Reality Check: Compartments for Life

One stunningly beautiful day recently, I noticed that I wasn’t fully appreciating the warmth and the beauty. Instead, I was ruminating. The thoughts popping into my head all had to do with concerns and difficulties.
Have you noticed that yourself?
All of us have worries. Every one of us has difficulties. Over this last year, concerns about health and medical issues have been top of mind for many people.
But there are plenty of other things to fret about as well, whether you are fretting for yourself or about others.
You may have concerns about livelihood, education, or direction in life. You may worry about the choices that you or other people make. What will happen in the future? How will everything turn out? We can’t know for sure, not till it happens.
The old Dale Carnegie book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” might help. In it, Carnegie suggests living in “day-tight compartments.” Like a compartmentalized ocean liner, seal off the past and its problems; seal off the future and its fears and worries. Put your attention on today. Today is in its own compartment.
When you designate compartments for things, you always know where they belong. Everything has a home. Granted, if you’re like me, everything isn’t always in its proper compartment. But if I ever find those things again, I’ll know where to put them!
If you like having compartments—boxes, baskets, tubs, even paper bags—for your things, then you might also find it helpful to look at time using a compartment perspective.
Choose specific time slots that make sense for you. For example, if Saturday afternoon is family time, make it so. Concentrate on family for that time slot.
Time slots are essentially compartments for activities. And according to Carnegie, the compartment to pay attention to is the one that’s labelled “today.”
But, what about the future?
Carnegie isn’t suggesting that we shouldn’t think of the future. He says, “The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
Do what you are doing, at the moment you are doing it, in the best way that you can.
For some, especially those of us with vivid imaginations, paying attention to today can be difficult. If your thoughts are continuously racing ahead with “what if?” speculations, then the task at hand can get neglected.
Carnegie’s compartment perspective reminds us that there is a time for fretting, but there is also a time for not fretting. If you find that fretting about the future is feeding discontent in your life, then you might try putting that thinking into its own compartment.
Instead of letting your frets take over whenever you have a free moment, choose a specific time to fret. Even better, choose a time to plan, act, or talk to someone about your concerns.
If we allow enjoyable time today to be crowded out by the concerns of yesterday or tomorrow, we miss living today.
Choosing a compartment—a time slot—could help you take charge of your life. It might even help make you become more effective at whatever it is that is troubling you.
What’s your perspective on today? On tomorrow?

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