Christmas lights are up on Orchard Road and the shops are playing my favourite (and not so favourite) Christmas songs. January feels like just yesterday, where has the year gone?
At the beginning of the year, I set some big hairy audacious personal goals for myself. I envisioned a skinnier me, more romance with the wife and more quality bonding time with the kids (they are growing up way too fast). I did absolutely nothing about it for nine months. Life got in the way, particularly work. Work is important, but these are the other big rocks in my life that I could no longer ignore.
So last month, I took my own medication and got myself a coach. A coach needs a coach too. I am glad to report that within four weeks, I have a collection of shiny virtual medals on my iPhone from hitting my daily activity goals. More importantly, I gained new insights about myself: To create maximum impact for myself, I need to create space to think.
Too often I would be pulled left, right and tapped on the shoulder, I am always being called into impromptu meetings and working on last-minute deadlines. I got sucked into the to-do list and felt that I did not have the time to put my goals front and centre, much less time to think. Through coaching, I realised that simply creating a structure makes a huge difference in my life – I start the day with 30 minutes of think time. I use an app, called The Way of Life, to track my progress. The biggest impact is from weekly sessions with my coach where we review what I have achieved and set new goals for the week ahead.
As a coach myself, I have had the pleasure to work with amazing people. My dilemma is not uncommon. We spend a lot of our time fire-fighting, being swept away by events, rather than approaching problems in an intentional manner. Some of our best breakthrough ideas need space and time to incubate, but we are sucked into last-minute deadlines, and before you know it, days, weeks, and even months would have flown by without us noticing it.
Here are a few classic ways to find space for introspection.
Escape from the norm
I like to get away by going for an adventure with my family to the remote beaches of Borneo, where we are building a local kampong-style home. The place is so remote that we could well be having our own private beach, and the sunsets are just spectacular.
My clients shared similar unique escapades, one travelled to an island alone (he specifically asked his wife not to join him). Another client also went off alone to learn free diving. A few went on a solitary trip to Bali for a five-day juice detox. One thought about quitting his job and drinking beer for a month (this idea is still under careful consideration). Our superwoman, Sophia went for a 10-day meditation retreat in Bogor, Indonesia. Here’s what she shared about the escape:
“…I experienced something. It is a feeling, it is hard to describe. If I have to, I do call it happiness and equanimity. Not the jumping up-and-down kind of ecstasy, but being contented with myself – my strengths and glorious imperfections.”
Take yourself somewhere unfamiliar and exotic. Some of us find it daunting to travel alone, having only yourself for company. However that is exactly what we need to re-centre ourselves to look within.
A new perspective
You do not have to wait for the next break, or jump onto the next available flight. (Although I do love to hear about it if you do!) In the meanwhile, there are things you can do right away to think deep. One of my favourites are books. Books are a great way to trigger creative breakthrough ideas.
Adam Grant’s “Give And Take” was a milestone read for me this year. It solidified my beliefs that you succeed by helping others to be successful. Put it bluntly, you don’t have to be a prick to be successful.
Another one is Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”. I found comfort in his words that nearly every company goes through life-threatening moments, commonly known as WFIO which stands for “We’re F#%ked, It’s Over” (pronounced whiff-ee-yo). We must be a legit company then, let’s just say we have had some of those.
The trick is to actually read them. Books on your bedside do not transfer knowledge while you are sleeping.
Build me-time into your routine
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Find me-time to contemplate everyday, to re-centre yourself and ensure your goals are front and centre. Incorporate it as a daily exercise routine, a quiet time to let your mind flow. A client of mine, who is a veteran triathlete, spends hours of solitude training on his bike. He enjoys the me-time, thought bubbles will rise from within and sometimes, new ideas. When ideas happen, quickly jot it down as they will disappear. Human working memory is shockingly short, 10 to 25 seconds, just like goldfish. Yes, that means carrying a notebook (or your phone) with you everywhere.
To me, inspiration is like an elusive woman running down the beach. If I want to see her, I have to wake up early and run hard. She is not going to knock on my door begging to transform my life. No, I have to chase after her, and when I catch her, I have to work persistently to win her hand, and maybe then, my life will be transformed forever.
For those who are up for it, start this weekend – book a flight, read a book or set a daily reminder to schedule 30 minutes of me-time.
That inspiration is not in another continent far far away. It’s much closer than you think. After all, the answer is within.
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About Roger Grant, CEO of PERSONNA
Roger helps organisations turn ideas into real business impact. The change comes from the inside out.
He has more than 20 years of experience leading large diverse teams to create innovative customer-centric technology services, including the launch of Nokia’s first enterprise mobile device support service.