Last year the New England Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night in Foxboro. My fellow season ticket holder could not attend the game for less than acceptable reasons, and I could not find a soul who was willing to attend the game with me.
The freezing temperatures and the probability of arriving back home in Connecticut well after 2:00 in the morning (if we were lucky) deterred anyone from wanting to take the extra ticket and join me.
I hemmed and hawed all day about going to the game alone, knowing that if I went, I would be driving home from the game in the dead of night by myself. I’d also be watching the game from the icy confines of Gillette Stadium without the benefit of a friend’s companionship or a pre-game tailgate party.
In the end, I chose to remain home.
Last week I planned on attending a Moth StorySLAM in Manhattan. I had a story prepared and was ready to make the trip on my own (again, no one was willing to join me), but at the last minute, I chose to stay home. I had spent 5 of the last 6 days on the road, camping with my fifth graders, attending the Patriots home opener and traveling to Troy, NY for a book signing. With so much time spent on the road, I decided that I would be better off staying at home rather than enduring another long, late night drive on my own.
In the past two years, these two decisions represent two of my greatest regrets. I’m completely annoyed with myself for each decision, and I cannot foresee a time when I will not feel this way.
When it comes to making decisions like these, I use a “three day, three month, three year” test.
As difficult as it might be to travel to and from Gillette Stadium or New York City on my own, late at night, will I regret my decision three days later? Though I may be tired or even exhausted the next day, how will I feel about my decision three days from now, when I am well rested? Will I regret not having chosen the more difficult road?
What about three months later? When I look back on the missed opportunity, will that restful evening at home come close to matching what could have been? Will I even remember what I did on the night that I could have spent watching Monday Night Football or telling a story on a Moth stage?
What about three years later? What will mean more to me?
A forgotten evening at home amidst a thousand other evenings at home or the memories from a rare Monday Night football game?
Or the missed opportunity of taking the stage at a Moth StorySLAM and entertaining an audience of strangers with a story from my life? Perhaps even winning the StorySLAM and earning the right to perform in another GrandSLAM?
I am not implying that an evening spent at home with my wife and children is a forgettable, wasteful experience. Those evenings are some of the most cherished moments of my life. But I also believe that we must take advantage of the considerably less frequent opportunities like a Monday Night Football game or a Moth StorySLAM when they present themselves. The time we spend with our families and friends creates the fabric of our lives, but those moments we spend doing things that so many do not punctuate our lives and create the bright, specific memories that last a lifetime. We cannot allow a few hours of lost sleep or chilly temperatures or the promise of a bleary-eyed day at work prevent us from doing those things that so many people skip in favor of an evening in front of the television or surfing the Internet.
When making a decision about whether or not to do something that is hard, we cannot allow the subsequent 24 hours to dictate our decision. We must look ahead, three days, three months and three years, to see how we might then feel about our decision.
Perspective is a powerful tool in decision-making. While we can never know for certain how we will feel, we can predict how hindsight might make us feel. This is what I do when deciding between something that is easy and something that is difficult.
Tomorrow doesn’t matter. I can always survive tomorrow.
Will I regret this decision in three days, three months or three years time?
In terms of last years Monday Night Football game and last week’s StorySLAM, the answer is decidedly affirmative.