Commentary: The Importance of Taking Inventory

Although I have a long way to go for total enlightenment (heck, even partial enlightenment), my personal spiritual practice requires taking regular inventory of my actions and their consequences, my values and their manifestations in my life, and my motives behind what I do and say. And if that inventory process is honest and thorough, I’m not always proud of what I find.

In fact, many times I uncover things I really don’t like and am frankly embarrassed by. Among my most common shortcomings are that I can be sensitive, entitled, grandiose, and at times self-pitying. Historically, I have found that I get the best results by putting these findings on paper, which prevents me from deluding myself or rationalizing away the discoveries in the slippery labyrinth that is my brain.

The black-and-white conclusions on the page are rarely all bad, though. I can gratefully say that upon further examination, I tend to show up well for my closest friends and family, at my best I can be others-focused, and I am usually willing to take responsibility for my decisions and actions, good or bad, right or wrong. Not surprisingly, it’s a mix.

This ongoing process is about trying to attain a true humility by acknowledging and accepting reality; taking things as they really are, not how I want them to be.

I fail at it often and sometimes miserably (just ask the people closest to me), but the times I’ve been most at peace with who I am, most comfortable in my own skin, and least sensitive to what the people around me think are the times that I’ve been in tune with what’s going on in me and my thoughts. And it’s not that the actions and thoughts are all positive or that I’m just knocking life out of the park as a result (that hasn’t happened yet), but that I’m accepting things as they are and adjusting my attitudes and actions to hopefully achieve what I think they could be.

And this quest for humility, or consistent acceptance of reality, however fleeting and elusive, allows me to make better decisions and take the right action. Reality is tough. Some might even say it bites. I agree!

In the words of the great American poet Eminem, there are days when living in reality I feel “chewed up, and spit out, and booed off stage.” But while accepting reality doesn’t always give me the warm fuzzies, it paves the way for improving how I show up for people in my life, whether that’s at home, at work, or in line at the grocery store.

This inventory process considers less serious contemplations, as well. Am I exercising enough? Would I be better served to stop scrolling social media and pick up a book instead? Am I believing myself when I think that my fourth piece of heavily buttered toast is really about carb-loading for a race I’m doing next year or do I admit it’s about comfort and pleasure?

When I slack on truthfully examining my actions and motives, I find more opportunities for continued inventory, to put it politely.

Similarly, any business that does not regularly take inventory can find itself in disarray. That’s true of both its physical stock in trade, as well as its organizational values, mission and vision.

The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) recently went through an inventory process of sorts. Having participated as a board member in other successful strategic plans and visioning sessions this past summer and fall, and with new leadership and a new staff at the DCEDC, the staff, board, and I felt like it was a good time to take stock of our organization and the programming we deliver.

We had a superb moderator who probed and encouraged great, substantive discussions around our mission, our priorities, and the allocation of our limited resources of time, money and energy. Participants from across the county shared their candid thoughts and a collective desire to see DCEDC play a leading role in the county’s future economic successes.

Although I was somewhat disappointed that the diverse participants didn’t just shower us with over-the-top, unending praise for two straight days (i.e. how I’d like it to be), the staff, board,and I are exceedingly grateful to have received the gifts of their perspective and words of wisdom.

Like personal inventory, the findings were a mix of strengths (the vision and hard work put into the organization’s 28-year foundation upon which our programming was built and has thrived) and areas for improvement (narrowing our focus, aligning more closely with other organizations’ efforts, and telling our story).

Most importantly, the group’s findings depicted what all considered to be reality.

As a result of the visioning, we will be taking a long, hard look at our governance, our priorities, our measurements, and our programming, with the ultimate hope of improving the economic vitality of the county and its residents.

We will also be focusing on better communicating our successes, since we found plenty of those, too.

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