The other day I in my basement hitting a few putts.
One of the things I enjoy in life is golf. Here in Wisconsin, golf is a challenge in winter.
I was hitting a few putts, listening to music and thinking about how great it will be once golf season rolls around.
It was a simple though. On the surface it seems pretty harmless. What golfer wouldn’t look forward to winter ending and spring beginning?
But I caught myself and starting considering how looking forward to something can be dangerous. I paid attention to how I was feeling in the moment and my mood that had been good had turned a little sad.
I was feeling pretty good just putting in the basement and listening to music.
But when I started looking forward to springtime my mood changed. Suddenly the idea of putting in the basement while listening to music didn’t seem appealing.
Without even realizing it I put myself in a bad mood.
And I had been perfect happy and content!
A Natural Bias?
I get that it’s easy to start letting your mind drift into the future.
The old saying is the grass is always greener.
Well, that way of thinking is dangerous. It’s dangerous to look outward and think that another situation is better than the situation you’re in now. It might be true, but we have a built-in bias to thinking other things are better.
This bias is called the Focusing Effect, Focusing Illusion or Anchoring. There are variations, but I think the idea of thinking into the future is a form of the bias.
Once This Happens, Then…
Another form of looking forward to something is using the future as an excuse. Sometimes we get into bad moods in life. We’re frustrated with something. We focus on the negative. We overlook what’s good right now and perhaps out of laziness we look for an excuse not to take action.
The result is the thought:
Once this happens, then all will be fine…
The danger in that is you’re attaching your happiness and improvement to something in the future. And the even more dangerous aspect is that you might not have control over what you now need to have happen in order to be happy.
In the NFL this danger occurs sometimes. Players get hurt every year. Players and coaches on the team can fall into the trap of thinking that once the star player comes back that all will be fine.
Well, what if the star player doesn’t come back at the same performance level?
Is the season just a complete waste unless that player comes back?
The best teams are able to accept that bad things happen. It’s true in all aspects of life. The best teams take a step back and focus on what they can control and the opportunities they have.
If we get caught up in thinking that once something happens we can be happy we’re destined for a long period of sadness and perhaps even depression.
Bad things happen in life. They happen to everyone. But the key is how you respond.
Going back to the NFL for an example is this story from Will Blackmon. A couple years ago he was cut from his team just before the season started.
That’s a major blow for someone that has played football for his entire life. But Blackmon found the good in the new direction his life took. He was able to spend time with his wife and son for the entire season. That wouldn’t have been possible in the same context had he been focusing on his duties with an NFL team.
He could have sat at home depressed thinking Once I get signed by a new team, everything will be fine…
No. Instead, he focused on the positives in his life. He also kept working to change his situation. He didn’t wait for something to happen. He focused on the present and on the process.
The Other Side
This discussion is really about balance.
If we get too complacent with where we are in life then we won’t make changes. We won’t push ourselves to make improvements in our lives or in our businesses.
I like the idea of focusing on the present and the process.
Earlier I mentioned that I enjoy golf. It’s a passion. One thing I struggle with when it comes to golf is the process. Improving at golf takes practice. It’s a very frustrating game.
But many teachers say that the best players enjoy the process of practicing and improving. They enjoy it almost as much as being in the lead down the stretch in the final round of a tournament.
I’ve seen a number of interviews with Arnold Palmer. He genuinely loves golfing. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing a casual round with friends or in the final round of The Masters.
Okay, he probably loves the latter a bit more, but the truth is that he enjoys golfing. He enjoys being in the present and in the process. Every shot. Every thought. He’s present. He’s not waiting for something to happen in the future.
The next time you catch yourself thinking into the future and thinking that something needs to happen in order for change to occur in your life, take a step back and focus on what’s good right now.
Stay in the present. Enjoy what you have.
Then get back into the process and what you control as you work toward improvement.