Sunday, September 28, 2008

Living in the Moment

John Lennon said that "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." How often in the past few years have you felt as if you were living in the moment? By this, I mean that you were acutely aware of what you were experiencing from your senses and your mind's interpretation at that exact moment, not even partially thinking at all about the past or the future. If you were working on a project, were you thinking about the end result, or were you absorbed into the actual work you were doing? If you were spending time with a beautiful woman, were you actually engaged into the experiences of being with her, or were you absorbed into thinking about what might happen in the future, whether it be sex or even marriage. I often find that it is hard to live in the moment, and be absorbed into every moment as if it was your last. I think that figuring out how to live in the moment is possibly the key to long term happiness and fulfillment.

With this said, it would probably not be smart to be totally spontaneous all the time and have no long term goals. Most people's goals and motivations fluctuate all the time, and it would become very tough to just act on any emotion you are feeling at the moment. What I mean by living in the moment is that, coupled with a general long term plan for fulfillment, you put yourself in a position to achieve your general goals, and then absorb yourself in the steps to get there. If your goal is to start a business, do not think about the riches you will potentially make, first find a project you love and would want to do even if you made no money, and money will likely follow. I find that often people work so hard to achieve some goal in a sacrificial manner, that is by not living in the moment, and then when they achieve their goals, there is no satisfaction, just the desire to develop newer goals so they might one day be happy. Certainly many people have become successful financially this way, but how many of them are truly happy?

Living in the moment is related to the concept of flow, which is a state of "optimal experience" characterized by a task or experience being possible, having clear goals and immediate feedback. People describe these experience as ones in which they lose a sense of time and are extremely focused. Ideally, every experience I partake in would have this type of feeling associated with it. There are a few things to do to make flow experiences in your everyday life more possible. Probably one of the main ways to achieve flow, at least in activities done by yourself, is to eliminate unnecessary distractions such as cell phones, email, online news websites, and other pesky people. If you are devoting any mental effort to thinking about these things, it will be very easy to fall out of a state of flow. All of these distractions are related to the actions of others. We only have control over ourselves. It is easier said than done to remove your expectations and thoughts of others, and this is related to the idea of result detachment. Another way to develop a state of flow is to go a little bit deeper into things. Sometimes topics seem so boring until you give it a chance. With a little bit of extra concentration, it is probably possible to make almost anything interesting and be on your way to achieving a true state of flow.

Living in the moment is appreciating what you have right now, not thinking about what you wish you had or what made you happy in the past. With this said, how often is it that you remember a time in the past and look back on it with a new found affection that you did not feel while actually going through the experience? Nostalgia will do this. Any time you wish you had more or think about the future, think about what you already have; your friends, your family, your work, but most importantly yourself. It really is wonderful to be alive. In today's modern society, we can fulfill our basic needs with very little money and effort. Simplifying your life is another step to living in the moment. Once you realize that you can have everything you need with so little effort, any other prizes we might get in the future are just a bonus. Because we have to worry so little about those needs for the future, we really can live much more in the moment.

Much of the world lately has seemed to become obsessed with ruthless efficiency, trying to figure out how to optimize every aspect of life. I recently had lunch with a friend, and I felt the only reason she was having lunch with me was simply to keep up with me just enough so that we would not totally drift away. Rather than enjoying her time and being more in the moment, it was just a plan for the future. Sometimes it is good to take on less so you can focus more. Why spend time with a million people who may matter to you in the future, rather than spending time with a few who matter to you now. Tell these people how much they mean to you. Let them know you care. With that said, I really do believe nearly everyone has an interesting story to tell. Seek these stories out when you are interacting with others. Some people are good story tellers and others are not. Keep the ones you can really be in the moment with, and do not worry about the people you meet who are negative or do not know how to tell their story.

Living in the moment is sometimes slowing down your life. Why rush through the morning walk to work thinking about how much you wish it was over and you were already at your desk? It is incredible what you can observe every day if you really look. Become someone who really has a passion for life. Change your routine. Seek adventure sometimes even if it means a loss in efficiency. Conquer the things you always wanted to take on, but be careful to not take them all on at the same time! I recently started really teaching myself how to swim. What have you always wanted to learn how to do? Nonetheless, it is important to remember that the process of learning is the part to enjoy, not just thinking about the end result. What would we be the point of becoming a world class swimmer like Michael Phelps if you did not enjoy the process each and every step of the way? Most big achievements do not happen overnight.

I believe that living in the moment is one of the most important concepts on the road to long term life quality maximization. It is the definition of the spicy lifestyle. Next time you find yourself rushing through something, slow down, close your eyes, take a long, deep breath, and appreciate what you are experiencing right there and at that very moment. Hopefully you will find that you are beginning to appreciate the true spiciness of life.

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