We often make decisions in the present with the notion that these things will benefit us at any future time. We deny ourselves things and conserve our money believing that our future selves will enjoy and appreciate those sacrifices, just to arrive at the future filled with regret about our previous decisions. How can this be? We’re often very bad at predicting what is going to make us happy in the long run, which we often arrive in the future jaded by the decisions we’ve made previously.
Enjoy the Present Moment
So what’s the lesson here? I took this lesson as a sort of “Carpe diem” (Seize the Day) message, and that since our future selves are frequently so frustrated with us, perhaps the idea is to gratify and love the precious gift.
I recently came to love this lesson when I used a service called “me”. The objective of this servoce is to allow individuals to send themselves an email at a designated point in the future and then reflect back on how they were thinking at the time they wrote this letter. I recently received one from myself I’d written a couple of decades back and it was full of angst, unrequited love, anxiety about outstanding debts, in addition to a glimmer of hope for the future. At the time I had never published a book, was pining away for a woman who I now barely recall, and was worried sick about a fiscal concern I see was ridiculous. Why was this man so stressed out? I wanted to return and tell him that everything was going to be nice, and that things were going to work out pretty well for him if he would just hang there. I was also sad to realize how little I had been enjoying life in that moment, and the way the things I had been ruminating about at the time turned out to be virtually meaningless in the long run.
So, although I was disappointed in seeing the absence of pleasure in my past self’s life, I learned a valuable lesson about how the things we worry about seldom come to fruition. I do things with very little thought for me, as I realize he’s a really harsh judge and hard to please. I try to constantly reside in and find joy in the moment, and, although I may error on the side of hedonism, I discover that this is surely the ideal recipe for finding humor in everyday situations.
Don’t wait your Golden Years
The hazards of mortgaging the gift to cover the future was also shown to me again and again when I worked in a few different Nursing Homes. Most of the patients I interacted with experienced the depression, and this experience indelibly stamped the idea that money ought to be saved. Again and again I saw people who were struck with Alzheimer’s right as they were getting ready to enjoy their “golden years” and it never failed to break my heart. I heard many stories of how individuals denied themselves during the first 65 years of life so that they could eventually travel and see the world when they got old, simply to arrive to be struck with a debilitating illness.
It wasn’t unusual for a few to have saved up to a thousand dollars for their retirement, just to find this whole amount disappear in a few years as the medical care industry gradually ate away at their economies. This may actually be the rule rather than the exception, and this is I expect a cautionary tale for anyone who always denies themselves things from the present. Life is uncertain, but what’s a virtual certainty is that as medical science continues to expand the ability to keep people alive, now approximately 80 percent of people will eventually die in a hospital, and this number continues to get larger. This virtually guarantees a drain on people’s savings, and my advice is to invest your money enjoying things today, as the medical system will find a way to have a great deal of it before everything said and done.
So am I advocating not saving in any way? No, but there’s a lesson about living in the present, and there’s a much larger lesson here about the futility of ruminating about the future.
Take each Opportunity
Most of what awaits us is simply unknown, and as we continue to fret about the future precious opportunities to experience joy in the present continue to pass us. This is where the connection between humor and mindfulness becomes essential. Every moment in life may turn into a superb learning opportunity if we remain in the here and now. Many people will tell you humor is all about “time”, and once we use our time to obsess about some future or past event, the joy of this moment has past. Think about the power of mindfulness in alerting us to the comic possibilities.