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Living in the Future

August 14, 2014

It's no secret that all of us spend a significant amount of time preparing for our future and reliving our past in our memories. Certainly, those are both very necessary and beneficial actions in moderation. Recalling events from the past and rationally evaluating them or remembering pleasant memories help us avoid making the same mistakes twice and often puts smiles on our faces, and without any preparation for the future, our lives would be a perpetual mess. But along the same line of thought, we look back into the past to gain from them what we can enjoy in the future, and we ready ourselves for the future because in due time, those moments in the future will be here, in the present. In other words, the logical answer to the question of why we try so hard to prepare and reminisce would be to produce the optimal present. However, in many facets of our lives, this simple truth is distorted and used to trick our minds to attempt to live in a state of perpetual preparedness, instead of continual happiness.

At any given moment, you are being -- you are existing -- in the present. The future consists of all the "present" moments to come, and the past consists of all the "present" moments that already passed us by. For this reason, we strive to ready ourselves for the "present" moments to come, the future, in order to guarantee to the best of our ability that when those moments arrive, albeit briefly, we will be able to make the best out of them. At least, that would be the rational course of action. But in many of our information-saturated, future-centric lives, it seems that the action of perfectly preparing for the moments to come have wrongly taken priority over the moments already here.

Let's take an analogy of a classroom course. Suppose the course consists of a student, you, doing two things: listening to the professor's lecture every day and reading the assigned section from a textbook every day. Some may choose to do just that, to listen to the professor every day, go home, and do the day's reading. But others, wishing to be prepared for possible unforeseen events in the future or to reduce the risk of procrastination, may read a section or two ahead. And that's a perfectly fine decision. However, suppose a student gets so absorbed into the idea of staying ahead of the curve and reading ahead of everyone else that in attempting to read as many sections as possible every night, he frequently forgets the section everyone else -- including the professor -- is on, and consequently shows ironically negative achievements. Yet, being the forward-thinking man he is, he tells himself, "That's fine, I already knew that, I just forgot." And he reads on, still several sections ahead every night. "I'm always prepared, so I'm ready for anything," he tells himself. And he proceeds to continue until he reaches the end of the course, when he sees that his reading ahead lead to negative results. Only then does he realize that in an attempt to be perpetually prepared for the future, he never was there to cherish the present.

This may seem like a rather hyperbolical analogy. But the point it illustrates is still relevant: in light of always living for the future, one is forced to live in the future, not in the present. Yet no matter how prepared we are for the future, by means of the laws of the universe, we're still stuck in the present moments. And while preparing well for the future has benefits, we cannot forget that the purpose of such preparations is to allow us to, when the moments come to us, cherish and make the most out of every moment that passes us by. And forgetting why we ready ourselves for the future and blindly carrying out the actions just may negative the reasons for the action of preparation in the first place.

So instead of always looking into the future to see what can be done in the present, look into the present moment to see why you're doing the things you're doing. What are you doing at this moment for the future? Are you studying for college? Are you working to advance in your career? Are you planning to make a shift for the better in your lifestyle? Why? And most importantly, is it allowing you to enjoy the present in the best way possible, or are you still perpetually living in the future, never quite reaping the rewards of your preparation?