It’s pretty tough to survive in the MBA world these days if you aren’t organized. Whether you’re just looking at the possibility of going back to school, you’re deep in the process of making your applications or the degree itself happen already, or you’re clear on the other side of all of that, on your hustle to make it to the next level, planning and organizing are probably key activities for your survival and your success. From creating agendas to setting goals and envisioning your dreams becoming reality, the future is where it’s at – except for the small complication that it doesn’t actually exist.
If I asked you to take me to the future right now, where would we go? Into your head, pretty much. Into your imagination, your expectations, and your best predictions. Don’t get me wrong. Those can be fun conversations to have, but they aren’t a place, they’re a thought – or several. When you share them, you’re engaged in the present moment of connection with someone else. But, how often are you on a solo mission with those thoughts, drifting away from wherever you actually are so you can visit the place you hope – or at least expect – you’ll be next?
Part of being a responsible person is considering the future, but planning is an activity. When it’s your focus for the present moment, it should be deliberate. When it becomes a constant state of mind, perhaps intermingled with reflections on the past, then it isn’t intentional, it’s a reflex. It’s a distraction. It takes you away from where you are, and disconnects you from the present moment. No problem when it’s intentional, but less than ideal when it isn’t.
One of the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice is that it helps you recognize what your thoughts are up to. I’m not talking about mind control here; your brain will think, because that’s its job. I’m talking about simply recognizing where your thoughts are going, and making the choice about whether to go with them. Is it time for planning, strategizing, or even daydreaming? Is that your choice right now? If so, go for it. If not, come back to right now. Precisely that moment of choice IS the meditation.
Thoughts are important. They enable us to solve problems, innovate and create. Letting them sweep us away when we don’t want them to into places and spaces that aren’t right now means that we’re doing way more planning and reflecting than actual living, though.
What are you missing when you don’t show up for this moment? Maybe some discomfort, but probably also some joy. Some fun. A fleeting moment of happiness or fulfillment that won’t come back around. Make the choice to pay attention to it.
You probably couldn’t have planned it better if you’d tried to.
Photo credit: Mari Helin-Tuominen