Difficult today, easier tomorrow

I listened to a podcast this week where the guest admitted to “always running late.” I had two friends in college who were—and still are—the same way. Setting aside the question of whether this is really a moniker people should so casually embrace, I often think in response to those statements, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave ten minutes earlier?”

How much stress do they repeatedly put on themselves in those crucial final minutes between late and on time? How many apologies have they had to proffer, how many decisions have they missed, how much reputational ground have they had to regain, all of which could have been prevented by just leaving ten minutes earlier?

Sure, there’s a message here about not waiting until the last minute. But more broadly, it might be worth looking at the urgencies and stress that are driving your behavior and asking, “What would make this easier?”

The thing that makes it easier might not actually be easy. It’s hard for parents to tell their kids that they won’t be able to pay for the dream college unless there’s a generous financial aid package attached to the admission. But it’s a lot easier than the conversation that family will need to have if they delay it until the offer of admission is in hand.

It’s not easy to ask your teacher for help when your understanding of biology is starting to fall by the wayside. But it’s a lot easier than telling your parents that you’re failing biology. And both of those are easier than dealing with the consequences of actually failing biology.

Fifteen years ago, we started requiring all our Collegewise students to attend one of my “College Essay” seminars before they ever came to an appointment to discuss potential topics. It wasn’t easy for me to deliver 2-3 seminars a week all summer. But it turned out to be a lot easier than having difficult, individual discussions with dozens and dozens of students about why the topic they showed up preemptively excited about was actually a college essay cliché.

Look at the urgencies, stressors, and other anxiety-producing parts of your day or week and ask, “Is there something I could do that would mitigate or even eliminate this problem?” And don’t immediately shy away from an answer that you deem “too hard.” Instead, consider whether what’s too difficult today would actually lead to a much easier tomorrow. And if the balance works out in tomorrow’s favor, start doing the difficult today.