Daily Thoughts

Living in the moment when everything wants you to plan for the future

Buddhism and Stoicism are philosophies I both enjoy. If I was to boil it down to why? It would be two reasons – they promote clarity of situations and make me focus on living in the moment.

These are two things I have to work on daily, and in my case I have to work very hard as my mind can be like walking a dark eery street late at night on your own at times.

Understanding the clarity of situations and stuff that happens around/to me has been something I feel I’ve made good progress in. But living in the moment, now that’s a different story.

I always feel somewhat conflicted when I hear the philosophy and advice of live in the moment.

I’m conflicted because although I really want to try daily to do this, I often find myself planning or focusing on future events. Yet to me this is normal and for many of us a necessary part of our lifestyle.

Let’s take the world of work as an example. To me it’s always felt like a continuous motion of planning out your weeks, months or years in some cases. It’s hard not to right? As we have to deliver stuff, and delivering stuff without a plan is kinda risky.

I mean if you just live in the moment and never planned what you needed to deliver. It would be pretty damn difficult to get much down without a number of unnecessary curveballs.

However, living in the moment doesn’t mean we cannot look to the future, well, in my opinion anyway.

I believe that these ways of living can co-exist.

Now this doesn’t mean obsessing over future events. An approach I’ve found that works well is setting and forgetting until it’s time to focus on that specific task.

Let me unpack this with an example.

Let’s assume you’ve set a number of goals to work towards over the next year. In this task, you’ve asked yourself to look into the future and ask, what do I want to do/have by x date.

Most likely at the end of this exercise, you’ll have a list of everything you want to do. 

Now it’s very easy here, regardless of the list size, to be overwhelmed by the challenges you’ve set yourself. A visual of how much you want to achieve in the timescales you’ve set can strike fear into many.

This is where we can deploy the method of breaking it down. This is quite simply the act of breaking down your macro goal (I want to achieve these things in the next 12 months) into micro missions. The best way to describe micro missions are the tasks that you focus on in the moment.

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at a list of tasks that take place across a future landscape. This is why focusing on the micro and building micro missions can allow you to focus on the now. Of course, living in the moment is greatly facilitated by focusing on single tasks in the now, hence the promotion of this approach.

You can still work towards achieving future aspirations without constantly focusing on what could be. I’m not suggesting this makes sense or will work for everyone. What I do believe is that this is a potential way to live in the moment, yet still invest in the outcome of your future.

I find this helpful especially in the workplace, where I would assume most of us experience this challenge of planning for the future. Workplace wellbeing is something I’m always exploring and focusing on the moment has been of great help to me in managing my monkey mind.

There’s a difference between spotlighting the future and being completely obsessed by what could be. Focus on the moment with one task is a great tool to keep you in the here and now.

You could apply this methodology to many if not all scenarios where we are being forced to look ahead to the potential future. The funny thing is no-one can predict the future, but we all spend countless moments of our time focusing on it rather than living.

This topic always reminds me of this quote from the Johnny Depp film Blow – the biopic of drug smuggler George Jung:

“Life passes most people by while they’re busy making grand plans for it”

George Jung

So, the essence of all this is to find an approach that works for you. Looking to the future is always going to be part of our lives. But we can live in the moment and lay the foundations for a potential future at the same time.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

You might also like

Seek meaning not happiness.

Thoughts on life, meaning and what it’s all about from a wander through Japanese culture.

2 replies on “Living in the moment when everything wants you to plan for the future”

Leave a Reply