Life is what’s happening to you right here right now. Are you fully in it? Or are you stuck in the past or worrying about the future?
Right here, right now (audio)
When last have you been at a funeral or a memorial service for someone that has passed away? Quite a sobering experience isn’t it? And if you’re anything like me, it tends to get one to reflect on our own life, doesn’t it? Making us realize how quickly things can change. That nothing is permanent. That we can’t take anything for granted. How futile it is to spend so much time agonizing or worrying about the future or replaying the past, over and over again. That we realize how worthwhile it is to live our life right here, right now.
A few weeks ago I received an email informing us of the passing of one of our schoolmates in very tragic circumstances. He was only found in his flat in Europe weeks after his passing. Imagine being so lonely and alone that you are able to die and nobody even notices for weeks on end that you are missing. Terribly sad.
Some of you may know that it was similar circumstances that had Andrew Heslop start what is now well known as neighbour day, (http://www.neighbourday.org/how-it-all-began) so that at least in this time end of March each year people focus specifically on their community and are more vigilant about who lives around them and how, particularly if there are older people involved.
This email from one of our classmates got a chain of over 40 email responses going over the last few weeks, and has at least served to re-connect most of us who matriculated together over 40 years ago. It took such a sad event to have us all remember the value of our friendships started so long ago and the value these friendships still hold for each of us today, despite the passing of time and geographic distances between us. I know that some of my personal best friends today still hail from this time.
It was the response to this event that inspired this blog.
The power of now
Many of you may have already read Eckhard Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”. It is one of the first books listed on my recommended reading list on my website at http://www.letstalkcoaching.com.au/recommended-books/ . Eckhard Tolle is such a powerful advocate of living in the now. Those of you who have been in a room with him will agree with me when I marvel at the calm he exudes and the depth of his wisdom and encouragement. If you haven’t, I would urge you to read this book to get some really great Perspectives on life.
He suggests that our mind’s thoughts gives us our identity, starting with our name (ego) – the storyboard – a mental image of what we own or represent – what we can’t take with us. Losing what we have accumulated is what instills fear of death.
I learned from this that almost all judgment occurs in the past or in the future, but rarely in the present. That you can dwell on the past and that you can languish about the future, but that life is lived in the present, right here, right now.
We worry about things happening or not happening in the future, don’t we? In my blog Dealing with Fear I suggested that “Worry is using your imagination to create something you do not want”.
And if we spend time in the past then we have a choice of whether we dwell on recalling positive or negative memories.
But it is in the present that we live our life. Right here, right now.
The rear-view mirror
I have often used this metaphor with my clients where I suggest that if you take the relative size of the windscreen of your car to represent the time you might be looking forward compared to the relative size of your rearview mirror representing the time you might look back, then that would be a pretty good ratio.
Of course coaches spend lots of relative time with clients planning and setting goals for the future and preparing them how to “raise their bar”. And we are quite circumspect what we go “back” with our clients for, so that we dwell on that only to draw the lessons they learned from it. We certainly don’t want to run any risk of getting stuck “back there”.
If you can relate to that ratio of forward versus backward looking (it really isn’t very easy to be driving a car from Melbourne to Sydney if you have to rely on your rearview mirror to see where you are going, is it?) then I usually extend the metaphor to suggest that the space that makes up the interior of the entire car might represent the amount of relative time we might prefer to spend in the present. Right here, right now. Make sense?
I was recently “snubbed” in a service situation in a 1st class hotel in Singapore. I was momentarily hopping mad. I realized that I was allowing my ego to prevail by responding in disappointment or frustration and that I had a choice to make: would I allow this trivial event to stay with me and affect my outlook on that entire day, or would I “let it go” and get on with enjoying and living my day the way I love to. It was realizing that in the present, that I could inwardly smile and realize the triviality and “move on”.
Enjoying the now
We just had the pleasure of our daughter and 2 year old granddaughter living with us for 6 weeks. There were a few times when it was pretty demanding on all of us, and we had a choice to wish we had our peace and quiet back again or to savour the beautiful moments life with such a young child can bring. How we already miss watching and experiencing the daily growth and development and the laughs and sheer fun such youth can inspire. Watching her playing with our puppy made you wish they would go on forever. Experiencing and enjoying those moments “in the now” were sooo enriching.
Do it now
We have all heard of seen the Nike slogan: “do it now”, right? It is such a simple but yet so powerful slogan, isn’t it? Stop worrying about what might or might not happen. Forget about what went wrong in the past. Just have a go and then adjust or fine-tune it as you go.
Just do it.
I have learned that making a poor or wrong decision is usually so much better than not making a decision at all. At least you can correct a wrong decision. I always tell my clients that for a vehicle to be directed, it has to be moving. You can’t direct a stationary vehicle.
So what does all this mean? Where might I be going with this?
Well, remember we started this brief journey through a catalyst of a very sad situation allowing us to reflect on all that we can be grateful for. That it made us realize the value of our friendships, and that it reminded us how important it is to live each moment, day, week, month, year to the full because we don’t know how much time we have left to do what we were destined to finish, right here, right now.
I would hope that this has served to have you reflect on where you spend most of your conscious awareness.
Is it dwelling on the past, and possibly allowing it to “pull you down”? Or perhaps like a drug, helping you re-enact a high, so you don’t have to deal with the here and now? Or is it just short visits from time to time to remind us of some learnings, and then to move on again?
Or is it overly focused on the future – on what might be? Is it perhaps worrying about what might or might not happen in the future? Or do you perhaps (day)dream? Dreaming is good, if it inspires us to aspire to something bigger and “gets us off the couch” to do something about achieving it. Or is your relative time in the future focused on planning and preparing for things that really matter to you?
However, there comes a time when all the worrying and the planning is enough, and when we need to actually “get on with it”, right? This is the right here, right now that I am talking about. The present is where it all happens. This is where you experience the success, the victory, and the lessons from the defeat. This is where life happens.
I would urge you to reflect on these ratios in your life’s work and where necessary to make the right adjustments so that you can savour the enjoyment of your life and work right here, right now.
What if you could?