On Jan. 1 of this year, I embarked upon my New Year’s resolution just like millions of other people all around the world. Like most New Year’s resolutions, mine was about self-improvement. This year, I made a promise to myself to keep a journal, writing in it every morning and night. There were several reasons I wanted to keep this journal, including adding structure to my life and forcing myself to reflect on the good and bad of each day, but the main reason was because I wanted to be happier.
We are all trying to become happier. It is the reason we study hard to get a degree while working a part-time job to afford a new pair of skis. As college students, it is frowned upon to act complacent about our current situation. We always have to be working on our next personal project while trying to stay on track to graduate in four years. It’s true that some of this frenzy is self-driven, but a lot of it can also be attributed to other people’s expectations. This constant struggle to appease the expectations of others is true about the adult world as well. I bet no more than an hour went by after Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone before someone asked him “what’s next?” While this Western attitude is responsible for sums of human progress, it often comes at the cost of personal well-being, also known as happiness.
When we act with the expectation of becoming happier in the future, we can’t possibly be fulfilled with the reality of our lives in the present. Focusing on how your life will become better is problematic because true happiness lies in connecting with the present moment. The present moment is all we have; it will always be the reality of our lives. Therefore, simply drop your troubles, even for just a minute and connect with the present moment. Enjoy each moment as it passes. Don’t worry so much about what’s around the corner.
Of course, planning for the future is important. It leads to more stability in life, mitigates risk and broadens opportunity. However, the focus of life doesn’t solely have to be about what you need to accomplish next. Everyday doesn’t need to be a constant struggle to keep your New Year’s resolution. Happiness is about being fulfilled with yourself in the present, while still appreciating struggles yet to come.
If your personal satisfaction is only contingent upon achieving personal goals in the future, you miss out on the real beauty of life — the journey. Even if we live to be 100 years old, there’s not enough time to be always looking forward to tomorrow, the weekend or the end of the semester while missing out on today. Wanting to improve oneself is valuable, I do it all the time. But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.