Live in the Moment or Envision the Future?

How to get excited for both

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

I have a really good friend who has somehow mastered living in the moment.  Ask him about the future and you won’t get much of a response.  While I enjoy the “moments” of everyday I can’t help but move my mind forward to envision the future.

Man on Mountain

Living in the moment has its rewards, but so does thinking about the future.  The way in which you can become energized from savoring the moments, you can become exhilarated by thinking about the future.

Both living in the moment and picturing your future can rejuvenate you.  Imagine the future you want and chase it, don’t obsess about it.   Living in the moment and thinking about the future will bring you enthusiasm and excitement to your life.

Savor the Moments

Be grateful for life’s treasures.  Be thankful for life’s little gifts.   Pay attention to the present; surround yourself with people and things you love.  Build your foundation for happiness.

The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment:

“We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment-also called mindfulness-is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience….Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.”

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment – Henry David Thoreau

Don’t Overthink

Ah, so much easier said than done, but it’s possible.  Don’t over stress about things, don’t obsess, and don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the moments of everyday.  Don’t cloud your head with negative thoughts and unnecessary worry.  Focus on the moments no matter how simple.  It could be something so small as savoring your favorite cup of coffee or tea, noticing the smell of fresh cut grass, adoring the sunset, or chatting with your best friend.

Focusing on the present moment also forces you to stop overthinking. “Being present-minded takes away some of that self-evaluation and getting lost in your mind-and in the mind is where we make the evaluations that beat us up,” says Stephen Schueller, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead of getting stuck in your head and worrying, you can let yourself go.”

Dream of the Future

One of my favorite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

There are some people, like my friend, who only live in the moment; and if it works for them, that’s wonderful.  But, envisioning your dreams and chasing the future can be exhilarating and exciting and it can bring a new dimension of happiness in your life.  Focusing on the future in a positive way can get you jazzed and the excitement that you feel can make you happy.

Charting Your Course for the Future

Set realistic goals for yourself and have the time of your life trying to reach them.  Picture yourself achieving those goals.  See yourself climbing the mountain to reach those goals and loving every moment of it.

Is There a Danger in Chasing the Future?

Carl R. Sullivan, MD, Professor, Vice-Chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at West Virginia University School of Medicine and Medical Director of Substance Abuse Programs for West Virginia University Hospitals, thinks so.

He cautions people to be realistic and not to plan the outcome.

“While chasing dreams and planning for the future is noble and can even be wistful and romantic,” says Dr. Sullivan, he sees many people who have suffered profound disappointments, discouragements and even depression.

“I think it is ok to make plans and have dreams but we MUST avoid planning how it will all work out.  People make plans and plan the outcome.  That is the danger,” says Dr. Sullivan.

How to Live in the Moment and Desire the Future

Empower yourself to cherish the moments and chase the future.  Your happiness depends on it.

The Dos:

  • Envision the future you want.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Savor the moments.
  • Surround yourself with people and things you love.

The Don’ts:

  • Don’t stress yourself out.
  • Don’t struggle with thoughts of the future that are not realistic.
  • Don’t cloud your head with negative thoughts.
  • Don’t get discouraged, if you run in to a road block, learn from it and move on.

Living in the moment and chasing the future both have its rewards, but do what’s best for you.  If you choose to envision the future and you set personal goals or your career goals; go after them with enthusiasm.

Be careful not to get caught up too much with the big picture [like Dr. Sullivan states];  just enjoy the steps to getting there.

Keep your dreams realistic and keep them close to your heart and the moments created from trying to achieve them will be spectacular.

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