Recently my wife and I cleaned out our fridge. We knew we had to clean it, but it wasn’t until a weird smell started coming from the fridge that we decided to do something about it. As expected, we found food that had gone bad. However, there was more bad food in there than we had anticipated. Odds are that many people reading this have had similar experiences; you go to clean something only to find that there was a bigger mess than originally expected. As I thought about the incident I realized how relatable it was to life.
Just like the fridge, we all have things in our lives that need to be “cleaned”. Whether it’s taking better care of our physical health, changing the way we think of someone or a situation, repairing a relationship, managing our finances better, reconciling a past experience, or many other things. Often times we know what we need to improve on (“clean”), but we keep putting it off. Unfortunately, like the fridge, we can put it off until it becomes too unbearable. This could come in the form of major financial troubles, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, your children not wanting to talk to you, etc.
When this happens we go to “clean up the fridge” only to find there was more “spoiled food” than we realized. Not only do we have diabetes, we have chronic stress and sleep problems. Not only do we have financial problems, we have a shopping addiction and an unhealthy belief about money. Not only do we have relationship problems, we have prejudices against our kids and the relationship has become toxic.
You see, we never see all the issues and what’s really going on until we actually get into the fridge. In this case, until we take personal inventory of our lives. Taking personal inventory is taking a step back and reviewing how our lives are going. How are my thoughts and beliefs? How is my health? How is my relationship with my family and others? And anything else that’s important to you.
Too often we get caught up in the day to day tasks, and we forget to take time to review our lives. But if we don’t take time now then we won’t stop until we get to that unbearable threshold we talked about earlier. Thus this reflection is essential to avoid suffering, sickness, and damaging our relationships.
I know from my own experiences and the experiences of others, that even if you’ve gotten to the unbearable threshold, and found out you have more issues to deal with than you realized, that you can overcome them. However, wouldn’t it be better if you dealt with any issues before they started getting out of hand. Our fridge would have been much easier to clean if we had done periodic checks and cleaning before the food went bad.
Regular self checks are good ways to stay on top of things and direct your own personal improvement. I’d also suggest asking someone you trust for feedback. Sometimes we don’t see the “bad food” being stored in the “fridge”. A spouse, friend, or parent can give honest feedback and help us to see our “blind spots”. Trust me, if my mom had seen our fridge she probably would have pointed out that some food had gone bad.
When I suggest doing regular “clean ups” and reflecting on our lives, I’m not suggesting we become perfectionists. Perfectionism is the highest form of stress and leads to emotional and physical illness. Additionally, we should never compare our “fridges” with anyone else’s. Each of us learn step by step and are each learning personalized lessons.
Life provides all of us with opportunities to grow. We’ll make mistakes, but that’s ok. We can learn and get better. Remember to reconcile unpleasant events early on. The longer we go without reconciling these events, the harder they become to see and end up like the food in the very back of the fridge. As we regularly take time to reflect on our lives, we can make continual improvements. We can dictate the kind of person we want to become instead of letting circumstances dictate what we become. We’ll be able to create the beautiful, healthy, and happy life we desire.