The minister in church one Sunday talked about his anticipation of future events and it got me to thinking about the subject in a different way. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ll be happy when . . .” or “I’ll have plenty of money when . . .” or “I’ll have more fun when . . .”?
As a classic Type A entrepreneur I tend to focus on the future. Oh, I do live in the now, but I am constantly thinking about the next steps in building my businesses. But it goes beyond that. If I am going on a trip in a few days I’m thinking about what all will be involved in the travel process. I’m thinking about what I’ll do when I get to my destination. Once I’m on my trip and have reached my destination, I think about where we’ll eat dinner or an event that we’ll attend. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to be planning ahead though I can easily flip over into the realm of obsession with planning. What’s more problematic is when the thinking ahead becomes the “When Affliction.”
The When Affliction manifests in several ways. It can occur when we are so focused on thinking about something that is to happen in the future that we don’t pay close enough attention to something critical that is happening right now. This is the perfect environment for mistakes to be made. The other day while driving I was so engrossed in thinking about an upcoming meeting that I nearly caused a wreck. I was changing lanes, turned on my blinker and quickly looked over my shoulder. There was a car in the other lane – I know I saw it – but it didn’t register as I pulled over anyway. Horns blared and my heart leapt into my throat. My focus on the moment was blinded by my focus on the future.
The When Affliction can have us so wrapped up in getting past the next milestone that we are unable to truly appreciate what we are experiencing in the process of getting there. So here’s a question. How many magical moments do we miss with the When Affliction? I remember my youngest daughter’s wedding. It was a splendid affair and one where I was truly present every second of the day. I simply allowed myself to be swept up in the pomp and pageantry that is often woven into such an event. Not once was I contemplating a future action. And I am able to treasure the memories because I really was a part of making them. There are so many other things I don’t remember about what has happened in my life because I was looking forward so much of the time.
It’s OK to plan ahead. If we simply allow ourselves to float along the river of life without regard for the snags and rapids in front of us, our boat could easily be swamped. The key is to find the right balance between thinking ahead and maintaining a “now presence.” To accomplish this, I have discovered a game that I play with myself. Let’s say that someone is coming to my office to meet with me. Before the meeting I identify several things that I want to notice during this meeting. What color are the clothes this person is wearing? What color are his or her eyes? Is the person right handed or left handed? Sharpening my observation skills in this manner helps me focus on the other person and the moment, thereby avoiding the When Affliction.
We intuitively know that tomorrow never comes because there always is another tomorrow. Thus we can avoid becoming obsessed with the future if we limit our planning to that which really matters.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.