Neither here nor there

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So, what’s your point with all this? What’s your goal…what are you working towards? In the land of MBAs, you can’t just be doing something. It has to be part of a larger plan, a strategic move, a step in the right direction. Everyone’s always asking you why you’ve made the choices you have, and you’re expected to have a thoughtful response on the ready. More often than not, that response is going to sound something like, “Because it’s setting me up for the future.”

Nothing wrong with that, right? I mean it. Training and development of any practical kind, including advanced education, is about preparation. You’re learning how to think, but also how to do. You’re figuring out how to be the person that you want to become.

I get it. But, I’m guessing that means you spend a lot of time staring at the calendar, thinking about where you intend for it to take you. I love that part about it, for the record – the intentionality. What’s less appealing is the requirement that you be over there, in that imaginary space called “later.” It’s a great spot, and we all hope we’re headed there, but it’s not…here, or now. And, it’s not real.

So, what does that mean then, if you’re literally neither here nor there? Well, for one thing, it means you have a choice.

Is thinking about the future an intentional activity for you, or a default state of mind? No doubt, there are times when you go there on purpose, but probably also times when you go there because you’re afraid not to. You’re scared that if you stop planning for the future, then when you get there, you won’t be ready – that you’ll have missed something.

And you know what? You’re right, but in the wrong way. The truth is, if you’re always in the future, then you certainly are missing something. In fact, you’re missing everything, including the future you previously prepared for, otherwise known as right now. It’s the present moment, and it has a lot to offer. Even if you’re effectively capturing the information you think you need from it, you’re not really experiencing it. You’ve checked out, moved on, and will continue to do so, as the present rolls into the future, one moment at a time.

This practice of “future-tripping,” as it is sometimes called, is great for everything from escapism to that lovely illusion of control we all seek. It’s where we line up our dominos so that they’ll fall just right, in exactly the way we envisioned they would. Then, life happens, and they don’t. So, what do we do? We show up, get present, and troubleshoot. We adjust the path, and revise the plan. We’re in the moment, for just that moment, until the fire is out, and we can check back out.

What if you didn’t wait for things to go wrong to show up? What if you could cultivate the ability to intentionally be present, at least some of the time? Your planning (and strategizing, and daydreaming) time would be deliberate, but not constant. Now and then, you’d just be here, without any need for “there.”

Ah, but you can. Try this: close your eyes. Inhale, noticing the way your breath feels as it passes through your nose, your mouth, down your throat and into your chest. Exhale, and allow your shoulders, neck and jaw to release just a bit as your breath leaves, retracing in reverse the same steps through which it came in. Repeat, if you like, or don’t. Even once is enough to realize you just checked in with yourself, right here and now.

There’s a new skill for you, and it’s not about preparing your future self. It’s for the you who’s breathing in this moment, and who knows that the best way to engage with the future is to be fully present when it becomes the now.

Photo credit: Sophie Ollis

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