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Taking Measure Of My Life ...
At Year-End







It’s an annual exercise I find worthy of doing every year-end. Hence we republish this piece on at this time each year, in case you too find such 'ledger-keeping' and 'personal accounting' useful, both as a reminder and as a guide.

I seek out a quite evening. New Year’s Eve works for me well. I’ve been off the revelry grid for some time now: been there, done that ...

I make sure I'm alone. The phone ringer is switched off. So are the TV, the radio and the computer.

A tall mug of piping hot chai beside me, I begin with my first list.

The Ten Best Things That Have Happened To Me 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 ... that's it.

I use the delete button 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 calendar and 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 To Me In My Entire Life.

One would think it would take ages to review 65 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.

I declare it to myself, that is.


Alone. Not to the world.

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. A-n-y-o-n-e.

I will erase 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 would therefore automatically distort my judgement and colour my analysis.

And the measure of "success" that I use is a purely personal one. One criteria, for example, that I apply is that to be counted as “success” for me, it should be something that gives me pure, unadulterated joy.

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 ... for my own, sole benefit.

My friend, who I picked up this eccentric exercise from, saw it differently: she said that you are releasing the agenda out into the universe, and the rest is up to it -- the universe -- 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. My hopes and dreams and aspirations. My goals. The rest follows. It isn't important how or why it works. The important thing is: it works for me.

At the end, I discard this list as well. I find that if I go through the exercise in all honesty and sincerity, with all due diligence, and jot it down, and read it to myself, it gets stored in my subconscious. I don’t need to keep a physical copy or turn to it later.

Since the conscious serves the subconscious, and vice versa, why do more?

Happy accounting. And a Happy New Year!

Republished on December 28, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), December 28, 2015, 7:06 PM.

Wordworth's 'A Psalm of Life' appeared in 1838 and I read it almost a century ago. The footprints in the sands of time had a profound affect while the mundane life followed the calendar, ebbing out on each breath with the muffled drum playing on. Guru Granth Sahib presents a profound reminder: "karna kooch rahan thir naahee / jo din aavahai so din jaahee" [GGS:793.19] - 'You must march on, nothing remains stable. Whoever comes, must go". If one must resolve, just remember His presence at all times with 'Waheguru' on one's lips. "maap maap kaata-o jumm ki faasi" [GGS:485.13] - "[Like a tailor] it measures and then cuts the length of the noose of death."

2: Manjeet Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), December 29, 2015, 5:52 AM.

What a delightful tailor Naam is! It converts the munn into a tape measure (since everything has to be crafted carefully, not wildly). The tongue becomes a pair of scissors (after measuring out the path, all dross has to be cut away.) As the repeated measuring and cutting goes on, lo! the noose of karmic death has been sundered. The Naam is a precious golden needle while the silver "surat" is the thread which is used to weave this spiritual magic. And when the weaving is so intense that His glories are "seeto seeta mahima mahe" (Japji), Namdev Ji declares, "namay ka chit har sio laaga."

3: Rakind Kaur (North Hollywood, California, USA), December 30, 2015, 8:17 PM.

I like your process. It's a great way to start a New Year. I do a similar thing in life but I do it more often. I'm not sure if that makes much of a difference, really. I make a list of all the good things that happen to me every few weeks, trim out most until I'm left with the best and that just reminds me of all the blessings of life. Sometimes things get added and subtracted, sometimes it is just a reminder. I somehow happen to have this subconsciously developed system where I look at all of my gifts and they give me contentment. And also, all the 'bad' things in life, because that's what drives me to do good.

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At Year-End"

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