Live for the moment, or plan for the future? Some moments are obvious. You are sitting on a lounge chair next to the ocean — enjoy. This is not the time to be wondering if you paid the gas bill or planning your garage sale. It is a time to be fully present, to feel the breeze and enjoy the crash of the waves.
Studying for your final exams is another time that the choice is clear. The future, which will be impacted by the success or failure of your preparation, is clearly the most important thing.
But often, the choice is not clear-cut. How about now? Should you be reading this post or working? Should you focus on funny pet videos or spend time reading? The lines begin to blur.
Surprisingly, the key to happiness is to be fully engaged in what you are doing, regardless of what it is. Whether you are working or at play, you need to be there. Being preoccupied with whether or not you should be doing something else or something differently means that you will not be content or happy. Trying to “party” a little with your friends while you are preparing for your final would mean that you did neither well. Laying on the beach worrying about work is simply a waste of time.
It turns out that being fully committed to the moment is the best way to prepare for the future because it grounds you in the here and now. Opportunities that might be missed, if your focus was on your iPhone, for instance, are obvious when you are paying attention. If you are in the present moment things are simpler as well. There is less to think about and more opportunity to put your extra brainpower to work right now.
It has also been shown, that we tend to lose ourselves in “thoughts” and that many of them are worries or regrets and that robs us of this moment. Instead of enjoying whatever it is you are doing, or at least being fully engaged, you are lost in self-recrimination or dread.
There are pivotal moments in our lives when we must make a choice. Go out drinking heavily the night before that crucial job interview or go to bed early. Relax and enjoy the scenery or clean out the garage like you promised yourself. These are mundane every day decisions but the key here is to make the choice and commit. The back and forth is what robs us of total engagement and the ability to make the most of our time. Because lets face it, the total of all of these little parts shapes the quality of your life.