Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Lesson a day....

Instructions were simple. 1) Take a notebook 2) Before going to bed, write ONE (only ONE) lesson that you learned that day.

By doing this, at the end of the year, you will have 365 hard learned lessons. You are guaranteed to be that much wiser. So said Swami Anubhavananda Saraswathi Ji. I have been watching his discourses on YouTube for last few months. I have found them extremely useful, interesting and mightily amusing. It's hard to endure dry spirituality. Very few gurus can deliver important messages in such a witty and entertaining fashion. He is too good.

Somehow this one-lesson-a-day suggestion given by Swamiji caught my fancy. I thought it was another one of my fancies because I was not sure how long my interest would last.

I have never been a big fan of writing diary / daily journal. Maybe I did not know what goes in a daily diary. I did not know how to write even a few useful and meaningful sentences. So, despite having exotic ideas about maintaining a nice daily journal full of interesting things, it has never happened. Many times I have tried but never managed to be regular with the journal writing.

But, this one-lesson-a-day approach seemed very interesting. It gave an excellent framework. Now I knew what to write. Just one lesson per day. It should not be that hard. Right? We are typically awake, say, from morning 6 am to night 11 pm. That is 17 hours. Finding one useful lesson from those many hours should not be difficult, I thought.

So, I started the practice. I did not use pen and paper. I just opened a new notepad file on my laptop. Just before going to bed or next morning without much delay, I started writing. It was hard to come up with only one lesson because even on an average day, there were at least 6-8 facts/things that I felt were useful enough to be written down. Not everything was a lesson as such. Some were kudos to oneself, some were warnings, some were reminders, some were wise sayings read/remembered etc.

So, I took liberty and started recording whatever I felt was useful. Since I like to write and write for hours at a time, I had to limit myself. Otherwise when in good mood I can go on writing. So, I said '5 minutes. That's all I am going to allocate. Whatever comes to mind in those 5 minutes, I am going to jot down.'

I started this practice on November 3, 2016. 6 months today. I did not choose to write about it today but it seems like an interesting coincidence.

6 months is a good time. If someone is able to keep doing something for 6 months, it says something about the activity. No activity sticks unless you truly enjoy it AND the feedback you get from doing it is truly positive. Only when both the conditions are met, you are able to keep doing an activity, good or bad.

As I said, right from the very beginning my practice deviated from the original instructions given. I could not come up with one and only one lesson per day. I had quite a few. All of them were not necessarily lessons. Lessons, kudos, reminders, suggestions, warnings, stop-doing-this etc. etc.

Regardless, I can tell you this practice has helped me immensely. There is some magical power in committing thoughts to paper. It does not have to be grammatically correct or verbose or poetic or anything like that. The very act of brain dump produces so much positivity that it has to be experienced and can't be described.

Before I took up this practice, I always felt I did not repeat positive habits often enough. Now I just record if I feel something is positive and it magically and automatically reinforces and repeats! It could be as simple as writing, 'Today I avoided coffee in the afternoon. Good job!' I have never been much of a caffeine consumer. One cup in the morning. That's it. Occasionally I have another cup of coffee or diet coke in the afternoon too which I want to give up for good or have it very rarely. But, I would realize my slip only after the act and then somewhat regret it. So writing about it on the days when I did not take coffee in the afternoon was like catching myself in a positive act. Looks like that makes a big difference. Earlier I would get coffee when I felt like it without even thinking. If you felt like it, you would go and get it. Everything else later. But now I notice that when I feel like having a cup of coffee in the afternoon, my mind automatically issues a reminder like - 'do you really want it? can you do without it? you have been trying not to drink coffee in afternoon. You can still go and get it but think about how you feel when you have to record it in the daily journal at the end of the day.' When there is this much gap between the thought and action, the action normally does not take place. Small victory. Repeated enough times it will become a positive habit.

Coffee is a very trivial example. You can use it for anything.

On the positive side, let me give an example. Regardless of what you do and who you are, the sense of humor is critical if you want to survive and thrive. Even Gandhi said 'I would have committed suicide if not for the sense of humor.' The sense of humor came quite handy quite a few times recently. Helped diffuse stressful situations, made work more enjoyable, helped build better relations and so on. The sense of humor is a wonder drug. So, I started recording when using the sense of humor had helped me and how it had helped and reminded myself to use it more often and specifically during meetings / discussions, when meeting new people and so on. Feedback cycle kicked in here as well. Now I get mental reminders more often to use sense of humor. When things get hot, the reminder comes like 'time for the sense of humor! use it!' It is not that you have to crack a joke. That may not be appropriate all the time but you can use the sense of humor silently to remind yourself that this too shall pass and nothing lasts forever. So and so forth. You get my point. Right?

No wonder journaling/diary writing has been practiced by successful people for thousands of years. There is surely some magic in it.

To summarize the benefits:

1) Feedback loop gets established. You will automatically start doing things more and more that help you, you cut down on things that are not helpful.

2) By writing down, you free your mind. By writing down, you hardwire behaviors, both good and bad. So, be careful what you write and how you write.

3) From time to time, you can go back and review your notes and it is amazing. Just in six months, I have discovered interesting patterns, what works and what does not work, where my time goes, what I can do better and so on. It's a treasure!

Thanks to Swamiji for such a great tip. When I implemented my version it became totally different but helping me tremendously. Since I have been able to keep doing it for more than 6 months, I am pretty sure it is here to stay. It may morph into something different but daily 5 minutes reflection exercise is going to stay. It is so so beneficial.

Try it. Maybe it will help you as well.



sunaath said...

ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು. ನಿಮ್ಮ ಈ ಚಿಂತನೆಯಿಂದ ನಿಮಗೆ ಒಳ್ಳೆಯದಾಗಲಿ.

Mahesh Hegade said...

thanks, sunaath sir.

ಪ್ರಶಾಂತ್ ಪುರಾಣಿಕ said...

good one sir .. you are inspiring me to write .. hopefully i will start soon

Mahesh Hegade said...

All the best, ಪ್ರಶಾಂತ್ ಪುರಾಣಿಕ.