Living in the Present for a Happier Life

Growing old is inevitable.

Sure we can dress young, act young, and even color our hair to make us think we’re young.

But, at a certain point, you will be confronted with a jarring realization: you are closer to the grave than the cradle.

I once watched a movie about a group of former famous musicians. In the movie, these musicians who were widely-popular and respected during their peak performance years (1960s – 1980s) were now much older, with their glory days tucked away in the distant past.

Now older, each had gone on to spend their remaining days at a retirement home designed especially for musicians. This way they could continue to spend their remaining years doing what they love best, playing music and being around other people who share their love for music.

But what struck me as the most interesting thing about the movie, were the differences in the three main characters.

The first character denied his age, always trying to look and act much younger. He tried to project a persona that was carefree and happy but on the inside he was constantly worried and borderline despondent about the uncertainty of his future.

The second character clung to her past. As a result, she was often dark, sad and bitter. She constantly daydreamed and obsessed about her past triumphs and glories, refusing to accept or be content with her current reality.

The third character accepted his age and was generally happy and pleasant. He had his good and bad days and always managed to stay upbeat, humorous and positive. He was living in the present.

The first character was tormented by a future he couldn’t predict.

The second character was defined by a past that no longer existed.

The third character lived pleasantly, day to day, experiencing joy and working through difficulties as they happened.

Watching these characters made me realize that as we all get older, there are three different paths we each can take.

Living in the Future

This path includes constant stress and worry of what may come. The person who mentally lives in the future is often very stressed, uptight and even paranoid.

Will I have enough money to retire properly?

Will there be anyone to take care of me?

Will I get cancer?

Will I…? Will this…? Will anyone…?

This person wastes his present life to stress about the future.

Living in the Past

This path includes thinking and reliving (in our minds) all of our past happy times and victories, coupled with a crippling sadness that these days are over, never to return. This path can also include self-pity, with much time spent wallowing in past regrets.

And unfortunately, a person who goes down this path spends a lot of time wishing for their past to return, either to relive it or to do it over differently – a concept that no one has ever been successful to make happen. Nor ever will.

Living in the Present

This path is taken by people that realize the past is exactly that – the past. They may have fond memories of the past but their mind doesn’t dwell there.

They also realize too that the future is not predictable, so beyond making some common sense preparations, they do not give the future too much consideration.

And most importantly, this person realizes that life on earth is finite and tries to live each day to the best of their ability for God. They’re living in the present.

Each of these three paths contains a full spectrum of emotions and challenges but living in the present is by far the easiest and most rewarding to navigate.

We never ‘try’ to live in the past or ‘try’ to live in the future. We just do it. It really doesn’t take any effort – we just go there according to our natural inclinations or weaknesses in our personality.

To live in the present, we actually must ‘try.’ We are not always inclined to do it. We often must force ourselves. It takes work. Darkness can keep us in the past or in the future, and avoid the present. The present is where God is now.

The present contains far less problems.

The present contains far less sadness and stress.

And the present contains far more happiness.

The best thing we can do with our past is to occasionally reflect back on good memories, or even past mistakes that make us better. Looking at it from a strictly common-sense perspective, the past is not happening anymore, except in our minds … if we let it. So don’t stay there. The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.

The best thing we can do with our future is to let God take care of that for us. How often does the dreadful future we predict for ourselves actually happen? My guess is, rarely. God will give us everything we need if we completely trust in Him. We must trust Him more than ourselves and He will actually have a chance to help us!

So try, as best you can, to always live in the present. God is there and wants to be involved in your life – right now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow.

Right here, right now. He’s here for you.

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Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog, and is the author of The Quest for Virtue, both which focus on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.

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