I’ve been torn with this question. I have a bad tendency to look ahead and think about the future rather than focusing on the moment. What will my next big trip be? Where do I want to live next? What do I want my next job to be?
But at what point do I stop and appreciate where I currently am in life?
A little back story of what started pushing this thought process…I spent 8 months prepping for the Appalachian Trail and took 6 months to complete a Thru-Hike. When I finished it though, I had on overwhelming sense of emptiness. Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond stoked that I had accomplished this goal, but after finishing something you invest so much time, effort, and motivation in, you really do feel a bit lost after. This was the first time in my life I didn’t truly have a plan for what I was going to do next.
There is nothing wrong with looking forward to the future, but we currently live in a society where we tend to have our eyes set on the next best thing. We have idealized what our lives should look like through different social platforms, and it can be hard to compare your current realization to this idealization. Here’s the thing though: It’s unrealistic to believe that every day of our lives is going to be picture perfect.
This is why the “what’s next” question both motivates me and slightly haunts me. My real world responsibilities didn’t go away while I was on trail, they were just waiting on me to get back. So how do you focus on the fun ‘what’s next’ while still taking on the must-do’s like jobs and bills?
What I’ve found works best is prioritizing my “what’s next” into both short term and long term goals. My long term goals are what I really want to do with my life, while my short term goals are essentially what I’m going to do now to make sure I am building a foundation for myself.
I know what you’re thinking: “live your life now!” I struggled with this thought initially. However, just because you jump into an obligation doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold until you retire. Even though you may be living your short term goals at the moment, still strive to break up the monotony “real life” can bring. Be present enough to be happy where are, but insightful enough to understand that you are where you are for a reason.
Cherish your weekends and evenings. Take that weekend backpacking trip. Heck, take that backpacking trip during the work week (just since off at a gas station before going in, no one will notice).
Don’t wait until the next “What’s Next” – live your life right now.