The future won’t save you

I’ve been working really hard lately on my personal business, holding onto the idea that I’ll be able to better my life situation by making more money, moving into a bigger place, upgrading my wardrobe, and so on.

It can be so easy to get absorbed into some future vision, with ambition acting like a drug in our system, driving us toward some imagined outcome and pushing us to keep putting in the work.

But I had a moment this evening, after putting in another day of “hard” work, struggling to move the needle, when I came to reflect on my current life situation, in particular, my apartment and I realized that I could have the nicest living space: clean, modern, all the things I’d choose to have in my “perfect” world but if I don’t feel happy, then a nicer environment means nothing.

This isn’t a new concept. We’ve all heard that money can’t buy happiness; we’ve heard stories of people who got what they wanted only to realize it didn’t make them any happier and that, ultimately, they needed to find happiness within themselves.

This realization hit home with me tonight as I stood there in my clean, quiet apartment: I could be in the condo/house of my dreams and it wouldn’t make me any happier.

In a way, this was a relief. I could relax about having to work so hard to reach some imagined outcome. I could slow down and focus on enjoying the moment as the primary thing rather than focus on the future with rapt intensity.

But when ambition is in the bloodstream, this can be hard; the mind is projecting into the future and attaching to some imagined ideal. And in that way, pulling us out of the now, where we can relax, feel content, and enjoy the journey.

This is one of the mind’s favorite tricks and it takes awareness, vigilance, and practice to notice when this is happening and to tune back into the present moment because a nicer house or more money in the bank won’t solve the problem of sadness, grief, loneliness, anger, or despair but maybe learning how to be present with ourselves in the moment will.

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