Focusing on the present is equally critical as setting goals for the future

Each week when I sit down to write my column, I usually don’t know what I want to say. Sometimes I have an idea, but it’s often half-formed and largely inspired by the events and discussions I’ve experienced over the week.

During the last few days, my thoughts have been with my grandpa, who recently returned home from a 13-day hospital stay. He’s starting to get better, and to the best of my understanding, his prognosis is good.

I had the opportunity to return home this weekend and visit with him. I got to update him on my life, help encourage him to eat and try to motivate him that it’s only a matter of time until he’s really on the mend again.

Seeing my grandpa this weekend did a few things. It illuminated the fragility of life and showed me it was possible we could have lost him, but mostly, it made me think about how the best things in life, and arguably the most important ones, are simply the people we have surrounding us.

I have had a few conversations with friends who have lost their grandparents, and they’ve encouraged me to take every opportunity I get to share stories with my grandparents, ask them questions, listen to the lessons they have to teach and try to learn from those things.

In the last few months, I’ve been working at being better about actively and regularly communicating with both sets of my grandparents. I’m one of the lucky ones in that I have four grandparents still living.

Priorities have always been an important consideration for me. They allow for clearer decisions, a rational head and justification for choices.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m career-oriented, and in many cases I value things based on the opportunities they present for professional development or networking. Maybe that’s strange or excessive, but it’s just how I’ve always been.

Recently, one of my closest friends told me she believes I prioritize wrong — that too often, I focus on school or work over the relationships I have with people around me.

While I do not think that is completely true, I do believe that often we are so wrapped up in moving forward that we don’t realize what is here now.

We all have goals, and for the most part those goals are focused on some form of upwards movement. Whether it involves occupations, relationships, finances, living situations or whatever else, we all inherently want to continue getting better.

Being goal-oriented isn’t a bad thing; it can be motivating and rewarding. However, in some cases, focusing solely on the next step, the next thing to improve or make better, can blind us to what is actually in front of us. Often, we miss the interesting people that are around us — people with lives just as chaotic, busy and interesting as our own.

One of my favorite things about advancing throughout college, meeting more people and getting the opportunity to talk with them is the realization of just how different we all are. It is endlessly interesting to me that each of us are wholly engrossed and fascinated by things that often, others are not.

For example, one of my good friends is passionate about Civil War history, another loves graphic design and my brother can talk about cars for hours.

I’m not particularly interested in any of those things. On the other hand, though, I love talking about business strategy, but most of my friends look at me sideways when I want to talk about it.

That’s the fascinating part: each of us has different interests, stories to tell and lessons to teach. What interests you doesn’t necessarily interest me, and vice versa, but the diversity and uniqueness that exists between all of our viewpoints is just as significant.

So often, we value our success based on how much money we make or our job title. Measuring success is an inherently personal thing, that is often challenging or misleading. When will we be finally satisfied with that job? When do we know that we’re finally happy? It all comes down to a single question: When do we have enough?

Despite these views of achievement, being fully cognizant of the genuine people surrounding you is also a measure of success. Being present where you are, even if you’re looking forward, is equally critical.

We don’t need to stop being goal-oriented. I know that in many ways, I will continue to prioritize school and work, because it’s something important to me. But still, even as we work towards our goals and dreams, it’s necessary to be present. It’s crucial to remember that even if we aren’t yet where we want to be, where we are is still good, and sometimes even great.

So for now, I’m trying to focus on the present, just as much as I do on the future. I’m aiming to have more genuine conversations with those around me. I’m working to be more present. I want to just be here.

My original intention for this column was to write about how we know when we’ve achieved success — how we know that the things we have are enough.

These things — the people and experiences we have right now, right here — are enough.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 10th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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