The Present is the Only Time That Matters
How much time do you spend in the present? I don’t mean being physically present and mentally somewhere else. I am talking about being fully engaged in whatever it is you are doing.
Too many of us spend much of our lives reliving the past or dreaming about the future. It is nice to look back on happy times or think about what you’ll be doing in the days, weeks, and months ahead. But when you become overly absorbed with either one, you are missing out on what is happening right now.
This is not to say that you should not make plans for the future; you should. But if you are always thinking about what you will do when this happens, or how good it will be when that happens, you are buying into the illusion that your life will be better at some later date than it is now. In reality, if and when those things do happen they will bring with them new challenges, and soon you’ll be right back where you started: waiting for that point in time when you believe everything will be perfect. Understand this: if you don’t think your life is perfect today, you won’t think it is perfect in the future either.
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” ~ Groucho Marx
As for the past, it’s over my friend and no amount of wishing will bring it back. I love the movie “The Rewrite” because it shows how much time we waste when we try to hold on to the past. It is about an aging Hollywood screenwriter, trying desperately to recapture the success he has had in the past. On a particularly difficult day, he watches a YouTube video showing him accepting the Oscar for best screenplay some twenty years earlier and longs for that time when he was the toast of the town. His life is now taking him in a direction that he doesn’t like at all because he is afraid it means acknowledging that his best years are now behind him. He soon learns that by clinging to the past he is missing out on the wonderful opportunities his new path is trying to offer him.
How often do we miss out on what the present has to offer us by clinging to past memories? Life is always unfolding in front of us and showing us new roads we can take. We may enjoy thinking about past accomplishments because they take us back to our glory days, but the fact that we were once a top athlete or beauty queen is of little importance to anyone today. What we do with our lives now is all that matters. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of our achievements, but continually looking backward prevents us from enjoying what is in front of us. And don’t forget that we still have many opportunities for glory days ahead.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
The present is where you should spend most of your time if not all of it. There will never be another moment exactly like this one. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You will never be exactly this age again or have exactly these circumstances. Too often we look back with regret when we realize what a good thing we had going after it is gone. Appreciate what you have now, take the time to enjoy all the people in your life today, and find purpose in each present moment.
Life is an exciting journey, and each leg of the journey is intended to be savored and enjoyed as we are traveling through it; not to be dwelled upon after we have already passed, or awaited expectantly before we have arrived. So use your time wisely and remember: the present is the only time that matters.