Most people are not focused enough to have a clue of what they are even doing with their life. The vast majority of us are living lives without direction: we don’t’ know what we want and we don’t often have any higher aspirations for ourselves. Many of us have been lulled into living solely for the moment (I mean this in the worst possible way): we live lives seeking only comfort and happiness in the moment, and by doing this we actually neglect the actions that would produce a more long lasting happiness. Living in the moment can be great when you have integrity and a deeper purpose for living, but when people live without a purpose, they will usually only make choices that make them feel good right now.
For example: how many of us have joined in talking bad about one of our friends when others were talking badly about this person? It may be fun, and it may be nice to feel involved in something, but how does engaging in this type of behavior feel in the long run? Often when we choose to indulge in the moment only seeking temporary comfort, we neglect taking actions to build long lasting comfort. Junk food, gossip, buying things we don’t need on credit, staying up too late, drinking and using drugs, and wasting away our life in front of the T.V. are all symptoms of living without a purpose.
Take the example of a man lost in the Alaskan wilderness during the summer. It is still relatively warm outside and the man spends his time trying to make contact with someone to help him. He hunts and gathers food as he is able, he enjoys nature, and he spends his free time trying to contact someone by sending out smoke signals. After several months the weather gets colder and sunlight starts decreasing each day, still the man focuses only on being saved quickly. Eventually winter hit and the snow buries him, most plant life dies, and the animals go into hiding. In the winter months the man is ill equipped to survive the harshness of the times. We can all guess what happens to him in the end. How would things have been different if instead of only focusing on being immediately saved, he spent his time building a structure or finding shelter, building stockpiles of food that he could bury in the snow over winter, or looking forward to the future instead of consuming only on the current times?
The actions we take in the summer will determine the strength of our position through the winter. We must have enough foresight to take the actions and make choices that will put us in an advantageous position later in life. Much like the general must use strategy in battle to ensure that his forces end up in a superior position, we must look forward to the potential consequences of every single decision we make. Sometimes we must take a step backward and lose a battle in order to win a war. A good general must be able to take a look at the bigger picture and realize that sometimes losing a battle is necessary to win the war.
A person with foresight and intention will always fare better than someone who acts only on impulse. We see the story portrayed over and over again, the person with the plan usually wins, the person who stays focused on what needs to be done and doesn’t deviate always trumps the person with lack of clarity and indulgence in the moment. The tortoise and the hare, and the ant and the grasshopper are popular children stories that encourage this idea of preparing for the future instead of indulging in the moment sets you up for success, yet society is driven on consumerism, lack of direction, and a give me what I want and give it to me now mentality.
Credit cards, financing, and loans make it possible to buy what you want right now. Fast food, frozen dinners, and to go orders make it possible to eat what you want to eat right now. Expensive cars, big houses, and brand new technology make it easy to increase your status right now. Almost everything in today’s society can be had and be had right now, but why then are so many people unhappy? Why do over 50% of marriages fail, why is obesity growing at an alarming rate, why are antidepressants flying off the shelf? People want the easy way out, because we have been raised in a society of excess where distractions parade around you like food at a buffet: anything you want can be had whether you can afford it or not.
We should all learn to enjoy the moment, we should live our life with passion and joy each day, and we should do things that make us happy and enjoy what we do, but our current idea of life as a society is so corrupted and skewed. Think of the absurdity of working 40-60 hours per week to make enough money to buy a house, car, and start a family, yet we work so many hours that we only have 1-2 days a week to enjoy it; add in 8 hours of sleep per day and we only spend 10% of our time actually doing what we enjoy.
Consider the insanity of feeling bad, ugly, and unhealthy because of our current weight, yet choosing to indulge in the same foods that are literally killing us because they make us feel better in the moment. You have to start living your life with some sort of direction to change anything, you have to be willing to forgo all of the superficial, meaningless temptations of now in order to live the future that you desire.
The only way that you will ever be able to say no to the distractions of now, is if you have a clear picture of something in the future you are doing it for. If you are living for nothing, then you have nothing to lose or gain from changing your actions, and you have no anticipation of a better future because you have no aspirations of a better future. If you want to change, you need to have a future planned out, something that is bigger than the desires of the moment that will give you the courage to say no to the moment.
If you choose to live only in the moment, then be content to take whatever happens, appreciate what you have, and stop complaining about where you are, but if you will have the courage to look to the future, decide what you want and commit to having it, you can begin to take the small steps each day towards making a change for the better. Stop believing in the quick fix or the easy way out, and start spending at least a little bit of your time each day sowing the seeds that you will reap tomorrow. If you fail to build the
shelter for the winter that is coming, don’t complain about the cold when it arrives.