In “Teachings on Love,” a book I highly recommend, Thich Nhat Hahn writes,

Our notions about happiness entrap us. We forget that they are just ideas. Our idea of happiness can prevent us from actually being happy. We fail to see the opportunity for joy that is right in front of us when we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form.

When I reflect on my life I find that I have lots of ideas about what future happiness might look like for me and the people I love. I don’t experience these future oriented ideas as limiting my ability to experience joy and happiness right in front of me in any given moment. Instead, I think that my ideas of future happiness exist as dreams and aspirations alongside both the joyful and not joyful moments I encounter in the present. I think that Thich Nhat Hahn is warning us against letting our future visions distract or pull us out of our present experiences. In this case, I agree that it’s better to enjoy the present moment than it is to live for a future one that might forever evade us.

On Happiness