Resources For Self Development

Thinking Skills

Your attitude is determined by your thoughts and reflected in your actions / responses.
So the focus of your attention must be on :

Your thoughts

  • Begin with a can do thinking – no matter what the issue is, believe that you can dosomething to mitigate it.
  • Seek out something even in the worst situation that you find yourself in. This will train you to orient yourself to positive thinking.
  • Be solution centric and not problem focused. Once you develop a can do thinking and begin to nurture positive thoughts, you must constantly seek to find solutions to a problem rather than let the problem. overwhelm you.
  • Experiment with out of the box thinking / creative thinking focused on adding value.

Your action/ response / behavior

  • Never let your temper get the better of you.
  • Never let frustration sabotage rational and logical thinking.
  • Be aware of your tone, gestures, choice of words, body language when communicating.
  • Listen before responding.
  • Be aware that your emotions can sabotage your thinking. So keep extreme emotions in check.
  • Do not shoot the messenger.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Accept a mistake
  • Acknowledge a differing view point if it has merit.
  • Maintain equanimity, composure, dignity and manners no matter what the provocation.

I would like to classify overthinking into three broad categories:

  • Insatiable quest for knowledge
  • Excessive negative thinking
  • Day dreaming

You require a different approach to tackle each of the above

Insatiable quest for knowledge

Quest for knowledge is a blessing but when the quest becomes an obsession, it becomes counterproductive.

Refocus your attention into searching for answers that are relevant and implementable. It is actionable learning that is useful. A teacher who imparts knowledge or a scientist who uses the learning to develop something are both ensuring that their knowledge is put into action.

You may be suffering from a minor form of OCD where you are obsessed with being a store house of knowledge and hence stressed that that there is something that you still need to know.

To overcome the above try the following:

  • Try to put your learning into some useful action before exploring further about the subject.
  • Try to fit into a job that can make use of your talent for probing more e.g. like a coordinator for a large project or a librarian in your field of interest.
  • Ask yourself the question ‘why do I need to find this out and how can I productively use the learning’ whenever the urge to read or research more overcomes you.

Excessive negative thinking

This is largely self inflicted because you have the power to control your thoughts. People choose to embrace negative thoughts because of the following reasons

  • They have had some traumatic past experience and hence prefer to focus on the worst case scenario.
  • It is a self preservation mechanism that they adopt so that they can define the worst case scenario.
  • Anything better than the worst case seems like progress / success and they feel nice about it.
  • They can always blame the situation rather than their inadequate response for the failure or lack of success.

Day dreaming

This is indulged in by people who spend more time imagining rather than doing. They do it because of the following reasons:

  • They get a high imagining that they are up there with the best.
  • They have a misguided notion that thinking big is the key to success. It is actually the keyhole to success; the key is the decisive action they take to attain success.
  • They are lazy, laid back and have a vivid imagination. Day dreaming suits their style of functioning; all thought and no action.

Ask yourself if your overthinking is an outcome of all three of the above or is specific to one type of overthinking.
The solutions are obvious. Focus more on the action required and begin taking action.

Critical thinking /Logical thinking / Practical thinking is best learned by ‘doing’. Start identifying things to do (be it at home or at work or by chance) that can leverage your engineering knowledge and skills. You will have no choice but to think about how you can execute the task most efficiently and effectively.

Some pointers to logical/ practical thinking are:

  • The key to practical thinking or for that matter any form of problem solving is identifying the problem correctly. Analyze an issue or a concern or a problem thoroughly before venturing towards a solution.
  • Your objective must not be to merely fix the problem but to deliver a long term solution. This will enable you to think harder, reason out with clarity, test your solution in theory and then implement it in practice with a higher success rate.
  • Be prepared to fail but be ready to continue your quest to solve the problem. Despite your best efforts at coming up with the right solution to a problem, there could be problems in implementation. The failure will make you aware of the mistakes and hopefully you will not repeat them.
  • Get your hands dirty – do it yourself. Do not just stand at the side and suggest/ guide/ give advice. Practical difficulties are best learned when one does a task. It gives you invaluable experience too.
  • Have the right attitude – a problem must be a challenge not a pain that you wish you never encountered. When you see it as a challenge, you are motivated, enthused and energetic enough to invest your time in solving it. Else you will be doing a shoddy job to just get by.
  • Never underestimate the power of suggestions from others – Many a time the subordinate or a co worker or a boss can give you inputs that will speed up your thinking. Learn to listen with intent to learn.
  • Hone your creative thinking skills – While practical thinking will help you get the job done, it is your creative thinking that will often help you come up with innovative ideas, help visualize problems differently, direct you to a unique course of action.

Managing Self

Identifying your problem, like a good diagnosis done by a doctor, holds the key to cure your ills. Half your problem is solved because you have identified your problem and acknowledged it by seeking suggestions to overcome it.

There could be various reasons why you are an attention seeker. I enumerate a few for you to appreciate the fine /subtle nuances involved, based on which you need to drill down your problem and identify the root cause of it.

  • You come from a family of achievers and in comparison you subconsciously feed that you do not measure up to them and hence you crave to get the same attention.
  • You have certain limitations and you tend to try to deflect attention from these limitations by trying to draw attention to what you perceive are your strengthens. e.g. in comparison to others you are very short and hence you try to get noticed for your enthusiastic participation in happenings around.
  • You are at heart an introvert who is now trying to overcome that by masquerading as an extrovert.
  • You have always been the center of attraction in childhood and you crave the same attention even now.

So now comes the substantive issue of overcoming this urge to be the center of attraction. You can attempt / adapt the following or discover some new techniques on the lines of my suggestions.

  • If you can identify the root cause ( either some from the list above or based on your own analysis) the antidote would be self evident.
  • Study the body language of those around you (e.g. people feel restless / they keep shuffling their feet / they try to interrupt you etc. ) and you will quickly grasp when you have to change your behavior or attention seeking display.
  • Learn to listen to others and limit your contribution to a few sentences or relevant examples.
  • Be aware of your tendency to score brownie points on an argument or to have the last word or to interrupt others, just to draw attention to yourself.
  • Encourage your close friends / spouse / siblings to signal to you or subtly hint to you if you are unconsciously trying to be the center of attraction.
  • Some people have the tendency of being extremely modest about their talents (e.g. you are talented musician or singer or mimic artist) and play hard to get to display their talent. This is done simply because they hope that by obliging after being modest, the audience will appreciate the display and make the performer the center of attraction. Watch out for this tendency in yourself.
  • Learn to freely appreciate others and you will be able to analyze your own abilities / talents in comparison to those better than you.
  • Learn to take criticism in your stride; you will be grounded and genuinely note the areas of improvement. This could also curb your natural urge to be the center of attraction.

Public Speaking

The possible reasons for your incoherent manner of expression could be one or more of the following:

  • you are anxious about the situation ( e.g. in an interview / when communicating to your seniors or a crowd )
  • your thoughts come in torrents and you want to quickly make it coherent but you get swamped by the variety and speed of the ideas
  • you think in your native tongue and then are trying to translate it to the language you are communicating in
  • you are too conscious of the fact that you do not communicate effectively and so the pressure gets to you
  • you have a communication role model and perhaps feel you are very inadequate as compared to the role model. This brings in a different psychological pressure.
  • you are not too strong in structuring your thoughts in a logical manner
  • you are unable to find the right median to meet your audience requirements ( e.g. there are children and adults in the audience and you are not sure if you can meet the requirements of both types of audiences)
  • your language skills are inadequate and have a limitation in vocabulary
  • you are plain nervous because of your past experiences/ feedback
The good part is that you acknowledge your problem. Hence it is possible for you to make changes to improve, provided you are willing to take the effort and not be disheartened if the progress is slow.

My suggestions to overcome your problem and become more coherent and thereby more engaging in your verbal communication are as under:

  • Always visualize your audience need and try to meet that requirement. This means that if you were to listen to another person what would you expect from that person. ( e.g. in giving this answer, I have used a bullet point style rather than a paragraph style because I want to ensure that each point of mine is differentiated by me for the reader to understand better)
  • Try to communicate only the key points starting with the most important. Do not attempt to communicate everything you know. It can overwhelm you and possibly tune off your audience.
  • Learn to identify the outline of your communication, point wise and then expand on each point. To do this you must be clear what the key of your communication is. In written communication, the subject line if well written gives a very clear picture of what needs to be elaborated in the communication. Similarly, in a formal setting you must be very clear as to what you want your listener to understand. In an informal setting, as when you are with office colleagues in the canteen or with friends, you can be very casual but avoid taking extreme positions especially regarding your political views, your religious views, any form of negative views about your work environment, social environment etc.
  • Speak slowly. Your rate/ speed of speech must be consciously slowed down. You may tend to speak fast because you are afraid you may forget your next point. Do not make that mistake of speaking fast and thereby getting muddled in your mind and confusing your listener.
  • Aim to satisfy only your key audience not everyone. (e.g. if you have an audience of parents and children and the topic ‘Is importance of studies’, remember your key audience is your students who need to be motivated to study because of your talk. The parents are not the ones to get motivated and study but they get inputs from your talk that can help them to encourage their children to study)
  • Learn from any feedback you get and quickly adapt (e.g. if your listener is constantly asking you to repeat yourself it means either your communication is not being clearly heard or clearly understood or both)
  • Listen before you talk – Listen not just to the words but the tone, the language, the body language, be aware of the setting etc. Listening gives you ample clues as to how you can engage with your audience. (e.g. even in an informal setting someone could deliberately ignite the audience with a controversial observation or remark. Do not get drawn into such a situation because the intent of the original communicator is not to engage in an intellectual communication but perhaps to create a controversy)
  • Be prepared to have an audience view point completely different from yours. Remember that every individual is unique in thought and behavior. So there could also be people who have a very different view of matters. Do not provoke or ignore them but learn to respect their individuality even if you despise their views. Your communication then will be less emotional and more inclusive.


A person is normally perceived as shy when he/ she is uncomfortable in the presence of others. The three common situations are

  • In the presence of authorities or people of a higher status / power
  • In social situations e.g. in a wedding or a public meeting or an informal get-together / formal party
  • In situations where one needs to be assertive .e.g. To go and make an inquiry or register a complaint

It is not necessary that a person has to be an extrovert in order to be bold i.e. not shy. Introverts are merely comfortable being aloof and prefer not to to interact with others but when required they are confident about themselves and bold enough to articulate / interact as required.

However, confidence is a must. If he/ she does not believe in one’s own abilities / strengths / legitimate needs and rights, then the person would slowly become a recluse. Perhaps your lack of confidence is possibly largely responsible for your acute anxiety whenever you have to interact with people. Your lack of confidence could also be due to low self esteem or some traumatic experiences or some bitter criticism.

I also suggest that you work on your conversational skills and learn the art of asking open ended questions that elicit a more elaborate response than a mere YES or No response from those you interact with. You must also practice the art of responding with at least a couple of sentences when responding to others. Learning to compliment people and giving them genuine appreciation will enable you to get others to respond positively to you.

The following tips could also be useful for you:

  • When in a group you will find some natural extrovert coming up to you and striking a conversation. Use the opportunity to warm up and be better prepared to try the same with some other people in the group.
  • You must learn the art of identifying people who look lost or who seem to be introverts and perhaps you will be more comfortable trying to initiate a conversation with such people.
  • Learn the art of introducing yourself and also some good lines / questions that are open ended. Be careful not to be too aggressive with a response that runs counter to the opinion /views of the person you are interacting with has.
  • Also find polite ways of excusing yourself from a conversation so that you can move on if bored or if you want to interact with others.


A healthy competition exists when you do not put your competitor to any disadvantage by any deliberate act of yours, whilst also respecting the competitor’s ability to be on par with you.
If you use any unfair means in an exam, apart from you lowering your standards, you are also deliberately putting your competitor at a disadvantage. Similarly deliberately misleading your competitor or with holding information to get an unfair advantage for yourself is also not being a healthy sport yourself.
Respect for the competitor includes appreciating their success, acknowledging their abilities and valuing their presence in getting the best out of you.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that you are competing with yourself only; ask if you are making full use of your potential and achieving the full measure of your capability.

To know the difference between non- fiction and fiction we should understand what is classified under each category. Books classified as fiction books are purely the output of vivid imagination e.g. murder mysteries, thrillers, court room drams, plays etc. Where the content is purely based on vivid imagination the final product would end being classified as fiction. Non-fiction books refer to the books that are not purely a figment of imagination. Non-fiction books would encompass genres like autobiographies, biographies, and self development books.

The terms self- help, self improvement and personal development books all largely fall under the generic nomenclature of self development books. They form a subset of the non-fiction category of books.

To understand the subtle difference between the three terms self- help, self improvement and personal development books ( people use the terms interchangeably) let me give illustrations

Self – help books – Where the author attempts to give a deep insight and practical suggestions to overcome a specific problem. e.g. books that attempt to give solutions for specific issues like overcoming stammering or coping with depression etc.

Self improvement books – Here the focus is on mastering a trait or overcoming a weakness e.g. books on public speaking / etiquette’s / leadership skills/ decision making / time management etc.

Personal Development books – The contents of these books attempt to give holistic insights on how an individual can make positive changes in herself/ himself to become even more effective and productive. E.g. books on positive thinking / effective executive skills. Books like How to win friends and influence people or Awaken the Giant within you or The Power of Positive Thinking or Seven Habits of Highly Effective People would tend to fall under this category.

Let me explain this with an example

Objective : To be a world class athlete ( Define this as participating in the World athletics championship / be a finalist in the Olympics)
Goal : To attain the minimum standards required to qualify ( Identify the standards required and focus on that)
Aim : To improve upon the personal best so as to progress and meet the goal set. ( Get a realistic assessment done by a qualified coach, get all the inputs required (training schedule, diet, equipment, improve on technique, participation in the right tournaments etc.)

Once you achieve your original objective, then you redefine your objective and obviously your goals and aim will have to be tweaked accordingly. In the above case, the objective could be, to have a podium finish or to break the world record.

Writing down goals is a very personal choice. However, in my view, generally the goal focus at various stages of one’s life could largely focus on the following:

In school days – Most goals are set by parents and the focus is largely on academic excellence. Studious students normally translate these goals into scoring in the top percentile; less studious students would aim to score a first distinction or a first class while the rest focus on clearing the subjects they find tough/ difficult and scoring reasonably well in other subjects so that they are not at the bottom of the class.

In college (graduation / post graduation) – The above trend is largely seen, except that students now make a more informed and conscious choice about their academic future and the chances of converting that into a meaningful career.

Early career – Depending on the the kind of job openings and job satisfaction the focus is largely to do well in the job and also gain valuable experience. Those who are more ambitious would attempt to plan a growth strategy within the corporate or those who do not see such an opportunity or those who believe they need to take a quantum leap would focus on getting a better job profile, a better company profile and a better income profile.

Mid-career – The goals would be directed towards growing faster in terms of quality of work, better designations, more power, quantum leap in income levels and balancing it with a good quality of family life. Work life balance does become an important focus of attention. Focus would also be on savings, asset creation, long term financial goals ( children’s education / retirement etc.) and personal goals ( traveling more especially overseas / pursuing a personal passion etc.)

At 50+ – The goal would be ensure that one is prepared to wind up his/her career while ensuring that the family (especially children are settled in terms of career/ marriage etc.) It is also a time when larger focus is on planning the retirement cash flows and income streams. Depending on one’s health, family and financial status there could be goals that seek to leverage long pending passions / self actualization needs.

I must add here that the above is a scenario I visualize and it is biased towards the though process of a salaried employee. A business person would possibly also, by and large, follow the same thought process but it would be tweaked to his/her business acumen and needs. Similarly those pursuing an off beat career like those who are professional sportsperson’s or in the field of art and culture or cinema would also tweak their goals accordingly.