Why You Shouldn’t Always Focus On The Future

This weekend I attended a psychology conference with one goal in mind: to figure out if a career in psychology was right for me. I remember calling my mom on my way there and telling her that this was my ultimatum. It was either going to make or break my future. Was I being a little dramatic? Probably, but I had a goal in mind. I was thinking about my future, which is what I was always taught to do.

I went into the conference with that attitude, and boy was I let down. Students and professors doing amazing research buzzed all around me, and to tell you the truth I didn’t care about any of it. Don’t get me wrong, I was amazed by what they were doing, but nothing grabbed at my heartstrings. The icing on the cake? That was when the sports psychologist I aspired to be unintentionally shattered my perfect plan when he made me realize that I don’t care enough about sports to dedicate my life to it. It doesn’t interest me to learn all the plays in football or the jargon of every sport so I can be an effective sports psychologist. In fact, I groaned at the thought of having to do so.

As I sat through the rest of his presentation, it hit me that I had been making one crucial mistake: I was so busy planning for an ideal future, that I never considered the present. I never considered what I truly enjoy, which is helping people become the best versions of themselves. I love motivating people and showing them how many doors open when they have the right mindset. I love how personality factors into the equation. Turns out what one person finds motivational another might find discouraging. I love the challenge that brings. What I definitely don’t love is talking to athletes about free throws or field goals.

When I realized this, my tunnel vision subsided. I decided to take advantage of the present moment and see what I could gain from the conference. Sure enough, I stumbled on a research poster that grabbed my attention. It was on personality, what we can learn from it, and how we can apply it to our lives. Now that’s my cup of tea!

I went over to the presenters and ended up talking to them until it was time for the next event. Long story short, I walked away with a smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach not only because I found something that I was passionate about, but also because a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

When you start focusing on the present, the world changes and stress subsides. We live so much of our lives trying to plan for the future that we forget to live in the here and now. Funny thing is that you can’t control the future. Yeah, you can plan for retirement, but who says you’re going to live that long? You can get a 4.0, but who says that’s actually going to get you into college? When it comes down to it, the only thing you can actually guarantee is this present moment. Right here, right now.

I don’t mean to be grim because yes, you should set yourself up for success in the future, but it’s important to not obsess over it. As many of you know, life has it’s own agenda and there are many things outside of our control. So to me, it makes more sense to put my energy into what I can control.

Since beginning to focus on the present…

  1. I’ve started to notice things around me that I never saw before.
  2. I’ve become more self-aware and have felt more at peace.
  3. I’ve been able to give those around me more passion and attention.
  4. I’ve had more energy and stamina…I don’t feel worn out.
  5. Most importantly, I’ve been enjoying life for what it is, not what it could be.

And here are 3 cues that have helped me…

  1. Slow Down – A racing mind will prevent you from focusing and being present. Stop and smell the roses 🙂
  2. Accept the Present – There are things that are outside of your control. You can’t fix traffic or control the weather. Give your energy to what you can control, such as your attitude.
  3. Set a Goal – Know what you want to get out of the present moment. If you know what you want, you’ll be able to focus and reap more rewards.

I hope you found this post insightful! Don’t forget to like, comment, and share 🙂

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