Have you ever been thoughtless? A state of blank. Most of the times, our mind is filled with thoughts. And mostly they just wander like the floating dust in the breeze. Very rarely, the same thoughts catchup with the storm. Thats when we become emotionally uncontrollable.
So, why being thoughtless is so hard? To know this further, we just need to understand, how we have been brought up!! Most of the times, as part of evolution, we are subjected to various kinds of subjects. Most of the subjects during the initial period of our growth is by referrence than experience. Rose petals taste good. A flame is hot. These were constantly fed into our mind by the people around us. Once we experience this, we actually start to frame a stronger opinion on those. The first time, when we felt the heat of a flame, we realize and accept, the flame is hot. But at the same time, when we first tasted the petal of the rose, probably we would have felt its not so tasty as we thought to be. Because, taste is again an referrence scheme to the one which we liked. Immediately our mind compared it with the taste of the one which we liked to the rose petal, to form an opinion about the same.
Likewise, as our mind, starts to analyze the various things that starts to pileup over the years. Just like the cow that assimilates and chews its grass, when it sits on the pasture after its fodder. In the sameway, our mind brings in all the thoughts that are actively dormant as well as in the cache memory. From the recent quote you read, to the email, to the conversation to the year past conversation, to that lingering image etc, our mind just plucks one of these to float in, when we are idle. As the mind plays like a breeze, our thoughts as dust keeps floating and we float along with it.
Can the dust settle? Can we be thoughtless? Yes we can be. The best way to do it is becoming observant of those. It’s about watching the mind, as it frames those thoughts. Once you become observant of those thoughts, you start to realize the various thoughts that your mind creates or plucks from various links within the brain. The more you observe oneself, the mind starts to slow down. It becomes watchful towards the observation. It starts to slowdown.
Either being an observant or an observer, is also not an easy task. Because, when you are an observer, the actual expectation is to watch. Not to associate or arrive at any conclusions. Also not to link with any of the knowledge. For example, when we watch kids playing in the park, we generally don’t observe. We actually, allow our thoughts to look into the kids, their play, the beautiful surrounding of the green part, the tall green trees nearby; as minutes passes by we also start to do prediction, whether the kid might slip when they play, or start to immerse ourselves in the play as a mode of enjoyment and start to think about similar kids, or relate to the news or players associated. Then we start to day dream.
However, as an observer, when you start to observe the kid as a human and not even as kid, and not linking it to anything and just watch without any assumptions or predictions, then during that state of mind, we are thoughtless. Why thoughtless is so important to one’s focus? Being thoughtless, allows one to observer the state in the as-is condition. Thus it demolishes all layers of wraps covered by the associated thoughts. When you are thoughtless, there is a certain vacuum that gets created in mind. This vacuum at the initial stage tries to keep itself full, by pulling all thoughts in to the mind. However, as a practice, when you start to being thoughtless, then this vacuum starts to expand. There is a sudden vastness, we start to feel. In this vastness, we admire things as they are. We accept the things as it is. The mind doesn’t start to construe things or create assumptions. Most of the times, its our assumptions or presumptions that plays a major role part of all our communications in life.
Now, visualize where it’s without any assumption or presumption. Then the discussion becomes simple. The communication is open valley. Everything is visible in-front of the one who hears. There is crystal clear clarity. This brings in a new form of emotional conditioning. We don’t react. We stop being emotionally reactive. We immerse in the presence. We value the time. We start to see, there is no past and future. There is only now. Reaction slowly disappears. Acceptance, takes a major form. This is also conditioning of the mind. But in this state, we start to transform. In this state, as we. focus on now, we start to look at each and every aspect as a task in hand for this moment; rather than the results for the tasks. Which means, we start to unify. Unify as one, time, place and task all in one.
The excellence starts to appear, only when this happen. At this state results doesn’t matter. Because results take care of themselves. They are just by product of one’s own actions. However results influence to drive the actions minimizes. It’s the essence of being in presence, drives the results. Being thoughtless, is as I write, this blog, it’s allowing a free flow of words, at this point in time, to draft a content. I specifically removed the word meaningful, because, it varies from individual to individual. The meaning is nothing but an outcome of the understanding of various learnings and observations in the past, in relation to this blog. However, when you read and leave it to stand as such in your mind without any linkage, then the action which you had carried out is an immersive experience of being in presence and enjoying it. That’s being thoughtless.
Without thoughts, one cannot become thoughtless. Once one becomes thoughtless, its reveberation expands the thoughtlessness for others thoughtfulness.
The theory of constraints (TOC), as it’s known among the management teams. It was conceived as a philosophy of continuous improvement. It has evolved in the last 30+ years from the time Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt introduced the concept in his book “The Goal“. TOC tries to identify a constraint with in an organization production process. The assumption is there is always a constraint. Basically, TOC by Goldratt laid out a systematic approach to identify what was preventing a company from achieving its goal of making money for its owners. This blog is trying to use that approach, to help in one’s thinking or the focussing process.
Who is Dr Eliyahu Goldratt?
Eliyahu Moshe Goldratt was an Israeli business management guru. An author of several non-fiction and business novels on the application of theory of constraints. He introduced the optimized production technique, the famous TOC, the thinking process and other TOC derived tools.
“I smile and start to count on my fingers: One, people are good. Two, every conflict can be removed. Three, every situation, no matter how complex it initially looks, is exceedingly simple. Four, every situation can be substantially improved; even the sky is not the limit. Five, every person can reach a full life. Six, there is always a win-win solution. Shall I continue to count?”
Eliyahu M. Goldratt
How TOC got evolved?
TOC became famous through his book, The Goal. In his book, the protagonist is an operations manager. Goldratt uses TOC to device a plot. The plot revolve around identifying the current constraint, building upon the constraint to find out which would be the next limiting constraint. For example, in the production plant, the operations manager faces one particular constraint. The constraint is the inadequate machine tool capacity. Goldratt explains how this affects the production process, and when resolved what can be the other constraint that limits the system.
What are the key elements of TOC?
Goldratt followed five focusing steps in the process of on-going improvement in his TOC. Those steps are
Identify the constraint: Try and identify a constraint, that is limiting the output. This can be a production constraint or policy constraint.
Exploit the constraint: Achieve the best possible output, with the constraint in place. Goldratt visualized the production process as a flow process. In a flow process, try and remove the limitations that constrain the flow. Also reduce the time that is affected by the constraint and apply it for a most effective way possible.
Subordinate other activities to the constraint: Now, link the output of other operations to match the constraint. Thus this helps to smooth the workflow. Also clears any stagnation points that can happen due to the work in process inventory. Avoid making the constraint wait for work
Elevate the constraint: When the constraint is not resolved, assume the machine output cannot be increased, then increase the staff and the number of machines to reach the desired output.
If anything has changed, go back to step one: When the outcome is changed, go back to starting stage again. Assess to see if there is any other operation or policy that is becoming a system constraint. Follow the above steps again. This helps in consistent process of ongoing improvement.
How an Olympic swimmer used TOC principles?
TOC can be applied to Personal Excellence too. It’s not only for organizations but also for personal growth and victory. To cite an example from Theory of Constraint Institute, an Olympic hopeful failed twice. She failed to qualify for the swimming team. She took the TOC and proved in the she can win. This is upon correction of few short falls. Those were
Take time to stretch.
Remove fear and think positive.
Communication with coach to be better. Develop good communication.
Train when you are in strength. Don’t stretch when you are tired.
She upon applying the TOC principles, went to win gold medal and clock new world record. She turned out to be a motivational speaker in future and also returned to olympics triathlon after few years.
Considering 5 steps mentioned earlier, the basic questions that needs to be answered are
What to change.
What to change to.
How to cause the change
The above questions of the Thinking process, helps us to drill down into our visualizations. This helps to present the cause and effect relationships, which we observe in our day to day activities. It helps us to capture those to portray their relationships in a simple and straightforward manner. The Thinking process is an integral part of TOC.
TOC when applied properly, can have a real good impact psychologically. This is by systematically addressing the question. These are the questions one has intuitively, however TOC brings this out clearly. There is a process based on the psychology of change that acknowledges and systematically addresses the questions people intuitively ask when evaluating a change.
Am I addressing the problem?
Is the solution for the problem, a good one?
When the solution works towards resolving the problem, how does it benefit me?
What can go wrong with the problem and its solution?
How can this be implemented?
Am I geared up for this?
These questions are to be answered clearly and frankly.
How it can help for one’s thinking process?
Let’s try to see how this can be used in our regular thinking process. The simple approach to start with is, looking into the 3 questions. We can look into this thinking process aligned with an example.
What to change – One of the simplest thing might be to wake up early at 5.00am. The change that we are looking here is to waking up early. Instead of waking up at 7.00am, how can we wake up at 5.00am?. That’s the change.
2. What to change to – Here, the change is instead of 7.00am to 5.00am, what needs to be changed and what would be result. Basically, to arrive at a goal of what that 2 hrs difference is going to add by doing this change. The change of waking up early in the morning at 5.00am.
3. How to cause the change. – This involves what needs to be done, to make this change effective. The effectiveness of waking up everyday in the morning at 5.00am. Once, you have these three questions framed for your actionable goal, then you can apply the TOC constraint model to achieve it.
Taking the example of waking up early in the morning at 5.00am to be our end goal, let’s try and apply the TOC in principle to see, how we can achieve this goal.
Goal – Consistently waking up every day in the morning by 5.00am.
First step – Identify the constraint.
The general constraint for waking up early in the morning can be
Sleeping late night
Binge watching shows/movies
Not having a proper morning routine in place
Once we had identified the constraint we can plan the steps to avoid these constraints. According to TOC, the critical thing is identifying the constraints. The fact to arrive at any of the constraints, are generally intuitively known to oneself. However, to note down those and look into those as constraints is what we miss most of the times. Thus apply the TOC in the regular scenarios, be it your commute or ability to focus or the issue of distraction or planning on a goal to achieve. Start with the 3 questions, and then capture, the steps. Once you had captured, the first step, let’s move on to the 2nd step.
Exploit the constraint
Assuming, that we would still love to wake up early, having the constraint in place. This means, looking at the constraint as the possible scenario’s below
We cannot sleep early, due to work schedule. (repeatable work calls late into the evening/night) – Policy change.
Binge watching to Reading – Activity change.
Plan a morning routine – Planning.
Though, we cannot change our work schedule, probably we can look into the aspect of binge watching. Change of work schedule will be a policy change. A policy change can always have a profound impact when it is planned and executed properly. If the work schedule involves co.ordinating with various teams across the globe, for a review call; probably you can introduce a cyclical or rotational working schedule in place. This means, if this month you have to extend in to late night discussions, probably next month, it can be your peer.
“Every action that brings one closer to its goal is productive.”
As we instinctively know that binge watching drains us out, the best thing is how to switch to reading or writing. Though we plan as a massive change or complete shift from binge watching to reading might not happen at one go. The best, is to focus to reduce the time. Probably from 3 hrs of binge watching to 2hrs, and start reading before going to sleep. This can leave you fresh, rather than be drained into sleep.
The most important factor again is a policy change. This is planning a morning routine. Most of the times, we don’t have in place a morning routine. Thus the best is, to have a morning routine in place. As simple as waking up in the morning, doing 20 mins of yoga or meditation, 20 mins of exercise and conclude the last 20 mins with your coffee and news. Once we exploit the constraints, we get avenues to build around the constraints, if they are not easily changeable.
Subordinate other activities to the constraint
Link all the activities that can improve by removing these constraint. By waking up early, what are the relevant things that can go well. Some of the possible good outcomes can be
Reaching on time to office. Not to get struck in the regular traffic jams. A 15 mins early start to office can help us to ease away most of the regular peak time traffic.
A good healthy breakfast. The time in hand helps us to have a proper breakfast. Even the breakfast can be planned.
This also give us ample of time, to do proper morning exercise. It can be jogging or running or meditation etc.
Elevate the constraint
When the constraint cannot be resolved, how do we still achieve the goal of waking up at 5.00am. Elevate the constraint, is actually working out the near term and long term outcome. At the same time accepting the constraint cannot be changed in near future; so working out on all relatable mechanisms to resolve the same.
“Since the strength of the chain is determined by the weakest link, then the first step to improve an organization must be to identify the weakest link.”
Eliyahu M Goldratt
When the major constraint of work schedule or late night working cannot be reduced, then the next probable steps can be reducing the time for binge watching. Also, look into ways to optimize your morning routine with a clear focus. Thus you get additional time to sleep, by the reduced binge watching. Also, the morning routine can be optimized not to be a rigorous one. It can be a planned one. A simple one with jogging and good breakfast.
This way, in near time by elevating the constraint, one can execute the best possible outcomes. Once the constraint is removed, then one can perform to their planned vision.
If anything has changed go back to step one
When the constraint is removed and the vision is achieved, the goal does not stop there. According to TOC it is a continuous improvement cycle. The best way to do, is go back to the routine again. When waking up 5.00 am has become a regular affair, then to look into the aspects that can be agents of distraction. Some of the probable agents of distraction can be
The checking of social media or youtube before going to bed.
Late dinner in the night. Occasional drinks.
Mind wandering through various in coherent thoughts.
There can be multiple other things. But looking into these, and starting to remove one by one, shall make the way forward for excellence.
The TOC 5 steps when properly approached and implemented, helps an individual enormously. It helps one to achieve their goals with more clarity and augment their capability. This TOC Thinking Processes enables one to strategize properly to benefit them to a greater extent. TOC is based upon one’s imagination. The more you apply, the better you become. It is one of the best ammunition for Personal excellence.
We all are intelligent emotional beings. This makes us special, because we can adopt, learn, unlearn and evolve. It’s not we don’t face uncertainty in life. However, most of the uncertainties of life are overlooked. Let me give a simple example. The probability of a bicycle failure is far less compared to an aero plane. However, we fear the most when we ride a bicycle on highway, because of the uncertainty of situation with respect to other drivers like a car, truck or van etc.
So, we assume those with least importance. Hence, we evolved ourselves as masters of pattern. We were educated that everything is good as long as we follow a certain pattern. The pattern is by repetition. This is called as habit. For example, from brushing our teeth in the morning, till we go back to bed on a regular week, we follow various time stamps throughout the day.
What misses, in this pattern is excellence? Pattern helps to forecast one’s mode of action, which was so important during industrial revolution. As it was manufacturing driven, people were modelled to follow a pattern. But in a knowledge driven economy, though pattern helps you have a compliance with respect to your work, excellence play an important role. Excellence means those small improvements which you do regularly over a period of time. This elevates you with respect to your workmanship. Treat your work as delivering an art.
During our regular working environment, the standard office hours we try to excel in our work. Because there was a certainty towards our job, work environment even life for that matter. But how do we focus and excel during uncertainty. How do we achieve personal mastery during uncertainty? When we are drowned in uncertainty paradox.
To answer this, we need to delve deep into a relatable past history. The specialty of history is, it has all the reference points for us to check. The interpretation is up to us. Let’s look into the history of World War II.
During the time of World War II, there was complete uncertainty. Raising from the loss of control in World War I, Germany was forming its alliances as well as capturing territories. WWII can be a classic case of Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The term VUCA was taken from the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus – to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations.
V = Volatility: the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
U = Uncertainty: the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
C = Complexity: the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organization.
A = Ambiguity: the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions; cause-and-effect confusion.
(Reference from Wikipedia for VUCA)
In such a scenario, the question raises in one’s mind is how the leaders navigated during these times? What would have been the traits of those leaders? Are there any learnings, that we can be adopted in our uncertainty times? Well, there are plenty. From those, I chose to present the top ten. The top ten, which can be an evergreen trait for personal mastery. Be it in your personal life or professional life or public life, these ten principles can elevate your game.
The ten gems of Personal Mastery are
Always exhibit optimism.
Own your responsibility
Never give up
Serve not Survive
Think about Yourself
Learn how to learn
Art of Journaling
The Influence of Words
Always exhibit optimism
The best soldier the world has ever seen was General Marshall from Allied forces. According to him,
“When conditions are difficult, the command is depressed, and everyone seems critical and pessimistic, you must be especially cheerful and optimistic.”
Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive good things and good people will be drawn to you. Being optimistic is contagious in nature. Try being optimistic and see for yourself. You would be surprised to know, the kind of impact you leave on others, just being optimistic.
Fake it until you do it. When you feel your positivity is down or not naturally coming, pretend. Pretend as if its true. Acceptance of your own self is most important. Once you had acknowledged yourself, you would see, the optimism sprouts slowly as a shower. Use it to fight your mental stress or tiredness etc. Be positive. Be energetic. Show it in your voice. In your actions. You will soon realize the amount of impact it leaves on you and the people around you.
Own your responsibility
During the World War II, there was too much of chaos. The synergy wasn’t so strong and at the ground it was evident. But the success, was due to the ground forces. Though they were far from the strategy team. Their communication most of the times were hampered by the Axis forces. However, they had one common trait. They all owned their responsibility. Though there was uncertainty, ambiguity, they owned their responsibility. Every day, their only task was to inch closer to axis territory, with loyalty and humility.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
During the times of uncertainty, the best thing to do, let’s go behind our tasks. Knock the tasks one task at a time. This brings us focus and a sense of achievement. The more we own our responsibility; we gain traction and start to excel. Because, responsibility brings focus.
Never give up
Every day of WW II was like a perceived failure. The moment our perception looks in that direction, we feel to give up. General Marshall advices never give up. Never ever give up to the perception of failure. The persistence and quick adoption to every day scenario makes one successful.
Thus, built the attitude of never give up. There can be fatigue. There can loss of interest. There can be lethargy. In the times of volatility, let’s keep our focus to our task. Bring a routine. Make a plan and execute it. Repetition kills remiss. Start small. Regularly, let’s complete our task. Expand, explore and elevate.
Serve not Survive
One of the dilemma’s that gets into our mind during the tough times of complexity is how can I survive. The moment, we get into this thought, we lose our intent to empower ourselves. The foremost important things to do is to empower oneself. The way you can achieve this is by distracting our thoughts to our passion. Learn to serve our passion. Our interest. Our hobbies. Server yourself with empowerment. Not just to survive.
Your fear is 100% dependent on you for its survival
A small direction alignment, in the mind can change our course completely. We can feel we are uplifted. That energy shall be radiant enough, to spread to our near and dear ones. It’s that intent to distract oneself from the mode of survival to serve oneself. The moment we empower our self, we will start to empower others.
Think about Yourself
The most poignant thought is we never look into us. We always try to look into others. But it’s of utmost importance to look into ourselves. To be an observer. As an observer, of oneself, we can understand our traits and falls. Our strengths and weakness. The practice of looking at oneself, can be a way to groom oneself better.
The habits that we need to follow. The one’s we need to leave. When you don’t spend time with yourself, you are not going to know why you lack certain traits. Understanding about oneself, by themselves can be the greatest strength. That strength can build with your empathy for others.
Unless, we don’t do this, we will always be influenced by the situations and surroundings. We will never control ourselves to the repercussion of these events.
Learn how to learn
The greatest personalities who navigated through the tough times, were great readers. They learned the art of how to learn. This involves mainly to relearn and unlearn, whenever you wish to learn something new.
When we speak about WW II, we cannot forget Winston Churchill. Churchill was an average student during his school and college days. However, he developed his interest towards reading. Whenever Churchill got an opportunity to read, he sinks himself into large volumes. Starting with a 4000-page book of The Decline and the fall of Roman empire, during his free time, he started an ambitious journey. A journey where he covered the works of Adam Smith, Plato, Gibbon, Macaulay, Aristotle and many more. This helped him to shine bright than the brightest during his college as well as in his political career.
With the presence of internet, books are available everywhere. Let’s choose our interest towards the topics we like to read. Start reading 2 pages every day. Grow our interest. Buy the books and keep it next to us. Book mark those articles on our browser. Set an alarm for reading. Keep it as a reminder. When we read, we teach ourselves something that we presumed to know. When we read contrarian topics, we teach ourselves something that we assumed. Develop the art of learning.
Art of Journaling
The under rated work is art of journaling. Journaling need not be only about, our life’s events or capturing a day’s work. When we do journaling, we are actually reciting the course of our day. It gives a glimpse of how the events unfolded for us that day, can help us understand it better and share more insights.
When we are not interested to journal our daily day, we can simply capture our thoughts. Take simple notes. The quotes that we read from a book. The three good things of the day. I practice, the 3 good things of the day, because it helps me to appreciate the events and the things that I am blessed with. As I write down, it helps to share a positive vibe. However, be the day, those three good things, helps to cherish, value and be grateful.
Practice to write. Start every day. Capture the thoughts. The day’s events. Or the things we like that day. The things that affected us that day. Keep writing.
Influence by Words
We are conscious about the inner voice. A voice that’s monologue about our lives throughout the day. This inner voice, according to psychologists is proven as an effective way to build one’s confidence. The eminent leaders used these self-talks as a positive assurance to themselves. They practiced during their times of doubtfulness.
These self-talk with oneself can be supportive or positive and cheerful. It can be negative and self-defeating when we speak in a negative way. Assure our self, with positive words. Have our own recital poem or positive dialogue or slogan, which we can say to our self. This would be useful, as the words influence us to positivity, reducing our own fears and building the confidence.
Words are powerful. They have the immense force to create and build a moment to movement. Choose those wisely with in oneself.
A simple slogan be asI am positively strong
I am positively strong
I am courteous and noble
I am curious and humble
I will raise myself and deliver
We all are involved in a moral struggle. This shall ultimately define our life’s value. WW II questioned and raised concerns towards Moral clarity. There is no better reference than Winston Churchill.
To quote from him,
You must look very deep into the heart of man, and then you will not find the answer unless you look with the eye of the spirit. Then it is that you learn that human beings are not dominated by material things, but by the ideas for which they are willing to give their lives or their life’s work
Thus, look into us for the values that we stand for. Nurture those values. Keep them safe. We might never know, as to when they would be our guiding force. We can face trials and tribulations in our life. During those, times it’s the moral clarity that defines us.
In times of volatility, the important aspect of personal mastery to hold on to moral clarity is nothing but Personal Courage. The most important one of personal mastery. Let’s look into that strong and valuable final point.
Courage is resistance to Fear. Mastery of Fear, not absence of Fear.
Any eventualities lead to uncertainty. The vulnerability paves in fear. With fear, we lose the confidence. We lose focus. We start to deliberate the reason with in us, as to why we should not progress further. We hear the negative self-talks.
That’s the most important time, when we need to be courageous. Personal courage is contagious. When you are courageous, you send hope to the people around you. When you share hope, they start a belief. The belief that the things, shall turn around. That belief will push you and the one’s around you to start a journey. When the journey begins, the momentum starts. Thus, courage is a primary step. Keep the flame of courage always burning inside you.
Thoughts are like those different seashells. The way the seashells gets pushed to the seashore, thoughts occur the same way in our life. Most of them again gets pulled in by the waves. The one’s you catch can be grouped together to make great products. Do you know, a common man can make minimum 39 different varieties of products from a seashell. The reference to thoughts as seashell carries value. Let’s understand about seashell and relate to thoughts.
Seashells generally grow bottom up. They are like the exoskeleton. Every seashell carries unique patterns. These shells acts as protective homes for the soft inhabitants. The visually striking patterns are used to attract a mate or provide camouflage.
Shell patterns carry the complete history. They represent as what had happened at the shells’ growing edge. They are like a diary.
Like the seashell, our thoughts are by those nerve sparks that creates it. Each thought has its own origin. Mostly at the initial stage of formation, they are not so stable. They can be easily destroyed similar to the wave current for the seashells, for us it’s the situation current. The time at which the thoughts gets formed.
The Seashell life can be related to 3 stages of our thougths.
The formation stage
The dead stage
The life stage.
Formation Stage of Seashell can be related to the future stage of thoughts. When the conditions of formation are not suitable for seashell, they don’t get formed. These can be due to the varying nature of of the wave beds where are they getting formed, the wave currents and the wave heat as well as pressure or the hijacking hunters of the ocean.
Similarly when your thoughts are focussed on to future, you are living in an environment in your mind that’s so fragile. The thoughts hallucinates you, of realism, of aspirations, or in most cases related to stress induced fear, anxiety etc. Though the thoughts of future are not concrete, they can get shattered immediately once your current environment changes. Simple correlation would be, when you are on a vacation on Mauritius beach, you live in a scenic environment. Most of the time, you would visualize your life being beautiful and even planning as to how it would it be, when you plan to live by a beautiful seashore. The moment your vacation gets over, you come back to reality. With in few days, you totally forget about the future lifestyle that you were building as pack of cards at Mauritius. The future thoughts when captured and held properly can turnout to become beautiful seashells. But mostly we leave those to fall and they vanish with time.
The dead stage of seashell are the one’s where they get pushed into the seashore. These are scattered all over on the seashore. In this stage, the mussels or the oyster or the clam have died either full-filling their journey or failing along its course. They become the remnants of the past. Similarly the thoughts of the past are the dead stage. The reason is, in no way we can go and correct the course. The one that happened as good, are to be rejoiced while the bad ones are just a scar, an experience. But never to dwell in those for long, because they don’t drive you forward. They just hold you.
The life stage is where the pearls are made. Pearls are formed naturally when an irritant – in general a parasite – gets into an oyster, mussel, or clam. In order to protect similar to a defense mechanism, a fluid coats the irritant. It’s called as ‘nacre’ as it is coated layer upon layer. It’s deposited once a shining pearl is formed. Your present thoughts are similar to those. The irritants are like your hardships. The more you focus on the current one in hand, you will gain results. The results can be simple work completion, to a happy dinner with family or a time by yourself in the evening watching the sunset.
Life is a mixture of all these stages. All these thoughts. You cannot do away with one another. They are here to stay. The present thought in the current moments keeps you in the moment. The future when aligned with the present, helps you to work your way up. Grab your steps in a planned way to reach your goal. The past can be just a guiding force, when its an experience. The more the present, it keeps you at the peace and with a percentage of future should act as a guiding force to reach your goal. The past has to be minimalistic. When you forget about your past, you are bound to repeat your mistakes again.
Above all, the only thing you have to heal is the present thought. Get that right and the whole picture will change into one of harmony and joy.
The topic is a valuable statement from the management thought leader Peter F Drucker. This can be looked both from the management parlance as well as from a personal mastery perspective.
Planning is all about the steps to be taken towards achieving a vision. Vision is future imprint that an organization or a team or an individual visualized as a goal. Thus planning considers the current conditions in which the team operates or the individuals execution capabilities. The planning takes into account different factors. For an organization it considers,
The market in which they operate.
The economic conditions of the market.
The competitors and their competitors.
When it comes to individuals, the above factors do apply, but within their area of execution. For personal mastery seekers or budding entrepreneurs, the points that needs to be considered are
The capability of the individual.
The subject they are passionate about.
The evolving opportunities and the influencers.
The knowledge bearer.
Their adoption window.
The main purpose of planning is to establish objectives. The goals that needs to be achieved and by when to be achieved. When planning, you would also need to take into consideration, what can be the alternative course of action, incase you face challenges. Planning should also have the steps or the task breakdown at a higher level.
Let’s assume that you would like to start blogging and to reach larger audience. Then you need to plan for the next fortnight, what would be the topic on which you would write the blogs, the frequency in which you would release the blogs and where these blogs fits in, with respect to your overall vision about you. Also, are there any backup blog drafts in place, incase for some reason, you are not able to focus on this blog.
Similarly, in an organization, a team has to plan for their task delivery. Let’s assume as case where in the team has to collect the the feedback from the employees related to CoVID situation. So, the team has to split and own, the following: The employees to be targeted across various departments, the channel in which the survey could be conducted, the time duration during which the survey is being planned, what is the end result the organization is looking from this survey and hence the kind of questions that needs to be framed, how the survey can be launched, if there is some system issues how would we mitigate.
The most important step about planning, is that at every progress stage you have to check, how much it is aligned with respect to the plan, what is needed to be tweaked or re-aligned, when its not aligned towards the original goal. Also, you need to do an impact analysis, What if, I leave halfway of my goal or what if the team fails to deliver.
The planning can be of different types depending upon the stage at which they happen.
Strategic Planning – This happens as an actionable item, once the vision is formulated. Strategic planning generally has long time window, generally from 3 years to 10 yrs. However for individuals, you can consider from anywhere 6 months to 2 years. Strategic planning be it for the organization or the individual can change their course of growth completely. When John F Kennedy announced in 1961, within a decade we will have a man on the moon – This is a vision statement. They were able to land successfully on the moon, as they started to plan for each and every step along with a fall back scenario. Two things that I would like to relate here are
JoAnn Morgan, the instrumentation controller in Launch Control at the Kennedy Space Center, recalls that there were 23 critical things that had to occur perfectly for the mission to be successful. That is a strategic plan to achieve a goal.
Collins who was part of the crew in the lunar mission, orbiting the moon in the mother ship, clearly know that if something happens to the crew which lands on the moon, ie to Neil Armstrong & Edwin Aldrin, he has to comeback leaving them on the moon. That’s the fallback option if a catastrophe occurs.
Tactical planning – This for an organization is of intermediate range like one to three years. For personal mastery, it can be considered anywhere between 90 -180days. For example, you would like to publish a book of poems. Then you start writing minimum 2 poems per day for the next 90 to 180 days. That brings you to 180 or 360 poems. Now you have a collection of poems, which you can further be amended and corrected to be launched as a book
Operational planning – This is short form of delivery towards the tactical milestones. In operational planning in an organization, you can generally find the department teams or the project units working on their day to day tasks aligned with the wider goal of half yearly or the annual goals. An individual should refer to this as his or her weekly or day to day tasks. Relating to the same example above, in order to write two poems every day, you need to identify the topics or category in which you would write poems for this week. Say for example the poems in week one relates to nature, week two relates to humanity etc. You are likely to spend everyday 2-3hrs to write couple of poems on this topic. This helps to design and develop steps that is aligned with the larger vision through the strategic and tactical plans.
As this being a 5 part series blog, you can follow up on this topic every thursday.
“Don’t be so busy, trying to make a living that you are too busy to make a life”
A simple and powerful quote to speak about being busy. Most of the times, in our day to day life, we get ourselves busy. We wakeup in the morning with the news alerts to office email alerts; then as we get ready to office, we are busy with the calendar alerts to the calls for the day; Once we reach office we are busy with the workload and at the end of the day we try to close all the pending activities, which we eventually procrastinate for tomorrow or few days away. This didn’t include all the activities which would be on priority in your personal life. Those gets pushed towards the weekend. When the weekend happens, we suddenly realize it flew away like anything and we are back into our regular mundane routine.
So, how do we avoid being busy. Busyness in my perspective comes from inability to prioritize your tasks. A simple comparison between being busy and being productive is, as below.
A quick look into being busy aspect of our day to day life throws us a much needed clarity
Multiplicity – By Multiplicity, I mean working on varied number of things at any point in time. Simple example can be filling the form at office and at the same time, quickly tweeting about a thought; then leaving your desk to grab a coffee.
Haphazard – There is not a proper way in which we work. That is we don’t block the time for a specific activity. We would be typing a contractual document, would have received an email alert; would pause our work on the document and proceed towards replying the email. In the due time a slack message or the teams chat update, we try to give a quick response.
Quantity – The biggest block which we need to break within ourself is the quantity factor. Over the course of time, we start to believe its the number of tasks we completed than the quality of the work. The quantity factor without realization, would push us to accept as many as possible. At the end of the day, it’s not the quantity that counts but the quality.
Scattered Work – With volume of task or work to be completed, we find ourselves as in an election room. The reason I refer to election room, there is work scattered everywhere. Documents lying on the table for review, multiple windows of tabs always opened on the screen, our official as well as our personal to do list keeps on growing everyday; even our workspace at home are scattered with all the files both online as well as offline.
Work in Waves – This reflects two main points. The task closure and delivery of tasks. We can see that, we would be working continuously to complete a task or work when the deadline nears and during that time, we would also focus to pull in other tasks so that we don’t get into the same trap again. Incidentally, what happens in reality is, post the deadline or extension of the deadline we start to procrastinate. Take a break till the next pressure mounts for the same. Break the momentum. This style of working is similar to a wave pattern, with multiple ups and downs. The ups are our pressure points and downs are our procrastination points.
Impulsive – The larger culprit of busyness is being impulsive. Being impulsive in delivery of task not only puts us at stake, even the team at stake. The reason is there is no proper predictability as to which task we might complete and by when; hence any task closure be it personal or official gets into this impulsive behavior depending upon the urgency and personal interest.
Thus, we can understand by this time, that being busy doesn’t add any value. It’s like spiraling water current, that pulls us down forever. The best way is to be productive. We shall look into that as a separate blog.
To conclude, busyness kills all the priorities for not planning properly. Hence, when we are busy, we are not in control of time. Time controls us as per the urgency than priority.
Actions speak louder than words. The phrase that we had heard multiple times. The phrase that had grown with us, irrespective of our understanding about the same. Have you ever looked into your actions? What made you to act? What pushed you to perform a task?
As you deep dive into this, you would understand that, its your thoughts. Think about a simple scenario. Cleaning of your house. There is an upcoming long holiday. You would have said to yourself, that you would clean the house during that time. You would have repeated the same with your family members or friends, whomever you share you accommodation with. If you had been staying alone, like me, you would say it to yourself.
When the holiday comes, you would feel bit lazy. You would think, let me do it tomorrow. But suddenly, when you think that you would clean the house, which you had said to yourself, you quickly swing into action. The action is a result of your repeated thoughts. Thus, once you had cleaned your house, you feel a sense of fulfillment. It clearly proves, that when you repeat your thoughts again and again, it gets into action. This remains the same across any field. In a relationship, the heated arguments happen just because of the repeated thoughts that ran in our brain. That’s the reason, we burst out one fine day. Similarly, politicians and media uses the same strategy to repeat their agenda or advertisement again and again. This gets registered and connected in our life as thoughts. When there is a call to action like supporting a cause or buying a product, these thoughts quickly push us to action. Thats when you buy a specific brand of chocolate or that ticket to support a cause.
When you have a work to do or task to complete, visualize the same as an end result. How that task would benefit you or your office upon completion? How much workload for that, day would have got reduced. The moment you happened to do so, you would have realised that the one which you procrastinated during the first half of the day, you would start to work in the second half post that coffee. We attribute it to the coffee, which made you brisk to complete the task. But actually, it’s the thought that got that spark in your subconscious mind to get the job done. Coffee was just an instrument. Had you been drinking tea, it would have been tea too.
Your only limit is your thoughts. The way you think, defines your action.
Being effective means being able to produce desired result or outcome. In our work, we mostly give higher importance to the knowhow than being effective. A task when it is delivered as per the expectation gives value to the knowhow. Else, it’s just a knowledge on the shelf of the brain. Most of the times, the individual or the team gets carried away because they have an awesome idea. They get immersed in their intelligence towards a subject. They might be the subject matter experts. The team or the individual carries the information necessary towards the task. However, when delivery of the task didn’t bring the desired outcome, how much ever of information, idea or intelligence the team has, it goes futile. At the end of the day, it’s the outcome that speaks. An effective outcome or the desired result, takes you leaps and bound. The individual or the teams’ consistency of being effective is more important that anything.