One of the biggest things that separates human beings from animals is the future. As human beings, we visualize about the future non-stop. We plan, we organize, we create expectations, we worry, and we get excited. If you’re anything like me, you often take your age and evaluate your life by societal or personal standards. In middle school I would think, “I can’t wait until I’m 16 when I can drive and have more freedom. Then I’ll truly be happy.” In high school I would think, “I can’t wait until I’m 21 when I have a college degree and am financially independent. Then I’ll truly be happy.” When I turned 21, I continued the same habit of imagining myself at some future date, married, working my dream job, and living my best life. Spoiler alert: none of those expectations ever materialized, at least according to the image I had created in my mind.
Happiness depends solely on the beliefs that we hold about our life circumstances. Beliefs about the present are the most reliable because they are based on actual reality. We are simply too far removed from the distant future for our brain to make accurate assessments on which beliefs rely. And so what we create in our minds about the distant future is an illusion. Maybe that illusion fulfills some psychology purpose, like distracting us from the present moment. But it always gets exposed for what it is as we get closer to it. Our brain eventually realizes that the assessment fueling the illusion was surface-level and deeply flawed. What’s even more sad is illusion often robs us of joy in the present. It is driven by the belief, present and deep-seated, that we can’t be happy today living our current lives. That something must change in our external environment. Instead of focusing our energy on revising this flawed belief about the present, illusion gives us the false sense that things will eventually change with no immediate effort on our parts.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.Proverbs 23:7
Many thoughts pass through the mind on a given day, but only the ones that are believed can powerfully impact the emotions, and ultimately the course of one’s life. I’ll say it again because it’s worth repeating: Happiness depends solely on our beliefs. The inability to be happy in the present moment is a failure of belief. If we think of our lives as a wolf pack heading in a particular direction, then it can be said that beliefs are the leader of that pack. As beliefs go, our imagination–and ultimately the course of our lives–inevitably follows.
The inability to be happy in the present moment is a failure of belief. If we think of our lives as a wolf pack heading in a particular direction, then it can be said that beliefs are the leader of that pack. As beliefs go, our imagination–and ultimately the course of our lives–inevitably follow.
I leave you with a challenge: Stop postponing your happiness to some future day because that day will probably never come. The truth is you already possess everything you need to be happy in the present moment.