When explorers were lost, they often corrected course by climbing a hill or a tree.
All of us are explorers in different walks of life – in discovering the ideal profession, in finding our life partner, in defining our friend’s circle and so on. And like most explorers, we often get lost. At ground level an explorer’s choices are limited by what she can immediately notice. Similarly most of our life’s choices are limited by what we experience in the present moment.
Let us say that Simon does a degree in law, because that is what his parents most wanted. On graduating, he works as a lawyer for 2 years and realizes how much he hates the profession. Nevertheless, he continues working as a lawyer because of the 5 years that he just spent in law school. In the present moment, he is trapped by his most immediate choices.
Alternatively, Simon could ask himself if he would be happy with a successful career in law 20 years in the future. If the answer is ‘yes’, he would stop hating his profession as much. If his answer is ‘no’, he musters the motivation to move on. By stepping out of the present and leaping into the future, he gives himself a vantage point to evaluate his current choices.
Living in the present moment can be liberating. But at the same time, the present moment can be a prison that forces us to perpetuate the suffering caused due to a bad choice. The best way to step back from the present is to leap forward a few years.
PS: The first episode of my new podcast explores the psychological phenomenon at work here.