As the year draws to a close, it is good practice to take some time out to reflect on the time that has passed.
Regardless of what angle this introspection takes – be it a financial, social, spiritual, career angle- there are key questions that you should ask yourself. It can take the form of a personal ‘SWOT’ analysis or some other form of self-evaluation. Irrespective of the tool you choose, you will need to pay attention to specific instances and find out the following:
- What decisions made you come alive, feel happy or fulfilled?
- What decisions are you unhappy about or think you could have done better?
- What gave you the greatest source of concern?
In responding to the above three questions, you are then able to narrow down and answer the final question which, if executed properly, can change your life.
- What are the 3 or 5 simple things you could do to raise your life to your desired level of excellence?
Once you have identified these action points, start doing them today instead of waiting for 2014 to make impractical New Year resolutions. Start with the simplest and keep adding on to challenge yourself.
Aside from this reflection, I want to take a moment to recognise that 2013 was a remarkable year for Kenya.
From the elections, to the JKIA fire, to Westgate, to the terror attacks and the never-ending ICC debacle, we have witnessed major and life changing events that at some point seemed to pull the rug from right under our feet and knock the breath out of our lungs. These events became a true test of our national character and bring to mind the famous word ‘Indomitable spirit’.
I have no doubt that that fighting spirit is the character of our nation. We are a strong and resolute people who are determined to keep making Kenya better. Even as we celebrate Kenya at 50 years and do the same reflection as a country, let us begin by acknowledging the powerful strides we have made thus far before we can point out what we could do better. It is difficult to chart a way forward, if you do not know where you are coming from. But I’ve never been prouder of being Kenyan than I do now; at 50 years and aware that this is the year of Jubilee.
In the meantime, a word of advice to my young friends.
As you get into the holiday spirit, please do not drink and drive. The risks for permanent injury and death are way too high to gamble with your life. Apart from your family and friends, Kenya also requires your input to achieve its goals.
Secondly, remember that although ‘You only live once’, you don’t live all of it on a single night. Tomorrow will still require you to pay your rent, your school feels and all your other bills. Do not blow all your hard earned cash on some extravagant expenses so that you barely survive the infamously long month of January.
I know that the Christmas spirit comes with a strong desire for giving and spending, however, do not allow this generous mood to become your financial downfall. Here are some tips to help you anticipate and avoid January blues.
- Be aware of all your financial obligations and when each payment is due. This helps to keep your spending in check and aligned to what is important
- Budget for all your expenses including gifts and put a cap on those areas where you know you tend to push the limits. As an example, if you know you spend too much money shopping for clothes, put a spending cap on about 80 percent of your budgeted amount. This leaves you with a reserve of 20% for emergencies, and allows you to save it if nothing comes up.
- If you do get a bonus or some unexpected gift, commit 75 percent of that gift beforehand. It is ok to celebrate this windfall, but it is also fool hardy to not take advantage of such opportunities and meet other desires.
- Do not and I repeat, do not be tempted to take out a small overdraft or short term loan to meet your January living expenses. The interest only eats into your future savings and plans. The only time I advocate for a loan, is if you are making capital investments that will earn you a better return to recoup the interest in the future. Always live within your means.
In summary, and in the words of Deepak Chopra, ‘What people think of you is none of your business.’ Stop trying to impress them and live your life for yourself adding value to only those that matter to you. This goes for your financial decisions too.
Along those lines, what would you want to do for yourself in the New Year? What goals and resolutions would you like to accomplish? Conceive and achieve them.