“It is human nature to be short-sighted and to lose momentum to make changes once the story is out of the headlines and there aren’t financial incentives or political rewards. We owe to ourselves to learn from the past so we can try and do better.” Sheri Fink.
During a recent conversation, a young man confessed that he had spent all his adult life unaware that he needed spectacles. He had grown up seeing objects in the near distance as blurry, unable to clearly make out shapes or even faces of people. When he had his eyesight checked and prescription glasses fitted, he was amazed at what he could see. Everything suddenly came into focus and he could appreciate the beauty around him. I sat there wondering what it was to live most of your life unaware that you were living with challenged eyesight. To imagine that all you could see, is all there is to life. To never ask yourself, “Am I missing something?”
While some of us are shortsighted physically, all of us have aspects of our lives where we could do with some glasses to bring things into focus. And if that isn’t bad enough, we all have blind spots, things we can never see because well, we just can’t.
In life, myopia or short-sightedness occurs when we fail to take the future into account. The future is real, yet it is easy to focus on the pressing needs of today at its expense. The thing is, this day was once our future. And while we are admonished by self help gurus to live in the present, to experience this moment fully because the future is not promised, we would be amiss to not anticipate or plan for it.
A friend who is a disciplinarian has the most well behaved and lovable boys under ten. When I asked what his parenting secret was, he responded, “I don’t parent for where they are now. I parent for who they will be at 25 years, when they are working or married.” He is on to something. You see that tantrum throwing three year old can very well never outgrow his tantrums as an adult. Your lazy ten year old, can become a mediocre employee. That irresponsible teen can become an irresponsible parent. As parents, teachers and caregivers, we are myopic when we teach or train for the level they are at today.
Another common area in which we are myopic, is retirement planning. On my first job, I was concerned that my employer was deducting a portion of my salary as retirement benefits. I was 24 years old and straight out of college and not planning to retire soon. Twenty years later, and twenty years closer to retirement, I am ever so thankful that someone had the foresight to insist on it.
We are also myopic when it comes to failing to invest in relationships. A young bride may think her husband is the only best friend she will ever need. A young man may imagine his parents or children will always be around. We take each other for granted and yet expect friendships to last. I have a sticker that I put on my bathroom mirror. It says, “Don’t miss the daily chance of loving the people God gave you because He will take them back someday.” It reminds me that time is short, that I should connect with loved ones in the morning before I head out of the door and get swept away by other priorities.
In the best of cases, myopia just leads to a somewhat crippling existence. Unfortunately, in some instances, failing to consider the future can be fatal for ourselves, our loved ones and the country. So how do we avoid it? We can start by engaging in the exercise of scenario planning and extrapolating into short term and long term future. True, you may not live to see it. But what if you do? Do you want to be surprised that you made it to ninety years old, broke, unhealthy, unhappy and alone? Let us not be shortsighted. Keep the future in mind.