Live in the Present, not the Future

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.

Henry David Thoreau

This post is secretly about gratitude, which I just wrote about not too long ago, so some of the content is going to overlap.  You’ve been warned!

I think we’re all familiar with the popular idiom ‘The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.’  But I doubt many of us really think about it and realize how true it actually is– and more importantly how it applies to almost everyone’s life.

I would go so far as to say that the statement is one on human nature as opposed to just a statement that is applicable in certain situations.

You’d like an example you say?  Sure!  Take a moment and think about your own life.  Do you wish you had more money?  Do you wish your house was a little bigger?  Do you wish you had a nicer car?  Maybe it’s not just material things you want.  Do you wish you were with someone instead of being alone?  Do you wish you had the neighbour’s wife or husband?    Do you wish you owned a boat or a plane?  Do you wish you had a better job?

The list potentially goes on forever.  If any of the above apply to you, you probably think the grass is always greener.  You’d protest if I told you as much, just as I would if someone told me differently but it’s probably true.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more.  Lots of people want something better for themselves– in fact almost everyone does.  I think to an extent that that’s healthy.  It’s what keeps the human race advancing in technology and knowledge almost every day, that desire to be better than what you already are.  But the problem is that they don’t appreciate what they have right now.

It seems unimportant to be appreciative of what you have now, when your goals are on something that is many times better than your current standing.  You’ll appreciate your new stuff when you get it right?

Probably not.  But I’m getting a little too far ahead of myself.

The reason why appreciating what you have now is important is because appreciation and gratitude makes you feel good.  It makes you feel like you live an abundant and wonderful life, and grateful for all the luxuries you enjoy right now.  If you don’t think you enjoy any luxuries, you may want to imagine what your life would be like without the things you have now– like a job, or a steady stream of income, or your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or husband.

Inversely, always looking at the next best thing makes you feel like your life is lacking.  It makes you feel like your entire life and everything in it isn’t good enough.

Like I said, sometimes that’s a good thing. It spurs on change and gets us motivated to improve living conditions not just for ourselves, but for humanity in general.  On the other hand, when it’s a habit you start to experience that feeling of lack all the time, no matter what you have.

If you’re hoping to live a life that’s to your satisfaction at some point, it’s a habit you’re going to have to drop.  Most people develop it as a habit when they’re young, because they’re moving up in the world fairly quickly.  Change happens rapidly and your circumstances are (usually) improving over time.  You become addicted to getting something better for yourself.

So when you finally manage to get the big house and the fancy car (Or what was the big house and fancy car when you first started dreaming.) suddenly it’s not enough.  Now it’s just normal.  Now the big house and fancy car is a house twice the size and a car three times the price.

And so the cycle continues.   If you got the new big house and fancy car, they would also become normal after a few months or a couple of years, and you would again be looking over the fence at that luscious grass.

To get over this terrible habit, you need to practice gratitude for the things that you have already.  You need to go through all the luxuries that you enjoy (We all enjoy some form of luxury.) and be thankful for them.  Be happy that you have these things or these people in your life.

I’ll warn you now that changing this grass-is-greener habit is difficult.  For most of us, it’s been ingrained in us for our entire lives– and for our parents entire lives as well.  It takes a lot of perseverance to make gratitude your habit instead of being ungrateful.

But when you do manage to make gratitude a habit your life becomes a lot more fun.  It becomes a lot more enjoyable, because you’re living in a world of things that you love and appreciate, rather than in a world that just isn’t up to what you expect for yourself.

And when those improvements in your life do come, you appreciate them that much more and keep appreciating them, instead of assigning them to the class of ‘normal’ within a few months and looking for something better.  There will always be something bigger, something more.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s better, and it doesn’t mean that what you have now isn’t great.

Appreciate what you have and you’ll feel better about your life, and better about the things that lie ahead, instead of apprehensive.

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