confined to the West. The Chinese philosophy of Taoism also addresses this virtue.


The Chinese term Tao means “way,” or “path,” or “principle.” It is an abstract concept deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. The basic virtues in Taoism are the so-called “Three Jewels” of moderation, compassion, and humility. The second jewel is also called “jian,” or moderation, restraint, economy.

Jian implies that your desires should be kept simple. However, it is also representative of perfect efficiency. In our current culture of exuberance and super-abundance, of large appetites and larger bodies, we tend to forget that simplicity is a virtue, and efficiency is often dependent on simplicity, not excess.

Virtue and the Indians

The value of virtue and character has been emphasized in the Indian epics, which predate the Greek civilization.

The Rigveda is one of the oldest books known to mankind, and marks the beginnings of a rich Indian tradition of philosophy, which was continued in the Upanishads and the Bhagawad Gita.

Moderation and the Gita

          Yuktahara-viharasya yuktacheshtasyakarmasu

          Yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavatidukha-ha  (Gita 6:17)

Gita photo

In this verse, Lord Krishna describes to his disciple, Arjuna, the yoga which can destroy all sorrow. He says that this yoga requires discipline and moderation in eating, sleeping, working, and living.

So what now?

Most ancient cultures recognized the crucial role of a life of moderation in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction.

In fact, many of the ills of modern society can be traced to the philosophy of excess and extremism, and a societal shift away from the path of simplicity.

It behooves us to remember the wisdom and teachings of our ancestors regarding virtue and character.

Wish to read more?

We will continue to delve more into these issues in subsequent posts.

Stay tuned!

You can read more about the philosophy of the Gita in “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons from the Gita,” which is available at


Don’t Miss The Boat: Grab Happiness Today!

Sail today

“I think once the home mortgage is paid off, I’ll be happy.”

“Wait a second, what about the kids? I think once they are married off, and well-settled in life, that’s when I think I can afford to be happy.”

“Happy? Are you kidding me? I have to get that promotion before Jim does. Who has time to be happy?”

I’ll be happy when…

We tend to lay down conditions when talking about happiness, or even when thinking about happiness. These are all external conditions. You get your promotion. But then the goal post changes. Now you want to be the CEO before you will allow yourself to be happy. And what if you do become the CEO?

You will then want to grow the company, increase revenues, buy other companies, create an empire.

Sound familiar?

What is wrong with right now?

If you ever want to be happy, you must decide to be happy right now.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not when the kids have grown up.

So what is stopping you from being happy right now?

Fear, confusion, and ignorance.

Most of us do not know what happiness is.

Oh, we see the external signs all right. The smiling faces, the big mansions, the stately cars. And the eye-popping yachts.


We get confused. We think that these are the things which produce happiness. And the media outlets do their best to reinforce this world-view. Because it is their job to sell. But it is not mandatory for us to buy.



People walk around with masks on their faces. Maybe you do, too.

The smiley-face mask hides the pain underneath. The pain, and the confusion. Everybody is rich, everybody is smiling, so what’s wrong with me?

I must smile, too, and join in this pretense.


At some point, we have to turn our gaze inwards, do some honest-to-goodness introspection and ask ourselves what would truly make us happy, what we truly want. Not what we are programmed to pursue, but what really would give us lasting satisfaction.

Many of us are afraid to do that, because we are afraid of the answers we might get.

Many of us are afraid of slowing down, taking a step back, and doing some serious soul-searching.

Many of us are afraid of rocking the boat, of abandoning the rat race, the mad pursuit of material progress and accumulation.

But if you look inside you, there will be answers which will surprise you. However, these are answers which true seekers have always found, over millennia.


This is one of the major ingredients of a happy, fulfilling life.

Be grateful that you are alive. Most human beings, with very rare exceptions, would rather be alive than dead. So express your thanks. To whichever power you believe in.

Be grateful for your health. Whatever your state of health, you can always find people worse off than you. Be grateful for two arms and two legs. If you have had an amputation, be grateful for any arms and legs you have left. There are people with less.

Gratitude for nature


No matter how sad you are, look around you. You will discover everyday epiphanies. The sky, the stars, the beach, the mountains: look at them carefully, and drink in their beauty. The sun rises daily, whether it wants to or not. And so does the moon. And they shine on rich and poor alike.

If you believe in God, thank him for the grandeur of nature. If you do not subscribe to the notion of a creator, you can still enjoy the wonders of nature. Your beliefs or non-beliefs do not subtract from the glory of nature.

Expand your focus


You are not the center point of the universe. There are other creatures, great and small, who share this world with you. They have as much a right to happiness as you do.

If you think about yourself all the time, your pleasures, your pain, life will get difficult. What have you done to deserve a lifetime of unending bliss? Into each life, some rain must fall.

Expand your thinking and focus to include others.

Try and rejoice in the good fortune of others.

Try and feel the pain of somebody who is suffering.

Gratitude expands your focus, and makes you less self-centered. It makes you more happy, more satisfied with what you have, indeed more satisfied with your lot in life.

Be kind


“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

-Dalai Lama


Studies on students have found a clear relationship between altruism and happiness. Happiness makes us more open to others. Those people who consider themselves to be the most happy are also generally the most altruistic.

Monks have been studied scientifically when meditating on compassion: their brains show more activity in the left pre-frontal cortex. This reflects a larger capacity for happiness and a lower tendency for negativity.

Out with resentment!


Resentment and anger are wasted emotions. They affect you more than the person they are directed against. That person is often not even aware of your feelings, and usually doesn’t care! While you keep seething inside.

Resentment and unchecked desire are two of the major impediments to human happiness.

The Gita on resentment

Gita quote

There is a lot of confusion about the true meaning of sanyasi, a word used to refer to someone who has renounced the world, who is detached from this world. But to achieve that state, we are told in verse 5:3 of the Gita (an epic of philosophy  and religion), it is not essential to don sackcloth and ashes.

The true sanyasi is he who has renounced resentment and desire. Freed from the bonds imposed by those emotions, he can still live in this world, and perform appropriate actions.

So why wait?


Throw off the shackles causing you misery today, and lead a happy and satisfying life!

Want to read more?

You can download my book on satisfaction and happiness at: