The Pursuit of Happiness: Past, Present, or Future?

I have a confession to make: I’ve enjoyed my last two years.

I have to be careful saying this for all the reasons you can imagine. I want to be sensitive to those around me who have had a different experience—often quite personally—because of COVID.

For me? On the home front, I was able to spend precious in-person “face” time with my kids. On the work front, I’ve found myself Coaching a handful of elites like CEOs, Presidents, and Olympians.

I’ve learned that I like being that courage, sherpa, consigliere, and “friend” to those striving to be better leaders or performers.

Over the course of the last two years, from time to time, I’d start one of my coaching sessions by running the following meditation exercise.

I’d have them turn off their Zoom camera and I’d do the same. Just before I mute audio on my side, I’d ask them to close their eyes and let their minds wander for 5 minutes.

When the 5 minutes were up, I’d ask them a simple question: Where did you go…Past, Present or Future?

What I’ve discovered is that when someone time-machined into their past, there was a regret. That regret had them stuck and it needed to be addressed.

When the individual warped forward into their future, there was a fear. That fear may have had them scared—and that’s what comes with being human.

I have yet to have a case where someone was able to stay present and IN the moment.

I try to remind those I’m working with, especially when they get scared about the future, to reprogram their minds to enjoy the now. Easier said than done.

Fear of the unknown, as a concept, is real. We fear failure. We fear imposter syndrome. We also fear success.

When we’re living in a fictitious, futuristic place in our minds, it not only bubbles our anxiety—it often makes us unhappy.

Frankly, we’ve got this “Pursuit of Happiness” concept wrong.

I’m more in this camp:

pursuit of happiness

While I’d love to be your coach, I’d love it even more if you blocked 5 minutes on your calendar every Wednesday morning to run this 5 minute exercise.

Set a timer on your phone and, when the timer goes off, see where you landed: in the past, the present, or the future.

The more you run the exercise, the more you can start to train your mind to stay in the present. Just by doing so, you’ll grant yourself permission to enjoy the ride you’re on now vs thinking about a fictitious outcome that hasn’t happened.


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