I don’t mean to brag, but I’m quite an accomplished grocery shopper. This is all the more surprising when you consider how rarely I’m actually allowed to shop in the first place. Apparently, I have a penchant for getting “the wrong stuff” whenever I shop. How a box of Ding Dongs made it onto the contraband list, I’ll never know.
There’s a simple secret to my shopping success: preparedness. My system is simple, and I’ll gladly share it with you, my loyal readers:
- I write out my list.
- I defiantly scrawl “Ding Dongs” at the bottom.
- Next to each item, I write down the “zone number” where I’ll find the item relative to my path through the store.
- I start in Zone 1 (produce), and I pick off each item one by one.
Simple? Yes. A bit over the top? Of course. Can you have a Ding Dong? No chance.
Thanks to my handy grocery shopping system, inefficiency is a thing of the past. Or so I thought.
It all started when my bride picked up a few cookbooks penned by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. What a tasty dish. I’m referring of course to Giada’s grilled salmon with citrus salsa verde.
One day, my wife pored through the cookbooks, developed a meal plan, and headed to the store. Unfortunately, she shops using a lesser organizational system I like to call “wing it”. She returned home only to discover she was missing a few key items. She had to start cooking if we were going to eat before midnight, so she needed somebody to go back to the store.
I knew just the Ding Dong for the job.
I grabbed the small slip of missing ingredients, and I raced off. I burst into the store and glanced down at the first target on my list: fennel.
No problem. I looked high. I looked low. Nothing. I scanned every label in Zone 1. No match. I was wasting valuable seconds, sullying my super-shopper reputation in the process.
Finally, I broke down and approached a pimpled stockboy who was busy spritzing his plums.
“Fennel?” I asked with an exasperated sigh.
“Right over here,” he said, directing me to an item marked “anise”.
Um. Okay. Apparently fennel and anise are one in the same. Moving on.
Next item: cremini mushrooms. Back on track! Yet after another painstaking and fruitless search, I had to call on my new best friend a second time.
“Right over here.” He handed me a package marked “Baby Bella Mushrooms”.
My super system proved no match for these cases of double identity.
As I drove home, I began to think about how the name game applies to so much more than vegetables. Labels are powerful, and throughout the course of our goal pursuits, we need to make conscious choices when it comes to naming the things we want most in our lives. Just as one celebrity chef’s fennel is another chef’s anise, so it is with the forces that motivate us.
Let’s try a simple exercise to illustrate the point. What do you think of when you see the following word:
Some of you may have conjured up an image of yourself reading a good book in a cozy chair. Others may have thought about having a soak in a warm bath. Any hammocks out there? I’m sure that each of you had a slightly different concept of what constitutes relaxation for you.
I’ve seen folks struggle when they either don’t have a clear idea about what they’d specifically like to have in their life (no name) or when they accept somebody else’s idea of what they should be pursuing (wrong name).
Here are a few quick actions you can use to win at the name game:
- Pick three. Think of those “big picture” ideals and values that you’d most like to have in your life. Common examples include SECURITY, FAMILY, ADVENTURE, FREEDOM, HEALTH, and LEARNING. Narrow your list to the top three.
- Get crystal clear. Rather than settle for some vague notion of what each of these means – what it really looks like – in your world, get specific. If you chose ADVENTURE, does that mean buying a Harley Davidson motorcycle, visiting Costa Rica, or bungee jumping? All are acceptable answers, but which is your answer? That’s the only one that counts.
- Plan to succeed. Take a few minutes to jot down the sequence of events that will bring that specific, named thing into your life. Work backward from the achievement until you get down to a simple action you can complete in the next 24 hours. (And then do it!)
It’s really that simple.
I’m happy to report that I’ve bounced back from my shopping setback. I’ve even made a slight improvement to my system. The next time I head off to the store, I’ll have my list, my zones, … and a thesaurus.