Planning vs. Living the Moment

SunsetTandemIf departure is the past and arrival is the future, then the road is the present, and there is nothing more spiritually difficult, or spiritually rewarding, than learning to live significantly in the present. – Leon Wieseltier

Live in the moment, they say. Enjoy the present, they say. It makes sense, right? The past has already – well – passed and the future is yet to happen, so now is what’s real. Yet most of us spend the present either engrossed in the past or looking ahead to the future. We tend to pass by what’s really going on at any one moment.

When it comes to travel so many people say if you want it, then do it. But it’s not always that simple. While this may seem like a ‘living in the moment’ and an inspirational kind of outlook, there are also so many other things to consider. If everyone did exactly what they wanted all of the time there would be anarchy everywhere.

Do what you want when you want… or don’t

Living in the moment isn’t doing what you want, when you want. It’s savoring the moments when you are actually living them. It’s enjoying being fully present during a conversation, it’s soaking up the sunset without worrying about tomorrow or next week, it’s stepping outside at dawn and relishing the sound of the birds.

Yes, of course, living in the moment corresponds with spontaneity – going with your gut instinct at any particular moment is probably one of the better ways to make a decision (in my opinion, anyway).

But living in the moment requires us to have hopes and dreams. Not hopes and dreams that we obsess over every minute of every day, but something that keeps us going; something for us to work towards. If we have nothing to work towards then we tend to feel pretty useless.

Take travelling, for example. we could quit our jobs tomorrow and get on the next flight to Timbuktu, or we could do a bit of research, save a bit of money, put all of our belongings in storage, not rush off anywhere, and enjoy the planning process while we’re at it.

The spontaneous option might be more exciting in the short-term (“Hey mama, guess where we are? Timbuktu!”), but which one would give you more piece of mind?

I guess it depends what kind of person you are. Some people have no problem about doing things on impulse; others like to take a more strategic approach. There is no right or wrong way.

Is there such a thing as too much planning?

There is the other end of the scale, though: too much planning. Too much planning makes us start to question ourselves; whether it’s what we really want; whether we should be doing something else instead; whether we can really pull it off.

But, regardless of if we like it or not, we are forced to think about the future at almost every opportunity. What will I do for money? Where will I go next? How will I get from A to B? What will I have for dinner today? It’s impossible to live in the moment every second of every day otherwise we would get nothing done. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to. Sometimes we have to consider other people. There’s a flipside to every coin.

So, when should we live in the moment and when should we plan for the future?

It’s tricky, and it depends on what you want to achieve. Dreams and aspirations are important in order to get us from one stage of our lives to the next, but there’s no point if you are wishing your life away to get there; there’s no point if you aren’t enjoying the journey.

And what if you fail? What if you don’t reach your goals? Well, that’s just one more thing to worry about. If you live in the moment, your world is less likely to crash down around you if your dreams don’t become a reality because they aren’t the only thing that have been making your life worthwhile. Living in the moment allows you to appreciate the finer things in life, if you will, which makes us less reliant on our dreams to make us happy.

Little bits of happiness here and there are much better than holding out for one big burst of happiness – whether it happens or not is a different story.

To finish, here are two quotes:

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment – Henry David Thoreau

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams – Eleanor Roosevelt

Which one hits home with you?

If you understood this rambly post or, dare I say, enjoyed it, please feel free to share it! Tweet it, Face Book it, Stumble it – whatever you feel like doing in the heat of the moment ;)

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