What is your 5year plan?

timeThe other day while I was talking with a senior colleague, she asked me out of blue – “What do you want to achieve in your professional life? Where do you see yourself in 5years.” Being in corporate world, it isn’t out of ordinary to ask such questions. I have come across this question several times during job interviews for which I always have a standard answer that sounds interesting but not necessarily true.

However, when faced with the question in a casual setting, it got me thinking. The intention of asking the question was to get me thinking and they were right, I had no clue. This may come as a surprise that someone who is in their mid 30’s does not know where they are headed or where they want to go.

I know what I want to achieve in life. I have this whole plan mapped out on when to retire, how much to save, what I want to do after I retire and so on. But I never planned on what I wanted to do until I retire.

I have always been a hard worker all my life, however much of that hard work goes into getting things done, going with the flow. Fortunately, I keep bumping into good things throughout my professional journey but even then, going on with no aim in mind seems pointless and not like me.

So, now I am out trying to figure out what I want to do and hopefully I can come up with a great plan to achieve it.

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It’s all about priorities

planPeople often tell they don’t have time. They want to read books, spend more time working out, want to make a phone call to their parent or friends, or to do things that they actually love doing but for some reason they complain about not having enough time to do all that. At work, people complain they don’t have time to do task A or B. Yet, if you invite them for a drink after work or offer them free tickets to a game or something else that they like they seem to accept it right away.

The above behavior is not necessarily a bad thing. It just reflects what’s important to them. Not having time is just an excuse; everyone has time. The one thing that everyone has equally is time, however, how one uses it is totally up to them. Not being able to find time to do certain things just indicates where it lies in their priority list.

I am not saying, I am immune to these things. I often tell myself I don’t have time to write blogs these days. I make plans to write one every weekend, however I push it until late Sunday night, not because I don’t have time but because watching a movie or doing something else was more important to me subconsciously.

The thing about defining priorities is tricky, there is always an ideal list and a realistic list. Ideal list often has things that one wants to achieve in life – like losing weight, traveling the world, saving x amount of money etc. Realistic list is getting the day to day chores done. We often put away the ideal list hoping to get to it when we find time. Finding the right balance is the key.

At work, I am taught to map all the work that I do to a business goal that the company shares as a whole. If anything that I am working on doesn’t fall under a business goal, then it indicates that I am not working on the right thing. I think in life too, we should strive to achieve this. If what you are doing day to day doesn’t fulfill your long term ideal goal then you are not doing it right. It’s time to redefine your priorities to make sure everything you do maps to the bigger goal of your life.

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Books and prayers are the answer to all my problems

bookWhen I was a little kid, I was a very God-fearing child. I felt that no matter what the problem in my life is, God will take care of it. I still think the same, except I also believe in making an effort first before having God do everything for you.

Over the time, I also developed a huge obsession for books. I don’t read fiction, most of the books that I read are geared towards self improvement. I feel that life is an ever learning journey and the more one reads, the more we grow in every aspect of our life.

I have been battling shyness and social anxiety for a long time. I have always been a selectively shy person. I say selectively shy because I am not shy at all times, certain situations make me shy; which makes me believe that it can be improved over time.

Reading about people who face the same anxiety and learning about ways to overcome it, helps me improve myself. At work, I often have to speak at conferences and online webinars. Public speaking hasn’t been my strongest forte but I believe practicing and learning about new techniques can put everyone at ease and this is something I’ve personally experienced myself.

And ofcouse, after doing all that, I do say a little prayer every time before I hit the stage or before an important event.

Reading and praying alone doesn’t always solve the problem if one doesn’t make an effort to achieve what they want. Putting what you learnt into practice and working towards achieving it is the key. Like they say – God helps those who help themselves.

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Nothing is impossible

possibleMany years ago, I started writing as a way to take my mind off stress or anything else that disturbed me. On days when I am saddest or annoyed or worried the most, I end up writing one of my best blog posts. However, these days I barely have time to take a moment and reflect on my day and write something useful. It’s not that I am the happiest person around town now but I think I have learned to deal with things that I don’t have much control over in a better way now.

I am currently reading a book about Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Psychology and study of human behavior is something that I am always interested in. I love reading about it and discovering little things that we don’t normally observe or understand about human behavior. A crucial part of Social Intelligence is based on the premise that genes don’t decide our destiny. A huge chunk of our behavior has nothing to do with our genetic composition, instead it all depends on how we are nurtured. Starting from how a mother handles a child cry and calls for attention to how different people interact with a child throughout the years. It is astounding how the first couple years can play a crucial role in how a person behaves for the rest of their life.

As I read the book, I also tried to connect my behavioral qualities to how my childhood was. For instance, making fun of a child when they make mistakes, can make them believe that they are no longer suitable for that role all their life. Instead encouraging them to learn from mistakes and move forward can make them stronger.

We can’t go back and change our past but good news is that we can modify our behavior by understanding our shortcomings. Since this is not genetically driven, everything can be modified once we understand what we are missing. In my case, I was a shy kid all my life, I still am. But one thing that I dreaded the most was public speaking. Never in my wildest dream did I imagine speaking in front of public. But now, public speaking doesn’t scare me at all. A small part of my work involves me going out and giving technical talks, sometimes even to a global audience. But with enough preparation, I am no longer anxious about the thought of speaking in public. I am happy to do it and I do it well.

I guess, what I am trying to convey is that do not limit what you are capable of just because you were told you can’t do it or because you think you can’t do it. Nothing is impossible as long as you want it to happen.

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Traveling comes with its challenges

petI love traveling, every part of it – the packing, planning, making reservations, the actual journey and most important the experience of exploring different places. I always wanted a job that required me to travel. I had a friend who traveled a lot for work and she hated it. I on the other hand envied it and longed for a job that would allow me to do it. Unfortunately, the field that I work on doesn’t necessarily require me to travel often but somewhere along the line I got lucky.

There is this cheesy line from a Bollywood movie which roughly translates to – “If you want something real bad, the universe will work to make sure you achieve it”. In my case, this was somewhat true. I applied for a job and landed something totally different that I didn’t really apply for. At that time, I didn’t really think much about it and thought of it as a good opportunity to do something different and who knew this job would make me travel the world.

I travel a lot now both domestic and international for work and pleasure and I enjoy every bit of it except one thing. I adopted a sweet little beagle couple of years back and back then I didn’t really travel much. Unfortunately frequent travels also means boarding my pooch frequently. And I don’t really know if she hastes it or loves it, if she misses me or doesn’t really care but every time I drop her off at the boarding place, I feel like a piece of my heart is being ripped apart.

I’ve lived with pets all my childhood life but this is the first one that I have adopted and cared for solely and hence the pain of leaving her is brutal. I wish there was a way to make this easy, I wish she knew I will come back for her, II just hope she doesn’t miss me and is happy when I am away.

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Listen to your stomach

coffeeI got the idea for this blog post while sitting on the airport waiting to board my flight. I managed to find a hipsterish coffee shop with decent coffee, some great sandwiches and good wifi. It’s 7.30 am and my flight doesn’t start for another 2hrs and god knows when I’ll get food next, if at all palatable. So, I grabbed a latte and an avocado sandwich and started to write.

Breakfast is one of my most important meals; science aside I do look forward to having a good breakfast and won’t miss it for anything, mainly because I tend to do an early dinner which means by 7am I am pretty hungry.

I have written a book about how to lose weight and stay fit and one of the important things about losing weight is knowing when to stop. Losing weight shouldn’t be hard, you shouldn’t have to starve or give up on your favorite food but the essence is to not get carried away by the wonderful taste of your food and keep gobbling.

Depending on where you live food portions can vary, sometimes a meal for one can easily feed four. Just because you paid for it, doesn’t mean you need to eat it; at least not in one sitting.

You are what you eat and believe it or not bad food habits come back to haunt you. Even if you had a super great metabolism in your early life, things start to go south as you grow old. It’s always better cut down a little while you are young instead of having to cut down everything while you are old.

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My 2018 reading list

booksReading everyday is on the top my list of things to continue doing this year and something that I consciously take time to do even if it for just 10-15 minutes. I feel that reading opens up a whole new level of wisdom for me, something that I can’t explain in words. And because I have very little time, I make sure that whatever I read adds value to me. I don’t read fiction at all, unless someone recommends a good fiction novel occasionally.

I shared my reading list for 2017 and even though I didn’t stick to the list last year, I thought I’ll link it here for those looking for a reading list.

Here’s what I did ended up reading last year-
1. A Dogs Purpose
2. A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
3. Getting Even
4. Writing with Style – John R. Trimble
5. Quiet
6. Audacity of Hope
7. Class – Paul Fussell
8. The Daily Stoic – Highly recommend reading this one
9. Courage and Confidence – Norman Vincent Peale
10. It’s all the small stuff
11. The things you can see when you slow down (half)

Here’s my list for 2018, again I might change as I proceed-
1. The things you can see when you slow down
2. Show your work – Austin Kleon
3. Mindset – The new psychology of Success
4. Dying a memoir – Picked this up from Obama’s reading list.
5. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ -Daniel Goleman
6. Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment

Happy Reading!!

 

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