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6/19/08

My Job Is...

In our society we often define people by what they do. A common meet and greet question is, “What do you do?” In the process of doing, we fail to become. You cannot always choose the consequences, but you can choose your choices. You did not make a conscious decision to be fired, get divorced, become incarcerated, or sink into financial ruin; however, in the choices you did make you chose the difficult road.

Mrs. Brown (not her real name) was hired to be a Quality Control Specialist at – her definition – “the roach motel”. She was dreading the job. She was certain they were going to be difficult to work with because they did not really want change. We did a simple exercise to determine her responsibilities verses the business’s responsibilities and to not get the two confused.

My Job Is… My Job Is Not: Mrs. Brown’s job is to assess the current situation and make recommendations to management. Her job is to leave the decision with them and not try to force the owners to follow her sage advice.

Give up the judgmental attitude. Surface situations do not indicate intent. Looking at circumstances in a disparaging manner blocks the obvious aim of management to make improvements or they would not have put the job position into the budget or made the effort to hire a Quality Control Specialist.

Discard the “I'll-fix-it” mindset. My definition of synergy is “all of us are smarter than any of us.” It really does take a village – in child rearing, in community efforts and in business endeavors. Be open to options by co-workers and actively seek outside advice. Be willing to accept the fact that if it is working – even at a limp – management may not want it fixed.

The final decision lies with the one in authority. Hiring is a two way street; you choose to work for the company and the company chooses to hire you. When you accept a position, their goal automatically becomes your goal and the final decision lies in their hands, thus taking the stress off of you. It becomes a symbolic relationship of meeting your need to serve as well as your financial obligations and meeting the establishment’s need to provide service/products and to make a profit.

It’s all about relationship. In my younger years and in my, my-way-or-my-way attitude, I set out to correct the inefficiency in the handling of mass monthly mailings. The supervisor was set in her ways and resistaed my organizational suggestions. It became a dreaded project and tension headaches. One day I decided that since I could not control the situation anyway I might as well give up control and enjoy the lady’s company. It was a routine task so we began to exchange funny stories, recipes and dreams. The duty became enjoyable, helter/skelter though it was, as I looked forward to working with my friend. And one day she asked if I had any ideas as to how the system could flow smoother.

In our society we often define people by what they do, and the more you do the more successful you are. Only in the process of doing, we fail to get to know who we are and who we can become. Who we are determines the type of job we choose, the quality of work we perform, the attitude toward our labors and the stress level we carry.

Past Due Remembrance

I once served on a board of our community where frequent mention was made of a founding member and his contributions to the organization. The gentleman had been deceased five years. Mingled with appreciation was regret over not having formally made tribute to his family. How does one go about making amends?

Face your fears. You may be hesitant to contact the family for fear of opening fresh wounds. The hurt never goes away and you remembering the loved one, even if tears are shed, will aid in the healing process.

Waylay the guilt. You may try to assuage your guilt with the excuse, “But they may not remember.” You do and you matter. Whether they ever thought about your lack of social etiquette or not, they will be blessed by your current act of love. It is never too late to remember and pass it on.

Some is better than none. Do not be concerned over the smallness of the attempt; little things mean a lot. A few belated words are better than continued silence. A small gesture of remembrance is better than grand plans unperformed. A simple belated mention of the loved one’s name can bless the family and alleviate your guilt.

Choose your words. Think about what you will say and practice it before knocking on the door. The manager and I visited the widow with a beautiful potted plant and a card signed by all board members. With no mention of the time lapse, we spoke of how the man’s influence continued to bless the individuals who knew him personally and the community at large.

Call ahead of time. Make an appointment rather than just dropping by. This sets the stage for your intentions and gives the loved one time to look forward to your visit.

A loved one’s name is music to the ears. In future encounters, do not hesitate to make mention of the loved one’s value to family and friends. Share stories of heroics and misadventures. Laugh and cry together.

Receive the thanks. Graciously receive expressions of gratitude and do not discount your efforts because you acted out of guilt.

Make a tribute in his/her honor. The board made a plaque to hang in the corporate office expressing thanks to the community leader and his family. Plant a tree in the person’s name. Make a donation to a charity in her memory. Send flowers to the hospital as a remembrance. Make an ordinary Sunday special with altar flowers in honor of a life departed. A friend of mine keeps a picture of her neighbor’s son on her piano as a silent memorial.

The past cannot be relieved but the present is always available. And expressions of caring is never out of place. Do it with regards, not regrets.


If I would paint a rainbow every time I think of you,
My world would soon become a lovely, golden hue.
But if I never tell you, then how are you to know,
How much your life has touched me, and helped me oft to grow.
So may this tiny gesture wing its flight your way
To cheer you up on sunless days when your skies are gray.
© Mona Dunkin, 1997


Taking Back Your Life

One of the first phrases a child says is, “I do it.” And that is good. It shows the social need of serving is in tact. Anything can be taken to extreme. The need to serve can become so distorted that you try to become all things to all people while being so out of balance that you will not allow someone to serve you (and resenting it in the process). Here are some thoughts as to how to step off the merry-go-round and take back your life.

Recognize that “I can’t do that.” One of your greatest strengths is to know your weaknesses. Look at your priorities to see how you have neglected them in lieu of low-pay off activities. Be honest with determining how much you have over-committed.

Being good at something does not obligate you to do it. Just because you are good at baking or carpentry or leading scouts, does not mean you are mandated to do it. Do not commit yourself to a task unless it is a passion and you have time and resources for it.

You are more than a workhorse. Who you are is not defined by what you do. You are a multifaceted individual with multiple talents to share and needs to be fulfilled. Although who you are is a factor in the quality of work you do, the fact remains that you are more than an activity.

You are more than your job. You are more than your looks. You are more than your possessions. You are more than your clubs or social events. The student is more than his/her grades.

Make choices. You always have options whether you realize it or not. Become aware and use them. Do not short change yourself by settling for the status quo or another’s demands. If you are not actively engaged in making choices for yourself, someone else will make them for you.

Speak up. We teach people how to treat us. Set boundaries by using your words. Use phrases such as, “I need you to…” “I need you to stop…” “I need you to know…” “I choose to…” “I choose not to…” “I like…” “I don’t like…” I feel…” “I think…” “Thank you.” “No, thank you.”

Enlist help. You need them to need you and they need you to need them. One of the greatest ways to develop relationship is through joint projects. Ask, don’t tell. You can tell but asking produces a more favorable response.

Give yourself permission. Remember when you wanted to grow up so you could make your own decisions? It is time. Give yourself permission to say “No” when it is in your own best interest; others will benefit also. Give yourself permission to not like someone; you can still be kind. Give yourself permission to not be perfect; you are still loveable. Give yourself permission to put yourself to bed, to follow your dreams, to not keep up with the Joneses, to give up dieting, to take the day off… the list is endless and so empowering.

Life is the greatest gift that God and our parents gave to us. Only sometimes it becomes the greatest burden we bear. Using these suggestions will move you forward to regaining the joy in living.