Structure

Lamonte - October 16, 2007

I had an interesting experience this past week.  My calling at church is to serve as first counselor in the High Priests Group leadership.  When we were first called as a presidency we held a presidency meeting.  There we discussed individual assignments and responsibilities.  Since that initial meeting – several months ago – we have not had another presidency meeting.

Now you know us old HPs are a mostly mature bunch and we shouldn’t require a lot of hand holding.  But in recent weeks I have felt completely out of the loop of things happening in the quorum.  I guess it culminated a couple of weeks ago when the HP group leader reported in Ward Council meeting that we had a successful HP Temple outing the night before.  My wife was present at Ward Council meeting (she’s the Primary president) and she told me about the comment.  I wondered why I didn’t even know about the outing (I had been absent one week before recovering from some minor surgery) because I was the counselor with the assignment to handle temple matters.  I made an appointment to go visit the HP Group leader for a private meeting.  Since we were both on business travel at various times it took us a couple of weeks to get together.

This post is not meant to be a commentary on the disorganized nature of our HP Group leadership.  But I discovered something interesting about myself that I really hadn’t realized during the first 53 years of my life.  I need structure.

At our meeting there was a friendly, congenial atmosphere and I started off by accepting partial responsibility for my predicament.  I realize that I can be a slacker when I want to be but I also expressed concern about being out of touch with the other members of the group leadership.  I couched this comment with the confession that in my professional life and my personal life I need to have objectives to accomplish anything.  It is interesting that I work in a creative field (architecture) but I have always found myself on the more structured side of the profession – producing construction documents and performing construction adminstration duties.  I have usually left the design phase to others that I trust will do a better job than me.  After 15 years of private practice experience I now work for the federal government overseeing the work of architects and contractors who design and build buildings for the government.  Three years ago I moved even further away from the day-to-day activities of building design and started working in the “policy office” of a major agency.  That means that I typically don’t get involved with just one project but it is more of a program management position.  We set policy and training guidelines for the agency’s facilities operations.  I have had some trouble adapting to this work because it can be very unstructured at times.  Only recently have I really felt comfortable in doing my job and feel like I finally know what I’m doing.

My HP Group leader also works in a similar office for a defense agency but says that his group is all about creative, independent work product.  He noted that I had served as bishop in the past but I pointed out that the life of a bishop can be very structured because there are regular meetings to be attended and your exec sec will usually establish your schedule for you.  Certainly a bishop needs to survey the landscape of the ward on a regular basis and decide what the ward members need but the bishop also has counselors who assist in that endeavor.

As I continued in the conversation I came to realize that I was finally feeling more comfortable at my current job because I have a new supervisor and she has added some much needed structure to our group. 

I want to point out that I am definately NOT a planning zealot.  I often “shoot from the hip” in many situations.  But even shooting from the hip can be easier when you know what your objective is.  I am not overly organized either – in fact quite the opposite.  But, once again, final objectives allow me to be haphazard as I move toward the final goal, no matter how many strange turns I make along the way.

So I wonder, do you need structure in your life?  Is it required for you to feel safe and happy?  

10 Comments »

  1. Yes, absolutely, and I’m not capable of creating my own structure. I was worried when I recently switched to working freelance at home that I’d crash and burn with no structure at all. I’m doing ok with my freelance work, but other stuff…housework, etc, not as good as I could be.

    Comment by Susan M — October 16, 2007 @ 10:01 am

  2. Like a true Prima Donna, I need structure, but I have to feel like it is the structure I have established…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 16, 2007 @ 10:39 am

  3. Holy cow, I need structure.

    I’ve gotten better at being more spontaneous and I worry less (which I owe to my husband’s personality), but I still need some structure –puncuality and responsibility also fit nicely in there.

    But just like Susan, I usually have to be held accountable by someone else. I run 4 miles every morning (okay, most mornings), but only because my friend goes with me. My house stays clean most of the time –but only because I teach piano lessons, and I want to have some kind of professionalism when they arrive. It’s funny how divided I feel in the “structure” respect, because honestly, when it comes to church things (meetings, practices, etc.) I usually don’t need to report to somebody to get it done. But if it’s personal (like housework and exercise), I do. Go figure.

    Comment by Cheryl — October 16, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  4. Oh, and incidentally, I’m off to weekly scripture study at a friend’s house. See? Another personal thing I need to be held accountable for. ~sigh~

    Comment by Cheryl — October 16, 2007 @ 11:33 am

  5. When we were first called as a presidency

    HPGL’s aren’t in a presidency. The presidency of the HPG is the Stake Presidency.

    Comment by JM — October 16, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  6. JM – Thanks for being nitpicky! ;-) Does that comment mean you have structure in your life? Perhaps too much?

    Comment by Lamonte — October 16, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  7. Is it a cop out for me to say i need guidance more than structure? I guess either one falls under accountability to someone.

    Comment by Bret — October 16, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  8. Lamonte,

    I find it curious that in your quest for structure, you fail to apply it in the definition of the very thing you seek more structure from. :-)

    I have often been confused at what the purpose of the HPG really is in the ward, other than proxy representation for the stake presidency. It just seems like an org unit that wasn’t really well thought out. It’s trying to be a presidency, without the authority that a presidency carries.

    Would I be off base in suggesting that all you do is organize home teaching and temple trips, and have a lesson once a week?

    Anyway… Back to your question. I crave structure, definition, and order. I like a predictable, comfortable framework that I can rely on. If HIS is a house of order, how can it be any other way?

    Comment by JM — October 17, 2007 @ 8:35 am

  9. My career as a grad student doing independent lab research has very much been about trying to learn to thrive and be productive without much outside impetus. I mean, there is some structure that acts as a motivating force, but day-to-day what I do and how much I get done is entirely up to me. I find that I’m more productive when I have a looming deadline, like an annual progress review, and I tend to flounder a bit when the only consequence for my floundering will be that I don’t make progress. My boss isn’t going to get on my case. Day-to-day, nobody will notice if I’m slacking. But a little bit of slacking each day results in noticeable lack of production in the long-term. Sometimes I’m gung-ho and get a lot done and sometimes I waste time reading Nine Moons.

    Besides structure, another thing that helps me work effectively is a feeling of accomplishment, which can be hard to come by when you’re doing biological research. A lot of the time it just feels like you’re spinning your wheels. It’s frustrating.

    At the same time, it’s a good opportunity to learn to work hard and effectively in the absense of structure and measurable progress.

    Comment by Tom — October 17, 2007 @ 9:59 am

  10. JM – The HPG does more than Home Teach, arrange temple trips and attend a weekly meeting. As home teachers, we are the ones who are assigned the single sisters in the ward (I guess you just can’t trust the EQ!) and we participate in other activities along side the elders. In my ward, High Priests have been involved as much as the Elders in orgnizing and participating in moving people in and out of the ward (I guess our backs are still holding up and those military people are sooooo experienced in moving.) And, of course, one must be a High Priest to serve on the High Council and in the Bishopric – just to name a few.

    I guess by “structure” I am talking about having rules that I am required to live by. I often admire and am sometimes irritated by those who don’t seem to need rules to live by or those who make a habit of not living by rules and yet still find success and recognition.

    Comment by lamonte — October 17, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

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