Now and Then

I recently read the following post on Twitter and have been engaging various people in my life to consider:

“Do you ever feel like you are constantly worrying about the next part of your life without realizing that you are right in the middle of what you used to look forward to?”

The question itself sparked insightful reflection across all age groups and so I got to thinking…

The older we become, the deeper we engage life’s abundant opportunity. I can’t help but wonder how many of us are too occupied in planning the next part of our life that we completely miss the joys of the phase we reside in. With the change of another calendar year, this became abundantly relevant, begging a question – are we focused too far ahead?

I think I speak for everyone when declaring that we all ignorantly disregarded every adult’s persistent plea to ‘stop growing up so fast’. When I was 10, I couldn’t wait to become a teenager, counting down the days until my 13th birthday and wishing high school could start the next day. And when I was 13, I probably kept thinking what it would be like to be 16 and able to drive, achieving “ultimate and complete freedom”. When I was 16, there is no doubt that I dreamt about turning 18, mentally preparing to move away, enjoy college, and officially absorb adulthood. At 18, I longed to be 21, able to legally drink and live life as I pleased, happily content yet entirely oblivious of what post-grad life entailed.

Now, at 22, I consistently anticipate my next career move, contemplate the future of my relationships, and envision the next cities I wish to reside in and conquer.

Looking forward to your next life event is common and innocent. In truth, it provides a sense of hope to get through turbulent or mundane days. However, I often wonder:

Are we unsatisfied with where we are in life or are we so obsessed with the idea of the future and achieving life’s next milestone, that we quite literally lose ourselves in planning for what’s ahead. I will be the first to admit I’m a natural-born planner, as I find spontaneity tough to achieve. To me, having a plan in place translates into stability, comfort, and security.

For assurance, I find myself creating lists for everything. From significant goals I wish to accomplish, to the states I hope to visit one day. I have a list of books I want to read, ideas for blogs I wish to write, and yes, an official life bucket-list. Given the time of year, you too, may have even created a New Year’s resolution list, internally making a promise that you will surely accomplish greater joy and concocting ways to break unbefitting habits.

Making lists is productive so long as you can cross items off them, right? Assuming those same items aren’t too wishful, daunting, unattainable, distant? Lists offer a beneficial and measurable platform to map out your future. Better still, never dismiss the feeling of finishing a decent list. Nearing the end of a significant goal-related list is comparable to marathon runners hitting the finish line: Exhaustion, yet measurable growth.

A practical list idea: When you wake up in the morning, envision yourself at the end of the day climbing back into bed once again and ask yourself what 3 things did I accomplish today? Was an item crossed off the to-do list? A goal achieved? A burden lightened? A friend encouraged? An idea inspired?

By focusing on completing three tasks each 24-hour period, regardless of significance, general satisfaction with daily life will flourish. Success will multiply. The need to focus on the future might lessen and we may even appreciate the potential of day-to-day existence.

To challenge this ideal, in your early twenties, future opportunities appear boundless. Stimulating and overwhelming all the same, it’s difficult to feel completely satisfied in daily life, since so much is ‘out there’ waiting to be captured and achieved. Some of us are eager to get married and plan a wedding, others feel energized to move to a new city and experience a new culture. As American millennials, we are always on the move, looking to fulfill the next and newest dream, whether it be a job promotion or fame from a relatable tweet that’s gone viral.

If you’re like me, I often find myself curious and questioning if I am in the right place. While I have a desire for supplementary adventure, I also undoubtedly enjoy the life I live. This leaves me wondering if the grass is truly greener on the other side or is the grass just greener where we water it. If we truly enjoyed our day-to-day lifestyle, would that desire for change still remain top of mind?

It’s important to remember that daily life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Based upon the list-making theory, I personally and absolutely promote strategically planning your future. My notion of concern comes from how much time we spend being ‘strategic’. When you worry too much about your job title, that same time you spent worrying could have been applied to improving your current job skills. When focusing too much on future relationships, you might miss out strengthening the existing friendships you have. This needs no explanation, but time is precious. Spending too much time planning your future, may just hinder your present and delay your chance to achieve a true state of content. Besides, fate has probably thrown a hiccup in your plan one or three thousand times anyway. Perhaps, plans don’t assure security at all.

I can’t help but wonder if we put too much emphasis on who we will become years down the road, reaching CEO or becoming a mom of 5, instead of focusing simply on establishing who we are today.

Do you ever feel like you are waiting to be older for bad habits to disappear or positive habits to take shape? For example, in high school, were you ever waiting to become your ‘college self’ because surely, he/she would know the right career path? Or when you were in college, and thought, when I graduate, obviously my ‘adult self’ will know exactly how to pull their life together?

Yes, we grow older and subsequently wiser, but not by happenstance. If we wait for better versions of ourselves to simply arrive, disappointment will certainly pay a visit. I always personally assumed when I was in my twenties, I would have my career precisely mapped out, my room would be clean, and my skin would be flawless. Turns out, no matter how much I wish for those things to magically appear, nothing will truly change or manifest without purposeful action.

No one will be able to predict my career path or pick up my clothes off the floor or even remind me to take off my makeup after bar close. These are all efforts that take thoughtful intent to result in habitual change. Our patterns of laziness and poor habits will not suddenly transform simply because we reach another age. It sounds simple, but I think growing up, we fantasize that our ‘adult self’ will simply have it all together.

To achieve satisfaction today, we must make plans, and simultaneously, live in the moment. When you buy an outfit, don’t wait, wear it the next day. Excite yourself for the future and humble yourself to appreciate a regular Tuesday evening. Stop waiting for a better version of yourself to arrive and focus on making it happen. Aim high yet find appreciation in how far you’ve already come. Once you recognize success, reward yourself. Find the balance and beauty of simplicity while hustling for extravagance.

In no time, your future will catch up with your plans.


One thought on “Now and Then

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  1. I swore up and down after finishing at Marquette I would have a better idea of what was going to happen with career. Turns out i didn’t and went to grad school and worked to really get a better sense of my life, what I wanted to do. I too am a serious planner but sometimes that can take away from the present as you mentioned. This is a good reminder to be happy w the mundane days and appreciate the journey, something I’ve tried to do. I like the method you mentioned of using 3 things to accomplish a day versus looking at long term. Really well thought out, conscious thoughts. I do wonder about the value of LinkedIn in regards to career and our satisfaction? Can suck to see someone get promoted while you are figuring things out early in career!


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