I realized this week that my son has hit puberty.
Seems like there should be mile markers or warning signs, but no. Yesterday he was this cute, cuddly little boy and today he’s a somewhat surly, overly dramatic, emotionally volatile pre-teen. There probably were warning signs, like his feet being two sizes larger than mine, but I totally ignored them. And he’s probably not all that surly in the grand scheme of things, but he’s definitely hit the transition.
We were walking at the park before school the other day, about 24 hours after this realization had finally sunk in and I asked him a question. I said, “In 3 – 5 years you’ll be a teenager. You’ll be part way through high school. Driving. And starting to think about college. Who do you want to be then?”
Of course, he gave me a fairly blank look and I said I to think about it and we’d talk about it later. We’ve been dealing with a restricted diet for him in the last week or so because his doctor and I think that he has some food sensitivity issues that are making him sick. A few weeks ago on the podcast I mentioned needing a compelling reason to help you do things you don’t want to do (Episode 26). He’s not at all keen on the food restrictions and I wanted him to think about a compelling why he needs to watch his food carefully as it relates to who he wants to be.
But, the question has stuck with me all week. In 3-5 years, who do you want to be? I didn’t ask what goals you want to accomplish. Or, what skills you want to learn. Or, what things you want to own, lifestyle you want to have, or what experiences you want to accumulate. But instead, who do you want to be?
I have a magnet on my fridge that has a quote from Annie Dillard on it. It says, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
If you spend your days working too much, days turn into months and months turn into years and before you know it, you’ve spent your life working too much.
If you spend your days worrying and anxious, days turn into months and months turn into years and before you know it, you’ve spent your life worrying and anxious.
If you spend your days racing from one thing to another at breakneck speed, days turn into months and months turn into years and before you know it, you’ve spent your life racing from one thing to another at breakneck speed.
The same holds true for things of value. If you spend your days seeking out ways to be kind, days turn into months and months turn into years and before you know it, you’ve spent your life spreading kindness.
These two things are intimately related. Who do you want to be in 3-5 years? Because if that person is different from who you are right now, unless you begin living your days as the person you want to be, your days will turn into months and years and you’ll spend your life being exactly the same person you are right now.
We tend to think that big things can’t be accomplished in small bits. But, as the saying goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. What you do on an everyday basis is what will determine who you are years from now. Hillary Rubin says it like this, “whatever you decide to do or not do today will impact your future, there’s no way around it.”
The good news is that if you’re used to thinking of chasing goals in big efforts, you can relax. Shawn Smith says,
Luckily, I don’t need to make jarring habit changes in order to become the person I want to be. Most likely, neither do you. The only task at any given moment is to make small approximations toward our future selves. Those continual, small choices require little effort, and with practice they become second nature. Over time, they change us fundamentally.”
A few weeks ago I started a meditation practice (I’ll share more about that with you later) which has really reminded me at a deep level that the only moment we get to live in, is this one. The past is over and done with, the future doesn’t exist yet. We live in the right now. But, too often we miss it because we’re overly focused on the past or the future.
What you do right now. Today. Determines who you are, who you will be and what your life will be marked by. Take baby steps today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Keep taking incremental steps each day and you will make faster progress than you think possible toward who you want to be.
That’s what I was thinking about while doing the art this week, about living in the now. Our past and future are there, but they’re the grayed out background to our life. They’re fuzzy possibility and fading memories. They certainly have been and will be a part of us, but what we have available to experience is the clear bright colors of now. There may be darkness in that experience, the now is not always rosy and happy, but that pain will also be diluted by time. The now has clarity and sharp edges. It has vividness and complexity. You can miss it completely if you choose to sleepwalk through life, spend too much mental and emotional effort in the past or future, or numb yourself in any number of ways.
What if you take advantage of now? Who do you want to be in 3-5 years? How you choose to live now, today, will determine that you.
Want to process the ideas in this podcast further? Download the Coffee Talk Worksheet or put this week’s art on your phone: Episode 28 Downloads