Oftentimes, it feels like we’re encouraged to live in a state of constant discontent. We are told that there is always something missing in our lives, something more we can have, something else to aim for, something that we have to do next. In high school, we’re told to think about university; in university, we’re told to think about careers; when we start a career, we’re told to think about promotions. When single, we’re told to think of finding a significant other; when dating, we’re told to think about engagement; when engaged, we’re told to think about weddings; and almost as soon as we get married? Yup, we’re told to think about kids.
There’s of course nothing wrong about planning for the future. Quite the contrary; we should actively be engaged in shaping it. My issue is with the fact that we’re encouraged to think about the future at the expense of enjoying the present. So while a high school student should keep university in mind, he or she should at the same time enjoy every minute of being in high school—and so on, so forth.
The state of constant discontent is compounded by that of regret. When in university, we’re asked if we miss high school; when working, we’re asked if we miss our carefree university days. When married, we’re asked if we miss being single and free, while parents are asked if they miss their life before their firstborn.
Discontent and regret are intensified by a constant preoccupation about what we’re missing out on. Social media makes it particularly challenging to focus on what we’re doing instead of wondering what we’re not doing. How many times are individuals attending a certain event on their smartphones, checking up on other events happening at the same time?
This bodes the question: what should be our relationship with the past, the present, and the future? The best analogy I can think of is that of driving. You have to know where you’re going before you get into the car. While you’re driving, you keep an eye on what is behind to see if there is anything that might catch up with you; you also keep an eye on everything around you, aware that the conditions on the road are dependent on the conditions of the environment they are in. But ultimately, you’re in the present; you take into account the road signs, you acknowledge the presence of other cars, you’re aware of how your car is doing, so on, so forth.
In practice, it means that we might be better off focusing the bulk of our energy on what we are currently doing. However, we also have to remember that our present will be enriched by an awareness of the past and how we got to that point in the first place. Furthermore, our future will look even brighter as we are aware of the consequences of what we choose to do in the present.
PS: Wouldn’t “Constant Discontent” be a great name for a single?
Photo credit: Healing Thoughts Blog.