Selling Our Present For An Illusory Future

“ no Future, howe’er pleasant!” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How much is man encouraged today to spend his valuable energy thinking about and saving for future needs which may never arise? How much do we as a society allow each other to live in the present and enjoy all that it entails? How much do we as a society encourage hard work and long hours now so that we may have enough to fall back upon in the future? How much do we encourage the pursuit of happiness now as opposed to it being something that we might attain at some future point?

Many of us work on the understanding that we are ‘building up a future’. And yet all around us there are men who demonstrate how frail that understanding may be.

Caste Study - Colin

Colin is a professional man in his fifties who had worked tirelessly all his life in order to provide his family with the funds necessary for private education, upkeep of a beautiful house and income which will enable him and his wife to start enjoying themselves in his retirement.

At least that was the plan. A couple of years ago, almost in sight of the winning post, Colin was diagnosed with cancer. All his planning crumbled around him as he absorbed the truth that he had spent his life in a career that he had stumbled into rather than chosen, in order to earn a reward he may never totally receive.

One of the reasons primitive man may have paid so much attention to the present, and so little to the future, may have been that he understood at some level he could not possibly anticipate what his future needs would be. As such he worked to achieve what was necessary, rather than what might prove to be necessary. It is only recently in terms of world history that so many of us have been in a position to accumulate countless material possessions. ‘Stuff’ which, so often, ends up being a burden and a liability.

Of course there is a balance to strike between the needs of the moment and our future requirements. We must, for instance, in the interests of future generations continue to invest in the safeguarding of our planet when making important global decisions. I am not suggesting that we act only with present moment needs in mind. We could self-destruct very quickly. But I am suggesting that at an individual level many men focus too much of their energy worrying about the future and therefore sometimes miss an opportunity in the present.

How many of us today could honestly say that we are not increasingly governed by fears of future deprivation and hardship?

Many of us put off doing something that would make us happy today because we may need the money tomorrow. We often delay saying something positive to someone today on the basis that there may be a better time. Many of us even suffer financial hardships and bills in the present whilst contributing much needed finances to a financial scheme that may provide us with some income in thirty years time if we are still alive.

The truth is, we have no knowledge as to what may be our needs at any time in the future. We work hard all our lives, putting our own real happiness on hold until retirement, based on the knowledge that then we will be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour. And what happens? Some of us never even make retirement age; others are too incapacitated physically to be able to enjoy retirement; others find the family has long since split up into fragmented, unhappy units; others have put off fun for so long that real enjoyment becomes a mystery.

What does this tell us about putting off happiness and enjoyment until some future date? It tells us that this perception may be misguided.

If we could encourage each other to change our individual and collective view of success and money, we might halt the disintegration of a society that is so in need of change. If we could again realise the value of the extended family and community support network, the value of everyone from our elders to our children, we could once more achieve personal and collective growth and understanding through sharing. If we could redress the balance between our needs in the moment and our needs in the future, maybe we would find ourselves creating a ‘now’ that contained many more satisfactory and rewarding experiences. A ‘now’ that could lead to an even better future than the one we are so busy planning.

As an individual you can start this change from future projection to present moment awareness by asking yourself this question: “In what way am I every day meeting my own desires and needs?” If enough individuals start asking the question, society itself stands a chance of positive change.


1) Start to think about all those things that you’ve been putting off but that you’d really like to do (whether it’s telling your dad you forgive him, climbing Everest or clearing the attic!).

2) If it feels comfortable, try taking small steps towards doing one or two of these things. Whether it’s making a phone call or taking a holiday, if the thought of it makes you feel good, don’t underestimate what good may come from the event itself.

3) Look at how you can redress the balance in your life between living in the future and living in the present moment. Start to address your needs of today as much as your anticipated needs of tomorrow.

©2010, Barry Durdant-Hollamby

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Barry Durdant-Hollamby is the founder of The Art of Change , a UK based organisation specialising in helping individuals and corporations to effect sustainable, holistic, positive change. He works intuitively on a 1-1 or group basis and also conducts many talks and seminars - all without notes or preparation! Barry is also the author of three books the latest of which is The Male Agenda - a book which seeks to inspire men to create greater life balance and happiness. He is the father of two daughters and lives in the South East of England. Contact E-Mail

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