As some of you know, I have been very influenced in my life by a short period in which I lived as a Buddhist monastic. In the monastery, we often chanted basic teachings, words of encouragement and reflections designed to help us along on the path. One chant which did at least once a week contained the phrase, “The days and nights are relentlessly passing; how well am I spending my time?”
We were encouraged to reflect daily on this teaching, which is called the Ten Subjects for Frequent Recollection. I like to think of it as the heart of the monastic “continuous improvement” or “process excellence” practice.
The following is a revised version of the list that I now use for personal and professional motivation in my own life and I sometimes use it for discussions during seminars. The list, and the exercise of bringing it to mind daily, can be seen as a way to incline toward what are very powerful values and which – I believe – help transform our lives into wholesome and positive examples of human potential.
Here are those 10 reflections on human potential. I hope that you too find them useful:
1) I am no longer living according to the same aims and values as others. This should be reflected upon again and again.
2) My life is sustained through the generosity of others including friends, family, business associates and clients.
3) I should strive to abandon my mental and physical habits that reinforce being negative or unnecessarily critical of myself and others and to look with more earnest at my own personal responsibility over my life.
4) Does regret over my conduct arise in my mind?
5) Could my companions including friends, family, business associates and clients find fault with my conduct?
6) All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.
7) I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related to my actions and I live supported by my actions; my life will be conditioned by whatever actions I do, for good or for ill, and of those I will be the heir.
8) The days and nights are passing relentlessly; how well am I spending my time?
9) Do I seek silence and solitude to help balance the most important aspects of my personal and professional life?
10) Has my life practice born fruit with freedom or insight so that at the end of my life I need not feel ashamed when questioned by my companions including friends, family, business associates and clients?
This should be reflected upon again and again.