We cannot live outside of the present moment, and as such, we feel it with an intensity that dulls our powers of choice and of reason to the compelling arguments of the past and the urgent concerns of the future. We may try to shield ourselves from a particularly painful present by dwelling mentally in the past, or we may have so much fear of the future that we project ourselves--not into the future, but into myriad possible worlds, any one of which could be (but will never quite be) the one in which we ultimately live. Still, we live and move and have our being... now.
We cannot know the fruit of our choices in the present. We cannot evaluate our lives solely in light of our present circumstances. We can only make choices, somewhat blindly, somewhat cautiously grasping toward where we think our best good lies.
I want to live with a firm sense of the arc of my life. That doesn't mean dwelling on the past or prognosticating the future. Rather, I think of it as a recognition of where I am coming from, with both the tools that supplies and the limits it imposes, as well as an idea of not only where I would like to be and what I would like to do, but also what life I would like to look back on from the penultimate point in that arc.
The present can be every bit as much a burden as the past or the future. We have to be able to see our way clear of the problems that beset us in the moment, or we despair and cannot move forward. We have to find a way to balance ourselves amidst these points: to be nourished and supported by what we know, to be inspired by our goals, and then, with faith, to "act! Act in the living present!"
The fruit our labors bear is not visible today--may never be fully visible in our lifetime. So don't judge the present or hinge your feelings of success on some nebulous benchmark. There is no time for that. There is only another choice to be made, for better or for worse.