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:

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









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:


Can You Learn To Say Enough Is Enough?

“How much money is enough?” somebody once asked John D. Rockefeller. John was the first ever American billionaire, and was also the world’s richest man at one point. He is still considered by many to have been the richest man in modern history, because he was a billionaire in the early 1900s.

“Just a little bit more,” was his answer.

More, and then some more!


The size of the average American home was 1000 square feet a few decades ago. It is now almost 2500 square feet. Our garages, basements, and attics are bulging with stuff.

Households in the US owed a total of $11.83 trillion at the end of 2014, up $117 billion as compared to the previous quarter (estimated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

And yet we want more.

Do you need it?

Who care anymore about need!

Necessity used to be the mother of invention. Now, invention is the mother of necessity. How did we ever get along without this gizmo in the past, we ask ourselves in the store, while whipping out our credit cards.

Yet, a report estimated that 85 million phones were lying unused in the UK in 2013.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

-Marcus Tulius Cicero

I want it!

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

-Bertrand Russell, 1872


“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”

-Epictetus, 55 AD

Cost of stuff

We pay for things with money at the store. Then we pay some more. Personal storage revenues in the US are over $24 billion a year. Some of this storage is short term, but a lot of stuff languishes in these “warehouses’ for months, if not years. Stuff we thought we needed enough to shell out money for in the first place.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

So why do we buy things?

One-upmanship is part of the answer.


“My house is bigger than yours, my car is bigger than yours, my wife is prettier than yours. So I am a better man than you, buddy,” we seem to be shouting, figuratively, from the rooftops.

Sense of power


In ancient times, the chief of the tribe was the man with the most camels, or goats, or oxen, or whatever. His possessions were the symbols of his power. He was the one to establish rules for the tribe to follow. He also, more often than not, had the opportunity to mate with the woman of his choice, and often more than one.

Even today, the rich and powerful (aren’t they the same?) seem to play from a different rulebook.


This green-eyed monster has more control over our lives than we care to admit. Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the chief reasons for human unhappiness.

The feeling of envy arises when a person sees a quality or possession that somebody else has, and wishes that either he or she acquires it, too, or that the other person loses it.

Many a person has bought a boat, a car, or jewelry, based on envy, and then regretted it.

Aristotle defined envy as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others.”

Envy is often the result of poor self-esteem. The envious person feels empty inside. The Latin term invidia for envy means “non-sight.” Envious people are often blind to their own qualities and covet those in others.



People buy stuff, convinced that this will make them happy. They refuse to acknowledge the rather obvious fact that things are transient. Material possessions fade, lose their shine, malfunction, and eventually disintegrate. Where is the happiness in that?


A well rounded person feels secure in himself or herself. People lacking that sense of mooring wander from object to object, wrapping themselves in blankets of possessions, seeking in external objects a value that can only come from within.

Loneliness/emotional response

It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. The truth is slightly different. Lots of people try to apply the balm of material goods to hide the pain they feel inside: whether it is loneliness, or emotional loss. We all know how that turns out.



We live in a consumer society. Data indicate that we consume twice as many material goods than we did fifty years ago.

The market place is flooded with goods and products churned out by factories all over the world. Media outlets of all kinds have a responsibility to make sure that we buy that stuff, whether we need it or not.

The average person in the US is exposed to at least 5000 ads daily. Businesses pay for ads, because they work. And the consumer society goes on, leaving people, for the most part, no happier than before.

We are selfish and greedy

Not much needs to be said about that. Selfishness is a survival mechanism for the species. Carried to extremes, however, it becomes counter-productive.

So what now?

Shop till you drop is bad for human happiness. It leaves people emotionally drained.

We need to simplify our lives.

For that, we need clarity of thought.

More on that in subsequent posts. Please stay tuned.

Find Happiness Today: Quit Digging!

There is a law of holes. When you are in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging.

The road to happiness and satisfaction is full of potholes. Some of them are tiny, and only make your car sink and jump a bit. Others can swallow you up, car and all.

Most of us insist on digging our own holes, and then we work day and night to make them bigger. Yet we insist that we are pursuing happiness.


“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden


Why are people unhappy? Why are they dissatisfied?

Because they keep hurting themselves by making wrong choices.


We do not know where we want to go.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, you should go to Paris. If you follow the road to New York, and expect to see the Eiffel Tower there, you will be disappointed.

If you pursue material objects, and luxuries, and get no lasting joy, don’t be surprised. You’ve followed the wrong path.

We wear masks


“How are you doing?’ is no longer a question. We automatically answer, “Fine, thanks,” smile sweetly, and move on. Most of the day we have our party faces on. Smile, shake hands, say “Have a nice day,” and keep on trudging. How do we really feel deep inside? We dare not ask ourselves that, for the answer is too painful.

So we avoid introspection, we avoid solitude, we avoid serious thought.

We have a spouse, 1.5 kids, a house in the suburbs, two cars in the garage, and a free-range chicken in the pot. We must be happy.

We demand guaranteed results

An annual raise is considered a right. Whether the employee’s work is satisfactory or not.

We want all our kids to be A-students, to get on the honor roll, to gain admission to the college of their choice, to find marvelous jobs, earn tons of money, and live happily ever after.

Life does not always play out like that. Disappointments are inevitable. Yet we don’t always teach ourselves or our kids how to deal with them.

Instant gratification

This is one of the biggest holes you can dig for yourself.


Borrow several thousand dollars, fly off to Europe, live it up for a week, and then spend the next year or more trying to pay off the loan.

Buy a fancy car, just because your neighbor has one, and work overtime for five to ten years to meet the monthly payments.

Desires, expectations, and reality

Society does not teach us to control our desires. Newspapers, TV, magazines, the internet, all of them want us to buy, buy, buy. The latest phone, smart watch, smart car, smart socks.

We can no longer distinguish between what we want and what we truly need.


The consumer society and modern advertising create an insatiable demand for things displayed attractively in stores or on the internet. We buy the latest gadgets, and a month later, it is time for a different flavor. And we think this will make us happy.

There is also a disconnect between our expectations and reality.


Desires keep surging in our bosoms. We then expect them to be fulfilled.

A college graduate expects immediate placement in the job market. If you get a Harvard MBA, you tend to think that companies will knock on your door day and night, and you will drown in offers to become the CEO of this company or the other right away.

Again, harsh reality often intervenes.

Patience and tolerance

Society has devalued these solid, age-old virtues to the point where they have become undesirable.

The modern prayer seems to be, “God give me patience, and please give it right now!”

This is another hole we dig for ourselves, impatiently flitting from pleasure to pleasure, unable to smell a rose and appreciate it fully before being drawn to another shiny flower, and then another.

Tolerance is not weakness

     Matra sparshastu Kaunteya sheetoshna sukhadukhadah

     Agamapyino anityaah taans titikshasva bharata  (Gita 2:14)

We blast the air conditioner to Arctic temperatures to keep out the warmth of summer, and set the thermostat to boiling to combat the chill of winter. Our predecessors did not die off in alarming numbers when the weather changed, but we demand a monotony of indoor temperatures, because we are unable to tolerate summer or winter. And our bodies become softer because of that.

In the verse above, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is teaching his disciple Arjuna the importance of tolerance. He says that feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and sadness, all arise from the interaction of external stimuli and our sense organs. All of these feelings are transient, they come and go, and you should therefore learn to tolerate them.


Transient feelings and emotions

This is yet another hole, a hole in our thinking.

We allow our understanding of reality to be so distorted that we cannot distinguish between what is transient, and what is permanent. Most sensory pleasures are transient. A shiny BMW loses its luster, and the heady new car smell, fairly swiftly. Down the road, it becomes just another car. Especially if our neighbor buys a gorgeous Ferrari. Which ceases to give him pleasure the moment the guy down the block buys a personal jet.

Emotions are the same. Nobody is angry all the time. Nobody is sad all the time (except in cases involving mental health problems). We need to learn to take the rough with the smooth, without getting bent out of shape. The tide does turn. One just needs patience and tolerance.

A cruise ship sails smoothly over the waves of the ocean. A row boat bobs up and down wildly with each wave, always on the verge of tipping over, making no forward progress.


As you negotiate life, which one would you rather be? You can read more about this here …

Don’t dig holes for yourself!


  • Being happy and satisfied is not that difficult.
  • Mostly we need an attitude adjustment.
  • We need to stop creating problems for ourselves, and then making them worse.
  • Focusing on appropriate actions, keeping desires under reasonable control, setting realistic expectations, and having a clear-eyed view of reality will set us on the right path.
  • Not letting transient set-backs knock us down, and learning to differentiate between the truly valuable, and merely fashionable, will stand us in good stead.
  • Tolerance can build strength and happiness.

Want to read more?

These issues, and more, are discussed in further detail in my E-book, “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons from the Gita,” which is available here …




Choose Today: How Not to be Angry

Wouldn’t you just love to have everything go your way?

Your spouse does everything you want him or her to do, even before you express your wishes.

Your boss gives you a raise before you can ask for it.

The red traffic lights all turn to green just as you approach them, and traffic jams dissolve before you get snarled up in them.

Well, dream on. Real life is not like that.

Welcome to reality


You don’t really control much of anything at all, if you think about it deeply enough. You can control your actions, barely, if you work hard at it. Everything else… well, good luck!

Frustration begets anger

There are many reasons for people to get angry. We have discussed this in detail in a previous post at A major cause is the frustration resulting from the realization that things are not going the way you want them to go.

And, by the way, others often don’t do what we want them to do. Ever notice that? That can make you fly off the handle, too, if you are not careful.

Disappointment and worry


We tend to have expectations of how people should behave, how things should turn out, how our lives should unfold. Yet nobody has all of his or her expectations met.

Unmet expectations, constant worry, and disappointment can all be expressed as an outburst of anger.

Why worry about anger?

Many authorities warn us about the dangers of uncontrolled anger.

An Indian epic of philosophy and religion, the Gita, warned us about a living hell on earth thousands of years ago:

          Trividham narkasya idam dvaram nashanamatmanah

          Kamah krodhastada lobhastasmadetat trayam tyajet  (Gita 16:21)

This Sanskrit verse tells us that there is a door which leads the living soul to hell and destruction. This door is made up of three parts: anger, uncontrolled lust/desire, and greed. All three of these evils must be rejected forthright.

When to seek help

When anger interferes significantly with your lifestyle, your work, your relationships, it is time to take action. Some steps you can take yourself, while others are best done under the supervision of professionals.

Know thyself!

There is no way you can get a handle on your anger issues unless you first take a step back, sit down in a quiet place, and ask yourself: “What makes me angry?”

It is not that difficult

You do not need to reinvent the wheel here. Most people get angry with issues related to family members, friends, their careers/ work environment, or traffic problems.


Most of the triggers involve a feeling of loss of control, or things not going according to your plans or wishes.

Identify the major situations and triggers which set off a spasm of anger, and preferably write them down.

Confine yourself to major or frequent issues. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.

What do you really want?

This is often the crux of the problem. We want X to love us, but he or she loves Y.

We want the cars ahead of us to get a move on and get out of our way, because we are getting late.

We want the book we wrote to become an overnight success.

When it doesn’t happen, we get angry.

We need to ask ourselves, “What do I really want to happen, which is not happening?”

Logic dissolves anger


Once you start thinking things through calmly, your brain starts taking control, and your emotions stop pulling and pushing you all over the place.

Distorted thinking, rapid-fire decision making, and impulsive, aggressive action are the hallmarks of the anger response. Shining the light of reason can help to dispel the darkness of emotion and anger.

So solve the problem!

When you explode in anger, you are reacting (quite often, over-reacting).

Let’s get away from that, identify the problem, and then try to solve it.

Once you find out what makes you angry, and what you would like to be different, it is time to ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?”

Tried controlling others?

It usually cannot be done. The only one truly under your control is yourself, and your own actions. So quit trying to control the world (or your spouse)!

Light a candle


Don’t just curse the darkness!

Once you identify a problem, try to think about solving it in a different way. Instead of blaming others, make an attempt to change your own behavior and expectations.

Suppose you and your spouse are often late for your appointments. Instead of ranting and raving at your significant other, and blaming them for always making you late, ask yourself if they are overworked. If you help lighten their load, they will appreciate it, and have more time to get ready.

Change yourself, and perhaps others will notice it, and be more motivated to work with you to solve problems rationally.

Other techniques

We have discussed time-outs, yoga, deep breathing, mindful meditation, exercise and their role in anger management in a previous article at

Avoiding grudges, practicing forgiveness, and use of humor are also beneficial techniques.

Professional help

Seek the help of trained specialists:

  • If your own steps to manage your anger do not show satisfactory results.
  • If you cause harm to others during your outbursts.
  • If your anger causes problems with your job and career.
  • If you do things in a fit of anger which you wish you had not done.
  • If you have had problems with law enforcement agencies as a consequence of your actions when you were angry.

Epictetus of Rome (55 AD- 135 AD)

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

The philosopher emphasized that external events cannot disturb your equilibrium, no matter how nasty they are. Only you can do that, by deciding how you will react emotionally to those events. Choose wisely and thoughtfully.

The Gita, again


          Shaknotihaiva yah sodhum prak sharira vimokshanata

          Kamakrodhotabhavama yogama sa yuktaha sa sukhi narah (Gita 5:23)

This verse tells us that there are waves (usually giant waves) of uncontrolled desires and uncontrolled anger that all human beings experience during their lives. The true yogi, the one who has mastered yoga, and the truly happy person, is he or she who is able to tolerate and ride out these waves.


  • You have a choice.
  • Choose not to be angry, but to solve the problem.
  • Choose to be a yogi.
  • Choose to be happy.
  • There are many techniques and many pathways to a happy and satisfying life. Read more about this in my book “How to Lead a satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons From the Gita,” available at