I hope everyone had a great weekend; today we are diving back in to the series of Paradoxes from Gretchen Rubin's Nine Paradoxes to Contemplate as You Consider Your Happiness Project. We have already looked at four of them.
- Accept myself, but expect more of myself.
- Take myself less seriously—and take myself more seriously
- Push myself to use my time efficiently, yet also make time to play, to wander, to read at whim, to fail.
- Strive to be emotionally self-sufficient so I can connect better with other people.
The next paradox is Keep an empty shelf, and keep a junk drawer. I have a feeling this one Gretchen means in the most literal way possible but I am going to look at in terms of our inner space. Both sides of this paradox revolve around stuff, and just as physical stuff can clutter our home mental stuff can clutter our lives. Mental stuff can be stray thoughts, unfinished tasks, nagging doubts, and distracting fantasies. Sometimes these things have their place others they don't.
The first part, Keep and empty shelf, is a reminder that we need a time of day were we are free of these distracting thoughts, a time of peace were we can just be. This idea sounds simple enough but when we try to put it into practice it is easy to let the clutter of our day pile up on our empty shelf. The best way to handle this is clear the shelf a little at a time. Set aside just a few minutes of the day for quite time and once you have managed to clear that part of the shelf add a few more minutes and so on. Once you have reached the amount of quite time you want in you day all you need to do is focus on keeping that shelf clear.
What are you going to do with all those ideal thoughts that you have cleared out of your quite time. That is where the junk drawer comes in. Some of the thoughts that get cleared out will be useful and those should be allowed to roam the brain at any other time of day. Other thoughts are not worth having but we cannot let go of them. These go to the junk drawer. Just as the empty shelf is a time of day were we can b e at peace the junk drawer is time set aside to dwell on the things that worry and excite us that do not have strong roots in reality. This junk drawer time has the effect of reminding us that the things we are worrying and dreaming about are not major concerns. If they were they would not be in the junk drawer. By giving them their time and place we banish them from nagging us during the day. When the thought crops up offering happy distraction or dread we can push it aside saying not now latter.
Between the moments of calm, the empty shelf, and they time to entertain wild unrealistic notions, the junk drawer, we can bring our mind under better control. This leads us to be more productive, more creative, and generally calmer.