Recently, I explored a few myths that are dangerous to our well-being and practice of presence. Another one of these is the “if …, then …” mentality. If only I had more money, then I could relax.
If I wasn’t alone, then I could feel lovable.
If my neighbor wasn’t such a jerk, then I could find peace.
By placing our attention on achieving or gaining something in the future, we lose sight of the beauty and importance of the present moment. This constant reaching for a thing, feeling or experience beyond what is happening now causes unnecessary stress in our life and is completely ineffective.
Instead of deceiving yourself with the thought “if …, then …” try “now …, and ….”
For many years, I fooled myself into believing that if my partner was more affirming, then I would feel loved; or if I got the promotion, then I would feel valued; or if I found a new partner, then I would feel complete. Then I experienced that none of this is true.
My ability to feel loved, valued and complete have absolutely nothing to do with anything or anyone else—it has only to do with me and what I am thinking, believing and focusing on in this moment.
"But shouldn't I strive to improve things for myself in the future?"
Well, actually, here are a few reasons why that doesn't work.
It keeps us from taking responsibility for our lives.
There are very few things we can control in life. One thing we can control is how we respond to each situation. It is up to us to see situations as stressful and limiting or peaceful and opportunistic. To seek peace or opportunity in only certain situations places the responsibility of our reaction to external factors. When we do this, we delegate the one thing in our life that we can control—our attitude.
Only 10% of our satisfaction with life is based on circumstances.
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has found that approximately 50% of our satisfaction with life is predetermined by our genetics and only 10% is determined by our circumstances—which is not very much. This means whether I am rich or poor, single or married, in a job I love or not does not make much of a difference. This leaves 40% to intentional activity and choices we make. One of the key ways to intentionally increase your satisfaction is to live in the present moment.
We have evolved to get used to things.
Another finding of Lyubomirsky’s work looks at hedonic adaptation—the fact that humans adapt to joys and sorrows with time. So long as we strive for things outside of ourselves to bring us peace or joy, we will eventually get used to it and be right back at where we started, seeking something else to help us feel that way again, and thus the cycle begins.
Dan Gilbert discovered that we are not very good at predicting what we will like or not like in the future. This affective forecasting is another reason our “if…, then…” mentality is futile—we inevitably adapt to the things we think will be amazing, and we typically bounce back from the things we think will be terrible much more quickly.
When we have a sincere attitude of gratitude and stay present by releasing judgment, resistance and attachment then our level of satisfaction with our life situation no longer depends on circumstances beyond our control.
What is one “then” you can achieve by replacing your “if” with “now”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.