Live life in the what-it-is instead of the what-you-wished-it-was

photo by Sachin Ghoke, used by permission

Success and achievement is won, or lost, in incredibly small increments. Take for example, a race. Often it is but tenths or hundredths of a second that differentiates the first and second place winners. Sometimes it is pure chance. Most of the time it is not. There is a little, almost indistinguishable, seemingly insignificant difference that makes, well, the difference.

Too many of us live life in the future or in the past. Ihave  addressed one facet of living in the past (although there is much more to be said). But let me begin to address almost the opposite issue – living in the future.

I call it living in the future perfect tense. It seems there is a very common inclination among us mere mortals to look forward, not with anticipation, but with resentment. Yes, resentment.

We postpone really enjoying life and living because we feel that things are just not good enough, finished enough, affluent enough, not perfect enough. We can see flaws, inadequacies, failures, fears, and missing pieces because they are up close and personal and then we think that if things were just a bit better I could really enjoy myself. We live in the future perfect tense expecting, even demanding that things be “perfect” before we can truly be satisfied and happy.

One of the most influential books I ever read was written by Denis Waitley, a motivational speaker whose most significant achievement at the time (at least as far as I was concerned) was his work with Olympic athletes which gave them the winning edge. The book is called “Seeds of Greatness” and is, as far as I can tell, out of print but a used copy can be bought on Amazon or Ebay. My copy is long ago loaned out, but I recall that one of the chapters addressed what I have been saying above. Waitley called it living on Someday I’ll. Someday I’ll be rich. Someday I’ll have the things I really need and want. Someday I’ll be able to leave my job and get a better one. Someday I’ll be able to travel to exotic places. Someday I’ll have a better relationship. Someday I’ll… fill in with just about everything. It is a fantasy which encourages us to postpone really enjoying what we have now because someday we can get what we really want.

There is, however, a tiny little concept that will make the difference between winning and losing in the game of life. Here is what Waitley wrote:

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the  future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control:  now.”Denis Waitley

Here are my six secrets of living life successfully today:

  1. Bury your dead. We tend to carry around corpses which not only weigh us down, they stink. Think you are the only one who’s made foolish decisions or done stupid things? Think again! It is a big, big club. And living life over is impossible. You have to get past your past. Laying awake nights thinking about it does not help. Stewing about it will not fix it. Making amends, if possible, is but a means to turn the page on it and go on to the next chapter. Dwelling on even one event or regret is a slippery slope. Soon, you’ll fall down the hill into an ooze of muddy, sloppy shoulda-saids, shoulda-dones, should-not-have-saids, and should-not-have-dones. Don’t go there! Bury your dead. List them out if you must, but DO NOT keep the list. Burn it, shred it, or dig a hole in the ground and actually bury it. The past is over and there is no going back.
  2. The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here. It is not wrong to plan. It is never wrong to make provisions for the future. It is deadly to live in the future before you get there. There is one main reason why. The future as you want it to be, does not exist. It is a figment of your imagination. The main reason what you now expect will not be there then when you get there is that you will be different then. You see, in pursuing a changed world to live in, you will change too. Your outlook will be different, your interests will refocus, your opinions will mature. So, if you keep looking to tomorrow or the next day for it to be better, you will never get there because tomorrow is always a day away. When we lived on St. Croix, there was a bar on the boardwalk of the Christiansted Harbor which had a large sign painted on the outside wall saying “Free Beer Tomorrow.” Of course, the play on words is obvious as the lesson should be to you. Tomorrow never comes. It is a moving target and you will never catch it. So is living in the future because the future is never here and now.
  3. If you aren’t where you are, you’re no where. Many of us are not just going no where, we are living no where. We are, to shamelessly steal from the Beatles, no where men. They were right you know. You don’t know what you are missing! Today is terrific.
  4. Small changes make big differences. The first, of course, is the scene you see from your own eyes. Where do you focus? On what is or on what isn’t? On what you have or what you wished you had? Do you really need what you wished you had to be happy? I am going to propose that you probably do not. Just how much is enough? Real contentment and happiness has almost nothing to do with what you have but is easily and quickly taken away by what you wished you had. Read #2 again. It is not as bad as you think it is now and won’t be like you think it will be then.
  5. Things will change and you will too. It will not always be like this. That’s the way life cycles through its stages.
  6. The 1st law of creativity is A=A. In order to make the changes that need to be made in your present circumstances, you need to know exactly what those circumstances are. Creativity is based on the premise that a thing is what it is regardless of your perception. Humans have an amazing capacity to deceive themselves. I have been dealing with the effects of a negative, covetousness perception (I’ll deal with its opposite in a future post), and want to focus here in this article. I am not promoting the idea of positive thinking which lies about the way things really are. That perspective is not only foolish, it is often dangerous. But when one has an accurate, honest, and untainted picture of the way things really are, two results follow. First, you can see just how good you have it and how appreciative you should be. Second, you can see just exactly what is wrong and then develop a creative approach to fixing it. Neither of those can happen until you accept that A=A.

So, what are you going to do? If you are happy now, then this is a post of assurance and reinforcement. If you are not, then why not? What needs to happen to fix things? You cannot redo the past, the future is only a maybe. The only dwelling place you have is today. Now is the time to do something about it. I mean it. Now!

Tell me what you are thinking and what you are going to do.

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