January 28, 2010

Life is Like a Rubik's Cube

Talking about "Change" is quite the popular subject these days. So, let's talk change, personal change. Sometimes we come to that place in life where everything just seems so status quo that it is sickening. Like we've flatlined. Nothing's good, nothing's bad, but nothing has changed in a long time and the stagnant nature of our circumstances is just plain distasteful. What can be done about it?

Well, here is what has worked for me. And granted, it took years, so pack your bags for a journey.

Compartmentalize your life into three buckets.

1) The things you LOVE about your life, things you derive a great sense of joy over, things you count as blessings. These things go in one bucket. You're gonna protect these and never risk them.

2) The things you RESENT about your life. Things that you would go to great measures to part with. We'll put those in one bucket. They are going on the chopping block.

3) The MIDDLE-GROUND things, these are negotiable, things that can stay or go. You're not looking for these things to go away, but if they did, you wouldn't miss them. These are up for grabs.

Divide all the elements of your life into one of these three buckets - your finances, your job, your home, your city, your choice of church and all your other current commitments and circumstances. The things you resent about your life need close examination. Figure out what you hate about them and attack that element head first. Structure some short-term and some long-term solutions to get rid of that thing or things and put a plan into motion. Whatever it takes, short of compromising the things you love about your life, start the change process. Life is like a Rubik's cube. Attack one color first. Dive in. Make the move. And when you make that move, adapt to the next move, until you have that whole side squared away. Once you straighten out that area of your life, it will become something you love and you are to protect it going forward.

For example, here was my journey.

After college, my first job was determining welfare benefits. I made so little money that I lived in the same apartment complex as my clients. The thing I hated MOST about my life was living in fear. My safety was constantly at risk. I quit that job and moved back home with my parents, MOVE #1.

Living with my parents at 23 years old was certainly not a desirable living arrangement, but when you have no money, you have no options. I took a job working as a youth director for a not-for-profit organization. This social service job was more enjoyable than the prior one but the thing I hated MOST about my life at that time was financially depending on my parents. Social work wasn't paying the bills. I would have to change fields to correct the problem. So, I sought out a new job in a new field. That field was business, MOVE #2.

I took a job in Charlotte because of its long-term potential, but I had no business experience or business degree, so I had to start at the bottom. The bottom meant I still wasn't making much money, but it was a step towards financial independence. This job offered tuition reimbursement. So, although I commuted to work from Salisbury to Charlotte and was on the road two hours a day, this job afforded me the opportunity to work full-time and return to school at night. I enrolled in graduate school, MOVE #3.

At this point I am still living in Salisbury with my parents and commuting to Charlotte. This went on for two and half years. The thing I hated MOST about my life was the commute/living arrangement. I still couldn't afford to live on my own, so I got a roommate and moved to Charlotte, MOVE #4.

I completed my accounting classes under this arrangement and passed the North Carolina CPA exam. In order to get licensed as a CPA I had to acquire work experience with a CPA firm. So, I took a job as the lowest level tax accountant at the firm, MOVE #5.

I worked at that firm two and a half years, still getting paid nothing, still living with the roommate to make my finances work out. Finally, finally I got my CPA license. The thing I hated MOST at that time was my job. Busy seasons in accounting firms are relentless. Three or four months of sixty hour work weeks for the kind of pay that you need a roommate to live on. Not good. Once I got my CPA license, I pursued a decent job in accounting and found one, the one I presently have, MOVE #6.

Can you see how these changes were like playing with a Rubik's cube? Every time I fixed one thing I hated about my life, I had another new problem to fix. The most encouraging thing about the process was with each new turn, each new angle, the problems became less painful than the ones I had already corrected. I just kept attacking the things I hated about my life, one by one. I made compromises with the bucket of negotiable things (bucket #3) and committed myself to the journey.

In all the process was four years post-college living with my parents, four years post-college living with a roommate, two and a half years commuting to Charlotte, three years working full-time and going to school at night and two and a half years working in an accounting firm. And now . . . . now I love my job. I can pay my bills. I don't need a roommate. I can live in a safe neighborhood. And it took me until I was 32 years old to get where I am. My job now fits into the "things I LOVE about my life" category. I will protect and preserve it as I continue to make changes in the rest of my life.

I hope this example helps. Life is like a Rubik's cube. Don't give up. It can be conquered.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

What an interesting reflection and comparison of your journey. I suppose I'm even more intrigued because so much of it I can relate to. I especially like (and agree with) the idea that in a Rubik's cube, all the pieces are there, it's just about sorting through the options, and the way to "win" is different for everyone.