I can be content about many things and anxious about one thing. And that’s okay. Chances are, there will always be that one thing that I’m unsettled about. My life isn’t paradise. But I will make the best of it.
Compartmentalizing works well for me. I take inventory on a daily basis. I zoom out. I look at the entire picture. I don’t pigeonhole myself into a rut. I won’t let myself wallow in that one area of my life that is the bane of my world!
Usually when we’re unsettled, it’s not about everything; it’s about one or two things. I refuse to allow that one compartment to rob me of the happiness that is living in all other compartments. No matter how upset it makes me.
Some might say, “That’s great for you, Karen. But I am extremely anxious in every part of my life.” Really? I promise you, I can prove that to be an inaccurate statement.
Hone in on whatever that negative vice might be, and name it. What is it – exactly? Once you have the exact language and perspective, you then zoom out and measure it against other personal topics and situations.
Several years ago, I was at a party. I had just launched a small business. I was now officially an entrepreneur. A neighbor of mine, a successful entrepreneur, approached me and said, “So I hear you started a business?” I nodded yes and we chatted about what it means to be an entrepreneur. He then says, “Have you cried in the corner like a baby yet?” Pleasantly surprised and relieved by how accurate he was, I blurt out, “Yes! Yes, I have!” I laughed and he smiled, “Yeah, me too. We’ve all done it.”
Wait. What? What did he mean, “We’ve all done it?!?”
He meant it’s normal. He included me amongst the entrepreneur posse and reassured me that those moments of “anxiety” were momentary and played a smaller role in the bigger order of life.
We can afford to be anxious for a moment; however, we cannot afford to wallow in anxiety. Fear must never dominate the path we have embarked upon.
One of the best gifts I give myself is the permission to change my mind. This is how I experience this situation today. Only today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I then resolve to look at all the areas of my life where I am content. They are more important to me than this negative situation.
I have a friend who writes his gratitude list every day. I like that. That’s another way to do it. There’s many ways to remind yourself that fear in one area must not dominate your overall gratitude.
Anxiety is not meant to paralyze you. It becomes a gift that provokes you. But it can only provoke you if you acknowledge the compartments you’re indeed content with. Our hardships become an offensive weapon that propels forward motion.
What are these compartments? Here are a few suggestions I propose:
- Your income
- Your personal finances
- Your financial responsibilities
- Your (student) loans
- Your position at work
- Your educational status
- Your colleagues
- Your supervisors
- Your workload
- Your commute
- Your demographics
- Your neighbor
- Your friend(s)
- Your child(ren)
- Your spouse/partner
- Your love life
- Your sexual activeness
- Your health
- Your fitness
- Your eating habits
- Your addictions
- Your communication skills
- Your social skills
- Your social circle
- Your hobby
- Your home
- Your home life
- Your home responsibilities
(1) Rate each one anywhere between 0-10. Zero means you are absolutely undeniably miserably anxious!! Ten means you are over-joyed, elated, and exuberantly content!!
(2) If you rated yourself below a 2, is there anything you can potentially do to increase your number from 0 to, let’s say, a 2.25? I’m not asking you to jump immediately to a 10. I’m asking if there’s anything in your power, perhaps a minor adjustment, that can move your number to a higher place.
(3) For the compartments you rated 3 and higher, there is joy to be seen and found – right now.
Be tenacious with your unsettledness! After all, it is in your control to change your perspective. Be stubborn. Be really stubborn. Hope wins. Hands down. Hope rules. Let it rule.
Okay, so you did that. Thank you! But, now what?
The important part.
From this place, you will now be able to find the best decisions for yourself. From the realm of contentment, you will walk in wisdom. Wisdom (your wisdom) will help you know what to do. Wisdom is a friend to your happiness. They co-exist. One will strengthen the other.
Your contentment lets the world in on a special secret: you know what to do.
– Karen Thrall