Appreciate the Now or Pursue the Dream?

October 31st, 2017 by Kelly Kienzle

So often we think we must do both. We believe we must slow down and appreciate what we have. Yet we also want to believe in and pursue our dreams. But does pursuing a dream mean that we are unhappy or dissatisfied with the present? On the other hand, if we appreciate and enjoy the present, does that mean we are deferring our dreams and becoming complacent?


Typically when I face an “either/or” question such as this, I try to imagine what the “both/and” answer would be. For example, should I be sensitive to the needs of my colleagues or resolute in achieving our organizational mission? Here the answer is clearly “both/and” in my mind: I can be a leader who both nurtures his team and pursues the mission.

But I get stuck over this question of whether to either appreciate the present or keep moving towards the future. I find it difficult to see the “both/and” answer. How could I possibly be fully present in the moment if I am also thinking of the future?

How does this play out in my life? It plays out like this: I really want to be fully present for this final stage of my daughters’ childhoods. I want to be aware and engaged in what they are learning, seeing and doing. On the other hand, I want to be mindful of and tending to my career so that I can continue to accomplish and build all that I can.

Two Places at Once

Why does it matter to answer this question? Because we believe the answer to happiness lies in both places. We believe (and are often told) that happiness comes from appreciating the present. And we also believe (and are more often told) that happiness comes from pursuing our dreams of the future.

Thus, we are trying to be in two places at once: the present and the future. Yet that is as mentally impossible as it is physically impossible. I cannot think two opposite thoughts at the same time. For those of us who try to pursue both peace in the now and dreams for the future, we are caught in a taffy pull of two opposing forces. And so, ironically, in our pursuit of happiness we create this highly stressful environment. We vacillate and jump between the two, as if we are playing both sides of a tennis match by ourselves.

A Rhythm and a Choice

So perhaps we can find the answer in a rhythm between the two. Perhaps the answer is spending plenty of time appreciating the present – – all that we have accomplished, all the goodness that is around us, all the beauty that we can see. While also spending time thinking about and pursuing what we still want to do, experience, discover and feel.

Perhaps the answer is not in trying to be in two places at once, but in accepting wherever we are in the moment. Because it is possible to appreciate the present moment if we have chosen to spend that moment thinking of the future.

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