Here’s a trick I’ve been using to get more satisfaction when confused between two choices


Hmm..Should I have coffee or Fruit Juice. I am yawny, I’ve got a long day ahead of me, coffee would pick me up and ensure that my day starts with a zing. But fruit juice with it’s natural anti-oxidants is so much healthier. Besides I’m becoming addicted to caffiene and should reduce my caffiene intake. Aaargh! I can’t make up my mind. Okay, fine it’s coffee that I want. Not Fruit Juice. Yet, as I amble out of the food court with my cappuccino in my hand, I’m still kicking myself, “Damn it, I think I made the wrong choice. I would have been happier with fruit juice instead.”

Have you been there, done that? You have two equally inviting, tempting, rewarding choices in front of you and it is driving you nuts which one to pick. And the worst of it all is that, once you have made up your mind, you still don’t feel good about it. Isn’t it so paradoxical? We have more choice than ever anyone had before yet, we’re not happier. Not happy before the choices presented to us and not after we’ve made up our minds.

It’s this phenomenon that Barry Shwartz talks about in this brilliant Ted Talk, titled the Paradox of Choice. And here’s the way out that he’s suggested:

“Be a Satisfier. Not a Maximiser”

In other words lower your standards. Take it easy. You don’t have to Maximise every possible single moment of your existence. If you are gonna live you life Slamming that throttle, experiencing the rush, having all systems on go, every time, all the time, you’ll go through one heck of a burnout. So you didn’t get the best-deal. So you haven’t made the best possible choice, so be it. Be a satisfier, not a maximiser. Yes, a maximiser would walk out with the better deal. But choose to be the satisfier who walks out happier with the above-average deal that he’s got.

I’ve picked a lame example to beginning with choosing between two beverages. But this can be applied to every single choice, dilemma and regret that you face, in business and in life. You’re walking out of the negotiating room or the bazaars, wrenching your fists that you’ve not negotiated hard enough? Chill and be a satisfier, not a maximiser. Your day is not going out as you planned, the evening that you wanted to spend on your own couldn’t happen, well that’s okay. Be a Satisfier, not a maximiser.

So next time you find yourself beating yourself up for not choosing something else than what you had, tell yourself, “Hey, I’m a Satisfier, not a maximiser. I’ve got a pretty cool deal and I’m still gonna fly with it.”

Both the below talks are a must see and frequently listed among the Most Watched Ted Talks

Barry Shwartz:On the Paradox of Choice

Dan Gilbert: Why are we Happy? Why aren’t we Happy?

Eat Less


I don’t know if it’s just me but I’ve been coming across a lot of literature these days on Eating less (and ironically as I’m typing this I’m enjoying a cup of green tea). Health benefits aside, it’s one of the more fundamental spiritual practices to enlightenment.

Here are my more favourite quotes on Eating Less:

– Imam Ali, AS has famously said, “Don’t make ur stomach a graveyard for animals.”

– From the Hadith of Ascension, Allah SWT advises Prophet Mohammed (SAW) directly:
O Ahmad! Beware acting like a child who, upon seeing what is green and what is yellow, he loves it, and when he is given of what is sweet and what is sour, he is deceived by it.” The Prophet said, “Lord! Lead me to a deed whereby I seek nearness to You.” The Almighty said, “Make your night a day and your day a night.” The Prophet said, “How so, Lord?” The Almighty said, “Turn your sleep into prayer and your food into hunger.”

– From Imam Ja’far as Sadiq’s Hadith, to Unwan al Basri
“As for the three pieces of advice on self-discipline – firstly do not eat that which you have no appetite for, for this brings about idiocy and stupidity. Secondly do not eat unless you are hungry. And thirdly when you do eat, eat only that which is lawful (Halal) and begin in the Name of Allah (SWT), and remind yourself of the tradition of the Prophet (SAWW): “There is no vessel that man fills worse than his own stomach”. So if you must fill it, then allow one third of it for food, another third for drink, and keep the last third for air.

Benefits of eating less:

It’s surely a difficult thing to do. I’m personally so used to eating till my brim, that I find it difficult to judge whether I’m still hungry or not. And then when I do know that it’s time to stop, my hand feel like a tonne. My hands feel just way too heavy to lift and push my plate away. Yet it feels extremely light to go ahead and make the most of another delicious helping. What’s worse is that in many households it’s actually a culture that when one’s invited, the host is expected to stuff the living daylights out of the guest. It’s then when he’s perceived to be a good host.

I’ve been trying to practice eating less, although difficult the rewards are worth it:

– Increase in your willpower:
Just like anything else in life, the more you practice at something the better you get. Similarly, the more your exert your will against your ravenous desires, your willpower gets stronger.

– You feel just right:
After a few minutes of holding yourself back you realise that what you ate was just right for your. And now your full as well as active enough to carry on the next/future tasks.

– Your meals are more balanced:
When I have a light dinner, I experienced that I’m exceptionally hungry for breakfast and hence can treat myself to a larger meal then. We’re obviously more active during the day and the heavy breakfast gives me the energy that I require. A heavy dinner, simply piles on more cellulite.

– Importantly the satisfaction of doing the right thing for yourself, and not taking the easy convenient more delicious option.

– Ofcourse you will immediately experience an increase in your spiritual levels too.

– The final benefit I’m listing here is that eating less is one of the key factors indicated in the study on what it takes to live up to a 100. You can learn about the other lifestyle criteria in this TEDx video here or the Blue Zones website here.

How I’m Getting More Done, by Doing Less.

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We all know it’s true, that we can get more of an impact if we focus our energies on fewer tasks. An example I’ve quoted often on the power of focus is the analogy of trying to light a fire using a magnifying glass on a hot day. We’ve all tried it out as kids. However, picture yourself, taking a whole pile of newspapers outside in the sun on the World’s Hottest day, you may have the most powerful magnifying glass in the world, but you’ll still not be able to start a fire for hours or days, until you FOCUS that magnifying glass. Once you do focus the rays of the sun on to a single spot on that pile of newspapers. You don’t just have a fire, you have an INFERNO. Focus…focus…FOCUS!

We all have such limited time, limited energy and limited resources in the world. And yes the opportunities are galore that are screaming for a highly precious commodity of ours, our Attention, so don’t sell it cheap.

A book that I’ve completed recently that has helped me hone my focus is The Power of Less by Leo Babuta.

Leo is one heck of a case study. A few years ago, he was a government employee, heavily in debt, overweight and a heavy-smoker. Over the past several years, Leo has:

– Quit Smoking

– Got himself into peak physical condition

– Run Several marathons to prove it

– Got our of Debt

– Quit his job to follow his passion of full-time blogging.

– Maintain two excellent blogs

– Got one of his blogs to be ranked the number one Personality-Development/Self-Help blog

– Completed three books.

How he achieved all the above? It’s by focussing on one activity at a time. Leo, spends the rest of the book listing out a few principles and practical steps that one can follow to reduce the clutter in one’s life and focus on the essentials. The steps that have worked most for me are:

Identify your MITs (Most Important Tasks) early in the day and complete them first.
We get so caught up on answering our emails first thing in the morning, that one easily loses track on other tasks that provide higher returns for the time spent. Hence beginning of the day (or the end of the previous day) once one write down your MITs, make sure you complete those first thing in the morning. The tasks that you listed would not take you more than a an hour or two at the max. Most of the time, the tasks highlighted get done in less than 30 minutes. But it’s our procrastinating and demonising of the tasks in our minds that make it seem that it would take forever to complete. As Brian Tracy says, Eat that Frog. ie Get your most unpleasant task done first thing in the morning. And since you have to eat that frog anyway, it doesn’t pay much to If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

Focus on never more than Three Projects at a time.
What’s a project? The project here is not used in the conventional sense of for eg. Installing and delivering a software to a client, or in our case Delivering a Residential Layout of 300 homes. Nope, the word Project here is used in the GTD sense, that is, any action that has more than one step to complete. So simple things like Hiring an Employee, Completing a Report or Getting one’s child enrolled to school, are all Projects. Because they all have multiples steps to complete. Why Leo has said Three and not One, it’s because generally inevitably you might be waiting for someone for some information on any one of the Project. When that happens you have two other projects to focus upon.

Have a Daily Morning Routine
This is a great tip that I’ve been putting in practice for several years now. Have a Routine in the morning that gets you looking forward to the day. A routine that you consciously follow. Not one that you subconsciously stumble through day after day till your life is over. For eg. Leo’s routine is to be up at 5:00 Am, brews for himself a cup of delicious coffee, then spends atleast an hour writing his next blog post. My routine for the last several years has been:

5:30 – 6:00 Pray namaaz

6:00 – 7:00 Catch an hour’s sleep

7:00 – 8:20 Breakfast, Leave for Quran class or for Gym for a workout and shower.

8:20 – 9:20 Spend an hour writing either a blog post or my Journal. Reach office by 9:30

From 9:30 to 10:30

Once at office I look at my calendar and ask, “How much time do I have today that’s totally at my Discretion? or How much time do I have where there are no pre-scheduled meetings?”


Empty my Tickler items for the day into my inbox

Empty notes from my pocket notepad to my inbox

Empty biz cards to inbox

Look out for urgent Day Specific Tasks in Calendar to be attended to.


Clear outlook tasks @Ainbox

Clear email inbox/physical inbox 15 mins to 30 mins

Attend appointments as planned

My morning routine has worked well for me. Before it’s 10:30, I’ve completed my exercise for the day, my writing and have cleared all the new inputs (via email or paper) into my life. Depending on your goals, set an Early Morning Routine that has you start the day running. Also consider setting up a Daily Evening Routine too, to ensure that you have maximum energy next morning.

Do Less than you Can do. Even if you can do more.
This has been a brilliant tip that Leo has provided. Highly effective when it comes to establishing a new habit. Say you need to establish a habit of flossing your teeth. So Leo says, “Do less than you can do, even if you can do more.” That means for the whole first week, all you should do is to take out a piece of floss cut it and leave it on the bathroom sink. That’s it. Don’t floss you teeth, even if you can floss your teeth. The key here is to set regularity. Since all that you’ll be doing is to taking out a piece of floss and not actually flossing your teeth, the resistance to do this activity will be minimal. Similarly if you want make a habit of exercising regularly say jogging for 30 minutes, just do 15 minutes. Even if you can jog more, don’t. Keep doing this, till it really becomes part of you. I’ve been implementing this rule and been doing less even if I can do more and it really works. There is very little resistance to do the activity the next day and hence a habit is quite easily formed.

Take care friends, do read the book. There are tons of other principles and tips to help you achieve your long term goals. The above are the few that have stuck with me.

Warm wishes. Keep smiling :-)

A short Review of the 9 Personality Development Books I’ve read in 2009

200912251014.jpg Reading…it’s one of the the greatest, most pleasurable, highly blissful indulgences that this ephemeral existence has to offer. Other than Coffee (and Chocolate ofcourse). Sometime back I gave myself a schedule to spend an hour reading everyday. About the same time I began tracking which books I was reading at the All Consuming website and now I parallely do it at Good Reads website as well. I managed to write a couple of reviews of a few books at the Arif & Ali blog. I’ve hardly done justice to some of the fantastic material that I ‘ve covered. I’ve scanned through my list and hello, I’ve almost crossed 50 books since I’ve started tracking them. I’ve not read them all completely. But certainly enough to have a fair idea of what the book contains and whether would it be worth my while to complete it or not. (On that note, one of the best standards I have set for myself is giving myself permission to skip sections of a book or even leaving it incomplete). As I sit here approaching the cusp of 2009, I’ll be posting a series of posts giving a short review of the books I’ve covered in the last year or so. The first in the series of posts covers the Personality Development books I’ve read.

Personality Deveopment:

Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer
How do you appraise a fellow employee on his poor work performance effectively? Or how do you tell your boss that he’s not being reasonable in his deadlines that he’s giving? In a personal setting how do you tell a colleague the he’s got Body Odour and Personal Hygiene issues? Crucial Conversations teaches how to step up to such conversations that run high on emotions, have high stakes and conflicting opinions. Crucial Confrontations, teaches you to address failed commitments and Influencer promises you the ability to influence anybody to do anything 99% of the time.

Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations were excellent reads. Influencer fell short of my expectations but nonetheless I am glad I covered it. If you feel you could brush up on your conversational skills, go ahead and give these books a try.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
With over 2 million copies sold, this book has it’s place reserved in the classics shelf. Who isn’t afraid? If you say you’re not, then buddy you’re not trying hard enough to stretch out of your comfort zones. I loved certain sections of the book and specially the first chapter which provided the insight that you are always afraid for one and ONLY one reason…ie You’ll not be able to handle it. ie You feel you’ll not be able to handle the situation/scenario that your are scared of . Or in other words you’ll not be in control. Think about it. It’s so true. Be it fear of public speaking or fear to confront an individual on something sensitive, if you’re scared it’s because you’ll feel that you may no longer will be in control of the situation. The best part is, simple Awareness of this is half the battle won. So now that you know why you’re scared, what can you do about it? Absolutely nothing. That’s the whole point, you’ve got to “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”. However that said, there are many tips and tricks to help you deal with your fears on your way to growth.

When I say No I feel Guilty
The best assertiveness training book I’ve come across. Written sometime in the 70’s this book still rings true today. The only high-irritant that I have with this book is that it takes the theory that you are the ultimate judge of what’s right and what’s wrong way too far. So far that it towards the end it concludes that even nudist camps are okay, as long as you’re okay about it. Having that said, it does having amazing 1, 2, 3 step by step techniques to help you stand up to situations that you would otherwise slink away from. Check out the Bill of Assertive Rights that the book begins with:


I.   You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II.   You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

III.   You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

IV : You have the right to change your mind.

V :  You have the right to make mistakes — and be responsible for them.

VI : You have the right to say, “I don’t know,”

VII : You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be  illogical in making decisions.

IX:   You have the right to say, “I don’t understand”

X:   You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”


The Power of Full Engagement
When are you fully engaged towards a task? It’s when your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy reservoirs are at it’s maximum. The Power of Full Engagement, guides you in recognising which energy reservoir is specifically below it’s optimal potential and what routines can you incorporate to ensure that you are running on full tank as much as possible, as far as possible.

50 Prosperity Classics
All of Tom Butler Bowden books are a Must Read. 50 Prosperity Classics is a summary of 50 books that show how to:
1. Attract Wealth,
2. Create Wealth,
3. Manage Wealth,
4. Finally…how to share it.

And in Tom’s inimitable style, very often the summary of the book covered explains the content better than the Author himself. I read this book cover to cover and enjoyed reading the summary of almost each and every book that he listed. The few books from which a couple of lessons that still linger in my memory are:

– James Allen, The Path to Propertiy
– Bill Gates, Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire
– Corad Hilton, Be My Guest
– Muhammad Yunus Banker to the Poor

See the entire list of the books he covers here.

The War of Art
I have a separate blog post on the War of Art here. Nothing’s changed of my opinion. It really does give Procrastination a solid kick in it’s butt.   I so LOVE this book. And as I’ve said earlier, the audio book is even better. If I could I would gift each of my blog readers a copy of this audio book. But because I’m such a stingy scrooge I won’t be doing that. So do go ahead and purchase the audio book. If not all of it, go ahead and purchase just part 1, it’s currently retailing at a discount of $7.49

Mastery has been lying in my shelf for over a year but didn’t get round to completing it till just last week. It’s just what I needed to get my blog writing and exercise schedule back on track. Although it has a cheesy subtitle “The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment”, George Leonard does a brilliant job explaining how we’re now living in such a “excitement” based society. That every moment has to be simply Rapturous, or it’s not good-enough. All the advertising that we’re pounded with (pictures of the cake just being baked, a couple just moving into their apartment, driving out that brand new car) are setting for us that same unrealistic standard. The key out of the trap is “loving the plateau”. ie Being aware of where you stand in your pursuit (writing and fitness in my case) and realising that success comes after long periods of perfecting the same routine over and over again. I received quite a few take backs from this book. If you do read it, look out for the different personality traits that George points out (the Beginner, the Dabbler, the Hacker and the Master) and see where you fit in.

Hopefully if I get round to it, in future posts, I’ll be listing out the books with summaries that I’ve completed in the following genre’s:
– Spirituality
– Economy
– Autobiography
– Social Change
– and Fiction

Till then, take care and keep smiling. :-)

In Praise of Slowness


I’m currently hearing this great podcast by Carl Honore on his book, In Praise of Slowness. He attacks our addiction that we have for speed and doing everything so swiftly, that even instant-gratification feels too slow. He addresses two key questions, How did we get here and what is it that we can do to slow down. Slow down not in the sense of replacing the Cult of Speed with the Cult of Slow, but more in the Cult of living life more fully and wholly. You can download the audio of the podcast here.


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