Friday, May 9, 2008


I choose the title of this post from a chapter in Cameron's The Right to Write. Her chapter is about choosing wisely when you share your work: don't share with everyone, she would say.

I was thinking about something different--I almost chose as title "Compartmentalizing"--but "Containment" works well, too. I was thinking about the emotional malaise that can overcome us when we're not containing our horizons well.

It's easy to look into the future and see the work that lies there and say to yourself "Alas! It seems as if I will never finish!", or, as a client wrote to me today "it seems like there's a tremendous amount of work to do." Sadly, there often is a tremendous amount of work to do. But then, we do a tremendous amount of work in our lives. It adds up as we work, day after day.

If we look at a project and try to see the whole mass of work there is to be done--then it seems quite intimidating. But if we just focus on the next step we have to take, that single step is not so daunting. As the saying goes: "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." If we keep the horizons of our attention contained--if we limit them to our next action, that single action isn't daunting. Taking a step is not daunting. Taking that first step only becomes daunting when you have begun to focus on all the steps that follow.

The White Stripes have a song that opens with a quote from a self-help audio recording--the song, "little acorns"--opens with a passage about a woman who watched a squirrel carry one acorn after another to his nest. The lesson of the passage, as described by the audio tape, is that we can break down our large problems and handle them one acorn at a time.

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