Have you ever experienced (or witnessed) any of these scenarios?:
- You just got married, and people immediately start asking you when you’re going to have kids.
- You just experienced a loss or setback, and people immediately start trying to “help” you move forward.
- You just finished a major project, and people immediately start asking you what you’re going to do next.
- You watch a sports team celebrate winning the championship, and a reporter asks about their plans for next season.
In these situations (or any similar ones), the questions all boil down to the same essence: What’s next?
What’s next on the agenda? What are you going to do next? Where are you going to go next? Who are you going to date next? How are you going to get out of the “hole” you’re in or build on the success you’ve experienced? What’s the next step?
And all of these questions boil down to this: How soon can you escape the present moment?
The people asking these questions (which can also come from that nagging voice in the back of your own mind) are probably very well intentioned (or, at the very least, innocuously curious). Still, I find this line of questioning to be extremely annoying. It just makes me want to shout: “DUDE! This just happened! Would you let me be where I am for five minutes? Can’t I just celebrate, grieve, or experience whatever I’m experiencing right now?”
It makes me feel like a restaurant’s staff is trying to rush me away from my table and out the door while I’m still in the middle of my entrée.
Aside from simply being annoying, it feels like the embodiment of a modern (or perhaps age-old) tendency to want to escape the here-and-now, whether that reality is painful or pleasant. It’s a mindset that never lets you be where you are, cherish the moment, feel your feelings, and fully experience your life. It’s a mindset that says, “Let’s get out of here…fast!”
But the irony is that this what’s-next approach doesn’t necessarily hasten the next step; it simply robs you of the one you’re on. You don’t need to rush things — life will flow, and you will naturally arrive at the next step simply by living. A new idea will come to you, you’ll feel inspired to take action, you’ll figure your way out of a problem, or time will simply heal your wounds and allow you to move on.
Now, I’m all in favor of planning, dreaming, and even preparing for the future — but not at the expense of experiencing the present. Not to the exclusion of living your life in the here and now. And certainly not to the extent that it robs you of all present-time joy, sorrow, or whatever else you’re experiencing.
Sure, by always looking a mile (or more) down the road, you may feel like you’re staying a step ahead — and, in a way, you are — but you’re missing the step you’re on. By focusing on the future, you may feel like you’re preparing yourself for what’s next, but you miss the only place where life truly happens: NOW.
And, besides, the imagined future that you’re “preparing” for may never come to pass — or it may arrive in a very different form than you’d imagined. Or, even if it looks more or less the way you thought it would, when it does arrive, you might be too focused on what’s next after that to really experience it.
On the other hand, when you allow yourself to fully experience the here-and-now — feeling it all without trying to run away — you’ll naturally allow yourself to take in all the joy, learn all the lessons, heal all the hurt, and be present for your own life. And when the time comes and “what’s next” becomes “what’s now,” you’ll be good and ready.
And you’ll really be there.
P.S. There’s still space available in our upcoming collaborative book, Goodness Abounds: 365 True Stories of Loving Kindness, but spots are filling up — so if you’d like to be part of this book (which will be the last one in our bestselling 365 Book Series until at least 2019), this is the perfect time to join us. Please click here or visit www.goodnessabounds.com to learn more.