“A person is really alive when he is moving forward to something more.”
I remember, clear as day, sitting on my college suite couch with my then-boyfriend, now husband, Jim. I was telling him that was the quote I picked for my high school yearbook and we had this pretty deep debate about being happy in the moment versus always striving for the next big achievement.
About feeling content with yourself as you are, versus how you want to be. About not having to do or prove anything at all. And about enjoying what you’re doing instead of thinking about the next task at hand.
He was in the ‘happiness in the moment’ camp, even before technology was challenging us to be ‘present’ and before a lot of people were talking so much about things like mindfulness.
And I was more in the ‘goal-oriented’ mode.
All these years later, I’ve come to the conclusion that we could both be right.
I’ve come to believe, more and more, that happiness may be the best thing you can strive for … for your own, and the world’s, well-being. And I’m learning, more and more, to embrace the moments at hand, trying hard not to rush ahead too much to the next thing I’m excited (or stressed) about doing, until I finish the first thing.
It’s a little bit of a struggle as I tend to be fast-paced by nature, and nurture, growing up. But I’m trying to slow down and feel the world around me as it unfolds.
At the same time …
I still think there’s room to get excited looking forward to the next fun adventure or big undertaking.
Doesn’t thinking about a future vacation (without taking a single step on the warm beach sand or hiking a beautiful mountain) sometimes make you happy for weeks, or months, beforehand? Can’t the anticipation of seeing a friend or going out to dinner in the evening make you happy all day? It’s all in your heart and mind but it’s a real way to feel great in any moment.
There’s also room to create the moments you want to be in.
Reading, listening to music, going to the movies, watching TV – all these things presumably take us away to a different reality, outside of our immediate surroundings and into other people’s experiences, lives and perceptions. But we gravitate to them because they make us happy in the moment. And, they often give us new insights that can add meaning to our lives long after the book or film or show or song is over. Through them we create atmospheres that can fill us with pleasure, or relax or energize us.
Thinking ahead and doing current things with a future purpose can be fulfilling too. I can get really energized when I feel super productive working toward future goals … in the present moment.
Something William Shatner said once in an interview has stuck with me for many years. When asked about his key to happiness, he said you just need “something to do, something to look forward to and someone to love.”
I totally agree, William Shatner! And I’ve come around to the belief that the greatest contributions I, or anyone, can make to this world don’t necessarily come from lofty goals or grand accomplishments. The greatest accomplishments may come from the simplest acts of kindness we share when we truly feel joy, gratitude and love in the moment … wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and how ever we get there.
And that’s the “something more” I want to continue to move toward.