Too often, we can get caught up in doing things as merely a means towards an end. In other words, we pick and choose to complete tasks and participate in activities just so that we gain some tangible benefit in the future. Oftentimes, we can feel pressured to feel “productive,” unable to shoo away the nagging feeling that we are not doing something that will improve our futures. Other times, we are preoccupied by the fact that us doing something we enjoy will take time away from other more “important” tasks. At first glance, it seems that this line of thinking is what maintains motivation and promotes drive. Unfortunately, this ironically myopic mindset can actually be damaging for one’s mental health and welfare.
It’s not that the future isn’t important––of course, it is absolutely necessary to be concerned about the long term benefits and consequences of the actions taken now. This means that school, work, exercise, etc must be focused on even if they can cause us some temporary headache. We can’t just fool around without concern for what happens later and focus solely on digging for short term bursts of dopamine––that would just seal us into a future without a purpose.
However, it’s equally as important to realize that preparing for the future isn’t all what life’s about. If that were true, the first 18 years of our lives would simply be the tutorial to the “real” game of life that is the rest of our existence. And yet, those first 18 years will forever be unique, as they define our experiences as youth. Forgetting to stop and smell the roses and instead focusing solely on doing things for the future will cause those years to fly past us without us genuinely living in it.
So don’t think that you need to be constantly working on that AP Calculus worksheet or studying for some computer science test to be living your life to the fullest. Finding and doing the activities you enjoy that may not play a direct role in your future is just as necessary for your happiness.