Weighty Matters

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The Shortest Distance

on March 11, 2014

We all know the truism that the shortest distance between two points is the length of a straight line between them. I find this to be logical, practical and also a calming approach to more than just traveling distances. In fact, I’m embracing it in my attitude toward a stress-inducing situation at work. I was asked to coordinate a project that involves collecting information and articles from a whole bunch of other people, proofing/editing them, and getting to a designer for layout in a very short amount of time.

The clock is ticking on our deadline. While I have some of the material, I’m still waiting for a number of articles from various other people who are scattered around the country. These people don’t work for me. They don’t work for the organization that’s producing the report. They volunteer for committees for that organization. It’s not like I can crack a whip on them to get the material written, finished and submitted. So, there is a lot about this project over which I have no control and no power.

Enter the Serenity Prayer — Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Every time I start to get tense, fretful and stressed over what material is still outstanding, I’m trying to step back, breathe and stay calm.

Some of the material comes to me in rough form, or in forms that I can’t use verbatim because the items are too long. Now, I could send it back to the writers and say, “That’s great, but could you cut it down, please?” However, mindful of that deadline, I decided to enact step two from the Serenity Prayer and incorporate the shortest distance-straight line approach. I find the courage (and the will) to change what I can, and take the shortest path to accomplishing what I need. In other words, I extrapolate information, shape it into the length we can use, and send it back to the writer with a nice, “This is great information. We needed it a little shorter. Is this okay?” message. I’m respectful of their original material and, let’s be honest, I’m saving them extra work to boot.

Judging from the response, this approach is working. I feel that I’ve struck a good balance. The extra work for me is offset by the reduced time needed to end up with a useable piece. This means less stress overall. It’s a win.

As I write this, it occurs to me that the Serenity Prayer is pretty linear and matter-of-fact. Accept what you can’t change; change what you can; be wise enough to discern the difference. This all serves to clear out the mind clutter. I don’t have time to worry. I just need to get the project done to the best of my ability. I also don’t have either the time nor the inclination to doubt that ability. Self-confidence is not the issue although that could get undermined by stress if I allow it to happen. I’m not. I’m just staying on the straight, A to B path from project inception to project completion. No detours.

Since I’m doing such a good job of not letting stress block the road, I’m also having good food days. This means that my recovery is also on that straight direct path.

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One response to “The Shortest Distance

  1. Hope says:

    I like your style! If I’d been one of the people whose writing you edited down, I’d be really appreciative. First of all, that you saved me the work. And second of all, that you respected my writing enough to make sure I was ok with the abridged version. I think a lot of people would have condensed without checking back with the original authors.

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