What Is Life and What Is The Trilogy of Toxic Traits?

by Irfan Iqbal

Money is a source of provision and beyond a point; it is actually of no use. Just like the law of diminishing marginal utility, beyond a certain threshold, money loses utility too.

Kashmiri shepherd family, an old photograph

What is life? Ask a philosopher and he would say, life is what we make of it. True, but what really is life? Biologically, life is a form of being, which lasts as long as we breathe and our organs function.

Is that all that life is about? Technically, yes! If the concept of life is so simple, why is everyone so perplexed about it? Why is life ‘unfair’, as they say? Maybe we have not understood life yet.

In reality, it is the essence of life that is important and not the technicality of it, per se. How does one conclude about his life being better than someone else’s? In popular culture, this is demystified through the prism of a metric called a success, a term used often. One might suggest that success is probably the single most common determinant of establishing the significance of life. Being successful is often measured quantitatively, either by the wealth one has accumulated or the rise within the corridors of power.

Money, although an important aspect of life, doesn’t and shouldn’t be the key determinant of measuring success. Money is a source of provision and beyond a point, it is actually of no use. Just like the law of diminishing marginal utility, beyond a certain threshold, money loses utility too. Is it then justified to measure the success of one’s life as a factor of wealth or power- probably not.

One of the major jobs of a Kashmir home was to grind the paddy for rice, the main staple food. In this photograph taken somewhere in the twentieth century, an entire village family is recorded in the process of grinding paddy. The process involved using stone mortar (Kanz) and pestle (Mohul) to pound the dried rice. Both men and women would do it.

Therefore, the definition of success is subjective and multi-faceted. Real success is when we stop quantifying possessions and stop projecting them as a measure of success.

Real success is when we understand the purpose of life, or at least embark on a journey to do so. As easy as it sounds, identifying the purpose of life is an arduous process. Finding purpose in life requires wisdom, enlightenment and an unrelenting quest to find purpose. Religious aspects aside, there are a plethora of paraphernalia that could be tied to one’s purpose of life. Some find purpose in their careers, some in spirituality and others in family. The list goes on.

The purpose is deeply attributed to passion and perseverance with a commonality that people with an identified sense of purpose tend to live a happy and satisfying life.

Happiness is therefore a state of being and a matter of choice. But how does one attain happiness? Does purpose and purpose alone lead to happiness? Can happiness be obtained without having a sense of purpose in the life-the answer is probably yes.

Besides other marginal factors, the essence of happiness can be attributed to two major things: an established purpose of life and control over the trilogy of toxic traits, which are key negative traits that prevent individuals from being in a state of peace with themselves. These traits are greed, resentment and over-thinking.

While it is established that money is important but obsession over money is toxic. Money is transactional and it should be left at that. Any wish to have more than what is needed creates temptations and temptations lead to greed which is an unending phenomenon and creates a state of constant desire and dissatisfaction with what one has. This leads to unhappiness.

An old style of pulling a boat. Hundreds of families would remain busy in this style of pulling the major boats with tourists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It still exists albeit with a difference. In this photograph, clicked in Wullar lake, a young girl is shown helping her mother, reach their destination faster. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Second is resentment– the feeling or exhibition of envy which results in malicious grudging over possessions that someone else has. This could be derived from a perception that either you deserve better than someone else or the other person is less deserving. Such negative experiences and thoughts are significant inhibitors to happiness and often lead to a sense of inferiority, dejection and ultimately depression.

The final trait of this trilogy is the most prevalent in present times, yet supremely underrated. Over-thinking is basically an over-analysis of the permutations and combinations of the probable outcomes of a situation. Analyzing situations is a healthy process, doing so obsessively is devastating as it has ramifications on the mental well-being of an individual and leads to a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

Irfan Iqbal (Banker)

To be in a peaceful state of being, this trilogy of toxic traits should be kept in check. If coupled with an identified sense of purpose, life is definitely successful.

Overarching the above, of course, is the basic acknowledgement of the spiritual purpose of life- the reason why our creator sent us on this journey of life.

What is life, therefore? A process, a journey or a facade? Life is as we understand it. Life is as we make it.

(The author is head of Quality and Operational Excellence at Qatar Development Bank. The views are personal.)

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