Ramya: For several years I had harboured an outside-in approach to life. I believed that my happiness and my fulfillment were contingent upon my getting or attaining specific outcomes and circumstances. I believed for example, that if I was successful in certain academic or career pursuits I would be satisfied. I believed that the right partner in my life would make me feel fulfilled. I believed that a certain type of living environment and lifestyle would bring me peace. In short, I believed that my happiness was contingent on a specific set of outcome variables that were outside of me. I stayed trapped in this outside-in paradigm for several years. I struggled hard to try and achieve the specific outcomes that I believed would make me happy. However I realized over the years that happiness was a moving target and that once specific outcomes were reached, my list of desired outcomes would also grow and there were new targets to chase. This ambitious chase was invigorating at times, but more often it was exhausting, frustrating, and draining. Nothing ever seemed good enough for long enough.
I was quite deeply entrenched in the outside-in paradigm when quite by chance I stumbled upon an alternate paradigm to approach life from. This paradigm which I am going to call ‘inside-out’ paradigm for the sake of brevity had its roots in positive psychology where researchers were beginning to discover through scientific experiments that happiness was a state of mind and it did not need to be dependent on specific outcomes. I have been experimenting with this inside -out paradigm for the last five years and the more I have adopted this alternate approach the more convinced I have grown that this new way of orchestrating activities in my life is not only easier but also far more joyous and fulfilling.
Initially I had feared that deciding to be happy regardless of the outcome would reduce my drive to achieve and pursue new frontiers. What I discovered however was that the effect was quite the opposite. The more I decoupled my happiness from the specific outcomes and circumstances the more I freed up my own inner resources to dream and innovate fearlessly. My productivity increased and my creativity skyrocketed. I was daring to think bigger than I used to when I was bound by my need for specific outcomes. I became more accepting of myself as a unique individual who had specific gifts and talents. I became aware that there were some areas which were my strengths and some others which were not. Rather than focusing on fixing the so called ‘weaknesses’ to make myself some sort of an acceptable rounded human being, I began to hone and nurture my innate gifts so that I could become a unique contribution to the planet. This shift from focusing on the fixing of weaknesses to flying on strengths became possible only when I started from the premise that I was already happy and fulfilled. When I began from the premise of being happy at the start itself then the actions I undertook were infused with a sense of playfulness and experimentation. I felt freer to engage in activities that resonated with my own core values and I began to use my life as a canvas to express those core values.
My life no longer felt like a series of circumstances that was happening to me, rather it began to feel like an engaging piece of art that I was crafting on an ongoing basis. This shift from being a passive consumer of life circumstances to becoming an active crafter of one’s own life experiences is what my own personal growth has been about. The inside-out approach to crafting our lives is not a fix-it-all solution or a prescription for happiness or success. Rather it is an invitation to experiment and play with a new paradigm where we see ourselves as co-creators of our life experiences rather than victims or consumers of external happenings and circumstances. I have no prescription or advice to give to other women but I would like to extend an invitation to everyone to try and experiment with this approach of crafting their lives from the inside-out. The growth, the achievements, and the progress then starts to occur organically as our true inner aspirations begin to effortlessly manifest as outer achievements and accomplishments.
Taken from an interview Ramya did for Voyalla series – An Ode to a Woman of Substance