Every year I always think that I am better off than the previous year. But 2014 is quite special since I have chosen to initiate major changes in my worldview and way of doing things. These have enabled me to find myself more in the things that I do. Ultimately it is about making the choice that works for you. I just want to share some of this year’s most valuable learnings as my way of thanking the world for all the blessings in the past months.
This may seem like a selfish learning but I have realised that you can give more of yourself to work, family, community, others by taking care of yourself. You cannot draw anything meaningful and worthwhile from something that is empty or spent so it pays to fill up your well with experiences that keep you whole. I read a book of the same title by James Altucher and he speaks of only doing things you enjoy “Only think about the people that you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too. This is a daily practice…. Every time you say yes to something you don’t want, your fire starts to go away.”
My running and training is a way of choosing myself amidst all the demands of the various roles that I play. It is not about escaping from all the responsibilities but it is about spending time with one’s self, doing something that I love. Movement has been my meditation and it has given me the opportunity to find my center. This practice has actually helped me become a cooler mom, a more loving wife, a more engaged worker and an overall happier individual willing to reach out to do more and be more in this world.
Choose to Focus
In a world where multitasking is praised, it may seem counterintuitive to just choose to do one thing at a time. But spreading your attention too thinly leaves you with half-baked, mediocre work or experiences or just doing things simply for compliance. If it is something that is truly important to you then focus on it. Whatever you focus on expands.
This is most apparent with the work that I do now. Since it is less structured and more fluid than a corporate set-up, it is important to have some discipline in the way I carry out things. I realized that if I put a certain framework to how my day will flow and chunk my work hours into focused activities, I get to accomplish a lot more. Activities that require more effort are done early in the day from around 8:00 AM until around 4:00 PM. I am a morning person and I would rather wake up at dawn to work on a pending project than stay up past 10:00 PM. I choose to focus on having enough rest so I wake up refreshed and operate much more efficiently the next day.
Choose to Prioritize
A lot of things seem urgent in a world of bustle. But you have to choose to weed out what is truly important. Everything else is just noise. Schedule what is important to give these the time that they are due. Eventually these will evolve into habits that you can’t live without every single day. Once you have set your priorities, it is easier to focus. At the same time, there is also much liberty for spontaneity since you have already earmarked time for the most significant things and can therefore choose to spend the extra time for other interesting things.
At first glance, my day looks pretty routinary:
- 5:00AM Wake Up
- 5:50AM Breakfast
- 6:00AM Leave for the Gym
- 6:30AM – 8:00AM Training
- 8:00AM – 9:00AM Write or do consultancy-based work
- 9:00AM – 9:45AM Clear work inbox, make presentations
- 10:00AM – Start meetings or do important work
- 4:00PM-6:00PM – Check email, set meetings, do paperwork
- 7:00PM – Dinner
- 7:30PM to 10:00PM- Play time with kids
- 10:00PM Lights Out
I really like it that I know how my day generally flows with the most important tasks allocated specific time chunks. But this framework is flexible enough to accommodate activities that align as well with the priorities that I have set, for things that I truly enjoy.
Choose Experiences over Things
I recently read an interesting write-up that touched on this topic as well. In the article “Abundance Without Attachment”, the author cites a 2003 study conducted by psychologists from the University of Colorado and Cornell about how people remembered different kinds of purchases – material things and experiences- they have made in the past. They found that reflecting on experiential purchases left their subjects significantly happier than did remembering material acquisitions.
I think I have written about this in past posts but this remains a significant learning that I live by. I don’t really remember gifts I have received from previous Christmases or birthdays but I remember the time when we got lost in a new city or that time when we pitched a tent by the lakeside and had a picnic there.
Choose the Company You Keep
We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Yes we are our own person but we also are affected, more than we want to admit it, by the people around us. We feed off other people’s enthusiasm, energy and positive dispositions but we also get drained by negativity. We may not be able to choose to be with people we like in the work that we do but we can choose to detach from other people’s neediness and ego so we can focus on the task that needs to be done. But for those who we hold dear and spend the most time with, choose with utmost discernment. Our worldview is coloured by the company we keep.
Choose to Learn
In making decisions, choose the path where learning is maximised. There may be a lot of options and all may seem interesting but go where you will get the most valuable learning.
I chose to leave a stable career that I truly enjoyed for something that was just starting out. I have always wanted to start something on my own but have not totally figured out what it was. I told myself that the only way to discover it and at the same time learn how to build a business is if I immersed myself in a startup. So I took a leap of faith. I’m glad I did because nothing can compare to learning things firsthand and being on the ground as things happen.
Choose to Build Habits
I am constantly asked how to get started on a fitness regimen. I always tell people to start with very little time investment, like lightly jogging or walking for five minutes at 6PM every day. You have to make it easy to get started. Then you gradually increase the time spent on the exercise. Before you know it you are already doing a full thirty-minute run.
The key is to show up, to be there when you said you will. Then it becomes an integral part of your day that you can’t live without. As mentioned in the book Superhuman by Tynan- “Start small, become consistent, and increase at a manageable pace. That’s how you optimise for the finish line, rather than the starting line”.
I share these learning to you as my gift this Christmas. I don’t have much material things to give out but I give you my time and my written words to celebrate this blessed season. Merry Christmas and looking forward to another great year ahead!