|Written on 8/27/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university.||Photo Credit: striatic|
A few years ago, I had a lot of trouble keeping things in perspective. A bad day at school, a nasty comment from a classmate, a disagreement with my parents, all had the power to kill my day, sometimes my month. To me, everything was a big deal and I couldn’t just get over the lumps and bumps of life like most people seemed to.
I also never managed to stick to the things I started. I kept “going on a diet” – for all of three days. I began short stories, I began a novel, I began to teach myself Latin, I started designing a website. None of the projects were completed. For goodness sake, I bought some classic novels but never opened them. Why not?
There was always something else competing for attention and none of them, none at all, were important as it pertains to achieving my goals. Simple things like TV or computer games won the daily battles and subsequently were awarded my time.
Then I discovered six little words have helped me through stressful times and kept me focussed on what’s important in my life. Those simple words”Will it matter in five years?”
When your day goes south, ask, “Will it matter in five years?” The answer, more times than not, is no – not even close.
- Maybe you got a bad grade on a pop quiz in school –Will it matter in five years? Nope – in fact, it’ll probably be forgotten within a week. If the trend continues throughout your schooling years, the answer is different, but one test or quiz should not be allowed to sour a semester.
- The washing machine’s broken down, the beds aren’t made, and the kids are running around in their pajamas having eaten chocolate for breakfast. Will it matter in five years? Of course not! Again, if this is your daily ritual, the kids are going to have some problems, but a day off from “the schedule” will not set the course for failure.
- You’ve lost your wallet, with all your cards and $50 cash inside. Will it matter in five years? No – it’s a temporary nuisance, not a disaster. Make the calls, cancel the cards and get new ones.
What about real catastrophes, though, times when something significant has gone wrong?
- You didn’t get into the college of your choice and you’re disappointed. Will it matter in five years? Probably not unless need Harvard Med for some reason. It’s likely you’ll have a great time regardless, and once you’ve got a job, most employers won’t care where you studied.
- You’ve made some poor financial decisions and you’ve spent all your savings. Will it matter in five years? Maybe. But five years is long enough to recover from almost anything. Focus your effort on the bounce-back plan, not wallowing in agony over the loss (I bounced back from zero savings to $10,000 in eight months.).
- You get laid off – not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because of the economy. Will it matter in five years? Yes, but probably not in the way you expect: you might start a new career that you love, figure out a better work/life balance, take some time to go traveling, learn about your passion and purpose in life, etc. Use this as an opportunity.
The most powerful way to use those six little words, though, is when you’re deciding what you want to spend your time doing. Some activities might be fun or profitable right now – but they won’t matter in five years. Others might seem like a lot of work for little reward in the present – but you’ll reap huge dividends a few years down the line.
- When you’re thinking about what you eat and how much exercise you do, ask, Will it matter in five years? The truth is that it will – whether you make good or bad choices, your body will be affected by them every single day. Five years is long enough to get your body into pretty much any shape you want. It’s also long enough to ruin your health for good. And it’s the little choices you make every day that decide that.
- When you can’t be bothered to brush your teeth or get a check-up from your dentist, ask yourself, Will it matter in five years? It will – as many people who regret not taking better care of their teeth could tell you!
- When you’re dithering between watching television and hammering out another chapter of the novel you’re writing, ask yourself, Will it matter in five years? It’s unlikely you’ll care by then about Big Brother 2008, but if you work on that novel instead, you might just be a published author.
- When working your way out of debt seems futile, because you’ve got so much to pay back, you might be tempted to just enjoy the money you do have. Ask yourself, Will it matter in five years? That new DVD or computer game won’t; getting into a debt-free position definitely will.
Are there worries in your life which just won’t matter in five years’ time? Are there activities which you never quite get round to doing which you’ve now realized will matter? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.