The Dilemma of the Grocery Cart

January 17, 2019
Photo: Unsplash

by Ken Jones

Word pictures represent important tools coaches often use in helping their clients ‘re-frame’ or visualize their lives from a different perspective. And one of the word pictures I have often described involves what I call ‘the dilemma of a grocery cart.’ There are two specific applications that are most often present in the lives of healthcare professionals, who are trying desperately to sort out life-balance and career challenges.


The first picture looks something like this: Imagine that you’ve been sent to the grocery store, and you have a specific list of things you’ve been asked by your spouse to purchase. Corn. Green beans. Flour. Coffee. Batteries for the flashlight. A newspaper. Some ice cream. And bread. Don’t forget the bread. Upon arrival at the store, you discover that what you expected is different from what you have to deal with. In particular, the grocery store doesn’t provide a grocery cart. (I live in California, and stores don’t provide bags for groceries, either. If you want bags, you pay ten cents a bag, but don’t get me started on that one!) None of the other shoppers seem to be struggling with the ‘no cart’ reality, so you venture on. You start down the vegetable aisle (with no cart) and grab a can of corn and a can of green beans. No problem, even with no cart. But then, five pounds of flour, and that large can of coffee. The newspaper, under your chin. The ice cream, freezing your hands that are already too full. And the bread — oh yes, the bread that’s smashed under your arm. Hobbling now, toward the check-out stand, your neighbor calls your cell phone to see if you could ‘pick up a ten-pound bag of charcoal’ for him. No way you can answer that call, and you feel a twinge of guilt about not being able to do more to help your neighbor.


The second word picture about the grocery cart is different: Imagine that you are sitting in a grocery cart — one of those ‘child-carts,’ shaped like a car. You’re in that car seat, holding that steering wheel. You have no brake. No accelerator. And your steering wheel isn’t connected to anything. You turn the wheel, wanting to go a different direction at the end of the canned vegetable aisle. You’re turning toward the yummy baked goods. But your cart goes in the opposite direction. You try to stop your cart, or at least slow it down, but to no avail. You have no control. And, straining to look behind you, you are trying to see who or what is pushing your cart. Who is sitting at the ‘control panel’ of your life?


The first word picture involves meeting the expectations of others, trying to carry-out the heavy responsibilities you face, — and the ‘stuff-of-life’— without dropping something important along the way. The other word picture is about feeling out-of-control, and unable to determine direction for life. Both dilemmas are very real. And both realities can seem as if they have no remedy.


If either of these pictures describes your life? We’d love to help. Our CMDA healthcare coaches are International Coach Federation certified, and specifically called to help doctors and healthcare professionals address work/life balance and regain joy in the practice of medicine.

For information and a free exploratory conversation, you can reach us at:

Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

About Christian Medical & Dental Associations®

The Christian Medical & Dental Associations® (CMDA) is made up of the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the Christian Dental Association (CDA). CMDA provides resources, networking opportunities, education and a public voice for Christian healthcare professionals and students.

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