Goals... How SMART

While organizing my files earlier today, I revisited these goals which I set for myself two and half years ago:
  • Make a difference
  • Travel
  • Learn
  • Get out of employment
  • Make enough money to get by 

Drawn up in early January in 2014, these were meant to be some sort of new year resolutions. In examining them today, the following observations can be made:
  • As is the case for most new year resolutions, they failed to serve any purpose as they were soon forgotten. For plans to have an impact, they have to be implemented and the progress and effectiveness of the implementation evaluated.
  • Most of them do not serve well as goals. They did give some general ideas of the things I have always wanted to do, but their inadequacy becomes obvious when assessed against the criteria of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-focused, Time-bound).
  • Such shortcomings notwithstanding, I would like to think that those are the broad directions I have been following between then and now, and what is most gratifying is that I can proudly check the box for the item ‘get out of employment’, which obviously is the outcome of my conviction that I have ‘[made] enough money to get by’.

There is, of course, no room for complacency. Now that I am entirely responsible for the way I live my life and no longer have the excuse that I am so busy with my job that I have no time for anything else, goals have a vital role to play for giving direction and driving achievement. Setting some SMART goals is, therefore, an urgent task.

Love? Please define

There is nothing more distasteful than the way love has been commercialized and politicized in China and, increasingly and inevitably, Hong Kong.

Businesses from banks to cooking oil manufacturers make TV commercials which associate their services or products with love. Worse still, China and Hong Kong propagates love love of the country, the region, the Communist Party, the people. What is this love anyway? The commercialized love lures you into spending your money. The politicized love lures you into sacrificing your life and, worse of all, even the lives of others. But what sort of love does the deeds of those in power demonstrate? Is their action compatible with their words?

Amazingly, though, many people buy this people who, I believe, do not understand love; people who either have not loved or been loved.


Can money buy time?

Can we buy time with money?

In a way, it can. I'd like to think that is what I did three months ago, telling my boss that his service was no longer required and giving him the required notice.

Haven't I always felt that a person who finishes his work life at the retirement age (which is sixty for my generation and sixty-five for the next) is like letting his own battery run until it is about used up? While he is by then free to do whatever he didn't have the time to do while engaged in paid work, his energy, vigour or dynamism may well have deserted him.

Haven't I always resented the prospect of having to stay with my job until the retirement age? However, while this dream of retiring early was excruciatingly tempting, it was also incredibly intimidating. No mortal souls in their right minds, it seems, would be so reckless as to do something to stop the monthly pay cheque coming in and wreck their job security. I had, for so long, found this to be an impossible hurdle to cross.

But one thing I have never lost faith in is that if there is something you dream about or want badly and you are really determined to make it come true, it will. Early retirement is one such thing in my case. Living in another country is another. With God's guidance and help, I can now afford to buy a few years' time and start a new life in Canada. There is probably no better deal in life than to buy time with money.


A caged bird that finds the door open

On my last day at work, a colleague asked: "How do you feel?"

"I feel like a caged bird suddenly finding that the door has popped open," I said. "The bird just cocks its head quizzically, looking uncertainly outside."

Later that day, I told this to another friend, and his reply was: "The big wide world can be intimidating."

He should know. He must be feeling that way too when he retired a few years ago.

For most of us who have been doing paid work for a good part of our lives, the working life has done much to justify our existence and forge a sense of self-worth and security. We feel that our existence is justified when we are busy, even though it may not necessarily mean we are productive or contributing to the well-being of the world. We feel a sense of self-worth when we move up the ranks and there is power to wield and people to manage. The higher positions also give us a sense of security, as do the pay cheques that come at the end of each month.

So when one stops working, he can find the change all too dramatic. The bird in my imagination may well hesitate to walk out and prefer to stay in. It may be wondering: "Do I still know how to fly? Is it really a good idea to leave this cage where I am fed on a daily basis and put myself at the mercy of this strange and unknown world?"

One who has lost his freedom for too long may not be too eager to seek it and may not know how to enjoy it. He may, as my friend put it, just find it too "intimidating".


One door closes, another opens

The above is a punctuation I have put to my thirty-plus years of working life today.

The above is how my post-working life looks like at this moment. How it will grow depends on my self-discipline and determination.

I will make sure it does not stay that way. As a small step ahead, I am resurrecting this blog to chronicle the whole journey. For how long it will last, only God knows. But it is certainly up to me to make it a fantastic one.


Dogs of different destinies

Two news stories on dogs today generated strong but completely different feelings in me.

The first one, published in a local paper, was about the ‘dog meat festival’ which took place yesterday in a city called Yulin in Guangxi, China. Animal rights activists who went to city to protest and to buy the dogs to rescue them were mocked by many onlookers and cursed by the vendors, the latter under the protection of the policemen.

The second news story was about the 2014 world’s ugliest dog contest which was held on Friday in California. According to the official website of the organiser, the contest aims to spread the message that no matter the dogs’ physical detractions, they are loving companions, and to raise awareness for adoption of dogs, since a good number of the contestant dogs have been rescued from shelters and puppy mills. This year’s winner, a Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix called Peanut, is a good example. Peanut’s toothy grin and bulging eyeballs were the results of burns received as a puppy. Holly Chandler, his owner  plans to donate the prize money to pay for the veterinary bills of animals in need so that others might have the same opportunities as Peanut. She also hopes to use Peanut's fame to raise awareness for abused animals. 

It seems that, compared with the rest of the world, the civilisation of China still has a long way to go.


Moments of the Now

It must be sacrilegious, the sounds of my footsteps announcing my clumsy arrival.

This is the feeling I have as I descend from Quarry Gap to Tai Tam Reservoir every morning during the past two weeks. Treading on the trail traversing woods, streams and undergrowth of exquisite serenity, I feel like an intruder. I am not the only creature interfering with the silence and stillness - there are the birds, insects and reptiles, too, but they are doing a much better job, blending perfectly with the setting and orchestrating with the elements to add to the charm and sacredness.

Sometimes I would just hold my steps so as to let my Being become one with the silence and stillness. And those are the moments when I can truly appreciate the peace and joy of the Now.