We venture along in life, weaving down a path of conscious and unconscious goals and aspirations. As we travel we accumulate. We pick up a grudge here, hold on to outdated beliefs over there, and become objectified by someone back at the 2mile marker. The older we are the longer the list; the more the baggage. I think you get the idea here. The term personal inventory is a little less negative sounding, and I am committing to using that term in this posting.
Many of us that we are not taught to how to proactively deal with our personal inventory. We are, however, very skilled at observing and calling out the inventory of our closest friends and partners. But when it comes to our own inventory, we wait until it accumulates and suffocates us. Common symptoms are feeling overwhelmed, tired, depressed, disconnected, and unmotivated.
In the coaching setting, I support my clients to do a personal inventory at least once a year; maybe more depending upon the goals and aspirations. The inventory process is pretty straight forward. Grab a piece of paper or note book, mark the top of the page Personal Inventory. Then take 15 or 30 minutes a day and write down the things you feel are holding you back. Maybe you have a belief that in order to be successful you have to work 60 hour weeks. Ask yourself, where did that belief come from? Potentially you are looking for work / life balance and clearly having a belief such is counterproductive. Maybe you had a relationship with a spouse or family member that ended badly. In the back of your mind you reflect on that relationship, reviewing how you might manage it differently today. Ask yourself why? What is unresolved that you need to resolve right now? Keep the list going and take as many days as you like to complete the exercise. Personally, I find that it takes me about a month to do this work. There are days I am more open to the process, and as such I allow the personal inventory to manifest at whatever rate is right for me. I never mandate an end date; instead I let my feelings guide me to closure.
Once the personal inventory is complete take time to review it. In the coaching context, we have goals and aspirations clearly defined, so we can review the personal inventory against our goals to understand where there are synergies or contradictions. This is helpful to illuminate where we are holding ourselves back. A common symptom is feeling like you are not getting any traction even though much effort is being given to a goal. Another is feeling tired and uninterested in a goal. I have found that if a good friend is willing; sharing the goals and the inventory with a third party really facilitates the process. Whenever we open up to the perspective others provide; we transform what we learn about ourselves and we increase the momentum of our journey to achieve our goals.
When was your last personal inventory? Who can you ask to partner with you as your review the inventory against your goals? If you could commit to doing a personal inventory twice a year, what do you think the positive impacts to your life would be?