The Illusion of Waiting for the Future to Be Happy

“The future is always beginning now.” ~Mark Strand

Do you ever feel like there’s something missing in your life? It feels like you’re always waiting for something to arrive. You want the future to come, because it’s better there.

But that’s all wrong.

The future is an illusion. It’s just a concept in your head. This is what I’ve realized in the past few months.

I’ve suddenly become acutely aware of what’s going on. I’ve entered the present moment more powerfully than ever before.

If you go and read my previous articles here at Tiny Buddha, I talk about how I’m going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.

I’m learning more and more, and that’s exactly what happens each year.

As I’m writing this, I am completely present in my body. I feel my fingers write the words. It almost feels like I’m not the one typing, typing is just happening.

I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do want to share what’s happened, and how you can tap into the same peace and joy that I have.

But before we do that, let’s look at the problem.

The Problem: Future-Think

In the past, I tended to live in the future. I daydreamed of a better life.

I wanted more money, more adventure, and more time so I could be in the present moment. When I put it like that, it almost seems crazy, doesn’t it?

But that’s how your mind works. It promises that you’ll get something that you already have. The problem is that to be at peace, you have to transcend the mind.

It’s there for the taking.

By shifting from the future to the here and now, I feel amazing. I realize that there’s nothing in the outside world that can make a big difference if I’m anchored to the present moment.

I’m currently in Northern Scandinavia, and we’re heading into winter. It’s getting dark and cold. I used to get depressed by this, but now I feel grateful.

I feel alive when I walk outside. The air is fresh. I am in touch with the presence that I am. And everything is what it is.

The Solution: Here and Now

The solution is to stay present here and now.

Notice what thoughts are popping up as you read these words. Let them be without analyzing or reacting.

Instead, feel your body. Notice your feet, legs, abdomen, and your breathing. Become intensely present in what’s going on now.

How is your body feeling? What sounds are you aware of? What do you see?

When your mind tries to pull you back, gently bring your attention back to your body.

This isn’t always easy. I’ve been falling in and out of the present moment for years, but how long you stay there is not the goal. There is no goal.

When you notice that you’ve slipped, you return to now. It’s that simple. When you notice criticizing thoughts pop up, let them be, and breathe.

Say yes to whatever happens in your life.

I worry less about the future, because I’ve realized there’s not much I can do. The future will come in the form it comes. All I have to do is stay here and now and deal with whatever comes in the best way I can.

It’s easy to think we can control life, but we can’t. Life has a tendency to live itself, and we’re along for the ride.

As I’ve become more and more comfortable with just going with the flow, I’ve started feeling more peace and enjoying what is.

Living from a Place of Peace

When I tap into the now, I notice that I’m already at peace.

I don’t really need anything, because even if I get something, it won’t have a lasting effect on my happiness. The only way I can be happy now is to tap into that peace inside of me.

When I do that, I come from a place of positivity instead of negativity. Life seems easier. I feel better. And I affect the people around me just by being close to them.

If I feel negative, I sometimes sit down on the sofa behind me, close my eyes, and immerse myself in what I’m feeling.

I breathe and let things be. When I do this, eventually I may feel an impulse to do something, such as write. I used to try and force myself to take action, but now it often just seems to happen.

We’re all interconnected. Even scientists are realizing this.

This means that if you stay in the present moment, you tap into a bigger intelligence than your mind.

Your mind cannot comprehend this, which is why it’s confused, scared, and worried. That’s okay, too. It wants the best for you.

But real living is living from your heart. It’s living in the present moment and following your excitement.

It’s About Letting Life Live You

You can’t control life.

I used to have plans for what I wanted to do. I still have intentions for where I am going, but I’m not rigid about them.

I don’t suffer if they happen. I might be unhappy, but I do my best to stay here and now when they arise.

I had no idea I would be doing what I do today just a few years ago. I’m doing what I love, and I’m teaching people how to build a business around their passion.

At the same time, I’m an alarm clock that helps people wake up from their slumber. I trust the force.

It’s not easy to let go, because your mind will try to fight you tooth and nail, but when you see that first glimpse, you realize what’s possible.

It has taken me years to reach this point, so don’t criticize yourself if you’re not where you want to be. Notice that that is another thought, and notice that you are the awareness behind that thought.

This is Just the Beginning

We’re all evolving. This is just the beginning.

But each moment is a new beginning. There’s no need to live in the future, because future is merely a concept in your head.

When it arrives, it will arrive as the present moment. If you’re not here and now, you’ll miss it. You’ll keep dreaming of a better future, which never really comes.

The message I want to give you is that everything is okay right now.

We all have challenges in our life, but it’s okay. Say yes to life. Accept what’s here and now. Trust life, even if it doesn’t look the way you want it to.

The problem isn’t life, but your expectations of it.

Everything in the outside world will sooner or later dissolve, but who you are deep down is eternal. When you can tap into who you really are, your life will change.

Are you ready?

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  • Nadine

    Every human being should read this and let it sink!
    Thanks for such a great article… Trying to resist will only make you go through your own internal struggles. One should always let their life just be and go with its natural flow without expectations. Later on, in the hindsight, you will come to know why you have been through all the good and bad experiences… to make you the person your meant to be.
    Life has its ways. So embrace the now and live in the moment, it is all you have.

  • Thank you, Nadine.

    Very well put.

  • krupa

    A fantastic article, very well put together and a must read 🙂

  • Thanks!

  • Anne

    This article is totally awesome! Life really is okay, right now. No need to worry (doesn’t help anyways). This article is just a wonderful reminder to keep focus on the present moment and even if you lose that focus, that’s fine too. All is well. Thank you so much for this. This article came at the right moment.

  • nickname

    What if you’re in a terribly unhappy relationship and/or just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and have 2 young children? Just curious to know how to be ok with the present in those circumstances?

  • lv2terp

    FANTASTIC post!!!! What a gift to share, thank you for this message!!! 🙂 I am a person that has always believed everything is meant to be, yet I try to control and have specific expectations…what a contradictory huh!? haha…I have been working on this for the last several months, and really enjoyed this article, your wisdom, and advice! Thank you! 🙂

  • Megan

    Beautiful post.

  • Nelsilya Huang

    Thank you for the wonderful post 🙂

  • Brittany

    I read this blog every day, and many posts have given me some kind of clarity or have hit really close to home. Your words are truly a gift to me right now, and incredibly relevant to the challenges I am currently facing. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this.

  • B

    I could have written this exactly, about 6 months ago I dipped into this same thing, it was bliss. Others were confused by my happiness. Then my father passed away and I have been trying to get back there ever since. In a way it prepared me for my dad dying, though my mum needed me to also be more sad with her, and I’ve had to give in, I’ve regressed into worry and lack of worth. But reading this has reminded me of what it all was. Such a joyous way of living and soon ill be “there” again, when its appropriate. Sound odd

  • Rae

    This measage really hit close to come as I read it. Thank you for such an eloquent perspective that in turn given me the strength to dust myself off and really embrace who and what
    I am because i know I am a worthy, positive spirit that cannot be dulled by another’s rejection of me.

  • Nicole

    When I lived in the future and acquired what I thought I wanted, it didn’t make me happy. Thank you for this excellent post.

  • Absolutely, Anne. Great points and thank you for sharing.

  • I think part of the trying to control, at least for me, comes from conditioning. It’s just a habit, but it starts dropping away the moment you become aware of it.

  • Yes!

  • Same here. There’s always more to get and want.

  • Thanks Brittany. I’m glad you liked it.

  • Being present does not mean you stay in an unhappy relationship. If you do not like it, then remove yourself from it.

    And being present if you have terminal cancer will allow you to spend the time you have with your kids in a much better way.

  • One thing to remember is that this is not exclusive to one emotion, such as bliss.

    There will be worry, lack of worth and everything else. You are already noticing this. And also noticing that wanting to get somewhere is another thought taking you away from right now.

    Not always easy, I know 🙂

  • friend forever


    I loved the line ‘The problem isn’t life, but your expectations of it’. I realize that this is so true for me! The thoughts that I have about who i should be right now, how I should be feeling, what I should be doing, how should be doing that. But, yes, I now realize that life lives itself and we are along for the ride. By being rigid about things should be, we miss out on how they really are and don’t savor the gifts that each moment brings.

    I vow to be more present now. Thank you for writing this! It has helped me a lot.
    Best wishes to you for your journey 🙂

  • Pea

    Thanks! This really makes me feel like living in the present. There are so many posts regarding living in the present, being in the moment. But this really makes me understand now 🙂

  • Anon

    This post helped me a lot… I have been struggling with living in the present. Time has been going by so fast and it terrifies me. My main problem is focusing too much on the future. Thank you Henri!

  • Stray Astray

    Thank you! It’s just what I was looking for! So simple! Yet so wonderful! Life is happening here and now! Thank you very much!

  • Abbey

    this is a very difficult time in my life.. and most of the time I feel I am floating above my body…I wanted this difficult time to pass before being happy again..i keep imagining my life and the results of all the hard work I have put for near future….but I realized waiting is depressing… after reading this article I realized when I feel happy..though I usually find all the answers for my current problems with soul searching..i am still not happy most of the time…the happiest moments in the recent past have been the one when I was totally engrossed in role play with my daughter or doing something creative with my hands…and your articles made me realize that the sense of engagement made me happy…Thank you!

  • sara

    thank you so much . It was amasing . I wish you best .

  • John Dough

    ive always been waiting for something in my life….I didn’t know what it was for decades. Now I found out. It’s death.

  • Sands

    You sound out of control emotionally. These are not words that an empowered, in control, happy, independent person would feel or say. It seems to me you don’t really have clarity. It shows because you require meditation to compensate for the negative feelings. Whether we can or cannot control life is not the point because nobody knows. But if you have high self confidence, you will feel emotionally in control as well as in control of your life, environment, and your future. Feeling in control will empowers you to make self-respecting decisions that naturally improves the quality of your life. Its a positive viral where as you are simply trying to stop a negative viral. Hope you find clarity soon. Good luck.

  • Rajarajan Panneerselvam

    The closest definition of what you have mentioned here is ‘mindful awareness’.

  • sarah

    all these spiritual crap should be told to African kids to people who are burning alive in wars and to all suffering creatures

  • Samanta

    I Love your writing. I am 22 years old and all I have been the entire time is thinking about the future. I always think the present is unhappy and there is a better future but that’s really not the case. i am unhappy of being lonely and a huge procrastinator.

  • Ol

    I dont think they would understand, but you might try it.