In the spirit of transparency, I’d like to start by saying that I am a very goal-oriented person. I have been since I was a child. I love to set big goals and little ones and I relish in the idea of making lists so that I can physically check off completed tasks.
As such, I’m very future-oriented and that makes it hard for me to stand still for a hot minute. I’m always thinking about the next thing on my life’s list.
The trouble is, as I keep reaching for new achievements to unlock, I don’t give myself nearly enough time to appreciate the stage that I am in.
This revelation came to me, not from years of training on mindfulness, but as all revelations do—over wine with girlfriends.
As I sat down with a group of amazing women whom I’m privileged to call my friends, the conversation went from kids to future talk pretty seamlessly. I stated the same thing I always do which is that my husband and I are hoping to buy a large enough home to support aging parents in the near future as well as to provide our kids enough room to grow up. So, basically the American dream.
I stated that I would feel like I’ve “finally arrived” when I achieve this next milestone, whenever that happens.
Sounds harmless enough, right?
But then I took a second to really think about it. Because as we went around the table and most of those in attendance agreed with and shared that same goal, we were all so future focused that it gave me pause. And then I turned that lens inward and thought to myself when have I said those same words? Literally at every major milestone in my life…
I told myself I will feel accomplished when I did every major “box check” of life. Graduate college? Check that box. Feel accomplished for a microsecond. Then go to graduate school. Get married? Check that box. Then focus on making babies. Get all my education completed? Check that expensive box.
Then immediately move on to getting my career started. Then as that’s going steady, it’s the other “life achievement” boxes that I can focus on. I have my babies and my dog? Okay great, get them to college (well, not the dog because I can’t afford three college educations). It literally never ends.
I’m always so future and goal-oriented that I don’t really stop to appreciate the amazing accomplishments that I’ve done. I just check them off on that metaphorical “conquest belt” and move immediately on to the next thing.
And I’m not alone.
Almost all of the people I talk to, be it friends or clients, have the same mentality. They are not very good at appreciating how far they’ve come and they are even worse at stopping for a little while to appreciate where they are. They are always reaching for more.
Maybe this is a privilege thing. I’m aware enough of my own privilege to know that it’s a luxury to not have to stress completely about day to day concerns, so within that luxury, I still have an itch for stress, so I transfer it conveniently to future-oriented problems.
I also know that this is somewhat a product of a society that tends to judge us by the rubric of “life accomplishments” and we fall prey to that regularly.
While I can’t undo those factors, I can ask what happens when you reach your next goal? Will you immediately jump to a new one, or will you wait it out and relish in the accomplishment a bit? Because if you continually jump, you will never feel like you have “arrived” which will create a hole inside that cannot be filled.
That’s a scary prospect.
In that race, the only end is death. Let that sink in a bit.
And try to work on being present in your current state and think about what you appreciate about it. Think about all the hard work you put in to get there. And give yourself a pat on the back you rock star, you.