The joy of unfinished work: Don’t live too much in the future

I love getting things done.
Isn’t it great to just get things done, finished? Now today, Christmas Eve is a great day to feel that, because it is great to get things finished before Christmas, to be able to say OK, this is a natural pause in the year, Christmas to New Year’s, this end of year pause.
Let’s get things done before Christmas.
So I try to get as much finished as I can, so I can take this nice little break.
But most of the time, it’s just finishing things is something that I’m looking forward to.
It’s like you have a to-do list, and then you look forward to it being cleared.
And of course, somehow, it seems like no matter what, the to-do list always grows.
I do believe it’s possible to have the to-do list eventually shrink down, and I’m still working towards that dream, but it just seems like each day, no matter what, is going to bring new things to do.
I think a lot of this kind of achievement mindset, this kind of mindset of going for goals, it’s something that can easily go too far into future thinking.
As much as all the advantages that it brings to prepare for the future in that way, as great as that is, as useful as it is to put off immediate gratification to be able to build for the future, to have a vision for the future and work towards it, it’s also possible to go too far in that direction, to the point where you’re just living in the future.
It’s like making a deal with yourself to say “I’ll be happy when I’m done.” If that goes too far, eventually life becomes something for the future.
We can’t live life in the future.
We can be building towards the future, and that’s a wonderful thing.
But my idea for today that I’m thinking about is that no matter what, we have to live in the present.
Even if we are doing all the sacrificing activities, sacrificing our present desires to build something better for the future, even then, even if we’re building towards the future, we are still alive today.
Even when the focus of our thoughts is on some kind of future realization, something that will become better in the future, and now we’re suffering through difficult times in order to get something better in the future, still, we’re alive today.
We still are living each day.
And we can’t spend all our lives looking forward to the future, because then eventually- well, not only are you then missing all the days in the present as you look forward to each tomorrow, you eventually reach the day where you don’t have a tomorrow for yourself.
And so then the future will never be realized.
Then you’d look back and say, well, I had all those days.
But each of those todays, my head was full of tomorrow.
my head was full of OK, everything that I want today, I’m putting it off to tomorrow.
So I think what’s necessary, and what I’m working on building for myself, is this sense of loving the work, loving the sacrifice, loving what I do building towards tomorrow.
So it’s like I have a vision for what I want my future, the future, to be like.
And in some sense, it’s like oh, you know, I’ll be happy when I achieve that vision.
Because, you know, that’s what I want.
That’s the life I want.
I’m working to build the life I want.
So I’ll be happy when I achieve the vision.
But no matter what, there’s always another mountain on the horizon.
There’s always some further goal that can be next after we achieve something.
So it’s always on the horizon.
So what I’m working on is a sense of being completely satisfied without having anything finished.
So I’m doing work that is far from finished.
The goal is far down the road.
And yet, I still have to live these days, and I still want to be truly alive in these days in which my goals are unrealized.
So it’s like it’s a way of thinking where the road towards the goal is itself fully satisfying.
It is complete.
Simply to know that I am moving in the right direction towards what I want to achieve: that needs to be enough.
That is the state of most of our lives.
These states of achieving goals: that’s momentary.
You could work towards a big goal, you achieve it, have a big celebration on one day.
Maybe it’s a huge achievement, and you take a week of celebration.
You could take a month of celebration.
Maybe a year- I wonder what kind of goal would give you a year of celebration.
But eventually, that celebration ends, because that goal has been achieved.
It’s now established, and now it’s moving on to the next step.
So these states of achievement, of having finished our work and achieved our goal, are very short pieces of our life. But the state of striving towards a goal, working towards something that’s not there yet, incomplete work, a project on the go, that is the state of almost every day of our lives.
And so, however we want to live our lives, we’re living them in the world of unfinished work. […]

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