We’ve all heard of the importance of living in the present moment.
All we have is in this very moment. Life is simply the current moment we’re experiencing right now—not the anticipation of fabricated future scenarios or dramatized renditions of the past.
Yet for me, it’s not the only consideration.
There’s also more than just living in the present. There’s also the care, thought and work that goes into living for your future potential. Living for your future is where the build of many long-term goals and dreams are housed.
Living in the present and for the future are both equally important to me.
It’s a delicate back and forth that adjusts depending on shifting priorities of the day to day. Sometimes the scale moves fluidly between the present and for the future, and other times it can get weighed down more heavily on one side.
There are times when the balance is tilted too far and too long in one direction. These are the times when I begin to feel neglect of an important part of myself and the need to recenter and refocus.
Because the present, future and even the past self are essential parts of our whole being.
Simply existing, breathing, experiencing, and appreciating what’s right around you in this moment is a fundamental part of living in the present. Perhaps not as immediately crucial, but an equally key part of being human is the connection to your future self—to continuously grow, learn and become a better version of yourself throughout the years.
And of course, we wouldn’t be who we are today without our past. While the past shouldn’t be a focus point, our memories and experiences need to be understood and acknowledged if we want to live openly as our full selves.
In past years, I felt more unbalanced. I had some past experiences I hadn’t fully reconciled and let go of within myself that I dwelled upon periodically. I alternated between overly focusing on living for the future and clinging to moments in the present. It was a cycle that was difficult to break.
Living for the future can be subtle, slippery descent if we become overly consumed with it.
When we primarily focus on the future self for too long, our present self suffers.
For the sake of the future, we can delude ourselves into sacrificing almost everything in the short term in the name of practicality, frugality, or whatever long-term goal we have. We may work long hours, neglect self-care, bypass little joys and rush throughout each day. In this scenario, we may barely pause enough to notice and appreciate what we have because we’re so focused on a distant outline on the horizon.
Unbalanced prioritization on the future is common during the Build phase of a meaningful initiative you’re working towards. It’s something I’ve personally needed to be conscious of as my husband and I have been building over the past couple years. My tendency to bypass sleep, relaxation, and play in the name of getting things done has gotten better over time, but it can still be hard at times.
Alternatively, living only in the present can result in lack of meaningful progress.
When we consistently prioritize what’s most comfortable, convenient and enjoyable, we may be sacrificing progress towards meaningful and larger goals.
Sometimes what’s best for us is to savor a cup of coffee out on the patio. Sometimes we need some down time to read a book or sleep in an extra hour. Perhaps what would lift our spirits the most would be to take an afternoon off to enjoy a bit of sunshine and time with friends.
Yet if we’re too mired in the present without purpose, we can lose our sense of traction and progress.
Constantly prioritizing the fun and FOMO (fear of missing out) can lead to a lack of meaningful progress. Preoccupation with the present can also be a way we hide from the change in our lives. Over time, the loss of traction can put us into stagnancy in our lives—stunting the growth of the future self.
When we are caught in the weeds of our current situation and forget that everything is always evolving, it can be ironically similar to when we’re too fixed on the future. Feelings of frustration, exhaustion and burnout result when we lose perspective of the bigger picture.
I view the balance of the present and future self as a moving scale.
A scale that tips back and forth as I manage everyday responsibilities and enjoyment of life amongst the longer-term goals of building up businesses to enable my husband and I to live the lifestyle we want.
In working full-time nowadays, it’s a balance that can feel difficult to manage during certain weeks for me. Some days, I can only focus on the present in order to keep sane. Days or weeks may pass by without any progress on the build for the future.
Every one of us balances a range of priorities during the week—some a greater range than others. We all have pressing, day-to-day responsibilities, and perhaps less urgent, but more personally meaningful goals.
We each have a personal balance.
Living in the present and for the future are essential parts of a well-lived and meaningful life.
And just like how people differ in their coffee or beverage of choice, there are differing weights on the scale of present and future. Some people take their time and prioritize the present self on the path they’re currently on. Others may take a quicker pace in working for the future and are okay with sacrificing a bit more in the present.
Ultimately the balance is up to you.
While it’s not always an easy balance to strike, the balance of living in the present and for the future is key to appreciating the journey and a sustainable build towards your long-term goals.