Living In The Moment -- Good Or Bad?

07/08/2016 12:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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People cannot help themselves when it comes to planning. It's arguably one of the most natural characteristics of the modern human. Right when we wake up, people start planning. We start thinking about our upcoming daily activities. What are we going to have for breakfast? What time do I need to be at school? As the day progresses, we tend to start planning for more long-term events. Should I book my flight for summer vacation now to save some money? How are my grades going to be at the end of the semester?

Unfortunately, planning can adversely affect everything that we are currently doing. Thinking about what's in store in the future can take over how we express ourselves by causing us to act in a manner that doesn't reflect our current mood and situation. In doing so, the people around us can be hurt by our selfishness. For example, stressing over tomorrow's test can make us unappreciative and curt while having a family dinner. It's only fair to others that we do our best to refrain from thinking about the future.

But no matter how hard we try, we have far from perfect control over our lives. We can think about the future and imagine how it will materialize, but we can never truly ensure that everything will work out the way we want it to. You always hear that cheesy quote about "living in the moment." I believe a better, and much more telling quote is one that cartoonist Bill Watterson said: "We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are."
However, there are times when I know that living in the moment is just not possible. It's romantic, good-intentioned, yet idealistic of people to say that the only thing that's important is the present. It's simply impractical to never plan or think of the past. Thinking and reflecting about the past allows us to learn from our mistakes. Without dwelling, at least to a certain extent, about our past, we would never develop into intelligent beings. The same idea is true about planning for the future. We wish the future to be promising, and the only way to achieve that in our busy lives is to plan accordingly.

I've come to the conclusion that living in the moment should not be a phrase that's thrown around lightly. People who are experiencing immense stress and emotions should be allowed to not live in the moment. They should even be encouraged to plan for the future. The reasoning behind this is simple. To relieve themselves of whatever is pressuring them, people need to plan so that their future selves will be in a better situation. Only then will they have the ability to live in the moment.
So I've learned to relax when I can. I've learned to enjoy where I am and how far I've come. I've learned to diminish but still retain my habit of introspection. I've come to better appreciate the relationships and friends that I have. I've begun appreciating the present, for too much planning can lead to an uninspiring life. But out of a sense of realism, I allow myself to muse over the future when necessary.