How to Powerfully Step into the New Year 2017

I think it was 1989 when I, for the first time, realised that the 1st of January was a special day. The biggest change for me, one that always took a few weeks to get used to, was to write 1990 instead of 1989 in our school notebooks daily. While the whole world celebrated and wished each other on the 1st of Jan, nothing much else seemed to have changed (for me). Today, as we stand at the cusp of 2017, 28 years have passed since then. Though the fact still remains that nothing much changes between Dec 31 and 1 Jan, if we look at the last 28 years, then we can no doubt say that the whole world and each of our individual lives have changed immensely. While we may not always notice and acknowledge it, change is the only constant in life. A New Year is our annual reminder that time has come to move on and prepare ourselves for the changes coming.

Today I want to ponder and write about how to powerfully step into the new year, so that we are not surprised or shocked by the changes it will bring along. Over the years I have realised that we might very well let the years slide by without much attention; there always comes a time when we are made aware, not often subtly, that time has moved on. So read on if you prefer to enter the new year on your own terms, or skip this article if you feel a new year is too insignificant an event to trouble your brain cells.

1. Complete 2016
The first step before starting anything new is to finish what you are doing now. Just like we put the first foot down before lifting the other one while jogging, just like we get our raw vegetables and spices ready before cooking our food, it is imperative that we finish our 2016 before we even start thinking about 2017. If we ignore this first step, the result will be the same when we start cooking a delicious dish only to realise later we never got the required ingredients.

What I mean by completing 2016 is taking some dedicated time before the new year to –
1. Introspect your goals (if any) at the start of the year and make peace with where you are now.
2. Celebrate your achievements (big and small) and laugh about your failures (missed opportunities)
3. Reflect upon what you have learned, and how you have changed or grown over the year.
4. Free your mind from the grip of the difficult people and hard situations you have encountered this year.
5. Apologize if you realise you have been a difficult person in someone else’s life.
6. Give up any blame, regret or shame gathered this year. There will be new to collect in 2017 🙂
7. Thank and express gratitude to everyone who has made a difference in your life.

2. Know Yourself
The next step before moving ahead is to take some time to know yourself better. That doesn’t mean finding out your blood group or body weight or exam grades or other people’s predictions about your future, but rather looking deep inside yourself to discover your deepest values and motivations. You can do so by answering questions such as –
1. What are your deepest motivations? What have you always wanted to do?
2. What are you really passionate about? Is there something worth devoting your life for?
3. What drives your actions and decisions? What are the values you hold most dearly?
4. What makes your really happy or angry?
5. Who are your biggest inspirations in life, and who are the people you can’t stand? Why?

Answering these questions are anything but simple and there can never be final answers to them. But if we take time and ponder over them and come up with some ideas, we will know ourselves better than anybody else (our parents, friends, grades, achievements, money) can tell us about.

3. Where do you want to be in the next 5 or 10 years?
The next step is to think about the future and exercise your imagination muscles. Think about the kind of person you want to be in the next 3, 5 or 10 years. This might seem like too far ahead in the future, but it doesn’t take long for these years to roll by. Just think about how quickly the last 10 years have passed by. Imagining your own future can feel a bit strange and uncomfortable at first, but soon it will become a lot of fun – just like a game. Do not let this question overwhelm you (which it can), and instead, play it like a game and see what you come up with.

While you imagine your future, think about your deepest desires and ambitions. What do you want to accomplish that will give you the most satisfaction? What changes you want to see in yourself, your family, your society, your company, your city and your country? How do you want people to relate to you after 10 years? In this step you do not need concrete answers, but a vague image of where you want to be. The intention of this exercise is to get you thinking about your future, the actual answers you come up with are not so relevant.

4. Decide milestones or checkpoints on the way
The next step is to identify milestones for the next 1 year for the ambitions which you discovered in the previous step. Don’t let this step scare you. You don’t have to decide milestones for each one of your ambitions – you can choose a few which are the most important to you. Also don’t worry or bother about “how” you will reach your milestones as you have the whole year to think about that.

These milestones will serve as checkpoints which will measure your progress towards your long term ambitions. These milestones can be broken down into quarterly and monthly milestones depending on what you prefer. The only thing to take care while marking these milestones is to make sure they can be observed and measured by anyone easily and they are not vague. Make sure to be clear about what you want to achieve, when and where you will achieve that and with whom. The more numbers you can use the better this step will be in its fruitfulness, and it is best to avoid vague words like soon, sometime, in a few weeks, improvement, better, more, etc.

In the above two steps, it is very important to also include and keep time for recreation, fun, sports and other forms of entertainment. The whole idea of this exercise is be more aware about yourself and prepared for the coming year, and it is very important to not take it too seriously and think only about work and professional stuff. If you are a movie buff and want to watch 100 movies or visit a few movie festivals next year, plan your milestones for it.

Where are you going?

Where are you going?

With the above four steps, you can step into the new year and make a powerful “start“. Of course, that doesn’t mean that your life will pan out exactly as you imagined or that the next year is going to be your best year. It just doesn’t work that way. But knowing where you want to go is always better than hoping to get “somewhere”.

I can write another article about what you can do in the new year to make sure you hit your milestones, but we must always remember that change is the only constant in life, and it can come up in unexpected ways and mess up our plans anytime. But having messed up plans is still better than having no plans at all, and we can repeat the above process anytime to plan afresh for the future – we need not wait for the next “New Year” to repeat this process.

2012 – The Year That Was

One year is not a very long time, so to speak. But what can change in one’s life in that one year has no boundaries. If I look back at where I was at the start of this year and where I am now, there are hardly anything in common.

I’m not in the same job as I was a year before, neither am I staying in the same home and city. The set of people I was talking to most in January and those with whom I interact with these days are totally different. Even at the deeper level of thoughts and consciousness, I am a very different person now than what I was a year ago ( thought still not very sure about this). I am thinking and acting about the same stuff differently, and have already done some things in this year which I thought I would never do.

The year started with a big change on the professional front – as I left Yahoo and got busy in setting up my own company. I enjoyed writing product specs, then coding most of them myself, releasing beta releases of my product and getting feedback from prospective customers. Then started the process of making business plans, pitching for funding to investors and forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs.

2013 - Happy New Year

2013 – Happy New Year

Working from home had another perk – I got to spend the maximum time with my parents, unless when I was out with friends or for work related meetings. Before I got the biggest jolt of my life in July, I enjoyed and cherished every second I spend with my parents in Bangalore. Although my mother was troubled by a leg injury at the beginning of the year, she was duly enjoying my being at home full time. We used to play and tease each other, and often run around the house chasing each other on trivial issues. But the most important thing was – she was truly happy and enjoying whatever Bangalore had to offer.

As the year ends, all these conflicting thoughts and emotions are settling and giving way to a peaceful state again. The anger and the upset is still there, but I guess there is less mental holding on to it now. It’s not like the emotions are not there, but now I am not so caught up in them.

It is said that the “mind” is our biggest treasure, the one thing which separate us from animals. But it can also be our biggest hindrance. The mind likes to think – about the past pains, about the future dreams, and so on. If we get too caught up with it, we risk missing the right here right now, this very moment. We can only cherish the present moment if we learn and practice to separate from our constantly spinning mind. And it also doesn’t mean that the pain will go away. It will stay with us, and there is no place to go. But it is all OK.. Just as it is!! There is no where else to go. Pain or pleasure, it doesn’t make any difference.

10 Things Not to Do in the New Year

I can without doubt say that 2011 was my best year ever, and I am grateful for a lot of things which happened this past year. As we all move ahead into the new year 2012, I want to list out ten things which we all should not do in the years and decades ahead. As human beings there are so many habits ingrained in our behavior which we don’t even realize. Some of these habits help us in moving forward, while others stop us from realizing our true potential. It takes a lot of conscious effort to break free of these habits or patterns. Hence this list of ten points below are those habits which I am going to stop doing –

1. Stop Running From Our Problems

It is very easy to shut our eyes during a problem, blame someone else or the situation and look in the other direction. In the new year, we should face these problems head on and stop running from them. We should aim to learn, adapt and solve the problems over a period of time. But we shall not close our eyes and assume the problem is no longer there. In the process, we will realize that we have become a better human being.

2. Stop Try Becoming What we are Not

Do you think you are stuck in the wrong job? Or are you trying very hard to please your parents or your spouse? Or are you working day and night to match up to your peers? Stop that. NOW. Each one of us is unique, and the sooner we realize that it is better. It makes no sense in trying to become a person that someone else wants us to be. Instead, let us realize our own uniqueness and do what we love and in the way we want to do it. Break these chains, and only then will we experience freedom.

Do you have Not To-Do list in 2012?

Do you have Not To-Do list in 2012?

3. Stop Holding on to the Past

An event which happened one second ago is as much in the past as another which happened ten years ago. Whatever has happened is over and we never have any control over that? Good or bad, success or failure – past is past. Period. There is no point feeling guilty or repenting over past mistakes. Similarly, there is no point boasting over our past successes. What matters is what we are doing now… So let us stop living in the past in 2012, and take the steps to make the most of every moment.

4. Stop Being Scared

Pluck those ‘ifs‘ and ‘buts‘ out of your life (and your vocabulary) and act brave, for a change. Most of our fears are over estimated while at the same time we all have a tendency to under estimate our own capabilities. So stop being scared as nothing bad is going to happen to you if you go ahead with your dreams. The only thing that will happen is that you will feel alive, maybe a little discomfort as you expand your comfort zone, but you will experience what it is to really live.

5. Stop Wasting the Best Years of our Life

I am 28 now, and I know these are the best years of my life. This is the best time to do anything as the body is still young while the mind is mature and more wise from the past mistakes and lessons. So I am not going to waste these years working in a job which I don’t like. Don’t postpone your travel plans around the world (or any other dreams of yours) to a later time. Let me tell you, later never comes. Fix a date, and go do it. We can never get back any time we let go. So buckle up and do what you want before your body gives out.

6. Stop Waiting for Big Things

Are you waiting for that promotion, or for getting that big idea that will change your life? We all live our lives planning and dreaming about big success, but the real joy is in the small things while we move towards our goals. We must always aim big, but should never sacrifice happiness for achievement. The journey is the real reward and not as much the destination. So take a moment to realize the world around you, the people in your life, and make sure to give the best of yourself to everyone around you.

7. Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself

Enough of feeling sorry or crappy about ourselves. Complaining and feeling we are not capable is a very easy way to escape our responsibilities. It only gives us a reason to not work and not being accountable for our own life. Instead realize that everything that happened has made you the person that you are, and so will everything in the future. Don’t have any regrets because life didn’t turn out for as we wanted, or a certain person didn’t act out as we expected. Only when we let go of the life that we have planned for ourselves we can be ready for the life waiting for us.

8. Stop Trying to Control Everything

We human beings take great joy in controlling things and situations. But life in its most inherent form has always been unpredictable. We have controlled a lot of things in the modern society for our ease and comfort, but trying to control everything is a futile exercise. We can never control (after an extent) how life will act out, and life’s beauty is in its unpredictability. Stop trying to second guess the future, because you will not be happy when life shocks you, which it will. In 2012, let us be ready with open arms for the surprises in life, both the positive and negative ones.

9. Stop Blaming Others

What has happened in our life, what we did or did not do, happened because of us and not because of any him, her or the situation. Let us take responsibility for our choices and decisions. We must always be ready for the consequences of our decisions and stop putting the blame on life or on someone else. Your life starts with YOU and it will end with YOU.

10. Stop Being Unthankful

Each day is a gift and nobody knows how many more we have. In the pursuit of our big dreams, we should never forget the joy of being alive. Be thankful of each day, of each breath we take, and of the various other small things in life which often go unnoticed. Say thanks to the people who have made a mark in our life and who we know will stand with us no matter what.

So make this new year count. It doesn’t matter if the previous years counted or not. It doesn’t matter whether we are young or old. The only thing that matters is the present moment, and your resolve to make it count. So go out, and do what you like. Make mistakes and learn from them. Enjoy the richness and beauty of the world, even if it means getting hurt sometimes. We all have only one life, and let’s not save anything for the next one. Happy New Year!!

2010 – The End of a Decade

An year has come to an end. A decade has come to an end. And what a remarkable decade that was. In the last 10 years, so much changed in the world, and specifically in India, that it is difficult to believe that was only 10 years ago. I am going to write down what all has changed in the last decade in the bullet points that follow.

When this decade started –

  • Bill Clinton was still the US President. Can’t believe it, George Bush was sworn in only in 2001
  • People used to listen music on Sony WalkMan, as there was no iPod, which was launched only in 2001
  • The Twin Towers were still standing on the New York skyline, and nobody cared about Al-Qaeda or Osama.
  • US was not at war. Now they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein is dead.
  • Kalpana Chawla was still alive, her space shuttle Columbia exploded on re-entry in Feb 2003
  • The 2004 tsunami was yet to happen, which would wipe out hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still together, they separated in 2005 after which Brangelina came.
  • Major cities were safe around the world. London, Bali and Madrid were bombed in the decade
  • Gay marriages were illegal even in the US, with California legalizing it in 2005 and even Indian Supreme Court passing a landmark judgement a few years ago.
  • There was no Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Gmail. Need I say anything more…
  • Phones used to be like 2kg bricks. The decade saw them getting smaller to tiny, before getting big again with the advent of smartphones.
  • There was no iPhone, which Steve Jobs unveiled in 2007, ushering in a revolution in touch screen phones.
  • People still used to use desktops, before laptops took over desktop sales by a big margin in this decade.
  • Lehman Brothers, Enron, Worldcom were still functioning companies. They all filed for bankruptcy in the last decade.
  • Mumbai have not seen the train bombings and the Nov 2008 attacks, which got the attention of the whole world.
  • Michael Jackson was still alive, and not being charged with child molestation
  • India has still not done its Pokhram nuclear tests, which changed the South Asia defence scenario totally.
  • India’s growth was still not 8%.
  • I was still in Delhi, and in school. As it later happened, I was to spend 4 years in Jaipur, then 3 again in Delhi/Noida and now 2 and counting in Bangalore

I certainly must have missed some very important landmarks in the last 10 years, make sure to add them in the comments!!