Why ‘live in the present’ is useless advice

When you’re particularly stressed out about life, or like me you have depression or a related mental illness, you’ll likely be told to ‘live in the present’, or ‘live for the now’.However, quite simply, that’s bullshit.

While it doesn’t help to worry about the future or think repeatedly about the past, it is normal, and in many ways useful. Financial planning, life goals, and visualising positive scenarios and success is incredibly useful for your mental well being, as is reflecting on your past to find the root of your problems and learn from your mistakes. Not only that, but these are usually things you do with a therapist, who among other things will tell you to take a step back and live in the present.

Maybe it’s just me thinking too much about it, which would be kinda ironic. But just in case it’s not, here’s an alternative you might like to follow.

Live for your future. Dream big, but live realistically.

This includes learning when you’re too stressed and need to step back.Β This includes dreaming and working towards buying that Pagani Zonda, but realising that you don’t quite have the money right now and a Ford Mondeo would actually suit your needs.Β If you believe in planning for the future, then plan, but realise when it becomes self destructive and learn how to circumnavigate that.

And as for the past, it’s just a series of reminders where you went right and wrong. But you can’t relive it.

What do you think? Good advice, or nonsense? Let me know!


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17 comments on “Why ‘live in the present’ is useless advice
  1. I can not imagine not worrying about, planning for, and envisioning the future. I’d have way too much free time, and also blow my grocery budget by Tuesday. That would never work!

  2. Scarred says:

    Living in the past never works… But allowing the past to help you decide how to deal with the present and plan for the future is not a bad idea. History repeats itself. Why not be prepared for it… Good post!

  3. Nyxeris says:

    That is pretty good advice. Me personally I find it helps not to think about whats happening now too much, as hindsight is where we learn how to improve ourselves and what we do. Dreams are always good things, they keep you going, something to hope and wish for, and they can be achieved if you try and want them badly enough, but as you said, they do need to be realistic. Good Advice.

    p.s. I’m pretty sure you meant Aston Martin, not Pagani Zonda didn’t you. πŸ™‚

  4. H. Stern says:

    This is particularly tough for me, because I like to beat myself up over all the things I’ve done wrong. But, what I try to tell myself is that EVERY experience is valuable, as long as you learn something. In that frame of mind, “mistakes” aren’t bad, because you came away with something new. Good post!!

  5. BeckBockk says:

    I think the advice is actually quite sensible if you take it in a non-literal sense. It seems that we, as humans, consistently strive towards future events and never take what we have as a positive – we always want more. Looking at your past can equally be as negative as looking towards your future, as this is also often taken negatively. I reckon living in the present is a fair bit of advice, because you need to be able to be happy with what you have – you’ve progressed from what happened in your past, and you’re not struggling to try and get impossible things for the future! Sorry for the extremely long comment, and excellent post, kiddo!

  6. […] hello to you all) and started a great discussion I’ll be returning to on Friday in my post ‘Why ‘live in the present’ is useless advice’. If you haven’t already done so, please give it a read and a comment, or even share to your […]

  7. dsantos85 says:

    oh, i love this! I’ve battled with depression most of my adult life and it takes a very conscious effort for me to stay positive and not let myself get “too” down. I think “Live for your future. Dream big, but live realistically” is a perfect way to word it.

    I wouldn’t be able to not plan for my future, I’m always looking to better myself and make sure I accomplish my goals. Sure, I’ve been through some shitty things in the past and I may spend too much time thinking about it all on some days BUT knowing what has happened helps me to not let it happen again. I learn from my experiences and ensure I attempt to live the best possible life that I can.

    Great post! I”m looking forward to your post on friday πŸ™‚

  8. Lee Geary says:

    It’s healthy to have goals, dreams and ambitions to work toward. Those will make your present more fulfilling and satisfying. I know when I spend a day working closer toward my goals, I have lived well in the present.

    What can be unhealthier is fearing the future and what is to come, rather than embracing it. Especially worrying about things you cannot change.

    Past-present-future mentality is something I’ve thought about quite a lot lately.

    I wrote down a relevant quote from Lao Tzu a few weeks ago.

    “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

  9. JB Bruno says:

    I’ve practiced Zen for a number of years, and also deal with depression, and I think the term “live in the present” works if it is understood differently.

    In Zazen, or meditation, the focus on the breath is based in large part on the fact that the only thing that is real is this moment, and that is, literally, true. The future has not happened, and the past exists as our memory allows us to remember it. This moment, alone, is real.

    This does not mean that one never plans but people with these issues tend to let the planning paralyze them, let this moment slip away. This is no way to make the future better.

    It’s all in how you take it.

  10. bunnypudding says:

    I find worrying about the future makes me not appreciate the present at times but I do believe that one should always prepare for the future logically. For example I am not joining my friends going travelling every 6 months because I will do that when I have enough financial security to take that gap year and see what I want to see in a fair amount of time where as all my friends admit to me that they don’t get to go to all the places that want to visit due to poverty and when they return they have manual jobs ( which, they admit is partly why they want to jet off all the time) that being said I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and never get to travel further ( I have travelled SE asia a teeny bit so it’s an informed choice) , so I guess it’s a case of “horses for courses” I think the best route to take with life is “is it ok? If it’s not ok then it isn’t the end” I read that on a card once and I have followed that little mantra ever since πŸ™‚

  11. It’s good advice mate and I agree with you to an extent (I mean, you need to be prepared financially for the future. People should also not dwell in the past too much). However my grandad used to that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” (this is also John Lennon lyric – my grandad was not John Lennon by the way).

    What he meant by this that sometimes people will become too focused on a goal for the future and this will cause life and opportunity to pass them by.

    I think balance is the key. You should learn from the past, have an eye on the future, and make sure you still embrace life in the present.

    Great post by the way.

  12. […] Saturday I posted my thoughts on the advice ‘live in the present’Β and asked to get as much feedback as possible on it. It since became the 3rd most viewed post, […]

  13. justin says:

    Live in the moment plan for the future. You can plan all you want but things are always subject to change. Besides nobody knows if your even gonna live Tommorow. Tommorow never comes its just another now when you get there we can exist in no time other than the present. l Malcolm x said ” The future belongs for those who prepare for it today
    ” do something today your future self will be thankful for “

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