I was cleaning out the refrigerator the other day and noticed that we had of lot of old food tucked in the back that had long since passed the use by date. I thought about how much money I probably throw in the trashcan every year because I don’t really pay that much attention to the use by date. I quickly realized that I couldn’t eat that food anyway since it would probably make me sick. As I began removing this spoiled food, I noticed that it felt really good getting rid of the old so I could make room for the new.
I was so inspired that I did the same thing with my office. I started rifling through a bunch of old files and storage bins tossing out anything that didn’t seem to have a purpose or had held onto well past the use-by-dates. I must have filled up two trash bins of old papers and unnecessary clutter. Man did that feel great!
I started thinking about other use by dates in my life that may go by un-noticed or I simply accept as a matter of habit a routine. I wondered how much of my time and resources were wasted, or if I was getting sick as a result of not paying attention to those dates.
I now truly believe that just about everything has a use by date. Relationships are a good example. There are some relationships that used to fill our needs perfectly. They were so rewarding and fulfilling, but like many things over time, if they are not tended to they spoil and go rotten. Unless we are willing to do the work necessary to maintain them and keep them flourishing, they will no longer be able to sustain our basis needs, or they make us sick with worry, fear or anxiety.
The challenge is that we tend to hold onto them, like a bag of stale potato chips, hoping that one day they will be as fresh as the day we bought them. It seems we fail to recognize that there is not enough room in the pantry to hold onto toxic relationships and the energy and effort required to simply hang onto them comes with diminishing results.
Many of these relationships can be with people we used to care about the most, but like a neglected garden overrun with weeds and decay, sometimes it’s necessary move on to another plot of land and stake our claim.
Our jobs most definitely have a use by date as well. A career that once challenged us and made us feel like contributing members of society can grow stale based on many factors. Company cultures shift, sometimes by design, new management, new team members, maybe our own priorities have simply changed due to Covid or a host of other factors.
Our roles change or diminish, and our sense of purpose can go right along with it, yet much like a spoiled relationship, we hold on whether out of habit or just being comfortable. Like the relationship, we may not notice it right away. It’s not until years pass that we notice the slow decay of all that we once held of value. In that moment we realize we’ve been on a never-ending treadmill that isn’t leading us anywhere that we wish to go just out of habit and routine.
Habits and routines also have a use by date, and these are probably the hardest things of all to toss out. Many of the habits we’ve developed were useful at one point in our lives, but now are simply relics of a time long past. Yet like those old computers and electronics sitting around our houses, we fail to toss them out, hoping that they might someday become relevant again like the day we brought it home.
I’m convinced that Nostalgia is one of the most powerful emotions we experience in the human condition. Ask someone from any generation and not doubt they will long for a return to something and “the way it used to be.” Maybe that’s the reason we tend to ignore the use-by date in so often… because we choose to.
This week think about the use by dates in your life:
What relationships in my life have long since passed the use by date?
How are they impacting me? Am I committed to making them fresh?
What am I going to do this week to start cleaning out the fridge?
How do I feel about my current role in the organization that I serve?
What can I focus on this week to create reward and fulfillment in my job?
What habits do I hang onto that have slipped way past the use by date?
Why do I cling to them? What new ones would I prefer to replace them?
Where else in my life have I neglected the use by date?
Looking forward to our next connection
Thoughts for the week:
Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end. -Seneca
Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.- Germany Kent
Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? -L.M. Montgomery
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change. – Jim Rohn