Living in the present

An important skill in life is being able to cope and manage with the stress of everyday life. Stress is inevitable, and we all have moments of doubt and anxiety. However, one common theme that I found when talking to others, is that a lot of stress is related to either the past or the future. We cannot change the past, and to an extent we don’t have control over what will happen in the future, which raises the question on whether we can be less stressed about some of the things related to the past or the future. The answer to that question isn’t straightforward, but it raises a point about living more in the present, which I talk about in this article.

One of the biggest reasons why living in the present is important is that every day comes with lots of opportunities, and you want to try and maximise these opportunities. For example, today gives you an opportunity to spend time with family, try out something new, do something that will aid your personal growth, call a friend, and the list goes on. These opportunities are best experienced when your focus and energy is focused purely on them, instead of focusing your energy on worrying about what could happen 2 years from now. You only experience each day once, so you want to try and make the most of it. Therefore, spending excessive amounts of time and energy worrying over things you have little control over will hinder your chances of doing that.

Although there are lots of reasons on why living in the present is important, we need to address the reasons why living in the present is so hard, because if it was easy then everybody would be doing it. One reason why living in the present is so hard is due to the fact that learning and planning are integral parts of human life. It is very hard to learn without thinking about the mistakes you have made in the past, and it is equally as hard to plan without thinking about the future. Therefore, in order to learn and plan, you need to think about what happened in the past, and what could happen in the future. Furthermore, another reason why living in the present is hard is because people generally hate uncertainty. To give a couple of examples, some current university graduates are uncertain about how their career will pan out in this current climate, and school kids are uncertain on whether they will get the academic grades that they require for the next stage of their life. The uncertainly that every one of us has about the future means that attention can get diverted away from appreciating the present moment to worrying about how things will pan out in the future.

A key point I want to raise is that a common misunderstanding that I have often heard is that living in the present is contradictory with preparing for the future or reflecting on the past. That is not true, and in particular the terms living in the present and planning for the future are not mutually exclusive. It is certainly important to think about and set goals and targets for the future, both short term and long term. It is also equally as important to reflect on things that have happened in the past, as learning from mistakes made in the past can help you improve your future. Therefore, living in the present is not the same as not thinking about the past or the future. In my opinion, living in the present is being aware of what is happening here and now, and that can still include using the present moment to work on your goals for the future.

Therefore, my view is that when we think about how to live more in the present moment, we should focus more on the way we think about the future, rather than focusing on how we can stop thinking about the future. Doing this can ensure that we balance planning for the future with being more present. One way that this can be done is by letting go of exact expectations. Usually, the future will not go precisely as planned, and there will always be things that come up, both good and bad. A great example is this pandemic, and I am pretty sure that if you asked people for 2020 predictions at the end of 2019, absolutely no one would have predicted that this would have happened. Furthermore, it’s important that we try to become more uncomfortable with uncertainly, although this is much easier said than done. A lot of the time when we claim that we are planning for the future, we are actually worrying for the future, and they are not the same thing. Embracing uncertainty will go a long way in enabling us to worry less about the future, making it easier to plan for the future but being more present at the same time.

I am not going to use this blog post to provide exact and precise tips on how you can live more in the present, as there is no one size fits all solution. From talking to many people about this topic, one thing that I have realised is that everyone has different aims and want different things in life. For example, some people think about where they want to be in 10 years’ time and will spend time every day working towards that, whereas others haven’t thought much about the future and are happy with just going with the flow. This means that strategies that work for one person may not work for another. Despite this, being aware of what’s happening in the present moment is really important, as it can enable you to fully appreciate the opportunities that life gives you every day.

33 thoughts on “Living in the present

  1. This is a great post, it is hugely important that we focus on the here and now. Not to say the past can or should be forgotten but it can not be changed and living in the present allows us to focus on our future.

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  2. This is a great post and you have touched a lot of valid points. As they say no use crying over something that’s gone and you don’t know what will happen tomorrow so live for the moment , appreciate what you have daily and try and not worry what tomorrow will bring.The circle of life carries one.

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  3. I have to admit I sometimes struggle with living in the present, I read something last year about if you have trauma in your past you can often be stuck in a cycle of living in that past and that is something I am trying to work getting over.

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  4. great post. I have been trying to do this as much as I can this year. Often I was worried about the future or kept thinking about things that happened in the past

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  5. I used to dwell on the past which made me not live in the present and really affected me. I have since learned to relax and enjoy what I have

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  6. It is definitely important to focus on the present – so many of us can get too bogged down by the past and it can really affect our day to day living.

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  7. I have always considered the past as a lesson learned. However there is still a lot of practicing to do so that I can just focus on the present. Sometimes my anxiety gets to me and it makes me so frustrated that my day did not go as planned. This post will really help me to dedicate my efforts into being thankful for the present, the blessings, the opportunities, because these will eventually help me reach my goal.

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  8. Great post! I think it is very important we live the here and now. If we don’t understand it, then our life will be full of anxiety and stress.

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