Posted on May 11th, 2006

Life is challenging. We all know that. On a good day the challenges make life exciting and fulfilling, but on a bad day those challenges just wear us down.

One way of effectively coping with the many challenges that life throws every day is to come up with a bottom line gut check rule to apply to those challenges. It can help you put life, and all its challenges, into perspective.

Most days I am living the American woman’s dream. I have not one but two fulfilling careers plus a husband, child, and home. I have a great balance of fulfilling work that I can (mostly) complete while my child is in preschool or asleep so I am able to spend lots of Mommy time baking cookies and constructing complicated train layouts plus volunteering at school. However that dream is pretty fragile and it only takes one miscalculation to turn into a nightmare. Snow days, sick days, or overlooked school holidays can throw everything into disarray and heaven forbid if I get too sick to work the hours I need to keep my frail vessel afloat.

I know there are many people much more stretched than I am. Many of them are my friends, my co-workers, my clients, and my students, so I see it first-hand and know how lucky I am that even though my juggling act requires delicate balance much of the time if I drop a ball here or there it bounces without anything being broken. I know plenty of people balancing those twirling plates and we all know how that can end up!

One way I have managed to move from the twirling plates to the rubber balls is through careful prioritizing. Not every unexpected event has the potential for catastrophe and your stress level will go through the roof if you treat it as such. Placing the unexpected in its proper priority can give you perspective and give you more control over your life.

You are the only one who can do this though. No one else can tell you what is important. I find it useful to have a bottom line gut check rule to help me prioritize when life gets hectic and challenging.

My rule is pretty simple — How much will this matter when I’m dead and gone?

For me this means that when it comes down to dealing with urgent matters my child comes first. When I am dead and gone I don’t ever want him to remember being neglected or ignored or untended. I’m pretty sure (with as much insight as anyone can have into a 5-year-old’s mind) that he knows he is the most important person in the world to me but there are times when I have to stop myself from whirling off to attend to other plates.

In truth, the rule means that people always come first for me. Obviously in some order of rank. My husband comes before my students who come before my clients, for example. But I hope to be remembered for the lessons I have taught. I know I don’t have a prayer for being remembered for my housekeeping skills. I bet you can guess where vacuuming falls on my priority list. I don’t like living in a messy house and I like a well-cooked meal more than most people, but I’m pretty sure when I’m sitting at the pearly gates that I won’t look down at Earth and wish I’d kept my house cleaner. I do know for sure that I don’t want to look down (or back) and wish I’d been a better mother or teacher. So that’s how I prioritize!

You don’t need to use my rule. Probably the world would be dull if everyone prioritized just th e same. Another good rule that I sometimes employ when dealing with interpersonal conflict is — What would Jesus do? If you have studied the Gospels then you can have a pretty good shot at answering that question in most instances and you could probably make your corner of the world a much better place for it.

So now, before life spins out of control again (denial is not a bottom line) spend a few moments thinking about your own bottom line. I bet you find that gut check rule will help you work through the challenges throws your way. Good luck and good day.

You can enjoy more inspirational articles by Deanna Mascle at http://dawggone.net, http://justfolks.net, and http://officialwisdom.com.

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