Taking inventory; I hate that expression. All of the implications, regardless of context, infer exhaustive examination in hopes of finding a problem. At least that’s how I used to look at it. I would build up scenarios in my mind to avoid the process of inventory because frankly, who wants to be reminded of their shortcomings? More over, who wants to perform an extremely labor some task, and have the payoff be pain or embarrassment?

Truth be told, I have some previous experience with store inventory. One of my teenage jobs was working for the Kmart Corporation, in the toy department…DURING CHRISTMAS! As if working in that department during the biggest kid/toy holiday of the year wasn’t enough, a week after it was over we would start the New Year by, you guessed it, doing inventory. However, I know that personal and merchandise inventory are not exactly the same. Plus I, like everyone else, would like to think that I have no serious flaws. I mean the problems of the world are the fault and cause of other peoples bad inventory, right? I, on a profoundly deeper level, have a better understanding of the human condition and the problems that lie therein. I am indeed special. It was hard to type those last two sentences without laughing.

In all seriousness though, what scenarios request of us to take inventory? I think when our life is no longer working for us; a long string of dead end jobs, fragmented relationships, depression, and disconnect are just some of the more serious reasons. Death, marriage, having a child, and a job change are common stressors that often make us pop our head up from routine and take stock. For myself… I suffered from constant anxiety, depression, and had difficulty maintaining meaningful friendships.

However, one thing I have found for certain is that there is no one way of going about it. Therapy, spiritual counseling, meditation, a financial advisor, and even vision boards can sometimes help people take stock. I like to include all of the aforementioned tools in my arsenal but approach it like a business would. In a business if you have useless overstock or damaged goods you do away with them as quickly as possible and without regret. Sometimes relationships, friendships, and/or jobs can reach their shelf life. Holding onto them will only result in an unhealthy, rotten mess later. So the only healthy option is to move forward.

There is practically limitless advice out there on the subject. It’s important to find what works for you but here are some things that worked for me:

One technique that I really like is to categorize my life on paper: Health (physical, mental, emotional), Relationships, Friendships, Career, and Finances should be some of the items on the list. Taking a real but not overly critical look at how these aspects of your life are working can provide a great jumping off point. Sometimes it’s hard to even get a clear overview simply because depression has taken away your ability to look at anything objectively. That was my case. If that’s an issue step one should be getting help; whatever that may mean for you.

Goal setting meetings are popular. Essentially you assemble a group of individuals whom you trust to give you honest but encouraging feed back/advice and meet with them once a month. Keep the group at eight maximum. This keeps the meetings from getting to long and from becoming a therapy session. While some of that will come into play, you want to stay on task allowing equal time for each person. Track your own and each other’s goals so that you can revisit them monthly, quarterly, etc… to keep tabs on progress. It is in this process that you will clearly see what is and isn’t working.

As you work through this there is some really good news; most certainly good things will come from this work. In my own inventory process I had certain expectations. Some came to fruition while others were still shrouded in ambiguity and remained elusive but the biggest reward was unexpected. I became more in touch with my authentic self.

I was suddenly more compassionate to myself and others. My heart can break for even complete strangers. I can even feel sympathy for the transgressors in situations and am extremely sensitive to certain types of suffering. It’s imperative to protect myself from too much exposure to the news, certain types of media, and even certain people. I used to deny that part of myself. Reasoning that if I just grew up and relaxed about it that these things wouldn’t bother me but they do. Honoring, for the first time, who I am is liberating.

I’ve had to end some relationships, even familial ones.  It’s an extremely hard decision to be sure but one that is necessary should you want to be a healthy, autonomous person. I don’t have to be liked or even understood. If I lead with kindness and integrity, I’ve lived the day well. The biggie for me is that I am much more at ease with uncertainty. This one is my achilles heal. I still work on trusting that God, the universe, or whatever suites your belief system will rise up to meet me in my uncertainty. I am OK with it most days now. It has helped so much to ease anxiety and worry. These are some of my experiences with “inventory.” Go out there and have yours. Come back here and tell me about it!

Remember, the only real rules are to be tenacious, thorough, and honest. Lest not forget the most important rule, BE KIND TO YOURSELF! This is a difficult process that many people will spend their entire lives avoiding. Pat yourself on back simply for your willingness to tackle this big bully.