Cost vs. Benefit

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

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There are times that we find ourselves backed into a corner, where we are FORCED to act (or react) to stop something from acting upon us against our will.  In these times, we NEED to react, and we need to do so quickly and with clear intentions.  But, sometimes we feel like we are backed into a corner, and it seems like imminent danger is looming, but really, the threat is undefined and not actionable.  These are the times when we need to take a step back and sort out the truth of what is going on. 

It is possible that you are working in a very “good” job, with acceptable pay, good co-workers, and decent enough benefits, but something just doesn’t feel quite right. Your fight or flight responses are being activated on a daily basis.  You can’t really tell why you are not at ease. The monster has no shape or size, but you can tell it is looming just out of sight.  This is when practicing patience is paramount. 

If you are raising kids on your own, maybe the monster isn’t really even at your workplace.  It may be that you don’t quite like how your supervisor spoke to you about the presentation you handed in, but it is actually the feeling of dread that NOT having this job has created at that moment when you feel inadequate.  Maybe raising your kids alone makes you feel trapped at this job, and you feel like you have lost the ability to be your own advocate for fear of losing this “good” job.  Work is not the monster, and the supervisor is not the monster, but it is in your own mind, maybe as your ego or your fears of not being good enough.

It is in these cases, when you cannot clearly define the monster that is plaguing you, but it still keeps plaguing you day after day, that it is best to pause.  Use a sick day or vacation day (or maybe even two) and remove yourself from that work environment.  See if the monster is still just out of view even when you are not at work.  The source of the stress needs to unfold itself and you need to face it so the fear of the unknown doesn’t keep growing. 

If the issue does not dissipate when you are taking your days off, you need to start examining the life you have built to see if it is being stunted from growing.  Nature has a beautiful way of unfolding and opening up, and nature flexes its force on everything, even you!  Just before a flower bud starts to unfurl, there is a lot of tension holding it all together.  But the flower does not have conscious thought and is not scared of what is about to happen or whether it will be beautiful. It just…. Opens… and then IS a flower.  We build our lives in a way that we are never allowed to really open up and become what we could be… to fulfill our potential… because often times we find something that is “good enough” and we are too afraid to relax into the next obvious steps.

Have you been working your way to the top of your department? Have you learned how to navigate the waters at your work place and can bob and weave when obstacles pop up? Do they need you more than you need them? Maybe your creeping monster is your subconscious telling you that it is time to move on to something bigger and better. Maybe it is telling you that you are standing on a launch pad and all you have to do is hit the red button and really take off.  If you have outgrown your location, it is time to start looking around for what else you are ready to try. Bigger and better things surely await, and even being transferred to a more challenging department may be all you need to feel comfortable again. 

Maybe your work environment has become so stressful that you need an escape plan or an exit strategy.  If this is the case, run the numbers and see where you need to be to satisfy your expense obligations.  Certainly, you should not take a step backwards in your earning career, but it is possible that you are outweighing things in your cost/benefit analysis.  For example, if you are paying $300 for child care each month, perhaps there is a job that pays you $300 less per month, but doesn’t require the long hours demanded by your current employer.  If you could avoid the childcare bill, then this change would be a wash, with the added benefit of more quality time with your child.

There are so many different things that fall onto this cost/benefit scale, it would be beneficial to really take a step back and look at each one.  Quality time vs. daycare time; long commute vs. saving time/money working remotely; socking away extra savings vs. missing your son’s baseball games; hiring a tutor or private instructor vs. having time to teach your own children….  These are just some ideas, though others may apply to you and your circumstance better. Maybe earning less money with a part time gig actually turns out to be a wash overall! Taking the time to do this analysis may just allow you to unfurl into the blossoming family life that you always imagined for yourself and your children.

Are there any other cost/benefit items that we all deal with but maybe don’t often think of?

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Define Yourself

“Our past may shape us, but it doesn’t define us.”

– Alyson Noel, Night Star
Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash

It is the nature of people as a whole to try to sort our world into simple, logical boxes.  This process allows all of the crazy aspects of the world to be simplified and quickly processed and understood, and it is the reason for our tendency to make snap-judgments. These judgments are used to sift through what has already been painstakingly learned through an individual’s collective experiences to help ease the way into the future.  It means that each new person met or experience encountered is automatically categorized to be “like” the most similar person or experience dealt with previously, creating morphed little caricatures of the actuality.  This is incredibly unfair to those who you meet and judge while knowing nearly nothing about them, but it is also unfair to YOU, since even YOU are being shoved into little category boxes by every person you encounter.  How you are superficially perceived by the world has almost nothing to do with your own actions. The concept is very odd and unsettling.

Not until there is a great deal of time invested on learning about a specific person are you able to lift the veil of these snap judgements and misinterpretations to meet the actual person on their own accord. Even after you know someone very well and have devoted endless hours on this learning quest, you may not be able to grasp the reason for decisions they make. It is a wonder that professional therapists and counselors can gain workable insights, and assign life-changing labels, in an hours’ time spent in sporadic sessions once per month or less. Certainly, these professionals are able to follow guidelines and make practical suggestions that may fit an appropriate criterion, but to really get to the heart of an issue, one must KNOW the participants intimately, not superficially. This is where the disconnect begins, because who can possibly know you intimately enough to truly define you?

It seems to be that the only people who can define you are those that you allow close enough.  Even then, they will still have a disconnect. Having not grown up AS you, they cannot possibly have every bit of seemingly unimportant facts needed to understand you.  That leaves only ONE person who is capable of defining you, and that, of course, is YOU yourself.  Having passed through this short thought experiment, it seems like you should probably take the job of defining yourself very seriously.  Your opinion of yourself is truly the only one that matters.  Others will come and go in your life, bringing and taking away with them their judgments. Leaving out all of those other people’s verdicts, you can grasp the task of self-definition with your full attention! What a better place to start than with this amount of self-proclaimed power!

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Decide who you want to be and make it happen. With each decision, you are making that meaning of your life clearer.  Many people make bad decisions without realizing that life is a result of stringing together decisions. If you string together too many bad ones, you create a bad life.  If you string together all good choices, you have naturally created a good life.  Even if the world throws the inevitable curve-ball at your creation, a well-practiced decision-making muscle can guide you past the obstacles while keeping your identity as a good person intact.

This concept begs another question.  If you are the only person who can truly define your life, and life is a combination of the choices that you have decided to make, then perhaps there are no “good” or “bad” people in this world, but instead only people who have made good or bad decisions.  Bad decisions are made when someone does not realize that they have the power to define themselves. Knowledge is truly power when this realization is internalized. Move forward through life and, when a decision must be made, consider that it is a chance for you to flex the power you have; a chance to define and solidify who you truly are to the only person who actually matters.