You’ve heard it for years, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And in a throw-away culture, it seemed to work. The days of throw-away culture are over. The money we were throwing away took flight on its own and is gone. Suddenly, we are holding on, recycling, making do.
The big, important elements of your life–your marriage, your career, your house, your car–demand daily work and tinkering. You can’t leave them alone until they break. The consequences are too costly.
“if it ain’t broke. . .” never considered maintenance care. Keeping up with career skills, developing new ideas, contributing to your team collaboration is all maintenance work. Waiting until your job is “broke”–and you are laid off–is a harder choice. Fixing something generally leaves scars, or at least proof of mismanagement, is costly, either emotionally or financially, and takes more time than maintenance. Marriage counseling, for example, lasts months and saves marriage. A divorce is expensive, damaging, and forever. I speak from experience.
Maintaining your car keeps you in it and driving. Ignoring the owner’s manual, the dash lights, and that funny sound will not result in a miraculous cure. I’m often amazed when people call into Car Talk and describe a noise or vibration that they have ignored for months thinking it might go away. Sometimes it does go away, only to be replaced by something far more expensive, starting with a tow truck. Even Tom and Ray offer ways to recession-proof your car and it includes regular maintenance.
Maintenance on your marriage, career, and car aren’t all fun and aren’t all cheap. But taking a look at small things long before “it’s broke” is a way to a longer life, a happier one, and a fatter wallet.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who teaches people how to communicate clearly at work and in a journal.