I know, because I’ve tried them out for many decades.
As a teenager, in Lahore, the word ‘ADVENTURE’ was painted on newspapers pasted on one side wall of my bedroom. An only child, I had a childhood filled with Enid Blyton books. I was raised with plenty of routine and discipline by my parents. As a grown up, while realizing routine is essential, I wanted excitements almost on a daily basis. I got plenty of it, married to my cousin, an aero-space engineer in Pakistan Air Force. So, I’ve painted, written books, and been an educationist in schools in different cities in Pakistan. A mother of three girls, and over twenty house-moves, gave me plenty to write about while freelancing in different cities. Of course, as a family we faced our share of setbacks too. But we’ve managed to get out of them too, just like you.
What are the strategies in life that help you stay in one piece most of the time?
In spite of lots of people saying ‘honestly, it is very difficult to be honest!’ In life, that is all that really helps. At least one can try. Here is how I’ve somehow managed so far:
I’ve lived by these rules as a teenager and after I grew up too.
Recently, with my birthday, I felt like sharing with you, the rules that I’ve found handy in life.
- Be yourself: At all times; Walk your talk. People will trust you when they know you are trustworthy. We all donated blindly to Edhi, even though we didn’t know him personally; That was because he literally walked his talk. Excuse me, being that ‘perfect’ image of yourself, is just a myth. No one is perfect, so don’t fake it either. Accept yourself – faults, shortcomings and all. Do the same for others. Genuine sincerity is all that counts. Always say what you mean, and mean what you say. Even when I got married, my mother’s advice was, ‘be yourself.’ Yes, I suppose when you get married it is even more important to be yourself and let everyone know you as you are. Try to adjust, try to adapt, I’m sure we all can. But don’t be a fake person. How long can it last?
- Staying connected with Maker:
- Read passages from Holy book daily: Now a days it is even more easy. So I’ve got these sets of favorite prayers, which I’ve shared It really helps to start the day right side up.Prayers and verses from Holy Quran. can help you wherever you are. There are prayers for anxiety, depression, facing all types of odds in life, specially financial pressures, and patience.
- Keep your hotline with the One Above: Yes, at all times. Whether I’m praying or not, I’m constantly talking to Him. I often see the proofs of Him having heard me very well. Because many things happen in my life, which I know, only He knew about. So, I know clearly, Who was behind it happening.
- Know that He has faith in you too: Many times, when things got damn tough. I’d look up and say, ‘you actually believe I can go through this? You really must have a very high opinion of me!’
- Patience and struggle, both are important. It all takes time and a lot of effort. Today I sit here in my studio humbly; Almost eight years ago, this is the studio that my husband and I had planned together. At that time, I couldn’t imagine it happening. There were too many hurdles in between. It seemed like a fairy tale, for us to have our own home with my own studio in it. Now, with His blessings, here I am! Yes, after many years of struggle, patience, and sacrifices. Allah does reward you in the most amazing ways, but he certainly tests you on the way.
- Finally, Accept His verdict: When sometimes, He says ‘No.’ Accept it. I’ve been witness to the fact that later on the wisdom did strike me. Even though at that time, I couldn’t understand it. So, when you don’t understand anything. Just accept everything as it is. Just go with the flow.
- Do everything you do, (for your children, husband, friends, strangers, boss, sub-ordinates) in the name of Allah: It makes it easier. Firstly, you’ll try to do it right. Secondly, you won’t expect them to thank or appreciate it. If they do, it will be a bonus and thrill you. If not, it won’t really matter. (That applies to the tiny things as well as the big things.) Also, remember, He never expects you to do more than you can, so stop trying to
- Stretch yourself beyond your capacity: You need to realize that your capacity is far more than you even know, so always go beyond your own expectations.
- Don’t expect His help when you are doing wrong things: when you are doing something wrong, your conscience will warn you. So, how can you expect His blessings? It has to be ‘right’ thing done in the right way. When more things are going wrong, do check if there is something you are doing which isn’t quite right.
- The money that you live on: Whether that money is yours, or your husband or your fathers. I don’t know, because in different phases in life we live on certain cash flow. Try to make sure these are originating from the right sources:
- Earn your own money. After age twenty-one years, whether a man or a woman, your parents are not responsible for you. Do your own earning, and stand on your own feet. (We have too many ‘grown babies’ in this country!) Yes, the men have to provide for the wife and children. (The wife can supplement when possible too.) Throughout my married life, I’ve worked, sold my paintings and wrote in newspapers and magazines. It felt good to pitch in with our expenses.
- Halal earnings: I believe very strongly, that one’s pay must be honestly earned. One’s income must be generated by honest means, not exploitation of anyone. The source of income must never be through exploitation of any kind. So, avoid working in companies that deal with selling alcohol, cigarettes, interest-based resources (as in giving interest-based loans in banking), drug business, or any job that asks you to lie and cheat others . Even lessor paid job is better than exploiting poor and helpless people. Firstly, this is God’s rule, secondly, Napoleon Hill the three times millionaire believed in this. As you can read in his last book,’Grow Rich with Peace of Mind’. Of course, all the Holy books including the Quran are full of how to earn honestly, and without interest. There are no limits on how much profit you earn, or how well you live.
- Never get into a job that you hate: Never! It is never worth it, neither for you, nor for those you work for. Find something else to do. Hopefully, it will be best for you and them.
- Passions in life: These can only be done, if your basics are in order. Mushtaq Ahmad Yousefi had a full career in banking all his life, though he was famous for his humorous narrations, and books. Allama Iqbal was a lawyer by profession and then he was the great Poet of the East. So, you cannot follow your passions in life, unless your groundwork is done properly. So, first fulfill duties in life, before fulfilling interests. Best is when your interests pay up well. But that too can be dicey over the long run.
- Be determined and focused: Make your intention clear, and do it. You need to have a good meeting with yourself regularly, for that. This includes a reality check every few months/years.
- Do wholeheartedly whatever you choose to do: Once you’ve decided what to do, then do it with your heart, body and soul in it.
- Do what has to be done: In every project, there are the dull, drudgery parts, they have to be done, that’s all. Stop procrastinating! Be action oriented. After all, as a writer, I know, there won’t be any changes in life, by simply writing and thinking. Writing and planning is just the first step, it is execution of it which is vital. It is actions that speak louder than words.
- Look after yourself: Make that weekly plan Powerful weekly plan.and see that you are physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually and financially at your best. Say your five times prayers too, (I get most of my ideas at that time, as I believe, God also talks to me then.) We are blessed with a body which needs constant caring. That doesn’t mean make-up and cosmetic stuff only, it means healthy stuff. Healthy mind and body needs us to say ‘no’ to drinking, smoking or drugs.
- Prioritize carefully in life: Use the Maslow theory, physical well-being, security, work and source of earning, so you are financially secure and aren’t dependent on anyone else. You must earn a solid source of income to stabilize and provide for yourself and your family first. Remember, according to Abraham Maslow, you cannot interchange the phases, it is laid out priority wise. You cannot start self-actualizing when you are not financially or physically secure. The physical well-being comes with your ability to provide yourself with, food, clothing and shelter. All the rest comes afterwards. If you are dependent on others for your basics, then your freedom of choice is bound to be infringed upon. It is better to live on less on your own, than living on others at their expense.
- Make your environment beautiful: Whatever means you have, make place for beauty in your home and in your life. Surround yourself with beauty of every kind, give your family a home which is attractive and comfortable. If you can’t grow flowers, buy them for yourself and others.
- Maintain these characteristics: ‘
- Be kind: You’ll get plenty of chances, so at least one kindness a day feels great. But do it from your own pocket.
- Be humble: Treat everyone the same way, whether they are above you or below you in stature. Never be too proud, or stuck-up. Never ridicule anyone, just because they cannot answer you back. I’ve watched persons getting too proud just because of social status or ranks in army and air force – more so with the wives! Do not have contempt for others, it is the worst thing in relationships. As far as husband and wife are concerned, it is a killer of good relationships. The fact is that in something I was better, and in others my husband was. So, in the end we both were good in different things. So, as a couple one could function well by complementing each other. How does that make one person superior over the other?
- Humor: Yes, laugh it off – Make the best of every situation no matter how hard it is. Even during tight, scary, and frightening situations; find something funny about it. You see, some situations cannot be changed, but our attitudes can! Be clear and be brave. (Act being brave, soon you will start feeling brave!) Keep shoulders back, smile, take a deeeeep breath, count to ten, and even have a laugh.
- Make time for love and loved ones: Put them in your priority list on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. (You say you love them, and don’t give a minute to them?) Plan and make time to be with loved ones. Specially building fun memories together.
- Trouble-shooting tactics:
- Think outside the box: Be open to new ideas. Be ready to solve a problem/issue in a different way. As Stephen R. Covey says there are three points of view in every conflict: There is your point of view, the other’s point of view, and then the view which will be acceptable to all.
- Never let another person know about your next move, especially in a tricky situation.
- Don’t blindly follow others: Whatever anyone says to you, watch how they act: Never take anyone’s advice seriously, unless they themselves act on it. Also, you still have to check, if your circumstances are like theirs or a bit different, therefore needing a different approach to it.
- Ask someone three times – then do it another way: This has been my golden rule of life. If you need help then just ask another person once, remind twice more. Then find another way to do it. It might be something big, or small. I might be asking my husband, my child, an officer or my servant. If something isn’t done, I’ll do it myself or get it done another way. So, don’t wait for someone else to do something, endlessly.
- Give it a time-frame. Simple! So, then you can get to your plan, B, C and D!
- When nothing is working: Shut up, pause, chill and get on with the rest of my life.
- Accept challenges: Be ready to do tough things. Specially, when someone tells you, ‘you can’t do it!’ or asks, ‘Why do you want to do it?’ I simply answer, ‘why not?’ So, be intelligent, sensible, do your homework and then go ahead. At forty nine years of age, I got admitted in University to do my EMBA in HRM. Then post fifty years, I got back into University to convert my Executive MBA degree to a regular MBA. Yes, I said, ‘so what?’ to anyone who asked. When my husband died, and people said, ‘you can’t live alone in a house with your daughter!’ I went ahead and did it. But then, I got a proper security system in place, put grills there, informed the authorities (so special patrols were taken to protect me,) I had my dog with me. Inside, I kept knives, golf sticks and what not all over the house. Yes, I was ready, if anyone dared! So, when you decide to act, do it with full preparation.
- Think positive: Watch how you think. No matter what situation, always construct your sentences even in your thoughts positively. Do not think, ‘I can’t do this, I’m too weak, I haven’t got a clue!’ Instead think, ‘how can I do this, I’m strong, I’ll get strong with sleep, exercise and proper diet. If I haven’t a clue, I’ll find out. – Just Google it!’
- Make friends during every phase of your life: Meet people with an open heart. I see every human being as a beautiful creation of God/Allah. Be open to her or his way of thinking. Learn something new, know that each person is bound to have something new to teach you.
- Do not be judgmental. Accept others as they are.
- Value the person’s unique qualities.
- Be proactive in arranging meetings with them.
- Mentors in life: – At least the ones who are alive! Go up to people you admire, tell them how they have made such a difference in your life. Take gifts for them. Treasure them. Honor and respect them always. Specially, take time out to be with them, or invite them over. Listen to them carefully, you learn all the time you are with them. You’ll learn many unexpected things too.
- Accept setbacks as part of life: The more things you do, the more times you’ll fail. As I’ve done. Just get up, brush aside the tears, and heartbreak. Give yourself a break and a treat, (yes, have that mango!) Then get back into action. Do analyze why it happened, or how it could have been done differently. Then ask just say, ‘so what?’ Remember people are going through harder times. Specially see their smiles and how brave they are. I knew Flt. Lt. Nasrullah, who was a pilot in Pakistan Air Force. He was a paraplegic, (a person who has lost the use of both arms and both legs) after an accident in Algeria. He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair or being bedridden. When we met him, he inspired us with his wit, humor and pleasant personality. Also the fact that he was so well read and well informed. On his wall was a computer printout of ‘So What?’. He lived his life mostly in his hospital bed, in his nicely decorated room in the PAF hospital in Masroor, Karachi. He would often drop in with his batman, at our place on weekends, in his wheelchair. We would have the pizza I would make, with a dessert of papaya with lemons and honey sprinkled on it. He loved this dinner. He even wrote articles in daily Dawn sometimes, as I did. I wrote two articles on him, one for Dawn and one for The News.
- Being grateful: Thank God and his human beings who help you, at all times. Say it in your heart, with words, and with your actions.
- When someone is nasty with you: Try some ‘conflict resolution tactics. If these don’t work, walk out. But if you can’t,be patient and try to forgive as much as possible. If the behavior persists. Give hell right back to the person, as much as you safely can. Some people really need it and ask for it. So give it to them, well and proper. Fight back tooth and nail. No one should mistake your gentle kindness for weakness or stupidity. But, do not hold grudges, or try stabbing in the back. Just leave the vendetta part to God, He knows how to deal with such people better.
- No blame game: Whatever the situation, stop blaming others all the time. Take full responsibility and get on with your work.
- Keep a balance in life: When things get too hectic, slow down. When they get too slow, pace it all up well and proper! When you are with too many people, find an activity which you do alone. If you have been alone too long, then find a way to meet everyone. Find and make a balance, in everyway, that affects your life.
- Travel: Even though we moved house often, my husband and I loved traveling. One of our most memorable trip was going through ten countries of Europe in twenty days, with our one-year-old child, Nataliya! But then, one mustn’t stop travelling, after that big trip. Have at least one trip a year, and try it more often. If one can’t go on something big, make mini-trips, like the one-day trip to Murree and Nathiagali from Islamabad. Anything. Go to the village or to Skardu. Nothing opens the mind quite like travel. But then, one must not be fussy about small irritating things, just be a sport and enjoy the unplanned goof-ups on the way!
- Looking forward into the future trusting God/Allah: Why be afraid of the future? Look back and see how one was cared through-out life. I have great faith. I move into the coming years of my life with great hope. All I ask is for a life long enough to be able to thank Him properly for all His blessings.
Hey, do tell me the things that have worked for you in your of life! So, we both can stay blessed together. 🙂
Note: All photographs provided by Author, mostly taken by author, a couple by Waliya Najib Khan and Nataliya Najib Khan. Thank you Google image for the Maslow theory one.