For as long as I can remember, I've focused on the next thing. I do it without conscious awareness. I focus on what my next meal will be (i.e. what I'm going to eat for dinner that night before I've eaten lunch), plans coming up in a few days or that important date on the calendar in a couple months that marks something important. I am rarely, if ever, truly present with what is right in front of me in the here and now. Maybe you're like me, too.
In some ways, we HAVE to think ahead. Imagine what would happen if we didn't. People wouldn't have career aspirations and likely wouldn't complete college (because you have to think ahead about the big picture). People might struggle with getting married even more than they already do (because you're not just signing up to be with this person for today, you're signing up to be with them for a lifetime). Our calendars inevitably fill with plans and things we're looking forward to. Our brains are hardwired to plan and prepare for what's to come - it's how we survive, especially in this busy, American culture.
If I'm being honest though, sometimes it's also how we escape. Ever notice how work becomes more bearable when you have a vacation planned that you can count down the days to? Without something to look ahead to, we often start to feel stagnant, stuck, and dissatisfied. In difficult/uncomfortable/stressful moments, we let our minds daydream and wander to what we want to be different. This isn't bad, per se. There are far worse ways to cope. It just means we're hardly ever living in the present, attending to what needs our attention right then and there, and making efforts to feel gratitude for what is tangible. We'd much rather think about how things could be better than appreciating what is right in front of us.
When we see big transitions arising in our lives on the horizon, this is when it's most tempting to pull ourselves out of the present. People get so focused on the wedding day that they overwhelm themselves with all the steps to get there instead of just focusing on the next step in front of them. When we focus on the end destination, we forget to appreciate the journey (however challenging it might be) to get there. When we're focused on seeking out the "big" moments, we lose sight of the small things. The expression "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" applies here. So does the idea in recovery of "taking the next indicated step" - don't worry about ten steps down the line, just focus on the next one. That's all you have to do.
Without judgment, start to notice when you're pulling yourself out of the present because you're dissatisfied with it. Notice how it instead feels to be with that discomfort, knowing that it will pass (as all things do). Tune in to what you may need right then and there in that moment and what would feel good for you - do that thing, if you can. You may just start to find that each experience becomes a little more richer in your life when your attention isn't divided between now and what's to come. Living your life in this different way can completely change it.