Recently I was in a store and there was a small child barreling towards the stairs next to me… while simultaneously looking in the other direction. His mother was nearby and quickly uttered that oft-repeated warning to little children – “Watch where you’re going!”
Good advice indeed, not only for children but for adults as well.
We’re all aware of distracted driving and the dangers it can create for everyone on the road. What about distracted walking? A popular online video features a woman walking through a mall while texting and obviously not watching where she’s going. It’s nothing noteworthy until she falls into the mall’s fountain.
The woman in the video wasn’t injured, but this type of incident is becoming more common. The Consumer Product Safety Commission receives data from 100 emergency rooms and extrapolates the information into a national estimate. The commission’s data shows more than 1,000 people being treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year for injuries that occurred while walking and using some type of mobile electronic device. Injuries ranged from facial fractures and eye injuries to blunt head trauma, nasal fractures, sprained ankles and foot injuries, all from people not watching where they were going.
What Sets Us Apart From The Animals
Do you know what sets us apart from other animals? Many answers have been proposed — language, tools, cooperation, culture — but none of that is unique to humans.
What best separates us from all the other species? We have the ability to contemplate our future. We thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future is what has inspired all manner of man’s accomplishments.
But you wouldn’t know that is man’s unique talent, given the terrible state of financial affairs in the United States:
- Two-thirds of Americans would struggle to scrounge up $1,000 in an emergency, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
- About 77 million Americans, or 35 percent of adults with a credit file, have debt in collections reported in their credit files, according to the Urban Institute.
- Just 46 percent of Americans have a rainy day fund, according to FINRA’s National Financial Capability Study.
- Nearly one-third of Americans pay the minimum due on their credit card each month, according to FINRA’s National Financial Capability Study.
It’s as if the people in these sobering statistics have disabled their ability to contemplate the future and joined the ranks of the animals, just focusing on the here and now. They’ve given no thought to retirement, a future where they can’t (or won’t desire to) work, nor to any of life’s challenges that could arise. Their thinking extends only to end of their nose. Is it any wonder that they’re “running into things” – debt, anxiety, divorce, high interest rates, stress and negative financial surprises?
Friends, I talk a lot about the fact that successful people don’t just think different from unsuccessful people, they think opposite of them.
One of the ways successful people think opposite of unsuccessful people is that they see chain reactions. It only takes one falling domino to knock over the rest. Successful people rarely make isolated decisions but join the dots between actions and the outcomes.
It’s easy to just think in a compartmentalized fashion. That keeps things neat, linear and logical. But it also builds walls that cannot be seen through. Successful people always look forward, contemplating the future, looking for connections and relationships. Their thinking is not just linear, but holistic. They don’t just study parts, but see the whole. They’ve learned to ask important questions, like:
- What are the possible 5-10 year out consequences of the decision I’m about to make?
- What could go wrong in the future by not taking action today?
- What’s likely to happen later in life that will require significant outlays of money?
- What’s my definition of personal success so I’ll know when I achieve it?
- What do I want my life to be like in 20 years?
This is a great place in the essay to repeat my very favorite quote – “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” When Pascal uttered this bit of wisdom centuries ago, he knew what man was foregoing by his inability to sit quietly in a room alone – contemplation!
I do believe that part of why so many fail to contemplate the future is because it can be a source of depression and anxiety for them. They dread what’s around the corner. And why is that? They most likely didn’t spend enough time contemplating the future 10 years ago! Now the present doesn’t look so good as a consequence. More of the same will produce more of the same.
Conversely, studies have shown that people report higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress when they are planning. Why? Because contemplating and planning turns a chaotic mass of concerns into an organized order of things, something our brain needs.
Question bridge: How would your life change if you spent consistent, dedicated quiet time contemplating the future?
To contemplate means to “look at thoughtfully” or “think about” or “to meditate upon…” and I am inviting you this week to start to contemplate the financial future.
I’m not suggesting you do this for just a minute or two every day. I’m talking about really focusing on the energy of success. This is what creates new results in lives – spending quality time and energy on a topic, meditating on a particular subject with thoughtfulness and positive expectations.
Unsuccessful people spend their time rummaging thru the garbage of the day, looking to be entertained. The successful tune-out the garbage and drama and turn into themselves to focus their thoughts on their future.
Unsuccessful people contemplate the present with questions like “Why am I so unlucky?”, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?” and “Why am I always in such a situation?”. Successful people contemplate the future with questions like, “What can I do now to ensure continued success in the future?”, “What do I want things to look like in the future?” and “What will I be grateful for in the future?”
Friends, contemplation is empowering. It provokes you and get you thinking, putting you on the path to a better life. It’s key to self-awareness and personal growth. What future are you contemplating? Are you watching where you’re going? Let me know in the comments section below.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
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Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out more articles from the blog archives below: