“They’re driving down the road without a dashboard.  They have a brake, an accelerator, a steering wheel but no indicator lights, no speedometer, no gas gauge.”  That’s what the self-proclaimed bean counter sitting next to me at breakfast said, when I asked about the corporations with which he was working.  They are businesses that have grown quickly but find themselves in financial trouble.  Apparently, most of them have no way of gauging how fast they are going, no indicator for when they are starting to over-heat, and no gauge that tells them how much gas is left in the tank.

In college, I drove a blue station wagon whose gauges didn’t work.  I never knew how much gas was in the tank, how fast I was going or when the engine was overheating.  The good news is half of the time it didn’t start, so those things weren’t important.  The bad news is fifty percent of the time I was driving down the road blind.  As a result, walking to the nearest gas station with a gas can in tow became common.    

How do you know when you’re going too fast or not fast enough?  What signals do you get when it’s time to re-fuel?  When do you know things are dangerously close to overheating?

Just like the corporations this CPA works with, we all need a dashboard that gauges our pace, the state of our upkeep and our need for fuel.  There are physical, emotional and behavioral signs that can serve as indicators for speed, maintenance, and fuel.  Shortness of breath, feeling anxious, and continually arriving late announce that it’s time to slow down.  Tension in your muscles, feeling constantly overwhelmed, daily putting out “fires” imply that it’s time for some maintenance. Constant fatigue, feeling emotionally depleted, and having a short fuse signal the need for fuel.  

Some time yesterday, I remember thinking I was low on gas.  This morning on my way to my first appointment, the light that indicates I need gas came on.  There is a gauge that shows me I need gas.  When I ignore it, the light flashes.  I saw the light but hadn't given myself enough time to stop to fill up.  As I was driving down the road, talking on the phone a bell chimed a number of times.  I knew my navigation system was set to silent -- I was surprised that it was chiming at me.  Finally, it dawned on me that was the third warning signal from my dash, attempting to emphasize how desperately I needed gas.  Ignoring the dashboard doesn’t keep us from breaking down on the side of the highway. 

Install your own dashboard and then pay attention to it!  It helps ensure that you will actual get where you are wanting to go.