Ranjana TN

Leveraging memories as a planning tool

I remember reading Randy Pausch’s heartwarming autobiographical book The Last Lecture years ago. One thing that stuck with me was his ‘list of childhood dreams’ which became a bucket list that he achieved over many years of his life before he passed away. Every item on his list ended up becoming a memory to cherish until the very last days of his life.

We are trained to look at life as a series of events which is a valid lens, of course. In yesterday’s post, I discussed how life can be seen from the lens of a story. Here’s another lens: The lens of memories. What if you viewed life as a series of memories you are creating? What sort of memories would you like to have? What are those things you absolutely must experience before you die? What are the things you absolutely must create for yourself? It could be anything – a great family, a career you’ll be proud of, meaningful contribution to society. What matters is that it’s a memory you want to have. Something that you will cherish for a lifetime. This is a truly powerful perspective because it shows you what your heart desires in HD. This clarity is like a fuel that propels you to take action no matter how long or hard the path to get to what you want is.

Look back at your journey through all the years…what memories stand out? Which ones make you go, “man, am I glad I did that!”. You might be surprised to see how many of those were actually hard to do or so simple that you think, “huh, I didn’t think I’d have that as a memory to remember!”. For eg., one of the memories I will cherish for the rest of my life is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in 2017. It wasn’t exactly easy but man, did I enjoy every minute of it! Another one is spending quality time with my grandparents in the evenings these days. It allows me to build a beautiful bond with them and I’m going to cherish that forever.

When taking stock of your journey so far, don’t acknowledge only the ‘accomplishments’. Look at it holistically. Is there anything else that stands out? Maybe you took a trip somewhere that you thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe you made some great friends. Maybe you started a family and had your first child. Maybe you tried doing something and it didn’t quite pan out. Maybe you faced some major setbacks. All of these are memories and mean something to you. It’s not just the accomplishments or victories that make life worthwhile. What is sacred to each of us is a very personal thing.

Looking back at Q1 of 2020, here are some memories and experiences that stand out for me:

  • Quitting my job in Jan. I was so anxious and fearful when I had to let my manager know that. I knew it was the right decision for me, though. So I look back at that as a memory of courage and staying aligned with what I wanted to do with my life.
  • Taking a 3-day solo trip to Wayanad, Kerala. I rented a cabin in the woods (literally) and spent three full days in the middle of nature. There was a little stream running just behind the cabin too! It was so beautiful and peaceful.
  • Publishing an ebook on Amazon. That was a great learning experience. The bigger learning for me, though, was that I have a wonderfully supportive bunch of friends. They were my cheerleaders as I transitioned into my new career as a writer!
  • Joining a creative writing mastermind group! We are a fun lot and meet every week. Given that I want a large part of my identity to be that of a writer, it made a lot of sense to join such a group. I like the accountability that such a team brings not to mention the support.
  • Meeting one of my dearest friends and her 6-month-old son in her hometown. I love the little guy to pieces! I can’t wait to tell him stories and be his ‘cool aunt Ranjana’.
  • Turning 30 amidst the global coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic turned the world upside down. It also had some unexpected benefits.
  • Hanging out with friends online in the light of the pandemic. I have many a memory now laughing and joking with friends scattered all over the world. We even got together for an online concert where the more musical ones performed some great numbers for the rest of us!

Using memories as a planning tool

How can you use the lens of memories to plan various aspects of your life? Rather than looking back, project yourself months or years ahead and ask yourself what sort of memories you’d like to create. Maybe you even create a bucket list! The important question to ask is, what would make this time period worthwhile for you and something you will cherish.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or anything (it could be that too if that’s what you want). So long as it’s meaningful for you personally, it’s great! This approach also helps you create a more balanced life replete with rich experiences and not just achievements, as Steve Pavlina explains in this post. You want memories that make for rich experiences. When you’re planning anything – be it your life at large, the next quarter, your career – think about the memories you’d be creating for yourself. What would make you smile years from now and say, “now that was one great ride!”?