Updated: May 5, 2019
I like planning. My background is in producing, managing, and event curation so I like to strategically plan out my schedule to achieve the most productivity as efficiently as possible. For the most part, this serves me well.
Until it doesn't. To quote Outkast, "You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather." And it seems like more and more the weather falls out of favor with my meticulously organized plans. But as disappointing as this is, every time it happens, I find it a good reminder to live in the moment.
Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, wrote: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Cherishing Taoism as I do, I believe there is a metaphor in nature for every important life lesson that can be learned; we need only slow down long enough to steal a glimpse of it. Slow down and live in the moment.
What happens in the moment is a release of all the burdens society, religion, and culture has taught us. It doesn’t matter which one comes first, the release or the moment - they are the same.
These burdens are programmed into us at an early age: we should be planning for the future; we should be married; we should own a home; we should be working toward and/or living the American Dream, white picket fence, family, 2 cars, and a 9-5 job with nights and weekends free. Well, that all sounds great...for those who can achieve that. But what about the rest of us?
Consider the current trends of married couples living apart, millennials still living with mom and dad, and home ownership on the decline. Not to mention the Baby Boomers’ retirement crisis. This all points to the uncertainty of the future, making it impossible to plan for. Paul B. Brown writes in "How To Plan Your Life When You Can’t Plan Your Life" (Forbes):
“The way we were taught to think and act works well when the future is predictable, but not so much in the world as it is now.”
With nowhere else to reliably look, you’ve found yourself in the bosom of the moment. This is actually the consensus in response to these trends. Leo Babauta suggests in "Planning Your Future Is Pointless. The How And Why Of Embracing Uncertainty" (Fast Company):
“Prepare yourself by learning about your mind, becoming trustworthy, building things, overcoming procrastination, getting good at discomfort and uncertainty.”
How do you do that?!
“Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.”
I’m pretty sure Babauta just said: Live in the moment! This should come as a relief since it gives permission to explore your most authentic self before making life-long decisions. It’s contrary to the traditional push to start planning your future in high school. “The jobs of working at Google, Amazon or Twitter, for example, didn’t exist when I was a teenager,” Babauta says.
This means defining your work by defining yourself first. And do that at your own pace instead of letting your work define you. This point of view basically hands you time itself. Starting with Step 1 in The Sustainability Cycle: Exploration in pursuit of defining your own Vision/Mission/Values. Brown writes:
“Instead of picturing/thinking about what the perfect job or career would be and working backwards from there, begin with a direction, based on a real desire, in which you think you want to go.”
The shortest path to finding your Vision/Mission/Values, or “Discovering your WHY,” is to live in the moment. That means focusing in on what is present in your life (not what’s missing) and start noticing the opportunity and possibility that is right in front of you.
The Science of Character is a lovely 8-minute film demonstrating how to change your mindset around character. “Instead of just focusing on all the things that can go wrong with us, it's also important to celebrate all the things that can go right.” #AnotherWay
This is where I always lose focus when my best-laid plans go awry. I stay too long with the upset of unscheduled happenings that everything I do accomplish gets discounted.
A simple shift in mindset reveals that I usually touch on my objectives, even if it doesn’t look like what I map out. Sometimes it's less than I wanted but it turns out that it's always enough for that moment. Every time I think I've learned that lesson, I have to re-learn it. #DevelopmentNeverEnds
I've also found that the more positive I keep my mindset, the better life gets! Living in the moment is in sharp contrast to the perpetual self-fulfilling prophecies I've subconsciously set for myself in the past. And it feels good!
Life might not end up looking like what you spent so much time convincing yourself you want. So if there is no fail-safe way to secure your future, why not enjoy the moment we have right now? It certainly cuts down on stress and worry (both useless emotions).
When I slow down and release my attachment to pre-arranged plans, I find quality time, better spent. I’m grateful when I don’t truncate the moment in exchange for a plan or schedule. There are hidden opportunities within every moment!
Emileena is writing a book called ANOTHER WAY, the Dao of Artist Development.
Original Artwork by Dave Law, freelance visual artist and illustrator. www.davelawart.com.
If you are an artist looking for development, consider Emileena's E-Velop program.