My feathers got lighter, my body got a leap, and now I can fly higher to the pinnacle of abundance. I want to credit the Personal Agility System for its due contribution to my journey of self-discovery.
It's a small-town girl's voyage from a remote place in India to being a global citizen, seeking her life's desire.
I was born in a beautiful town surrounded by the river, Salunki, in eastern India. An absolute paradise, where nature rules over us, humans. Being born in the mountains, I loved to hike the peaks and conquered many. I was curious and brave. I had a peculiar habit of collecting pebbles and paint those to gift them to people. Some of those got entry to a museum. I remember my visit to that museum, so exciting, not only because of my paintings being there but to see the dinosaur fossil for the first time and a massive collection of manuscripts written on palm leaves.
I pursued Indian classical music and got a distinction in that too. In secondary school, I joined the Red Cross group and enjoyed serving at the camp. In the first year of college, I became the sports champion. A girl from science stream claiming that title was new to that college history! Perhaps, there was a bias that science students focus only on study and sports is not their cup of tea. I was an exception!
I loved making handicrafts. Once, it happened that at a local fair, someone displayed my handmade toys, and all got sold out. That was my first paycheque at the age of 17. I travelled across India for my badminton tournaments and finally got to the national badminton championship for women. I did good enough in my studies to be on top rank in college and university too. I got the scholarship in studies and sports, which helped me reach financial independence early on. I went to one of India's top universities to finish my last lap of formal education.
Life had painted enough possibilities for me, and the journey was no less than a continuous experiment.
All this was enough to build a false sense of over achievement. The fun fact is that I did not aim for any of that. Everything just happened along the way, while I enjoyed doing things that make me happy.
I always had the freedom to "choose" life the way I want. Thanks to my parents. I know for a fact that many girls in India do not get that privilege, but my parents instead challenged me to do everything that my brother would do. I learnt life skills, from buying grocery to paying the bill at the telephone exchange. One family, one rule, everyone takes responsibility.
After pursuing my technology career, I choose to dive into agility. It was not a career need but a conscious choice to be agile and create that impact at work. It's been ten years now. I like how agility has evolved to help people survive and thrive through this age of digital disruption.
It was last year, April 2020; almost the whole world went into COVID-19 lockdown. Like many of you, I had my fair share of anxiety and uncertainty, but this year was tremendously rewarding too. If you wish to know my drive to self-discovery, keep reading.
The remote ways of working had created enormous work pressure to deliver the same results, if not more, consistently. Even though I was working extended hours almost every day, I still had the energy to do something more for myself and my family. I was happy. No travel means two extra hours I got in my day to be more productive. That is when I thought to try agility in my personal life. I wondered if I could apply the benefit of LEAN, Scrum and agility, in general, to create value in my personal life. As an Agile Coach, isn't it wonderful to transform yourself before transforming the world?
Pivoting on my heel:
I started with "Kaizen", the concept that emphasises "continuous improvement". A decade ago, I read about it in the book "The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari" by Robin Sharma. With my research, I found that the Japanese believe that it gets into your habit if you practice something for 21 consecutive days. I always wondered what's the magic behind the number 21 that shifts your life in a positive direction!
So, I made my list. My list had some simple things like "watch the sunrise every day", "compliment at least one person every day", "grow some green veggies", give up a few old habits (addictions!) and form some good habit. So, 27th April was the first day of the 21-days cycle that I started. I found this free mobile app, "Kanbana", and began to track my Kanban board.
The experience of those 21 days is a separate story in itself. In short, I lived through those 21 days, and I did see the change happen. I kept wondering if I would go back to my old habits, but that never happened. I was experiencing wonders, no matter how small they were!
I kept working on many such "21-days cycle" and committed myself to the change. Maybe, we call that self-mastery!
Even though I was making some positive change, I wasn't sure where I am heading! My days are usually busy, over busy. I set big-time targets to meet every day. You can imagine me planning every 15 minutes of my calendar. But does that make me effective?
Does saying "yes" to everyone makes you humbler?
Does multitasking help you finish more?
Do you feel great with too much context switching?
The answer is obvious "No". We all know this, isn't it?
I was already into a rhythm with Kaizen. I just needed to figure out if I am putting my energy into the right things. If I leave this world today, am I ready for it? What will I be remembered for?
In September 2020, I came across the personal agility institute by Peter Stevens. The name itself brought some alignment to what I was pivoting on. I had some ideas to develop a few tools that might help anyone navigate this path. So, I could not resist exploring the "Personal Agility System" to know what others are doing in this field. Luckily, I joined the PARP workshop lined up in a few weeks, and that is where the fun began. I found the missing links to connect myself to a higher purpose.
It is a simple framework to do more that matters and have more impact through actions. It is inspired by the core principles of scrum and six powerful questions. You can use it as a coaching tool to help people at work find 'what really matters' and bring greater alignment.
Personal agility does help us build a 360-degree alignment to life. Look at life as a whole, no boundaries of personal and professional life. You carry your true-self everywhere and create alignment for yourself and help people align with each other too. Help your stakeholders find consensus to move forward for the same goal.
The events of PAS are simple and easy to follow. What it needs is your commitment to start somewhere.
My true north:
Until you empty your cup a bit, you have no space to hold more coffee! Makes sense?
My first few interactions with Peter were like that. I was half genius and a half fool. My mind was preoccupied with some beliefs and thinking pattern. It took some conscious effort to unlearn a few things to learn more.
As Peter says, "Life is the ocean", imagine you are the boat in that ocean navigating to your personal Jamaica. To know if you are on the right path, first, you need to know where you are! Such a powerful metaphor. Do you know what really matters to you in life? Only you can answer it for yourself. PAS helps you discover your answer and set on that journey. Once you know your direction, you "inspect and adapt" regularly and effortlessly do the course correction to get there.
We all have the right intentions to do many things, but how many we put into action? In personal agility, you will create something valuable continuously. It is your life; you are the owner, and you know what "value" means to you. There is one voice (your inner voice) responsible for answering the "why?".
Like Kaizen, personal agility also takes us towards self-mastery. A way to become the person we always wanted to be.
Shweta Jaiswal and Peter Stevens organised the PARP workshop. There were many penny-drop moments for me. In the workshop, they started discussing procrastination and how to deal with it. I was like, well, maybe people do procrastinate, but I do not! My problem was not to push myself to do more but to find a way to slow down, as I was doing too much already! After a few weeks of using the personal agility system, I realised the patterns of my procrastination! If you are already using the PAS priorities map, you know if a particular colour of cards does not move in your board weeks over weeks, it hints you to see if you are procrastinating unknowingly.
Time is a currency I get to use only once. I can't transact for the same moment twice! It was a call to action, a need to find my true north.
After practising it for a few months, I do know how my personal impact is evolving. I do get things done more efficiently (capability), getting the right thing done in the correct order (prioritise), and building alignment with myself, my family, and everyone around me. Just listen, listen, and listen a bit more.
I am sailing smooth and doing course corrections not to deviate from my personal Jamaica. I experience small wonders every day—a focus on gratitude rather than achievement. Making the world around me a little more wonderful every day.
For me, the most significant testimony was when my husband asked me, "Can you show me what's this system you are using!"
Knowing that he does not get impressed so quickly, I was happy that he did notice some change in me.
The true north is what guides me in my life, the true nature of my "being" and the uniqueness that I carry. I hope it continues to be the fuel to fly higher and better.
Now the wish is to take personal agility to as many people as I can. If you spot me anywhere, grab me for a coffee. I would be happy to help you find your true north and celebrate life the way you envision.