By Guest Writer, Dr. Emily Shupert
What are your 2-3 biggest concerns right now?
What keeps you up at night? What issues and fears related to them keep you up at night or create a constant low hum in the back of your mind? Is it about your work? Your finances? Your relationships? Whatever they are, write them out. I’m sure you’d love to have the answers to solve these concerns, right? While I can’t give you an answer, I’m going to ask you a question that will help you gain greater perspective and greater efficiency as you tackle these areas of concern.
What would your 80-year-old version say to you – right now, as you look at these concerns?
Yes, you read correctly. I know, it’s an odd question to ask but let’s just go with it for a minute because at the end of this exercise you’ll gain two characteristics: perspective and greater efficiency.
If you knew that these issues, these super stressful and sometimes all-consuming concerns, would be taken care of and everything would be ok in the end, how would you see the issue in the current situation?
I’m not asking you to let go and stop working.
Quite the opposite.
But I do want you to gain perspective because when we are completely surrounded by the problem, we forget to look up and see that this problem will ultimately resolve itself.
When it’s all we can see, we make decisions based on our current fears and miss the overall picture completely. Stress makes us stupid. No, you aren’t stupid, but your fears often cloud your judgement and cause you to either act out of your fears or not act at all in order to avoid them all together. So even though you don’t know the answers to the problem, just keep reminding yourself that it will work out will give you more objectivity as you wrestle the issues and create top-notch solutions.
Perspective helps you relax, not be consumed by your fears or become stalled. You will be able to objectively approach the issue.
How are these concerns capitalizing on your focus and precious time?
I have a super successful business friend who does only “standing meetings” with his team. It’s called standing because it’s only 20 minutes and not enough time for people to sit down, get comfortable, and spend too much time talking about what they actually need to go out and implement. They enter in the meeting with a problem and exit with a solution. People are prepared beforehand and make the most effective use of their time and others in the meeting. I’m sure it’s a bit of a sprint, but they don’t allow one issue or problem to stump them for an hour, a week or days.
This brilliant idea works because when we get stumped on the current issue, we not only miss out on other items on our list, but we can also have analysis paralysis; we spend time looking for the perfect solution that just might not exist.
Take advantage of the maxim students depend on when taking their exams: if you get tripped up on a question, make an educated guess, and then move on. If you can go back, do it, but don’t spend all your time on a tricky question when you have 49 more to go. What you are facing right now might be critical; if it weren’t a problem, it wouldn’t have come to mind. But if you focus only on this issue, you’re missing out on the rest of your life. Commit a reasonable amount of time and energy to solve this issue but be sure it doesn’t prohibit you from making progress elsewhere.
I bet you’d be pretty relieved when you imagine the 80-year-old version of you, what you’ve done, and whom you’ve become. But what made you a happy, satisfied, and healthy 80-year-old probably wasn’t finding the answer to this one issue, but because you worked hard, managed your time and resources well, poured into others, and did not allow problems to shape your entire life.
Whenever you face an issue that feels daunting and unclear, ask yourself what the 80-year-old version would say about the situation, which will allow you to live with greater perspective, efficiency and without regrets.
So now it’s your turn.
Write out a response from that wise, happy, and successful 80-year-old version of you.
See, you’re closer to the answers than you imagined!
by Emily Shupert, Ph.D., LPC, DCC
Author of The Happiness Map