just use the future to escape the present  


“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it.

You just use the future to escape the present.”

Looking for Alaska; John Green


Let me see. What can I talk about today. Whole life stuck in the labyrinth of crappy work life? Constantly using future to escape the present crappy situation? Imagining a future but never really doing what is needed to do it? Shit. So many choices, so little time.

I begin there because anyone reading this should think about this quote for awhile (and try not to cry).

So let’s go with using the future to escape the present.

Using the phrase “using the future to escape the present” generally refers to the concept of focusing on or relying on future possibilities, outcomes, or plans as a way to cope with or avoid dealing with current challenges, responsibilities, or issues. It’s a mindset where a person may prioritize imagining a better future instead of addressing their current reality. That said. Let me begin with the positive shit. It might mean using the vision of a better future as a source of motivation and hope during challenging times. This can be a healthy way to cope with difficulties, as long as it doesn’t lead to neglecting the present entirely. It’s kind of a version of Churchill’s ‘if you are in hell, keep going.’ As long as your future horizon incorporates some planning to get there, well, that can be a proactive approach to getting out of where you are and to a more fulfilling place in your life.

The good stuff is easy to see and, well, that’s it for the good stuff. Most of us who use the future to escape the present do it for the wrong reasons. And business is fraught with this stuff. Most of the time we do it to ignore reality. It’s kind of like wishful thinking in order to ignore the difficult realities in the present. I call it living in fantasyland.

So let’s visit fantasyland.

Fantasyland is a minefield of potential dangers and negative consequences. In fantasyland we use future goals and possibilities to provide motivation and hope but then we use that motivation and hope to disregard the present reality. It leads to these common shitty rabbit holes.

  • Neglecting Responsibilities: your current responsibilities, tasks, and commitments become less important than future ones. For some reason the future ‘opportunity’ takes on a higher value in our head than any missed present value opportunities. This is nuts.
  • Escapism: we use the future to escape crappy work situations including a crappy work environment. Unfortunately, you cannot escape crap. Crap will hunt you down in the present while you are seeking escape in the future.
  • Missed Opportunities: as noted in point one, opportunities in the present are the pragmatic traction points for growth and success. Period. No debate. Look ahead too far and you will never see what is right in front of you.
  • Unresolved Issues: avoiding present challenges only allows them to snowball. Yeah. You may think you can outrun them by finding some future escape hatch, but you will not and cannot. Unresolved issue are faster than you and sneakier than you and anything left unresolved NEVER goes away all by itself. I believe that is a business postulate.

Look. If we are honest, we have to balance the focus between the future and the present. While having aspirations and goals for the future is healthy, it’s equally important to engage with reality. The good news is that acknowledging and embracing the present can lead to more meaningful experiences, personal growth, and a better overall quality of life. As a corollary, if you don’t embrace the present in some form or fashion you will inevitably feel disconnected. What’s worse, though, is that learning comes from actively engaging with the current circumstances. Ignoring the present can prevent you from learning from challenges and setbacks, hindering personal growth.

In summary, the phrase “using the future to escape the present” can encompass both positive and negative aspects, ranging from drawing motivation from future prospects to avoiding responsibilities or challenges in the present moment. But I would suggest in most situations it is a negative because we do it for the wrong reasons. Don’t believe me? Look around your business. Ponder.

Written by Bruce