Dec 17, 2007

The Annual Life Audit

Haven't been posting much lately, as I've been working on various projects. One project has me busily drawing and redrawing plenty of mindmaps and flowcharts, complete with arrows, squiggles, asterixes, question marks and symbolic doodles.

I'm auditing my life.

I do this a couple of times per year, but the end-of-the-year season feels like a particularly appropriate time to do it. Basically I take time out to reflect on the past 12 months, and all the major events that happened in my life during that time. I also start thinking about my goals and plans for next year (2008).

There isn't any fixed formula for performing a life audit, but obviously it should cover all the major areas of your life. You would want to analyse your successes as well as failures, and the lessons learned. You would identify the things you did well, and think about how you could have done them better.

You would consider all the different aspects of your life. These would include your career/studies; your family and friends; your health; your finances; your spiritual growth / religious life; your relationships; your passions and interests.

You would identify the biggest personal issues that bug you, and think of ways and ideas to address them. You would set some personal goals for next year, and why you're setting them, and you'd create a plan of action for each of those goals.

And within each plan, you would include little sub-targets and benchmarks and milestones to meet along the way (so that you can tell if you're still on track).

I imagine that performing a life audit could be a somewhat frightening experience for some people. That's because the vast majority of people on Planet Earth don't live anywhere as optimally as they potentially can. And a sizeable percentage of people, even by their own personal standards, probably live badly-managed lives.

And so they would rather avoid having to face up to those standards. If you're an obese chain-smoker with young children, it's not nice to consider the possibility that you might drop dead from a heart attack sometime soon and your kids will be orphaned.

If you're an angry, frustrated youth who doesn't know what he really wants out of life, it's not nice to consider the possibility that before long, you might be an angry, frustrated adult who still doesn't know he wants out of life.

If you've been stuck in a job that is meaningless and painful to you, it's not nice to realise that unless you take some concrete action to change things, you could continue to be stuck in a meaningless, painful job for a long time.

If you've had a lifelong dream which you still aren't pursuing, it's not nice to consider the possibility that it might one day transpire to be no more than a lifelong daydream.

And so on.

I suppose that's why many people would hesitate to perform a life audit. You would have to step back and take a good hard look at yourself, the warts included. That could be somewhat painful, sometimes.

One thing to remember is that your current situation, whether good or bad, didn't develop overnight. It took you your entire life, to get to where you are and who you are today. And you still have the rest of your life, to try to get to where and who you'd rather be.

The time will pass anyway. What have you got to lose?


Anonymous said...

This is such a timely piece.. I am contemplating on making a huge change in my career now after an audit as well.

Making decisions (or choices) is a tough thing to do hence most people don't do audits like u or do not follow up with the actions after the audits.

Making decisions that usually have irreversible outcomes is tougher still.

It scares the shit out of me. But I have decided to go with it.

Hope whatever plans borne out of your audit all come to fruition.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Will you elaborate more on how you use your drawings for your life audits?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oh it's nothing much. I've been a chronic doodler for a long time; it helps to engage the right brain.

Over here, you can see the diagrams of other chronic doodlers, as applied to all kinds of different situations.

sunny flowery said...

Mr Wang, thank you.

I was doing my own audit (I call it reflection) and kind of got stalled because I didn't really want to make some tough decisions.

You blog entry, the last para, kind of inspired me.


Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

In the overall scheme of my life, I suppose this is a small thing - but among other things, I'm planning to make quite a number of changes to this blog, in 2008 .... Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, you got invited for tea by the MIW is it?

Should consider lah. The allowance alone is already much better than what many people earn.

And you can still keep your day job if you earn more than what the Ministers make anyway.

Plus you are doing service to the nation.

Anonymous said...

Hi, can you indict yourself for creative accounting?

Anonymous said...

Hi mr wang, a nice read-simple, easy on the eye and every worth a try! merry xmas and a fruitful year in advance.-LH

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Wang,

I followed the link and have a look at all those beautiful mindmaps available and I wondered ... are those first draft mind maps 'coz they are so beautifully drawn. Do people who uses mind map re-visit their first drafts and come out with improved versions? Does drawing mind maps really works?

Anonymous said...

"You would want to analyse your successes as well as failures, and the lessons learned. You would identify the things you did well, and think about how you could have done them better."

there has to be 2 levels of thinking- the level that diagnoses the success/failures and then the lessons learnt and actions to do. surmise people can identify what went right/wrong in the past 12 months. however the hard part is finding out what to do with them. do audit -yes . u missedd the corrective/preventive actions.

the dilemma is what to do? like the angry youth who doesn't know what he wants out of life-yes, he knows that, so how does doing the audit helps?

Anonymous said...

I believe it is good to do reflection at the end of the year to take stock of what you have achieved and did not managed to accomplish. Better yet is to plan for the next year and execute it.

I seriously have to plan and think through life. More so because the cost of living is going up while my salary stagnant and this country believes in "you take care of yourself".

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Anon December 18, 2007 11:37 AM:

Haha, you're funny.

Anon December 18, 2007 2:49 PM:

The nice ones are usually 2nd or 3rd drafts. But it's not just about the aesthetic appeal; each time you do the same map, you get a few new ideas/insights.

Anon December 18, 2007 8:21 PM:

Oh the corrective/preventive parts come in the plans of action, for the future goals .... But will write more about this in future.

Happy auditing, everyone.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Link - "Of Baby Tears and Audit".

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

I am carying out my own audit.
How do you carry out your mind-mapping? Do you mind map all the major issues "Finance", "Personal Interests", "Health", etc on a single sheet of paper? Or do you use a separate piece of paper for each issue? Thanks.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

You can start off with a main mindmap with a starting point like "My Life in 2008". You can put all the big issues on a single sheet, and they start branching off.

If you run out of space, you'll just start a new mindmap using a sub-sub-sub-point as the starting point.

You may eventually end up with five or six mindmaps ....

Anonymous said...

I have always got a suspicion that you are a plant! So, there you are, NLB has confirmed!

Anonymous said...

I have always got a suspicion that you are a plant! So, there you are, NLB has confirmed!

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Oikono's example of a life audit.