When I was growing up, whenever my family went on vacation we would always drive. Some of those trips, especially the ones out west, resulted in quite a lot of time in the car, and so we as kids had to come up with ways to occupy ourselves during all those hours. One of the little games we would sometimes play was to choose something in the distance and then to each guess how far away it was. Was it 5 miles away or 15? Would we drive past it in 2 minutes or 10? Now depending on the terrain, making accurate guesses could get quite tricky. Sometimes things that looked pretty close were actually much further away than you realized.
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This effect that distance has on our perspective is something you’ve probably seen first hand. But have you noticed how the same thing can happen in relation to time? The further away something is temporally, the harder it can be to keep it in proper perspective.
For instance, sometimes the future consequences of our actions seem so far off that we don’t give them proper consideration. Maybe it’s the impact of what we eat, or how much (or little) we save, or how we choose to spend our free time. It’s easy to focus on what’s most pleasurable or profitable now, while neglecting the long-term implications.
Or, it can go the other way too. We put too much emphasis on what may happen in the future, and then get caught up in needless worry or fear. We give things that may not even happen an inordinate amount of attention in relation to what they deserve.
On those trips as kids, we quickly learned that our initial guesses were usually way off. And knowing that was helpful. We could take our initial thought and bump it up, knowing that we naturally tended to underestimate. Similarly, many of us have a tendency to deemphasize the future consequences of our actions today. But if we’re aware of this tendency, we can also compensate for it, being sure to give proper attention to the future. Because while the future may indeed be a long way off, that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.