Friday, July 18, 2014

Rule #1 – When rules are established they apply equally to everyone all the time

Taking heroin once will not make you addicted. One piece of cake won’t make you fat, and skipping one assignment won’t ruin your career. But in order to stay healthy and employed, you must treat (almost) every episode as a reflection of the general need to resist these temptations. That’s where conscious self-control comes in, and that’s why it makes the difference between success and failure in just about every aspect of life.

~ Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, 2011 ~

It is difficult to imagine needing to make rule #1 any clearer than it already is. Yet despite similarly clear policies and procedures at my last place of employment I mistakenly failed to adhere to formal company policy in the following areas:
  • using company equipment for non-work related activities
  • using company time to address non-work related tasks
  • using company email to send personal correspondence

For some, the above actions might seem like minor violations of stated company policy. After all, who hasn’t “checked personal email at work, shopped on-line, made a personal phone call or used company equipment for personal use?” As a matter of fact, some companies do allow for what’s called “occasional use.” But, when this is not the practice, disregard for company policy is tantamount to the misuse of something that does not belong to you. Furthermore, it wastes valuable company time and that of others with whom you work.

No matter how you shape it, a small degree of misconduct still represents inappropriate behavior at work.

In my first banking job, I recall being told by the hiring manager at the time that he was “paying me for the use of my brain while I was at work.” Being a bit to wise for my own good, I actually resented the sterility of his remark. However, it did drive home an important point: my time at work had been purchased at fair price and agreed upon by me. Thereby establishing a formal contract that needed to be honored.

Married, with a son attending college at the time, and for which we were providing financial support, my poor decision making placed an unnecessary risk on my ability to continue to provide for my families overall needs and the comfortable lifestyle to which they’d grown accustomed too. Regardless of the rationale that I might give, it was very selfish of me to place them in such a vulnerable position. Resultantly, it is something that has negatively affected all of our lives and for which honestly I should have known better.

At the time in which I began writing about this experience, I remained unemployed and without any significant job prospect to speak off.

The point that I want to make here is that everything counts. “Everything you do today, every decision you make, every thought you have, every action you engage in has a result somewhere down the line. If you do not give serious consideration to the long-term effect of [your] decisions, [well then] you may find yourself the odd person out when the music stops playing (Blair, 1999).”

Over the course of several months, I have had time to reflect on who I’ve become and what I’ve done poorly that I would now like to change. After a long and thorough self-assessment, I identified the changes that I felt must be made to be restored inwardly and too regain the confidence of my family. These were primarily spiritual changes that “get at the heart and the meaning of life”. Consequently, I have decided to reject living a compartmentalized or fragmented life going forward, one that neglects to fully integrate beliefs, intentions, attitudes, emotions, and subjective experience in all areas of my life, most especially my work.

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, author Parker Palmer so aptly describes what his experience was like when The Way to God is Down;
When I was finally able to turn around and ask, “What do you want? the answer was clear: I want you to embrace this descent into hell as a journey toward selfhood--and a journey toward God. I had always imagined God to be in the same general direction as everything else that I valued: up. I had failed to appreciate the meaning of some words that had intrigued me since I first heard them in seminary-Tillich’s description of God as the “ground of being.” I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down. The underground is a dangerous but potentially life-giving place to which depression takes us; a place where we come to understand that the self is not set apart or special or superior but is a common mix of good and evil, darkness and light; a place where we can finally embrace the humanity we share with others. That is the best image I can offer not only of the underground but also of the field of forces surrounding the experience of God. Years ago, someone told me that humility is central to the spiritual life. That made sense to me: I was proud to think of myself as humble! But this person did not tell me that the path to humility, for some of us at least, goes through humiliation, were we are brought low, rendered powerless, stripped of pretenses and defenses, and left feeling fraudulent, empty, and useless-a humiliation that allows us to regrow our lives from the ground up, from the humus of common ground. The spiritual journey is full of paradoxes. One of them is that the humiliation that brings us down-down to ground on which it is safe to stand and to fall-eventually takes us to a firmer and fuller sense of self.”

In conclusion, I have had to rightly devote a considerable amount of time to identifying effective ways and means to better hold myself accountable, to be more self-controlled, and most importantly, to practice my spirituality responsibly so that I may avoid creating future contradictions in the different areas my life.
JD