How To Stay Focused on the Future

How can you stay focused on the future when there’s so much going on right now?  You know I’ve been going back and forth on a few things as I write and share my thoughts and experiences.  So many of the topics I share come back to a few major themes.  This one for example I was trying to figure out a way to convey the delicate balance of being able to stay in the moment and enjoy the things happening right now yet also keep building for the future.  As I thought about it I realized a HUGE part of it is not getting lost in the day to day details of life.  Those things we have to do simply to keep the wheels turning.  What I often refer to as the hamster wheel of life.  And the hamster wheel of life and more specifically the ability to live life OUTSIDE of this wheel has become a common theme of mine.  Interesting to recognize it, maybe I’ll eventually get to a few main points and topics and focus on that.  Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s talk about how to stay focused on the future.

The Hamster Wheel – A Refresher

We hear the term hamster wheel from time to time but what does it mean.  In simple terms it means all the day to day minutiae that we do to simply exist and keep our lives in motion.  The going to work.  Sleeping, eating, getting dressed, picking up after the kids, the laundry, mowing the lawn, working on a project for work, brushing our teeth, scrubbing the toilets, vacuuming, cleaning the car, getting gas for the car, remortgaging our house, shooting the shit with our neighbor, taking a dump, going to the doctor, getting a cold, planning Thanksgiving, getting mad at your in-laws at Thanksgiving, finding your car insurance to see what your deductible is,  getting your drivers license renewed, cooking, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, and on and on and on.  It’s all the things we do to simply keep on keeping on.  And lo and behold, it’s pretty damn easy for that to become all life is.  For a month, a year, a decade.  That, my friends, is the hamster wheel of life.  And if we aren’t careful, this can become the entirety of our lives.

So How Can I Stay Focused On The Future?

Well, the short answer is you can’t.  At least not all the time.  You have to keep one eye on what is right in front of you at this moment, in this day, for this week.  I believe it’s fully possible to train yourself to keep an eye on what’s happening right now as well as keep a a long term vision for your life and most importantly, put the time and energy into creating the long term plan for your life.  I’ll share a few pointers here in a second but first I want to fully convey an important point.  Again.  Unless you are MINDFUL of keeping a focus on the bigger picture of life and what you want out of it you will wind up spending the vast majority of your existence simply doing fairly mindless tasks.  How many times have you driven to work and basically been on autopilot?  Or gone to the grocery store or washed your car or whatever.  That’s what we do unless we stay focused.  It’s way too easy to get lost in the tasks and duties of life – to the point that that’s all that life becomes.  We semi listen to the constant dialogue going on in our heads as we cruise through yet another day barely noticing what’s going on.  And this is what most people do.  If you want to create something bigger and better and more meaningful for yourself in this life, you have got to create your road map to get there and as important, keep on top of it on a regular basis to ensue you are getting to where you want to go.  Here are a few suggestions:

Create Your Road Map

It’s that word not many people like – planning.  But you have to do it.  Some of us do new years resolutions.  Stop smoking, join a gym, get a new job, etc.  Right now as I type this it is October 23.  We are winding down this year, there’s just over 2 months left before the new year gets here.  And we know how that goes, pretty soon the holiday slide will set in and the year will be over before you know it.  I challenge you to use the next few months to think about a plan for your life.  It can be a lot or it can be a little.  If you’ve never done anything like this before make it something not too intimidating – like 2-3 areas of your life you’d like to learn something new or achieve something or simply get better at something.  Run your first 5k, get a promotion at work, make 2 new guy friends, take up pickle ball, you get the idea.  Write down what your goals are, what you are going to do to make it a reality, and some time frames to get there.  Keep this somewhere you can refer to it on a regular basis so you can check your status and adjust accordingly.  I had done new years resolutions off and on for years.  This past year I took a little different route.  I made myself a recap of what I felt I had accomplished over the previous year.  After patting myself on the back for some of my achievements, and chastising myself for ones I didn’t complete, I then used that year end review as a chance to spring board a new list for this year.  I tried to incorporate the major areas of my life.  So for instance I challenged myself to earn at least 10% more this year.  For my physical health I was satisfied with my current state of being so my goal was to maintain where I was at.  I had been working on some art projects and my goal there was to crank out more.  I keep these items and my others in a place I can easily look at to remind myself and stay on track.  And since I am a bit anal retentive I did a mid-year review during the 4th of July holiday weekend to see how I was doing so far and make any changes necessary.

Make The Time

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says something like “I’d go to the gym but I am just too busy” or “I wish I had more friends to do something with but I don’t have the time to go do stuff when I’m asked” or one of my all time favorites “I’d eat healthy but I don’t have time to cook healthy”.  One word to all of these – bullshit.  You make time for what is important to you.  Period.  Time is the one commodity that we all have exactly the same of.  Last time I checked every single person has 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year.  What you choose to do with this time is completely up to you.  Look I get it.  We are all busy with lives in general, our work, our kids, our houses, our relationships, our parents, etc.  We are all busy.  The trick is to create the time in your schedule to accomplish some of these things that focus on the long term vision of yourself while still taking care of the business of managing your life.  Look for ways to get more efficient and do more with the same time.  Order your groceries for pick up and save the hour you usually spend walking around the grocery store.  Pay the kid down the street $25 to mow your lawn and save another hour.  Read a book on how to learn Japanese while waiting for your daughter at her softball practice.  Skip watching the first 1/2 of a football game and meal prep for the week instead.  Lose an hour of sleep a night and work on your business plan for your personal training side gig.  Say NO to something you don’t want to do and do something that feeds your fire instead.  There are lots of ways to create the time, you just have to be smart about it.  I can’t remember where I read this at but I loved it then and I love it now.  Don’t wait for someday to arrive when you have less to do because it will never happen.  As of right now take one hour out of every day to do what you want to do, what feeds your soul.

Enjoy The Process

Here’s the thing – most guys would love to have the physique of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Zac Efron.  But not many guys are willing to lift serious weight at 8PM on a Friday night like the Rock is which is not an uncommon time for him to post selfies from the gym.  When doing an interview Ludacris said how much The Rock inspired him to work hard to get into shape.  He also called the Rock a cyborg because he was so incredibly disciplined in his health and fitness routine.  And he lives that type of lifestyle because he LIKES THE PROCESS.  He enjoys lifting weights on a Friday night and eating carefully portioned meals of the exact right food.  He likes it or else he wouldn’t do it.  Did he hear what self made millionaire Grant Cardone says about how to make a million dollars?  He says it’s not that hard, just work 95 hours a week.  As he states “There’s no shortage of money, there’s just a shortage of people willing to work 95 hours a week”.  And why would anyone do that?  Because they enjoy it and it’s important enough to them.  Which is why the vast majority of us work 9-5 and do other stuff, even if it’s watching 20 hours a week of TV.  We like to watch TV more than we want to work to make a million dollars.  If you want to work towards a longer term goal of yours you have to enjoy the process.  This can be very difficult for many people in our instant gratification type world.  In this day and age when we get pissed that our wifi connection is too slow and we can order almost anything off Amazon and get it delivered to our door in 2 days or UberEATS will deliver us Taco Bell in less than an hour it’s hard to keep the long view and enjoy the process.  But this is absolutely key to achieving our long term goals and aspirations.

Balance It With The Right Now

To put a bow on this baby the other thing we have to do is to keep an eye on the right now.  Wake up from our day to day autopilot mode.  A few things really help me stay mindful in the moment.

  • Try to do at least one thing new or different everyday – drive a different route to work, take a late lunch, email a friend from the past, whatever you can think of to break one thing out of the same old pattern.
  • Find joy in the mundane – when doing the things you aren’t thrilled about like cleaning out the garage make it as fun as possible.  Blast music or make your kids join you and treat them to pizza and ice cream afterwards.  Crank up the fun level in the boring.
  • Slow down a little – try to slow down a few times a day and simply observe.  If it’s nice out take a break from your computer screen and walk for 10 minutes WITHOUT your phone.  Meditate for 10 minutes to start or end your day.  Simply let your mind wander for a few.
  • Focus – when talking to someone try as hard as you can to simply focus your attention on them without thinking about what you are going to say or wondering about what new email just popped up.  When you are reading something do your best to give the content you are reading your full attention.  Listen to the full range of noises around you in almost any environment.

 

I’m not going to tell you it’s easy to keep one foot in the present and one in the future.  It’s not easy, it is possible.  But then again, most things worth doing aren’t easy.  Just ask The Rock.

All my Best,

Mat A.

ME!

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. I left a comment on your site. It was a well-written post for men, providing a lot of good information for staying out of the doldrums. Your post was well organized with an adequate use of images, well placed. Your use of the wheel was great, and your image of the scales was just right.

  2. This is a good informational and helpful post for men. I, too, gained something from reading it. I like your balancing ideas, particularly the one for the mundane. We all have to do them, so might as well make them fun.

  3. A lot of good, solid, practical advice and guidance in your article. Learned a lot. That was the important part. Took the time to read the article and gained a lot from it.

    Could I be so cheeky as to offer a few words of advice regarding the actual structuring of the article. Shorter paragraphs are a good way of holding the reader’s attention. I sometimes lose concentration when the paragraphs are long.

    Just my thinking. Otherwise thanks a million for a very helpful artiicle.
    roy

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