“Be fully in this moment.”
“Live in the present.”
“Now is all you have.”
I mean… yeah, I guess.
But how does living in the moment square with that other aphorism: hope for the best, prepare for the worst? What about education is the best provision for old age? Aesop devoted an entire fable to making a happy, present-dwelling grasshopper look like a total mooch.
It shakes down like this:
You think that “future you” is out there somewhere, and that when you do “good” things—eat your veggies, hit your 10,000 steps, or close Netflix after a modest three-episode X-files binge—future-you will thank past-you for making smart choices.
Here’s what we forget: that future-you that past-you was hoping to impress? That’s you, right now.
When you do things for the benefit of future-you, that means you expect that your future self will notice, and be grateful. So: are you?
Getting good at thanking yourself for what you’ve already done will actually make it easier to stay on track with the goals still in front of you. Besides: have you ever known someone who never expresses appreciation, always demands more, and is intolerant of your mistakes? They’re a freaking drag.
When you’re not motivating yourself to do things that future-you will hopefully thank you for, spend some time fulfilling that expectation by being grateful for something that past-you totally nailed. Preparing for the future is compatible with living in the now: it is the act of using the present moment to show past-you that future-you is a person worth caring about.
If you’re alive to read this, past-you got you this far, and deserves some love.