What’s in the Basket

“Remind yourself that when you die, your ‘in basket’ won’t be empty.”

This is an idea from Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff that I consistently come back to. In part because I think it’s a valuable idea to keep in mind… and also Mom always reminds me when I tell her I can’t come home because I have stuff to do for school.

I’ve written about this quote before, but my understanding of it and my perspective on it has changed over the years since first being introduced. It’s true the list of things to be done is never-ending, and in recognition of that I need to make time for the things that make life worth living. Sometimes though, some of the things that make life worth living are also in that basket. They may be tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating at times, but ultimately, they also give me purpose and a sense of fulfillment.

Carlson writes from a perspective that the in-basket things are those that we have to do. He is cautioning against the mindset that peace is found at the bottom of that basket, which is a valid warning. But what if the items in the basket are things I want to do or get to do? Surely Dr. Carlson would have no qualms with my savoring those right?

As an example, these days I have in my basket to go through 100 practice questions for my upcoming board exam every day. This experience has been… humbling to say the least, but as frustrated as I may get or as pitiful as I may feel at times, the experience also motivates me to move forward and gives me a vision for where I want to be. Sometimes I read the question and know exactly what’s going on. Other (most) times I go full deer-in-the-headlights, and only after (getting it wrong and then) reading the explanation am I able to piece it together and understand where my deficits are. I think, Damn, one day I may be able to just know this stuff, wouldn’t that be cool.

That vision is what I’m working towards, and the basket feels a little lighter when my eyes are fixed.

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