The Good Life Institute, LLC » Counseling for Couples, Individuals, and Families

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“The One Day When” Syndrome

Great view of the New York City (NYC) skyline with a few high buildings and sun in the background.

I have two kids.  Yes, two kids.  They used to be babies.  I think they were babies yesterday, but then time tells me it was years ago.  I used to be told that life goes by very quickly and to pay attention as time passes.  In some weird way, I thought maybe that time would go by fast for others, but that I would always have time.  I remember being in college and dreaming about my bucket list dream to move to NYC and go to school there.  It came and went and I remember having thought about that dream so long, I was so used to thinking about it and nothing else.  I remember when I was at graduation and so excited to have crossed that item off my “to do” list.  But, I also remember being uncomfortable because I had NO IDEA what I would think about now.  And, I realized that I had lived my life so much for that moment, that I hadn’t actually noticed the process and though I had wonderful moments along the way, I was so focused on “One Day When I Graduate”, that when it happened, and it was truly only a moment, I had missed out on participating in so many moments along the way.  And, I wasn’t ever going to get my NYC journey back or my college years back.  It took a long time to practice new thoughts about my future, but even more practice paying attention to the present moment.

Many people I see in my office have plans for the future.  And, there is nothing wrong with having plans for the future.  Actually, it’s necessary and healthy to have goals to work on and plans to look forward to.  We get very cautions when people aren’t “future-oriented”.  Even so, I see many people who get stuck on their one goal and live their life ONLY for that goal and get stressed out when the one goal they are set on isn’t happening fast enough.  Yes, it is stressful when you can’t live until your plan happens.  And, if your plan is a few years out….well, then you’re kinda missing out on a lot.

It looks like this: “I will spend more time with my family when I’m making more money.” “I will feel happy when I finally get promoted.” “When I am making so much money, then I will be able to relax.”  “When I finish school and have a job, then life will be okay.”  “When I move out of my parents, I can finally get settled.”  “When I get that new job, my stress will go down.”  “When my kids are older, I will work on taking care of myself.”

The problem with “One Day When” is that we forget to live now and spend our lives consumed with a fantasized picture of what life should be rather than practicing acceptance of our current life, practicing helpful thoughts, and making the time good in the now.  We won’t be happy one day when if we haven’t practiced being happy or thinking helpful thoughts now.  That doesn’t just happen.  Chances are pretty strong that if we’re practicing One Day When thoughts now, when we actually get that new job or more money or whatever, we will still be thinking about one day when.  And, at some point, we will run out of life.

I really started to embrace this when I realized that my children would just keep growing and that if I focused on something down the road, they would be older and I would miss out experiencing each precious phase of childhood.  But more than just our children, we may miss out on opportunities to see and fully experiences phases of our own existence.  If you are a “One Day When” thinker, I challenge you to open your eyes to the moments of today.  Notice what is in your life today that may be gone someday and sit with it, enjoy it, and be grateful for it.

Until next time,
Kariah

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