I’m getting married in less than a month.
I’m publishing a book soon after.
We’ll be debt-free next year.
We have at least 5 trips planned over the next year. Two are big ones!
I have medical issues that need to be addressed, difficult relationship issues with family, and some legal loose ends that need to be tied up.
When viewed through the lens of all these big upcoming events, today’s progress can seem insignificant. I know there’s progress. I’m stoked about our current trajectory. But man…sometimes I just can’t wait!!!
Ever catch yourself saying something like, “As soon as that’s over, I’ll feel much better!” or, “Once I get that thing done, I’ll be so relieved”, or the worst; “I’ll be happy when…”
Sometimes a feeling creeps in; I’m just looking forward to getting past it all. Even for the really good stuff. I’m so happy to be marrying Tali next month, there’s no way I could convey my excitement in words. I’m looking forward to the actual day as well. We only invited people we care deeply for. It’s going to be a blast! Yet…I still get these thoughts; once we’re done with the wedding, we’ll finally be able to focus on the book, the trips, the debts…
But when does that end? There will always be something after.
Something after the wedding.
Something after the book.
Something after the trip to Israel…
Something’s on the other side of those difficult things too.
If we’re not aware, we can inadvertently develop a habit of thinking past the future; putting our contentment and happiness beyond some potential event. The eagerness to get to things or to get past things, even the really good things, is just a feeling. And feelings can come and go. The trick is not to feed into it. I don’t want those feelings to become habitual. They rob me of happiness and suck up precious time in the here-and-now.
Anticipation for the future can be fun, like a recreational drug, but addiction to anticipation leads to the ruin of joy.
So, it takes practice. Let the anticipation come and go. No need to fight it, that just gives it more respect than it deserves. Just recognize it for what it is; an emotional reaction to planning. The only point of planning is to attempt to make today more effective.
That anticipation. That worry. That stress. Anxiety. Whatever form the emotion is taking is irrelevant. The root of them all is future-thinking. Get the value out of future-thinking by envisioning what you want, and planning your practices to help steer you closer to that vision. Then once planning is done…turn to the practice of today.
The moment I sit down to actually work on the book, I stop stressing about the book. The moment Tali and I are enjoying each other’s company, we’re no longer eager to “get past” the wedding. The moment we pay off a chunk of debt, we feel victorious instead of impatient.
The future may or may not come as we anticipate it to be. That’s not for us to know.
Today is here. Today is real. Today I’m making progress and enjoying where I am. When I open my eyes to the present, patience is readily available in the form of peace, contentment, and optimism.
That’s about as good as it gets. And I don’t even have to wait!
This article was originally written in August 2019. It’s the 1st part in a 3-part series. To see parts 2 and 3, subscribe to The Lyceum Letter before December 10th, 2020, or become a member of The Lyceum Community to access 100% of the content, including archives.