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An Year-End Accounting Balance Sheet




The following article was first published on five years ago.


These few days between Christmas and New Year's are such a godsend. Why we have this holiday is not important. The fact that it is there, and that the world comes to a virtual standstill makes it so very special.

This year it's been extra special. Winter came early to these parts  -  I live in the suburbs of Toronto in Canada. It's a quiet university town at normal times. During these days, it appears to go into total hibernation. But for the lights hanging from alternating lamp posts, mimicking huge crystals and snow flakes, it looks like one and all have fled to the big city an hour away for seasonal merrymaking.

It snowed heavily a couple of days before Christmas. On the day after, a heavy fog settled down over the land. The moisture in the air quickly wrapped itself around every tree, every branch, every twig, until the world had turned into a white-chocolate wonderland.

Truly, driving home on the morning of December 26, I felt I had never seen the world so serenely, elegantly, salubriously, innocently, deliciously exquisite.

We were returning from nearby Niagara Falls, where our family gathers every year for a few days at my brother's and sister-in-law's to sleep, feast, re-charge ... and entertain and be entertained by my now six-year-old niece.

My daughter and I reminisced over the fun we'd had the previous night.

Over dinner, we had played a game. We had posed a question  -  one by one, four altogether  -  and asked each person to ruminate on it for a few minutes and then answer it in his/her own way.

Not an original idea, I must confess. We had spoken to some friends earlier in the day and they had squealed with delight, relating the fun they had had at their home, over their family Christmas dinner. We simply stole their questions.

And they were:

What makes you laugh?

What is the kindest thing someone has done for you?

What is the most wonderful thing that has happened to you in your life?

What is the one thing you'd like to do most or achieve in the next twelve months?


It's amazing how people instinctively rise to the occasion.

Ranging from my mother's wisdom of the ages, to the six-year-old's wit and depth ("from the mouth of babes ...!") the answers were sumptuous, just like the dinner. Well thought out, insightful, revealing.  They made us laugh; and, at the same time, they moistened our eyes.        

We had left in the morning a bit closer, and wiser, and a bit more ready for another fifty-two weeks of the vagaries of life.

Two more days left for the ball to drop in Times Square.

Tomorrow night  -  New Year's Eve  -  I leave for the horn-tooting and whatever revelry comes my way, and/or whatever I can handle.

Therefore, tonight is the night I have earmarked to sit down, quiet and alone, to go through my annual ritual.

Again, what I do during these couple of hours of retrospection and introspection, is not an original idea.

I saw a friend go through the exercise two decades ago. Ever since, I've been hooked on it. I tend to adjust and fine-tune it slightly from year to year, depending on where I'm in life and what my needs are. I've written about it before ... But here it is what I'll do tonight, for the core of it has remained the same, ever since I first stole the idea:

Alone. The phone ringer is switched off. So are the TV, the radio and the computer. A tall mug of piping hot chai. A pad of paper. A pencil.

I begin with my first list: The Ten Best Things That Have Happened in My Life in the Last Twelve Months.

There are no rules or parameters. The things that have given me bundles of joy, or brought me oodles of satisfaction and contentment.

I use the eraser liberally, because the list is limited to ten. As I think of new things, I check if they displace anything I've already jotted down.

It takes a while. But only because the list is always long and has to be pared down. And doing a survey of the year  -  reliving it through a quick flash-back reel  -  is immense pleasure in itself. I check my diary, to jog my memory.

I find I close my eyes from time to time ... the memory of good times past has its own aroma, its own unique taste and texture.

I then turn to a fresh page and begin a second list: The Ten Best Things That Have Happened in My Entire Life.

One would think it would take ages to review 58 years. But it doesn't because the "best things" are always floating on the surface of our memory. They are evergreen. Easy to spot. They are the cross-roads of our life's journey.

Once I have completed this list, I put it beside the first one to see if the two lists have anything in common.

I have developed my own gauge, my own litmus test: if at least two of the best things in my entire life to date are from the last twelve months, I declare the year just gone a total and unqualified success  ... to myself alone.

I should add at this juncture that it is an integral part of the exercise that the lists not only be done alone, but never shared with anyone. Anyone. I tear them up and discard them at the end of the evening!

Why? I want to use all the objectivity I can muster in a process which drips with subjectivity. The idea that another person would see the contents creates an audience, and therefore automatically would distort my judgement and colour my analysis.

And the measure of "success" that I use is a purely personal one.

If I find that the "test" of two common items is not met, then I know that I have to try harder in the coming year to live life to the fullest. Life is short and uncertain; there is so much to cover before the bell tolls!       

Once past the two lists, I then turn to yet another fresh page, and start a third list: The Ten  Things I Would Like to Do/Achieve the Most in the Next Twelve Months.

These don't have to be material or tangible goals, necessarily. There can be a mix, too. One item can be: Visit Timbuctoo. And the next could be: Better Health. And so on ...

The process is like producing a personal agenda. Merely identifying things that impassion me, and putting them down on paper, albeit for a short while, somehow etches them deep in my mind. I do forget about them at a conscious level, but they sit there somewhere ... I have found I somehow get steered in the right direction when I find myself at a fork at some point of time.

Also, it involves making a declaration, nay, proclaiming a manifesto, to myself. My friend, who I picked up this eccentricity from, saw it differently: she said that you are releasing the agenda out into the universe, and the rest is up to it to make it happen! It was too metaphysical for me, her theory.

I stick to my own explanation in that I am confronting myself with my needs, my wants, and my priorities. The rest follows. It isn't important how or why it works.

The thing is: it works for me.

I tear up this list, as well. I find that if I go through the exercise in all sincerity, with all due diligence, and write it, and read it to myself, it gets stored in my subconscious.

Since the conscious serves the subconscious, why do more?

The hour is nigh. I've got to go. My mind is already chomping at the bit. Already, a thought is struggling to be on the top of both List One and List Two ... I got to go.

Have a Happy New Year, and a Wonderful Gurpurab!


First published in on December 30, 2007

Republished: December 31, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Gurdarshan Singh Dhaliwal (Waterloo, Canada), May 30, 2008, 1:04 PM.

T. Sher Singh ji, you are a gifted writer and your pen speaks volumes. Compared with such words, all other embellishments fade away. You are great.

2: Rahul Mittra (New Delhi, India), October 13, 2008, 3:11 PM.

Wow, these questions are awesome, propelling one to take the path of insearch. I am going to sit down this very moment to try and pen down answers to each one of them and also ask my family members to do the same. Hope to see more from you in time to come!

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 01, 2011, 4:56 PM.

What a serenely, elegantly, salubriously, innocently, deliciously exquisite article. See, plagiarism has it uses for an instant comment. It was as easy as making babies, just remove 'y' and insert 'ies'. That was not difficult, was it? Perhaps not so enjoyable but functional. Will perhaps write another comment as soon as I throw away my wish list that I haven't even started. Bless you.

4: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), December 30, 2011, 10:48 AM.

In the lingering moments of 31 December, 2011, here is my resolution within the whisker: No resolutions this year! It is the easiest to keep! Wishing you all a Happy New Year ... and all the problems you have, may they all lose your address in 2012!

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