“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
It is a difficult thing to start a journey that you have little idea of the destination or how to get there, unless, of course, you like meandering through the scenery of your life without direction. But even than, the simpliest of navigation begins with one thing: where you are right at that moment.
In physical navigation over terrain, this is easy. You look down. You’re standing on something, or sitting on something. You have the benefit of gazing about and assessing what your immediate environment looks like. Where the sun is tells you very basic time of day, the temperature is a factor, things on the horizon, other people, etc. Even if you have no idea where Here is, you know you’re there, at least. Not too extremely lost. But in the grand scheme of life, it’s not so easy. Physically, you may be sitting in a chair reading this, but could you so simply look about you and find out where you are in your life right now? A surprising number of people cannot, or don’t think to.
Depending on what social mores you’ve subscribed to up until now, where you are in your life’s progress is often pegged against some standard. If you’re still in grade school, it’s how well your grades are, what grade you’re in relative to your age, how well you score on standardized testing, how popular you are. Older people gauge it by salary, titles on business cards, marital status and children, and property ownership. These are very basic and material things, but they are worth looking at now in terms of where you feel you stand.
For it is how you feel your standing is according to your standards that’s important, so let’s think about what you could try measuring against instead of what other people think you should be doing. Consider, in general, if you are happy or not. Satisfied with how your life is right now. Do you worry about making bills? Is your job satisfying? Does it occupy a whole lot of your time and effort? If you’re in school, do you think you’re doing well enough to put yourself into a position you want to be in after graduation and on (this applies to both grade school and university)? If you’re on a degree program, do you like what you’re studying? Does it seem to fit you?
Perhaps a telling question would be: When you woke up this morning, did you look forward to the day?
These are questions with telling answers. Even without knowing a great deal about where you want to go, it’s very important to find out where you are right now and understand how it relates to your direction. You may find that you feel pretty good about a lot of your life as it is now, with a few things that aren’t happy. This is most people, really. Not everything is perfect. But you may find yourself lost where you stand, with a large chunk of how you live now striking you as lacking. No matter what state your life is in, the key thing is to really, really look at it honestly and ask yourself if it’s what you want.
Often, people will take a short term loss in order to realize a long term gain. This applies to things like school and jobs as well as finance. If you aren’t happy with your studies at university, are you doing it because it will gain you something you know you will be happy with in the future? Maybe you are in a lower position at your company because you know you can advance into a better position the way you’re going. If you look at the now with some limited projection into the future, in terms of why you’re doing something now, be sure to keep in mind the Why of it. Why are you doing something or into something that doesn’t make you happy, and if you’re doing it for a greater goal, are you going to get that goal for certain?
If you’re waiting for something, ask yourself: Will it be worth the wait?
So take a look around you and see your life. Is it what you want to see? What others want you to see? You’re the one living your life right now, and will be the one doing it for years ahead. Start with the simple step of finding your Here and Now.