How does a baby learn to latch at the sight of a nipple? Why do New York commuters tirelessly gaze to the left, when standing at the subway tracks? Why, upon reading these words, do you expect this sentence to end as a question?
It is in human nature to anticipate.
In a lifelong endeavor of identifying patterns, we draft mental connections between such linked phenomena. To every effect, we search for a cause. Did I sleep poorly because I drank too much coffee? We act, to cause an effect. I will avoid it today, so I can sleep better tonight. It can easily be said that our ability to form a predictable chronological order is the basis for learning.
It can even be argued that experts, in any specialty or field, have become experts precisely by mastering the art of pattern recognition. It goes beyond Wall street, beyond science. Just as the best taco man in the West Coast has discovered which beef to lettuce ratio draws in the most customers, it is implied that the best soil yields the best crop.
And like these experts, we use our ability to predict the near and far future to determine the next best choice of action. Why? Because it is in the best interest of any individual to operate in an economy of effort in relation to time: two of our most valuable and priceless resources. Surely, some things in life cost more self-investment than others.
Everything we do, every person we choose, and each seemingly insignificant decision whittles down to intrinsic calculations — Will this produce a profit? Do I have to apologize to my boss? Should I microwave the hot pocket with the paper cover on? Does this person push me to be better? Do I stay in this relationship? Should I sleep in another hour? Why am I here? Is this worth it?
As a long term planner, you debate the disparity between what you anticipate and what may actually happen. You are more likely to sacrifice the present for the future. You are, to put it simply, an investor. However, as a short term planner, you act upon instinct. You recognize the far future but appreciate the present much more. You are a gambler of action: a doer. You are passion over logic, thrill over safety. Most of us fall somewhere along this spectrum.
I am naturally impulsive, but moreso logical. It wasn’t until yesterday night…
* * * * * *
I am chatting with a friend in the car — calm, content, eyes dim as the night sky. It is peaceful. It is quiet. My recovery has been going really well. It has been a month since the accident.
Next thing I know, I am nauseous. I think, carsick. My body floods with pins and needles. Ok maybe not carsick? I meditate on my breaths. It is slow. I think of the beach. The left side of my body seizes into a cramp. My pulse feels slow, sluggish, weak. Jay is telling me the hospital is a block away. But I’m only a few miles from home.
I can’t remember what happens next. I am drifting in and out of consciousness in a bright room; I can barely open my eyes. A bright green number reads 38. My heart rate. Someone is undressing me. There goes my shirt. I am surrounded by people with “TRAUMA” across their shirts. The nurse who wheeled me mutters why did I come to die at the end of her shift. I think, I’m dying? Or is that a figure of speech?
I have a smart answer for her, but it gets lost somewhere between a number of curse words and all the questions they are asking me. There are a lot of faces, some confused, some worried. They are asking me, what’s wrong with your hand. I don’t know, you tell me. Two nurses on either side are stabbing at veins. My blood pressure spikes, my eyes are rolling, the monitor is crying for attention…
I feel like I am in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy except Patrick Dempsey is an asian lady and nobody actually dies at the end. Just a shit load of chaos.
* * * * * *
I’m not the kind of person that has a near death experience and decides to, from then on, “live for the moment.” No, I’m not going to quit my jobs, get a cliché tatted on my arm, and dedicate my life to an unfulfilled bucket list. It all comes down to finding a balance.
Ambition is a great trait to have, but sometimes, I get so caught up on doing things for others and my future self, that I neglect what I want right now. I think this happens to many of us, especially those who have goals to reach within certain time constraints. I’m not here to self pity, or to create a diet plan of what I can or can’t do. Rather, I’m allowing my desires to guide me, even if it leads me beyond reason or comfort. You know the little guy in the back of your head that tells you when it’s a bad idea? I’m putting him on mute, because in moderation, new is good. New is becoming.
The take home point is: if you are an investor, become a doer. If you are a doer, become an investor. Do not remain a static point on a dynamic spectrum of planning. Your mind is three dimensional.
Which brings us back to the million dollar question: Would You Take A Dollar Now, or Get Ten Dollars in a Year From Now?
One choice over another may bring you greater success, but you’d benefit more by supplementing your repertoire with a new way of thinking, of anticipating & doing. Fuck what you’re used to. Choose the other. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood; why not take both?