By Suma Varughese December 2003 Now that we are almost at the end of 2003, it’s time to cross your Ts and dot your Is. In other words, complete the unfinished business and come up to date with your life so you can transit into the New Year footloose and fancy free. The year is almost at an end. A significant slice of your life has been lived. How has it been? How have you changed? In what areas have you grown? What fresh skills, goals, achievements, experiences have you acquired? Any hard knocks and bruises? Any learning through the path of pain? Or, lucky you, through the path of joy? How is your health? The state of your relationships? Finance? Career? Family? Personal life? Are you a better person or the worse for the year that is about to pass? December is the month for reflection. For taking stock and coming to terms with all that has happened. For letting go of hurts and resentments. For resolving conflicts and confusions. For letting go of unrealistic dreams and ambitions and for creating achievable goals. For forgiving yourself for the messes and moving on to a better tomorrow. For completing all that is incomplete so that you can enter the new year with a clean and clear heart, soul and mind. It’s all a part of good housekeeping, this spring cleaning of your mind. Brushing the cobwebs off the little visited areas of memory, mending the fraying threads of relationships and reinforcing them for greater wear and tear. Throwing away the refuse of the past and putting away what is no longer needed. Ventilating the contents of the mind and polishing little used faculties and skills. It’s about bringing your life into the present, unhindered by the past. It’s about shrugging off the year’s accumulated baggage and scampering freely into the new. Like spring cleaning, it’s no picnic. Buried things must be brought to light. Unpleasant events must be faced and action taken. Hard work is called for. But like spring cleaning, the relief is exquisite. That apart, taking stock of your life and leveraging your discoveries is one of the secrets behind the effectiveness of highly successful people. As an author once remarked, the life unexamined is a life not worth living. Successful people know this and they periodically review their lives to see if they are on track with their life goals, if all’s well with the inner world, and above all, to learn from their mistakes and use them to move towards greater growth and success. Sheilu Sreenivasan, President of Dignity Foundation, a Mumbai-based organization offering composite services to the elderly, has an annual ritual that begins on the 1st of December. “In the whole of December during my spare time, I go through my daily diary and I learn plenty about things that have not worked. I leave what works well alone, and concentrate on the mistakes. Then I ask myself, ‘Therefore what needs to be done?’ In answering this question, I solve many problems and also create the goals for the next year.” Her creative problem-solving ability has enabled her to successfully transform what was a magazine for the elderly called Dignity Dialogue to a movement for senior citizens that included liaising with the government on security issues, finding jobs for those in need, providing counseling services and helplines, and various other services. “Getting advertisements for the magazine was difficult. So we developed other services and projects, of which we now have 14. And although staying afloat is never easy, we are managing.” Her habit of introspecting and reflecting have accessed truths that make it easy to live in the flow of life. “Adversities open doors. Invariably I have found that if someone resigned from the company, the replacement is even better. I can now say okay to people who want to leave. Relationships and their relative health is another area Sheilu examines scrupulously at the end of each year. “I look at the people, including staff, with whom I have clicked and see if there are patterns there that I can learn from. I have also learnt to let relationships that have not worked go, instead of making them a bigger mess. One cannot dwell too much on the past. One must simply learn from it and let it go.” Find out which area needs attention in the coming year. One year it could be your professional life, and in the next it could be personal. -Nandan Savnal So what are the areas that need looking at when making an annual review of your life? NLP and personal growth trainer Nandan Savnal suggests that you look at four segments: personal, professional, social and spiritual. Personal life is to be further divided into the roles one plays so that justice can be done to all. Make sure you take finances, health, and relationships into account. He suggests that for maximum effect, review the year every quarter. “Unless you maintain a log, a year is too long a timeframe.” Savnal advocates goal and target setting within a specific timeframe for maximum effectiveness. “When reviewing most people want to know why they have gone slow in one area and so swift in another. Reviewing and working on targets allows you to realize your infinite potential. Even personal changes like eliminating undesirable habits such as thinking negatively can be achieved within a specific timeframe. Psychologists say that most habits can be changed within 21 days.” And what if you cannot meet your targets within the timeframe? “Extend the timeframe. Maybe eventually you will achieve your target in six months and not 21 days, but unless you have a schedule, nothing will change.” Savnal also suggests that you factor in flexibility and adjustment while planning your goals. “Find out which area needs attention in the coming year. Maybe one year your professional life will need more attention, and in the next, your personal life will take the forefront. To make your life work in all areas, you must learn to be flexible and dynamic and mediate constantly between the four areas of your life as well as between the endless tussle of the urgent and the important.” I ask myself, ‘what needs to be done?’ In answering this, I solve many problems and also create the goals for the next year.-Sheilu Sreenivasan Others have a more philosophical approach to life introspection. Minnu R. Bhonsle, a practicing counselor and psychotherapist, uses death as her stock-taker. “Death is the greatest teacher and I have never left its companionship,” she says. Introspection, far from being an annual exercise, is conducted every night. “I imagine that this could be the last night of my life and I review it from that context. Am I complete in all areas? The day I began this exercise many years ago, I went about completing all unfinished business and unresolved conflicts. And since then I have kept evaluating to see that I retain that sense of completeness.” Using death as the yardstick for your life review, Mince says, puts your life and lifestyle in perspective. “You ask what is meaningful, and what isn’t. You evaluate every step to see that it is aligned to your ultimate goal. If any action creates unease or takes me off-track, I will abandon it.” Her own goal is to be a friend to those in need, an agenda that, as all who know her will testify, she practices sincerely and compassionately. Rooshi Kumar Pandya, the well-known motivational speaker, has a similar approach to evaluating his life. He says: “Every evening before I go to sleep I take stock of the day. What did I do? What did I not do? I may not wake up the next morning, so are there any loose ends? If there are and correction is in my power, I will do it. If not, I ask for forgiveness.” Pandya pays particular attention to relationships. “My strength and greatest asset is my network of relationships, so I examine how I have maintained and nourished them through the day. Of particular importance is to value people and to deliver on your promises.” Health is another area of daily inspection. “If there’s anything amiss, I take prompt action, and I think positively. I don’t worry or obsess about the problem.” Keeping abreast of life in all areas allows him to look forward to the new day with joy. “Life is very exciting,” he beams. Writer, poet and workshop holder Rohini Gupta uses her daily journal for annual clarity. “For me the year changes at my birthday, the time of my annual review. There’s no such thing as mistakes and upsets, they are only opportunities,” she points out. “I work out what to achieve on the work front, what classes I want to take based on what areas I want to explore. You get a clearer idea of what you want to do with this exercise. It also helps you to let go of things that are ending. You can move on in the realisation that each year is new and different.” Rohini advocates the adoption of a daily journal to help you keep track of the year. “It gives you clarity like no other system does,” she says. Yoga teacher Ajay Lagoo is yet another believer in the power of daily stock-taking. “Every night before going to sleep I think of the highlights of the day. What is the best thing I have done? I thank God for it. What is the worst? I ask God for the strength not to do it again. Then I offer thanks to God for the whole day.” Every evening before I go to sleep I take stock of the day. I may not wake up the next morning, so are there any loose ends?-Rooshi Kumar Pandya Short and sweet and to the point. A vigorous looking senior citizen, Lagoo exudes peace of mind and an unspoilt sweetness of disposition. This then is one of the rewards of being complete with your life. Your energies are not blocked up and scattered throughout the ye
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