Is it important to have specific and measurable goals? It they keep on changing, what is the purpose of having a goal?
The answer to the first one is yes, we need to have goals, that too, written goals (one study shows that written goals are more likely to be achieved). If we do not have any yardstick of measurement, how do we know we are progressing and therefore when we are likely to reach the goal?
But even more basic than that, what should be my goal? How do I determine the right goal?
Our goals should be determined by our needs. So we have to do a needs analysis of what we would like to have and what we would like to avoid.
- One way is to think back and remember those incidents that made me happy. Then for each incident, I do a ‘root cause’ on why it made me happy. This will show me my needs. Then I create those goals that satisfy these needs.
- Another way is to think of incidents that made me unhappy. A root cause on this – why did that incident make me unhappy – would tell me what I would like to avoid.
Once I have my needs (what I want and what I don’t want) defined, I have to do two things:
- determine the relative important of each need
- determine the maximum time frame in which this should be satisfied (urgency)
Now I can find out what I have to do and when, and this determines my goals. We have to remember that to achieve something, we may have to sacrifice something else, and the important/urgent matrix above will help us realise our priority.
Another aspect of needs analysis is to determine whether these are your goals or the goals of your influencers or loved ones. Sometime, we want to do something but our parents want us to do something else. The question is whether I sacrifice my happiness for my parents’ happiness?
For example, I remember the time I got an award.
- Why did it make me happy? Because I made my parents proud or because my effort was acknowledged in front of a crowd.
- Why does that make me happy? Because I need the approval of people
- Why do I need approval? Maybe I have self-esteem issues and I need to compare with others to define me
So if I am seeking a goal in terms of what type of job I should look for, I should look for a job that gives me a lot of approval, or allows me to do peer comparison and which does not lower my self-esteem. Sales would be a bit of an issue as a job, because it has a lot of rejection built in. However, advisory services based on my competency would be good, because a client would be grateful for my services.
I can now set up a time frame for creating a competency that can be appreciated by clients and to find a job that allows me to use this competency.
Since these needs keep changing, (refer to my article on mid-life crisis) our goals will keep changing.
Suppose there are two conflicting goals?
If I have done my needs analysis in terms of all the type of needs I have and the priority of each need, and have determined who in my life is important and considered their needs, then each goal can be analysed based on how well it satisfies these criteria.
Midlife Crisis (as defined in Wikipedia) “describes a period of dramatic self-doubt” when persons reach their forties. It signifies a passing of their youth and the imminence of old age, augmented by physical incapabilities, deaths in the previous generation and other such reminders of mortality. There are self-assessing questions on career, work-life balance, relationships, expenses and physical appearance.
Are these questions relevant only after we cross 40? Do we not have similar questions when we cross 20? Do we not think of career, study-life balance, relationships, expenses and physical appearance.
So if we consider a life span of 80 years (arguable with medical advances, but do consider the balancing act of environmental contamination and genetic manipulation) we will have the following:
- At the start of our career, a quarter life crisis (Q1C),
- In the middle of our career, a mid life (Q2C) and
- At the end of our career, a three-quarter life crisis (Q3C).
The topics remain the same: career, work-life balance, relationships, major expenses and physical appearance.
During college (Q1C), we are concerned about our career, how much to study and how much to enjoy life, our relationships at the peer level and with our parents, the expense and repayment of loans, and how we look. This quarter-life crisis is as painful as a mid-life crisis. Although I have not been though a Q3C, I am sure, the questions would be similar but more introspective – about things that we could have done and things that we have achieved.
The difference between the three crises is in terms of possibilities and choices – which narrow down over time. The difference is possibly between optimism and realism. We are more optimistic and hopeful when younger. Maybe those of us who retain our optimism and hope remain younger for a longer time. But we do become more realistic about possibilities and capabilities.
There is an increased angst of unfulfilled desires versus capability. When we are younger, we believe that the whole life in there in front of us to fulfil our desires. However, we are impatient to get our desires fulfilled. This impatience drives us, but also creates stress, and makes us take a short-term perspective. By the time we learn patience and a long-term perspective, we are no longer young, and maybe our desires have changed. We also learn that desire and capability are distinct, and we start accepting our limits in capability.
This acceptance also helps in handling peer comparison. Earlier, we are concerned about what anyone thinks of us. Later, we are concerned about the thoughts of only those who matter to us. Even later, no peer evaluation matters. It is about what we leave behind us. Whose opinion matters, in fact, even who matters – also changes over time.
When we are young, we are overconfident and, I dare say, brash. This drives us to do things, which in the cold light of day, would make us exclaim, “What were we thinking?” But these actions creates consequences that make changes happen. As we grow old, we think (twice?) before we act, we think of longer-term implications, and therefore do not contribute too much to change. But we have the confidence of experience. People who have this confidence and still desire to make a difference are the persons who impact this world.
It is paradoxical that when we have the experience to do things right and we are not so concerned about peer approval, we lose the desire to do so.
Would it not make sense to inculcate the advantages of each stage of life in the first quarter. Suppose we have the desire and the experience and the disregard of peer approval, we could do wonders. In fact, people who do not shy away from experiences (good or bad), who maintain their desire, and care only of the opinions of people they trust are the ones who get ahead in life.
We all need to examine ourselves with respect to these three characteristics:
- get hands dirty,
- remain motivated despite failures and
- high self esteem.
If I did not do well in the exam today, I want to know why. It is possible that it is a consequence of two actions:
- I did not (or chose not to) understand what the examiner wants as answers
- I did not prepare well.
Both of the above are critical of me and therefore not acceptable to my self-esteem. I need another answer.
I suddenly remember that, today, I did not pay respects to the deity’s photograph in my room. Boom! I know the reason why I did not do well today in the exam. Tomorrow, I will pay double the respects to the deity.
The above is is an example of a coincidental association. Sometimes an action (A1) was taken (or avoided) long time ago in the past and its consequences (C1) are happening now. Coincidentally I perform another action (A2) now. Since C1 occurs just after A2, we believe that C1 is a result of A2.
Suppose I have been living in a hedonistic lifestyle for the last 20 years, enjoying food and wine, and not taking care of my health. I have blocked arteries. Today, someone cursed me in office, my blood pressure went up and I had a heart attack. The other person now has a sense of guilt, because he believes that his cursing caused my heart attack. He thinks he has a ‘black tongue’ and his curse came true.
Suppose, as a salesman, I did not get any orders for a week. I went to a temple and prayed for an order. The next day I got an order. I would immediately conclude that it is because of praying in this temple that I got an order. The following facts (among other facts) do not come to mind.
- Sales cycles have a time gap between lead-generation and getting an order.
- It takes time to build a relationship.
- Orders are determined by the cash flows of the customer.
All the three reasons are not in my control, but going to the temple is. Therefore, I would rather believe that it was going to the temple that helped, rather than my efforts or the customer’s needs.
Our powerful and imaginative mind wants answers. When it cannot find acceptable facts, it creates a reason from its imagination, linking unrelated actions to consequences. Because I have created this link, my mind justifies it as true, and therefore refuses to look at other reasons. Once I have created a belief, I do not accept an alternative.
It is very important to understand the root causes of a consequence. It is sometimes important to understand that we do not have answers right now, and that we are jumping to unrelated conclusions.
“Flea trainers have noticed a repeatable, predictable, and unusual habit when they put their specimen in a cardboard box with a lid on it.
The fleas will jump as high as possible while hitting their little flea heads on the lid that is keeping the box closed.
Now these fleas are not as stupid as you might think. They eventually figure it out and adjust the height of their jump so they no longer hit the lid.
When the flea trainers take that lid off, the fleas will not jump out of the box because they have conditioned themselves to jump only to a certain height.
It is this conditioning that keeps them in the box and prevents them from ever getting out.”
The above quote is from the Internet. The word “conditioning” triggered some thoughts in me.
What is the “lid of the box” that prevents me from achieving more?
- Is it my fear of rejection by the customer, or the person I am trying to convince?
- Is it my complacency of having done the bare minimum to survive?
- It is extrapolating my past or current success to the future and therefore believing that I do not need to do anything extra?
- It is my boss – who has a negative attitude towards me and my contribution?
For anything that we want to achieve in life, we create our own limits. Maybe these beliefs have been created inside us based on our past experiences or our fear of the unknown future.
Once we know that our beliefs are our worst enemy, we need to get them out of the way, to achieve our potential.
I have some comments on the recent furore over Mr. Hazare’s campaign to bring in the Jan lokpal bill.
There are three levels of corruption depending on the amount of money and the number of persons involved:
- At the top level (this is opportunistic and gradually becoming systemic),
- At the department level (this is systemic and the process and ROI is clearly laid out)
- At the individual level.
I will not focus on the first two; Mr. Hazare and his well wishers are doing that, and I wish them all the best.
Is the individual level of corruption systemic or opportunistic? When a policeman finds fault with my motorcycle papers and demands a graft, do I not pay? Is this not systemic, since every month the policeman needs to fulfill his quota. Is it not systemic, as he has paid a bribe to get a choice posting and he needs to recoup this expense? Are you a victim or is he a victim? Is the government not to blame to raising prices and not raising the policeman’s salary? Am I not to blame for taking a shortcut of paying the bribe, because I can afford it, my time is valuable, I need to see the movie or reach my destination?
Can this bribe be considered the self-adjustment of the system towards an equilibrium, towards a peaceful co-existence? It is possible that we rationalise the bribe-paying as balancing some inequality of status and opportunity?
When we asked our representative for the freebies he should provide us if he needs our votes, or accepted those freebies, did we not start corrupting our representatives? Did we not rationalise this action?
When Chanakya talked about ‘Daam,’ is ‘Daam’ only about payment for services rendered, be it legitimate or illegitimate? Is it not our thoughts that rationalise and determine legitimacy?
When I consider some act unfair and seeks redress, I believe myself justified in taking any means to correct the unfairness. We have done this all our life. Our thoughts determine the legitimacy of our act.
When a CEO considers some laws unfair and evades them, we lionise the CEO as being creative. Did we not allow corruption of the laws?
Corruption is inside us. Let us not blame the outside world, the ‘system’, the CEOs as being corrupt and consider ourselves to be pure. When we take short-cuts, cheat, lie, rationalise to ourselves, create beliefs about people and situations, we corrupt ourselves.
Our beliefs lead to emotions and actions. Justified and rationalised beliefs lead to justified and rationlised emotions and actions. We cannot label these emotions and actions as corrupt, and we cannot separate corruption of beliefs from the resultant corrupt thoughts and actions.
Is there some ethical and moral code that we are believe in? As long as our thoughts are selfish, what morality are we talking about? If we justify survival of the fittest and intolerance towards others, are we justified in taking the high ground about morality?
Is it the money that we pay as bribes that we are objecting to, at this individual level, or is it the blackmail? Is this why Mr. Hazare’s campaign seems to be gathering force, that we can see that we can blackmail the government? The shoe is on the other foot?
Why is this support against corruption gathering force, and other ongoing campaigns not having support? What about Ms Irom Sharmila and her 10-year fast, the fights against systemic corruption in the rest of India like the mining mafia in Goa, Karnataka, Bihar, MP, the dams and the uprooting of people, and the old Bhopal Gas leak tragedy?
Is this a better orchestrated campaign? Is it the drama? Is it our need for instant gratification, where we are seeing immediate results? Is it the tilting at the windmills, cocking our snook at the powers-that-be, showing them that they are not as invincible as they thought? Is Ms. Hazare our new angry “young” man, fighting on our behalf?
There is a certain corruption inside us: our need for gratification, need for excitement, the emotions of self-righteousness, need to be part of history, specially winners. Mr. Hazare’s campaign gives us all this. Which is why long-drawn campaigns lose support. All informal surveys seem to indicate people do not know the difference between the bills, students are enjoying the drama and absence from classes, and everyone is out there, abdicating their duties. Gandhi had the ability to withstand the lathi charges, I wonder how many supporters in this campaign would do so?
We have to look inside ourselves and decide if we have the courage to (a) fight the corruption inside us (b) support other campaigns that too need our help.
Otherwise, this will be a flash in the pan. The press coverage will stop, as people seek a different drama. Even if we get the bill passed, the implementation is fraught with peril for two reasons:
- The Lokpal will have power, and with all power, comes the opportunity for misuse. Will we need a super-lokpal to check this? How much time will it take to set up the alternate bureaucracy and the checks and balances.
- With all the lok-ayuktas, the judiciary, the vigilance committees, the auditor-generals, which were supposed to take care of the second type of corruption; with Anna’s bill taking care of the first type of corruption, who will take care of the third type of corruption? And since the second type of corruption could not be taken care of, despite so many regulatory bodies, what makes us sure this is the right way?
All I say is, let us control the corruption within us, because all external measures will come to naught if we are not ready internally to accept the pain that accompanies incorruptibility. It is not easy.
This word has been bandied around a lot, and many companies, colleges and people pay lip service to it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_entrepreneurship
- How do we create a sustainable enterprise that makes profits and fulfills social obligations?
- Can we help uplift the stature of the small town that we came from, where we were nurtured, before the city lights seduced us to the big city?
- How can we make more money that by having a job in the city?
- How can we have more stature and recognition than being a factory worker in a big corporation?
- Can we take the unemployed youth of our town, the girls who are prevented from having a career in another city and make something that will create wealth for the young people of our town?
How I wish that some more mentees used this example, and created a sustainable enterprise in their home towns.
This comes from writings by Tad James who is paraphrasing the sociologist Morris Massey. Some parts have been removed for succinctness.
There are three major periods that a person will go through in values and personality formation.
- the Imprint Period, which occurs from birth until age 7
- the Modeling Period, which is from 8 to 13
- the Socialization Period, from 14 to 21.
THE IMPRINT PERIOD
The Imprint Period, from birth to age 7, is the time when we are like a sponge. We pick up and store everything that goes on in our environment. We get our basic programming in that Imprint Period. Our basic programming occurs between ages 2 and 4, and by the time a child is 4, most of the major programming has occurred. Most of the phobias are created between ages 3 and 7. That is where we find most of the earliest experiences that serve as the basis for a phobia. (Of course, there may be amplifications or reinforcement of the phobia after that.) There may also be no remembrance of the creation of the phobia because the learning processes that occur during the Imprint Period are largely unconscious. The Imprint Period occurs from ages 0 to 7 and is the basic programming of an individual. The child unconsciously picks up the parents’ behavior.
THE MODELING PERIOD
The ages 8 through 13 are the Modeling Period. Between 8 and 13 the child begins to consciously and unconsciously model basic behaviors. I can plainly remember a time when I was about 10. I was with my grandfather, who had a rather severe limp. I was unconsciously mimicking his way of walking. He saw me and scolded me for doing that, and yet at the time I was not aware I had been copying him. Perhaps you, too, can recall memories of how you modeled adults during this time. Maybe you can even remember having to dress just like Mommy or Daddy.
Before age 7 or so, the child is mostly unaware of any difference between the parents and himself. The child experiences no difference from parents. Then at age 8 the child begins to notice that there are people outside himself, and through age 13 he begins to look outside himself at the goings on in the world. They notice the behaviour of friends and family and model them. At that point, children begin to develop heroes. We notice that children have fewer conscious heroes before age 7 than after from age 8 to 13 they begin to start picking up the values of the people they have made into heroes. Massey’s point of view is that our major values about life are picked up between 8 and 13 (at around age 10). In addition, his point of view is that your values are based on where you were and what was happening in the world when you were 10.
Ages 14 through 21 we call the Socialization Period. The child goes through a Socialization Period where social interaction begins with other human beings. The young adult here picks up relationships and social values, most of which will be used throughout the rest of his life. At age 21, values formation is just about complete. At this point core values do not change unless there is a significant emotional experience (or other therapeutic change is done). Other more conscious values change and evolve continually. People change and grow and their values change over time. The values people start with, however, the basic core values, are formed around age 10 and locked in at age 21.
To learn to make a chair, there are three approaches.
I can teach you how to make a chair in theory and tell you a lot more about wood, types of chairs, design etc. This allows me to teach you a lot of things, and you gain knowledge about chairs, its history and how to make them. You can know all about chairs in a short amount of time and you would feel that you are getting value for money.
But you too can read a book (maybe not as many) to get the same knowledge.
You need a buyer who wants your knowledge instead of him reading a book. So you are substitute for his time. You are his google. You can use methods and tools that you learnt in different and creative ways. You are paid for your creativity.
If a chair needs to be made, your buyer will tell you to get it made and either you will micromanage the carpenter or try it yourself. The first chair created will be terrible. You may not be able to communicate to the carpenter and he will make a chair as perhis belief since he did not understand you or thinks you don’t know anything or does not want to listen to you.
This is what most of the educational institutes do.
I can ask you to make a chair and learn from your mistakes. Since making a chair is physical, it takes time. That means you will learn very few things in the limited amount of time but you have more expertise in these few things.
The buyer knows that you have made a chair and if needed you can make a decent chair. However, the buyer may not need a chair. Also you cannot be his google so he has to spend time himself to learn something, or ask you to learn something and then tell him. Both ways, a lot of time is spent on too few things. You are being paid for your expertise. If the buyer wants a different type of chair, you may not have expertise in it.
If a buyer is clear he wants carpenters who can build a chair, he will want you. When he asks you to make a chair, you will have better rapport with the carpenters because you can roll up your sleeves and help build. You will also create more realistic project plans.
This is what most students want. But then what is the difference between engineering students and polytechnic students?
I can tell you where you can read the theory and then discuss how someone (the subject) else made a chair. You can go through the process, using your theoretical knowledge and making comments on the process. I can add practicality based on my experience. So you learn from my experience of making a chair, your thoughts about making a chair, and the subject’s processof making a chair. So you learn from two persons who have made chairs, and clarify your thought process. I can also ask you how else to make a chair, and that will promote creativity. Drawbacks are that you need to learn the theory yourself – as without this background, you will not understand what is going on, I need to have done this before, and you will get your hands dirty only virtually, not physically.
This is the case method, which requires equal participation from the student and me.
The buyer needs to know that you have seen how a chair is made, you have discussed with 2 carpenters what can go wrong, what went right etc. And you have a lot of knowledge about a lot of topics with some practical experience.
What is the right approach?
It is my belief that we are here to better mankind. To me, ‘better mankind’ means to leave people who come in contact with us better than when they met us.
Some of us are blessed with the means and the opportunity to improve a large section of mankind but the rest of us can only hope to improve our children. Each person has his sphere of influence and must strive to increase this sphere of influence. How do we do this?
The four ashrams that Indian philosophy refers to can be used as a framework.
Brahmacharya is about focussing on self, recognising our abilities and creating the skills that would help us to create the means and the opportunities to help others.
A career is defined as that path which allows us to best utilise our skills and strengths. We feel good about doing things that are in sync with our strengths and we enjoy what we do. This feeling good creates better products and services. When people see that we enjoy what we do, they are happy to pay us for our services because of its inherent quality. Even if it is not payment in monetary terms, they pay us in terms of contacts, relationships and references. This increases our opportunity to influence a larger set of people.
When we are looking for a job and if we do not know our strengths, then any job will do. It may take time before we find our true path and till then, we need to meet as many persons as we can and listen to them, so they we can find the right messages and the right guidance in terms of what could possibly be our path. The first job just sets us in the path of self-discovery.
This is the only phase in which we take more than we give.
Grihastha is about starting to give back. We first concentrate on our family by first creating it and then using our strengths to make then stronger, better, happier. Family does not just mean spouse and children (the future of relationships) but our parents, siblings and the extended family (the past relationships). The wealth that is being created is partially used to serve our past family, partially to serve the future family and the rest to provide for our future by investments in the future so that we have the means and the opportunities in the later stages of life. This means that we should not focussed on short term gains.
This is a phase in which the give and take is equal. Some of us, however, still remain in the Brahamcharya phase, because we are unwilling to move on or do not feel confident of our skills and strengths. We create wealth, and we do not know what to do with it, so we spend it on ourselves. We have the opportunity to influence our family, make them better than us, but we focus on ourselves. We spend more time on ourselves and our pleasure than our family (watching TV etc.).
Vanaprastha is about giving back to society, not just the family. By this time, we are senior enough in our organisations to be able to influence the course of the organisation, and a larger set of people. We provide for (creating jobs) and help others find their path (career counselling and mentoring). This phase has little take and more give. The investments made during the Grihastha stage now bear fruit.
Since Vanaprastha is focussing on others rather that our family, we have to let go of our family. This means that they are free to do what they want. This also means that our children have to fend for themselves. If we have guided them well, they shall do well. They need to fall and learn how to fall, they need to find their own destiny. Some of us are unwilling to let go of our children and endeavour to choose their paths for them.
Sanyaas is about focussing on the Universal mankind. The universe of the kingdom of God and it is said that the kingdom of God is within us. Therefore Sanyaas is a time for introspection and to determine how we could have done things better. This knowledge of how things can be done better is provided to others (orally or in writing) so that they have the benefit of our experience. Sanyaas is about taking people who are in the Brahmacharya stage and providing them guidance when necessary.
This phase is all about giving. It is not necessary that people take your advice. People need to make their own minds and their destiny and their path is their own. People ask for advice and we have a tendency to guide (sometimes force) people on a certain path that we believe is right for them. We do not know enough of people and their destiny to make decisions for them. Our job is to open their eyes to choices but the choice remains theirs.
In this way, we fulfil our destiny.