Day tight compartments

Worrying about the future and dwelling on regrets of past actions is a common human trait that nearly all of us would admit to periodically. It becomes a major problem when it overwhelms our thoughts to the point of affecting our wellbeing.

It can come in many forms and is often episodic depending on what is happening in our lives at that time. There is often a trigger event that is “the straw the breaks the camel’s back” on top of a load of normal concerns that you were already carrying around. With growing businesses, young family, community commitments and trying to have some sort of personal life, I have certainly found myself in this situation in the past and have used a technique called “day tight compartments” to help me cope.

It comes from an excellent book called “Stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie (which I have read 4 times) and was written in 1948. The opening chapter tells the story of a famous medical professor called Sir William Osier, who after 42 years of outstanding achievement where he rose to be the Regis Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and had 2 large volumes, totalling nearly 1500 pages, written chronicling his life’s work, was retiring and giving a final address to students at Yale University. The students were in awe of how much he had achieved in his life and wanted to understand how it was possible?

He told them he was actually not that smart. All he had done his whole professional life was work in “day tight compartments”. By that he meant all he did was focus on the day he was in and got the most out of it. He told them to shut out the “dead yesterdays” and “unborn tomorrows” and you will achieve what you want to today. He said that “the load of tomorrow, added to that of yesterday, carried today, will make the strongest falter”, so just focus on what you can achieve today and don’t worry about the rest. You can plan for tomorrow but just don’t worry about it, you can deal with it when it arrives.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I thought of this story when feeling overwhelmed with work, family, community and social commitments. Any of us can deal with the day we are actually in and the practical reality is – that is all we can really do anyway.

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