The Paradox Of Presence: Being Happy Now And Wanting More

As I go further and further along my own self-development journey, one of the biggest things I’ve been focusing on is being present. Countless books that I’ve read have labelled presence as the be all and end all of a happy, fulfilling life. The most of prominent of which for me has been “The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.

Rather than constantly placing your happiness in a future goal, the emphasis is on being grateful for what you currently have and focusing on the present moment.

Instead of living in the past and allowing feelings of regret or disappointment rule the way you live your life, surrender to the present moment in order to slowly stop the compulsive thinking that makes us unhappy.

These are lessons that have somewhat been drilled into me from innumerable sources and have without a doubt served to improve my life over the past year or two. I have increasingly learnt to stop depending on external things to give meaning or happiness in my life and have significantly lessened the impact of my past on the way I live and think.

However, there is a certain paradox that comes with the concept of being fully present and happy in the present moment. If you were entirely content and fulfilled with the way things are right now, would you even have any drive or desire to work and strive for more in life? Although it can be incredibly rare for someone to actually be fully present 100% of the time, the contradiction remains the same for those wanting to be fully content with where they are.

If I was perfectly happy with everything the way it is right now, what need is there for me to work for my university degree or to strive for financial freedom or exercise to improve myself physically? Why spend hours and hours on these tasks if I don’t need anything to be fulfilled or happy?

My take on this based on my own views and from what I’ve read/watched is that your actions and the things you do have different foundations when you are present compared to when you are doing them from a place of unhappiness and desperation. You are essentially doing them for different reasons which is the key.

“Every action is measured by the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I was to be studying my healthcare degree because my happiness depended on making money and having a certain job or authority, I would inevitably be unfulfilled in the present moment and most likely feel the same way when I do actually achieve these things.

On the other hand, if I was present and fully satisfied with the way my life is now, I can instead work on my degree with the focus on helping others and enjoying the entire process. This is a significant difference to being focused on the end goal and seeing the degree or my future job as a means to an end (for money or a status).

This same paradox applies to pretty much everyone’s life in the sense that there is a contradiction between wanting more and being fully present and happy where you are right now. I hope the example of my own life has given you some insight into the difference and importance of finding the right balance. Even if you are enlightened and have full control and happiness in your life, there is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving for more. The problem comes with depending your fulfilment and happiness as a person on achieving these goals.

If you have any thoughts about this, I’d love to see what other people think so feel free to leave a comment down below.


9 thoughts on “The Paradox Of Presence: Being Happy Now And Wanting More

  1. Oh boy, living in the present is one of the things I’ve always struggled with, as I am always reaching back for the past or looking ahead to the future. I think that being present requires an awareness that most of us haven’t practiced either in a long time or maybe even not ever! Thanks for the reminder to always embrace the here-and-now!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you make a good point that there is a tension that needs to happen between being present and wanting more. I think if you are grateful for how far you’ve come, looking forward to where you are going and in love with the journey you’ve already won

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  3. I guess this is what I am struggling at the moment. I can’t say I am happy and satisfied with my current situation. I am still rebuilding a life that had been broken to pieces. So, yes, my thoughts tend to drift to the past. I try to focus on the present and build a better tomorrow. I guess I am still trying to find that balance.

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  4. I think that our goals in life should not have anything to do with our happiness..because then we will never be happy..
    I really like your example using your own experience that your goal is is no longer a way to achieve happiness because you already have it at the present moment by practicing mindfulness and gratitude..your goal evolves you to another level, which i think is everyone’s dharma to be in the service of others..
    Good luck on your goals and keep up the positivity 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you’ll only ever be able to find happiness in the present moment, but I agree – this doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious. I think it was Terry Crews who said “You should be happy and dissatisfied”. It’s healthy to have that hunger for the future to drive you on, but realise that having something to work towards is where the happiness can be found, not just in achieving it.

    The paradox for me is that by the time you say “I’m being present”, you’re observing a moment that has already passed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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