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A Personal Plan - Part 1

Having an up-to-date personal plan is quite helpful for our spiritual life. It helps us follow a balanced approach to living and provides specific goals in the various departments of our life that help us stay motivated and focused. There are five important aspects of our life that encompass almost everything - Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Economic and Educational. A three-year plan is looked at as minimum. To plan is the only way to encompass the major changes in life properly.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning, everyone!

This morning we are going to make you do all the work. In classes, we actually have to do something? Uh-Oh! not one of those... You don't get to just listen and nod your head and possibly ask one question. [laughs]

So, I thought we would look at planning - Personal Planning - this morning. Something we sent out to some of you. Suggestion is, this a good time of year to do planning. In our year-round calendar, Gurudeva created a calendar which has three seasons. First season is called Nartana Ritau, April 15 through August 15. One of the activities that Gurudeva recommended for this time of year is planning. It is the intellectual time of year, if you know astrology, starting out with all the intellectual signs, start in mid-April, for a few months. So, it is a good time of year to think.

Today's topic is called, 'A Personal Plan,' at least, developing a personal plan, will give you an opportunity to be specific and write down some ideas. While the connection may not be immediately obvious, having an up to date personal plan is quite helpful for our spiritual life. This is because it helps us follow a balanced approach to living as well as provides specific goals in the various departments of our life that help us stay motivated and focused. For those who are single, the personal plan is for the individual. And for those who are married, the personal plan is for all members of the family.

It may not be self-evident but our moods in life tend to relate to our plans in life, relate to our plans in life till we run out of plans. Classic example is someone who has worked their whole life, retires. In the US fortunately, the age might be 67, whereas in Malaysia you retire at 55. Imagine that! 55 years, you are retired! [laughs] It can be very challenging, because you are so used to the motivation that is provided by the workplace. It gets you up in the morning, the thought of losing your job gets you dressed nicely!! The workplace motivates us a lot. You take the workplace away, you need to replace it with other forms of motivation. That's an obvious example that everyone eventually faces.

Another major change comes to a mother when all the children leave home. Her life really changes. The whole point of focus that has motivated her whole life - getting the children ready for this, doing this for the children, doing that for the children - all of a sudden, there aren't any children in the home to do it for. There is nothing to be up for. What can you do instead? What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning? What gives meaning to your life?

Well, it needs to be something inside of yourself, right? Because, what was outside of yourself that is providing the meaning is not there any more. So, that is a kind-of extreme example, showing the need for personal planning. If we don't have a strong plan, we will get depressed, we will get discouraged in one way or another, depending on our nature, during that point in our life. We can shorten our life too. We retire at 65, and if we don't have good goals in our life to keep us going, we don't live as long as we could. We run out of things to do.

I have got a nice statement on that. Let's see if I can remember. [pause] It is something like - We don't stop being active because we grow old; we grow old because we stop being active. The idea that reverses the normal way of looking at things. What causes us to age more than anything else is lack of positive activities. What keeps us young, I don't know what the age is, is an abundance of meaningful activities. Of course, we have to create that for ourselves as we get older because life is not necessarily going to do it for us.

So, insights from Gurudeva ...

Planning - as you know, Gurudeva loved to plan. A great planner, Capricorn! Planning was very important to Gurudeva and it is one of the Sutras. Sutra nine says, "Siva's devotees approach each enterprise with deliberate thoughtfulness, and act only after careful consideration. They succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push."

A good example of the need for a plan - and I mention this on Innersearch, it is part of our class - is when someone is starting a new business. It is crucial to develop a business plan that outlines all the major aspects of the business such as production, sales, marketing, advertising, financial projections and even sales projections.

Though only a small percent of people have a business, everyone has a personal life that would benefit from a plan. Individuals or families are like a business: to work, they need a plan. And it is also necessary to revise plans periodically to adjust to major changes in the individual's life or family structure such as:

An individual or the husband retires

An individual or family takes on the responsibility of caring for an elderly parent

The children have all married and left home

The family moves to a new community

The relationship between husband and wife is not as harmonious as it used to be

One spouse becomes chronically ill

So, those are major changes in life that can occur to any of us and each change of that nature, let alone multiple changes, requires a major change in our personal plan. Otherwise, we won't be able to cope with it in the best way we can.

So, these days, if you want to find anything, of course, you search on the Web! Americans! If I want to find our Himalayan Academy Lexicon, I search on the Web and it takes me to it, rather than trying to find it on our site! I just say 'Hinduism lexicon' and it goes straight to our lexicon. So, that is how I found Yogaswami's stories. I looked for Yogaswami stories. There are two or three on the web. Not a lot of Yogaswami stories on the web. 'Words of our Master' is on the Web and a number of things, but not the stories. There were three stories on the Web, I chose what I thought was the best one.

So, you look on the Web, you know you can find lots of business plans, right? Hundreds of business plans pop up on websites, to choose from. I also searched the websites for personal plans, family plans, individual plans. How many of those are there? Zero, right? How many people need an individual plan, versus how many people need a business plan? Isn't it kind of interesting? It's just an area that's neglected, obviously. Finance is the one area in which people do plan a lot personally. The other aspects of life are not planned at all. We are not organized the way a business is, finance is. But they're equally as important.

Then I looked for books. doesn't have one single book on a personal plan but hundreds of books on business plans. So, what do we do?

Well, we have to take our own approach for developing a personal plan. We can learn a few important points from a business plan, which is they all start with a list of objectives, then the strategy or plan to accomplish the objectives, including a financial plan. What a business plan calls objectives, a personal plan can call goals or purposes. As our Nandinatha Sutra says: first is a clear purpose. The purpose is the same idea as the business plan's objective.

A business plan develops goals for the various departments of the business such as production, sales, marketing, and finance. Therefore in our personal plan we need to divide life into its major departments. A useful guideline created many years ago by Gurudeva is the five-fold division of Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Economic and Educational.

Some of you have heard that before, but to others, I am sure, it is a new idea. There are five important aspects of our life that encompass almost everything - Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Economic and Educational.

Thought it was a spontaneous remark, till I saw what is in the next line! [laughs]

The beauty of this five-fold division is that it encompasses all aspects of life and therefore helps develop a balanced approach to living.

So, that's the idea. One of the ideas is a balanced approach. Usually we don't have a balanced approach to the important areas of life. I was talking to one sishya recently and she said, "What are social goals?" It wasn't clear to her what was meant by social goals, she was not quite clear. It was something she wasn't usually thinking about.

One of the questions in developing a plan is - Well, how many years do we develop a plan for? Notice we said years. Not how many days, how many months. How many years? Gurudeva liked six years. But, six years can be a bit challenging, the first time around. Three years is looked at as minimum. If we have a 3-year plan, we are at least planning ahead a reasonable amount. If our plan is less than 3 years, we can be surprised by life. We haven't thought far enough ahead to take into account certain important events that are going to happen. To plan is the only way to encompass them properly.

So, some sample goals, Spiritual.

Sample goal for Spiritual is: Yearly Pilgrimage, even if it is just a few hundred miles to a different temple.

For example, our Singapore members and students enjoy a group pilgrimage to the temples in Malaysia.

They like to do that on a regular basis. They jump into a bus, grab a few friends, and have a nice pilgrimage up to Malaysia. Nice break. It is a pilgrimage because they go to temples that they don't normally go to. That is the idea of a pilgrimage. You don't go the one you always visit but you go slightly further away. Go to ones you don't normally visit.

Sample Social Goals:

Extended family gatherings.

Special family outings. When is the last time the family went horseback riding?

Any horseback riders here? The monks were supposed to go horseback riding this week. We haven't done so yet. The monks actually go horseback riding.

No, we don't have any horses but some of our friends have horses. So, it's quite easy.

Cultural Activities, some samples:

Children taking dance and music lessons - that's quite common.

Attending cultural performances as a family - that's common.

Adults taking time to play music and sing

Some sample Economic goals:

Saving for the children's education

Saving for retirement

If someone has goals, usually they are economic goals. They have it all figured out. What about social goals? Cultural goals? Spiritual goals? Probably not. Economic goals are usually what is thought of first when we think of individual or family planning.

Sample Educational goals:

Children's secular education, of course

Adults acquiring new skills

For example, those who are working, job-related skills to qualify for a promotion. That is something that is sometimes done in a systematic way. For those who aren't working like the housewife, an additional education in such areas as herbs and healing,

In conclusion, having an up to date personal plan is quite helpful for our spiritual life. This is because it helps us follow a balanced approach to living as well as provides specific goals in the various departments of our life that help us stay motivated and focused. The goal of this presentation is to catalyze everyone to think about the plan: for those who don't have one to create one; for those who do to add another year; and for families going through major adjustments, to seriously review their plan and see what major changes in it are needed.


Review the five areas that comprise a personal plan: Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Economic and Educational. Write down a few ideas for activities in each of these five areas.

So, that is your homework! You have to do your homework right now. You can take half an hour and you can each pick up a copy and find a quiet corner somewhere on the property.

First page is for you to put your name on it. Just in case you misplaced it. If it is found lying around, it can be given back to you. There is a page for each of the five areas, with the sample activities mentioned right on top just to get you thinking of each of the five areas.

The idea is to try and write down something useful for yourself that fits into your plan, whatever stage it is in. If you don't have a plan, there are some initial thoughts. If you have a plan and it is solid, you can come up with a few new ideas, particularly in areas that you are not strong. Like some families are not strong in social activities. Others are not strong in cultural activities. Look for areas in which you are weak, in particular. You want to balance your activities in all five areas and then if there is a major change in your situation, individual or family, that you haven't really encompassed in your planning, then give that some thought. Write down some ideas - how, in what way do we need to adjust to this change? What activities do we need to have or what activity do we need to stop because of these major changes in our life?

So, that is the assignment. We have half an hour. We'll see you back here in half an hour and then the last part is for those who want to share some of the ideas for a couple of purposes. One, others hearing your ideas - you can share what you think are your best ideas - it will inspire others in that area and possibly related areas that they have not thought of. Plus, I can write them down and then we can share them on the Internet with others and give some more examples. Examples are good. It is hard for the monks to write all the examples. [laughs] We need some real-life examples from all of you. What are activities that are important to you and to your family? Then we can share those with others and help them and that way create a better plan and a more balanced life and therefore a more fulfilling life.

So, you can hand these out, as everyone goes out. Yeah, hand them out, coordinate that. Gather back here in half an hour and share our work.

Thank you!

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