Recently a family member asked for advice on how to balance living fully in the moment with planning for the future. This question brought to mind the days when my kids were still young and in school. More than one Sunday evening Matthew or Kathryn declared that a book report, a difficult to source poster board or a dozen cupcakes was due at school the following morning. My children were in school during the days when teachers believed it was the responsibility of the student to plan their work and communicate with their parents. There were no weekly folders from the teacher or on-line student accounts with school calendars to help the parents monitor their child's schoolwork.
Each time, the hair-on-fire moment created by these pronouncements put me into a quandary. Do I stop every thing and edit and type the half finished book report, scour every store looking for that special poster board that can only be found in the local arts store that's not open on Sunday or stay up to midnight baking cupcakes. The other option was to calmly explain to the kids that part of the planning process was giving me notice and unfortunately it was too late to do what they needed done. They would suffer the consequence of a failing grade or the discomfort at spoiling a class party. I was never able to follow the second option, I would kick into gear to solve the late night challenge, yelling at my child the entire time. We hit the deadline but my home was not a calm and nurturing place during those episodes. This was definitely extreme living in the moment.
I don't believe planning for the future is in conflict with living fully in the moment. Planning means putting into place a set of actions that have been thought through as a way to achieve your future goals. Have you taken the time and energy to think through what you want your future to look like and put a plan in place? Each January I spend a dedicated amount of time putting together my goals for the coming year. This exercise helps me visualize what I want my life to look like and how I am going to achieve my goals. I work the plan during the year. I may change the plan depending on opportunities and challenges that come my way but having a plan takes some of the pressure off when looking towards the future.
Planning for the future is not the same as obsessing about or worrying over the future. If you haven't developed a plan or aren't living your plan then the tension between living in the moment vs. the future maybe more about your lack of a satisfactory plan. If your energy is directed towards second guessing your plan or second guessing the future of the world then you will find it difficult to live in the moment. If you are feeling uneasy about being fully engaged in your life today and planning for the future, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Worry steals joy from today and pays no returns in the future.