Doing Your Best Work Now

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have an idea in your head of where you want to be in 6 months…1 year…5 years…and you put so much time and thought into that potential future that you just kind of skirt by at what you’re doing now because “eh, this isn’t the final destination.”

I fall into this trap more often than I would like to admit. I hope the future is bright, and I have some pretty concrete plans on how to make sure I get where I want to go. I get caught up in the excitement of the future and want to put all my energy into making my future self better. The future is more fun, after all. The future is whatever you want it to be, and doing whatever work needs to be done to get there feels like stealing a bit of that future life right now.

In some ways this is great. You should always be looking for ways to better yourself, and developing whatever skills you need is necessary. For example, deciding to wake up an hour early everyday so you can do X, Y, or Z is a great way to make time for your development. That’s not the type of stuff I’m talking about.

No, the trouble comes when your current work is hindered by the fact that you’re already living in the future in your head. You get into a mindset that “this is just a stepping stone” and you don’t really have to worry about doing amazing now because your real destiny is down the road and then you’ll be awesome. You know, when it really matters. But that’s a sure-fire way to stop you right in your tracks.

About 3 years ago I wrote a piece called Finish the Job (Because Nobody Cares What You’re “Going to Do”) and I think that sentiment applies to this “future self” thinking. The people who rely on me to do great work today don’t care what my future plans are, they just need me to be awesome right now. You can tell yourself you’re going to be awesome in the future when everything is “right,” but you may never get there if you don’t earn it now.

Now is what really counts because now is real. Your past is what got you this far, but it’s just a memory now. Your future is still just an idea in your head, but it’s not here yet. The only thing you can really control is what you do now, so do your best work now, don’t save it for later.

And here’s the real kicker, and it’s something that’s becoming more clear to me all the time, you’ll never feel like you’ve totally made it. You will go places and achieve goals you used to think were insurmountable. But even though you achieve a certain goal you set for yourself, it doesn’t take long for you to start thinking about the next step. Whatever future you’re envisioning right now, you very well may get to that place and quickly start to think, “this is great, but I’ll bet you I could do _____ next.”

It’s my experience that you’ll never be totally satisfied with what you have and where you are in life. That’s great! It’s what gives you that drive to better yourself, which is fantastic. Hold onto that. But remember that while you’re lusting after the future, you still have to try to be amazing today.