Do you spend a whole lot of time thinking about the future? As a planner, I certainly do. Assessing the future and thinking of what things may be like in the near or far future has its definite benefits — and it’s needed in our modern society. We obviously can’t get by without planning some aspects of our lives. But when this planning becomes a permanent future-focus that then combines with our feelings about the less positive aspects of our lives, we can develop something many like to call a “whentality.

The idea of whentality stems from the word mentality, and it essentially means that you live your life thinking about the “when” as opposed to the now. Often times, this will surround some part of your life you are wanting to get through, i.e. “I will be so much happier when this semester ends” or “When I lose 10 pounds, I will feel better” or even something as small as “When this work meeting is over, my anxiety will be gone…just get through this.” We are projecting our “better” self into the “when” — some future time and place when we will feel better, be stronger, be happier when something else we are working through is over. We often will plan for these future moments (i.e. the new dress you’ll buy for when you lose that weight) or the delicious lunch you’ll scarf down once that work meeting is over so often that we are displaced from the “now.”

Once again, placing ourselves in a future-focused mindframe has its benefits, but there are dangers in having a constant whentality. For one, it means you often move through your to-do list, your goal sheet, your personal “here’s my journey to the real happiness I want and deserve” that we lose the now. This is not to say that sometimes the now is not so awesome. You may be in a place in your life you’re simply not happy with, or you may actually need to make some serious changes. Again, this is why a future focus can sometimes be a good thing. But if you’re leading your life in such a way that you’re never just truly in a moment — think constant multi-tasking, a racing mind, an urgent need to make to-do lists and cross things from them — then we lose out on what can be good in a moment.

Have you ever surfed the internet for something you’d like to do or buy for use in the future or worked on a task while on the phone with a loved one? Or have you ever scrolled your phone while in the presence of your friends? Your children? Your aging parents or grandparents?  You’re living with a whentality. You’re losing focus on the real heart of the matter in your life — the loved ones that make up the true love in our lives — for some gratification that could potentially make you happier, when you may just have everything you need to make you happy in the now if you’d just stop to be present.

This can be inward, too. If you’ve ever made a grocery list in your mind while in a yoga class, you, my friend, have had a whentality moment. Think about it. If we are constantly working for goals, future moments, what do we lose out in the now? We can lose moments with loved ones. We can miss important moments of self-love. We can miss thoughts that might alter the course of our entire lives for the better — all because we were too busy checking things off our list or thinking about something that hasn’t even happened yet.

So many of us are afflicted with whentalities, either from time to time or in a constant state. What can we do to be more present? The easiest way to go about changing your whentality, for many, is to first simply observe yourself and note it when it happens. Take immediate action to correct if it’s possible (i.e. put your cell phone away while visiting Grandma or turning the page away from that to-do list during your work meeting), focus on the things and people and sensations around you. Enjoy them fully. Feel yourself loving what you do have in front of you, once and for all. And then applaud yourself for doing so (you can do this mentally, or, for extra fun, you can actually clap, but please do not blame me if people look at you a little funny for the random outburst). This is a moment-to-moment decision and action process, so you need to be happy with yourself every single time you make a conscious decision to be present in your every day life.

Know that you will slip up. Do not scold yourself for this, but just make the observation and try to do better next time. Avoiding a whentality is never a complete process, and it will have to be a constant daily decision. Over time, though, like any habit, it may become easier and more automatic, but always keep in mind that you are an imperfect being, and whentality is natural (so don’t be hard on yourself, but do try to be better). Believe me, it’s so worth it.

Who knows? You may find yourself becoming even more grateful for what you do have — even if your life isn’t what you think it ought to be or want it to be. All we really do have is the here and now, after all.

Image source: Jayhaymesisviphotography/Flickr