Sunshine Trail, Telluride, CO. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

When I think about planning for the future, the math makes sense. 

Work hard now, save and invest, and then in the future you’ll have more money and more time. Take a few days off of riding now to prevent overtraining, so you can ride longer and harder next weekend. Get surgery now so you don’t need a full knee replacement in 15 years.

The math and the logic always make sense. Put in the time now, get the reward later. We’re even taught that the ability to delay gratification is a form of maturity, and the desire for instant gratification is a childish longing that we ought to grow out of with age.

The irony is that while the math of delayed gratification adds up on paper, in real life it rarely seems to work that way. Yes, we can skip a few bike rides in order to let our legs recover… only to get to the planned weekend ride and have the skies open up and pour rain, or what was a set of sniffles transform into a full-blown knock-you-onto-the-couch head cold.

We try to delay gratification for the hope of an even better life in the future, and while I want to think that the spreadsheet knows best, the spreadsheet can never account for all of the actual happenings and random chance events in the real world.

Those random chance events? Collectively we refer to them as “life." 

This year, more than any other year, has forced me to redefine what it means for me to be outside in nature, living fully immersed in the moment, connected to the rawness of my own existence. Or perhaps, this year hasn't forced me to redefine this type of visceral experience, but rather rediscover something that perhaps I had lost. 

For years when I faced injury, I would focus on recovering. Returning to what I had been doing before. All of my energy would be channeled into not only rehabilitation, but longing for something I had lost—if but temporarily.

While I think I personally need that drive in order to return to the things I am most passionate about, this year I have found myself dissatisfied with the idea of simply waiting around to get better. Part of this, granted, was likely forced upon me by an unexpectedly protracted recovery period… from my perspective. 

The point here is that I am no longer willing to simply wait around for my situation to improve. I’m not even willing to be satisfied with just working slowly toward improvement in my own situation. Instead, I have been asking myself, “what can I do with the amount of wellness that I have, right here and right now, in order to go outside and live?”

While planning for the future and working toward what will hopefully be an even better future is a part of life, at the same time, the only moment we are guaranteed is the moment that we are presently in. How can we make the most of it?