August: I’ll be so happy when football returns and dozens of games are on TV each week.
September: I wish a real cold front would come through and rid us of this miserable heat and humidity.
October: I can’t wait until Thanksgiving week, when we get a 9-day break from the grind.
December: Can’t we just fast-forward to the end of the semester and two weeks off for the holidays?
January: The Christmas break seems like ages ago. Come on, Spring Break!
May: The kids have stopped listening long ago. Will this school year never end?
You get the idea. Teachers, like nearly everybody else, are professional wishers.
Have you ever considered how much time you spend fixated on upcoming events or seasons? Perhaps your thoughts are focused more on how your life will improve after you reach some goal:
Once our mortgage is paid off, we’ll have the financial freedom we’ve always dreamed about.
After I retire, we’ll be able to visit all the places we’ve talked about seeing over the years.
After I finish my master’s degree, I’ll be able to get the job I always dreamed of.
Upon reflecting on my personal experiences and countless others, I’ve come to recognize how much time we spend longing for things we lack and being bothered by daily situations that will soon fade from memory.
Throughout the year, I will find myself preoccupied with how amazing life will be when . . .
Although each person’s aspirations may vary, this mentality is something many of us have in common. We get caught up in the pursuit of a perfect future, neglecting to cherish the present imperfect moments.
Over the years, I eagerly, even desperately, await the end of the school year and the thrill of the wide-open summer. While students are occupied with some assignment, I often find myself daydreaming about the leisurely months ahead.
An alarm won’t go off at 4:30 in the morning, and I can eat breakfast and lunch on my schedule for a change. Perhaps the biggest change is that my mind will be free from the tyranny of constantly thinking about plans for upcoming classes, entering grades, and contacting parents. During the school year, such thoughts are rarely far from my conscience mind, and they sometimes even invade my sleep.
I guess it’s not surprising that during stressful times we look forward to these vacations for our weary brains and souls.
Even though we know that our dreams often don’t turn out as great as we expect, we still tend to focus on a perfect future and ignore what’s happening right now. Why do we fall for that con time after time? It seems as though we are always chasing the next best thing instead of fully embracing what we have right in front of us.
Summers are rarely perfect, and while the break offers a welcome respite for tired educators and students alike, it also brings new and diverse challenges. Real-life vacations are far from the polished, Photoshopped Instagram moments or the carefully edited YouTube adventures we see online. Travel plans may go awry, family gatherings can be tense, and the pressure to enjoy every moment can sometimes be overwhelming.
Such media portrayals can be misleading, much like Hollywood’s depiction of teachers who seem to teach only one class daily. It’s easy to project ourselves into these images and daydream about someday experiencing those moments. However, by constantly longing for a perfect, idyllic life, we may miss out on the small joys and victories that make our lives truly rich.
After much reflection, I now recognize the importance of pausing and appreciating today’s blessings. Life is far from perfect, but our mental accounting system often focuses on the negatives while undervaluing the positives. We continue waiting for that perfect moment, job, person, or opportunity, but it never arrives because perfection is a myth.
This mindset can lead to a tremendous waste of time and energy. Instead, let’s focus on the blessings in our work and life today. The cherished community of friends, family, and colleagues who work alongside us, providing support with their smiles, conversations, and shared experiences, truly makes life worthwhile. These connections and their moments of joy are the very essence of life, and they are always within our reach if we choose to focus on them.
Harvard’s take on finding happiness and joy
So, as I look back, I hope this wisdom resonates with others as well, encouraging them to appreciate the present and the many blessings that life has to offer. Instead of striving for an unattainable ideal, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the excellence around us in this imperfect world, the great in the ordinary, and the strength in our struggles. By shifting our mindset, we can find a measure of happiness and fulfillment in the here and now.