Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 - A Rambling Retrospective

I have meandered and rambled a bit in this post...ruminating and thinking aloud in part as I analyse and summarize the year that is coming to a close. I also want to say a heartfelt thank you to all my readers and friends who have staunchly supported my growth -- by leaving encouraging comments on my blog, tweeting my posts, generously sharing their knowledge, and connecting.

As the year draws to a close, most of us go into retrospection mode. I had intended to go through 2014 a little differently from the earlier years. Thanks to books like Creative Visualization, The Power of Now, Small Victories, and such, I have come to believe -- in principle and seen the effect in practice -- in the power of being able to achieve what we want. As Paulo Coelho says: “When you want something deeply, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The desire has to be deep; it has to be true. There can be no half-heartedness involved. I learned that when what we desire is intrinsically linked to our purpose, half-heartedness has no place. The commitment comes from within, and we are in the flow. I have tried to consciously follow my intellect as well as emotion in what I do. It has been tough! As we enter the penultimate week of the year, I thought it'd be a good time to see what I have managed to do differently, where have I just continued as I in the past, and where have I slipped. 

To make it easy for myself, I thought I would follow the star fish model and do a short analysis of the year.

Keep Doing: I want to keep reading, writing, working on what I love, and travelling! 

a) I finally picked up my reading pace this year. I have always been a voracious reader but somewhere in the last 5 years, my pace had slipped. I made excuses for myself - lack of time topping the list. I got frustrated with all the books in my "to-read" list that had grown to be a mile long. The more frustrated I got, the less I got done, and I got even more frustrated. You get the self-defeating cycle. Till I re-read Getting Things Done by David Allen and got back to re-prioritising what was important for me. I got back to my "to--read" list and picked the first one. After resisting checking twitter, email, blogfeeds and myriad other similar distractions, I read through the book. The joy I find in reading kicked back in, and I haven't stopped after that. This was in Jan'14. I've read most of the books I wanted to (fiction and non-fiction combined). I have made a commitment to myself to keep doing stuff that matters to me. I have made my 2015 to-read list. It may get re-prioritised based on new finds...but I will keep reading.

b) Writing is my passion. I am at my articulate and expressive best when I am writing about what moves me. And apart from travel, I am fascinated by "learning" and the cognitive processes involved. My purpose is to enable individuals and organizations learn openly and collaboratively, to become self-directed learners inspiring each other. Idealistic? Perhaps! I keep writing about it; regular readers of my blog will know what I am talking about here. I want to write more frequently and more purposefully, synthesizing my reading and practical experiences, and share what I learn. 

c) Travelling is how I rejuvenate myself. It's part of who I am. It would be somewhat facile to say I love to travel! It is more accurate to say, I have to travel. I find myself when I travel, and I mostly travel alone. It is strangely exhilarating, forcing me to be completely present and alert in a new place, soaking in the experience and all the sensations. Travelling offers me a way to not only unwind but also to discover myself. This year, I went to two places I have been dreaming of visiting for years -- Ladakh and the Sunderbans. I have stayed in a boat for 4 days, in a tent in surrounded by the majestic range of the snow covered Himalays, sat in the middle of Nubra Valley on a full moon night. And each time, it has been a journey of self-discovery. In 2015, I intend to go back to Ladakh again, and also pack in a few more trips, perhaps to the north-eastern parts of India. 

More Of: I want to become good at visual representation of concepts and ideas, practice meditation and mindfulness more regularly, and burn more calories daily.

a) I am in my comfort zone when I write. I am trying to hone and refine the skill; yet, I still find it comforting. I want to push myself to present my ideas in different forms -- presentations, visual maps, infographics, videos, podcasts, etc. I have  tried to capture some of my thoughts in the form of presentations rather than blog posts to push myself to think more visually, and structure my ideas succinctly. Here are the links to a couple of my slide decks on SlideShare: L&D Re-Imagined--21st Century Workplace Learning and Community Management--Toward a Learning Organization. I want to use more visual techniques to illustrate my ideas and concepts -- sketches, infographics, diagrams. This is definitely something I am going to do more of in the coming year.

b) I have been practising meditation and mindfulness somewhat sporadically for a year or so, and more regularly in the last 6~months. I can vouch for the benefits and am committed to my routine. It means giving up perhaps an hour's worth of sleep but that is a small price to pay. There is nothing to beat the very early morning quiet, when the world is still caught in that moment between dawn and daybreak, that fills me with a sense of deep calm and peace.

I am learning the value of prioritisation and managing my time. While I have always been a stickler for "being on time", I learned that valuing my personal time is different. "Being on time" to fulfil someone else's plan is what we are quite good at. When it comes to being on time for myself, I have often failed. Miserably! I have never showed up fully for myself. However, I recognize that it is in fact critical and directly proportional to the value I add to my work and family, to the people who matter to me deeply,and to myself. I've learned that others respect my time only to the extent that I respect it. I have begun to "respect" my time -- what I do, whom I spend it with, how much of it do I spend pursuing my passion, how do I curtail superfluous or meaningless activities -- are questions I have actively started asking myself. Everyday. As Randy Pausch said: "Time is all we have. You may find one day that you have less than you think."

c) I am also one of those people who take up exercising and follow through only to give up in 6 months. This year, I have committed to taking up exercising not as a separate activity but instead integrating it into my lifestyle. I am happy to note that even small changes do have a big impact -- on health, mental and physical agility, and general well-being. 

Start Doing: I want to learn facilitation techniques -- from visual facilitation to online facilitation, contribute more to online communities, and be a strategic L&D consultant.

a) I have always felt that facilitation is a powerful means of enabling dialogue, fostering open collaboration, and providing guidance for deep thinking. This description captures the essence of facilitation and also the reasons why I want to develop and hone my skills in this area: 
A facilitator is an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a “content-neutral” party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work. A facilitator can also be learning or a dialogue guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values and about its systemic processes and context. ~ Kaner, 2007 
As a start, I am joining the International Association of Facilitators. I am going to look out for opportunities to facilitate workshops (I have done a few but want to facilitate with more rigour and skill), run sessions for organizations and integrate my online community management skills with facilitation. 

b) While I am a member of many online communities, I realised that I have been a lurker in most. I have learned from these communities and taken my learning back to my blog, my work and my inner development, but I have not actively given back to these communities with my contribution and participation. I fully intend to do so in 2015 starting now. This also means prioritizing my time and putting in place a calendar for my writing schedule. 

c) On the professional front, I want to focus on the kind of work that requires problem solving for my clients. I want to be working on strategic L&D consulting assignments where I can apply my different skills and experience -- learning & development strategies, organizational development, instructional design, online community building and management, training and facilitation, designing learning ecosystem, and such.

Stop Doing: I am going to stop over analysing and re-thinking the past, resist spending time on what doesn't give me satisfaction -- intellectually or emotionally.

We all go through experiences and phases where we haven't put our best foot forward, or done what we should have. I have been no different. I have reacted when I should have thoughtfully responded. I have often over-analysed and drawn conclusions when I should have just let things be. I have spent time on fruitless rumination when that time could have been spent doing myriad other things that give me profound joy like spending time with my daughter and family, listening to music, just being with nature, reading, writing, learning, travelling, growing...being my own best friend. 

Less Of: I want to do less of work that does not add to my learning or challenge me to give my best. Most importantly, do less of procrastination in everything that I know I must do. 

a) The mind is a curious machine. Its innate ability to come up with creative and innovative reasons for procrastination have always amazed me. I am not going to give into it as often as I used to. Less procrastination and over-analysing and more of putting my work out there is my mantra this year. While some of my best ideas come to my when I am daydreaming and my brain is in a diffused mode, I intend to do more "focused daydreaming" and not drift.

Overall, 2014 has been a good year. I have done quite a few things I set out to do. Most importantly, I am beginning to value just being in the moment, being present and embracing life. As Isabel Allende says in one of my absolute all-time favourite TED Talks - How to Live Passionately, No Matter Your Age:
"What have I gained? Freedom. I don't have to prove anything anymore. I'm not stuck in the idea of who I was, who I want to be, or what other people expect me to be. ...I love my brain. I feel lighter. I don't carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It's great to let go. I should have started sooner.
She is my hero. If I can be 1% of the woman she is, I will dance with joy! Looking forward to 2015...

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