The first time I heard the term personal inventory I immediately thought I needed to go home and open my closets and begin making a list of everything in sight. Then my mentor broke it down for me. It went something like this…

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 We pick up a grudge here, hold on to outdated beliefs over there, and become objectified by someone back at the 2mile marker.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?
As we travel along our path, we participate in the creative process. We have thoughts, ideas, dreams, and feelings. All could be considered roots of the creative process. As these creative roots fill our consciousness, space is consumed. As we go about our daily lives, we accumulate things like grudges, reactions, attachments, regrets. It is true that we also accumulate hopes, desires, and wants. We accumulate, accumulate, and accumulate. As we grow, change and evolve, we must take time to review what we have gathered: sort it all out, modify, and purge.We must take inventory of the accumulation.

In another blog, I will talk about the inventory process in detail, but for this entry I want to focus on the outcome of the inventory process: space. We know that we accumulate, we know (or at least now we are aware) we need to inventory, but what is the value of space?

Using a cluttered room as an example, it’s pretty straight forward that if the room were clear of clutter we can move about easier. Potentially, we can find what we are looking for more easily. We recognize that we have duplicate inventory items that just take up space. We find things that are outdated and no longer serving our greater good. If we clean up the accumulation there will be additional space. With this space we can now do something different. What if the cluttered room becomes an artist studio, an office, or an entertainment room? It is transformed, and in this transformed space new activity occurs. We paint, draw, read, or socialize: giving rise to the potential to other outcomes like a book, the beginning of a new business, or the chance to meet someone new.

Space, as with many things in our life, contracts and expands. Our job is to be conscious of the space around us. Managing the space and being a steward of our path implies we take time to review, remediate, and transform what we accumulate - creating a space for opportunities to manifest. Space implies opportunity!

How do you manage your space? Do you have examples of change and transformation that came about through the process of inventorying and transforming your accumulations?

Our life and the events therein are ours to own. Often, however, we separate and disassociate ourselves from our life. It’s as if a car pulls up and we get in the back seat instead of the driver’s seat. What do I mean?

Let’s us use the analogy of a typical manager. A manager has many choices of ‘how to manage’ their employees: the choice of being very hands-on or very hands-off, of being collaborative or not, of guiding and mentoring versus providing no guidance or potentially just chastising and lambasting. It’s a choice, although it might not be a choice that is consciously made.  How do managers become aware of their style? Potentially, managers learn a style that that helps them connect with their work and the people they serve. They take classes and read books. They talk to their peers. But do they think of how their style impacts the employees he/she serves? 

How do we apply this to our lives, our path, and our personal journey? Do you know your management style? Meaning, do you know how you manage and direct your life? Are you collaborative? Do you guide yourself, mentor yourself, and steward yourself?  Have you even thought about your own management style of your life? This is the first step. Become aware of your role. Next, observe yourself and ask others for input on what they see. Are you hard on yourself? Do you have unobtainable goals and expectations? Find out. Ask questions both of yourself and your peers and learn your style. Once you know your management style, determine how it serves you both positively and negatively. Set a course for what you might want to change or modify. You might want to set goals that are more realistic. You might want to find ways to coach yourself in a positive rather than a negative way.

Stewardship. The role you play in the management of YOUR life, your path, your journey.


Leadership is a term easily tossed about but not really understood. We talk about what good leadership is, what we expect from a leader, or even how we would be a leader. There are books that talk about leadership, frame it up, break it down, and detail out the idiosyncrasies. When I refer to understanding leadership, I’m referring to your emotional relationship with the word. Let me explain.

I’m guessing that if I asked you about leadership, you could give me a pretty quick rundown of what it means to you.  It would be grounded from your intellect, very detailed and descriptive.  As I work with clients, I’m finding that the emotional aspect of leadership is often unexplored or has been explored but is not brought forward in the context of goal setting or goal obtainment.  The emotional side of leadership is about YOU - how you relate emotionally but what that word means to you.  Some fear leadership. Some embrace leadership. Some cannot imagine themselves as a leader. And for each person, leadership has a different definition (or more rightly said, has a different flavor of definition).

So, beyond the definitional aspect of leadership, there is an emotional relationship to the word. I feared leadership for a long time. I mean, in my mind’s eye, I knew what leadership meant, and when I superimposed me in a leadership role, I freaked out! It was too overwhelming. It was definitely a gradual process of taking baby steps toward aligning me with the word. I chose to take on particular aspects and components of leadership one at a time. Over time, I adapted leadership into how I began to describe myself, how I began to articulate my goals, and how I acted and portrayed myself to my peers. It took years. Just as we have relationships with people, we have relationships with words and definitions.

Just as relationships with people grow, so too do our relationships with words and how we define ourselves with them. I have found that while coaching clients, there is a need to explore certain words and what defines them. Together, we take time to understand where there is misalignment or a sense of holding around words. Too often the sense of being stuck can be rooted in our not wanting to take on a leadership role, even though that is where our goals are pointing us. What are your definitions of leadership and how do you emotionally relate to the word? Does your relationship hold you or expand you in your path to success?


Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross once said, “Every time you react to anything longer than 15 seconds, it is your unfinished business.” This quote has resonated deep within me since my eyes first glanced upon it. Its power continues to evoke personal exploration and unfolding. I mean, 15 seconds isn’t a lot of time, is it?


Jack has a busy week and needs to head into the office on Saturday to do a few hours of catch up work.  He awakes, showers, and dresses without paying much attention to detailing his appearance. It’s Saturday, he wants to be comfortable. He arrives at the office, hops on the elevator, and heads to his floor. The elevator stops a few floors short, and another man boards. The man gives our friend Jack a look, pushes the elevator button, and then quickly turns to face the closing doors. Jack looks at the man’s reflection in the door. The man was dressed quite smartly for a Saturday. Jack looks at himself and thought he should have paid more attention to his appearance this day. He looks back up at the elevator door reflection and caught the guy look at Jack’s terribly worn tennis shoes. “Bing” goes the elevator door, and the nicely dressed man makes his exit. The doors shut and Jack is left with a sensation that he wants to go home and change. Jack now feels awkward. “Bing” goes the elevator door and our friend Jack exits. He is now feeling a little angry. Was the man in the elevator really staring at his shoes? How rude. It’s Saturday and Jack can dress any way he wants. “Bing” goes the elevator door, and our friend Jack exits with something new in his clutches: his reaction.

Although the situation might be different, we have all had similar situations. Someone crosses our path and we react. That reaction festers and we potentially assign blame. Jack knows in his heart of hearts that there is more to just how someone dresses. Yet here Jack sits with his reaction.  Can you think of something that you have reacted to longer than 15 seconds? I know I can.  

The situations that evoke a reaction in us are opportunities for us to re-evaluate ourselves and our beliefs. The universe will continuously provide us with opportunities to validate, question, probe, and realign our beliefs. Jack thought he had long ago put away that feeling of insecurity he felt as a young boy who could not afford to buy the clothes that his popular peers wore. Jack headed to his office and as he did he caught his reflection in a glass window. He looked at his shoes, smiled, and remembered he is OK.

When am I Jack? Well, anytime I am not at peace with myself and my innate rightness and okayness. When my foundation is not whole my reactions fill the cracks and I am left like Jack – clutching my reaction. Like emotions, reactions can serve as a dashboard, providing feedback on how we are functioning while we travel our road of learning and self-discovery. What are you reacting to?


And so it begins…

If someone asked me 10 years ago if I would start my own business: I would have said forget it. Now, as I turn 40, I say there is no going back! My path has had numerous twists and turns. I would change none of it. I am thankful for it all, and I am excited to start this next chapter in my life.  Let the blogging, coaching, and consulting begin! I thank my family, my friends, my bosses and colleagues, my teachers and mentors, and every person who has crossed my path to teach, inspire, guide, and support me. To my new clients I want to say welcome, that I am honored to work with you in either the coaching or consulting capacity.

-John Spenker


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John Spenker - Synergistic Coaching & Consulting, LLC