On Having Something to Look Forward To

Photo by Gaelle Marcel.

I recently read a piece of financial advice that it's easier to avoid frivolous spending if you have something to look forward to spending that money on in the future.

Makes sense - denying yourself now is a lot easier if it's for a concrete purpose.

At first, I read that and thought, "Man! We should all have something to look forward to! All the time! Wouldn't that just make life better overall? Let's look forward to things!"

I was pretty convinced of this and started drafting up a post all about that idea: have something to look forward to and that way it's easier and more fun to get through the sloggy bits of life.

Then I realized that constantly thinking about some future reward sounds like something that the most miserable people do: working for the weekend, gritting their teeth through existence for that upcoming holiday, biding time until they can get out of whatever is going on right now so that they can experience a brief moment of happiness before returning to the slog of life.

That does not sound like a pleasant way to live, and there is actually research that shows we are happier when we are "in the moment", even when that moment involves doing something we don't really like. Trying to distract ourselves from a temporary unpleasant experience may work wonders (my boyfriend successfully distracted me from how badly I had to pee on a road trip by getting me to rap Lose Yourself by Eminem), but otherwise, science says we're better off being present with ourselves.

BUT, having things in the future that you are excited about is pretty darn great. It is fun to anticipate a vacation, concert, or visit from an out of town friend.

So here is a compromise: don't use future happiness to ignore or avoid your present reality, but to augment it. Set yourself little reminders of that exciting upcoming event so that you can occasionally get excited all over again, because it's fun!

Whether you place a physical reminder somewhere that you will come across later in the day or a phone alert, it's pretty great to suddenly be reminded that you have something exciting on the way.

Bonus points if you are able to share that excitement with someone else! Then it multiplies!


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