Avoiding Negatives is Higher Achievement

Published: 23rd June 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2014 12:28 AM   |  A+A-

New Year Resolutions are, in Hamlet’s words, “more honour’d in the breach than the observance”. There are, doubtless, dos and don’ts: positive exhortations to oneself, as also negative admonitions. “Do yoga regularly”, “Read at least two hours a day”, “Make notes from what you read”, “Write diary daily” (I used to write a diary in the first few weeks of every year, thinking posterity would class it along with that of Anne Frank, but, wisdom dawning soon, dropped the practice) et al can be pigeonholed in the positives. Similarly, “Stop eating uzhunnu vada daily from the wayside eatery early morning”, “Avoid snacking in between meals”, “Reduce the duration of siesta” would be in the “negative” slot.

Incidentally, eight out of the holy Ten Commandments are negatively worded (Thou shalt not...) and only two, the fourth (Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy) and the fifth (Honour thy father and thy mother) are positive prescriptions. I agree the border blurs. Where would you classify, “Control your tongue” (talking)?

The other day, during a heated political debate, driven to the wall, I alluded to the animal ancestry of an opponent of mine when he suddenly showed a propensity to shed words in favour of action, forcing me, there being no wall around, to flee. To me, the inability to curb the tongue was, of course, a failure but retreat from the danger zone was a positive success.

This year, never one to sideline the rulebook, I, in keeping with form, started maintaining a small pocket journal to record daily details of my “positives” as also cases of avoidance of “negatives”. (I am told in olden days, boy scouts used to keep a record of their daily good deeds, and that a brainy chap, struggling for one on a particular day, forcibly led a visually challenged person from one side of the street to the other so that he could repair the omission, when, in fact the poor chap did not want to cross the road at all!) On a gastronomical plane, I had, deeply convinced that exception proves the rule, permitted myself the luxury of some exceptions if circumstances so warranted; say, the presence or arrival of an unexpected guest.

Telling him, after placing before him piled up yummy uzhunnu vadas, “Help yourself, I cannot help cholesterol!” is just “not done”. Cholesterol values, risks of atheroschlerosis, strokes, coma, cardiac arrest and so on are not ideal topics before the dining table! Of course, you do not have to compete with your companion in wolfing them down but have all the same to give him “active” support. At any rate, I believe so.

Jotting down is meaningless sans analysis. I did analyse. What I found was: The satisfaction one gets from avoidance of the negatives stands far higher than that coming from achievement of the positives!

Little sacrifices give greater pleasure. Resisting temptations, even minor ones, calls for stronger will power. When retiring to bed every night, I now pray—deviating from the path the b(e/i)tter half takes in the matter—for the arrival of unexpected guests the next morning.

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