Recently, my schedule and projects have been heating up, and with the added awesomeness of more opportunities comes the added pressure and elements to coordinate. It can be easy to feel frustrated and anxious when things don't go according to plan. I've found myself having to take a deep breath and ask myself: "Will this matter in 5 years?" That question instantly reframes the current situation I'm facing.
I don't use that question to let poor quality slide ("I guess it doesn't matter") or to feel depressed ("I guess nothing matters because we'll all be dead eventually"). Instead, I use it to put the current challenge in perspective: This is a situation where we can find a solution if we get creative. I stay focused on the outcome I want ("put on a great event" or "support this person," for example). That perspective helps me release the frustration and focus on creating a great outcome.
The reason I focus on a 5-year horizon is that relatively few everyday "crises" matter in the long term. If we forgot something at the store or if our technology temporarily doesn't work correctly, it won't matter in the long run... at least not compared to the relationships we might damage in our frustration and impatience. The quicker we accept the reality of a situation, learn from it, and move toward working on a solution, the less stress we experience.
Learning from a situation is important because otherwise we might find ourselves running endless loops that we become good at justifying with, "It won't matter in 5 years." Then, 5 years later, we find ourselves still dealing with the same "minor" pattern that has a negative cumulative impact on our life (like eating habits, emotional abuse, or spiraling debt).
When I live near graveyards, I like starting my day by going on a "mortality marathon" walk to put the day in perspective. It's hard to get too stressed out when I remind myself that I'm here to bring as much hope, joy, and music into people's lives as possible, and eventually I will join my brethren under the serene stones. It is possible to maintain a commitment to quality while also recognizing the relative scale and importance of daily frustrations.
Do you have any helpful habits or techniques for putting frustrations in perspective? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.