Kicking off reflection season

I call the period between thanksgiving and new year “Reflection Season.” It marks the time of the year when I make it a point to slow down and take stock.

I’ve been lucky to work in places where the last week of the year is a “shut down.” However, in addition to that, I’ve made it a tradition to take most of the weeks leading up to the final weeks of the new year off. It is my yearly attempt at prioritizing an extended period of rest and reflection.

This period generally means a marked shift in priorities. While I increase the focus on time with family, the biggest shift is prioritizing self-care and reflection in place of time spent working. Since becoming a parent 3 years ago, such periods are rare and are, thus, treasured.

So, as I write this, I look forward to plenty of reflection on the year that’s gone by and look forward to synthesizing everything I’ve learnt.

I hope to have more time to think and write as I hit refresh.¬†I’m excited about that… and hope you’ll be able to carve out time to set aside some time for reflection and rest as we approach the end of 2019 too.

Internalizing the sine wave

One of the multi-year projects I committed to in the past decade was improving my equanimity. I struggled with equanimity in my late teens and early twenties and wrote about my struggles on this blog.

While awareness is a good first step, regular practice is quite another. And, of the many experiments I tried, the one that contributed most to the improvement I’ve made has been internalizing the sine wave of life experiences.

The idea is simple – I visualize life in terms of a series of ups and downs. When I have an up, I gently remind myself that a down is likely around the corner. This reminder injects that touch of paranoia to make sure I’m not getting too carried away.

Image result for sine wave

Similarly, when I experience a down, I remind myself that an up is likely around the corner. This reminder helps inject that touch of optimism that carries me through.

Over the years, I’ve come to think of the sinusoidal nature of this life experience as a fact of life. The gap between an up and a subsequent down may vary – sometimes, we move from one to another in a matter of days and, during other times, it may be a matter of months.

But, the pattern of ups and downs remains. And, understanding and internalizing that pattern changes our experience of those ups and downs in a wonderful way.

Making peace with limits

Much of learning to prioritize is learning to make peace with limits.

Limits on…

…how much time we have in a day.

…what we want to accomplish in that slice of our life.

…how much we can get done in the time we have.

…how much we control.

The more we replace any time we spend complaining about them or wishing they went away with time spent acknowledging them and figuring out how we can do our best within them, the more productive we’ll be.

Wasted envy

A reminder for the next time we entertain envy – a large proportion of the envy felt around the world is wasted.

It is wasted because we lack context of what that other human being is going through. We think they have the perfect life, the perfect family and the perfect career.¬†However, it is only when we get closer do we stumble onto the fact that the reality isn’t anywhere as rosy as it seems.

Every once a while, we might stumble upon a person we consider successful in their career who is also a success in their life. But, it happens less often than we might think.

The stuff we tend to envy – wealth, prestigious degrees, power, and fame – don’t guarantee happiness. Instead, they often make it that much harder to find it.

If we must do so, envy folks who are happy. Find out how they design their lives to be so and channel any energy from that sort of envy to applying it in our own lives.

The rest is wasted.

Getting feedback on that workshop

Large group meetings and workshops are expensive and, thus, important to get right (or at least as right as possible). A simple technique I’ve found useful to keep honing those large group meeting/workshop skills: carve out 5-10 minutes at the end to ask for feedback.

Sending a survey can work for massive events as we’ll likely end up with a large enough sample. But, for most of us, organizing a massive event isn’t the norm.

So, in these 5 minutes, we can choose to either request folks to fill up a simple survey or just ask folks for 1 thing that went well and 1 thing they’d improve. I’ve seen both work really well.

Regardless, the main thing isn’t so much the technique of asking the question (this can be tweaked) – instead, it is to simply prioritize it enough to ensure it is on the agenda.