If you envisioned your life as a single path under your feet, you’d know for certain where it once began and where it will end. Hopefully at not too young of an age, you were introduced to the construct that humans are born and eventually die. Our bodies do not last forever and as we age, we begin to feel that reality more and more. When our bodies begin to hurt, when our minds begin to falter, the truth that we are not immortal begins to sink in, one tick on the clock at a time. Knowing this, feeling this, does not tend to make us want to run full speed towards the end. It doesn’t make us want vision into how precisely that end looks like either.
So, on a micro level, why do we constantly stress over knowing where the road leads? In relationships, career, education, etc. there’s this are we there yet mentality about knowing where we’re going and if we’ve arrived there yet. Almost every week, you’ll encounter memes on Monday about is it Friday yet? and reminders on Wednesday that you’re halfway to the weekend, and I’m wondering why we’re in such a rush to get to the end.
Your Future Self Can Wait
When we focus on the end goal, we miss out on really internalizing what’s happening right now. If your goal is to get a higher education degree, but the entire time you’re overly stressed about not having that degree yet, you may find that once you obtain your degree you have retained very little of the knowledge that you were intended to learn. If you spend the first year of a relationship with a partner stressing over when you’ll be married, when you can begin having children, when you can buy a house, etc., you might get all of those things in order and find that the person you’ve married isn’t who you thought they were at all. Focusing so singularly on milestones can blind you from all the red flags that might have made you pause or change directions. The main point here is that although you may have this idea of who you want to be and what you want to have in life, your future self can evolve naturally while you focus on who you are today. If you choose to bring all of your attention to your thoughts, choices, and actions of today, you will build an authentic person that is worthy of whatever milestones you reach and all goals that you set to achieve. Get there fully and honestly. It’s not a race.
What You Miss When You’re Not Here
Getting so caught up in who and where you’re supposed to be can have some huge implications. When you think back to your childhood, do the negative memories outweigh the positive? How often do you look back and wish you would have enjoyed your youth more? Even worse a scenario, if you have children of your own, do you find that you have entire blocks of time that you cannot recall from when they were little? Or worse yet, how much of your children’s needs are going unmet because you’re too stuck in the future to notice? If you’re blind to the now, you’ll be blindsided soon enough by the backlash.
Integrate a Mindful Practice
If this topic is sucker punching you in the gut, perhaps it’s time to consider integrating some tools into your every day that bring your attention to the present. Your smartphone is equipped with some great features to remind you to pause and relax, or even take a break from the device itself. I personally love the Oak application for iOS that sends a once per day reminder to meditate or breathe deeply, and has some free built-in breathing exercises and guided meditations. Blogging, journaling, resting, meditating, walking, dancing, exercising, open discussions - there are so many ways to tap into how you’re feeling in the moment. Check in with yourself and build consistency with your character. Set goals and make lists if they help you feel organized, then make choices today that align with and fulfill those needs. As they say, tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sit with this idea for a moment, decide what needs to change, and move forward authentically. There’s no better time to change than right now.