Living in the present is all the rage these days. Everywhere I look are quotes reminding me to “live in the present” and not “worry about the future.” They’re displayed on everything from coffee mugs and notebooks to t-shirts and pillows. And while I understand the need to be reminded to live in the moment and be present, we may be overusing the message and misconstruing its meaning.
This is especially true for moms. We constantly feel like we’re missing out on precious moments with our little ones when we’re distracted with other tasks or worrying about things like work, bills, and plans. I know all too well the guilt of missing a moment that may never happen again. And the pressure from all around us to put down our phones and stop recording our kid’s lives and instead live in it with them, well, it just induces more guilt.
While it’s important to live for the moment, doing so at the cost of planning ahead and thinking about the future is a dangerous decision. It is equally valuable and essential to building the life we want to think toward the future and balance that with living in the present. It’s all about the balance.
In the world we live in, we are all in a rush to the next thing; the next holiday, the next promotion, the next stage of life. We need to reign it in. We miss out on the here and now if we never slow down and enjoy each new arrival before starting to think about the next one.
But an entire generation of young people is reading these words about living in the present. It’s an important message for sure. Everything in life competes for our time and attention, and often we do need to be reminded to focus on the here and now. But the true message in these words is being lost.
Living in the present doesn’t mean we should cease to focus on our futures! Rather, it is a reminder that focusing too much on our future, or any other number of things that steal our attention from the present moment, is unhealthy.
Completely living in the moment, however, is equally bad for us in the larger picture of life. If we consistently fail to look forward, for fear of “missing out” on the moment, then we will make a series of decisions that do not build our futures. Eventually, we will look back on life and realize that our emphasis on the here and now sacrificed our opportunities for the future.
Below are several ways in which life will be greatly hindered if we fail to make future thought an equal priority with living in the present.
Making life changes
It’s difficult to make big life changes. Whether they be to lose weight and improve health, make a career change, or just use our time more wisely, these changes don’t happen on their own.
To overhaul any area of our life and make large changes, we need a plan. A plan to make several smaller changes in daily life. And we need to be able to follow that plan.
Sometimes, these small changes require us to sacrifice the present. We know we need to spend time exercising, meal planning, and learning about nutrition. It’s important if we’re trying to live healthier. Unfortunately, that might mean sacrificing an extra hour with the kids a few nights a week or sacrificing a date night with our husbands.
We all have goals and achievements we want to make. We will never reach them, however, if we fail to live with the future in mind. Every decision can affect our progress.
Obtaining a degree, mastering a new skill, or achieving a personal best in a competition all require dedication and focus. If we choose to consistently live in the present without a focus on the future, then the practice and sacrifice necessary to reach these goals will be overlooked. We’ll never reach them that way!
Living our Dreams
Do you have a dream for your life? Maybe it’s something extreme like retiring young, attaining vast wealth, or running an empire. Or maybe it’s a more modest goal such as being debt free for the rest of your life or being a stay-at-home-mom.
No matter the dream, it will require focus and dedication to a future goal in order to make life what you want. They, like our other goals and achievements, are difficult to reach and take a conscious daily effort. We see no immediate results or gratification from the small steps we must take daily to get there.
Without a focus on the future, on where we want to be in life, we would never be able to enforce the daily decisions that will help us create that life.
It’s all about balance.
By no means should we sacrifice the moment consistently for the future. But it is equally important that we not sacrifice the future at the cost of the present. It’s all about balance.
We must try to balance being present while keeping a focus on the future. Our daily decisions directly impact our path and where we will end up in life. Any hopes and dreams, goals or aspirations depend on us living with an eye on the future. If we do not think or worry about the future, there will be nothing to drive us daily to make the decisions necessary to get to where we want.
We need to have balance in our lives. A balance between work and family. Between activity and downtime. And the balance between enjoying the present and thinking about the future. It’s all important. If you can achieve this balance, you’ll find that it is truly the key to a fulfilling, happy life.
Yes, it’s important we put down the phones, step away from planning and enjoy time with family, but we don’t want to completely stop planning, documenting memories, and worrying altogether. They all have their value and purpose.
Le’ts make sure we aren’t sacrificing the present for the future, as the quotes suggest on the surface. Let’s also be careful not to sacrifice our future to the present. And let’s teach our children to understand the importance and value of a balanced approach to life.