We're always told that if we sacrifice small, short-term pleasures today, it will pay off tomorrow. Despite the many advantages that this principle may hold, it can insidiously program our minds to constantly feel like we're in a hurry. We run the risk of traveling the journey of life in autopilot, ignorant of the beauty of every sunrise and sunset that happens outside our window. We take the calm hours that pass for granted, hoping that the days, weeks, or months fly by so that we can 'get over' a particular phase; so we can finally get to the finish line and, ultimately, stop sacrificing. The explanation we tell ourselves is that it will all eventually be worth it, in the hope of painting ourselves a perfect future. But when we mentally decide to fast-forward, we're also doing it at the expense of missing those special pit stops along the way, such as the time we spend with our family or friends, and doing amazing things like learning, creating and exploring.
And whilst it is important to plan the future, to set goals and be ambitious - it's equally important, or yet more important, to not neglect your present. To wake up and simply feel fulfilled with what you have now with no regard to what stage you are at in life.
"If you want to keep your memories, you first have to live them" - Bob Dylan
The issue with focusing solely on the future suggests that we're promised a whole lifetime - that our loved ones will stay around with us forever, or that we'll have the same energy and enthusiasm for our current hobbies a couple of decades down the line as we do now. Over the past few years, I have seen so many patients being told that, sadly, their life may not be as long as they had hoped, and it provides me with a constant reminder that what we like to plan isn't definite. Of course, no one should have to wait for life-changing news like this before they consider thinking optimistically about the present. Not only because it is a waste of youth and health, but also because, unfortunately, not everyone will have the luxury of receiving a heads-up. Life is fragile, spontaneous and unfair. Don't just keep looking at the road ahead, seldom looking at where your feet might be - where you are is a great place, and it won't last very long.
So why am I all of a sudden talking about this, you might think. These days, it's hard to find the pause button. My time at university is nearing to an end, I'm actually applying for a job, and it's almost time to move onto the next stage in life. To think of how we invest such a significant proportion of our childhood setting ourselves up for the future, working towards big milestones in life, such as getting accepted into university, driving our first car or starting our first job... these milestones that used to feel like an eternity away now feel as far away as a bus stop, probably because we've spent most of our years chasing after them. But the reality is, the time will eventually come when you will graduate, or get married, or buy your first home, and they will inevitably come your way like shopping items on a conveyor belt. Don't get distracted by looking for big chapters without creating a great storyline underneath. Walk it, enjoy the view, and stop running.
"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were big things" - Robert Brault
Milestones are really only just phases that we transition through, rather than landmarks of our success. If we were to consider milestones as goals, we’d be inclined to view them as tasks to robotically tick off, as opposed to precious life experiences that ought to be embraced. So take life easy and make the most of today; you'll see the hours becoming richer and the weekends feeling longer. Live for today because, who knows, it might be all that we have.
Happy weekend everyone - here's your reminder to make sure you spend it by the minute!
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