What’s your agenda?

We have all kinds of people around us – some people seem to have no agenda, while some seem to have hidden agendas. Most people don’t seem to know what their agenda is, though some lower-form of materialistic agenda might always be on their mind! Some people seem to content with others setting their agenda, while some very exceptional minds among us are so influential, they might help others set their agenda. Do people have the same agenda always, or it change with time (it does seem logical that agendas must change with changing priorities, but how?). If it changes with time, would it help to understand its shades just so we can know where we are at a given time, and potentially, set a goal around where we want to be next?

While thinking about all this, I got wondering if there was a way to “measure” people on what their agenda was? Would it be possible to create some scale that allowed us to understand where were we, not necessarily to compare against others, but just to know where do we stand, if we at all wanted to move further, could there be some kind of roadmap to it?

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My quest for some answer (and not necessarily a right answer) led me to some interesting reflection, and I came up with the following perspective. Treat it like evolutionary stages of one’s agenda –  if one looks at any meaningful and logical slice of one’s professional (or even personal) life as a single unit, than it might appear to live its journey in an iteration. For example, when one starts their career, or when one starts their new job as a first-time CEO, maybe there are similarities among them as far as the stages of agenda is concerned, even if the scope and scale of their agenda might be substantially different. Surely, this isn’t any heavy scientific theory or some social experiment data – this is simply based on my anecdotal data and some logical thinking, and might very well be untrue, incomplete, inconsistent or simply useless! Time will surely tell me that :). Anyway, here I submit my reflection for your suggestion and feedback.

Let’s go.

Stage 1: You don’t have an agenda!

When you start your journey, you are the obedient learner, the humble follower, the curious child who gets attracted to the unseen, the unheard, the unknown, the unexplained, the un-understood…anything new, bizzare…and you may have no real agenda as to what exactly you want to do in life (or in your most immediate journey). You might travel from city to city, jump from adventure to adventure…but mostly you have no real end-goal in mind. This is the formative stage where your only agenda (if I can say that) is to absorb anything and everything without any motive, ulterior or not. You just “do it” without any particular reason other than possibly simply learning things, or doing it for the sake of doing it. Some people also might simply while away their time with either “busy work” or just a way to pass the time, and appear to be “living dead” in this stage, but more people are likely to live this stage with a bit more energy and enthusiasm even when there is no real agenda.

Stage 2: Others set your agenda

At some point, you find something that sets your agenda, or at least starts the process. It could be anything – an idea that inspires you, an obstacle that fires you, a friend who motivates you, a parent who pushes you, a manager who forces you, a guru who liberates you…whatever! The key thing is that you are not directionless, rudderless anymore but you have this big purpose dangling in front of you. At this stage, it is more likely that others are setting this agenda for you as you don’t have any real agenda of you own. You are still learning from others as to what might be some way to build a pipeline of activities that leads to the nirvana. Or, at least you believe that might be the nirvana!

Stage 3 You set your own agenda

For a seeker of truth and self-made goals in life, this is the moment when you discover your purpose. You discard what others have set for you (perhaps you think that’s not the real you, or you simply have a change in plan, or are attracted to something else than what you initially started out with, etc.). You have also become more knowledgeable, competent, mature, confident and perhaps even resourceful to write your own agenda – whether ready or not, right or wrong, high or low, realistic or ambitious – it doesn’t really matter. What matters is your belief in what you really want to do, and your desire to go for it. This could be the phase when you really start taking risks, learn something new, become an entrepreneur, take up a significantly challenging assignment much above your current level of training or experience, and so on. The key is to start somewhere so long as you actually gets started to create your own agenda!

Stage 4: You set other’s agenda

This is the pinnacle of peer and social recognition – you have fans who look up to you, you have peers who worship you, leaders who cherish you, and even have competitors who respect you (and not just secretly)! In some cases, like the legendary Guru Dronacharya who was not there physically for the archer-enthusiast Eklavya so he simply made his statue and “learnt” from it, you might not be physically present to (help) set other’s agenda but your thought, ideas, words and deeds inspire people across the time and space. And for those who have the fortune to interact with you – be as your team member, or colleague, friend, teacher, leader or anyone else – you are trusted and respected to the extent that others feel they can count on you for help in setting their own agenda. It is also possible that some people in this stage do it because of the hierarchy or the title, e.g., they might be a manager for a team. We are not really interested in this, but more interested in what kind of unofficial or the informal power, or rather influence, do you really wield in those situations. Very few among us get to this level, though a significant larger among us already believe we are here 🙂

Stage 5: You don’t need an agenda!

This is the nirvana. You have finally arrived to the point of self-actualization when you not only don’t need any social proof or endorsement from the society at large about who you are or what you do, you also don’t care for it! Not in an arrogant manner (though some rare eccentric geniuses are known to have gone to that point) but in a self-assured manner that your identity is not defined by how others measure you. Life comes a full circle for you, but not before having grown you as an individual, as a professional in your chosen discipline and certainly not before you have had an opportunity to influence people and help the world become a better place. At this stage, nothing really matters because you are that self-assured person who doesn’t need to derive “power” from even influencing others as in Stage 4, but you want to be like the sage or the heretic who goes into deep meditation and is on the path to become an institution by himself or herself, and doesn’t care whether people accept or reject his ideas. You may not even be known or become famous, but that doesn’t matter anymore – what really matters if whether you know who you are without necessarily knowing where you want to go next.

So, this is my reflection on the journey of an agenda – like all deep reflections, it ends exactly where it starts, and when you look superficially, a person with no agenda might look the same as a person who doesn’t need an agenda (because to you, it still appears that he has no agenda – but only he knows in his mind that he doesn’t have an agenda because he doesn’t need one!). However, when you look deep inside, you find a journey of a lifetime that starts with exploration and ends with self-discovery. Very few among us make it, though.

What’s your agenda?

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