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The Citizen

Three tips to thrive at HKS

By Rahul Daswani, MPP ’13

Before we get caught up in the madness that is HKS Spring 2012 (or am I too late?), I was hoping to share some of the reflections that I had over a peaceful five weeks of break in India in the hopes that we can at least delay giving in to another intense semester.
Personally, I have been phenomenally fortunate not only to have had a breadth of experiences in 2011, but even more importantly to meet and spend time with some of you. I started last year off at a wonderful meditation camp in picturesque South India, but before I knew it, this peaceful lifestyle was replaced with two months of hectic travel across Asia and finally the “civilized” world of HKS. While we have been fortunate enough to be blessed with an array of experiences that allow for rich opportunities for personal growth, they come hand in hand with steep challenges. In particular, a main challenge many of us are facing is one of balance and how to maintain it. Essentially, how to remain centered in a world of continuous change.

While it is usually useful to seek advice and perspective, ultimately we must all make our own final decisions, and be comfortable with them. In particular, three attributes have served me well:

Optimism: Having a vision of what the end state of anything could look like is crucial for self-motivation. And while determining a vision, what inspires me the most is having a bold idea of what I want. Figuring out the “how” part is important, but a secondary question. First, we must identify what we want, and the method to get there curiously often seems to unfold almost magically at times.

Conviction: Once I have thought through my decision and have made up my mind, being steadfast is crucial. Even if things don’t work out as I imagined, I should be perfectly comfortable with the outcome so long as I know I did my best, given the knowledge that I had at the time. In particular, playing poker serves as a great example of this idea. As long as I am all in with the best shot of winning, I am satisfied that I have played the game right. Of course, the outcome doesn’t always go my way, but with faith that in the long run the odds will work themselves out, I should continue to adopt the same strategy.

Drive: Having a plan is one thing, but execution is another. For me, having a passionate belief that what I’m doing leads to making the world a better place (whether in a small or big way) makes a huge difference. Coupled with an optimistic vision and the conviction that I’m on the right path, I end up at a state where I’m at peace with myself. Focused on finding an effective way to achieve what I want, working on it becomes an enjoyable part of my routine.

My goal for 2012 is the same as it will be for years to come: to leave the world better off than it would be without me in it. In order to achieve that while maintaining my equilibrium, I’m planning to work on four resolutions described in one of my favorite short books on Toltec wisdom by don Miguel Ruiz. I’m happy to elaborate in more detail personally, but it’s a quick guide on how to approach the quest for Personal Freedom (freedom from fear, illusions, and the fear-based beliefs in the mind. In essence it means to win the war over the beliefs in the mind. It is with Personal Freedom that we are free of the human condition of emotional suffering).

So here’s wishing us some helpful ingredients that will contribute to a recipe for thriving through spring semester: rays of hope, dashes of courage and doses of determination in our pursuit of happiness, baked with amazing people around us with hearts full of love.