Regret the Past, Fret over the Future…or be Present
“No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs?”
-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
We look to our younger days before we entered the path to FIRE. “I was so stupid, I wasted so much money”!
We look to our future when we have achieved financial independence and think “I can’t wait to do x once I’m free!” Or we worry about whether this, that, or the other will happen as we’ve planned.
As Marcus Aurelius remarked, we don’t own the past or future. We all enter this world immature and ignorant by default. Realizing that we made mistakes is a sign of both maturity and wisdom, so don’t let your previous errors cause you pain.
We can’t change what happened in the past, and while we can influence the future (what’s the point of living by the principles of FIRE, after all?), it’s anything but certain.
Be Mindful When Your Mind Strays
We like to torture ourselves over mistakes and missteps made in the past. We like to wring our hands in anxiety of what the future may bring.
Today, I want you to be conscious of any thoughts you have about your past or future.
Any time you wish you had done something differently or you daydream about living in an architectural masterpiece on the side of a remote mountain (whatever your kick is), I want you to realize that you’re doing this.
For any time we spend contemplating the past or the future is taking away from the present moment. The present is the only thing promised to us, it’s a gift, and it must not be neglected.
The path to financial independence is highly future-focused. We plot and plan to escape the daily drudgery of our jobs or situations.
Ask yourself though, why do we long for FI?
Think about that for a minute.
Whether it be the ability to travel, spend more time with your family, go fishing, whatever your reasons for wanting FI…we all strive for it because we want to, in the future, be able to routinely enjoy the present. To BE present.
I’ve got a newsflash for you: if you don’t learn to be present and enjoy the present now, this won’t change once you’ve reached financial independence. You’ll have to replace your goal for FI with something else because you are FUTURE focused.
You’re also in charge of exactly how much you enjoy the present. Nobody can tell you not to be grateful and enjoy the day. How you feel is 100% in your control and 100% your responsibility.
Not All Happy Happy Joy Joy
That’s not to say we’re not allowed to have crappy days.
Shit happens. We’re human. Embrace the suck, accept it, and get through it.
But we can minimize the number of crappy days we endure by being cogniscent of our thought patterns and emotions.
Learn from your past so you don’t repeat your mistakes. Plan for the future so you have a brighter one.
Once you’ve set your plans in motion and adhere to your FI plan, let your past and future go. Make the most of what’s with you right now, the present.
I spent most of my adult life constantly setting new goals to crush and things to achieve. While I’ve got a great resume to show for it (and who gives a shit about that, really), I’m ashamed to admit that I only started enjoying life in the last two years. I trained myself to think “once I get this MBA I’ll be happy” or “once I get this raise everything will be ok.” It’s as silly as it sounds.
As I comb my hair in the morning and observe the encroachment of the stray grays, I’m reminded to enjoy this day.
I’ve done everything in my control to ensure a good future and my duty now is to enjoy today. Once the sun has set and I’ve gone to bed, this day in my limited set of days is gone forever.
If you enjoyed this post, check out more Stoic philosophy here!