So here recently I’ve been introspective. I’ve acknowledged that I have become Alice in the crossroads.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
–Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland Chapter 6 (read it online)
I evaluated my life and realized that I was out of control with growing dysfunction. I was not living my life, my life was living me. I have problems that cannot be fixed instantly. I carry debt that keeps wearing out my pack mules and crushing them. I am running out of mules. I have home repairs and improvements that need to be completed which will require enormous resources but other things are devouring my resources as quickly as they become available. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared to be fading and I was to a point that the walls wanted to start closing in.
Integrity. It wanted to slip.
Yes, I have a yes problem. I want to help everyone. I want to save the world. I want to teach and help all people grow. But I can’t feed my family and still volunteer for every organization in town. I can’t fight George Bush’s destruction of the environment and fight for my son‘s education at the same time. I can’t work on my yard on the same Saturday that I help build a bridge for the in-laws. I want so badly to be everything for everyone but in the end trying to do so makes you nothing as you cannot possibly live up to all the commitments. (mind you, I have the skills/training to delegate, empower and enlist the aid of others to make great thing happen but that is for another post; I cannot use those skills until I have pulled myself up first.) For awhile I must say "no"
Integrity. If I say I will do something, I mean to do it. If I fail on that commitment, I feel a great emptiness inside.
What have I done to change things? Things have changed for the better. My stress is down. I feel more organized. I could not pull myself together enough to read so I looked around and found my tapes for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I started listening to them in the car. I really enjoy listening to Stephen R Covey and his words reminded me of so much that I’ve tried to instill in myself over the years. After getting through the 7 Habits I began listening to First Things First.
Integrity. Time to clean the slate.
As an independent contractor managing cash flow is absolutely my greatest challenge. When I have a project my fulltime effort needs to be on that project but I also need a fulltime effort on finding the next project. That’s living in Quad I (Important and Urgent) which leads to exhaustion. I also have a problem with trying to be too nice. I underbid projects or often allow the client to "feature creep" which is to allow additional requirements to be added at no cost nor extending the deadline. Allowing feature creep is a sure fire way to over promise and under deliver as the client will be living on original expectations of deadlines and cost.
All my life I’ve prided myself on honesty. To mismanage a project, ie. allow feature creep or charge too little, is not honest. It is deceptive to the client in that I promise something that I cannot deliver without significant sacrifice to family and/or health and it is dishonest to myself as I am doing work without recompense. I resolve myself to a new level of communication with my clients.
Integrity. Never be in debt.
I cannot make my debts magically disappear. I cannot even stop the accumulation of new debt as the pregnancy is racking up a bill with the doctors and hospital. I can, however, be in touch with my creditors. I can get them good faith payments and show a willingness to pay.
Integrity. Ask for help.
As I mentioned above, I love to give help to others. I love my talents and abilities. I’ve always enjoyed the themes of "Man Against Nature" and "Man Against Self." As for "Man Against Man" I generally prefer to be a passive observer preferably through a movie or book. Since I know I can do things for myself, I don’t like to burden others with asking for help. It’s my greatest weakness. If I would ask for and humbly accept help, I could put myself into a better position to offer help. What goes around comes around.
Integrity. Know where you are going.
When I was 8 I wanted to be an architect. This came after a brief desire to be an astronaut and firefighter of course. What boy doesn’t? As I grew older my direction became less clear. I had brief purposes in life. For a short stint I was going to be a software mogul. Then I was planning on putting AOL out of the dialup business. But even these purposes were short term goals. Like Alice, if we don’t decide on and write down an overall purpose for our lives, we will be destined to allow circumstances to decide our path. That is not to say that having an overall purpose to life limits you. In steering toward that purpose there can be many side trips and adventures. At one point I had consciously decided to "just go where the wind takes me." I cannot live that way anymore. It will take time and be difficult but I am going to develop a personal mission statement and live by it.
I am stepping forward. I have begun cleaning my desk both physically and metaphorically. A burden has lifted from my shoulders. As of today what has passed is behind me. I am putting First Things First.