On January 1st a fan of Kanye West tweeted:
I don't know who Paul McCartney is, but Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this new song!!— OVOJosh (@OVOJosh) January 2, 2015
Many music fans, myself included, have taken a lot of pleasure in the utter lack of historical knowledge this person had. It is comical to think that Paul McCartney, one of the members of The Beatles, wouldn’t be immediately recognized by anyone.
This might seem like a trivial example, but to me it illustrates a mindset that impedes many of us from being more happy, successful and balanced.
In order to maximize our potential and realize our goals, we must choose to have perspective. Perspective involves a lot of dimensions, but mostly importantly, I see it as the ability to place ourselves and our desires in a continuum. This continuum involves not only our relationship to others, but also our current position in the arc of life's journey.
One of the greatest critiques of Millennials and the college student populations I work with primarily is their lack of perspective. This is why this choice is particularly important for you to take on in order to reach your goals.
The biggest step to achieving perspective in your life is allowing yourself the freedom to place your experiences in context. We often fall into the trap of seeing our experiences as falling into the “best” or “worst” spaces. We are quick to see a catastrophe as the “worst in history” or admire an athlete as the “greatest of all time.” This absolutism is problematic because it prevents us from having a necessary component to success: balance.
Balance is achieved when we develop the type of perspective that allows us to see all of our highs and lows through a neutral lens. When we experience lows, for example, balance can help us realize that they are temporary and find ways to extract learning moments from them will present the opportunity to bounce back more quickly. Similarly, seeing our successes as moments, and not set in stone, challenges us to continue to work hard to achieve.
When I work with people who struggle with this concept, or who experience great stresses associated with their responsibilities, I ask them to reflect on two key questions:
1. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself two years ago, what would it be?
2. Thinking about what stresses you at this precise moment, will it matter two years from now?
Think about how you would answer them at this moment. The first question challenges you to be reflective. You have learned so much about yourself in the last two years, regardless of your age. If you could give some advice to yourself two years ago, what would it be? Would you tell them to take a different path, choose better relationships, make healthier decisions, etc.? Never discount the valuable lessons that you are accumulating in your life. Developing a “message in a bottle” for your previous self will also help you clarify your goals and desires for the future.
The second question helps you to be forward-thinking. All too often we get bogged down in the everyday stresses of our life. There is always drama that will compete for our attention and suck away our energy. In those moments, it is important to question whether it truly matters. If you determine that what is stressing you at this moment will not matter in two years, let it go! But, if you believe that it will (and there are many things that you might stress about that will matter in two years) then you must fight like hell to fix it. Not only will this determination help with your ability to have perspective, but it will also allow you to practice resiliency
Like a lot of people, I use a mobile app called “Time Hop.” Every day it gives examples of my social media posts from years past - I’m consistently amused about what “mattered” in my world 5 years ago. If you haven’t installed this app, I recommend it. In addition to making your “Throwback Thursday” posts simple, it’ll also allow you to reflect on your past highs and lows and determine if they really mattered.
If you are enjoying the One Better Choice series, I hope we might have the opportunity to engage in a discussion. Please use the #OneBetterChoice hashtag and share your “message in a bottle” answer to question one. I look forward to hearing what wisdom you would share with your former self.
Choosing to have perspective and practicing balance in your everyday life will allow you to be successful. Taking a few moments to reflect and assess how well you are doing on this concept will be a valuable use of your time this week.
One Better Choice series is posted on Tuesdays