Thoughts, Emotions, Actions and Fulfilling Life

Thoughts, Emotions, Actions and Fulfilling Life

You will be celebrating your fourteenth birthday today. Many Happy Returns of The Day, and wishing you a long, successful, fulfilling and happy life ahead. (This is my letter to my granddaughter, but all readers will find it useful as a self development input.).

As you enter the fifteenth year, you are approaching the final year of schooling and will soon be entering a different world where you will create your identity in an area of your choice. Along the way you will learn what makes you successful in life.

At seventy-one, I am at the diametrically opposite end, and now well past my professional life. I would like to share some thoughts on what will make you successful in life, not just in your profession and they will guide you well. 

First, remember that the body ‘grows’ while the mind ‘develops’. This is why people say that ‘Growth is automatic but development is a choice.’ In other words, we must make conscious efforts to develop our mind or our inner self; it does not happen automatically.

Second, the mind can be thought of as a combination of three factors – Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.[1] Development is nothing but broadening spaces of all the three, and let me share how it is done.

Thoughts space is broadened by knowledge and information; we should therefore study various subjects, and by various means such as learning by reading, watching documentaries, and listening to lectures. When we methodically collect information, like what you do in your school, we make progress otherwise it remains scattered information and knowledge. Focused way of learning is the key.

I recently developed interest in photography, so I watched several videos on photography, studied photo albums and Coffee table books to understand how to create good photographs. Taking guidance from accomplished photographers was another step in that direction. This should explain what I mean by ‘Focus is the key to learning.’

Emotions space is broadened by learning about one’s own emotions and also acknowledging others’ emotions. This is not as difficult as it is made out to be, but the efforts must be conscious. You have a great advantage here as you are naturally gifted with empathy. I have seen on several occasions that you instinctively understand the emotions of others.

How to understand our emotions? The technique is simple – sit quiet and ask yourself what you are feeling at that moment. Maybe you had a great day and you are feeling happy and satisfied; or maybe things did not go your way on that day and you are feeling unhappy, nervous or tense. Then ask yourself “Why am I feeling (whatever I am feeling at that moment)?” You will discover an answer: it could be that you worked systematically to improve your score or that you met a friend after a long time, and that has made you satisfied and happy.

This is introspection and it creates a behaviour which is healthy, for example you learned that working systematically helped you improve your score, so you are likely to repeat it, or when you identify what made you sad you tend to avoid or correct the behaviour which led to it. Sometimes we also understand that we may have gained or lost due to factors beyond our control, and then we stop taking credit or blaming ourselves for every success or failure.

Understanding others’ feelings is important because it puts the conversation (or our actions) on a healthy track. Always remember that when people speak to us about anything, they are telling us two aspects – facts and emotions. We usually listen to one, that is to say, we listen and respond only to the facts. But we choose the correct response when we address his/ her feelings. Responding only to facts makes the response shallow and often incorrect if not inappropriate.

Let me explain to you with an example: Imagine that your classmate comes running in the class in just a nick of time before the class begins. She is breathing heavily and tells you how she got up late, but ran to take the bus, ran again to the class after getting down from the bus and entered the class just a minute before the class began.

When a group of friends listen to this story, one would say, ‘Getting up on time is important.’ Or ‘So finally you reached in time for the class’ (suggesting that she is usually late). There can be many responses, but the question is which is the right response? We will find the right answer if we ‘understand’ what she is communicating – she is telling us that ‘I made every effort to reach the class in time and I am happy and relieved that I made it.’ When we understand what she is communicating, the correct response will occur to us: ‘I know how you feel – you are feeling so happy that you made it to the class in time.’

Understanding others’ emotions leads to lasting friendships and, you will learn later in life, it also leads to better judgment which is essential to leading a good life.

And lastly let us discuss the third element, actions: Actions space is broadened by learning skills of various kinds. You will now appreciate why so much emphasis is placed on ‘soft skills’ training. Skills of all kinds fall in this category. It includes all from learning programming to learning to write poetry and painting (which you do well).

Imagine an equilateral triangle with Thoughts, Emotions and Actions as the three angles, and the length of each side is, say, two inches. When we ‘broaden’ our thoughts, emotions and action spaces, it ‘develops’ in an equilateral triangle with each side of say, five inches. The point is broadening those spaces, and that is the development of the mind.

And finally, we have to make sure that our thoughts, emotions and actions are in sync; but I will write about it on your next birthday!

For the time being, mull over and park these thoughts in your mind.

I wish you a happy birthday!



[1] I gratefully acknowledge the concept which is the theme of a Dr. Anand Nadkarni’s video.

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’

Picture courtesy: Ethan Elisara, Brock Wegner and Kenny Eliason on Unsplash