Just as it is important to use all the ingredients in the right measure to cook a perfect dish, a good sense of proportion brings better results in life. We need to accurately assess the person, situation, time, and place and act appropriately to get the desired outcome.

A lot of the successes we achieve, big or small, are made possible and easy by the cooperation of others. Such cooperation is based on the kinds of relationships we have with people, however brief. Even if I need to see a person just once to get some work done, and I know that I will not be meeting them ever again, I need to be mindful of how I speak to them so that they help me accomplish my task quickly. On the other hand, if I am in a position of authority or influence and others come to me for help, I will relate to them and behave differently.

Throughout our lives, and almost every day, we adapt to different people, places, and situations to con-form to the norms of accepted behavior and maintain harmony in relationships. This, in turn, earns us love, respect, and cooperation from those we interact with.

Carelessness or an error of judgment on our part can have undesirable consequences. Speak a little curt-ly to the clerk in the local government office who will process your application for a building permit, and he will make sure that you visit the office a few more times than necessary. But if you happen to hit it off with him in your very first encounter, the same clerk may fill out the application form for you and tell you what documents you need to submit to get approval at the earliest.

Prickly clerks are not the only people with whom we need to watch how we speak or behave; we have to be alert to the moods, sensitivities, and expectations of almost everyone so that our interactions and relations with them are easy and pleasant.

To be able to do this, we must have the ability to discern what others need or want, and correctly judge the prevailing atmosphere or mood. For example, it is good to have a cheerful disposition, but gliding into someone’s home with a loud greeting when they are mourning a death in the family might not be the best thing to do.

That does not mean I have to wear a serious look all the time and make others wonder what is wrong with me.

Knowing what to say and how to say it, when to step into a situation and when to step back or stay de-tached, and when to be loving and strict, helps us face different situations successfully.

To be able to make the right judgment and act suitably, I need to have a clear intellect. If I am caught up with my own needs and desires, I will not be able to read situations correctly, as my thinking will be clouded by my weaknesses.

Sometimes we know what we need to do to resolve a particular situation, but we are so crippled by our faults, be it anger, ego, jealousy, or sensitivity that we are unable to speak or act in the required manner and end up making matters worse.

To acquire the freedom to act the way I want, unfettered by emotions and my inner flaws, I need to connect with my true self, the spiritual being that is at the core of my identity.

This being, called the soul, is originally pure, peaceful, loving, and powerful. I need to remind myself of what I am really like and acknowledge the fact that my defects are not a part of me; they are harmful accretions acquired unwittingly. I need not be a hostage to these shortcomings, which have only given me sorrow.

Once I know who I am, and stop identifying with the defects that I have acquired, I begin to experi-ence my inner virtues and start expressing them in my actions. The more I maintain this self-awareness, the freer I become from negative influences, whether they come from within or outside. I am then able to see things clearly and act properly, which brings success and saves me from a lot of sorrow.

B.K. Asha is the Director of the Brahma Kumaris’ Om Shanti Retreat Centre in Gurugram, Haryana.