Getting the “goods” and being on probation for life.

Is seeing ourselves on probation for life a good thing? I think so. There can be some benefits to this line of thought if we are willing to explore it. In this article I am going to discuss “being on probation” and whether we can make that work for us. As always, I will finish up with questions for your consideration.

First, let’s discuss what probation means. Fundamentally being on probation means that we must meet certain criteria to earn the “goods.” The goods may be our freedom, the continuation of a relationship, employment, a healthy body or certain other privileges. In many ways, we are all on probation, for life. If we are to be the CEO of our lives then understanding the expectations or standards, we are judged by is important.

If you have a criminal record, probation means that you can expect to be scrutinized to ensure you are following the letter of the law, even after the handcuffs come off.  Criteria are set out in a very exacting manner. If you meet the criteria you are released from probation. You can still make a life for yourself, likely while being haunted by a criminal record.


If you are employed by “the man” after your “let’s see how you do” period, you may be deemed a qualified good fit. You are permitted to remain. However, you will remain under the watchful eye of a manager/supervisor to ensure you continue to meet the expectations outlined in the employee handbook. If you are talented and lucky you might expect to receive raises and bonus checks in addition to your vacation time.  

If you are self-employed you can still expect to remain on probation for the whole of your career. Trends, competition, and the economy will keep you guessing and jumping through hoops. In addition, ideal clients come and go. Criteria for success are not set out in an exacting manner. But If you stay open and curious and are willing to make adjustments you can likely find a way to do the work you love with clients who value you.

If you are in any kind of relationship, you are also on probation, ideally, for the duration of that coupling. We may see engagements and common law as “test periods” but probation continues into marriage. If our esteem is high, we remember that it’s a big world out there and we do not need to remain in a miserable coupling. However, if both partners meet each other’s criteria, they can hope to grow old, forge memories and share reasonable happiness.

If you have a physical body, then that too is on probation. Each of our bodies is different but the criteria for health are fairly standard and should be well known by now. If you do a good job of meeting your body’s needs, you can likely expect to live to 84 if you are a woman and 80 if you are a man. Ideally, as you age you will be able to enjoy activities that you love in some modified way.

We have the freedom and enjoyment that comes with good healthy work, relationships and bodies or we don’t. We can see expectations or criteria as having a short shelf life or we can embrace them and find ways to make it work for us.


Seeing ourselves on probation for life may feel scary and restricting but it can also put us in a powerful position. We need to take the time to find out EXACTLY what the expectations, standards or criteria are for different areas of our lives. Many people do not take the time to do this because: 

  • Probing for information or clarity might be viewed as being “difficult.” In some life areas simple compliance is expected. We need to have a certain amount of personal power in order to even request information about expectations.

  • Or questions may lead to the knowledge that we have to work harder to change our ways of being (cow paths). We may fear that measuring up will require more talent, knowledge or skills then we presently have.

  • Or we just don’t care about the state of our work, relationships or bodies so why bother digging for information? This reasoning may be aligned with early programming or habituated depression. This is much like living in a prison of the mind with no chance of parole.


Becoming the confident CEO of your life is not an over-night process. We need to be willing to raise our standards.

Remember being on probation simply means meeting criteria in order to get the “goods.” If you are going to be on probation for life, and I think we all are, you may want to ask yourself the some questions.


1. How are you being evaluated, what are the criteria, in different areas of your life?

2. How are you evaluating others, what criteria have you set?

3. Or do you assume that only influences outside of yourself can set expectations?

4. Are the “goods” you are getting for meeting criteria worth your time and energy?

Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW