How He Does It | Gurpreet Kalra

Every March comes bearing the gifts of preparation for a deep internal shift. A transformation. This year was no exception.

As a true Holstee disciple, I dedicated March to Wellness: this state of being healthy in both body and mind, as the result of deliberate effort. I invested a lot of thought on what makes me feel whole. What resonates.

I went on to tweak my daily habits to experience exactly that: feeling centered, strong and omnipotent. Acknowledging how there’s no shortcut (or single path) to Wellness. It’s multidimensional. I took deliberate action to care for each and every one of the following areas: Mind, Body, Soul, Work, Play and Love. Here’s the gifts of deliberate action March came bearing:

  • Mind: I joined Vishen Lakhiani’s Mindvalley, and I’m ecstatic with the experience and content so far. I seriously cannot recommend this space enough, and I have used far too many learning experience websites thus far to safely say I have a deeply informed opinion on digital learning platforms. This space definitely came at the best possible timing for me, as I work to expand my impact and consciousness.
  • Body: I started training with a weighted hula hoop to further strengthen my core, with a middle section officially beginning to look toned. It sounds fun, but trust me when I say it’s more badass than it sounds. I also incorporated some of Ronan Oliveira’s Advanced Home Workouts on my daily regime, keeping every exercise super slow.
  • Soul: I’m officially a serial journaler. I write down stuff multiple times per day. I take frequent deliberate breaks to reflect and note down thoughts on my journal as a way to declutter my head. Furthermore, I am a proud member of a daily Clubhouse community where I connect with fellow-Greeks willing to share three things I am grateful of.
  • Work: I gave tons of thought on my professional interests, my respective strengths and that sweet spot where those two overlap. I took some bold steps in this direction, and I will be sharing more on that in the months to come.
  • Play: My idea of fun manifests through some sort of Exploration. Visiting a new place. Learning about a new idea. Since travelling amidst the pandemic is pretty much out of the question, I got this month’s playtime through incessant book-worming (on top of Mindvalley!) eager to achieve this year’s Reading Challenge on Goodreads.
  • Love: I made a series of commitments to myself. I committed to loving myself unconditionally. To respect myself and my boundaries. At the same time, to show up loving my family, through practicing connection, patience and understanding more often than disconnection, impatience and criticism. I also decided to love my community and give back to both the Working Moms of Athens Lean In Circle as well as the broader Working Parents Community (more on the latter in an upcoming post).

Having dedicated every day of March to my idea of holistic Wellness, I can think of no better person to feature on this month’s How He Does It column than my dear friend Gurpreet Kalra. Gurpreet is my mentor in all things Talent Development. A fellow JBA’-er. My accountability partner in professional growth. A person who always shows up wholeheartedly in any interaction. Someone who shares insight, experience, ideas. A brilliant man, and true supporter of my growth vision, even though we live some thousand kilometers apart.

Gurpreet Kalra, Head of Talent Development – Nordics, Spain & Portugal, Tata Consultancy Services

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a learning and development professional working with one of the top IT consulting firms of the world. I work in the area of leadership development and performance coaching. I am a certified OD and change consultant and   have a degree in biotechnology.

Although I have a travelling job, my current base is in Kolkata – one of the oldest cities of the world and also home to Nobel Laureates Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mother Theresa, Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee) – with my parents-in-law, wife and our five-year-old daughter, Sara.

I am interested in people and cultures and this city offers an interesting milieu that is old yet vibrant, modern yet rooted in its heritage and colonial past, fascinating yet at times frustrating. If one gets past the dust and chaos of Kolkata, the decaying façade belies a city full of heart and voice. And in this ‘city of joy’, my wife and I do our small bit to help bring smiles on the faces of the underprivileged children and women through a Kolkata-based charity, Women’s Interlink Foundation.

Stemming from your personal experience, what is the toughest part of being a Dad, and how do you manage it?

Disciplining. Tough love is not my strong suit and I often tend to cave on rules and consequences at the first sight of tears rolling down my cherub’s face. The downside is that Sara has understood that acting out can get her what she wants and it is not helpful for the family that my wife has to always be the bad cop.

To manage this, we have done a few things: collaborated on a few house rules – Sara contributed in every step of the way right from offering ideas on reward, decorating the chart to posting it on the refrigerator – that everyone agrees to and lives by those rules; help Sara cool down with her favorite cuddle toy instead of time-outs (they never worked in our case), and use demonstration and role play to inculcate right behavior. Last but not the least, my wife has to cue me in when I get all gooey.

Who is (are) your go-to person(s) when you need support as a Father? What type of support are you mostly in need of?

I mostly reach out to two of my colleagues, who like us, are adoptive parents and are ahead of us in the parenting journey. They are able to provide me with empathetic, been-there-done-that advice. While parenting in most ways is very much the same – whether your child is biological or adopted, we adoptive families are faced with unique challenges.

There are times when I need an empathetic, tenured eye to help me see a situation through the nature versus nurture lens and understand that although nurture counts more than nature (genes), children do inherit a tendency to behave in a particular way and that this should not be ignored.

What’s the No1 Skill (or Ability, or Knowledge) you have found handy in your role as a Father?

My comic streak helped a lot during our daughter’s toddler phase when my antics would send her into peals of laughter or distract her from doing what we did not want her to do.

Now, it is my coaching skills that are coming in handy. As much as possible, I try to use coaching and thinking skills to solve difficult situations. Children’s thoughts are more in terms of wishes, memories, events, and less in rational thinking. Hence, I factor this into my coaching conversation with her and use references from my own childhood experiences. I will cite a recent example when Sara’s report card arrived.

She got a poor rating in communication. Her favorite teacher was not happy that Sara’s responses were one-worded. The immediate reaction would typically be to blame the learner, ourselves, teachers or the context. But because of my experience with adult learners, I knew that all we need to do is to design a better, frictionless way to reach learning objectives. So, I devised a game. Sara would get a gummy bear if only she responds in four words or more. Sara was excited. She loves gummy bears. Sara earned many gummy bears during the next few weeks and built a habit. Now she enjoys talking in sentences, gummy bears notwithstanding.

What advice do you have for a new Dad?

My two cents: do not sweat the small stuff. Do not kill yourself over things that are not within your control. There is no holy grail for ideal parenting. It is all good if it comes from a place of love. Enjoy the small moments that make up each day. Yes, sometimes you will be exhausted and might regret being a parent, but if you take pleasure in watching them grow and become a real person, the years will fly. I have no idea where did the last five years go!

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