Living in the moment as a career management strategy
Don’t focus too much on the past or future
Feb 18, 2015
By Brian Kreissl
One of my most popular blog posts ever was the one I wrote last year about mindfulness.
While mindfulness is a popular concept, I wasn't necessarily talking about the most popular context which relates to meditation, quiet reflection and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of one’s current surroundings.
Instead, I was referring to the idea of living in the moment and concentrating on the here and now, as opposed to living in the past or obsessing over the future. I was also recommending people put down their smartphones and pay more attention to their actual family and social lives as opposed to social media.
Those concepts are all closely related, but I was most interested in talking about enjoying what you’re currently doing and giving it your undivided attention — whether at work or at home. That has important implications not only for personal happiness and fulfillment, but also for one’s career and the ability to get things done.
In spite of how important the concept of living in the moment is for me personally, I haven’t always practiced what I preached in that regard. I have been guilty of being both incurably nostalgic and obsessive about the future at the same time — while forgetting to stop and smell the roses.
Obsessing over the past and future
Our past is important to us. It helps to shape and define who we are, and decisions made in our past ultimately affect our present and future. I sometimes feel constrained by my past and wish I could escape it and get a do-over.
But who knows what paths our lives would have taken if we hadn’t made certain choices? In many cases, what seems like a bad decision now may still turn out to be the right one in the end.
However, I don’t generally look upon my past negatively. While I definitely have regrets and wish I could go back and change certain things, I’m much more likely to remember the past with “rose coloured glasses.”
For me personally, though, the real problem hasn’t been excessive nostalgia. For a large part of my life, I actually spent so much of my time planning and obsessing over my future that it impacted my ability to enjoy the present.
I spent so much time with my head in the clouds that I became a bit absent-minded and began to neglect certain aspects of my life. As a result, time flew and opportunities passed me by.
Believe it or not, my biggest problem in this regard has been obsessing over my career. I wish I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent planning my next move in my path to a corner office and poring over university websites trying to decide what courses to take that might help me reach my goals.
Implications for HR practitioners
While everyone should have a career plan, obsessing over one’s career and exploring every possible what-if scenario just results in worry, unhappiness and “analysis paralysis.” Constantly focusing on the future tends to take one’s mind off the present and what needs to get accomplished today.
While planning is important, it’s even more important to be decisive. Make a plan and stick to it — at least until it no longer makes sense or the time comes to re-evaluate your goals.
It is extremely important to focus on doing a good job right now. But you won’t be able to do that if your mind is constantly somewhere else.
Don’t think of any job as beneath you or only a stepping stone to something bigger and better. You never know when a job you initially thought of as just something to pay the bills ends up leading to a rewarding and fulfilling career.
I know it is particularly tough for HR professionals right now. Everyone seems to want to have a go at HR these days — with some predicting the eventual demise of the function or complaining how we supposedly don’t add value to organizations.
While there’s no doubt HR is changing — and it is necessary to keep abreast of emerging trends and best practices in the profession — HR professionals still need to concentrate on doing their best under the current conditions while planning for the future. We really can’t control the future, but we can control the here and now.
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Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.