I don’t know about you, but I really feel for those hard-working people at our local grocery store on a Saturday. Trying to stock shelves with endless lines of customers in their way, veering their trolleys full of product away from inattentive shoppers who back up without looking, and waiting patiently to count the number of items remaining when taking an inventory. I can just imagine an interview for a potential new hire. “So, are you a patient person? A REALLY patient person? A REALLY REALLY patient person? Yes? You are hired!”
Any business will be inventorying on a regular basis to make sure that they don’t run out of things their customers like to buy. A really successful business will take stock of other things: customer satisfaction surveys, what brings new customers in, and what increases their profits. An ethical and socially minded business owner might look at who their clientele is, how green their business is, and how well they are serving their local community.
If we seek to better ourselves and change our attitudes and behaviors, we can take advantage of routine inventories as well. A great inventory is a productive way to notice when we are falling off the wagon of self-improvement behaviors, as well as when we are being successful. The outcome of an inventory can be a humbling reminder of past commitments we are shirking, or a boost to our self-esteem. But what do we look at? What’s important to assess and how often should we do it?
I am fond of daily inventories, and I recommend them to everyone. They help keep the self-improvement ball rolling and keep us current with the status of the character defenses and personality traits that we are aiming to enhance or diminish. Most important, they help us keep our commitments to changing long-standing habits that will only change with daily effort. For some, it’s a way to end the day that wipes their slate clear so they can sleep better, knowing that they have some things to attend to differently, or even to set straight tomorrow.
You can start with what is most important to you and focus on that, addressing both short and long-term goals. It’s helpful to move beyond just asking “Did I stick to my diet today?” or “Did I exercise today?” and contemplate the why of our behaviors. So, ask “if not, why not?” or “what motivated me to do that?” Looking at our emotions and how we managed (or mismanaged!) them helps us notice how they drive our behaviors. This is an opportunity to gain awareness to aid positive change and not an invitation to self-flagellate! Keep it short, simple, and focused.
Here are some examples:
“How many times today did I refrain from overeating when I really wanted to? What enabled me to do that? What did I do instead?”.
“Did I do my daily meditation practice? If yes, how was the experience? If not, why not? How do I feel about that?”.
“Did I refrain from criticizing my husband/wife/roommate/partner/coworker and maintain my focus on offering positive feedback to others instead? If not, what got in the way?”.
If you are looking to enhance your spiritual awareness, you can set the goal of noticing answers to prayers and noticing the action of God in your life however you conceive of that. Notice how you were guided to a good decision or a positive opportunity when you let go of micromanaging the situation and “gave it to God”.
A nice end to a daily inventory is to do a gratitude list. Bring to mind anything large or small that you can appreciate. Then go beyond noticing things and listing them, to feeling your appreciation.
Over time you will refine what you want to hone in on to keep your inventory current. You might also want an inventory buddy who you can share your successes with. The more people you have in your life marveling at your progress, the more you will want to keep moving forward.