For most of the world, December marks “holiday season.”  For me (and maybe for you), “holiday season” takes a back seat to “application season.”

January 1, 2018 is the Regular Decision due date for most elite colleges.  So for many high school seniors, in addition to the stress that comes with final tests & projects before winter break, comes the significant stress of looming regular decision deadlines for college applications.

I completely understand.

The truth is, for high school seniors, the month of December can be extremely stressful.  SAT & ACT tests may be completed by this time but (unless you’ve hired a private guidance counselor like me who keeps you on top of tasks), there is a good chance you still have final revisions to your Common App & college essays looming.  And that inevitable January 1st deadline looms in the not-so-far distance.

For the impressive high school seniors out there who had the foresight (and exceptional self-motivation for a 17 year old), congratulations–you get to enjoy the holiday season stress free.

For everyone else, I have an incredibly simple 10-second strategy I have used for the last half-decade to help minimize stress:

“To a large degree, the measure of our peace of mind is determined by how much we are able to live in the present moment.  Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year, and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where you are–always.” — Dr. Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

5:20pm – my moment every single day to stop whatever I am doing and take 5, maybe 10 seconds to appreciate where I am at this very moment.

And therein lies the beauty of 5:20–Whether in your best mood or your worst, whether circumstances are perfect or dismal, whether you are filled with positivity or just need the day to end, 5:20 allows you to enjoy the ride and appreciate the moment right here, right now.

While I have been practicing this 5:20 ritual for years, it was only a few weeks ago, when one of my students expressed high levels of stress during a check-in call, that I decided a 5:20 session was necessary.  At 12:22pm.  And he loved it.  

The actual time of the day is irrelevant, the results are certainly not.

So if you are a high school senior, stressed with looming college applications, you officially have my permission to take 5 seconds and appreciate the moment you are in right now, this very second.  You have my permission to appreciate your loving parents who house you and put food on the table, or the fact that you are healthy and strong, or the fact that the stressful college decisions that loom are incredible problems to have.  “Which elite, top-20 college should I attend next year?” is an incredible problem.  An exceptional problem.  

When you take a step back, and think of your situation like this, the stress surrounding your college applications may just float away altogether, putting you in a much more calm, collected, powerful mindset that will actually enable you to finish your tasks quicker & more efficiently.

So, I ask you, what’s your 5:20 going to be today?  Maybe it’s right now, maybe it’s Noon, maybe it’s 5:20 as well, maybe it’s not a specific time but instead a specific place–a specific classroom you pass on your walk everyday to lunch.  Whatever, or whenever it is, set an alarm on your phone or watch.  Then, when it goes off, take five seconds.  Just five seconds.  Stop.  Smile.  Appreciate where you are in that very moment.  Your teacher could be screaming at you at the top of his lungs…it shouldn’t matter.

There is a Buddhist saying I think summarizes this notion perfectly: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

We are such a forward-thinking culture, always five steps ahead, always striving for some ultimate destination.  However the older I get, the more I realize there is tremendous value in the journey.  For you, the college application journey.

When you go on a hike, is it really just about the scenic view at the top?

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Alfred D. Souza

Appreciate the obstacles, appreciate the journey, appreciate the moment.

Oh, and if none of this works, you can always hire Delehey College Consulting to help get you back on track 😉

What’s your 5:20?

-Jack

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