Are You Focused So Much On The Future That You’re Missing The Now?
“Hey, Doc. You’d better back up, we don’t have enough road to get up to 88 mph.” “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” This is the famous exchange between Marty Mcfly and Doc Brown in the 1989 movie Back to the Future.
In this iconic film, Marty and his scientist friend Doc travel from 1985 to 1955 so that Marty can intervene in the relationship between his mother and father. Despite his good intentions, things don’t go as planned.
The hero’s fatal flaw is his persistent focus on everything but the present. He’s either focused on the past—in order to change the future—or rushing off into the future to change the past. The power of the present moment is lost on him.
Let’s not throw stones at poor Marty too quickly, however. We’re all guilty of focusing on everything but the present. How much time and energy do you spend on what the future holds, or what the past contained, rather than appreciating what the present is giving? Everyone is guilty of this. So, it is important to be able to recognize the signs that can indicate that this is happening. Below are the top signs that you might be overly focused on the future and consequently missing the now.
Do you frequently fail to accomplish the goals that you have set for yourself? There are always goals that you set that will be difficult to reach and that carry a high probability of failure, but this is not what we are talking about here. Ask yourself, is it habitual for you to not accomplish your goals? If so, you may be focusing too much on the future.
Constant failure can be linked to constantly looking forward to the “next thing.” This focus leads to not accomplishing the “current thing.” Planning for the future is good, but too much planning can prevent you from executing in the moment. So, if you find yourself failing to meet your goals, perhaps you’re focusing too much on the future.
Eager to Respond
In conversations you have with others, do you find yourself eager to respond when the other person is still talking? Do you find yourself thinking about how you will respond to the other person while they are in the middle of speaking? Or do you think about the actions you will take in response to a particular event while it’s still occurring?
When you frequently think and plan your responses amid an experience, you rob yourself of the current moment.
Lack of Joy
There is a story about a legendary coach whose team had just won the championship. A reporter covering the game came into the locker room while the team was celebrating their victory. The reporter noticed the coach in the corner of the room writing in a notebook. He asked the coach what he was writing, and the coach said, “I’m making notes on the things we need to work on for next year.”
While some admire the coach for that, others criticize this coach for having no joy, no ability to celebrate the moment. When you focus too much on the future, you will lack joy. You miss out on the goodness of the present.
An Abundance of Anxiety and Worry
The future is unknown. It can’t be secured or constrained. When we are primarily focusing on the future, it can create a lot and anxiety and worry. Anxiety and worry are the first cousins of a lack of joy. They work hand-in-hand, one leading to the other. It’s a snowball that gains in size as it continues to roll down the hill of compulsive focus on the future.
So, let me ask you… does your life seem to contain an abundant amount of worry? If so, then maybe this is due to your obsession with the future. Because of this, you are missing the now.
Focusing too much on the future has a cost. The cost is that you lose the here and now. You lose joy and you gain worry. When you lose the present moment, you lose the most precious thing that you have…time. Planning is good. Too much planning… well that is planning for failure.
In the movie Back to the Future, you get a fairytale ending. The boy gets the girl, the villain gets punished, and all the problems of the world are made right. But maybe all was right in the present moment to begin with. If Marty had been looking for what he wanted in the moment—instead of everywhere but the present—there could have been less problems. But we would have to go back to the future to figure that one out.