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5 Minutes, 5 Days, 5 Weeks, 5 Months, 5 Years

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see Bill Nye the Science Guy. He spoke of his career and how he ended up as CEO of the Planetary Society, founded by the renowned Carl Sagan. The Society is “the leading nonprofit space advocacy organization.” That is quite a position to hold. You can read about the Planetary Society here: I’ve been to West Texas observing the night sky devoid of artificial light and the fascination of what lies in the vastness of our solar system and the universe captured my imagination.


Bill Nye reminded the audience of something I’ve heard repeatedly when I’ve been on a beach: “There are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on a beach.” He said that wasn’t entirely true. He mentioned that there are more stars in the sky than all the grains of sand on the entire earth! And, the universe is expanding. Depending on your belief in science, this is a somewhat incomprehensible thought. Most scientists that have studied the universe proclaim it to be over 14 billion years old and the earth being a somewhat young 4.6 billion years old. If you search Brittania, you would find this, “the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.24 light-years away. A light-year is 9.44 trillion km, or 5.88 trillion miles. That is an incredibly large distance. Walking to Proxima Centauri would take 950 million years.” Truly amazing.


Perspective. Emotional Intelligence and particularly the skill of emotional regulation requires perspective. I look at the 5 questions: “What will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years”, when I am triggered and don’t regulate my emotions properly. A look at how this might have any significance in 5 minutes or 5 years is enough to help me with the perspective of holding back on my reactions the next time.


Bill Nye reminded me of something even more considerable regarding perspective-taking. We are such a small speck in this universe, and we are alive for such a relatively short period of time that the anger we feel to someone, or some situation requires some understanding of who we are and what we are here for. Though I’m grounded in my faith, I also appreciate that not everyone believes as I do. With that in mind, I do believe we are to leave this life better than how we found it and one of the ways is by providing experiences and education that will help the next generation live a better life.


Regulating emotions is such a difficult skillset. In the workshops I lead, perspective-taking after a triggered event is important to better handle a similar situation the next time. We have a tendency to blindly go through life without fully knowing why we react to things or people. Enjoying life is so much about understanding our reactions to people and things. Much of that is truly just an automatic reaction – “That’s just the way I am.” I’ve heard them come out of my mouth so many times. Growth comes when we remain curious and try to find the root cause of our emotions. That comes from reflection and perspective-taking. We can change how we react to things. It takes effort.


Daniel Goleman suggests using a “Trigger Log” to help evaluate what we get triggered by and how we know it’s happened. Understand what the environment is when it happened (people, place, events), tsking a note of the emotional responses you had (both positive and negative). What was the event? How did my body react? What thoughts or feelings did I have? What did I do? As with any journaling, it brings better clarity to unraveling emotional triggers.


In many situations, I read or hear people act as if they are the center of the universe. The response is terribly disingenuous and very far from the truth when one looks at the scope of our universe. In the midst of an emotional outbreak, it’s hard to see ourselves as anything but a center point. In those cases, we are the only ones that sees things that way. The absurdity of watching videos of people having an emotional breakdown at a seemingly trivial matter is hard to avoid.


Perspective-taking can help us avoid embarrassing or regretful situations. Maybe not this time, but as a steppingstone to respond more appropriately the next time. The next time you are emotionally triggered, try asking yourself the question of 5’s – what will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years.

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Great article Jim. Thanks for sharing.

Pacey Consulting & Coaching
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