“You will hit what you aim at; but if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
The new year 2021 has dawned and we are only in the first week of this year and hence I thought it to be a good time to pen down something which has been my routine for many years. I hope you find the ideas in this post useful and productive. If you are doing things differently and they are bearing fruits in your life, do share those ideas with me so that our community could benefit from this collective wisdom. I am sanguine that you followed the series on the Law of Attraction (LOA) and gained clarity about this natural law. One of my very dear friends, a scholar-soldier, had this to say:
“I am reading the book The Secret, thanks for suggesting it. I must tell you this book is making a difference. I think it is providence that your recommendations came at the right time when I needed them (he was recovering from Covid). I am feeling much better after knowing this art and applying it upon myself. The LOA is already affecting me. I am finding it very useful. Will go deeper into this study. It has really caught my interest and is changing me.”
However, few readers found the scientific explanations of the LOA tough to follow. I would very humbly like to submit that without these scientific and empirical proofs the posts would have sounded hollow and cliched. I would exhort my friends to read the posts once again as I have simplified the concepts to a great extent and they are germane to develop a belief in the LOA.
The year 2020 was, well, interesting on all counts. The Black Swan event of Covid 19 took the entire world by surprise, resulted in the death of millions, destroyed economies and jobs, and disrupted the normal lives of practically everyone. The pandemic is still raging and I pray and hope that the vaccine trials are successful and we can get on with our normal lives soon. I am an inveterate optimist and I feel if I can write this post and you are reading this post, we both are OK. I mean things could have been far worse for us.
There are things which are in our ‘Areas of Influence‘ and which we must strive to change, however, there also are things which are only in our ‘Areas of Concern‘ about which we should not unduly bother. Covid 19 is clearly in our Area of Concern about which we can’t do much but we can and must take all precautions to avoid contracting and spreading this disease which is squarely in our Area of Influence. So, be safe and tide over this difficult phase – this too shall pass.
So, the first step to review 2020, ask yourself – at this very moment, are you happy or unhappy? I mean not the superficial kind of happy or unhappy but the real happy/unhappy – from within you. Let me elaborate, I have a niggle in my left ankle and despite whatever I am doing my mind keeps going to my pain. But this is transitory and actually, I am not unhappy, but my body and mind are – the real me is just an observer who is noticing that my body is feeling some pain due to which my mind is unhappy. On the other hand, my daughter has just got a new smartphone today (from Amazon) and she is absolutely ecstatic. But this happiness too is superficial and fleeting and depends on an external object – the smartphone. Soon, the novelty of this new phone will wear off and my daughter will have to look for a new toy to feel happy. No, I don’t mean this kind of happiness or unhappiness, I am talking about being intrinsically happy irrespective of what’s happening around you – including Covid 19.
The second step, If your answer is NO, honestly ask yourself what is it that is making you unhappy? Is it something on your physical plane (a disease or illness maybe), mental plane (a discomforting thought or feeling; some anxiety), professional plane (your career or business etc.), financial plane (are you satisfied with your money situation), family plane (interpersonal relations; something to do with your spouse, parents, children or other near and dear ones), social plane (your friends, workspace, neighbourhood etc.) or spiritual plane (not religious but deep down do you feel connected with the supreme power – the name by which you call Him is immaterial.) Similarly, if your answer is YES, try pinpointing the things which are making you feel happy on all the above-mentioned planes.
The third step is to look at all these seven spheres individually and try to pinpoint, on a scale of 10, where you rate yourself in 2020? To take an example, on the financial plane you may feel to be on top of the world, so you can rate yourself a 9 or 10. While on the family front you feel there is a lot to be desired and hence you may rate yourself a 4 or 5. Remember, this is just a subjective analysis which is based on your feelings and aspirations and needs to be backed up by solid facts and data, which we will get into the next steps. In a way this step is telling you how you feel about each sphere of your “Wheel of Life” but as we shall shortly see, our feelings many a time deceive us.
In the fourth step, ask yourself what is the basis of your feeling in a particular manner, be it positive like a 9 or 10 or negative like a 3 or 4, on each sphere of your life. We live in a world defined by duality so if you feel that you are only a 3 or 4 on say family sphere, ask yourself, have you set yourself a metric which tells you that you have reached 9 or 10 on the family sphere? Similarly, if you are feeling on top of the world on the financial sphere what makes you feel that way? Most of us don’t have a specific yardstick to measure our happiness or unhappiness on these spheres of life and keep getting buffeted by events/circumstances/people etc. To elaborate further your feeling happy on the financial sphere may well be due to the stock you have invested in having risen by 200% that day. The converse is equally true. However, is it the holistic definition of your financial sphere?
Have you defined for yourself the exact parameters along which you can measure your happiness or progress in life regularly? If you have not done so, let me give you some pointers which you are free to modify as per your needs and aspirations. So, the following seven steps (steps five to eleven) will give you specific pointers to your feeling or judgement and will aid you in measuring your progress on the path to success, wealth and health.
In the fifth step, let us start with the physical sphere. Please look into the mirror – do you like who you see staring back at you? Is the person smiling at you, is he/she looking relaxed, happy, energetic and contended or is she/he frowning, and looking tired and irritable? This is your overall physical appearance. How are your physical parameters and how often do you check them? Are your weight, BP, basic blood and other tests normal and when did you last have them checked? Are you doing regular exercise – at least five times a week for 30-45 minutes a day? Are you taking a balanced and healthy diet and is your eating schedule regular? Are you a smoker or heavy drinker? Is it not the time to scale back or quit? Do you find yourself to be stressed most of the time or you are intrinsically peaceful? You may add more if you wish but the abovementioned parameters generally cover the entire spectrum of the physical sphere of life.
Now rate yourself on a scale of 10 along each of these six sub-parameters (appearance, basic medical parameters, exercise, diet, harmful indulgences and stress), total them up and divide by six. Compare the result with your score in the third step. You may find a huge disparity in the two scores or even if the average scores are similar, you may find few of the sub-parameters having a lower score than your average. This now gives you laser-focus on what you want to concentrate upon along the physical parameters of life in 2021. In the following steps, we will go through other six parameters of life similarly without detailed explanations. Here are the six sub-parameters of this step:
- Overall physical appearance.
- Physical and medical parameters and frequency of monitoring.
- Regular exercise.
- Wholesome and nutritious diet.
- Any harmful indulges or any indulgence in excess.
- Feeling stressed and coping mechanism.
In the sixth step, the mental or intellectual parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following seven sub-parameters:
- Overall attitude (positive or negative).
- Any lingering anger or disappointment from the past which is making you unhappy or bitter whenever you think about it? It is time to bury the past, bless the person/circumstances etc. which caused that hurt and move on in life.
- Intellectual growth in 2020 (books read/heard, seminars attended, learnt some new skill etc.)
- Regular and sound sleep.
- Energy and enthusiasm (do you wake up in the morning with a smile on your face and spring in your steps).
- Some brain exercises like crossword/ Sudoku etc.
- And how often you laugh in a day?
In the seventh step, the spiritual parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following six sub-parameters:
- Are you spending some time with your creator (meditation or religious practices?)
- Do you feel under the loving and protective care of the supreme power or feel out of sorts when some adversity strikes?
- Have you found your Raison d’etre or Ikigai in life? You may want to read my posts on these topics.
- Are you contributing to a societal cause or charity?
- Do you feel a sense of gratitude for whatever you have in life or you feel a sense of lack?
- Have you set aside some time every day for introspection and reflection?
In the eighth step, the family parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following seven sub-parameters:
- Is your relationship with your immediate family (parents, spouse, children and siblings) built upon love and mutual trust? You may like to look at all these relationships separately.
- How often you communicate with your family? Are you aware of the goings-on in their lives, especially your spouse and children?
- If you are staying together, do you make it a point to have at least one meal together in the day? I am absolutely convinced of the power of bonding over the dining table.
- If you are a parent, are you setting good examples in front of your children? Are you deliberately becoming someone who would be a role model for your children? As an extension, as a son/daughter, are you becoming the person who will make their parents proud?
- Do you keep your mobile phone away whenever your family members discuss something with you? Are you an effective and patient listener?
- Do you have a large heart in forgiving and forgetting if some disagreements or altercations take place within the family? Your ego is a very small price to pay for loving family relations. There are these lines found inscribed on someone’s tombstone – “Mai aham tha, yahi vaham tha (My biggest delusion was thinking that I was the most important.)”
- Do you leave your work-related stress back at the office or is your family the punching bag for all the wrongs at the work?
In the ninth step, the career or professional parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following seven sub-parameters:
- Are you really loving what you do for a living or is it a drudgery to go to work in the morning?
- Are you at least 15% better in your profession in as compared to Dec 2019? I have very deliberately mentioned this figure though I know it is more of a subjective assessment. If you improve 15% in your profession every year, within seven years you will be twice as good in your work. Consider you to be an investment that your employer or business is making, how much of returns will be good for this enterprise? Since I have written two books on personal finance, I can vouch for 15% CAGR to be a very good return.
- Most of the jobs/ professions that are existing today will cease to exist within the next five years. Are you catering for that eventuality by learning a new skill which will ensure a smooth job transition in case of a disruption? The year 2020 has destroyed the job market and economies but guess who are the people who have lost jobs? A person giving a 15% return to the employer or business is definitely not the one.
- Are you a better problem-solver today as compared to one year ago? Remember, you are paid for your ability and skill to make correct decisions and handle tough situations. Deliberately work on this important aspect.
- Are you the person people look up to if a significant situation arises? This speaks volumes of your leadership ability. Are you a better leader today as compared to last year?
- Are you the key to develop and harness a congenial and stress-free work environment or are you adding to the stress? Relaxed efficiency is the key to superlative performance in any field. Do you subscribe to the dictum- “the strength of the wolf lies in the pack and the strength of the pack lies in the wolf?”
- The last point is akin to the last point on the family sphere – are you able to have a firewall between your work and family? Complete immersion in your job, once you reach the work-place, is a sine-qua-non for success.
In the tenth step, the social parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following six sub-parameters:
- How much time do you spend on social media? Is it disproportionate to the time you spend with real people?
- Is your mobile the last thing you see before going off to sleep and is it the first thing you see when you wake up? At least for one hour before going off to sleep and after waking up, please don’t touch your mobile. Read a book (not newspaper) and talk to your spouse and children in this golden hour.
- How many friends have you called up in the last year (sending WhatsApp messages doesn’t count)? Have you personally wished your near and dear ones on their special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries?
- How many new friends have you made last year (not virtual)? Have you maintained a connection with all your existing friends?
- How comfortable are you in social settings especially in the company of people you have met for the first time? Do you make the first move to strike a conversation? Or, you are engrossed in your mobile even when real people are around?
- Do you feel that people find you a good company and do you get invites for special occasions of your social circles?
In the eleventh step, the financial parameter of life could be introspected upon along the following seven sub-parameters:
- Do you understand the concept of Networth? What is your networth today? How much it has increased over the last year? Is it aligned to your anticipated increase?
- Do you have at least six months of Breathing Fund (also called Emergency Fund) in a liquid financial instrument? If it has been consumed due to a financial emergency, have you taken steps to recoup it?
- Do you have necessary insurances like life, vehicle, health etc.? Have you mixed insurance with investments? Do you understand how to calculate the correct amount of insurance for your various needs?
- Have you been saving for your retirement regularly? Have you calculated how much corpus would you require at the time of retirement and put in a plan to achieve that? Hope you are not dipping into your retirement fund for any other financial requirements?
- How many debts/mortgages have you incurred? Do you understand the correct amount of debt you should take, and no more?
- Do you understand the difference between assets and liabilities? Are you taking steps to build your assets and keep liabilities to a minimum?
- Have you been saving for your children’s education (if applicable) in a methodical way? Are you aware of the likely expenditure on education at undergrad and postgrad level of your children depending on their age?
- Ther answers to all these questions, and more will be found in both my books – Musings of a Financially Illiterate Father and The Millionaire Mechanic.
Whew, quite a task, won’t you agree? But trust me, this methodical manner of reviewing your 2020 would turn out to be extremely fruitful. You would exactly know your strengths (which you should harness) and weaknesses (which you should eradicate). These pointers are by no means exhaustive and you could add many more as per your specific requirements. The bottom line is that what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed and hence a quantified model to look at life is a great aid. I will eagerly look forward to your comments on this “reflection model”.
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