Rule #38: Live in the moment
Lose a love, fail at a job, fight an illness, face financial failure, come in last…all these things will happen to you. Sometime the pain of life will come in waves, you will feel helpless against the tide, at times you will feel like you are drowning.
In those times you will be asking yourself, what should I do? What is my next step?
The answer is more simple than you might think, it is to focus on what you are doing at that moment and to forget about what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future. It is to live fully the moment of time you are experiencing when it happens.
This might not make sense at first read, but I know it is true.
When I graduated from college it was at a time when the ecomomy was doing dismally- 1981. Inflation was double digits, interest rates were soaring and I was sitting ready to tackle it with an impressive degree from Penn State in Man-Environment Relations.
The fact that you are now asking “what the hell is Man-Environnment Relations” illustrates the problem I had with potential employers. And the key word is “potential” because in the 565 resumes I sent out (I remember that number like it was yesterday) and the 57 rejection letters I received I had absolutely no encouragement that I would ever be employed by anyone. I felt like I had wasted my college work and was now headed for a promising career of asking, “if you want fries with that”.
As I sat at my parents table looking at the two stacks of letters – submissions and rejections I thought that my life was going to spiral down.
My Dad’s advice was , ” focus on what you are doing at this moment”.
Now my Dad, although I love him dearly, is not a man that is dispences a lot of advice.
I remember that when I broke up with my girlfriend in high school and was upset he asked me one question ” is she pregnent?. When I said no and we had just broken up, he ended the two minute counseling secession by saying, ” oh I thought you had a real problem”.
So when a man who seldom gives you advice offers it – well you should listen. And I did.
He explained that the decisions I made in selecting this awesome major were done, and I could do nothing about it and had to accept the reality I was living in at the moment. He also explained that at 21 years old I could not begin to fathom what was in store for my life and to worry about what it would be is a complete waste of time.
He said, “What you need now is not my pity, what you need is a job. So let’s focus on the problem.”
We discussed who would hire someone like me and got the list down to insurance companies and banks- both of which I pursued with a vengence. I also had virtually no interest in building a career in either because I saw myself as a community planner or developer. But since Donald Trump overlooked my resume, the insurance career started to sound really good.
When I did finally get a job at 13k a year, I was overjoyed and decided to continue to focus on what I was doing each moment and to make the most of a career which I never expected. I focused on working hard on each project, staying a little later, coming in a little earlier – and doing what I was assigned to do really well. That focus lead to new job offers and promotions, none of which I had planned, but by just focusing on the moment the future sort of took care of itself.
Recently, I have been again reminded of the need to focus on what I am doing right now.
I have lead a fairly healthy life, over-wieght and more sedatary than it should be, but generally without health disruptions. I have been blessed.
But in a course of just 2 months I found myself with a range of symtoms from loss of feeling in my toes, to dramatic changes in vision to unexplained wieght loss of 25 lbs ( which I admit I enjoyed). I realized I had a problem and thanks to my sister Donna got to a great doctor quickly.
With blood sugars of 600+ and A1C of 12 I was apparantley exploring the my new world of diabetes. In addition I learned that I had the anti-bodies that were going to eventually destory my thyroid and pancrease. Although up to that moment I had not given much of a thought to either of these organs, I felt that I was going to miss both very much.
Now at 53 I was again faced with what the “what the hell am I going to do ” moment.
I could hear my father’s words…” focus on what you need to do now”.
So I’ve followed the diet, started excersing and taking the medicines. I accepted that what is going to happen in my future is not the result of bad luck, but a direct result of what I am doing in the moment.
I plan to dance at each of your children’s weddings, and to be able to get there I have to live my moments more healthy now.
I watch you as you have each struggle with life’s obstacles- difficulty in school, challenges in sports or work and relationship difficulties and with each have tried to give you good advice. And I find myself using the same mantra my Dad gave me when I was 21, ” focus on the moment”.
Its what we are doing right now that matters, not what we have done in the past or perhaps will do in the future. Our failures and successes come from the focus on the “here and now’ of life.
So when you don’t know what to do and can’t reach me for my sage advice…take a deep breath and focus on what you are doing right now.