My daughter was upset the other day because she came home from school with an interim report that was – in her eyes – not good enough. After taming the perfectionist in her, I pointed out that this report was not her report card, was not her final mark. No – it was merely an indicator to show her – and her parents – how she was doing. If you hadn’t seen this, I said, you wouldn’t know how you were doing. But now, you can look at your work and decide if you need to put in more effort in a specific area to reach the goals you set for yourself.
In short, it was her first experience in taking stock.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life came with an interim report? If the hand of God could reach down and hand you a piece of parchment every decade or so.
Family, mothering, work – all satisfactory; Health & fitness – could be improved; Household management – exceeds expectations (for a mother, that means the kids make the school bus 9/10 times); Learning to say No – way below standard. Comments: Not bad, but you need to work on achieving a better balance.
Sadly, there is no parchment in the sky. Taking stock is something we have to do for ourselves.
Some people do this automatically on a birthday or at the start of a new year. For some people it sneaks up and then one day you look closely in a mirror and say “Whoa! How did I get here? And where did those grey hairs come from?” For others it comes with, or as a consequence of, change. Change in employment, in a relationship, in life circumstances.
Whatever the catalyst, taking stock is quite literally about reflecting on who you are, how you got to where you are, and where you are going. Miss any one of those three critical steps and you’re not truly taking stock – past, present and future are inter-twined in this process.
When Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living, I think he meant that reflection gives meaning to a life. Too many people rush through their lives unquestioning. There is no time to ask themselves if they are where they want to be, if they have learnt something in the past, or if the path they are on is one that makes them happy. Sitting down occasionally and taking stock is a valuable and peaceful exercise. It’s not about blame It’s not about regret. It’s about honest assessment and goalsetting. About allowing your experience and your spirit to re-connect each with the other. And about giving yourself breathing space in the rush of day-to-day activities – white space in which to redefine who you are, and more importantly, who you want to be.