I have an admission to make. I have been a future junkie for the past seven years. And I now realize that all that future focus sapped joy, peace, and a lot of potential from my life. You see, while in college I realized that my life was to help people design lives with intention. And from that day forward I also designed my own life with intention. I thought a lot about what I really wanted my life to be like and then focused my intentions and actions on making my vision a reality.
In many ways this act of creating a vision, setting goals, and going after our dreams can do amazing things. It can help us grow our endurance in order to complete a marathon. It can help us persevere in a tough job market to land our dream internship. Or it can help us tap into what we really want and deserve in a future relationship.
However, in my case, an unwavering focus on my ideal life and what I needed to do to get there left me exhausted and sometimes scared. It was tiring to constantly be thinking about what I needed to “do next” to reach a new level in my business. If I had a good sales day, I felt good about my career vision and achieving it. If I had a slow day in the studio, I started to worry that I wouldn’t reach my revenue goals for the year. Up and down. Up and down. My moods vacillated with the circumstances of the day. It was emotionally draining and left me constantly focusing on what I didn’t have yet.
Recently, I’ve started to shift this internal focus. I’m tired of my old “success” paradigm, and I’m swapping it out for something new. Instead of future tripping everyday on what I need to do to get where I want to be, I’m focusing on what I have to give each day. By turning my attention away from where I’m lacking onto what I have to share, I’m finally experiencing all that happiness and satisfaction I “thought” I’d feel once I achieved my goals.
I now realize there will always be new goals to make and mountains to climb. And striving to grow and expand as a person is important. But true joy is only experienced when we are focused on the present moment. So that is where our minds need to dwell in order to feel the satisfaction we seek. So far, I have discovered three ways to help maintain this present, service-minded mentality.
Focus on Contribution
Rather than meditating on the distance between our present reality and the vision we have for our future, we can spend our days devoted to serving others in whatever ways we can. We can think of kind things to do for people we will interact with each day. Or, we can track all the times that we help our co-workers or better assist our customers.
Keeping our focus on the knowledge, resources, and love we have to give right now reminds us that we are capable people right this very moment. We don’t need our goals to be achieved in order to validate our significance and impact in the present moment.
Do What You Love
One big hindrance to living a present-minded life is the idea that we have to reach some goal before we are allowed to do what we love. Instead of saying, “I’ll figure out what I really want to do after graduation,” we can dive into our personal interests daily.
When we are enjoying our time and pursuing our passions, we are taking the focus off the future and opening ourselves up to new experiences. And those experiences may provide new opportunities or even help us achieve our long-term goals in the process.
Count Your Blessings
Future tripping robs our appreciation for what we currently have. Taking time to really acknowledge and value all the good things in our lives helps us recognize how much we have to be grateful for.
Showing our appreciation for our current situation allows us to feel lighter, freer, and less likely to attach our happiness onto future events. When we feel grateful for all that we have, we can also seek out new ways to share that abundance with others and perhaps make a positive impact even greater than imagined during our goal-setting to begin with.
By shifting our focus away from what we don’t have yet onto service and the present moment, we can change “I’ll be happy when…” to “I am happy now.”
See other Living Well columns by Jess Lively here.