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Looking for ______ in all the wrong places?

Have you ever headed to the grocery store to buy some, say, milk without a shopping list?  If you’re anything like me, you walk in the door and you’re greeted by the colorful fruit and veggies, tempting snacks, and a million other items that you’re sure you MUST need.  You pass on some of the things you see, but give in to others.  All in all, you’re ok with the choices you made, but you get home and realize that you left without getting the one thing you went to the store for–the milk!

Often times, we live our day-to-day lives in a similar way.  We start new relationships,  change jobs, relocate, join a new church, etc.  No matter the activity, the reason is often the same, we’re looking for something.  We start our new activity feeling hopeful or, maybe, apprehensive–wondering if we’re looking in the right place.  But once we arrive and engage in our new activity, we sometimes forget that we should never stop evaluating whether or not our search has been effective and our needs have been met.  We become so distracted by the intricacies of our activity, be they good or bad, that we forget to stop and say, “Wait! Is this person, place, or thing, meeting my original need or have I become sidetracked?”

So, what is a person to do?  How do we remain focused on our original need when we are complicated beings with ever-changing needs?

For starters, make a list.  Anyone who has ever tried to over come being sidetracked while grocery shopping has been advised to make a shopping list.  The list, in both our analogy and real world application, serves multiple purposes.

  • Evaluate.  Your list will serve as a method for taking stock of what you have and what you need.  Before you can do either of those things, however, you must determine what you want to accomplish.
  • Act.  Your list will also serve as your roadmap and will help you remain focused on your goal(s).  Although new goals, needs, and desires will likely arise along the way, your list will allow you to remember what you set out to do from the beginning.
  • Evaluate.  Finally, and maybe most importantly, your list will be your means of checking in with yourself and will allow you to evaluate your progress.  But here is the key.  If you check your list and realize that you are not accomplishing your goals, STOP!  STOP what you’re doing and make a new plan!  Your new plan is going to involve one of two things.  Either you will decide that you need to try accomplishing your goals in a different way or you will decide to be content with where you are.  Either way, the decision is your own, but take ownership of it and move forward knowing what you’re working with.

Secondly, keep a record.  Given all of the technology at your disposal, there are many ways to accomplish this, but the most basic way would be pen and paper: keep a journal.  Like keeping a list, keeping a journal also has multiple purposes.

  • Catharsis.  Freeing your mind of all that you have experienced makes room for new experiences to be processed in a clear way; independent of the previous day’s clutter.
  • Hindsight.  Although it is often said to be  20/20, it is also sometimes too late.  Journaling will allow you the opportunity to review your experiences relatively quickly and make adjustments as needed.  Sometimes changes can’t be made, even in the short-term, but many wonderful lessons have come from on-time Ah-ha moments!
  • Remembrance.  Journaling allows you to more accurately remember back as far as you have recorded.  Of the many things that can come from reviewing snapshots of your past, the most productive is, arguably, being able to see how far you have traveled.

While neither of these tips is a magic wand that will keep you on the straight and narrow as you navigate through tricky times, they can serve as reminders that you owe it to yourself to accomplish what you set out to achieve without getting stuck in the many distractions that are life.

Moral of the story: You may end up in the wrong place while you’re looking, but as long as you know you’re in the wrong place, you don’t have to stay there.

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July 24, 2011 Posted by | Self-help | , , , | 5 Comments