Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.14
Focusing on the present moment.
It can be hard.
Our minds are draw to the past.
To the life we have already led and to the question, what if:
- I had take engineering instead of accounting
- I had scored that goal in my junior hockey tryout and made the team
- What if…
…How different my life would be.
There are the times that we look to the future and say when:
- I save $3 million, I will retire
- I finish ‘working’, I am going to write a book
- When I…
The problem, is that what if and when don’t belong to us; hence, we cannot impact them. We can only impact right here. Right now.
A greater issue is that research has indicated that focusing too often on the past, or the future, can lead to psychological issues:
- Ruminating on the past could take someone down a path to depression
- Focusing too often on the future can take someone down a path to anxiety
Whenever you find yourself dwelling on the past or dreaming of the future, STOP. Focus on the NOW, the present moment.
The present moment is the only thing that we can impact. The best part is you can make the when happen by focusing on the present moment. By taking small steps every day, we can achieve the greatness we desire. The key, then, is to not daydream about the future, but to actually achieve it.
I have written a long-form post on this topic: Time is money: Manage your time like you would your money. I will focus a portion of today’s writing on that post.
Use the Present Moment to turn your when into reality
I am going to demonstrate a time that I turned a when into reality, by focusing on the present moment.
Ten years ago, I was in horrible shape and it was getting worse. A friend made an offhand comment at a dinner about running and that I could not do what someone had done.
Unfortunately, my ego got in the way. I cavalierly said “of course, I can do that.” A bet was made. Fortunately, on race day it was snowing and we cancelled. My friend said, “it’s okay. I really just enjoyed seeing you squirm and knowing you couldn’t do it”. Wow, what a friend. You can see me talk about this on my YouTube channel second toastmaster speech – the First Steps.
Regardless, he was right, I couldn’t do it. Worse, I’d been living in when. I have always had good endurance. I had always thought that someday I would be racing in the Ironman world championships in Kona, and that I would run the Boston Marathon. Oddly though, I could barely swim and I was fat and out of shape. What had happened? I had lived in the what if and the when. I had not focused on the Present Moment.
To address this, I purchased the Franklin covey add-in to Microsoft Outlook and I started planning. Planning for the present moment. In one year, I determined I was going to do a 1/2 Ironman: 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, and 21.3km run. From zero to hero, it is how I work.
Now, I had the end in mind, and I needed to begin.
Step 2 was to work backwards and determine where I needed to be each quarter in my progression to make it.
Once I knew what my quarterly goals were, I broke the first quarter into months, the 1st month into weeks, and the first week into days.
I kept breaking the when down, until it became the present moment, RIGHT NOW.
At that moment, I signed up for the race I intended to do, for swim classes to get over my fear of the water and for a run clinic.
Within one year, I lost twenty pounds and completed a 1/2 Ironman.
More importantly, one year later I lost another 25 pounds and toed the line at Ironman Canada, where I competed with myself for twelve glorious hours, focusing on the present moment the whole time.
Every time that I have a when that I really want to commit to, it is the exercise of working backwards to the present moment that turns the when into NOW and, ultimately, SUCCESS.
Don’t focus on the past. The future. Focus on, and live, in the present moment.
If you need help learning how, I am here to help.
Until next time,
Clint Robert Murphy