A new year has a way of making us happy and sad at the same time. As we spend time around our family, party with friends, there’s also that knot in the tummy, that nagging thought that doesn’t leave us. Will this year be any better or worse than the last one? Or, will it be the same?
Instead of a mental audit driving you… well, why not do an actual life audit this year? Pen down your goals and assess your priorities. Count your losses and add your gains. Sounds scary? Not if you realise that you can control your life’s ledger with just pen and paper. Or a laptop. “Sometimes life can get in the way of itself and that’s why, every now and then, it’s important to take a step back and check how we are we doing,” says blogger Ximena Vengoechea, 28.
Sifting through life’s chaos
A life audit is an exercise in self-reflection that helps you clear the cobwebs of noisy, external goals. It is the spring-cleaning for the soul. Life can be crazy and goes by so fast that we get busy reacting to it rather than creating it. “A life audit is vital if you want to be in charge of your life rather than let it take charge of you,” says life coach Tia Singh. Caught in a frenetic pace, juggling an ever-increasing work load, more family responsibilities and people’s expectations, we lose track of our priorities. “That’s why it’s important to decide what’s meaningful to you and write down your goals. To make a personal audit successful, make sure that you really introspect. Ask yourself what makes you happy, what fulfills you. Use reminders such as pictures or affirmations that you can see daily to remain focused on your desires,” adds Singh.
In short, revisit your wheel of life every few months to make sure you are on track, or to change your priorities. An audit, at least once a year, also makes us realise if our goals have changed as we have evolved. Imagine running after that coveted job in a swanky office only to realise it doesn’t give you happiness anymore. You’d rather take it slow, and spend time with people you love.
Businesswoman, author and columnist Arianna Huffington conducted a life audit when she was 40, and swears by its benefits. Huffington asked herself a few simple questions: ‘Am I doing what I want to with my life?’, ‘Am I fulfilled?’ Once she started focusing on the questions, she realised that half the things she was running after had lost meaning in her life. The old bucket list seemed useless, and she ticked them off, only focusing on the future. At 66, in an interview to Oprah Winfrey, she said it was the best decision of her life.
Start small to finish well
Caroline Righton, author of The Life Audit, says, “It helps you understand your journey and make a note of your progress, or even make you realise where you are stuck. It simply helps you map your life’s wishes.” Architecting a life takes time; time that we don’t have in a digital age. Coach and author of Make It Happen, Arvind Devalia tells us how to audit our lives. “Make simple changes. Look at each area of your life — work, health, relationships — and see what you like and what you’d like to change. It’s important not to get stuck at past mistakes while auditing. Focus on your future plan and take simple steps to small successes. In time, they will transform your life completely.”
Life is, by design, a constant process of reinvention to move out of our comfort zone. Sairee Chahal, CEO of Sheroes, says, “We need to challenge our assumptions. For me, a self audit would be slowing down to find my original rhythm, finding a way to steer through the clutter and embrace the soul.”
The turning point
Sudha Menon, author of Devi, Diva or She-Devil: The Smart Career Woman’s Survival Guide, says a couple of years ago she had almost become weary of her life and marriage till she decided it was time to act and change. “You’d be astonished at the small things that suck our energies. I found myself over-worked, tired, bored and resentful of my husband, who, by nature, is gentle. In my mind, he was uncaring because he did not notice our growing silences. He, on the other hand, thought I had too much on my plate, hence, said little. That discussion was a turning point of our relationship and our lives.”
Introspection requires time, honesty and guts. “But if you are able to bite the bullet, the results are magical. And priceless,” says Menon.
How to do it!
Write down every wish: From career aspirations and basic everyday changes to big life-changing dreams, write freely. This is a judgment-free zone.
Organise your wishes: Categorise them into sub sections – health, finance, relationship etc. Underline the big shifts you expect to make.
Get a bird’s-eye view of your priorities: Ask yourself what can be achieved now, and what you can do in the next few months, and in the long-term.
Share your goals and what you learn: The simple act of stating your changes aloud can help you stick to them. You may also realise whether you want to focus on one area or do a holistic overhaul.