Think of the future as a flow of several ”nows”
– IF YOU ARE HAPPY IN EVERY ”NOW” YOU WILL THEREFORE BE HAPPY IN THE FUTURE
I'm presently sitting in a diner, in Minneapolis. I'd actually run through Minneapolis several weeks ago, racing to beat the winter cold on my way to Seattle, when I developed tooth issues.
Sitting here, I've become aware of two seemingly contradictory realisations, which actually support each other. They are:
1. looking to the future, as a tool for success, and
2. don't let the future intrude on dealing with the present.
The woman taking my order looks to be in her late 50’s. She works with a quiet, uncomplicated efficiency. It's one of two jobs she has. She's also petite, and if anybody has eaten at an American diner, you'll know how cramped and busy the space can be. And yet, I see her carrying three fully-loaded, American portioned plates, on each arm.
I'm sure that she has a certain pride in how well she executes her duties. I do wonder, though, whether she is living the future she imagined when she was younger. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe she didn't even have a future planned out in her mind. I also see how her coworkers roll their eyes at her, as she bustles about.
They're young. They're bigger than her. They're all university students doing part-time work, earning extra cash. I suspect that with the confidence, and perhaps arrogance, of youth, studying at university with their private dreams of success and glory, her co-workers look down on her a bit.
I don't imagine any of them dream of "still" being a server in a diner when they're 50. I doubt they can even imagine it. They are young and invincible and enjoying "the now". In their minds, the future is unknowable, and because the future means growing old and eventually dying, the future is to be avoided. Luckily, it's in the future.
That's where they are wrong - The future is now
While the woman's situation might be seen as a negative outcome, a result of failed dreams, if these students just take a step back and see her for what and who she is, they have much to learn.
She carries more plates than the biggest guys. She moves unobtrusively and more quickly than the smallest. Her job might not be glamorous in their eyes, but she performs at a level far superior to any of them. She's an example of what pride in ones job can achieve. She's an example of what commitment means.
If these youngsters could stop their sniggering and sideways glances, and take a moment to learn, they'd recognise how valuable she is to them. She is the benchmark brought on by experience.
She is "perseverance". She is "taking responsibility". She is "pride". And she is "dedication".
So, when you one day find yourself in a job that might not be what you imagined, look around you and learn from the experience. Don't mock those around you, or look down upon them. Don't feel that you're above them. Perhaps they are happy where they are, and perhaps you have higher, bigger goals. Fine. Aim higher. But that's only something that you'll achieve in the future. So, embrace the learning opportunities that having "the future" working with you can bring.
Dealing with the present
While all of this is going on, I sit here, losing time, knowing that the slightly freaky -20°C temperature recorded last night, will be the norm in 2 months time while I'm trying to cross the Rockies.
I could freak out and allow the future to negatively impact my own dreams.
Or, I can sit here, enjoying the unexpected opportunities that a broken tooth can present to one, and simply enjoy ”the now”. The future is an interconnected series of ”nows”. The happier, and more accepting, that I am in ”the now”, the happier, and more accepting, I'll be in the future.
And that's what I've learnt, sitting here in my diner – the future requires thought, the present requires action. Learn from the former and accept the latter, and even if things don't work out exactly as planned, you'll be better placed to be happy no matter where you are.
Dave the runner