The “when-I-finally” mindset

A central feature of the modern experience of time is that we focus too heavily on instrumentalising it – on dwelling exclusively on our future purposes, hurrying through our lives to some point at the end of the day or the week when we can finally relax, or for some further-off moment, like when you finally get on top of your to-do list, or when the kids leave home, or you retire from work. The result is what’s been called the “when-I-finally” mindset: the sense that real fulfilment, or even real life itself, hasn’t quite arrived yet, so that present experience is merely something to get through, en route to something better. The person stuck in such a mindset, wrote John Maynard Keynes, “does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor, in truth, the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward for ever to the end of cat-dom”.

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