Why true happiness can only happen in the ‘here and now’.
The new fashion. “We have to live in the here and now”. I’m sure you’ve heard it many times. But what does that even mean?
It means being present. It means that whatever you’re doing, your mind, your feelings and your soul are in it. Not doing the shopping list in your head. Not thinking about what happened yesterday or might happen tomorrow.
I had read many articles and books about the ‘here and now’ and I thought I had understood what it meant. But it was only recently, while going for a run in London that I truly understood the meaning of living the present moment.
I really wanted to work out outside in a beautiful location. I put on my ‘gym’ playlist and started running. After a while, I was caught in my thoughts. ‘I have to check my e-mail when I get home’. ‘And do the washing’. ‘I woke up too late, I’d better go back home soon and do some work’. Does it sound familiar?
While my mind was busy talking nonsense, I was looking at the floor, just running by inertia, missing the stunning views I had in front of me.
While listening to my busy mind talking nonsense, I was completely missing this stunning view.
I was physically in beautiful St James’ Park, but the rest of me was anywhere else but there. I wasn’t being present. Instead, I was worrying about unimportant things that I could easily resolve later. And ruining the purpose of the run: enjoy an outdoor work out in the sun while appreciating this gorgeous city I live in.
So what is ‘living in the here and now’?
Does it mean we are just supposed to have fun all the time? Does it mean we should just party every day and not think about our future? Certainly not. Don’t confuse being present with caring only about instant pleasures. The former is the key to happiness. The latter is not going to take you anywhere.
Being present doesn’t mean we can’t make plans or have commitments. But if you are not happy in the present moment and think you will be happy only when you finish this or achieve that… That’s an illusion. We tend to think about conditional happiness. Once I get a better job I’ll be happy. If I had a million pounds I’d be happy. If I had a family I would feel complete. However, chances are that if you’re not happy with what you have now, you wouldn’t be happy either if your wish list became true.
True happiness happens when we enjoy the journey, when we appreciate and value every moment of it, and when what we do is aligned with our core values.
For example, if you’re studying to become a lawyer only because you think you will make a fortune, you might spend five years of your life living in the future. Most likely you will be bored in every lesson, thinking ‘Oh well, it’s worth it because I’ll make a lot of money’. With your first job, probably you won’t be satisfied and will work hard because your happiness will depend on a promotion. Or on becoming a partner in your company. And so on. And you will have spent your life living in the future.
That’s why it’s so important to make decisions that are aligned with our values and with what makes us happy.
Making plans for the future, working hard, setting ambitious goals is totally compatible with living in the ‘here and now’.
Just make sure that when you commit to something, you’re not doing it only for a potential result. Assess how you will feel during the process.
Do you love laws, new regulation and advising others about legal topics? Then planning a career as a lawyer sounds like a great idea for you. Are you doing it only because everyone is telling you it’s the best way to make a fortune? You might want to reassess your idea if you want to live a happy life.
Even if you dedicate most of your time to something you’re passionate about, of course there will be hard days. Don’t get me wrong, being present is not about having fun every single minute.
But even if you’re making an effort studying for an exam, working out in the gym, or working till late, remember to stay focused on what you’re doing. Be present. If you’re thinking ‘Oh, I’m here in the gym when I could be having a drink with a friend”, in that moment you stopped being present. And in that moment it’s impossible to be happy because your body and actions will be in one place while your mind and thoughts want to be somewhere else.
So what stops me from living in the ‘here and now’?
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”Lao Tzu
When you’re not in the ‘here’, it’s because you want to be somewhere else. When you’re not in the ‘now’, you’re either in the past or in the future.
If you tend to spend more time thinking about the past, there might be an unresolved issue that keeps coming back to you.
Worrying too much about the future and fears are not a good friend of being present. Many times we worry about things that are not even likely to happen. And we waste our time speculating about potential (most times unlikely) scenarios instead of living in the present moment.
And if you tend to fantasise about being somewhere else, maybe your daily activities are not aligned with what you really want to do.
What can I do to be more present?
Meditation is one of the keys to improve your concentration and avoid getting caught in your thoughts.
There are many different ways to meditate and they can be very simple. Consider adding a form of meditation to your daily routine, even if it’s for 2 minutes a day.
Plan your day.
To avoid the common voices ‘I-have-to-do-this-I-have-to-that-and-also-that-other-thing’, make a to-do list for the day in the morning or the night before. Prioritise the important tasks and book some time to complete them before you get caught in the busyness madness. When you have a plan, it’s easier to stay focused and avoid switching randomly from task to task without completing anything.
Resolve past issues.
We are made from past experiences. We cannot change what happened to us, but as adults, we have the option to decide the impact it has on us.
Leave your past and limiting beliefs behind and free your present life from repressed emotions. The way we feel about past experiences can be very distracting and takes a lot of our time and energy! It distracts us from the present moment. There are many personal development books and tools available, or why not do it with the help of a coach or therapist?
Make sure your decisions are aligned with your core values.
When you commit to something or make a plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I doing this only for the results?
- Will I enjoy the journey?
- What am I doing this for?
I hope you find this useful. If you have any questions please leave a comment below!