On planning for the future

Do you ever feel like you’re perpetually hurrying about, always wanting to be somewhere else? I do. When I’m in such a mood, I might look out the window and want to be outside, where it is sunny and green. Then, having gone outside, I might find that it’s windy and noisy and I’ll want to go back inside, where there is peace and quiet. But the peace and quiet quickly becomes boring, and I’m tempted to go outside, where it’s sunny and green!

When I’m in such a mood, I keep thinking I’ll be more satisfied being somewhere else. Of course that isn’t true at all! In fact, the opposite is true: by always wanting to be elsewhere, I’ll never be happy where I am. When I realize that I’ll only ever be where I am—that I can’t ever be anywhere else than here, it suddenly becomes much easier to enjoy myself where I am, and I snap out of the mood.

This mood illustrates the general idea that if you can’t enjoy the present, it is no use planning for the future. For when that future arrives, it will become the present, and you will not be able to enjoy it. So you must first learn to enjoy the present before planning for the future.

Unfortunately, you’ll encounter many structures that will try to convince you that you can in fact be happier being somewhere else. Take education. When you’re in school, you’ll be told that if you get good grades, you’ll get a good job. The implication is that you should want whatever others consider a “good job” and that having one will make you happy. When you’re working that job, you’ll be told that if perform well, you’ll be promoted, so you can get an ever better job. Perhaps that “better” job will pay well—and the implication is that you’ll be happier having more money. Finally, you’re told that you’ll get to retire at some point. Hopefully, by that point you’ll have saved up some money, so you can enjoy not working and just be happy!

It doesn’t matter which stage of this progression you’re at; the goal posts are always moving. Achieve this, and you’ll be happier! Reach that goal, and you’ll be happier! It isn’t true. It’s like going outside, finding that being outside is not perfect, and wanting to go back inside, only to long for being outside again.

So what can we do? Don’t worry so much about whether you’ll be happy in the future. Work on being happy now. Only when you can enjoy the present, you can plan—just a little—for the future.

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