It’s really clear to me that you can’t hang onto something longer than its time. Ideas lose certain freshness, ideas have a shelf life, and sometimes they have to be replaced by other ideas. ~Alan Alda
When my friend’s husband died, I wanted to do something helpful and useful, so I cleaned out her refrigerator. We laughed at why she still had many of the items. We feared what might be growing in the containers. Cleaning out the cupboards in my own house has yielded similar results, as did the recent purge of a friend’s freezer: things that seemed like such a good purchase expired uneaten and took their final bow as I cleaned. Things we think sound so good and tasty in the store sometimes lose their appeal when an easier choice is available in our hungriest moments, or perhaps in the corners of storage they are simply overlooked. Lots of things run their course–like wearing dress gloves (which I miss) or shag carpet (which I do not miss). Fashions lose their appeal, milk goes sour, and even a person has a shelf life. Alda’s right that sometimes things and thinking need to be replaced so that we can enjoy that freshness that brings us to a better life. I don’t need to hang onto clothes that don’t fit, food that’s gone bad, or antiquated ideas.
Some ideas are the kind to keep, like that the dog needs to be walked a few times a day. Other ideas seemed so good when I first had them, like the one that eating lots of fat-free foods would make me thin (many pounds later realizing the idea was just great marketing on someone’s part), but they aren’t worth keeping. That’s the key to a better life I think; realizing and accepting that some things in life have a shelf life, an expiration date. Friendships, ideas, lifestyles are all changeable and my refusing to acknowledge that some things need to go will only result in moldy growth on things no longer fit for my consumption and often end in damaged relationships.
Foods usually have a printed expiration date, but other things do not. Clothes go out of style, but we only know because the stores no longer sell them. Technology expires, and we know either because an item stops working or updates must be installed to keep it functioning properly. We expect those things to work.
We expect our city leaders to be forward thinking, enabling our towns to be attractive homes for businesses and visitors. Healthy corporations expect employees to be able to offer fresh ideas and insights to keep the company and their product on the shelves of stores. Patients expect doctors and dentists to have equipment and knowledge that is up-to-date so the best care is received. If we expect our leaders, businesses, and healthcare professionals to move expired thinking off the shelf, why wouldn’t we expect the same of ourselves?
You can begin today doing what Glenn Llopis (Forbes) says a good business leader must do, asking yourself three questions:
- What must I keep doing?
- What must I stop doing?
- What must I start doing?
Simple questions that we don’t ask ourselves often enough and must hold ourselves accountable to answer.
Keep being a part of the world around you.
Stop refusing to allow people different than you to be a part of that world.
Start allowing your ideas and mine to not always be the same.
Some ideas are for the long haul, like the sauerkraut that lasts forever. Other ideas are as moldy as the mystery meat in the back corner, and they need to be cleared to make room for something tastier in our lives.