How exactly are you living your life? Your dreams? Are you still one of those caught in the flurry of activity that makes you feel all important and busy yet not getting anywhere close to where you want to be? As is the classic Covey metaphor, are you living like the super efficient group of workers sawing down trees at 3X efficiency, but super ineffective coz they're simply in the wrong forest? So are you running... running as fast as you can.. faster than you've ever run.. BUT in the wrong direction? Explain to me how that will get you to ur destination? :-) If anything ur running really fast toward the wrong goals :-) If anything, you'll look back at 60 and have nothing but regrets for not having done all you wanted. :-(
So how bout, you take a deep breath, pause hard, think far into the future and think NOW about what you really want out of your life?
- Work and life?
Stop thinking in terms of what you want out of personal and professional life. Its all one goddamed life, and its all yours. So you bloody well choose what you want out of it and how you'll live it so you find everything you want. Once you start divvying up your life as work and life, your work will have the tendency to eat into everything else, work always does. ALWAYS. Remember that. Whenever you feel like you're being overwhlemed by how much there is to do, please remind yourself, that is the nature of the beast. It expands (as one of my closest friends told me once) to fill up your time. So as you give it more and more, it'll take over more and more. Until you'll have lost touch with everything that probably really matters. And here's the funny bit, the day you leave that job, they'll throw you a big party, say heartfelt goodbyes and wave you out the door. The next minute, everyone will be back to their lives, and you wil be a mere listing in the record of employees who came and went. No one is going to miss you at work. Please remember that. So give work importance, but do that as a conscious choice, all the time staying carefully cognizant of the expected outcome.
- What are your 5 key roles?
So do this simple thing, think about the things you want to be remembered for when you leave this planet. (Please don't assume its a long time away, i dont mean to be morbid, but seriously, if you're taking life for granted at 25, then you'll be no better off at 50, so stop it at ONCE!).
Now ask yourself, based on those things you wanna be remembered for, what is it thats truly important to you? And hence what the key roles you are expected to play in life, (and play superbly at that). Why only 5? Cause its been proven scientifically that with our normal capacities and 24 hour days, human beings can only do justice to about 5 - 6 key roles in life without doing injustice to any of them and without spreading themselves too thin.
Let me give you an example, as it stands today, and its probably only recently that ive started thinking about this seriously, my 5 key roles are probably as follows: Daughter to my parents, Sister to my brother, Soulmate to my inner circle (this ones a little broad i know, but i have constraints on a public forum), an employee to P&G and as an individual to my hobbies.
Can i honestly claim im doing justice to them all? Probably not. Least of all as a daughter and a sister. My work at P&G takes up my time, whether i like it or not, so it becomes an almost default option. Being soulmate to the inner circle takes a little effort coz the inner circle is a circle that shares wavelengths but sometimes exist across distances, and in radically different contexts. To bridge all this and create a common context despite the distance takes tons of effort, but i love doing it cause its very very imp that my inner circle feels like im there and im always willing to put in love and affection and understanding. As an individual, well if nothing else i manage to do the few things i love doing, being around kids, reading, gymming, blogging etc. Where i probably could do much much better is as a daughter. Too many times, i find myself not giving my mom the attention and energy she deserves over the phone. Too many times, i let it slip and she lets it go, but ive realized now that if being remembered as a good daughter is important to me, then there's no bloody way i can let that slip in future. Most times, its a matter of intent rather than ability that helps us function at our peak in our relationships. The choice is entirely in our hands as to what we wanna hold on to and what we wanna let go. Do i wanna let go of my parents? Certainly not. And so i have to make sure i push around everything else, maybe some of my work time, maybe some time from my inner circle, or better still, time from activities that are not important to my key roles, and reinvest in into my exchanges with my mother. It will be the saddest thing if all my mother remembers of my conversations with her are tired sighs and bored short clipped sentences. Ill never forgive myself. And the same goes for my bro. If he ever feels like his sis wasnt around in his prime years, when she cudve been of use and her experience would've been handy, then im a complete failure as a sister and its something ill never be able to live with.
SO there. Now the thing with the 5 key roles is, we all start out with 5, but as we progress through life, new roles get added. The key is to drop certain roles to be able to take on new ones. This is what we miss to do. Its not humanly possible to take on newer and newer roles and still do justice to old ones, so do remember to drop some roles as you take on new ones. For e.g, say im married and have a child in the next few years, ill make the conscious choice that being a good mother is a key role. To execute this fairly, ill probably have to make a choice between my other roles and drop some/ relegate them to lower importance. This could be myself OR my work OR even my parents and its critical to be clear and honest about that choice, cause else I'll continue to question why life is suddenly so complicated and messed up and there's so much being demanded out of me. Its perfectly OK to drop a role, but PLEASE - make that choice yourself and make it actively instead of feeling like a failure and being compelled into it by others.
- Are you doing justice to your roles?
Answer this honestly. Ive admitted that of my key roles, ive slipped badly on my role as a good daughter and sister. This is not to say my folks need me to visit them every month/ i need to send my bro on fully funded vacations around the world. Please be clear of the expectations that all these relationships entail. Old relationships are less effort intensive and can be worked easier with a little effort. New ones are tougher, like today being a good employee is easier than when i was 4 months in P&G.
Please remember, you're doing this for urself, and no one's judging. Think long and hard about whether you're doing justice to the things that matter. And if you're not, if everytime you want to something else gets in the way then there's 2 possibilities.
1. You're kidding yourself when you say its an important role - you dont really mean it or want it badly enough.
2. You're coping with WAY too many roles right now so this one gets relegated to the bottom all the time.
Solution to 1: Admit to urself the role isnt important and take it off your list. No matter what the guilt/ pain is that you or others have to go through, its much better admitting it now than trying unsuccessfuly to 'manage' this role. It doesnt make you a bad person for saying, being a good employee isn't important. It makes you a better person for being honest and transparent about it. You're probably giving the respective stakeholder a chance to evaluate if they want you around or not - so for e.g if your company kicks you out coz u think being a good employee isnt important enough, its probably fair and you don't make a fuss about it anyway coz u wr clear on the choice you made. KEY: BE HONEST.
Solution to 2: Drop another role. Do it NOW. If you're really certain that one role is important to you but you're not doing justice to it, then drop something else to do this well. All the more if the important role involves people. Sometimes, people give us second chances. Sometimes, they dont. And its not reversible. Your parents will probably not abandon you for being a bad daughter, but they'll live in perpetual disappointment, and if u wanna spare them that and spare yourself the guilt (coz its so imp to you) then DROP SOMETHING ELSE. DO IT NOW!!! I know the choice is tough to make - to cite chandler bing, "stuck between a rock and a hard place" is what it'll feel like. But hello!!! Life is about making tough choices and having the courage to live with them. So make yours now. Coz if you cannot do justice to it now, chances are there will always be something else to keep you from doing justice to it. The cycle is never ending and it'll never stop unless you make the choice.
And thats my rant on roles for the night. This blog is inspired by the work life balance talk that Mr Jim Lafferty gave us last week. It touched a chord somewhere. :-) Im making the effort with my folks now, and with my bro too. Coz i know these people and this time will never come back.
Please make your choices now, as time consuming and effort intensive as it sounds. Please do it. You owe it to yourself and to the other people in your life. You'll be a happier person for it - and so will others. If you've made your choices and you're unable to do justice to them, seriously think about what the disconnect is and fix it. Its one of the few things you can do in the short term to guarantee you look back at 60 with pride and joy at the life you lived. :-)