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By Megh Amin

When you imagine the function of departments within organizations (Finance, Marketing, Sales, Operations, I.T, Human Resources) or Universities (Arts, Social Sciences, Literature, Medicine, Technology, Science) you imagine separate aspects serving the same whole. The same applies to the human brain – if you can dissect your mind into parts, it will function better. It’s called department theory.

It’s a piecemeal existence, so to say – like Voldemort’s horcruxes, except that all the parts of your soul reside within you, physically. It’s just a mind game, but a damned useful one.

The life of most humans post-adolescence can be thought of as a sum of departments. A broad division would be – health, basic needs, career, family, friends, romantic love, and intellectual entertainment. For each person, this list is unique, though the same few things tend to be relevant for most of us.

Mentally imagine these departments as ‘buckets’ which can be filled with water. These buckets once defined can be a brilliant coping mechanism, a monthly, weekly or even daily life analysis tool. Here’s how:

Spent an intimate weekend wrapped up in your lover’s arms? Mentally add 10% water to the ‘love’ bucket. Got committed, engaged or married? Add 50% or more. Had a devastating breakup? Subtract 70%. Got no one to talk to after it, nursing a broken heart even after a year? Your bucket is empty, or perhaps even cracked and leaky.

Went for a trip to Goa with your buddies? The ‘friendship’ bucket gets upped by 10%. Made a new friend? Add 20% more. Had a bad, irreconcilable fight with your bestie? Toss 30% aside.

Got a promotion? Time to fill the ‘career’ bucket by 20% more water. Got an appreciation mail for quality work from skip level? Up by 10%. Finally updated your LinkedIn profile and spruced it up? Up by 5%. Not happy with your work even if the pay is good? Down by 30%. Stuck in a monotonous, uninspiring job? There goes 40% water. Got the dreaded pink slip? Water down by 50%.

Feeling too stressed out due to the ever-demanding VUCA world? ‘Health’ bucket down by 20%. Left out cold by a week of flu? There goes 10%. Feeling relieved after a successful surgery you’d been delaying for years? Upped by 40%.

These are just examples to get you started, but you get the gist. Percentages are variable depending on the individual’s situation. It’s entirely based on what you
personally feel. You are your best judge.

Some buckets relate. The flu example above might mean a week off from work too. In that case, water goes from both buckets as per the situation’s effect on the respective bucket. In case of incidences with shades of gray, not all buckets are affected equally. Try to keep the division as simple as possible.

The ideal bucket situation is when all the buckets are perfectly poised, evenly at almost the same level. Say every bucket is hovering around 70 to 80% water level.

All buckets at 90%+ either means that you are super happy and inspired in every department of your life, or if you’re not, then that you need to be prudent in assigning percentages.

Keep some time off monthly, weekly or even daily to reflect upon and review your buckets. Remember the state of your buckets when you make important decisions in life. Know how much water a bucket can lose before going dry. Also know that not paying attention to any bucket for a long time, even if it is full, will cause the water in it to evaporate, little by little.

Concentrate your energy in filling each of these buckets over time. Let EACH of them stand tall. The point being, if one of them starts complaining continuously, even if it be a major setback, it shouldn’t destruct you – it shouldn’t make you emotionally bankrupt, unable to face life.

However, know that, buckets which are bereft of water from a long time, are in fact the ones you must be paying immediate attention to. In fact the department theory shows its true value in less than ideal situations, where it is quite useful.

Never make one department so important as to overshadow all the others. As an example, people in love do that, although unknowingly. Too much attention to one bucket, the others suffer, and ultimately the attention getting bucket suffers too, due to over-attention and over-thinking. (Just like watering only one plant in the garden for a long time makes other plants wilt, while the watered plant dies as well of too much water.) There are many important things in life apart from love, and your life should be a sum of those. Love shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you.

Having the departments filled, replenished periodically, makes for a perfect personal support system. And it also makes for a source of constant, internal inspiration. So that you don’t have to look for external sources – books, movies, quotes, characters and stories of unknown people to inspire you. So that even if one department fails unexpectedly, or gives you bad news over which you have no control, the other functioning departments can add up and keep you happy and sated. Your self esteem and inspiration, which took a blow in that one department, doesn’t go so down because it’s still intact in the others. This on a great level, makes you a stronger person.

Think about the most unlucky person you know. (It may well be yourself.) You would see that even such people have at most two departments failing together at a time, in their lives. It seldom occurs that all the departments fail together, except at the time of death.

Also, please note that you don’t have to get super serious about upping your buckets and maintaining water levels at a balance. It’s just a self-awareness or self-reflection tool, not a self help tool. Humans aren’t robots, so don’t get so absorbed in improving your department situation that you forget to live life naturally.

Striking the right balance and moderation are thus keys to living your life to it’s potential, one department at a time.

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