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Old 14th November 2011, 16:15   #1
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Default Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

No, this is not a Tata Safari ownership thread. The thread's title is definitely inspired by the Safari ads, especially the one that starts with "If you look back on your life, what would you remember?"


I have been asking that question to myself quite often. Would I remember the 10+2 years spent slogging to get into a very good college and qualify for the right stream? Would I remember the tense Engg years, to land the right job during the 7th semister campus placements? Would I remember the 16 years of job, delivering one project after another, moving from one role to the next higher?

I mean, the life just seems to be drifting from one meaningless milestone to another. Many a times, I wonder, what is the point of life anyways? Just going through the motions, without really getting anywhere that matters?

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that I have not achieved anything or I am a failure. I do live a decently comfortable life and could easily be considered as 'successful' by average Indian standards. It is the definition of 'successful' that I am concerned about. Is it about money, lifestyle, creature comforts, material possesions, segment of your car etc etc. Or is it really about a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement (for something that really matters), peace of mind, bliss, a sense of contentment, happiness?

I tend to believe the later and that's where things start to look murky.

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 01:23.
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Old 14th November 2011, 16:21   #2
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

On a personal front -> Mostly I get up around 7. Get the kids ready, walk one to the bus stop, drop the other to the baby-sitter. Get ready and drive to work. I dread the 45-60 minute traffic jam that I face when I return home. (For people from Mumbai, let me drop a hint -> Kanjurmarg flyover). By the time I reach home, I feel completely exhausted. My wife, who BTW also has a job, would have picked up the kids and reached home slightly earlier than me and even she is tired. The kids would be either cranky or hyperactive (based on whether they got some sleep after coming back from school). 2 tired parents and 2 either cranky or hyperactive kids, you can imagine the rest. Finish dinner, spend some time in front of the PC (GoogleReader/FB/TBHP) or the TV and then hit the sack around 11 only to stop the "We're the Blackberry boys" alarm the next morning. I used to like that song, because of which I set it as my alarm; but now hearing that song early in the morning irritates me.

Its the same drill every day.

On work front -> Many a times I just drag myself to work. Go through the never ending stream of emails. Get into calls with folks in another continent. Half the day is already gone without a single "to-do" striked out. There is a new fire to be put out every day. And then there would be people asking "why isn't this done already? I need it NOW." and I am not even sure that the thing that they want me to do is of any significance in the first place. I reach home and there could be more work-related conf-calls that I need to attend, for which I have to lock myself in one of the rooms (its unprofessional to have kids playing and shouting in the background).
Work doesn't stop even when you are not well and properly on sick-leave, or tending to a sick child, or on vacation. I remember, during my last trip to Tarkarli, the travel time increased from 9.5 hours to 11 hours because I had to pull to the side for 3 different (unplanned) calls each lasting about half an hour. During the next 3 days while I was at Tarkarli, I had spent countless hours on calls to take care of a customer escalation instead of sitting quietly at the beach and taking a dip in the clear water.

Last edited by SDP : 14th November 2011 at 17:43.
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Old 14th November 2011, 16:27   #3
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

Things like paying the elec bill or buying something that one of the kid wants in school or cleaning the kitchen-window or arranging the wardrobe neatly, all have to wait for the weekend. The week is typically so hectic that throughout the week, I look forward to the weekend.

And then, when the weekend actually starts, self-pity and procrastination (in equal parts) take over. Before I notice, its already 7:00 PM on Sunday evening with almost nothing from the weekend plans accomplished and the entire weekend consumed by unplanned things and lazing around. Ah, forgot to call the parents also. The next week is starting after a few hours, and a wave of disappointment engulfs me.

Mondays are the most difficult. Another Safari ad where a guy wearing formals says "I always wanted to quit on Monday morning".

I can completely relate to that guy.

So, overall, life seems like a mess. Just drifting from one day to the next, week after week, year after year. In the mean-time, the to-do list just gets bigger and bigger, the home gets dirtier, the paunch gets bigger and people get more distant.

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 09:32.
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Old 14th November 2011, 16:33   #4
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

Does life have to be this way? Or it is this way, because I am letting it be this way? I have increasingly started feeling disappointed in myself.
Recently read a poem on a friend's FB page.

The Guy in the Glass
by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Quite true. For me it is increasingly becoming difficult to have an eye-contact with the guy in the glass.

The question is, what am I going to do about it?
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Old 14th November 2011, 22:53   #5
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time*

Around 5-6 years back, as part of a leadership development program, I had attended the "7 habits of highly effective people" course conducted by FranklinCovey institute. 4 day course, brilliant faculty, good peer-group. Loved the concept. Started practicing a few things and like everything else it fizzled out over weeks and months. Somehow, because of the simplicity of those principles, the concepts stuck. I won't get into the 7 habits (everybody must have already read that book), but talk about my understanding of 2 simple, basic, extremely logical concepts from it:
1. Only something that you do consistently (something that has become a habit) would have lasting effects.
2. There might not be time for doing everything, and you need to prioritize upfront and stick to those priorities every day.

The book/course introduces you to the concept of 4 quadrants in which all our activities fall.
Name:  Covey_s_matrix_2.gif
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Its pretty self-explanatory. In a typical day, I spend most of my time in quadrant I and III (Urgent-Important and Urgent-NonImportant). Urgent-Important is logical, a customer escalation or a family emergency is a typical example. Why do I spend time on Urgent-NonImportant (e.g. a list of visa-ready people needed before EoD)? Its because, although it is NotImportant to me, it is important to somebody else who is Important. And when (and if at all) I am done with tasks in these 2 quadrants, out of self-pity ("I am working too hard, there is no time to breathe"), the remaining time mostly goes in quadrant IV (the NonUrgent-NonImportant tasks). Final result -> most of what was Important but NOT Urgent (Quadrant II) is not done at all. It gets pushed to the next day and then the next day, till a day it eventually morphs into something urgent (and moves to quandrant I).

Instead, if I start spending a good amount of time everyday on activities in quadrant II, the results would be as shown in the following diagram:
Name:  covery quadrant results.jpg
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<Disclaimer - both the images are from net. Copyright with original creator/publisher>

Vision - Balance - Discipline - Control - Few Crises -> isn't that what I want? A BIG Yes! I need to get more disciplined and regain control of my life - Reclaim my life!

Last edited by SDP : 14th November 2011 at 23:01.
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Old 15th November 2011, 00:06   #6
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

Focus on quadrant II - Important-NonUrgent.
What is important, but not urgent? Its quite simple. Most of these are things that I regret not doing. e.g. exercise - I know health is important, but has health deteriorated to a extent where I have to do something NOW? The answer is no, so it is not urgent. I will do it tomorrow. That tomorrow never comes and the guilt of ignoring health starts disturbing me.

So, the idea is to pick up one thing at a time from my Imortant-NonUrgent list and grow it into a habit. Don't want to start multiple things at the same time. Learn to juggle with one ball in the air, then add one more, reach the right rhythm and then add one more and so on and on. The important question is would I have the patience and the will-power to keep on going at one thing till it really becomes a habit?

If by now, you would have started wondering why am I doing this (apparently a private "self-improvement" exercise) on a PUBLIC forum like TBHP, the answer lies in the above question.

Past experiences have shown that I am not very good with either patience or with will-power. Lots of examples, just want to share a glaring one. I first enrolled for a proper gym when I was around 13 years old. Had dreams of having a good muscled body. Now its common knowledge that it takes about 3 years of good training and planned diet to develop a noticeable body. Somehow I did not had the will-power to doggedly go to the gym every morning and wait patiently for results. Went to the gym for some 6-7 months consistently, noticed very minor changes to the body and slowly the enthusiasm started ebbing out. Its started out with one or two day gaps, then weeks and eventually months. Over the next 2 years, I "rejoined" the gym around 3 times. Over the next 22-23 years, I have restarted multiple times and have given up after a few weeks/months. 25 years since the first start. Just imagine, all it needed was 3 years to develop and then maintain.

How to ensure that I "just do it'? day after day, week after week? Without expecting any instant results?
One of the solutions that I have read is to tell as many people as you can when you start with something new. That way, you have given an informal commitment to those people and that keeps you from giving up.

Still, why not am I announcing this offline only to my immediate family and close friends? Why online and why TBHP?
The thought-process is: I find a lot of like-minded people on TBHP with very similar background that I can relate to (sometimes even better than family and friends), so the chances of finding support and encouragement in the community are quite good. I am also counting on other troubled souls - like me - to get onto their own "reclaim your life" journey. That way, I can return the favour by being part of their support and encouragement network.

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 00:19.
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Old 15th November 2011, 00:35   #7
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time*

The plan:
I am planning to take one thing from my Quadrant II. Announce it and then keep reporting on a daily/weekly basis the following:
1. Track record till date for that particular activity
2. Defaults if any since last reporting. (I would expect criticism and suggestions from well-wishers so that the defaults/excuses don't reoccur)
3. Results if any
4. Any other observations and related experiences. (Would expect others to share their own experiences as well)

If there is no reporting at the expected interval, you can assume that I have fallen off the wagon and feel free to flog me.

My guess is 3 months would be a good amount of time for getting settled in the rhythm of the first thing. So I would take up a new ADDITIONAL thing from my quadrant II list after every 3 months. Rinse and repeat.

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 00:37.
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Old 15th November 2011, 01:15   #8
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Default Important but not urgent thing #1

Important but not urgent thing #1 -> Weight control

A little bit of background - I have had a little bit fo paunch since my school days. Never really felt like I was fat, but have been always conscious about the paunch. I am 5'10" and my weight was 59 Kgs around 15 years back. Cotton-world in Colaba was the only place which used to stock trousers with 29" waist at that time. First long-term US trip and I returned with 65Kg. Still nothing really to worry about as based on my build (decently broad shoulders), the ideal weight for my heaight was 70Kg. Over years, the 65KG became 70, the waist size became 32. Remained at that level for 3-4 years and then the next stage started. Moved to 72-73Kgs, remained there for another few years. At this stage, I used to occassionally gain a couple of KGs and then lose it by a bit of diet-control over next 2-3 months as I am very uncomrtable with excess weight. Then, towards the early part of the current year, I went all the way to 75Kgs and waist size of 34. Rather than coming down to 72-73, situation started looking worse towards the middle of the year (76.5Kgs). Started feeling sluggish. For the first time in my life, the tummy was permanently out of bounds of the chest-level. Eating habbits had changed, I was constantly munching on something. Eating became a hobby. All this coincided with a very stressful period of my career and I believe that stress and weight have a very strong correlation.

Something has to be done!

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 01:52.
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Old 15th November 2011, 01:16   #9
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Default Important but not urgent thing #1 : Track

Sep 1st, 2011 -> After walking the elder kido to the school bus-stop, went to a jogging-track which is 5 minutes away and made 3 rounds. Back started hurting. Because of the brisk walk, the leg muscles started complaining. I was sweating profusely at the end of the 20 minute walk. Felt good and have been continuing ever since.

Log for Sep and Oct -> The target was 6 days of brisk walk every week.
One default on 24th Sep, when I drove to Kaas early in the morning. Spent 4 hours walking on the Kaas plateau, so sort of covered up.
Another default on 13th Oct. There was a customer visit that day and I had to be in office pretty early. Covered over the subsequent Sunday.

I do 3 rounds of the track. One round is approximately half a KM. So overall 1.5KMs of brisk-walk. One round typically takes 6 minutes. Sometime in mid-Oct, substituted a 100 meter stretch with a 100 meters jog in one of the rounds. So in one day 1.4kms of brisk walk and 100 meters of jogging. Towards the end of Oct, came to 1.3KMs of brisk walk and 200 meters jogging.

Result at the end of Oct-2011 -> Lost 2.5KGs in 2 months and the weight is now 74. Waist size has reduced by an inch. I can wear a particular trouser again which I had stopped wearing 5 months back. The trouser belt is back to the last hole (was on second-last hole for 6 months).

Overall happy with the progress so far. Had a upset stomach and a bit of cold one sunday in Nov. So there was a berak for one day which I have compensated last Sunday. But had to drop the 100x2 meters jogging for almost 6-7 days. Back to the regular pattern since last 2 days. Would keep on reporting every Monday (about the last week).

Planning to pickup the next "Important but not urgent thing" at the begining of Dec-2011 (3 months from the start of #1).

PS: This is NOT a weight-loss thread. Bringing the weight under control just happens to be the first thing that I took up. This thread is going to cover a broad variety of "Important but not urgent" things over a period of time. You are welcome to be part of this journey.

Last edited by SDP : 15th November 2011 at 01:32.
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Old 15th November 2011, 12:39   #10
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

Bumping the thread. Would add details about eating habit changes in next post.
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Old 15th November 2011, 12:51   #11
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

@SDP, two lovely video clips (wont call them ad's here), very nicely juxtaposed with your write-up. Continue it, hopefully it will inspire others to stop, pause, take a look & do any required course-correction.

Just one question: You started this yesterday. And already a bump-up ?
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Old 15th November 2011, 12:57   #12
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

I can understand what you are going through. I also am going through the same. Even though I work in a startup, the daily challenges are not "Challenging enough" for me to be motivated and driven.

I also am overweight courtesy last 10 years (after B.E.) haywire lifestyle. Even though I'm into various physical activities and adventure sports, weight wasn't coming down. And then 3 months back I started running and training for Marathon. Life has become a lot more disciplined now. Since I was not much motivated at work, I channelised my energy and dedication towards running and that in turn has made me more focussed at work.

Cheers

P.S: I don't have any children.
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Old 15th November 2011, 13:03   #13
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

SDP, Great Thoughts and put amazingly well. I guess that is the story, generally speaking, we get to see everywhere. What is important is to be able to and stick to reclaiming the life and aim towards a better life.

I think the situation like this happens here because we get consumed by the work more than life and are unable to stop work interfering the life we want to live. I have seen particularly abroad, there are plans people put up while working about holidaying and getting away from work for sometime. They plan is meticulously and execute it no matter what unless there is a life and death situation. Then it does not matter to them whether their project is going to be in a critical phase or not. They would usually plan it months ahead and let it known about their absence and that gets planned with resouce management to replace the person while on leave. Also, the office timings are more or less strictly adhered to, so a person can literally look forward to leaving office at 6PM regularly.

But particuarly here in India, the concept of respecting such things is yet to drill down into any company to understand and manage such situations. End result you are always involved in work no matter what planning may have been put through. Work always dominates and the segregation of personal life and work just does not become possible on a regular basis.

Good to see your first step really taking shape. Congrats on your resolution and action towards that.

When I bumped into this thread, I really thought it was another Safari again. But this is now real reclaiming man...way to go...we all need it.
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Old 15th November 2011, 14:31   #14
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

@SDP - Great Thread. I think you have already taken a big step in reclaiming your life by posting this thread and making it public. This should keep you motivated.

I can relate to some of the situations that you have mentioned in the thread, especially the gym part.

Wishing you all the best.
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Old 15th November 2011, 15:17   #15
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Default Re: Reclaiming my life - one day at a time

Great thread! A lot of us would be able to relate to you. As we grow older, get married, have kids (you know the drill), time becomes very precious and we all start finding excuses. Wish you good luck with reclaiming.
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