By Angela Edmonds
Do you ever feel like we live in the world of “the next thing”? Everyone seems to be reaching for their next step all the time. There’s always a new job, a new adventure, a new project. Being surrounded by relentlessly motivated people can be incredible until comparison creeps up and takes hold. Then all of the sudden, all you can think about is everything that you’re not doing that you should be.
About once a day, I get asked, “So what’s next for you?” Because I’m in a sort of in-between transition season, it’s time to figure out the next job or the next city or whatever. I usually just smile and answer that I don’t know what’s next, but that I’m not too worried about it right now. Some people encourage me. Some say that it’s okay that I don’t have a plan. Others act like there is something seriously wrong with me because the future is a big black hole where nothing is for sure.
I am not suggesting that we stop thinking about what is next. That is a dangerous step towards complacency. Looking to the future can be an incredibly valuable thing. Planning is good. Dreaming is so good. However, I see two main problems with living for the next thing.
We forget to pause and breathe in the uniqueness of this moment. Being present is something that I have to work on constantly. I have to learn to listen well, to notice the details of my everyday life that are so easily missed. This seems obvious, but I have to learn to put my phone down. When I am walking somewhere or waiting on a bus, I put my phone in my bag so the temptation is out of sight. Sometimes the strangers surrounding you are more important than scrolling through Instagram.
We believe the lie that the “next step” means success. This is important: you are enough right where you are. Your job does not define you. Your 5-year plan is not the most important thing about you. You are just as worthy in this moment as you would be if you figured everything out. We often forget that we are always in process. As far as I know, there is no job promotion, accomplishment, or life event that will be my finish line. I will keep growing and learning and changing.
I think that we are supposed to strike a balance between dreaming about the future and truly participating in the present moment, and that is no easy task. A competitive, individualistic society tells you that you are only as good as what you are achieving and reaching for. Self-love tells you to keep dreaming, but to deeply know that you are sufficient right now.