Confessions of a recovering future chaser

I’m Tiffany and I’m a recovering future chaser.  I was raised by my parents to plan, evaluate, study and achieve my goals. I’m thankful that my parents taught me how to set goals and how to plan out and execute the steps needed to reach those goals.  This has helped me succeed in my education, career and personal life. But it has also made me a future chaser. From early on – as early as high school – I was always looking to do more, strive for the next big award, degree or job. I was constantly questioning if was doing the best I can.  

While my career trajectory seems linear, it’s not. I had a plan and I executed on it. As I was chasing my future, I made some great decisions, like earning my MBA. But I also made some less-than-optimal decisions  accepting a job (or two) that I knew I would hate, but would look good on my resume for my next role. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, it was a setback. Even with all the planning I’ve done, I’ve made mistakes. But I’m not mad about it because, all my experiences – positive and negative – have gotten me to where I am today. And today,  I love my life. 

Be present  

As my fellow future chasers know, future chasing is when you constantly think about what’s next, how to be better and where your life is headed.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  As a blessing, it helps you get ahead and achieve the goals you set for yourself. As a curse or a trap, it hinders your ability to appreciate what you have because you rarely take the time to stop and see what wonderful things you’ve achieved. 

Because I was always striving for the next level of accomplishment, I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of me.  Often, I wasn’t present with my family because I was thinking about the email I needed to send or the project I needed to complete in the coming week. Some people call this the “Sunday scaries.” It’s that “Oh no!” moment when you’re at the park with your two-year-old and realize that you have so much work to do this coming week that you just want to hurry home and get on the computer instead of pushing her on the swings and enjoying the giggles and glee she feels being with Mommy in the park.

I wish I had realized sooner that being present is so much more important than the next mountain I plan to conquer.  While striving has served me incredibly well in building a successful career, it has detracted from my ability to be present with my children and husband. I was always planning, preparing and planning again. I lost out on the experiences that were happening right then. Listen to my podcast episode to hear about the vacation planning trap I used to fall into. I didn’t have the gratitude for the great things that were already in my life.

Learning to be grateful

As a recovering future chaser, I’m learning to be grateful for the things I’ve accomplished and what my accomplishments have given me in my life.  I’m learning to stop thinking about work and to be present with my son at his sporting events or with my daughter when we go on mother-daughter trip to the city, or with my husband on date night or just sitting in the living room on a Saturday night enjoying family movie night with all of them. I’m learning to just say “thanks” to myself and to those around me.

The more I learned to be grateful for what I already have, the more I began to focus my energy on what I truly wanted. I made a conscious effort to focus on the positives and pour my energy into that.  I told myself, “You’re a rockstar and will continue to be a rockstar because that’s who you are.” I learned to be grateful and accept the good coming my way.

Burnout

When you focus on just achieving the next thing, you can experience burnout.  You feel overwhelmed and under water. You have so many things that you need to get done that you’re paralyzed.  I’ve been there.  I have worked too much, not allowed others to take over some of my responsibilities, and definitely lost sleep in order to achieve my goals.

Future chasers tend to need to be in control, tend to be high achievers by nature and tend to be perfectionists.  For me, the biggest factor in my burnout episodes is the need to be in control.  While I’m not a control freak in the sense that I think I’m the only person who can do a certain task or project correctly, I do need to be in control of my projects. By this I mean, I have a compulsion to plan down to the smallest detail in an effort to control the outcome.  This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed because I don’t think I can complete the tasks I’ve assigned to myself in the timeframe I’ve developed in my plan. But I won’t give up and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Regaining balance through gratitude

When I feel the signs of burnout coming on, I have learned to pause, take a breath (literally and figuratively), look around me and notice the good things in my life.  I’ve learned to take the time to be grateful.  I see my kids thriving.  I’m grateful. I got a good night’s sleep. I’m grateful.  Everyone ate that great dinner I made the other night.  I’m grateful. 

Another thing that helps be grateful is thank you notes. I love to give and receive thank you notes.  So, I make a point of writing thank you notes to friends, family and co-workers. It can be as simple as writing a thank you note to a co-worker for their help on a project, or a thank you note to your spouse for the way they love your kids, or a thank you note to your son for doing his chores before going out to play.  I even write myself thank you notes. I keep them and go through them when I’m feeling out of control or overwhelmed.  I look at the things I thanked myself for and remind myself that I’m good at what I do and I’m valued.

This is similar to a gratitude journal in which you write things that make you grateful throughout your day.  Thank you notes and gratitude journals help you focus on the good in your life. They help pull you back from the edges of self-sabotage and over striving. They help you pour positivity on yourself.

Keep things in perspective

I look back on experiences in my youth that seemed like they were going to stop my entire world – like that job I absolutely had to have, but in the end did not get.  Did the world end?  No.  And I now have a wonderful job that I love. Or, when the high school boyfriend turned out to be not the right guy.  At the time, my life was over. But here I am 20+ years later, married to a great guy, with two great kids and a life that I love.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with this thought. It’s absolutely okay to strive and to chase the future you want.  But don’t lose yourself while doing so.  The people you love and the things you love to do are all part of what makes you who you are. So, take the time to recognize how they contribute to your success and appreciate them and, of course, yourself. 

  • Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson juggles roles as a devoted wife, mother, avid traveler, roller coaster enthusiast, and enthusiastic high-fiver. Beginning her career at a boutique integrated marketing agency, she progressed to amplify the narratives of many renowned brands. Presently, she spearheads social media initiatives for Comcast NBCUniversal at its Philadelphia corporate base. Originally from Southern California, Tiffany, along with her spouse and two children, Miles and Nola, made the move to Pennsylvania amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, settling in the Philadelphia suburbs.

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About the Author
Tiffany Wilson juggles roles as a devoted wife, mother, avid traveler, roller coaster enthusiast, and enthusiastic high-fiver. Beginning her career at a boutique integrated marketing agency, she progressed to amplify the narratives of many renowned brands. Presently, she spearheads social media initiatives for Comcast NBCUniversal at its Philadelphia corporate base. Originally from Southern California, Tiffany, along with her spouse and two children, Miles and Nola, made the move to Pennsylvania amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, settling in the Philadelphia suburbs.