We spend an inordinate percentage of our lives…preparing to live our lives. We spend our first few years getting ready to prepare—through pre-school, kindergarten, and the like–then the next twelve in school, which is supposed to prepare us for “real life” and the adult world. A few more years in college, a decade or two chasing a career, and then we’re preparing for retirement. When it comes, we often find we spent so much time preparing for our lives that we missed out on the most important thing—actually living them.

It’s easy to be so focused on the future that we miss out on the present. Like living in the past, living in the future—spending our time preparing for life rather than living it—keeps us disconnected from the present moment and what’s going on around us in our lives. When we keep our eyes fixed too firmly on the finish line, whether that’s the perfect gradepoint average, the most lucrative career, the ability to retire at X age, or what-have-you, our societal obsession with endless life-preparation means we often miss out on the very things which make our lives full.

Life isn’t a competition. It isn’t a race. It isn’t a planned event with a set agenda. It’s an adventure.

So pack a knapsack. Take a compass and a tent, a lantern and a coil of rope. Make sure you have your water bottle and some traveling rations. But then take a step into the wilderness, sleep under the stars, follow the stream all the way to the ocean. When you spend your life preparing to live, you build your own prison cell and lock yourself into your own shackles.

Set yourself free, and live in the present.