“We humans are great at creating tools with unforeseen consequences. For instance, when we invented the wheel, we had no way of knowing we were also laying the foundations for the TV show ‘Top Gear.’” - Charlie Brooker
There’s a lot to be said about putting in the work. I’m at a time in my life where I feel that I’ve put in a lot of work, but the truth is there’s still more to do.
It’s easy to get confused and think I’ve worked hard enough and that I should be in a better place than I am now. That’s not the case - and it takes some awakening and some self introspection to realize that it is a long road.
It is easier not thinking about the future sometimes. We’re a unique animal in that 1) we’re capable of attempting to plan out our futures and 2) that we think about the future more than we think about the present
I’m beginning to believe that a lot of depression, at least from what I’ve experienced, comes from the fact that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to clearly picture the end result that we want in life. Picturing the end result is hard - but even more difficult is clarifying where you want to be so that you can picture it.
I’m no longer at a stage where I feel l have to try and picture where I want to end up.
Sure - some broad generalizations are helpful. I know that my active financial planning will land me in a great position in 20-30 years. I know that the automation of investments has made it much easier for that reality to come to fruition.
But where am I going to be in terms of my job? My career?
With careers and the economy constantly on people’s minds - this thought has a heavy load on many persons’ thoughts.
These are questions that I think were maybe easier to answer in the 70’s and 80’s when the age of technology wasn’t looming to change just about every career as we know it.
Many of you know I work in data analytics and business intelligence - which has been a great field to work in and is growing constantly. The question I find myself asking recently is - what will this field look like in 15 years?
If I’m to plan my retirement in a couple decades - it is quite difficult to imagine where I will end up in a field that is shifting with every new technological release (AI, anyone?) and with the fast pace of data growth and depth in all industries.
One thing I know that has helped me feel happier - is to stop actively brooding about these oncoming changes. Some may say this sets one up for failure when change does come - but I have a different opinion. What is setting me up for failure is not that I have stopped thinking about the coming change, but that I’ve allowed my thoughts about change to prevent me from focusing on the positive growth available now in the present.
I’ve hit career goals that only 5 years ago I thought were impossible. I’ve grown so much in many areas - my home, my family, my hobbies and finances - in a way that I only used to dream of. And yet I find that the future is more unclear now than it was when I was still struggling.
This is a problem that I feel is embedded in the depths of the human mind. When I talk about the mind in this sense - I mean the animal brain that belongs to us as a species. When we get the things that we desire, we forget what it once felt like to hope to have those things. We immediately adapt and begin comparing ourselves to others that are at our new, improved living level.
This level of comparison is detrimental, but extremely hard to overcome because it is simply built into our brain as an organ. There’s a great youtube clip of some monkeys in a lab experiment where one was given sweet grapes and the other was given something boring like a plain wafer. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KSryJXDpZo. The results are hilarious but equally apply to us as a human species. Though one is receiving food as a reward (the wafer) - he or she sees that the other monkey is getting a sweet grape and protests by throwing the food at the lab researcher.
Isn’t this a great example of just how we all act when we see others getting things that we don’t have? Even when, in the case of this experiment, the monkey might starve otherwise without the food it’s given. We allow ourselves to suffer because of personal comparisons, and social media isn’t making it any better.
I was inspired a lot by a book called The Silence of Animals by John Gray. Note - this book has a very bleak outlook on the human species, but it inspired me to think more about the human race as not the perfect species, but just an evolved species. We are still animals in the sense that we do what other animals do - and deep within our psyche we still have those animal tendencies even though we consciously work to cover them. Consciousness can only cover so much - and we have not found a way to remove those impulses from the mind (at least not on a large scale). To balance that deterministic message, I’ll say we are a lot better now as a society than we were in, say, the medieval times. Animal tendencies still impact all that we see, whether it be tribalism in politics or the ability for large tech companies to perfectly target our desires.
With all that said - it’s true that our future is still ours for growth and change. Barring things we can’t control, the world and the economy are in a great place right now. Many things, besides higher education, are cheaper than they ever were (thank you Walmart and Costco). The basic necessities of life are fairly affordable, though housing could use some work. The problem we face now is that we always want more - and that blinds us to the fact that our lives now are generally better and easier than they’ve ever been in history. Forget about the future. Live for today instead.