For example, when something good happens, we tend to become very focused on the present and on the fruits that the favorable circumstance will bear in the future.
If we're feeling a little blue about our current prospects, we may start thinking back to a time when things were going more smoothly in our lives. The more optimistic among us, however, might look forward to brighter days ahead.
Many people say harping on the past isn't healthy, and I agree -- a line has to be drawn somewhere. But only by considering history -- our prior successes and failures, our earlier ups and downs -- can we can guide our behavior toward the ends we seek in the present and future.
In other words, you need to examine the past in order to build on your triumphs and prevent making the same mistake twice (or more times). And let's face it: relishing the past isn't all bad. How else can we appreciate the fondest memories we hold of important life events, from our high school graduation and first kiss to watching our kids take their first steps.
Some people live by adages like "live for today" and "seize the day." While it certainly has merit -- we should try to live our lives to the fullest -- it shouldn't prompt people to make reckless decisions, like driving drunk or getting into massive debt.
I think a healthy, well-adjusted life includes all three of these:
- Turning to the past for guidance on the best course of action to take now in the future, not to mention summoning up fond memories
- Being conscious of the decisions we make in the present, which have important implications for our future
- Planning for and being optimistic about what lies ahead
Do you live most in the past, present, or future?