I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop this morning. Amid the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the clanging of cups, my attention was drawn to a nearby table where two young people were engaged in a lively conversation about their future goals.
As I listened, I felt myself being drawn in by their resolve. But I also wondered what they were about to give up on their journey to their dreams. Were they conscious of the passing of time as they planned their futures in great detail? And what would they be giving up in life to reach that dream future? And what about their motivations along the way?
Humans have an inbuilt tendency toward wishful thinking. As a result, we filter out information that might otherwise be useful to us. The modern world has fooled us into thinking it's easy to achieve our goals if we only set our minds to them and apply our will. In other words, anything that gets in the way is an inconvenience.
But setting goals that are too far off into the distance can be dangerous. As we move towards our ideal future, our motivations can fluctuate, often caused by external challenges, setbacks, or delays. And then, any change in motivation can lead us to wonder whether all our efforts in the first place were actually worth it.
The danger of focusing on distant dreams is that enjoying the present takes a lot of work. Throughout our lives, we move from being driven by external factors like money and status to more intrinsic motivators like personal fulfillment, love, belonging, knowledge, etc. So, our long-term goals, which once made perfect sense to our past selves, may no longer resonate with us, making us prone to the modern disease of "stuckness." And that's when we start seeking out the self-help books and motivational speeches to move us out of the crossroads of life. But as Elon Musk once said, "If it's inspiration you need, don't do it!"
The danger comes when we give up so much of our current lives in the pursuit of a goal that was once appealing but no longer fits with who we are or what we value. Better to make goals that aren't set in stone so that we can continuously reevaluate them and align them with our current motivations and level of happiness. This helps us avoid the paradox of working towards a future that may not match our changed wants or identities when we ultimately get there.
Happiness is found in the present, not in the pursuit of an elusive future.
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