Look Forward - Be HAPPIER

Having something to look forward to is the magic formula to a happier, more satisfying present

We are told to live in the moment because that helps us eradicate all regrets of the past, and expectations from the future. And as we all know, it is regrets and unfulfilled expectations that bring angst and stress into our lives. So we surmise that living in the present is our best bet to living a peaceful life.

And yet, life seems so limited and boring if you just focus on the now. Peace is sometimes overrated. Have you thought what would be the value of peace in the absence of chaos and turbulence? What if peace were to become a way of life? Life minus conflict and desires becomes mere existence. Dreams are what make living exciting – dreams and desires leading to expectations and plans, which arouse anticipation in us. Feet planted firmly in the present, it is just as important to let our heads float sometimes in the clouds. Having a future to look forward to helps keep our present healthy and exciting.

And that anticipation need not be a far away, life-impacting future. We are talking here of not just long-term, but also short-term rewards that we plan for ourselves. Anticipating something pleasurable in the future can help you get through present hardships and loneliness. We all use this as a psychological strategy from time to time, whether or not we realise it or not. When present reality disappoints or depresses us, we turn to planning for a more exciting future. And so, we anticipate the lunch break through a morning of hard work, or the evening watching our favourite TV show, or catching up with friends once a week. Some may anticipate that one drink they allow themselves every Saturday night, or fun things to do over the weekend.

Planning and anticipation of a holiday gives one almost as much pleasure as the holiday itself. Sometimes, even more. Planning for a party or looking forward to a dinner or a movie with a loved one gives you many more hours of pleasure than the actual event itself. The psychological term for that is ‘rosy prospection’. Figure out something you really enjoy, such as a sport, painting, music or dancing, and plan it at least once a month, if not every week. Strategising to have something interesting and rewarding to look forward to can help you get through not just hardships and days of anxiety, but also pep up the tedium of daily existence.

Any mother will tell you that she lives with the dread of her children flying the nest since the day they are born. My way of coping with the empty nest syndrome once my children went away for higher education has been to insist on setting the next date we get together as a family just before we go our separate ways each time. So when we say au revoir, we already know tentatively when next we are meeting. It helps immensely, because rather than focus on the empty days ahead, I can focus on the date when I see the children again.

So, are we saying that a life minus desires and dreams and nothing to look forward to is a dull and monotonous life? Yes, I am afraid so. A life without purpose, with nothing to plan for or look forward to was certainly not meant for humans. I can live with moments of ‘just being’, ‘existing’ in the present, floating on a no-thought cloud – but a lifetime of it? Sorry, no! A healthy amount of anticipation and dreaming is to me a necessary element of a life well lived and loved.

Such a hope, such a looking forward is very important. Trouble arises when you allow the hope to take up a large chunk of your present time. It is then that hope sets itself on the path of hopelessness.

The trick is in anticipating little doses of future happiness planned as rewards for the big focus we give to our present moments…

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