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Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I grew up in an old house where we put the bedrooms all on the second floor - 14 steps from the first floor and another 3 steps from the bathroom. Yes, I counted those steps every time I used them.
Counting steps improved my vision in the wee hours of the morning when I rose to use the bathroom or when coming in late as a teenager. Not only did I know to count my distance from mom and dad's room. I counted how many steps away I was from creaks, obstacles and relief.
As my paths grew in life, I counted the hours, the days and the weeks before each monumental milestone (graduation, moving away, time before a promised result, number of days left in the pay cycle, etc.) I count cars I pass, intersections I stop at, number of tiles on the floor or windows in a building and I hear that childhood tune in my head called The Song of Sixpense. I'm no accountant, yet my mind operates in cycles. Call this analytical, or obsessive-compulsive, or simply a deviation from what's important, I operate in the tracking mindset.
Whether we all count the small stuff or not, most of us operate in the mindset of tracking progress or results. So when it comes to making promises, we know whether we've disappointed or pleased those around us. And because we pay attention to our own followthrough, we are either happy or frustrated with ourselves.
When it comes to the promises you've made, who is counting? Including yourself, who else cares to pay attention? Anybody who may stand to benefit will be counting - they observe the number of times you demonstrate truth, action and share progress. They pay attention to how well you account for the promises you made, and in the meantime, they notice their own actions in this regard.
Yet the difference is, we error on the side of our own accounting, thinking we are better than others. When someone fails to follow through with something we are expecting, we quickly forget our own fault in the same action. Instead of counting the fault, we misplace it.
If we were to do a better job of counting our follow through, we would see how easy it is to make mistakes and either become bitter and resentful or experience the need for flexibility and make fewer promises. Once we learn our own lesson in being held to account, we can then apply this same lesson to those around us with a sense of humanity vs. a need for perfection.
What counts? This is worth addressing - only so many things are that important to make a huge deal out of perfection. Determine your values and then align the activities that support them. Here is fertile ground for tracking your results.
How we spend our time proves what is important to us. The observer sees our actions and determines from them what is important to us. Answering the phone every time it rings? Responding to texts while driving? Promising friends our time when family needs it? These things are quickly tracked by those who don't yet know us any other way. If these things don't really count as important to us, then we could use some new perspectives - or risk that blackbird biting off our nose!
Today I count many things: the days I get out of bed purposefully, the promises I make, the evenings I celebrate my follow-through. And then there are the times I've humbly responded, the days I've let my eyes and mind be opened by those I'm with and the times I've been grateful. It's easier to enjoy the rhythm of life when I keep counting these things.
at 10:49 AM