Have you ever been listening to a speaker, a lecture, or reading a book and all of the sudden come across something so deep that you find yourself stopping, closing the book, and staring at the wall, simply pondering what you just heard? That happened to me today.
I was listening to the Eastern philosopher Alan Watts and heard an idea that totally shook me up inside. The quotation is found in this video.
You’ll hear him say this,
“Making plans for the future is of use only to people who are capable of living completely in the present.”
– Alan Watts
That is deep. Really deep. Maybe you already understand its meaning, I don’t know, but that little bit of information is something I’d been needing for a long time. It fired off a giant epiphany in my head. I found myself walking around the house exclaiming, “Of course! Of course! Why have I not realized this before?”
Unless someone knows how to engage in the world, enjoys the present, and can live in the moment, right here and now, they are completely incapable of making any decent future plans either for you, or for themselves.
I can give countless examples but let’s just examine a few. The most obvious would be two lovers. If the person can’t love you in the present moment, just as you are, right then and there, they’re incapable making future plans of you two together in some happy life. They can’t do it. They’re incapable.
Another example. If your teacher or adviser isn’t someone who is totally engaged in a subject, who isn’t passionate about it, who doesn’t feel that subject is the most fascinating thing on Earth, they’re incapable of helping you make career plans in that field. It doesn’t matter how knowledgeable they are. They’re not able to make any worthwhile plans for you.
Another example. Say you visit a life coach, social worker, or religious pastor who offers you counsel, yet as you talk with them, you realize their belief system focuses completely on the afterlife and distant plans. If their system doesn’t stress a mindset that helps you enjoy your life in the here and now, if it doesn’t help you fix immediate problems, if it doesn’t help you find something that is worthwhile in your life right now, and instead focuses entirely on the future, they’re incapable of helping you change your life.
Everything has to break down into actions you can take now. All that exists is now. That’s not to say you shouldn’t make plans for the future. No no no. I’m not saying to shut off thought and just blindly try to exist in the present. Alan Watts helped me realize that if you’re incapable of enjoying right here and now, you’re also incapable of making any worthwhile plans for the future. It’s useless. Don’t even bother. If you can learn to enjoy where you are now, then you’ll have a guide, a taste, of what you need to continue, expand, and work on. That enjoyment in the present gives you the seed which you can then water, fertilize, and make grow. Without it, you have nothing to go off of. No direction. You’re aimless, without a compass or guide.
Life is like a giant hallway with millions of doors. If you open one of those doors, you end up in other rooms, themselves filled with millions of doors. There are countless paths for you at any given time and we have nothing to go off of. So how do you make plans? How do you decide what you should do?
Wherever you are, right here, right now, with your current resources, with your current life, you have to find something you like. You must find something you’re passionate about. You have to find something that engages you and places you in the present and that very engagement is what takes you to the next door, and the next. Then and only then should you even consider making plans for yourself, in any capacity. If you think you’re just going to blindly guess where you need to go, out of all those millions of doors, you’re kidding yourself.
You don’t choose a career and then hope it goes well. You don’t choose some woman (or man) and then try to change her (or him) into something you like. You don’t try to change the world if you don’t even have your own passion and engagement in the world. You’re just wasting time.