As a working mom, I often feel like I get conflicting information. For example, I’m supposed to be sexy for my husband, but gender-neutral in a boardroom. (Hypothetically; I’ve never actually worked in a boardroom.) The advice we get on how to succeed also seems to contradict what we’re told we need to do in order to be happy.
In order to be successful, we’re supposed to set goals and have a forward-facing outlook.
In order to be happy, we’re supposed to focus on the present and be grateful for where we are right now .
That’s been confusing for me at times. When I’ve written about my goals or aspirations, I’ve been chided by other women who are concerned that I’m not taking in the moment. “Don’t always be thinking of what comes next,” they warn me, promising that I’ll someday miss my present day if I don’t take the time to soak it in. And yet the business books I read, whether written by men or women, advise me to always have a goal. I’m supposed to spend time visualizing the future. If I am consumed enough by the details of the future, I’ll be supernaturally moved towards a an existence where my dreams are a reality.
Or something like that.
How in the heck am I supposed to focus on the future and the present?
Do I have to choose?
No, thank goodness. In this case, I can have it all.
I am, by nature, a goal oriented person. I love having projects in both my work and personal life. I’m always working towards something. That forward motion actually makes me happy in the present.
But, I’ve also learned that reveling in the present is crucial for my sense of inner peace. Being aware of and accepting what’s right in front of me allows me to enjoy my daily life more, but also to quickly adapt when life changes - which it constantly does.
So, how do I manage both of these seemingly opposing perspectives?
I make a conscious effort to work on the one that doesn’t come naturally. In my case, that’s being mindful of the present moment. I don’t need much of a push to set a new goal, but I do need some kind of structure or habit to remind me to pay attention to the here and now. I choose to use a morning meditation ritual and a regular gratitude practice. Those two regular activities pull me back into reality frequently enough that I no longer fear getting lost in my pursuit of the next great project.
I suspect if I was naturally more inclined to revel in contentedness, I would want to set up practices that encouraged forward thinking. Perhaps I’d have a weekly goal setting session, or join a mastermind group to help keep me on track. I imagine these types of habits would help push me out of my reverie from time to time so that I could achieve forward motion in my career and personal life.
What about you? Do you naturally focus on the future or the present? How do you find a balance between achieving and appreciating?