As a parent, did you ever have “the-child-you-would-die-for” become “the-kid-you-can’t-live-with?” Even if your experiences were not that extreme, it’s not at all difficult to see how things between parent and child can take an uncomfortable turn.
Or it could just as easily be a problem in the workplace. What if the boss you couldn’t wait to work for becomes the person so negative and unreasonable that you want to go somewhere… ANYWHERE?
That uncomfortable turn doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, that is precisely the issue, really. The problems we don’t see coming are the toughest ones to fix. Too often, our response is to wait and see if things will improve, or simply do nothing at all (except complain), as we wait not-so-patiently for everyone else to change.
The 72-hour Challenge
Here’s an idea that just might help. Imagine that, starting right now, you had only three days left here on Planet Earth. That’s a 72-hour deadline to settle all your business. What’s more, you couldn’t tell anyone you had only three days left.
Would this shift your priorities? Would the actions and habits of loved ones that used to irritate you suddenly not matter anymore? Would the demands of the boss seem more reasonable? Would such a challenge move you to take action to do some things that got lost on the back burner labeled “Later”? Obviously, I don’t know what would be on your three-day “To-Do” list; it would be different for every person. But I’m pretty sure what would be at the top of most every list: the repair, revering and deepening of one’s closest relationships.
Although this might seem like a far-fetched “What if…?” on your behavior, it’s a reality for some folks. Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, lived it until he died in the summer of 2008 from pancreatic cancer. His best-selling book, The Last Lecture, and the actual lecture itself, continue to challenge us to dream big and live abundantly, starting with those we love the most. Randy’s biggest regret was that his three children were much too young to understand the things he so much wanted to tell them before he died.
If you accept the “72-hour Challenge” and take action to change some things, knowing you can’t explain the circumstances to anyone, you will discover how the results of those changes will be positive in essentially every instance. And all it takes is a reason and the resolve to something now, rather than the “later” that might never happen at all
A semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child, as well as other books and articles. He also founded The Changing Behavior Network, an early internet podcast and blog supporting young people and their families. You can visit his blog at Itsaboutthem.wordpress.com.