Friday, March 23, 2007

Think long, and think now ...

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. :-)


Anonymous said...

Well said - indeed its just one life. But I would have to disagree with you on the 5-role thing. Mosly people (by the time they are 30) have more than 5 roles. And there are quite a few people I know who handle them all with ease and grace. In my opinion, no role needs to be deprioritized. Its only a "point-in-time" perspective :)

That apart your note on "reinvesting" cracked me up :D

unpredictable said...

:) Thanks for ur note anon, id just introduce one caveat, i think the only people who have the right to claim that someone's managing a role with 'ease and grace'are the persons key stakeholders in those roles, its not only about whether u feel ur doing enough, its also about whether ur stakeholders feel fulfilled, for e.g. if colleagues at work think i manage my work with 'ease and grace' in appearance and yet if it was taking a toll on my how on my parents felt about their importance in my life, all that ease and grace wud amount to little, id still be doing my role as a daugther badly. :)

Srikant said...

I'm reading ur blog after a week or so. went thru all of the ones i'd missed. And i Missed them :)

I had a question on the 5 roles. What if ur giving more weightage to one of the 5 roles in ur life. is that ok?
One more question - what if u think ur doing the best u cud in one of ur roles, but the 'role' doesnt think so (ex: ur mom doesnt think so). does that mean u arent doing a good job. not possible to meet expectations all the time right? then?

i woke up saturday morning. very sleepy. very bored. and very sad. and all i want to do all day is ... i dunno.. hmm.. help!!!!

unpredictable said...

First of all .. stop asking me qns like im a psych!!! Im no shrink or qualified doc .. This is how Jim LAfferty talks ...

Next .. if u choose to give some roles more weight than others, let that be an active conscious CHOICE vs a realization in hindsight. And be honest with urself abt that choice.

Finally, if ur role dusnt think ur doing enuff, then it dusnt mean u run away or tht ur scrwed up or tht theyre screwed up!!! It means talking to figure out a win win .. NOT a compromise!! If this persons really so imp, then lets give them some credit for being understanding shall we? And lets give u some credit for not being a monster too :-)

BIg hug!!! ((())))) Sack all day dude! Ill bring leo over once more to keep u company :)

Monsieur K said...

interesting food for thought.
when you talk abt 5 roles and not meeting each roles' expectations,
one thing i know is that you cant please all the people at all the time.

personal relations like parents n siblings are the most forgiving even when you falter.
however, professional relations are the least forgiving.
friends come in between the 2 - close friends could be highly forgiving, but acquaintances are quick to criticise.

the question is whether you can identify which relationship or role matters most to you, and if it matters for the counterparty too?
as much as you love your organisation, or friend or soulmate or parents, do they love you that much in return?

as i said first, interesting food for thought :)

unpredictable said...

Hey ketan!! Yeah u cant pls everyone all the time, so u choose who u will please most times :) those r ur key stakeholders right?

As nayak says, there will always be an expectation mismatch, but being the understanding ppl that we largely are, mismatches can be managed most times with dialogue ..

Very interesting thought on whether it matters enuff to the counterpart too ... i didnt explicitly touch on it .. but yeah, treating someone as imp when in fact they dont care enuff wud be a massive let down eh! :-) Thanks for ur comments!

Atticus said...

Hey Suds,

Nice thoughts, and well put in words. I really like the idea of 5 key roles and how you suggest their prioritization.

Ive been thinking: is "what Id like to be remembered as" the right question to ask when choosing the roles/ priorities? I think differently, my starting point is always HAPPINESS- it comes from fulfilling key roles (son, friend and a family man), but all the same also comes from certain introverted desires like doing justice to my talents. I wudnt exactly want to be remembered as a writer, but it gives me immense satisfaction when I write a good piece and I feel Ive done justice to my skills. May be the right question to ask is "10 years later, how would I have wanted to spend my 20th-30th yrs?" My answer is Id have loved to have travelled the world, done well in my career, still managed to be in touch with my best friends and had a lot of fun- these then become my current priorities.

I really like the point abt being honest- we often are forced to leave certain roles as u rightly said, but the heartache associated with that can be avoided if we consciously dropped them admitting to ourselves that we are not superhumans. All the same, I agree with Anon- the no of roles one can fulfil is a very personal thing. Also the number of instances of each role that you are fulfilling (no of friends, no of talents you are doing justice to)depends on your own energy level and enthusiasm. For some the ideal no is 3, for others its 10. Just like one must decide which roles to focus on, one must also have the judgement to know how many he/ she can do justice to.

Finally, as is obvious from your post, most of us have a problem with the career role- we tend to give it too much importance without realizing the significance of our other roles. I think its because it is so measurable (salary, position, wealth etc) as compared to your personal successes (most personal failures dont even come into light unless theres a critical event like a divorce or a public spat with a close friend).

Sorry for the long comment, and keep up the amazing thought-inducing writings!


Sharmili said...

heyy.. a thot everyone needs to focus at this point in time in their lives... But the problem I believe is that you cannot decide the importance of roles inspite of being honest...

Like WORK - it is something that just gets bread for me on the table, but would you say the same thing say when you are at the bottom rung of the ladder and have a lot to do to justify your potential... at this point in time say, your other roles too need attention... friend going through crisis, family needs your attention... Dropping any role here (say work not a priority and not get a project as per your potential or family/friend and then live with the guilt that you were not available) is just impossible.... what do you do then - the way out is only working yourself out... And for some reason if you dont want to work yourself out, you tend to de-priortise that role where the ppl involved can be taken for granted -and more often than not they are the most key ppl in your life... OR you stop doing anything for yourself...

I would love to achieve this balance but I am very sure I wont be able to - atleast not now when I am struggling to make a mark... a pessimistic attitude you might say - but I want to believe that it is a realistic one...

unpredictable said...

u and i have spoken many timeeesss about this shams .. maybe we shud meet up to talk in more detail :)