Learn from the past, plan for the future, and live in the present.
How can you have a vision and live in the present? Shouldn’t you live for the future?
The problem with living for the future is you lose the opportunity to enjoy each moment. And, the truth is, the present moment is the only moment you have. The only way you ever experience the future is when it becomes the present.
So what’s this vision stuff about? Why not just live for today and don’t worry about tomorrow? Actually, when you have a vision, you don’t need to be preoccupied with excessive worry about the future.
Vision is not about planning every detail. In fact, if you plan all the details, you are likely to be frustrated because there is too much you cannot control, especially when it comes to other people and external forces.
Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going and what will guide your journey.
When you are guided by a vision, you are able to live more fully in the present. When you know what you want, you recognize opportunities as they arise and can respond quickly. You don’t need to “worry about tomorrow” because you know you are on the path to your destination. And while you are on that path, you can enjoy it… if you remember to live in the present and get the most out of each moment.
Three things you can do to get the most out of each moment.
Even when you understand the value of staying in the present, it can be difficult to remember. Here are three things you can do to bring you back to the present moment:
Pay attention to what’s happening. Slow down. Did you ever finish a meal and realize you never tasted it? Chances are there’s something delightful that you’re missing out on if you are busy multi-tasking or preoccupied. What’s actually going on right now? What do you see? What sounds do you hear? What do you taste or smell?
Breathe. Your mind can live in the future but your body can’t. Being aware of your breathing forces you to move out of your mind and into your body. Is your breathing shallow? Feel the pleasure of your lungs expanding as you bring in needed oxygen.
Be curious. Question your assumptions. Were you really slighted by Alice when she walked past and didn’t smile? Maybe she was preoccupied and didn’t notice you. Maybe she’s shy. If you remain curious, don’t make snap judgments and are willing to live without knowing, you won’t get trapped by the wrong answer. Suspend judgment in order to discover the truth of each moment.
You don’t have to hike to the top of a mountain to take in the beauty of each moment.
Each moment has its own inherent beauty and possibility for joy. Will you always be happy? No. But you will be engaged in the full range of the human experience, fully alive. And you will be better able to see the possibilities as they arise that will lead you in the direction of your vision.
Your post hits me this morning after my wife and I had an “interesting” conversation over dinner last night.
I ask her what she would do if she had 6 days to live. We talked about all the normal things you think of like spending time with family …
Our conclusion: we’d engage in, get around, and enjoy beauty. With 6 days to live, I’d turn off the Internet, email, and the phone. I’d go hear a poet read their own work, listen to a symphony, sit by a lake…
I’d want lots of skin in my life. I’d want to be touched and touch … the skin of our soon to be newborn granddaughter. The skin of my family … I’d want to see hands on others and feel hands on me.
I think getting the most out of each moment includes doing less and focusing on beauty.
I know my response isn’t exactly connected with your post but it caught me at this interesting moment.
Be well and find beauty,
Dan, What a wonderful conversation to have with your wife! I loved your description of what is most important to you. As you consciously create opportunities for these things to happen (next time you are sitting by a like, for instance), remember to pay attention, be curious and breathe so you can fully experience what it is that you wanted. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and you own personal experience.
Jesse, one of the beauties of life is we learn and forget and get an opportunity to remember. Thanks for reminding about being in the moment and actually enjoying it. I for one am one of those who can be so obsessed with getting through one thing to complete the other, that I don’t even really experience that moment and have really just blitzed through it (a simple example like eating you mention above). It is important to be able to switch off the noise as Dan points out and actually take the pace of your life back into your own hands, rather than run in reaction mode. If you don’t get the most out of each moment, you run the risk of enough, never being enough! That is a sure way to not being happy as nothing will ever be good enough, no matter how much you do. Thanks again for waking me up to remember!
Thabo, Many thanks for your on-target further illumination of this important topic. Glad the reminder was helpful to you. We all need to be reminded at times to slow down and experience the moment (the good ones as well as the difficult ones) because otherwise, as you point out, nothing will ever be good enough no matter how much you do.
A wonderful post, Jesse. I found it so because I am constantly having to remind myself to appreciate *what is* rather than spend time pondering *what could have been* or *what might be*. I know that when I’m off somewhere in the past or imagining future outcomes, I am missing opportunities to be with things and people that matter now.
Thank you for reinforcing the importance of staying present and of the personal vision that allows us to do so.
Thanks, Gwyn. Your point about not wanting to miss the opportunities to be with things and people that matter now reminds me of Dan’s comment. A reminder helps me, too, because it is so each to get caught up in the activities of the day and forget.
What a meaningful post with clear relevance in today’s society. I especially like what you said about living for the future. It’s not to say we shouldn’t plan for the future (401k, savings, kids education, etc.), but worrying about it does absolutely nothing. My dad always tried to teach us to have concern about the future, but not worry about the future. There is a fine line between concern and worry, but if you practice discerning the difference, it becomes easier. Thank you for this post.
Thanks for clarifying the difference between concern and worry, Samantha. A fine line, but an important one.
Thanks for the reminder that all we really have is this present moment. I work at this every day and what a difference it has made .
Thanks for pointing out that staying present is something we must work at, Peg.
Jesse, I love your definition of vision. It is true that the clearer we are about who we are and what we value, the more fully we can engage and find joy in the present moment. The danger in always looking in the rearview mirror is that it robs us of the energy we need to live today and continue moving forward. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jesse.
Thanks, Sharon. As always, your thoughts are enriching and beautifully stated
Jesse, thanks so much for this post. I have struggled with living In the present for much of my life. All of your suggestions are so clear and so needed. The comments you are getting so far are also full of great insights and wisdom. Now…if I can only find a way to pin this to my forehead 😉
I’m also appreciating the great comments, Garry. As for remembering… it IS hard to remember, that’s why I only listed three things. If you can remember these, it will make a big difference. I suggest you tape them on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror for awhile. Or pick one and practice it for a day. Peg’s right about really needing to work at it. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation, Garry!
Jesse – Thanks for the reminder that this moment is all that we have and THE all that we have. The other day while walking in the park, I heard a woman say “I’m so happy.” I thought she was talking on her cell phone. I turned around to discover she was simply saying aloud, “I am so happy.” I walked toward her. I smiled and said, “I heard you say you are so happy.” She explained, as if one needs to explain being happy, “I am so grateful that I can walk in this park and see all these beautiful trees in bloom.” I noticed what I had been oblivious to. I promised myself that I would pay forward this story. It is your’s now. Thank you for affording the opportunity to put it back out the the universe. My day got better after that, but I’m quite sure the “better” was there just waiting to be noticed.
What a lovely story, Anne. Thanks for paying it forward.
Excellent post! I like your point on “Pay attention to what’s happening”. In many ways, people are preoccupied with just getting through the day that they end up missing some of the details that would otherwise be valuable in life.
Thanks for adding to the conversation, Will. Great point about what we miss out on when we are just trying to get through the day.
While reading your piece, this quote by E.L. Doctorow – “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Like most things in life, I think the key here is striking a balance, between having a sense of direction, of where you want to go and of the various routes that can help you get there. But at the same time, not being so consumed with knowing what obstacles, distractions, opportunities and challenges you’ll meet along the way.
Being able to manage that balance is what will allow you to appreciate the here and now, while still having a clear understanding of where you’d like to go
H Tanveer, Thanks so much for sharing the quote by E.L. Doctorow. It’s a wonderful illustration of how you can know your destination (e.g. a completed novel) but see not the entire path. The vehicle’s headlights only illuminate a certain distance, and the path is revealed as you travel. That’s why we get ourselves in trouble if we try to plan all the details. On the other hand, knowing your destination allows you to recognize the signs along the way. And as you say, be able to balance both appreciating the here and now and understand where you’re going.
I listen to Eckhart Tolle every morning while getting ready for the day. The whole focus of his teachings is the present moment. This morning I heard him say “Are you going to spend 3 years learning to to live in this moment?” It’s such a simple and wonderful concept and so difficult to do some days. It’s hard to believe it can take years to be able to live in the moment.
I love what you said “Suspend judgment in order to discover the truth of each moment.” If we can learn this one thing, we will learn to appreciate the true essence of the other person or things around us.
Hi Connie, Listening Eckhart Tolle every morning is a great way to remind yourself to be present. I agree that it does take work, commitment and concentration to stay in the moment. Having a consistent meditation practice also helps. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation.
Thank you for the great post. I’m very receptive to anything that works to help me relieve the anxiety that comes from striving and comparing (even if it’s comparison to some ideal expectation of myself). Rick Hanson (Buddha’s Brain) had a great post last week with a simple exercise that has really helped me. On the in-breath, think Arriving, and on the out, think Arrived. Repeat. Here’s the post so you can see the depth of his thinking. http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs006/1102756110343/archive/1105686262895.html
Wishing you (and me) peace in the present! Denise
Hi Denise. What I especially appreciate about Buddha’s Brain is it uses neuroscience research to validate the effects of mediation. Thanks for sharing the link to Rick Hanson’s blog. Another great book I’d recommend specifically to help stop comparing and judging is Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown. Warm wishes, Jesse
Jesse, this brought a big smile to my face as I read this. You mentioned in one of your responses to the comments that it is good to be reminded to be present. My husband has to challenge me on this from time to time.
We often day dream – or allow our vision to take us to places that we are not yet able to be part of. That’s when we need to bring ourselves back to the present.
Thank you again.
It’s wonderful to have a partner who can help remind you, especially when the reminder is given gently and with love. It is so easy to get caught up in our thoughts. Your comment is a reminder that we can help each other. Thanks, Kate!
You said it in a quite clear way, direct and to the point. I think everyone secretly wants to live in the present moment not worrying much about the future. We don’t know anything about it anyways. But the habits keep us finding the way back to how we were before. At times people just get worried thinking that they don’t worry about their future. Human mind is quite a mystery.
Great post! Loved reading it.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Abhay.
Your words bring me back to my recent trip to Tanzania, way off the grid, where the silence, the purity of simply being, the elegance of timelessness all combined to bring me to a place of extraordinary clarity about my life. I have never known such piercing clarity about what matters, what doesn’t, what we have, what we don’t.
So, I wrote a letter to wife in which I outlined all the changes I wanted to make when I returned; in essence, I was asking for her help, for I knew I could not hold on to the intensity of the experience, once back in the swing of Fairfield County life.
In short, I came to understand the power of living in the moment, where there is no “time,” no past, no future – only “here” and “now.” Quite beautiful, indeed.
Really lovely, Larry. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s so important to put support in place for the changes we want to make. I look forward to hearing more.