Brian Pennie

Problems don’t exist in the present

“… so why not spend more time there.”


Do you ever dwell on past events, wishing you done things differently?

Do you ever wish the weeks away, living only for weekends?

Do you ever catch yourself daydreaming, wishing you were somewhere else?

This is how many people spend their days, lost in thought, either projecting into the future or dwelling in the past.

The problem is, life is now.

Think about it. Is it ever not now? Is it ever not the present moment?

When you recall an event from the past, you recall it in the now. It is a memory trace, which can only be experienced in the present moment. It might seem real, but can you touch it, feel it, or act on it? No, you cannot.

It’s the same for future events. Can you touch, hear, or feel the future before it is now? Of course not. You can only imagine a probable future, which can only be done in the now.

Nothing ever happens outside of the present moment. Everything you’ve ever experienced, or will experience, happens in the now. EVERYTHING.

Problems don’t exist

Problems are not real. They are simply projections of your mind. Does this statement piss you off? I wouldn’t be surprised, especially if life is giving you a hard time. If this is the case, ask yourself: what problems exist right now?

Maybe you can’t afford the rent. Maybe you’re in a doomed relationship. You might even be physically unwell, or about to lose your job.

These are challenging situations for sure, but they are not problems. They only become problems when your mind gets involved.

So what’s the difference between a problem and a challenge?

Your ability to act.

Let’s say that you can’t afford to pay the rent. You might be worried about getting evicted, or finding somewhere else to live. But can you act on these problems? No, because they are not yet real. They are only probable futures, projected by your mind.

Challenges are different. Challenges are grounded in the present moment, and these you can act upon.

Let’s go back to the rent issue. What’s the challenge? What can you do now? Instead of worrying about getting evicted, you could apply for a part-time job, sell some belongings, or ask someone for a loan.

It’s the same for a failing relationship. Instead of agonizing over a potential break-up, maybe you need to discuss a sticky topic, change your behaviour, or actually break up.

You can do this with any perceived problem. Take a person who is suffering from ill health. This seems to qualify for a present moment problem. But it ’s not. The problems only arise when you start worrying about potential complications, or if you start fixating about your healthier old self.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Coping with ill health is a huge challenge — I’ve had my own struggles — but for any illness or physical pain, acceptance is the best course of action. This is backed up by a large body of research, but more importantly, acceptance is a challenge you can act on now.

Take away message

Nothing ever happens outside of the now. Every feeling, every action, and everything you will ever experience happens in the present moment.

Problems, on the other hand, are grounded in time. You might be sad about the past or worried about the future. But they cannot exist in the present moment, and as a result, cannot be acted upon.

Challenges are different. Challenges are based in the now and can be acted upon. This is critical. Because it’s only by acting, which is always in the moment, that you can make meaningful changes in your life.


  1. Let’s say that you can’t afford to pay the rent. You might be worried about getting evicted, or finding somewhere else to live. But can you act on these problems? No, because they are not yet real. They are only probable futures, projected by your mind.

    How can you possibly say you can’t act on the above? It’s ridiculous. Of course you can act on it. Even not acting on it is acting on it. These aren’t future problems. Can’t pay rent? You will be evicted. If you don’t act in the present to do something about that inevitability, you will be in the streets. It’s stupid to ignore a problem till it gets here. It’s too late to deal with by then and your acting on it by not acting on it has made the outcome of homelessness a guarantee. You can’t shape the future without preparing for it in the present. It’s physically impossible.

    1. James, I don’t think you really disagree with Brian You are simply using different words/language. Both of you agree that you can “act” in this situation. I believe that Brian is simply saying that the easiest way to get into action is to reframe the problem/situation of not being able to pay rent and think of it as a challenge rather than a problem. If you see it as a challenge, you will be more likely to find ways to resolve the situation (get a job or a loan or sell something – his examples). It is a matter of how you “see” the situation in your mind. Do you choose to be a victim and feel overwhelmed and doomed? Or can you reshape the situation in your mind into a problem/challenge which you can find a way to solve?

      The way we choose to “see” situations in our lives ultimately determines the direction of our lives.

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