One of the greatest misunderstandings of my 20s was my confusing of shelves with space.
Compartmentalizing our lives into shelves can be a useful tool. How common is it to hear “don’t bring your home problems here” in a work environment? Compartmentalizing provides an intentional constraint to how we show up in environments such as our work, our physical bodies, our relationships, our finances…whatever shelf we want organized. Shelves also offer the benefit of distinct habit loops (cues, rewards, routines, and beliefs) that we can cultivate and transfer to other shelves. It’s no coincidence that I grow less triggered when I am around my father when learn how to diffuse triggers in safe spaces such as work or with my wife. We take from one shelf when it is in service to others. We take from one shelf even when it is insidious to others too.
Where we get it twisted is thinking the sum of the shelves makes the whole. This is not true. Our compartments do not make our wholeness. Who I am at work, who I am at home, who I am on the jiu jitsu mats are not separate entities that comprise the whole me. They are shelves of an armoire; the armoire exists in a space. When we see the sum of shelves as the space itself, we squeeze ourselves into living within the armoire. Shelves are adjustable. Shelves are removable. Shelves are in service to the space.
Focus, attention, productivity, effectiveness and efficiency within compartments will always be hot topics in our individual journeys. But every so often, pull back and breathe broadly. Do your shelves need cleaning? Or does your space?