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Tiny Wisdom: What It Means to Live the Dream

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

Have you ever felt a sense of internal conflict about enjoying the present moment while also working toward your dreams?

This is something I revisit over and over, because I know life happens now, and in order to fully live it, I need to accept what’s in front of me and experience it with complete awareness.

Yet I also want to expand, spread my wings, and see just how far I can soar.

A big part of that is visualizing what the future might look like—and then making and following a plan to get there.

This is where it gets tricky: what’s the difference between planning for tomorrow and living for it? What’s the difference between attaching to a possibility in a way that causes us pain, and believing in a possibility in a way that causes us joy?

Obviously, we can’t be happy and present if we’re focused on attracting something bigger and better, and worrying at each step of the process.

Yet we need to feel we’re on a purpose-driven path, growing a little every day—and the best way to measure growth is to set a specific goal and work toward it.

Maybe the key to enjoying the present while enabling the future is to know we’re creating something different without reinforcing to ourselves that it’s also something better.

Obviously, some goals will involve major improvements, like finding a more suitable living situation or finding work that better allows us to take care of ourselves.

But once we’ve secured enough to take care of our needs, and we’re working toward our various wants, perhaps it would serve us well to continually remind ourselves that today doesn’t have to pale in comparison to our potential tomorrow.

Tomorrow might bring a world of exciting new possibilities, but today, wherever we stand on our journey, can be an adventure in itself.

Today we have abundant opportunities to utilize our strengths and passions, do things we enjoy, and connect with people we love—even if we’re simultaneously crossing things off our to-do lists.

We need to have a sense of direction in life, but we can choose not to create stress around arriving. Today is a worthy part of our adventure.  If we’re following our purpose, right now, we’re living the dream.

Photo by h.koppdelaney

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/CHANDRAKANTHA Jeevan/Mr.Gupt/Jolly

    hey there Lori Dedi, I really needed this considering I have a paper due for my class today in a few hrs. & I barely even started..hahah!

    P.S. I am so happy to see your blog after a few days; hope the surgery went & I hope you are feeling better!

  • http://alidavies.com/ Ali Davies

    For me, the harmony between today and the future comes from knowing that my intentions,  actions, how I spend my time and who I am being in the now, are leading me to a new place I want to create in the future So the two become one in my mindset which really helps when lifes trials and tribulations rear their ugly heads!!

  • sunny

    at this point in my life… this is very very challenging..

  • Tess The bold life

    Hi Lori,
    When I focus on how blessed I currently am now, it’s easier to enjoy the journey while working on my dream. I’m currently enroute to Michigan to visit with family for two weeks. I’ll be enjoying face to face connections with less time online!

  • DebraAnn Salat

    I think you have to make movement forward and give yourself a break, usually big change doesn’t happen  overnight but if you keep moving forward you really never know what is possible.  And with major life changes underway I plan to embroider the garbage away.

  • Hrtspm

    i agree.

  • Star-stuff

    Thank you for posting this.  Something happened to me about five months ago that forced me to come face-to-face with all my negative thinking and anxiety about the past and the future.  I discovered mindfulness and have tried very hard and have been (mostly) successful at staying present in the moment.  However, I have had difficulty reconciling the very thing that you’ve just written about in the above column.. And I’ve just realized that by still being able to enjoy what I have right now, I actually feel more free and secure in pursuing goals without the fear and anxiety that I used to, because it doesn’t matter if I reach the exact goal I set out to reach. The journey is what matters and without concrete expectations, it’s okay if the goal changes on the way.  That way, I never feel like I’ve failed to reach the goal. It’s not a winner-take-all situation.  So, thank you for helping me come to this answer.

  • Lori R.

    This is EXACTLY what I am dealing with and have been dealing with for a long time. THANK YOU!

  • Vanessa

    “if we are following our purpose, right now, we are living the dream”.

    Thank you for this reminder!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1653932249 Mark B Hoover

    Every moment spent on yesterday or tomorrow is a moment taken away from today. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach) addressed this so succinctly: “We choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.”

    Once that strikes home, it becomes obvious that all we have and are is in the NOW. I have been giving myself leave to stretch out the moments of today through mindfulness and other means of giving the moment itself a sacred place in time. Many years ago I was in a place and frame of mind in which I repeatedly stated “These are the good old days.” Sure enough, they were…and are. Too many folks are consumed with guilt for living in the moment because they feel others will judge them. Living and loving life as it is served to you is part of your plan for tomorrow. It’s part of your purpose. No sense skipping today what might not be there tomorrow.

  • http://twitter.com/tedleew ted whitford

    The Good Life. Having a job and money to pay the bills, a roof over my head, good food and a little left over, me old Buddha get along like peas in a pod. Having nothing, not sure where the next meal is coming from, and have been in both places more than once, again we are like peas in a pod. Any where in between and we fight like cats and dogs. Thank you for your site and daily emails, so much appreciated.

  • sweetborigirl

    Hi Lori, I hope you’re getting better from the surgery.
    I have to say that this is something I’ve been struggling with for years, trying to enjoy the “now”, while trying to figure out what my calling is and work towards it, what career path to choose.
    It’s been rough, specially because I got to keep a full-time job at this moment. I have spent so many hours and nights doing research of ” the best jobs”, taking online quizzes to see what “careers might fit for me”. I just got tired of that and Im trying to take a break from all of it. I don’t have much free time anymore but I would like to start volunteering at different places, take on new hobbies starting with only a couple of hours here and there and maybe one day I will finally realize what I actually want to do and start working towards it.
    It’s easier said than done but since I already have spent so much time looking for it maybe it’s time to let it come to me on its own time.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much Jeevan. It did indeed go well! Good luck with your paper. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s a great way to see it, that the two become one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful Tess. Have a blast with your family in Michigan!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    So true. I sometimes think just the act of moving forward provides me with joy, regardless of where exactly I’m going. Knowing that I’m growing gives me a sense of purpose and satisfaction!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re welcome Vanessa!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Ted. I see the good life in much the same way. As long as I have my needs met, and I have the capacity to grow, explore, and enjoy, life is good!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much! I’m feeling a little better every day.

    That’s great you’re thinking of volunteering and taking on new hobbies. I love your insight about letting it come to you. They say we tend to find when we’re not looking. I know that’s been true for me.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. And thank you for sharing your thoughts! I love what you wrote about releasing expectations. I’ve found that doing just that can actually lead to the greatest joy, because some of the best things that have ever happened in my life have taken me by surprise. 

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I love that, about stating, “These are the good old days.” I think I may borrow that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1653932249 Mark B Hoover

    Borrow to your heart’s content. I have plenty to go around. What makes my saying so much more heartfelt and particularly poignant (to me) is Freddy Mercury’s last video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjiapiq-hqY “These Are the Days of Our Lives.” That laid a soundtrack to what I had felt 15-20 years earlier.

  • Kate

    So well said! “What’s the difference between attaching to a possibility in a way that causes us pain, and believing in a possibility in a way that causes us joy?” I feel like the balance between having goals for future growth and still appreciating today is, for me, the razors edge.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    It can definitely be tough to find a balance. I feel like, for me, it’s partly about not judging this moment. If I can decide this moment is worthy, I can plan for the future with a sense of excitement, not from a place of desperation.

  • http://www.offthemat.co.uk/ Rebecca

    Living in the moment while also planning for the future is something I struggle with too. I know that happiness comes from being present, but I’m also less than content with my current circumstances. I can’t help but think that when we move to a new area and I quit my job, I’ll be so much happier. But I know that’s not necessarily the case. Our circumstances only account for about 10% of the happiness we feel, yet many people (myself included) strive for ‘better’ circumstances in the hope that their happiness will dramatically improve.

    I like your idea of treating the future we’re creating as ‘different’, and not necessarily ‘better’. For me, it’s often been the case that I’ll be striving for change in my life, but then I’ll look back later and realise how good I actually had it.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean Rebecca. I’ve had the same experience, where I’ve looked back and realized how many little details I didn’t fully appreciate in the past. When I think of that, it reminds me to really look around and recognize the good things at a given point in time. Not always easy, but when I do it, I feel a tremendous sense of relief and peace!

  • Agaponzie

    Great post.  I recently discovered your blog and really appreciate it.  I think most readers agree that living in the moment is necessary to enjoy the great experiences that Life has to offer, but we also need direction.  Instead of pondering which direction we should go, I think we need to choose one and start travelling while being present in our journey.  I write more about choosing a direction, and interested readers can find it here:  http://agaponzie.blogspot.com/2012/04/direction.html

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Tiny Buddha. I think you bring up a great point about making a choice. When I was feeling particularly lost in my mid-twenties, a friend told me, “If you got lost driving, you wouldn’t just pull over and wait until you figure out where you’re going. You’d ask for directions and then keep going! And then if you still felt lost, you’d get more directions and get back on the road.” 

    This really hit me, because doing nothing always felt smarter to me–like I’d somehow figure it out if I just gave it enough thought.

    It’s like Dori said in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming…” =)

    Lori