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Happiness in the Present, Happiness in the Future -- A Difficult Balance.

Posted Nov 22 2010 12:47pm
Ruskin, grand-canal

In happiness, many tensions can’t be permanently solved, and instead require constant thought and effort.

For instance, I often debate, within myself, how to strive for my own built-in happiness , and yet stay mindful of the effect that other people's happiness (or unhappiness) has on me. Also, I want to accept myself, yet also expect more of myself.

Another example is the question of how to think about now and the future. Clearly it’s important to be present in the moment and to think about now, and clearly it’s important to take present action with the future in mind.

I was reminded of the importance of the atmosphere of growth -- which has an element of future-thinking -- when I read this letter by John Ruskin. As a young man, Ruskin feared he would die of tuberculosis. He wrote to a friend in 1841:

I have begun a work of some labour which would take me several years to complete; but I cannot read for it, and do not know how many years I may have for it. I don’t know if I shall even be able to get my degree; and so I remain in a jog-trot, sufficient-for-the-day style of occupation – lounging, planless, undecided, and uncomfortable, except when I can get out to sketch – my chief enjoyment. I am beginning to consider the present as the only available time, and in that humour it is impossible to work at anything dry or laborious or useful. I spend my days in a search after present amusement, because I have not spirit enough to labour in the attainment of what I may to have future strength to attain; and yet am restless under the sensation of days perpetually lost and employment perpetually in vain.”

(The image is Ruskin's drawing of the Grand Canal in Venice.)

How do you think about balancing the challenges of present and the future?

* Last week, I had the fun of meeting the famous Swiss Miss in person -- love her design blog. If you haven't seen it before, check it out.

* Want to launch a group for people doing happiness projects together? Email me at grubin @ gretchenrubin dot com. Just write “starter kit” in the subject line.

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