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Find Happiness by Focusing on the Future

by Beth on December 7th, 2010

According to Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, “living in the future” is the secret to a long, healthy, and happy life.  People who spend time thinking about the future are more optimistic, have a stronger sense of purpose, and are less bothered by daily hassles.  Seeing the big picture makes small problems in the present seem less important and can help people feel more engaged in what they are doing because they see how it relates to broader goals.

Working toward meaningful life goals is one of the keys to happiness.  It gives us not only a sense of purpose, but a feeling of control and something to look forward to.  Dividing larger goals into smaller ones gives structure to our lives by helping us decide how to use our time.  And as we accomplish the smaller goals we experience positive emotions like pride and joy.

This all sounds good, except for the fact that I have blogged a number of times about the importance of mindfulness or present moment awareness for increasing happiness.  So you might be wondering what you should do: focus on the present or on the future?  Living in the moment is important for boosting positivity; relationships are improved when you are truly present with others and being mindful helps you to appreciate and savor the moment.  So yes, practice mindfulness, but not at the expense of thinking about where you are headed and setting goals for the future.

Imagine yourself in 5 years.  What does your life look like?  What have you achieved?  Now think about what you need to do to make those dreams come true.  Set long-term goals and break them into smaller steps that you can achieve on a shorter time frame.

As you go through your day try to be present and open to enjoy the moment, but every once in a while think about your future.  Remind yourself of your goals and how what you are doing today is helping you to fulfill your purpose.

From → Goals, Meaning, Optimism

3 Comments
  1. Francesco Frova permalink

    “So you might be wondering what you should do: focus on the present or on the future? Living in the moment is important for boosting positivity; relationships are improved when you are truly present with others and being mindful helps you to appreciate and savor the moment. So yes, practice mindfulness, but not at the expense of thinking about where you are headed and setting goals for the future.”

    So, could you say that one should focus on present for (personal) relationships, while focusing on the future when it comes to own perspectives/development?

  2. Beth permalink

    Yes, I do think it is important to have a future focus in order to set and achieve self-development goals. And while present moment awareness is great for relationships, it can be just as important when you are alone. Enjoying the moment, whatever you are doing, brings greater happiness than worrying about the past or the future.

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