Every now and then we all run into a kindred spirit. I never ever imagined I’d find these people through the wonderful world of blogging, but find them, I did. This month’s guest blogger is one of those people. I met Heather Rae through the amazing Stratejoy blog and have been following her story there and on her own blog at In Search of Squid for the last 6 months. I’m so excited to include this guest post of hers on The Quarterlife Quest!
I’ve observed a trend among personal development and lifestyle design gurus. We talk for hours about living in the now, not letting the present pass unnoticed. Then we turn around and spend hours daydreaming and planning for some perfect moment in the future, the moment we achieve our big dreams.
In a way, this is great. By mapping out the changes we want to make and taking action, we’re able to design the lives we’ve always dreamed of. But this habit also has a tendency to do something else. It tends to take us out of the present moment. Instead of living in the now and appreciating what we have, we end up pining after some perfect day in the future – the day we’re living our ideal life.
And that can be a problem. Because, although the promise of tomorrow can be exhilarating, all we really have is today. All we’re guaranteed in life is this moment. Planning for the future certainly has its place. It does good to have savings built for retirement, to plan ahead if you want to attend college, even to book airline tickets well in advance. But all this planning shouldn’t be at the detriment of the life we’re currently living.
Perhaps you’ve completed an exercise in the past that goes something like this: Sit down for thirty minutes with a pen and paper. Imagine your ideal life five years from now. What would your perfect day look like? Write it down.
I’ve done this exercise before. And I think it’s fun. I’m one of those people that love to plan. I actually get joy from scheduling anything future related, even if that means planning my budget for the next six months. I know — twisted, right?
But the other day, I was going through old papers and found a few examples of this exercise that I completed several years back. Something stood out to me. Five years ago, my ideal, imagined perfect day was incredibly different than the days I actually live today. And reading them made me sad.
No. I’m not a doctor. No. I don’t own a home. No. I’m not married. No. I’m not financially well off. No. I haven’t traveled the world. No. No. No.
So many things left undone, little to check off my list of big dreams.
Then I realized something. My dreams today are different from the dreams I had five years ago. I purposely chose not to attend medical school. I do want to get my Ph.D. eventually, but first I want to write a book and become a published author. I don’t really care if I own a home or live in an apartment. I feel different about marriage than I once did.
The reality is that I don’t have anything to feel sad about. I didn’t achieve the dreams I laid out for myself five years ago because I’ve changed. Those aren’t my dreams anymore; they’re the dreams of my past self. And if there’s anything I’m sure about in life, it’s that everything changes. Nothing remains constant. Life, people, ideas – they all ebb and flow.
And so I’ve developed a different exercise, one that celebrates life in the present. Here it is: Sit down for thirty minutes with a pen and paper. Imagine your ideal day as your life is right now. What does that day look like? How does it begin? What happens in the middle? How does it end? Write down the details of your perfect day.
In your perfect day you might wake up when you please, cook a big breakfast and spend an hour reading the paper. Perhaps you take a walk with a friend to enjoy the summer and talk about current events. Maybe you take a long lunch at a quaint restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Or sit on your patio with a pad of paper and draw. It doesn’t matter. Your perfect day could be absolutely anything. The only rule is that achieving this perfect day has to be possible in your present life.
And here’s the best part. After you write the details of your day, I want you to plan it. Yep. Pick the actual day, call your friends, look up class times. Do whatever you need to make your day a reality.
When the day comes, follow through. Live your perfect day in the present. Enjoy your life exactly as it is right now. Don’t let time pass you by. Celebrate. Take pleasure. Revel. Indulge.
This year, Heather mustered the courage to leave her day job and pursue a passion for writing. She’s stepping outside her comfort zone and plans to travel the world solo, learn another language, dance, paint, write a novel, and – most important – savor every step of the journey. She muses about life and writing on her blog, In Search of Squid. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. She’d love to hear from you!