I noticed myself regularly saying “I wish I knew how…” Then I learned how these 7 phrases were holding me back from truly living in the present moment.

How many times have you caught yourself thinking thoughts that take you into the past or the future? Instead of just enjoying what you have right here and now?

I know it’s taken me some practice to be able to bring myself back to the present often.

Being in the here and now is the only place we can truly relax and be happy. So we must bring our thoughts back there as often as possible.

You may not realize it, but there are some phrases that we use that pull us out of the here and now and can create unhappiness. Read on to find out what they are.

1) “I wish I knew how…”

Have you ever caught yourself saying this? “I wish I knew how to fix my car”, “I wish I knew how to paint”, “I wish I knew how to bake like that”. 

These are all defeatist phrases. Because in saying this we’re just saying that we can’t do something and that ultimately we will never be able to. 

A way to flip this phrase around to create more present thinking is to say something like, “I’m learning to” or “I’m going to learn to”. These kinds of phrases show that learning and growing are lifelong and that it is okay to be where you are right now. 

Now you no longer need to wish, because you will!

2) “I’ll be happy when…”

How often have you heard people say that? The never-ending chase. 

I was the same once. “I’ll be happy when I’ve been on this holiday.” “I’ll be happy when I have a new phone.” “I’ll be happy when I get a boyfriend.” As it turned out, none of this made me happy. I had to find happiness in the quiet moments by myself. 

When I discovered the art of gratitude, I discovered happiness.

There’s a lovely quote from a study about gratitude that says, “I soon discovered that gratitude is a deeper, more complex phenomenon that plays a critical role in human happiness. Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

So it’s not all the things you could have that make you happy, it’s what you have right now. 

Change the phrase from “I’ll be happy when” to “I’m happy because” or “I’m grateful for” and watch your mindset change for the better, and your happiness increase.

3) “I should have…”

Constantly saying things like “I should have done this or said that” keeps your mind focused on the past. We all make mistakes, but unfortunately, time machines haven’t been invented yet, so there’s nothing we can do about them. 

When we think about things in the past it’s hard for us to be happy in the present. You’re worrying for nothing! Why would you put that extra stress on yourself? 

​​In the book, “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle helps us to understand that holding onto the past usually brings us emotional pain and suffering. 

He encourages us to release the constant replay of things such as mistakes, or regrets in our minds because these thoughts can create unnecessary stress. 

By letting go of this mental baggage, you’re giving yourself permission to be fully present and embrace the beauty of life right in front of you.

Just as I mentioned in the previous point, gratitude can help keep us in the present and also helps us to forget about those “should haves”.

4) “If only I had…”

If only I had a million dollars. If only I had a better car. If only I had a job where I could work at the beach and not in an office. These phrases bring us down. We feel like we’re not good enough – like we will never be good enough. And this all leaves us thinking and worrying about the future instead of enjoying today.

The world is always telling us that we need more. That we should get the newest, best, or fastest of everything. So it’s not surprising that we get stuck in this mindset of wanting more and thinking we need more to be happy.

It is okay to want more, but we need to be careful that our wanting more doesn’t stop us from living in the present or from being happy. So, how do we get there? Yep, you guessed it, we change our mindset. 

The key is to be happy with what you have now and then, instead of thinking, “If only I had…”, figure out how to get it. Create goals and make a plan. Change the way you speak about it. “I will have” or “I’m going to have”. It will bring a positive mindset, and then you can think about the little things you can do now to get to where you’d like to be. 

But if you’re not happy with what you have here and now, you most likely won’t be happy with the newest, fastest, best gadget that’s on the market either.

5) “I’ll do it someday…”

Have you heard the saying, “Tomorrow never comes”? Well “someday” usually doesn’t come either.  

When we use the words someday, it’s like creating a big pile of laundry in our minds. It just sits there waiting to be folded and put away, annoyingly, while we go about our day. 

If we leave things for ‘someday’, we clutter our minds and create unwarranted stress.

We begin to think that we aren’t good enough.

I know that if I have a pile of laundry on the couch for too long, I’ll get lazy about tidying the rest of my house. One thing leads to another, and suddenly it’s a dump. If I put it all away as soon as it’s done, then I’m much more likely to keep my house tidy.

The same can happen with our minds. If we don’t get to things or forget things then our minds become clogged. We can’t enjoy anything because we’ve got all these tasks up there that we either haven’t done or haven’t decided to let go of.

6) “I can’t because…”

Who’s heard this as an excuse before? I have, and these days I’ll roll my eyes. However, in the past, it was one of my most used phrases to not get anything done.

When we use the words “I can’t”, we are admitting defeat. The word because gives us the excuse necessary to not continue. It’s actually quite a lazy saying.

We might also be building walls around our potential, limiting what we believe is achievable. This way of thinking can keep us from fully embracing the present moment by closing doors to new opportunities and experiences. 

Try using phrases like “I can find a way to”, “I can explore how to”, or even, “I’m not sure how to, could you show me?”

If we again change our language we are then able to explore possibilities and find solutions, opening ourselves up to a more positive and fulfilling engagement with the now.

7) “What if…”

How many times have you thought about something that happened in the past and said to yourself “What if”? 

‘What if’ can’t change the future and it definitely isn’t helpful in the present.

These kinds of thoughts can make us feel unsatisfied with what we have and unhappy about where we are right now. So what can we do when they enter our minds?

Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool for living in the present moment. 

But how? Mindfulness involves paying deliberate attention to your thoughts, feelings, and the sensations in your body without judgment. 

This practice encourages you to fully engage with the present rather than getting caught up in the past or future. It can stop you from thinking about all those “what ifs” and bring you back to the present.

Not only can mindfulness meditation bring you back to the present, but there are also many other cognitive benefits awaiting you!

Start by simply sitting in a quiet space, closing your eyes, and bringing your attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of each inhale and exhale, observing any thoughts or sensations that arise without getting attached to them. 

Regular mindfulness meditation can enhance your ability to stay present, reduce stress, and cultivate a greater sense of awareness in your daily life.

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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