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Monday, November 29, 2021  

Taking inventory of your lifePublished 7/18/2003

When I worked in retail, I had to take inventory of our stock each week before I re-ordered. I had to focus on what was selling, what wasn’t and what needed to be eliminated. The success of the business was directly related to the quality of the weekly inventory.

An acquaintance of mine owns a wonderful restaurant and gift shop. She closes her restaurant for one entire month each year for the chefs and herself to take inventory of the menu and make needed changes.

Their desire to provide customers with a quality menu that does not get stagnant and predictable but inspires people to eagerly return is their focus.

When was the last time you inventoried your closet?

I finally tossed out the striped dress that was still in the cleaners’ plastic bag that had been hanging in my closet for four years. The high-topped Reeboks with the multi-colored shoestrings (did I really wear those?) I also tossed out. The Disney sweatshirt on the very top shelf, I kept. I haven’t worn it in a while, but I like it and feel the need to hold on to it.

Our personal lives also need to be inventoried and assessed for changes, but this is the most overlooked of all inventories. Most of us never think about doing it. I never did it either until my therapist encouraged me to get involved in a 12-step recovery program. The fourth step in this program helped me take a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I looked at my low self-esteem, resentments, people pleasing, approval seeking and positive and negative character traits.

I spent time thinking about what was working in my life and what was not. Many of the unhealthy, dysfunctional behaviors are like a pair of comfortable shoes that have a hole in the sole — we like the shoes, they still fit but they don’t keep our feet dry.

I struggled with this inventory. It is hard to get honest. I knew many things in my life were not working. There were so many red flags. Maybe it was the color, but somehow red did not get my attention.

I like many others, found the old shoes still in my closet. Why was it so hard to get rid of them? For most of us change triggers anxiety. What if I don’t find a pair of shoes that I like? What if they don’t fit as well? What do I wear while I’m trying to find a new pair?

My most difficult and lonely time was giving up the old (comfortable), predictable (lower stress) and dysfunctional ("it was all I knew") behaviors and not having the new healthier behaviors locked in yet. It was a time of transition, reflection and soul searching and sometimes I felt like retreating to what I knew so well.

We need to nurture ourselves during this time and strengthen our hope that a new meaning will be found if we "hang in" with this life-changing project.

We can’t put all our energy in popping the top of a pill bottle for the magical answer. If you are taking a mood-altering medication for symptom relief, you still need to do your therapy homework. You will be disappointed if you put all your energy in a pill to make you happy, even a prescribed pill.

Don’t focus on how long this will take. There is no "quick fix" to life’s problems. Instant gratification surrounds us in the media, in print and in our associations with others. Slow down. It is the direction you’re moving that matters, not the speed of your journey.

This is not a one-time inventory. It becomes your way of life. We are a work-in-progress and that is a good thing. To let go of old beliefs and behaviors that don’t work and replace them with healthier choices is a beautiful reward for hard work.

If you are ready, get a notebook, pencils with good erasers, a comfortable chair and start writing. It is time to inventory your life and get rid of what doesn’t fit.

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