There is a great balance that is necessary in life. On the one hand we must be aware of what we want. Without goals, without direction, life can seem meaningless. Without a plan to accomplish our goals, and without mentors helping us along the way, we can quickly get off track.
However, on the other hand, if we only direct our focus on the future, then we will be ineffective in the present. Therefore we must learn the delicate balance of taking the time to focus on the future (in terms of visualizing specifically what we want) and also perfecting the art of focusing on the present. The future is nothing but the sum of present moments. What we do with each moment compounds and thereby creates the future. If we only focus on the future, we will neglect the present and it will be likely that we will not create the future that we desire.
This wisdom has been understood by masters throughout history. Here is a great passage from Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai illustrating this point:
There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment…Live being true to the single purpose of the moment. Everyone lets the present moment slip by, then looks for it as though he thought it were somewhere else…Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.
I find that “chunking” is an effective method of balancing both concepts. Each day I will take the time to reflect, visualize, meditate, read and think. My mind is focused on the future. I will do this in controlled “chunks” of time. I also try to chunk my time in the present. So when I am planning my day, I do so in blocks of time so that during each block I can lose myself in a given action. By doing this I enter into a flow state and I also am able to tap the best that is within.
If you are in a situation that is undesirable (for example a career that you dislike or that isn’t fulfilling) then take immediate steps to implement these two strategies. Design in your mind exactly what you want out of life and then start to condition it through focused visualization and meditation each day. Then start to take action toward your outcome by chunking time and focusing on taking action in the present. Even if you only have one hour of free time a day (in that your current job is demanding) if you divide this hour into 5 minutes of focused visualization and 55 minutes of present moment action toward your desired outcome, over time, these small simple steps will massively compound. Resist the temptation to fill that hour with “dead” time like TV, or the news. Take steps towards where you want to go.
Look to the future, and learn to focus on the present moment.