For those who are unfamiliar with my work, I provide technology solutions for the Litigation Department of a sizable corporation. It is a continuous commotion of fire-fighting where the needs and priorities are constantly changing. It has very high demands which require rapid solutions that are not always perfect but must be implemented, even as kludges, to handle to existing crisis. Many of the stopgaps applied often conflict with previously-required solutions. Eventually, more elegant answers are put into production, but the course is often chaotic.
Before I continue, let me state that I love my job…and it is far from thankless. I am compensated for the trouble, and my clients are very appreciative of what I do. Some days the gratitude is more important than my salary – paydays excluded, of course. But please understand, this is not about grumbling or asking for sympathy for my woes.
My point is that with the hectic schedule and constantly shifting goals, it is often difficult to gather reasonable metrics or define success properly. Further, once the priority has been fulfilled, its importance lessens and the value of the need changes. This often leads to the feeling that very little actually gets accomplished. Frequently, I succumb to the dread of the “lack of progress.”
However, I do make myself stop and recall where we were one-month ago, six-months ago, a year ago, three years ago. This allows me to look at the situation more holistically and realize all the positive things that have occurred. I then recognize the project-paralysis is only an illusion created by the circumstances.
Now after this long-winded introduction, allow me to segue to my point. Allegorically, my job is much like American politics and our society at large. We are constantly distracted by the latest crisis. We try to apply metrics of the moment to measure the progress of the system. The goals and importance of the issues are shifting and changing; patches are applied as temporary fixes, and we often fail to notice when things are properly put in place. It is quite easy to feel overwhelmed and depressed, as if nothing is really working towards a better end.
But like my job, if we pause and examine things holistically, in apple-to-apple comparisons, we can separate the myths and illusions from the reality. Also like my job, the problems will never cease; there will always be a new issue to solve, a new unpredictable problem to arise and a better way handle things. If we look at the problems too much, without allowing ourselves to examine the real accomplishments too, we can become bitter, angry and dissatisfied.
It doesn’t mean the problems aren’t real. It doesn’t mean they are unimportant. But an honest inventory does allow us to keep our perspective and our sanity.