We’ve all heard the wisdom that “everything is temporary,” but the business school world offers an unusually high level of proof. It all starts the minute you see the word “Congratulations” in your email, and realize that you will, in fact, really be leaving that job. From that point forward, you embark upon a two-year journey through modules, semesters, classes, and even internships that you know are time-limited by design. It’s a wonderful truth when you don’t like where you are, and a sad one when you do, but it means that your opportunity to learn from the experience, and make an impact in it, is fleeting.
Whether you’re coasting down that last stretch of workdays before pre-grad school “funemployment,” or just starting a new internship that gives you all of five or ten weeks to become indispensable, the clock is ticking. You may not actually hear a tick-tock, but your brain is telling you that this won’t last. So, what do you do in response? Do you take your foot off the gas and let the train drive itself into the station? Or do you double down, check in, find your focus, and work to be present enough to make the most of every minute you have there, and ensure that your last impression isn’t one of distraction, self-absorption, or lack of effort. Seems like a rhetorical question when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Maybe not, though.
We all make choices about how we use our effort, and whether we fully apply our talents in any given situation. If you’ve been working hard at a job for several years, or find yourself in an internship you don’t love, or a class that isn’t about what you thought it would be, it’s easy to decide that it doesn’t matter because what’s coming next is more important. But, if you use your mindfulness muscle to connect to the present moment, you’ll realize that this is, in fact, where you are right now. Today is a full and meaningful day of your “one wild and precious life” (M. Oliver), and by choice or not, you will be spending it exactly where you are. As we discussed on Monday, what you do with this day does matter, simply because what you do always matters.
Whether it’s a relief or a bummer that your current reality isn’t forever, checking out of it to spend your time in an imaginary future takes away your power to leave an intentional imprint on today. When you’ve made a commitment to be somewhere — and especially when you’ve taken a place that could have gone to someone else — then don’t just be there, be present. Bring the full weight of your attention, talents and effort to it every day. You never know what you might learn about it, not to mention about yourself. Make the choice to bloom where you’re planted, and you might be surprised at how much you grow.
Photo credit: Cynthia del Rio
This post originally appeared on MindfulMBA on May 11, 2016, but it’s back because it’s oh-so just right for right now.