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Guest Column: Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity and focus: Shailja Varghese

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Guest Column: Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity and focus: Shailja Varghese

Sometimes, we get wrapped up in our small worlds and find all possible excuses to not look beyond. But November 8, 2016, was different. The announcement of demonetization came as a big blow with seemingly petrifying effects. Similarly, in 2009, recession had affected everyone in some way or another, with many using various strategies to cope with a new economic reality. Uncertainty, whether it is the loss of job or the potential of a loss of job loss, can lead to a feeling of economic insecurity; it can even create social tension.

In the recession of 2009, I wasn’t spared either. Overnight, hundreds of us were laid off. With only three months’ salary left in the bank and nothing to look forward to, professionally, it was the most depressing phase for all of us. In hindsight, it was a turning point for many as it turned us towards our true inner calling. Little did I know that empty spaces are never left vacant forever as creation is at work constantly. After about a month of despair, I decided to channelize my energies and think ‘inside-out’. I, thus, turned towards philanthropic work.

My passion and a gut feeling guided me and I started working with two NGOs. I got to work on dream assignments, and at the end of six months, I ended up with a consulting job with a leading TV network that later hired me. The events seemed serendipitous as they rolled out in a perfect sequence because of a ‘yes’ frame of mind. So, I kept the flame burning by not drowning in the gloom of the inevitable, but tapped into my inner resources to stay afloat.

The truth is that we humans have witnessed gloom since the beginning of time. Today, it's the economy that has gone shaky with demonetization. As a human civilization, we might have seen worse periods in history but in our short-sightedness, we forget that we have overcome the worst—from wars to natural disasters and epidemics. Then why does the human mind forget all the good times we have had and only dwell on the immediate calamity? Some people consistently worry, fear and doubt until their fears start manifesting into reality, as they create such an environment around them.

Then there are those who are as inspiring as the lead character ‘Guido’ in Roberto Benigni’s movie ‘Life is Beautiful’. Guido helps his son survive the Holocaust by pretending that it is all a game. This is one of my all-time favorite movies as it clearly shows that it is fear that kills more dreams than failure ever will. Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity and focus, as the end of every action is pre-coded in its beginning. So, fear is ultimately an illusion.

My second favorite movie, going by the theme of ‘managing survival during uncertainty’ is ‘The Bucket List, which is about two terminally ill men (portrayed by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who cross paths in a hospital after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Through their treatments, they befriend each other. They decide to embark on a trip to fulfil their bucket lists—a list of things they want to accomplish before they die.              

There are many activities and passions that lie in our peripheral vision, while we are running on the treadmill of professional life. The skills learnt while pursuing our passions might become the silver lining in our lives at a time of uncertainty. Your passions can range from writing, travelling, mountain climbing, exploring organic farming, becoming an entrepreneur or a yoga-meditation trainer. Ask yourselves, am I fuelling my passions enough? Can we keep challenging ourselves to tap into our intuition to beat uncertainty? Are we scared of lay-offs or uncertainties? It is natural to feel that fear but due to our passions and the art of channelizing our energies, we can learn to survive, embrace uncertainty and stay afloat.

Here a few tips to survive uncertainty:

1. Go back to the basics: At a time of upheaval, the more the mind gets engrossed in the mundane chores, the more it calms down. Strange but true! It can burn any destructive energy by channelizing it towards the most mundane tasks. This will relax the mind and sharpen the intuition.

2. Be present in the moment: Existence is to be present in the moment without any judgment or demand. All emotions, feelings and thoughts have no meaning in the larger scope of life. They are miniscule in the design of the universe. However, our small efforts to create cherished memories in the present moment will matter. These will heal past wounds and prepare manure for a fertile tomorrow.

3. Don’t let the mind steer you off course: The mind will play games but stay on course. People may criticize, hate or love us but our identity would still be ‘what is’. Nothing can change that; neither the fleeting laurels of the changing world nor fleeting losses of this life.

4. Take mass changes as a blessing in disguise: Uncertain times make you break the code and unshackle the chains of mind thereby overcoming limiting beliefs. Uncertainties nudge you to break the fake masks of societal roles and pressures and become primitive, raw and creative. This will pave the way to innovations that will change the way we perceive the world. 

5. Short-term pain is for long-term gain: A little discomfort for the sake of long-term comfort is better than any short-term gains.

Honestly, difficult times introduce us to our real self—a self that is innovative, tactful and skilful while dealing with ordeals. But we react to sudden changes with fear as we forget that we are constantly evolving. We are ‘imperfect’ souls trying hard to ‘survive’ and ‘fit’ into an illusionary ‘perfect’ life…and it’s tiring! So, sometimes, it is okay to celebrate imperfection and embrace uncertainty in order to evolve.

(The author is a content specialist and has served on a jury for Lions Entertainment at Cannes Lions 2016)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of


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