Providing for the Future Pays Off in the Present


The future isn’t nearly as fun as the present—especially the future that needs provisions. So why choose to spend time there?

And yet, here you are reading this article and considering an unpleasant future.

I see three reasons why we would take time out of our pleasant present to spend preparing for a future that may be less pleasant:

  1. Providing for emergencies makes us feel in control
  2. Providing for emergencies gives us something to be proud of
  3. Providing for emergencies is fun

The fascinating thing about all these reasons is that they aren’t about the future; they are about how we feel right now.

Providing Gives the Feeling of Control—Now

“I look to the future because that is where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.” — George Burns

Right now, in this moment, we have control; we can decide what to do, what to think about, how to feel. But when we think about the future, that sense of control slips away. This disconnect between a certain present and an uncertain future causes discomfort. By working now, we take control of the future and relieve the discomfort we feel in the present.

Providing Gives the Feeling of Pride—Now

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

We know that we need to provide for the future. We’ve been hearing it from philosophers, government officials, grandmas, and church leaders our entire lives. Once we start doing the things we know we should be doing, we immediately and naturally begin to feel pride in our work.

It isn’t necessarily that we are proud that we are doing something better than others (although that is often a factor), it’s that we are taking action. This boosts our self-esteem and makes us feel empowered.

Providing is Fun—Now

“Life is a game. Play it.” — Mother Teresa

Because emergency preparation focuses on the worst case providing, for emergencies tends to turn into an endless contemplation of doom and gloom. That is no fun; now or in the future. But you know what is fun? A game.

Around the Peterson house, we can sit down around a game board and settle Catan or build railroads for hours. I know people who actually study chess or compete about their exercise routines. Why? Because gamification makes things fun.

Is providing for an uncertain future really that much different than playing a hand of Uno? (What if Shanna plays a wild card and changes to green?) Sure the stakes are higher in disaster preparation, but forget about the stakes and just look at it as a game. (What happens if Mother Nature plays a heavy ice storm this winter?)

Acting in the Present

“Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” — Alice Morse Earle

Right now you are taking time to think about providing for the future. This isn’t a punishing task or something you have to do even though it’s painful. It isn’t even exclusively for future benefit. With the right mindset, providing for the future brings real benefit to this very moment.

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