I learn from my mistakes. Sometimes. When I’m attentive to them. When I accept and take ownership of them. Then I understand what I did wrong and learn how to do it better next time around. This could be riding a bike, speaking the truth without hurting anyone or hitting a perfect backhand cross-court shot in tennis.
Be open to learn. Pay attention. Accept mistakes. Learn.
This is actually a fun process.
When I pay attention, I notice my tendency to be hasty in arriving at conclusions. I err everytime I jump to a conclusion.
Jumping to Conclusion [Source]
When I “jump to conclusion” about people’s’ motives, actions and words, for example, I go through mental agitations. Shortly after, I find their conduct to be exactly opposite of what I had concluded, pointing out the stark error in my judgement. I feel a sense of shame for wronging them in my mind and also a sense of relief in affirming their goodness and also my own goodness.
[The importance of goodness. Source: A wall hanging at home]
The straightforwardness of this simple process – an open mind, attentiveness, willingness to go past one’s mistakes and learn – is the child in me. It was the sole operator in the first 2-3 years of my life.
A child does not jump to conclusion – it is too busy learning. This sort of straightforwardness, the child-like quality, is called “aarjavam” in Sanskrit. Sri Krishna says a devotee will have this quality. The rishis exhibit this quality in their dealings with the world at large.
Haste definitely makes waste. When I jump to a conclusion, I’m hasty. How to avoid the “jumping” in the “concluding”?
My three internal tendencies [Source]
Two of my internal tendencies actually compel me to act this way. Acting hasty is the pull from the “rajasic”, aggressive, aspect in me. The aggressive agitation from haste clouds the correct understanding. The “tamasic”, lethargic, aspect in me pulls me to wrong understanding, further clouding the correct understanding in my mind.
There is a third natural tendency, the satwic, the balancing pull in me that I can exercise and make both these go away. That is, taking a balanced approach, I reduce my aggressive tendency to reduce haste. I reduce my lethargic tendency to reduce the incorrectness in understanding.
All my conclusions in life, barring two, are wrong. Seriously. When I look at the world with colored glasses, it looks only colored.
In the same way, I look at the world, life, money, power, fame, illness, friends, foes and everything else wearing the glasses of selfishness. How can I get a correct conclusion from this vision? “Seen through the eyes of Love, all beings are beautiful, all thoughts are innocent, all actions are sacred” is what Bhagavan says, giving me an insight into His Vision. I do not have this vision, so I need to be careful in what I conclude. [“I’m not who I think I am”, “Everything is temporary” are probably the only two correct conclusions I’ve]
Although inter-related, conclusion and decision are really two different things. Conclusion is an intellectual understanding based on analysis of facts, opinions and prejudices. Decision is my reaction to it – to act or not to act, to speak or not to speak, to do or not to do, on the basis of the conclusion.
A good, well-honed decision making skill is a must in life. It has premium value in the corporate world and even more in the executive leadership of countries in the world. Leadership training classes around the world offer numerous courses in decision-making. See some of them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. Corporate training expenses, of which decision-making skills is a part, soared to $ 170 B worldwide in 2014.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches the basic step to good decision-making.
At the conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita teaching, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna to enquire well and fully into what he has heard and understood, and then make his decision.
Enquire into that fully
vimrusati etat aseshena [Bhagavad Gita 18.63]
This is an important insight into decision-making. I should not be hasty but must enquire into the issue carefully and fully.
The Taittiriya Upandishad rishi, in his summary teaching, gives the student several specific guidelines to follow. Within the ambit of the basic teaching [“Life’s 20/20 Insight Vision”], the rishi gives a simple and powerful teaching on how best to arrive at a conclusion and how best to make a decision. This teaching is helpful to our lives today, in personal and professional aspects, in management and leadership roles, in employee and labor roles, at home and in office.
Taitriya Upanishad [11.8] explains how a careful and full enquiry is to be done so I can emulate and execute it. This enquiry has to be done,
sammarsinah – With deep enquiry, careful thought and analysis
yuktaah – With well developed mental skills and calmness
Aayuktaah – Free from selfish desires, prejudices, anger, jealousy etc
Alookshaah – Without crookedness
Dharma kaamaah – With the objective of dharma, the well-being of others (the society, the corporation, the country, the world etc)
So, decision-making starts with me – not with the data, information or recommendations that come to me from outside, but with me. And I must prepare myself well, as a first step, to make the decision in hand.
Making a decision [Source]
Here is a six step decision-making process from the teachings of Taitriya Upanishad rishi:
- Have a calm, balanced mind-set
- Minimize selfish interest
- Decouple from anger, prejudices, jealousy etc
- Remove any warped thinking
- Do a full and proper enquiry and analysis of the issue, data, information, opinions and recommendations
- Then make a decision on the basis of righteous conduct, dharma, that benefits others (interest and needs of family, friends, company, society, country, world are met before my own).
This decision-making process is applicable to any issue, in any area, be it family, personal, corporate, country, peace or war.
However, a problem arises in executing this six step decision-making process in the modern world. I do not conduct myself on the basis of truth and righteous conduct, satya and dharma. Every thought, word and action of mine is tinged with selfishness. Therefore, there is always an uncertainty in the correctness of the decisions I make. Uncertainty not so much in terms of achieving a financial goal, a political goal, an academic goal etc. The uncertainty is about ensuring no one is harmed from the decisions I make and the equilibrium of nature is not disturbed in any way. The uncertainty of achieving what a whiff of smoke achieves in the sky. The smoke leaves no trace and causes no disturbance to the sky. I cannot be sure the decisions I make will cause no ripples in the pond of humanity and other beings.
Even though I make the decision with this residual uncertainty to the best of my ability, I do so with the feeling “I am doing it”. I must therefore customize the six-step decision-making process for me and include a seventh step. I must do as Sri Krishna commands in the Bhagavad Gita [9.27]
Whatever you do, offer that to Me
Yat karoshi tat kurushva mat arpanam
This is the final step in the decision-making process. I must do the six step decision-making process sincerely and well to the best of my ability, develop and finalize a decision. In the end, I must offer the decision, the act of decision-making and myself to Him.
Then I can sit back, relax and be happy.
[The benefits of a decision are dormant till the decision gets executed. The subject of execution, the number one issue for corporate leaders around the world, will be the subject of another post. Perhaps.]