Balancing the Needs of Tomorrow with the Desires of Today

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Balancing the Needs of Tomorrow with the Desires of Today

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I recently watched the animated movie "Up," and the first 15 minutes depressed me beyond reprieve. I felt sorry for the wife-- a woman, who as a girl had big dreams of travel adventures. But, as life continued, and as she developed a relationship and the responsibilities of being a "grown up," those dreams of travel were continuously put off. Finally, when they could afford the trip of her dreams, she was too ill to go. Then she died.  

I get teary just recalling it.  

The rest of the movie centers around the bereft husband, experiencing the adventure his wife dreamt of having all her life, but never did. It was almost unbearable.  

Yet this story (at least the first part) is not all that uncommon. We all have dreams - some of them more realistic than others. And we all have responsibilities that make the dreams less possible. Those dreams versus responsibilities reflect the delicate balance between the needs of tomorrow and the desires of today.   

Planning for Tomorrow

We have to plan for tomorrow - nobody else will do it for us. We are charged with ensuring our financial futures are solid, so we invest in retirement funds, buy real estate, and hedge our bets.  

And because we tend to work so hard, with so little vacation time through our careers, our plans for the future also incorporate our dreams. We label these dreams of retirement as the "golden years," because it often doesn't seem possible to live out our dreams any other way.   

The Desires of Today

On the other hand, we have the desires of today - both those retirement dreams that seem hard to wait for, as well as those little impulsive desires. We'd like a nice dinner out, or that new technological toy that will make life easier, and to take a nice vacation or three.   

Times Gone By

And then there's yesterday. There's the student debt which earned you your great career that pays for the stuff you like to have and buy. There's the stuff you couldn't afford that you bought anyway and are paying for with credit card debt. How are we supposed to enjoy the new desires of today, when we're still stuck paying for yesterday's "today?"   

It's so easy for this balancing act to get out of whack. Consider the following examples: 

A) Barb works incredibly hard. A big treat for her is renting a DVD. She doesn't have internet, cable TV, or a cell phone, because they cost money. Instead, she saves every penny she earns with the hopes of - one day - traveling to Europe in retirement.  

B) Belinda has no retirement savings, nor any thoughts of saving. Instead, she lives for now. If she wants lobster, she eats lobster. She is generous with her friends (almost to a fault), and money flows through her fingers like water. But, at the end of the day, she has very little to show for it. 

C) Betty is trying to mend her ways. She used to spend like Belinda, and now she's expending all her energy getting out of debt. She works like a dog, and lives like a monk. But after a few months of seeing very little progress, she falls off the wagon and buys a big-screen TV - satisfying her desires for now, but throwing her back into the web of debt she was trying to get out of.  

I have known all three of these people (with different names of course). None of them are happy, but they also don't know how to escape the cycle. Barb (like our heroine in "Up") could die before she ever gets to enjoy one iota of her life or dreams. Belinda likes to live it up, but feels empty for her lack of direction. And Betty is so swamped in debt that she can't see the forest for the trees.   

Sadly, there is no blueprint for the perfect balance between planning for tomorrow and achieving our dreams and desires today. Achieving balance is a very personal thing, dependent on very personal factors.  

All I can suggest is that you define what you truly want to do with your life. Don't be afraid to dream a little; try this exercise if you are stuck for ideas. Then set goals - long-, medium-, and short-term. It is important that you set goals with varying terms, so you get some instant gratification now, but also the direction and satisfaction of long-term achievements.  

And remember, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Moderate your goals so you can diversify more. Consider staying at a hostel instead of a hotel to make that vacation cheaper. Or take a "staycation" instead! With a little bit of compromise, you may be able to achieve more overall. This is simplistic of course, but the expression "everything in moderation" earned its popularity for a reason: it works!   
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Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under Life Balance. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions while constantly balancing life and her location independent work on the road. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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