How to Clean Your Car in 10 Easy Steps

This was originally posted on my Blogger site on December 26, 2009:

For the next several posts, I want to share 10 principals about personal growth, fulfillment and development. I chose this title because it summarizes several things that I’ve been learning and practicing over the last several months. What follows essentially amounts to an epiphany that I had while cleaning out my car this fall. What struck me is that my car wasn’t especially dirty, but the process of cleaning it uncovered several things that I’d noticed dozens of times but procrastinated attending to. While driving to work and around town in my freshly washed, waxed and detailed car, I found that getting into a clean car produced a ripple effect that made me drive more carefully and purposefully, started my day off better, increased my productivity and efficiency at work, and sparked a thought, cleaning and organizing frenzy that included my office, home, finances, relationships and personal life. Cleaning the car became the metaphor for this process and was indicative of the life overhaul that was going on in my spirit.

These ten principles are not things that came out of thin air. They’re not even terribly original. They are simply a few universal principles that that I’ve found to be very effective in my own life that I feel compelled to share. I didn’t devise the list then start to follow it. Rather, I found myself doing the work in several areas of my life and noticed that these principals were at play. I am convinced that if you employ them, you and others around you will notice the change. I’m also convinced that you will find yourself more fulfilled, less stressed, and better equipped to take control of your life. To that end, these next several posts are dedicated to the ten principles and five core skills that are redefining my life.

I say “are redefining” for two very important reasons; 1) Because the process is still relatively new to me and therefore requires diligence to maintain and 2) Because nobody’s perfect. I’ll never attain perfection, I will always have faults and flaws, but I refuse to allow those flaws to define me or be dismissed (or better yet re-labled) as personality traits for the rest of my life.

These principles are also biblical, but they are not exclusive to the Christian or Hebrew scriptures. As a Christian, I must also acknowledge that following these principles is not something that I could have accomplished without the Holy Spirit at work within me. I realize that everyone who reads this may not hold to Judeo-Christian beliefs. Some people may even be completely and vehemently opposed to them. Some may actually be hostile to them. That shouldn’t matter; this is not a treatise on religion. Christianity is my anchor and I make absolutely no apologies for the work of Christ on my life and the perpetual process of being conformed to His image and likeness. That being said, I also respect the opinions and beliefs of others, and whatever religious, spiritual, or moral convictions you may hold. What I am convinced of however is that to truly change ones self requires a resolve that is found only within ourselves and a transformative power that is greater than ourselves.

Lastly, I’m by no means a self-help guru wannabe; nor am I trying to promote any facade of perfection. Once again, these are simply things that I have noticed in my own life that have had a profound impact on my heart and life. Take them for what they’re worth. I also very much encourage you to leave a comment about any of the principles if you’ve tried them for yourselfe and found them helpful to your own lives.

The process of cleaning out your vehicle —I mean really cleaning your vehicle requires that you use the 5 basic skills listed below. This is not an exhaustive list. But to live life skillfully (what the bible calls wisdom), also requires that you use these skills:

1) Planning – Living life well demands that you have a plan. Otherwise, you will wander through your life with life just happening to you. Life is not a series of accidents or random occurrences that appear unrelated and inconsequential. There is a point to life (aka goal) that must be considered and planned for. Life is in part a result of actions and reactions that are based on the choices you make. (I’m obviously not talking about things like car accidents, cancer, a piano falling on your head, etc). This applies in how you approach both your life and your work. Living life accidentally is as dangerous as it is foolish. You must have some sort of systematic process or game plan for how to accomplish the task at hand. Living life with a plan also means that you look at the areas of yourself that require a few finishing touches.

Consider the car metaphor, having a plan ensures that you don’t forget any part of the process from cleaning the cup holders to tooth-picking or tooth brushing the gunk from the hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where a whole hand can’t go. Plan to clean the gunk from the hard-to-reach places of your life and character.

2) Patience – To accomplish the task methodically and completely requires that you gear yourself up for a long process that you must see through to the end. There is no quick fix. You can’t change yourself overnight; so don’t try and save yourself much frustration, false starts and disappointment. Be patient. The process takes consistent applied effort over time.

3) Attention to detail – You must be committed to also cleaning the parts of the car (and your life) that you think people can’t see, may notice accidentally, but that they observe since they have a different vantage point than you (ie. sitting in the passenger seat, the back seat, accidentally kicking the floor mat to reveal what’s underneath etc). Be mindful of the reality that people often see you more accurately than you see yourself. Depending on the relationship you have with them–from a passing acquaintance to close friend, spouse, or mentor–they’re different vantage point allows them to see areas that you miss. These will invariably include noticing both strengths and weaknesses in your character. Everyone will not see the complete You in every interaction, but every interaction tells people something of your character. This skill is tandem to skill #1. You must have a plan to transform not only the major areas of your life, heart, and character, but also have the humility and honesty within yourself to sincerely address the things that you think don’t matter much. You’d be surprised how much they matter to people that interact with you from different points of view.

4) Desire – Not the desire to please others, put on a good show, or make a good impression. To live skillfully must come from the desire to be a good steward of the things you have been blessed to have and achieve. Doing anything simply because people want or think you should do it seldom produces lasting results over time. It often even breeds resentment and failure. It is much better to develop the habit of doing something simply because it’s the right thing to do. It may even have result of producing an altruism that you didn’t anticipate.

5) Maintenance – You must cultivate and maintain newly acquired skills ongoing and build in time for reassessment and review. Entropy (the process of moving toward disorder, chaos and decay) will naturally occur if you don’t build in time for maintenance.

I believe these five skills are at work in the principles that I’ll share throughout the next several posts. If you read this, please post a comment adding your opinions, observations and perspectives.

Until next time,



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