We spend a lot of energy worrying about and stressing over things that, in the long run, aren’t really that important.
And by “long run” I really do mean long runs: decades and even lifetimes.
It brings to mind the book title: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and It’s All Small Stuff.” (Though I don’t quite agree that absolutely everything is “small stuff”.)
It’s both funny and frustrating to see people get all wrapped up in things that are ultimately meaningless. Things that in a day, a week a year, will turn out to be completely inconsequential, and are likely to be completely forgotten. That decision that they were agonizing over could have been made either way — or even ignored completely — and it’ll have made exactly no difference.
It’s also embarrassing to realize that we are one of those people.
And we all are.
I’m not saying that it’s always obvious just what will or will not have lasting impact. Sometimes there’s simply no way to tell. On the other hand, there are certainly those things that, if you take the time to really think about it, are clearly inconsequential in the long run.
And yet we obsess.
Understanding the lifetime value of an action takes perspective, and often that perspective only comes with time. And what’s often lost with the passage of time are the immediate concerns of those passed moments.
The old adage that “no one ever dies wishing they’d spent more time at the office” might be true, but it’s not obvious to the hassled 20 year old who’s trying to pay the rent and feed their family. To them more time at the office is exactly what’s required in the moment.
Twenty years later it’s very possible to resent all the time spent at the office, forgetting it was an important part of the path leading you to where you are — being it by simply feeding the family, growing a skill set, or making some kind of difference in the world.
For example I don’t regret my long hours at Microsoft, for all three of those reasons: it paid the bills, it contributed to who and what I am, and indeed, I do believe I played a small part in changing the world for the better.
My point, I think, is that it’s easy in the heat of the moment, the passion of the day, the fear of the current crisis, to neglect to consider the longer perspective.
Take the time to consider: will this really matter in the long run? If not, then perhaps stress a little less.
I think you’ll find decisions are easier when you take the perspective of time into account. Inconsequential decisions can be made quickly and without a lot of angst, leaving time and mental energy for those things you know will have a greater impact.