Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Know Your Worth

With the New Year, one gets in the habit of making resolutions. But resolutions more often than not don’t get fulfilled. Most resolutions fall under 4 general categories: health (i.e. losing weight), money (i.e. save more), mind (i.e. self development) and love (i.e. romance). One article suggests avoiding making resolutions based on a single task or goal. Instead, one should look into a broad theme where one could define certain tasks or goals under that theme to be more flexible. For example, one could think about improving financial literacy and a host of goals can be attached to that theme: invests more, save more and so on. I for one know that resolutions don’t get fulfilled as my resolutions for the past years has been to lose about 10 pounds. Maybe a broader theme is being healthier this year.

This topic was discussed during a recent Toastmaster meeting. There where only 4 participants but we went into a round of topics where New Year resolutions was one subject. I said that one must look for internal goals instead of external goals, i.e. inner peace as against buying the latest SUV. I have also been attached to the ‘increase one’s skills school’. I have created a spreadsheet where I list all the skills I have learned for the past 7 years as well as the trainings and activities I have attended. But I don’t feel any different now accept having bragging right to say ‘did that, done that.’  I guess the broad theme would be to keep one’s mind fresh, active and creative in order to be more competitive at work or perhaps to increase one’s cognition. This is a nobler goal than listing down one’s accumulation of skills or training certificates.

Sometimes the spreadsheet serves as a way to self-reflect; if one’s actions or activities where spent wisely. Sometimes it’s an attempt by the insecure to try to determine if one has arrived at an appropriate level of competency – to try to get a picture of oneself via the list and compare against one’s peers. From my list, it looks like I have too many trivial tasks as well as too much activity. Placing all these activities into a broader context like making the mind more agile or improve one’s cognition or delay the decline of mental acuity due to old age – is a more mature goal. I think I have succeeded considering the many changes I have undergone like moving to a different country twice in the last 10 years plus adjusting to new people, culture and ways of working. Perhaps one would have a difficult time if one did not undergo such self-improvement like I have in the recent decade of my life.

One goal that I have had since my youth was to be a writer. A goal I have not achieved yet - although I feel that I am close. It has taken me roughly a decade to realize and assess where I am in this journey. I think I have diagnosed my skills and where I need to improve and how to move forward. The next step is to have the will and motivation now that circumstances are right. Having a lot of free time, the accumulation of relevant experience, book reading and creative writing courses have finally inched me forward. I guess it’s more a voyage of self-discovery than anything else. There is a saying that one makes a long journey but finds himself in the end. I read an interesting book this weekend about the White House doctor – one of the longest serving doctors in that arena. She also happens to be a fellow countryman having been born in the Philippines.

It’s a great book to learn about the inner working of the US Presidency, the military and the Filipino American connection in the White House. The writer is the first Filipino American Rear Admiral who served with 3 presidents. The writer never lost her humble and down to earth tone. She writes about the Filipino American master chef, valets and stewards who work in the White House. There seems to a recent slew of achievements by Filipinos from different fields like Manny Pacquiao (i.e. seven world boxing titles), champion pool players, White House doctor, film makers and writers. I think understanding one’s heritage is the first step towards self-discovery and improvement. Being a writer pulls all these strands together as one has to find one’s voice. It’s not a matter of writing skill, experience or expertise but an inner understanding of oneself.

Among all the recent trainings, workshops and activities that I have attended to improve myself, I think the most useful has been Toastmaster. The experience has allowed me to find my voice and stand up and proclaim to an audience who I am. In most of my speeches I have to talk about myself or explain myself because that is what the audience wants to hear – one’s story and voyage in life. The effect has been a subtle change since I have been a member for nearly 5 years. It feels like an incremental and often unfelt change as one gets more confidence and self-esteem. I think it has opened doors to all sorts of experiences and improved the quality of my thinking. One tries to measure the past like looking into a report card to determine one’s progress. But one does not grow hair suddenly or be a famous person one day except achieve a feeling of inner contentment and, yes, peace.

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