Have you ever noticed how much of our thought process is geared to the hear and now? Part of that is a logical constraint, of course. You can’t worry about getting that next promotion if you don’t first worry about crossing the road safely. So focusing on the present has the benefit of keeping us alive.
The problem, I think, comes from an obsession on the present, when the focus becomes so all-encompassing that it obscures any thought of history or future. I’ve always been suspicious of the phrase “live like there’s no tomorrow”. Seriously? If I truly wasn’t going to have a tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t worry about spending too much, credit card debt, bills or really anything close to fiscal responsibility. Know what else I wouldn’t worry about? Proper nutrition, drinking in moderation or going anywhere or doing anything that didn’t involve great fun with my loved ones. Go to work? Nope. That co-worker with the story that goes on forever? Not today!
You can imagine how quickly society would deteriorate if everyone embraced a here and now attitude in a literal fashion. But no one really does that, so what’s the worry, right? Well, I actually do see people acting in a literal fashion, just not in their personal lives. Organizations seem to do it all the time, as do political leaders. How else to explain issues like environmental pollution, lack of safety standards and extraordinary debt-financing?
Sadly, the thinking is pervasive even when the stakes aren’t so high. I’ve done a lot of corporate planning in my life and nothing dashes the dreams of tomorrow quite so much as the urgency of today. It’s like the vision that we’re all working toward becomes little more than a picture or a painting, something inarguably beautiful and worthwhile but non-existent in our day to day lives. Is it a matter of making sure we cross the street ok, or is it simply easier to focus on what’s right in front of us?
The kicker, of course, is when today isn’t the last day. The sun sets, the quarter closes and suddenly tomorrow becomes today. And much like the grasshopper who spent his whole summer playing, there’s no food stored for the winter.