I take a very long view of life. Friends of mine have joked that I live about four months ahead of the current moment. I can’t really argue with them. As soon as I go out to an internship, I am already mentally preparing for leaving it. The way I live my life is to make a decision in the future and then work to make it happen. This reminds me of a quote I like from John Richardson, Jr.: “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen and those who wonder what happened.” I definitely try to be one of those making his own future. This takes a very forward thinking mindset.
I have an overused metaphor for the situation. We are all just floating down the river of life. Some people like to splash around a lot. I prefer to just go with the flow. I don’t really fight the current at all. Yet, I still have to avoid the rocks of life. What I try to do is keep a look out way down river for upcoming troubles. I then stick a hand in the river and start adjusting my position. Since I start from so far away, I put little effort into avoiding the problem.
When I finally pass the rock, I see those that are frantically trying to splash away from it. I can’t help but wonder how they didn’t see it coming. Most of the people in the world, it would seem, have a very narrow view of time. They are consistently surprised and annoyed by events that come along with plenty of warning. Many individuals are then caught unprepared while I serenely drift around.
Now, if for any reason I doubt my hand will get me around the rock, then I open myself up to mistakes. I will remove my hand, I will move it too much or not enough and end up hitting the rock. Doubt is the biggest enemy of the long view. I must have confidence I will reach my goal or avoid the rock. Otherwise, it can all come crashing down.
Although the metaphor is too simple, I do not set plans in stone. Lesson 1: Things always change. Because of this, my future goals are normally rather flexible and loosely defined. Get above a B. Get a job. I allow details to change while the end goal is met. I know I’d be doomed to failure if I set up specific aspirations.
Being a few steps ahead of the game is always beneficial. You are conscious of the test next week where some people will only start thinking about it the night before. Like a game of chess, the masters play dozens of possible moves ahead. That is what makes them chess grandmasters. Novices barely know how the pieces move.
Granted, there are issues with this worldview. First, it takes a lot of patience to wait for the proper outcome. Also, it is very hard to lose myself in a moment. I am too busy focusing eight steps down the road. It is hard to enjoy the scenery when you are looking a mile down river. Many wise words urge against this, like Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Truly soaking in a moment is very rare for me and is the weakness of the long view. So, although I’m advocating it, it is definitely not for everyone.
Overall, though, I can’t complain very much. Life has been made easier because of this view. I take care of problems before they become problems. I set realistic goals and I make sure to reach them. These are the benefits of the long view that make life simple. Most people make life hard because they don’t see the rock coming until it’s too late. I stick a hand in the river and simply enjoy the current.