Boom! Get 'er done. Big stuff, small stuff, why can't it just happen now? In some cases, it can. What I am about to advocate, is that it shouldn't.
The reason is way deeper than you may expect - delaying gratification and all that jazz is a sign of solid character. It is way more than that. I've even created a diagram to help out. But before you get concerned, let me reassure you that the bit of info below may put life, yours and others, into a clear perspective.
So, why shouldn't we have our future now? Why does time need to be involved in change and progress?
Enter "Creative Systems Theory." (Here is the diagram too.)
In the "pre" phase, you may have the notion that you'd like to be an architect some day. You come to the conclusion that yes, indeed this is it, so you register for classes. Once in classes, you begin to learn about the different kinds or architecture, see great structures, learn interesting theories and histories - and you become inspired. This is the greatest thing ever! The world is open before you, and you WILL be the one who defines a new era of modern architecture. This is the "early" phase of creation. Most people like this phase because it is so damn exciting. It gets your heart racing. I can even feel my heart rate pick up just remembering different times in my life when I was in early phase. Both fortunately and unfortunately, this phase must end. It's gift is that the imparted inspiration is a great motivator for the times to come. It's curse is the feeling that the entire ride will be that way.
Then the "middle" phase begins. This is where the student narrows their focus to a specialty, when they spend long hours writing papers, when they pay their dues with the blood, sweat and tears of an unpaid internship. The middle phase is where the work happens. It is also where the doubts creep in and life seems less exciting.
Senior year rolls along, and you start feeling at home. You have a smaller cohort, you know where all your resources are, you might even mentor freshman. You have a strong body of knowledge from which to draw and the confidence to use it. This is the "late" phase. One might even say that this is the end of the road, that you have "arrived" whilst in this phase.
Nope. The Creative Systems Model takes into account one final and vital concept:
The Turning Point.
Graduation is a concrete example of a turning point. Your tasks turn from external creation to internal integration. The experiences of undergrad need time to settle in to who you are as a person. The question you must ask yourself is, "Who am I now?"
Who am I now...
Now that I have completed this arc, how does it become part of me that I can use moving forward? This is called integration, the final phase of the system of creation.
In the book Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud talks about doing an autopsy on the thing that has passed. In this way you learn from your experience and integrate the lessons into your identity, preventing the repetition of patterns and mistakes.
Identifying when integration is needed can be tricky, but for most cases the turning point can be felt as a shift in our energy - what we are focusing on. In the case of undergrad, graduation turns to job hunting or job starting.
Integration can and does often happen on its own, though approaching this phase intentionally adds to the value you take away from it immensely. Imagine an amazing trip to India, followed immediately by another intense project, with no space in between. Integration will happen still, but you lose out on the energy to be gained from reflection and transition.
Some people skip over parts of this process. They get so siked in the early phase that they go straight to the late phase, pushing out a product before it is completely baked. Or they go through an intense period of personal growth and awareness, only to skip integration and head right into the impartation of half baked wisdom to others. This is called spiritual bypassing. The work and time are superficial, and the product is rushed and fleeting.
So what does that mean for us, in concrete terms:
- Enjoy the early phase, but don't fall into the trap of thinking life ends there. Be inspired, and store up that energy for the long days ahead.
- The middle phase makes you strong. In going through this phase you take the first steps toward mastery. Also, look for the people in your ife who are in the middle phase and offer them your support - they need it.
- Don't rush the process. Spiritual bypassing puts a serious damper on your ability to change and grow as a person. It also cheats the world out of what you could have been able to offer if you had let your identity have the time required to process your creative arc.
As with any new awareness, this bit of information has just increased your ability to make decisions around, and change, your life. And sometimes just knowing what is ahead can make the journey less arduous.