Wasteland Kings

Recently I’ve been thinking about how much of my life that I miss out on because I’m thinking about the future. These thoughts aren’t exclusively negative, but they all center on what will happen on the future. One way or another, they all come come back to the question of whether I’m getting closer to my goals or not.

I’ve realized that this represents a real problem because it distracts me from the simple joy and peace of living in the present.

Food makes for a really good example of this problem. Have you ever known someone who didn’t really enjoy the taste of food? If you’ve never met such a person, simply imagine a life where you just cared about the nutritional value of food.

Imagine not caring about taste, texture, or smell and just wanting enough calories to keep you moving. That isn’t the worst kind of life that I can imagine, but it doesn’t sound fun either. My daily life has followed a similar pattern for a long time though.

For quite some time now, I haven’t really tasted the full joy and peace of daily life because I’ve been too focused on my goals. Instead of fully tasting the experiences of daily life, I think about whether they get me closer to my goals. If they don’t get me any closer, I begrudgingly enjoy them or mentally check out as I go through the motions.

This is kind of like eating the bad cookies your friend baked because you don’t want them to feel bad. You don’t actually enjoy the cookies and you find yourself mechanically taking bites of the cookies instead of savoring them. I recently realized that I was mechanically getting through my daily life and not savoring it.

Falling into the trap of going through the motions makes a little more sense for people who work 9-5 in a cubicle and don’t enjoy their job. I love my job though and, thanks to the generosity of other people, I have an incredible view in the office where I write.

The drudgery of my job didn’t cause me to go through life mechanically, my hyper-focus on my goals did that. The experiences of my daily life became mechanical because they became a means to an end. Instead of focusing on what I was doing or the world around me, I just focused on whether I was getting closer to my goals.

That hyper-focus robbed me of joy and peace because I missed out on all of the beauty and wonder of my daily life. From the shining of the sun to a conversation with a friend, God provides us a multitude of ways to savor our lives. Instead of savoring my life, I just chewed through it and thought about the best ways to get closer to my goals.

It’s important to note that not all of my goals were inherently bad. The problem wasn’t that I thought about getting married or publishing a book, it was how those thoughts distracted me. They took my focus away from simply enjoying my daily life and that stole a great deal of joy and peace from me.

I’m not suggesting that we all give up on our goals, quit our jobs, and just enjoy sitting outside all day. We need to find a happy medium between just savoring life and working towards our goals. Each of us knows the direction we need to head in order to find that medium.

All of us know what it’s like to get halfway through dinner with someone and realize that your mind has been elsewhere the whole time. We also know what it’s like to spend way too long savoring a bowl of ice cream. It will take more than a few heart checks and some honest conversations with friends, but the result will be more than worth it.

That result should look something like learning how to have a balanced diet. Eating healthy is about finding the right balance between food you like and food that is good for you. We must find a similar balance between being mindful of our goals and enjoying our daily lives.

When we do that, we’ll experience an impossible amount of joy and peace when we really start to enjoy our daily lives. It’s not necessary to quit our jobs and live out in the wild to make that happen though. We just have to slow down, shift our focus away from our goals, and take the time to enjoy the beauty and wonder of today.

Do you think you could take 5 minutes today to just enjoy something beautiful or catch up with a good friend? Do you believe this would make a measurable difference in your life?
Image Copyright: Miamitom

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Matthew Rial