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The Wonderful World Of Equations


I was recently reading the book "Emotional Equations" (by Chip Conley) and it took my mind back to my study days. As a student of science, I’ve had to deal with equations a lot. Mathematics, with its wide variety of equations – from simple arithmetic to the more complex algebraic, generally elicits extreme reactions - a source of wonder for some and a great deal of frustration for others!


I've had a love-hate relationship with the subject. Back in my school days when I was very good at math and got great results, I loved it. As I moved into University, the more complex math often drove me crazy, and when my results didn’t turn out so good, my love affair turned sour and I began questioning the relevance and utility of topics like Calculus and Trigonometry! What kind of relationship have you had with math?


Emotional equations help us make sense of our emotions, which I believe can be way more complex than any math equation! Let’s take a look at a couple.


Despair = Suffering – Meaning


Author Dan Millman states that “suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens”. We often have no control over the situation that causes suffering. It is not the event itself that causes pain or suffering but how we process or respond to that event. That explains why the same event can bring out completely different reactions in different people.


One of the Noble Truths of Buddhism is that suffering exists everywhere. It is inevitable and omnipresent. Instead of getting into the “why me” mindset, if we can find some larger purpose or deeper meaning in our suffering, it can help process our pain better, and prevent us from slipping into despair.


The global suffering that the Covid pandemic has heaped upon all of us is one of those events that we have no control over, and if we allow our minds to be fixated on the devastation it has caused in our lives, in more ways than one, it can lead us down the rabbit holes of anxiety and depression. Instead, if we can learn something from it and use the lessons learned in a constructive manner, we can reduce our levels of despair despite our lack of control over the event causing the suffering.


Disappointment = Expectations – Reality


Have you ever watched a movie that you had read fantastic reviews about beforehand, and felt somewhat underwhelmed after watching it? Every time we have a high expectation about something, the reality often struggles to match it.


Humans are walking-thinking-talking expectation machines! Whether it is our career, our relationships, our social life…we always set high expectations, don’t we? If we want to reduce our disappointment, then as per the equation above, we either need to ‘increase’ our reality or lower our expectations. Which one is easier to do?


If you were expecting a pay rise of ten percent and you ended up getting five percent, how would you feel? On the other hand, if you were expecting a two percent raise and you got five, what would your feeling be? Same reality…just a change in expectations, and your disappointment level changes significantly.


Comparison often affects our expectations and the expression “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” perfectly captures how expectation, arising from comparison, impacts our happiness and disappointment. Social media has taken comparison to a whole new level where we are often comparing our real-life with other people’s reel-lives! I came across a saying “never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides”. How often do we end up doing just that, and raising our expectations?


2S(S) = 4C


Apologies to all mathematicians reading this part of the post! This equation that I came up with is not really an equation at all! But it does sum up an important facet of life quite nicely.


Secret Sauce of Success = Curiosity, Confidence, Courage & Consistency


Do you agree?


Let’s break down the right-hand side of this equation.


Curiosity – The desire to learn more is the prime mover to gain knowledge. When learning stops, growth stops. Einstein is reported to have said, “I’m neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I’m only very, very curious”.


Confidence - The biggest hurdle to growth is a lack of self-belief. Confidence prepares a person to take on challenges, grab opportunities, and deal with difficult situations without crumbling.


Courage – Being able to take action without fearing failure is the cornerstone of success. Perhaps, more than “not fearing failure”, it is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway (as Susan Jeffers put it).


Consistency – One-off action seldom leads to success. It is important to be able to keep showing up and taking action consistently. According to best-selling author and entrepreneur Marie Forleo, “Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally; it comes from what you do consistently”.


Whether you are a math lover or a math hater, do you think it might help to understand emotions in the form of equations? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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