Living inside out!

While the cricket fever is in the air, all of us know that “inside out” shot is very effective in cricket and beautiful to watch. The key is for the batsman to have the courage, read the bowler’s mind, read the length of the ball, dance down the pitch and hit the ball powerfully in high orbit to smash it outside the boundary for maximum!! What a delight for the spectators.

Have we ever thought, are we living our life “inside out” or is it “outside in” most of the time? Most of you would agree with me it is the latter one. Right from our childhood, we are encouraged to live “outside in” and till the very end of life or at least till the time we choose not to live that way.

You may wonder, what do you mean by that? Let me explain what I mean. We encourage a child to behave the way we want it to behave under the notion of teaching them good behaviour. In schools, teachers encourage and expect every student to follow a certain way of behaviour, for example, paying attention in class, studying well for the exams, scoring well and so on. The society around us also encourages this “fall in line” behaviour. We all have been through this and it has helped us a great deal, no doubt. This way we learned what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. But did anybody ask us, what is it that “you would like to do”? Did anybody encourage us to start this inquiry? If you answered “Yes”, may be you are among the rare lucky few.

The journey of “outside in” continues through our adulthood through our college days into corporate life. Now, the players are different but message is pretty much the same – Do what is expected of you or else pay the price. I am not all hinting at being undisciplined, reckless, irresponsible or being rebellious or anything like that. The point is – am I thinking for myself or just following the expectations of others what I call it as “Outside in” living.

I stumbled upon this question by accident a couple of years back, when I was on an assignment in a foreign country, while I was learning ways to be effective in the new culture, new work environment and my new role at work. These were all “What and How” aspects, the “outside in” aspects. What do I need to do to be successful and then How do I do it in quick time. But then came the not so obvious “Why” question which led me to “”inside out”” thinking. The nature of it’s inquiry is very gentle but persistent; it won’t stop you from doing anything but will ask the final question if you don’t ask upfront. And then this “why” question will keep nagging at you gently.

I realized that during our life time the “outside in” expectations keeps coming at you in various forms like what is meant to be a good child, good son, good brother, good student, good employee, good husband, good father, good friend, good citizen and the list goes on. And never gives one an opportunity to find out what it is like to be a “good me”. Now, this inquiry is deep and in many ways very personal for every person. In my case, it led me to a space where I started asking myself “what is it that makes me happy in life?” “what kind of work I would like to do?” “what contribution can I make to the world around me?” “what will give me fulfillment?” “how am I going to support my family doing what I love to do?” and many more such questions. And the answers don’t come easily and quickly.

Leap and the net will appear.

– Zen saying

I decided to take a break from work and spend some time figuring out the answers to these questions. It was not an easy decision for me to make especially with the “outside in” mindset. I had to go beyond the fear of uncertainty and anxiety. But when I did, it started giving me glimpses of the outer world around me which I had never seen. The glimpses of my inner world which was waiting to be discovered. The journey to live “”inside out”” is amazing, enriching, endless, scary at times but fulfilling nonetheless. And I am just getting started…

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