I talk about goals frequently, but today I would like to temper that with a different view. I used to tell myself things like this: Things will all be better six months from now. Things will be easier six months from now. The pain I am suffering now is for my future. Guess what? Nothing ever changed. No matter what happened in six months there was always another six month future that lay ahead. This never ends. Are you doing something similar? If so, take it from someone who has made that mistake many times over; STOP IT NOW.
Whatever I achieved, there was always something more. As soon as it was done, and sometimes even before, there was another project or goal waiting next in line. After I accomplished something I would be happy and relax for about one day and then I would dive into something else. I told myself this was what living was all about. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was killing myself physically and mentally. I didn’t realize that there was no such thing as the future. I couldn’t live in the future. Are you trying to live in the future?
Are you waiting to start living? How much of your life do you spend waiting for the next holiday, a better life, your child to grow up, success, to make money, be important, and become enlightened?
Waiting is a state of mind. Basically it means you want the future. You do not want the present. There is an inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and your projected future, where you want to be.
The key is to break the pattern of present moment denial and present moment resistance. We must learn to withdraw our attention from the past and future whenever they are not needed. Should a situation arise that you need to deal with now, your actions will be clear and decisive if they arise out of present moment awareness. Your response will not be a reaction coming from past conditioning of your mind, but from an intuitive present moment awareness of the situation.
–Dr. Robert Anthony – Beyond Positive Thinking
My happiness went way up when I finally accepted a basic fact of human existence: The past and the future do not exist. The only thing that exists is the present. Dr. Robert Anthony explains it very well so I will let him speak:
Nothing exists outside of the NOW.
Nothing ever happened in the past – it happened in the NOW.
Noting will ever happen in the future – it will happen in the NOW.
When you think of the past, it is stored in your mind as a former NOW, and when you think of the past when do you do it? – You do it NOW.
When the future comes, it comes in the NOW, and when you think of the future, when do you do it? You do it in the NOW.
The past and the future have no realities of their own. Their realities are borrowed from the NOW.
–Dr. Robert Anthony – Beyond Positive Thinking
If you really understand and internalize all this, it will make a huge difference in your life. This does not mean that you should never think about those past or future nows, because you should do so occasionally. You must visualize your future and you must relive your pleasant past. However, the key to happiness is to really live and experience the present.
The pain in our lives is a result of thinking about a past now or worrying about what might happen in a future now. This means that all unhappiness is simply a denial of the present. I can relate to this very personally. I spent much of my life being mad or upset about what I or someone else had done in the past and worrying about what might happen in the future. OMG, when I think about it now I can hardly believe it. This is a stupid way to live. If you are doing the same thing, then stop it right NOW.
When we get mad or unhappy, most of the time we are dwelling on the past. It might be the immediate past, but it is nevertheless the past. It is gone and done with and any negative emotion or reaction to it simply makes us unhappy and ineffective in the present. Something bad happens or someone does something we don’t like and we live it over and over again. Our brains fire the same neurons they fired when it happened the first time. This is a recipe for failure.
It is not what happened in the past that keeps us from being happy and successful in the present. It is only the thoughts you have right now that have power. When you are hanging on to something that happened in the past, you are taking yourself outside the present and are thus preventing yourself from acting in the now. If you are constantly thinking about the past to figure out how you go to where you are now, you are simply reinforcing the thoughts that got you to where you are now. Doing that will get you nothing but the same thing in the future. Is that what you really want?
It is not possible to be fully present and have a problem. If you are fully present you are acting and living in the present. You are not contemplating what might happen in the future and you are not reliving what happened in the past. If you are fully present you are dealing with the now and your world will change in ways that you can barely imagine.
Life is not the future. Life is the present. If the future takes up so much of your time and mental energy that it becomes more important than what is happening now, you are missing out on what it means to actually live. You are missing the journey. You are missing your life!
When you finally get to your destination you will feel nothing. Constantly sacrificing the now for a better future is a bad habit. You will continue to do it until the day you die. When you reach one goal, you will not be satisfied and will start looking towards the next goal and sacrificing the now for yet another future.
Your destination cannot give you lasting pleasure and happiness. It will give you at best a very temporary satisfaction because nothing in life is permanent. The key to lasting happiness is to live in the present and enjoy the journey. You are playing the game of life and you better learn to enjoy the game because the winner’s circle does not exist. It’s a target to shoot for; but one that you will never reach. You do not become happy and successful in the future. You are happy and successful in the now.
My imagined future is now very different than what I imagined one year ago. Why? Because I took time to live in the present and I grew. I discovered things about myself that changed what I wanted to do. I discovered that life was not planned, it was lived.
Live in the now and make brief visits to the past and the future when it is appropriate. It’s important to visualize and expect a bright future. In fact it is critical. But if you dwell on the future too much, you will be unhappy and unfulfilled because you will never actually get there. The future by definition does not exist. It is the future. It’s a moving target, always out of your reach. It really doesn’t exist.
I spent many years killing myself for a better future. The future never arrived. It just moved. Balanced awareness, heavily weighted to the now, is the real key to your true happiness.
Are you ready and willing to surrender yourself to the now?
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