Sacrificing the Future to Serve the Present

I’m involved with a charitable organization (that I’ll choose to leave nameless) that is undergoing what I might call an identity crisis.

The staff of this charity has made a ton of commitments on an organization-wide level. They’ve pledged help to many different local groups and causes and those commitments are impressive and good ones.

The problem is that these commitments lean very hard on active fundraising work by their members. In order to make those commitments, the people on the ground will have to work their tails off.

That leads to another challenge: burnout. The people that volunteer their time and effort and passion for this charity can only get tapped so hard before they give up and walk out. Although they want to give to the charity, there is only so much they can provide.

In order to push them harder, the organization has hired “communications specialists,” not to try to help with fundraising, but to push the volunteers to fundraise harder.

So, what does that all mean? It means that the organization will probably reach their ambitious goals for the current year, but the members they’ve relied on for so long are starting to burn out and leave the group. They’re starting to no longer believe in the group’s mission and their volunteer efforts are starting to go in other directions.

The group has sacrificed the future for the present, in other words.

What lesson can a person take home from this?

Right now, you have to worry about your own present and your future. You can’t simply assume that your future will take care of itself. You are responsible for that future right now.

With every decision you make, you either put more pressure on the future (by spending more right now and saving less right now) or put more pressure on the present (by spending less right now and saving more). The organization I mentioned has decided to put too much pressure on the future, sacrificing the long term for the needs of today.

Ideally, we are trying to seek a balance of those two pressures. If you put too much pressure on the future, you end up having misery down the road. If you put too much pressure on the present, you end up having a miserable life today.

So, what’s the solution? Make choices that aren’t miserable today that also don’t put pressure on your future.

Whenever you do something enjoyable that doesn’t cost you much money at all, then you’re doing something that’s pleasurable today that doesn’t put pressure on your future. Whenever you can find immediate satisfaction in saving money, you’re doing the same.

Our goal at the end of the day is to live a happy life today that’s sustainable down the road. Whenever we spend more than we should, we sacrifice sustainability. Whenever we spend too little, we sacrifice that happiness today.

The moments that really make life worth living are the ones that are magical in the moment and don’t bring about guilt later on. They keep the pressure off the present and off of the future, too.

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