The balance between work and personal commitments was on top of the list of things to be improved in my organization’s annual feedback survey.  As I reflected on it with my team, the conversation drifted towards our goals and setting priorities.

Swamiji had beautifully narrated different stories about goal setting in ‘walk the dragon’ leadership program.  One of them was about making a comprehensive list of all the things that we want to achieve but retaining only the top five goals that truly matter to us.  Most of us already perhaps prioritize activities without being mindful of what is driving them.  Writing down our goals and being able to connect our daily routine to that list makes a lot of difference.  Being aware of why we are doing something and what we want to achieve infuses energy and determination in our pursuits.

Below are my top five goals that I shared with the team.  I have always seen them as interconnected and interdependent.  This list has remained the same for some time though my approach has had few refinements with experience.

Some of it might sound obvious and what could be shocking is that we may not be giving them the time, effort and focus that they deserve to achieve reasonable progress.

  1. Physical health:  Around mid of 2018, I was experiencing strange back pains that had almost crippled my daily life.  After visit to several doctors, it finally dawned on me that the problems I had were due to my sensitive stomach.  It took me more than six months to figure out what kind of food would be acceptable for my stomach.  Through lot of experimentation and implementing several lessons learned from ‘the wellness sense’, I was able to attain freedom from the pains and get back on my feet.  What this long period of struggle taught me was to never take my health for granted.  Though since younger days I have always been a fitness enthusiast, I hadn’t paid too much attention on the quality of my diet.  Everyday I make it a point to walk for at least an hour and watch what I am eating.  Each time I feel a little lethargic or gluttonous, I remember that they are a hindrance to my health goals.  Without health, nothing seems worthwhile.  Being in good health is a key enabler and its importance should never be underestimated. 

      2. Spiritual growth It was hard for me to put down what exactly was my spiritual goal.  It has been a path of self-discovery and following the teachings of Swamiji.  Self-realization is probably the loftiest goal but how many can realistically achieve it in one’s lifetime?  I wrote down that as I walk the path, I want to be more peaceful, loving and giving person.  And that I want to overcome my long list of negative tendencies.  My progress in meditation and sadhanas has been gradual and I would like to think that it achieved a bit momentum after the initiation.  Only this year, I have been able to perform longer duration sadhanas.  I don’t know where this would lead me to, but I know if I continue to follow my Guru’s teachings, I will get somewhere worthwhile.  A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed that it was possible for me to sit in silence for two hours.  Progression in this aspect has helped me achieve lot better focus, balance, and discipline in other aspects of my life.   

     3. Financial wellbeing:  In ‘Devi Bhagavatam’ course, Swamiji talks about how being poor is the worst thing that can happen to a man on this planet.  I had made a mistake of developing ‘khayali pulao’ for some of my financial goals.  But after bitter experiences, I learnt to focus only on matters that are under my reasonable control.  In the long run, we must develop avenues for passive income.  Until such a corpus is achieved, we need to in parallel, keep making efforts to earn and save money.  Swamiji has mentioned several times to stay away from debt at all costs.  It is something my father has also followed throughout his life.  He doesn’t take on any kind of debt, it is not in his nature to ask someone for any such favors.  I only remember him borrowing about 100K rupees from my maternal uncle when we were buying this house and repaying it within a couple of months as he was extremely uncomfortable being in debt.  Throughout my career, I’ve tried to work hard on whatever came my way.  Not sure if this is a good career advise but it has been my experience that when we do a sincere job, people notice, and it builds a reputation.  Then we tend to attract opportunities and challenges.  That leads to growth, not monetarily all the time but there is certainly advancement of skills and aptitude. 

     4. Family:  This, most would agree as the obvious one as we are deeply attached and derive immense joy from our families.  We rejoice in the happiness of our family members.  Our parents, spouse, siblings, and children have a huge impact on the quality of our lives.  Unfortunately, these are the same people who could suffer the most due to our negligence or indifference.  Swamiji wrote ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and it emphasizes the importance of people in our lives.  We need to be available for our families before it is too late.  In pursuit of other goals, we tend to ignore our family and health the most.  Life will become listless in their absence.  There are many ways to express love.  Being there with them when they need us and saying kind things can create such a positive atmosphere and bonding in the family.  Often, we tend to take things for granted with people who matter the most.  So, there is little conflict in allocating our time when we set our family as one of the top priorities in life. 

     5. Developing people that matter:  As we age, knowledge and wisdom tends to accumulate.  With it, our responsibilities also increase.  John Maxwell, in his book ‘the five levels of leadership’ mentions that the highest goal of leadership is to develop leaders, not gain followers or do work.  When we help people around us develop into good leaders, it not only improves the quality of our lives but also lets us focus on expanding our influence and outcomes.  Both in our personal and professional lives, I consider it as our responsibility to help others grow.  Otherwise, we would most often end up fire fighting issues for them.  For example, I give a lot of time for my kids during weekends in helping with their studies or teaching them some sport.  Similarly, at work, I measure my success in the success of people that I’ve mentored.  I derive lot of satisfaction in sharing knowledge and perspective and investing my time in growing leaders.  I also believe that one should not aspire for leadership roles if they are genuinely not interested in the growth and success of other people.  This is probably the best legacy to have than any other material possessions.   

I tend to talk about top five goals whenever someone asks me about prioritization or time management.  Now, I can save some time by sharing this article 😊

Whatever may be the top goals of people, they will always find them feeding each other.  If one has grown spiritually, then they would be much better leaders and will be able to help people around them.  Similarly, one must maintain good health to do well in their careers or be able to support their families.  When our actions are not aligned with our goals, we tend to suffer.  In fact, Swamiji has said that ‘suffering is alignment’.  Our thoughts, speech and actions should be aligned if we are serious about progressing on spiritual path.

We need to be on a strong footing to achieve success in any of our endeavors.  Having clarity in our thoughts helps us to be mindful in the choices that we make.  I’ve heard that our smartphones know more about our choices than we ourselves realize.  Writing down our top five goals creates that mindfulness to make the right choices in where and how we utilize our limited time in this world.