Trading today for tomorrow?

By Jeannette Maw

The most successful method for creating happy results is to feel good now
by Jeannette Maw
R-ST_Maw_stranger.jpg“Hey, you want to come sing with me?” he asked, with a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes. “We’ll travel the world together—it’ll be a blast!”

The invitation posed by the guitar playing vagabond at my bus stop was purely ridiculous. But he asked the question with such sincerity and innocence that you’d have thought he was offering the chance of a lifetime.

Little did I know he was.

I laughed as I stepped onto the bus, hoping he had access to psychiatric help. He definitely needed it. After all, I explained as the bus doors closed, “I can’t sing!”

“I can’t sing?” The bus ride home allowed for reflection on my answer for refusing his invite, which I had to admit, held some sort of appeal. Not: “I have a husband; a job; a home; a life I love.” But rather, I can’t sing?

Down with the plan

At the time, my job as a retirement specialist was to encourage employees to save for retirement. I approached employees well-armed with statistics about the pitfalls of relying on social security, increasing health care costs, and growing life expectancies that would require enormous nest eggs to get us through.

The goal was to enroll all eligible employees for their 401k plan at the maximum rate allowed. My employer’s interest was the assets, but I truly believed I was doing the world a favor by helping Average Joe plan for his future, shuttling every available dollar into savings. And I practiced what I preached—maxing out my own contributions and methodically forecasting its growth, creating more incentive to keep saving for tomorrow.

Which is what we’re supposed to do, right? Be responsible; plan for the future. Get a safety net in place because no one’s going to make it happen for you. I mean, this is conventional “wisdom.”

I was on board with the whole gig until that guitar player solicited me to hit the road with him, and I realized I liked the thought of leaving it all behind. No more daily grind or mortgage payments? No more dress codes or living for just two precious weeks off every year? This was a new way to think about things.…

After all, he called his own shots, traveled the globe, and did so with a smile and a song. Yeah, he could probably use a shower, and I’m not suggesting wandering like a gypsy is not without challenges and drawbacks, but he seemed to have more jig in his step than I could relate to. I was living for the promise of tomorrow; he was living for the pleasure of today.

And he seemed to be doing a good job of it. What did he know that I didn’t?

The illusion of sacrifice

The blue-eyed stranger’s offer was a catalyst for seeing life with new eyes. How could I enjoy my time here as much as he enjoyed his?

It triggered me to wonder why we focus more on securing the future over enjoyment of the present moment, since now is all we have anyway. What makes tomorrow more important than today? Sacrificing ourselves in order to prepare for future time doesn’t make a lot of sense, when you think about it. Not that preparing for tomorrow is a bad idea; it just doesn’t lead to the happy endings we otherwise expect if we lose ourselves in the process. You know how that “like attracting like” thing works—unhappy journeys can only lead to unhappy endings.

Furthermore, I wondered, why do we believe the goal of enjoying today versus preparing for tomorrow are at cross-purposes? Maybe we could have our cake and eat it, too.

Which inspired me to not only rethink the wisdom of investing 40-plus years in an unfulfilling career while counting the days till retirement, but also to look for everyday opportunities to incorporate pleasure now rather than forgo it for a future reward. Like giving up dessert so we can fit into the reunion dress. Or doing the chores before we relax with the movie. Or whatever price we believe we need to pay before we’re worthy of the good stuff.

Author Michael Neill recently wrote about his experience with “The First Project of the Day,” where he suggests beginning each day by deliberately doing something that doesn’t need to be done. That is, doing something you enjoy that you might not otherwise get to until there’s “time for it”—which we know doesn’t happen frequently.

Neill’s experience was that by putting himself first at the beginning of the day he was of better service to others the rest of the day. It’s a practice that fits in nicely with the principle of making present moment enjoyment a higher priority than doing what you’re “supposed” to do.

Why put it off?

For those of you way ahead of me on this, I’m thrilled to have joined your ranks, compliments of that bus stop conversation years ago. For those of you who haven’t yet had the benefit of a wakeup call from a guitar-playing stranger, this is for you:

•    It turns out that all that keeps us from having our cake and eating it too is the belief that we’re not supposed to or it’s not possible. That’s it. Only the thought stands in our way!

•    There is nothing scary in our future that is worth sacrificing our pleasure today for. We’re the creators of our reality—and practicing deliberate creation allows us to experience what we would prefer, rather than what we fear.

•    We’re already worthy, automatically, no matter what. We don’t have to prove ourselves deserving of what we want before we get it. There’s no test to pass or sacrifice to offer or hard times to endure in order to earn happiness. Happy days can be ours simply by knowing it and choosing it.

If you’re not doing what you love right now, what are the reasons you use to justify your actions? You have to finish the degree, or raise the kids, or pay off the debt before you can focus on you? My experience as a life coach tells me that we easily find arguments to distance ourselves from what we love most, and none of them are good.

But because we’ve built lifetimes around the rationale of delaying—or putting off altogether—what we most desire, it can be overwhelming and debilitating if we don’t actively question those thoughts.

The “reason” I went to a life-sucking job every day was because this is what I had worked so hard for; this is what was expected of me; this is where the money was. I couldn’t let my boss down, I had no other employable skills, this was “who I was.”

Each of those excuses served as a bar in my self-imposed prison.

My wanderer friend helped me see another way. The Law of Attraction taught me unhappy journeys don’t lead to happy endings. Author Eckhart Tolle walks the talk of enjoying the present moment, and author Byron Katie shows us nothing needs to change in order to do so. Practicing deliberate creation showed me the most successful method for creating happy results is to feel good now, whatever that means for me.

As we’re in the throes of summer vacation mode, it’s worth remembering that we don’t have to limit our enjoyment of life to two measly weeks of the year. Which many of us struggle to enjoy anyway, since we’re so busy preparing for it and recovering from the busy-ness of it once we return.

That’s not what we came here for.

There is incredible happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment available when we release old beliefs and patterns, and let our imagination take us somewhere that feels better. As we entertain new possibilities, managing gremlin thoughts and fears that tell us it can’t be done, our vibration shifts and calls forth an entirely new reality.

Life is happening right now, and this present moment is all we get. What are you doing with yours?

Jeannette Maw is an Attraction Coach and founder of Good Vibe Coaching in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally published on July 3, 2008.