Big choices like where we will go to college, who we will marry, and how we will respond to a crisis come up at various times throughout our lives. Small choices like our response to our friends, what we will cook for dinner, or when we will wake up in the morning are things that happen almost daily. We often agonize and pray over the “big choices” and choose the easy path on the “small choices”. Yet in the long-term, maybe it’s the “small choices” that make the bigger difference. Maybe at some level it isn’t where we go to college but how we steward that choice. Maybe it isn’t so much who we marry as how we relate to our spouse over the following years. Maybe how we initially respond to what we view as a crisis is not as defining as the character we grow or refuse to grow in the process of walking through that crisis.
Several months ago I heard a quote by Tim Herson, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in the short-term and underestimate what we can do in the long-term.” It echoed the one percent change idea I kept hearing about in terms of elite athlete development. At first glance neither seemed very applicable to my life as a wife, mom, friend, administrator, or writer. But the more I thought about it, the more the implications multiplied.
What if? I began to ask myself. What if I spent 1% of my day differently– if I spent that 14.4 minutes a day in prayer instead of worry. What if I devoted 10 minutes a day to exercise or reflection or something else that I “really should do”. What are the long-term implications of a few days of procrastination on every project or putting off healthy habits until I can better afford them? What if?
I began to consider how to make 1% improvements in my life. I took a look at my daily schedule and thought about the long-term implications instead of the daily tasks. I began to think about investing most deeply in the things that have the best chance of long-term returns. The thought began to color my choices and creep into my conversations.
In the last couple of months I’ve made some of those changes. Instead of putting off various household chores, I just do them because the long-term effect of procrastinating is semi-constant chaos. Instead of viewing interactions with people as an interruption to the tasks I had on my list, I try to think of them as ripples in the long-term pond of life. There are a lot of changes I still need to make, things I’d like to be different. But as I make small changes and see the difference they can make over time, I am encouraged. And each small change for the better makes the next one easier.
As I ponder long-term effects of choices, I realize that the best view is the longest. Eternity is a long time, and it matters more how my choices affect eternity than how they affect this hour, day, or week.