Do you remember the biggest problem you faced on this exact date last year?
Were you battling a project at work that you couldn’t surmount? Were you trying to lose 20 pounds? Was a relationship upset bringing you down? Were you struggling with productivity and trying to figure out how in the world you would accomplish all the things you dreamed about?
What about five years ago? Ten years ago?
In 2011 were you struggling with addiction, debt, interpersonal blowups, compulsion issues, job dissatisfaction, creative ennui? In 2006 were you procrastinating, wallowing in depression, trying to outman the other guy?
Let’s go back further.
In 1996 were you fighting for attention? Were you trying to get higher pay? Were you unlucky in love?
In 1986, were you wrestling with your big sister for the corner cake piece with the rose frosting? Were you even alive?
How about today? How do your problems compare?
I call this the “Ten Year Game” and have played it with friends and family and myself when it seems like today’s problem is the worst problem ever, and it always does.
The trick is that you have to try to remember your exact problem on the exact date one, five and then ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago.
This game is fascinating, especially with those who are fifty years or older and have lived through a lot of problems.
The Ten Year Game reveals the following positive truths:
1. Unless you are a proficient diary-keeper, most day to day problems are forgotten in a week or less. Small injustices, while they may occasionally knock on our mind’s door, tend to grow hazy and distorted with time, eventually losing their power altogether.
2. Go back far enough and your problems are generally completely irrelevant to today. Some of us will find ourselves in high school trying to scrape gas money together so we could cruise State Street with our friends while now we are trying to figure out how to send the kids to college.
3. Risks you took years ago, even ones that led to spectacular failure, have very little to do with right now. While it may have shaped your life in a different direction, it did not ruin your life.
4. It is impossible to ruin your life. If anything, you just melted it down to its pure elemental form and reshaped it, but matter once created cannot be destroyed. Crap happened and you are still breathing. That’s great!
5. People come and go. For as much time as we waste fearing our friends and family will leave us, the game reveals that they likely will leave us, or grow distant, to be replaced with different people who may change our lives in ever more profound ways. Likewise, your tormentors, those people who make it their mission to make your life miserable, will fade too as their attention and access to you wanes.
6. Money grows back. Objects are replaced. It’s possible the things you owned even ten or twenty years ago were sold, donated or discarded. Essentially, things didn’t bring you the joy you wanted them to bring you.
7. Other people don’t remember your failures, don’t think much about them, don’t care about them.
8. Your problems ten years ago are not your problems today.
The positive conclusion of the Ten Year Game is this:
All things go. This too shall pass.
Risk isn’t as risky as you think.
Destruction isn’t as destructive as you think.
The human spirit has the uncanny ability to rise.
On Friday I will write about the flipside to the Ten Year Game. What do we do when our problems now are basically the same problems we faced ten years ago?
Leave a Comment