Community Add OnsFourteen Fundamentals

Fundamental Eight: Get Present-Oriented

Created By: MICHAEL W. FORDYCE, Ph.D
Answers the question – What are the top 14 traits of happy people?

The eighth  Fundamental is “Get Present Oriented,” or, as I simplify it for my students, “Get P.O.”

“Get Present Oriented” is another of the Fundamentals which deals with mental attitude. Again, as we have seen with the last three Fundamentals, how you focus your mind has as much to do with your happiness as what actually occurs to you in the outside world.

But what is “present orientation?”

“Present orientation” is a technical term in clinical psychology, a term which describes one of the most basic traits of healthy personality. Though hardly familiar to most non-professionals, “present orientation” refers to an individual’s mental focus or preoccupation. More simply put, it refers to what one is usually thinking about…

It seems that the more healthy and well-functioning a person is, the more they tend to be mentally occupied with the present — the more unhealthy a person is, the more they tend to drift to mental preoccupation with the past or future. Hence the term “present-orientation.”

In the clinical literature, emotional disorders have always been strongly associated with a lack of present-orientation. Psychiatric patients appear to have little contact with their immediate reality and are continually drifting to fantasy or distorted memory. Their mental lives seem a convoluted, yet vivid, reliving of past trauma and exaggerated future glories. So marked was the clinical patient’s lack of present focusing, it has become universally recognized as one of the most basic criteria for severe emotional disorder.

Another, closely related concept in clinical circles is that of “reality contact.”

One of the most widely acknowledged distinctions between normal and abnormal personality, according to clinical psychology, is how keenly and objectively an individual perceives reality. Here again, psychiatric observations have long shown that disordered patients have little or no contact with the reality around them. Disorientation, confusion, mental drifting, the inability to perform simple tasks, and the apparent inability to relate to their environment all indicate a mind that is anywhere but focused on immediate reality.

Historically then, it has long been established that mental-drifting, a lack of contact with reality, and an inability to focus on the immediate present are primary signs of mental or emotional dysfunction. Likewise it was accepted that a reasonable focus on the present and good contact with one’s immediate reality was symptomatic of good mental health.

But it was only in more recent decades, when health psychologists began to study more normal, non-psychiatric, populations, that we psychologists began to see how important this idea of “present-orientation” was to happiness.

What we have found is that even among most “normal” people there is a great range in how “present-oriented” they tend to be. And in the happiness research field we have seen something perhaps more significant: how “present-oriented” you are has a lot to do with how happy you are…

A vast history of psychometric studies have shown that happy people are remarkably “present-oriented.” In fact, “present-orientation” appears to be one of the most reliably strong traits of happier individuals the research has found. Thus Fundamental Ten suggests that you could be happier, as well, if you could “Get P.O.”.

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