Many years back, I attended a course which had a very interesting exercise that gave me a fresh perspective on life, which I want to share with you here.
How old are you? Whatever be your age, round it off to the next nearest multiple of 5. For example, if you are 23, round it off to 25. If you are 48, round it off to 50, If you are 32, round it off to 35 and so on.
Done? Good. Now divide the result by 5. (Don’t tell me you need a calculator for that—but if you do don’t worry, use it! This is not a test of your math skills—So relax!
Now take an A4 size paper and a pencil. Keep the paper horizontally and draw two lines across, parallel to each other. Divide the first line the same number of parts as the above result. (Your age rounded off to nearest multiple of 5, divided by 5) Relax—this is not a Geometry test either!
You now have your life in 5 year segments on a piece of paper.
What we were asked to do was to write out THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT and significant events in ` that time zone. For example
0-5 years—what were the three most important events in your life? What do you remember?
5-10 years: What were the most three significant events that shaped your life?
We continued this way, (10-15 years, 15-20 years, 20-25 years and so on) till we reached out current age. Most of us could not remember any ‘significant or life changing events’ between ages of 0-10. For most of us, graduating or completing a post graduation and getting a job were the most important events between the ages of 20-25. After 25, for many it was marriage and birth of children. For some buying a vehicle and buying a house featured prominently too. Some had lost near and dear ones. One had given up a corporate career and completely turned her life around. For another it was a painful divorce from a difficult marriage. But for most, the milestones were all very similar.
Somehow mapped out on that bit of paper, our lives summed up so precisely, so pointedly had made us all think. Where were we heading? Was that all there is to life? Getting educated, Getting a job, finding a life partner, having kids, building a house –running through life like a race to reach the next level, and each time you reach what you think is the finish line, it has moved—and Lo behold, you have a new finish line to chase!
Then we were asked to reflect on what we really want out of life and what is the price that we are willing to pay for it? What was it that gave you inner peace and joy? There was a very senior executive who nearly broke down in tears after this exercise as he had been a workaholic, working like a maniac from 8:00 a.m to 11:30 p.m, working even on week-ends. He said his children were grown up now and he really regretted not spending time with them when they were children. He was rich, successful, on top of his career and very unhappy, discontented and lonely.
On the second line we were now asked to map the rest of our lives, on a presumption that we’ll live up to 70. We were asked to write specifically what we want to achieve, no matter how impossible it may sound. It again made us all think so much. It forced us to define our terms, our goals, our hopes, our aspirations. It kind of gave us a direction.
I remember reading somewhere that a Dream is a goal with a deadline. This exercise made me realise it was precisely that and yes it is possible to make your dreams come true.
This exercise helped me immensely. It motivated me, made me think, made me determined to turn my dream into a goal. Somehow when a deadline ticks, one spurs into action—at least I do. Most of us do not push ourselves. We are happy to drift along, like a sea weed, going where the current takes us, along with the flow. It’s always harder to swim against the current—but the important and noteworthy thing is, you are going where you want to go.
Take half an hour off and do this exercise. Write down the events that have shaped your life. Reflect, think and decide where you want to go. Believe me, there’s something so definitive about putting it down on a paper—it is indeed different from just thinking the same thing in your head. Do it--It’s your gift to yourself.
And if you share your thoughts, as always, I’m listening.