How Far Ahead Should You Plan?
The other day I was out for a walk along a wooded path. I realized the amount of attention I had to give to the few feet in front of me was very different than the space up ahead. With each step, I might have to avoid a rock or puddle. While way out in front, I could just enjoy the view and look out for anything major.
That got me thinking about all the different opinions on where you should focus your attention in order to be happy and get more out of life.
Some experts say to stay present. Focus on the here and now. Be flexible and respond to what you experience.
While others say to focus on the future. Create the vision board of the future you want to live in and develop your five-year plan on how you are going to get there.
Which is right? How do you not mess up and focus on the wrong thing?
Just like during my walk in the woods, it depends. The idea is to think about it all. Narrow your attention to what is now, and decrease the focus and specificity as you go out into the future.
In other words, be as focused and actively present now as you can be. Enjoy every moment you are alive and be aware of what is happening inside and around you.
When you start to think about the future, instead of setting highly restrictive expectations, focus instead on what you want your future to feel like. Understand at the same time, there are many different ways for it to unfold for you.
As an example, as you’re thinking about your work and career, be as present as you can with what you are doing today. Perform each task you have with the attention it deserves so that when you quit for the day, you can feel good about your efforts.
As you think about what you want your next job to be, don’t get caught up in the details or all the reasons it can’t possibly work out. Loosen your expectations and shift your thinking towards imagination, dreaming, and ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ scenarios.
You have an incredibly powerful tool in your mind. It’s best at observing what is in the present and also really good at opening up to future possibilities. It’s not the best at scenario planning, so don’t let it get too far ahead of where you are today, and enjoy the walk.