Why put Happiness on Layaway?
Living for tomorrow means today doesn’t count
Projecting ourselves into the future is how many of us deal with adversity, unpredictability, and hardship.
Deep down, we trust in our ability to overcome difficulties and it is this belief in ourselves that keeps us moving forward. The future, as we picture it in our mind, is almost always a place of greater ease, free from our current predicaments.
We cling to optimism for dear life and let it carry us, often occulting a present that could crush us if we examined it too closely. But when we focus too much on the future, the present ends up barely registering and we go through life as zombies.
While the present moment is tangible, concrete, palpable, the future is never guaranteed for any of us.
Most of us simply assume and pretend it is as we devise elaborate goals, delaying living until we reach them.
Humans are builders and explorers, driven by curiosity.
At the same time, many of us live in a constant state of dissatisfaction created by lack, desire, and even greed. No matter how much we have, it’s always too little, or it’s not what we want, or there’s not enough of it; we no longer know the difference between wants and needs.
Instead of drawing comfort from our current circumstances, we’re convinced an upgrade is necessary.
Because we live in a materialistic culture of built-in obsolescence, many of us are conditioned to chase shiny mirages; we pawn the present because we want tomorrow today.
Instant gratification trumps patience; our ability to deliver arduous long-term projects becomes compromised. Be it on a personal or professional level, our expectations are unrealistically high and we demand immediate results.
All the building materials we have at our disposal and the opportunity to create something new become unimportant.
What is loses out to what could be, the journey loses out to the destination.
No matter how harrowing a situation may be, there are always moments of grace if only we make the effort to notice them.
Doing so requires taking off our blinders, allowing ourselves to look around and pay attention to the small things. In short, we need to make a conscious effort to rewire our reward system, focus on known quantities, and appreciate them.
There’s always something worthy of appreciation, be it the steadfast presence of a loved one, employment, a ray of sunshine warming the tip of our nose, a cup of tea, the smell of freshly cut grass, the smile of a random stranger…
Then again, anticipation can also be a source of much happiness so long as we surrender to the pleasurable emotions it triggers in us now. If you’ve ever been away from someone you love and counted the days until you could hug again, chances are thinking about them is enough to conjure up instant happiness.
Often derided as hippie claptrap, gratitude is a way to inhabit the present moment instead of letting it — and by extension life — pass us by.
Being thankful for the present is grounding and promotes calm, enabling us to accept challenges and tackle them head on instead of wishing them away.
You’re here now so why not start taking stock of all the goodness in your life and allow yourself to enjoy it?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.