It’s Wednesday. Whether you’re in the office break room or browsing social media, today always seems to generate the same chorus of calendar-based commentary:
“It’s hump day!”
“Friday is in sight!”
That’s a nice, positive way to look at it, though in the middle of a grueling work week, I often preferred George Carlin’s more humorous take:
“T.G.I. Friday’s… If I had a place like that, you know what I’d call it? H-S-I-O-W. Holy Shit, It’s Only Wednesday. I think people would drink a lot more liquor if they thought it was Wednesday all the time.”
Whichever perspective resonates with you this week, the underlying message is basically the same: The work week is a slog. We suffer through five days of drudgery for two days of relief. But hey, it’s almost reward time again.
We can all relate, can’t we? Who doesn’t prefer the weekend? “Just a few more days,” we think. “Then it will be better.”
It’s not just a weekly exercise, either. Most of us live our whole lives with this future orientation, whether it’s celebrating “Three months until our next vacation!” or counting down “Just one more year until I finish my degree!”
We’re taught to think this way as soon as we can form a coherent sentence: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” becomes “What are you going to study?” which quickly turns into “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
This isn’t all a negative thing. Setting big-picture goals can help us figure out what we really want out of life.
But too often, we’re so focused on the desired outcomes that we don’t even enjoy what’s happening in front of us. We want results, not the process that comes with them.
We don’t want to get in shape; we want to be skinny.
We don’t want to hustle and save money every day; we want to be financially independent.
We don’t want to learn a language; we want to speak it fluently.
Or, to paraphrase a Mark Twain quote, we don’t want to read classic novels; we want to have read them.
When Daniel and I share our travel experiences with friends and family, the most common question isn’t “What was your favorite place?” or “What did you learn there?” It’s “Where next?”
I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m future-oriented to a fault. I want results, and I want them now. In the fourth grade, I bawled my eyes out when I couldn’t master long division on the very first day it was taught to the class. Even today, sitting in some exotic destination, my mind can’t help but wander to fantasies of camping in Banff or motorcycling across Vietnam someday.
What’s the hurry?
Our time on this planet is our most precious asset. When all we do is focus on what’s next, we’re pressing fast-forward on our lives, ignoring the reality in front of us and spinning the reels closer and closer to the end of the tape.
Big goals for the future are great. Daniel and I set plenty of them. But if we’re not enjoying the process – if we’re not finding satisfaction and meaning along the way – we’d be wise to shift our focus away from the dreamy happy ending to making the hours, days, weeks, and years that it takes to reach those goals just as enjoyable.