To reach your full potential, you have to say yes to the moment—right this moment.
Just do the thing you’re doing. Right now. I’ll wait.
I’m serious. Just do one thing for the next several moments.
Done? Okay, good. Let’s talk.
If you’re like me, your brain looks like—and you feel like—a sped-up train station, with all trains, people, venders, workers, and the rails themselves needing attention all the time, and all at the same time, right this minute. You’re working in the top tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy, but your work and parenting time, or your work and “be a real person” time all blend together until you escape the raceway of the moment, breathe, and then return to working some more.
At some point, time disappeared and the whole calendar felt like it was always happening, all the time. While busy at work, you’re really busy with issues from home, or using work time for personal things you can’t get to any other time, and all the while you feel the eternal speed demoning inside your heart, as if you don’t get this done right now, it’ll be the end.
It won’t be the end, will it?
During this type of non-stop rat race, you think that everything you’re doing is leading to something better or some idealized moment, and, you think, the future is just waiting for you to arrive—road weary, sick, tired, beat up, but ready for glory.
Why do we think this way? What’s so wrong with the present moment that we’re always trying to avoid it?
A Catch-22, right in the chest
There I was, back flat on the table for an EKG after complaining about chest discomfort, chatting with the nurse about what causes nondescript chest pain—again. This was my umpteenth time in the E.R. or doctor’s office for this kind of worrisome nonsense since my early twenties.
“Anxiety,” she said, knowingly, although she wasn’t “supposed” to say anything. She knew and I knew, and during this particular visit I was in an actually hurry to see the doctor because of the tired, old cliche that “I just don’t have time to be sick” or “I can’t afford to take time off work to see the doctor.”
I had to be somewhere. I always have to be somewhere.
“Nondescript chest pain” usually means you’re too young to have that heart attack (you know, the one you’re waiting for so you can finally take some time off to relax) but you’re too stressed to let the muscles around your heart and in your back relax as well.
So at some point I had to get smart, and, while at work the week after, as I was racing from one task to the next, I stopped in my tracks and wrote a note to myself:
Just do the thing you’re doing, right now.
When I first wrote it, I thought of the profundity of it, and, like all good advice, I smiled and then ignored it.
But then I thought—what if I really did this? I mean I already try to do this with my own children and my students and athletes. My whole philosophy of life is built on “being here now” and yet I’m often looking toward the day or week to end so I can breathe.
So from this one idea, I had to remind myself of the other aphorisms I’ve forgotten along the way, like:
Say no to something each day—0r, better yet, pick something each day not to worry about.
Don’t take on something new without giving something else up first—if all the things you’re currently doing aren’t so cumulatively great that you would trade more of your time for new ventures that could eventually push out the original ventures, then what is the point of all the things you’re doing?
(And still, even while I’m writing this to you about not doing everything at once, my brain is planning on several other things.)
Stop thinking that the next thing is going to complete you.
It might, but it won’t. It’s not. Well, maybe it is. Will it? Oh shit. Wait. How do I know it won’t?
If you’re not “complete” right now, at your age, with your life choices and direction, then chances are that just doing more or taking on a new position or title won’t complete you right away. If something seems too good to pass up, it might just be too good to be true.
So take your time, even if it’s sped-up-train-station time.
Settle into the moment—and force yourself to settle if you have to.
Be selfish with your down time, if you get any. If you don’t get any, make some. Eventually your body is going to make you rest, if you don’t. You know, the whole stress thing—the poor choices you make while being rushed all the time will catch up to you and you’ll be sick, tired, and a day behind when you can’t afford a day to be behind on.
Plus you need the perspective of stopping, breathing, and looking at everything around you.
Get by with a little help from your friends (and spouse, and family).
Don’t be a dead hero to everyone because you couldn’t accept help from those people in your life who you’re actually working for and working with. Ask for help, whatever it is—the minute you do, a stream of bright light will shoot forth from your head and open up the realm of possibilities to you and the world based on the fact that you’re a mortal who can’t do everything yourself.
Did you already know that?
The kids—whatever you’re avoiding the kids for, give it a break.
They want you around. They want your undivided attention. When they get tired of you and want to be by themselves or play and read on their own, let them know that you need some time as well. But don’t ever avoid them because they’re in the way. They are the way. They’re the whole way and the work that leads to the way.
And one day they won’t be around so easily, and they will remember every time you couldn’t stop being busying to play with them.
The spouse or significant other—make time now. Just do it.
If you’re not talking to your significant other about your stress levels or anxiety, why not?
Vices will feel great, but will not solve anything…
Addiction, overindulgence, or vices won’t solve your problems, as much as they may give relief for the time being (as much as they force us to relax and be in the moment). They often become stresses unto themselves and most of us drink or use drugs long after the thrill and punch is gone, or our tolerance has risen far above where it was when we started. That’s too stressful.
Most of us are already over medicating, overdrinking, overeating, or allowing something to give us temporary relief at the expense of our bodies, when you could just slow down and focus on one thing, like getting a good night’s sleep, for example, or eating right. This seems simple, but many of us are in physical pain as well as stressed out from work and family, and can’t think straight enough to slow down and just drink a glass of water thoughtfully.
Besides, drugs and alcohol cost money, and money costs time, and you need more time to relax.
Your life is now complete!
So what are you doing—right this moment? Hopefully it’s just one thing, like just one thing. If not, take a deep breath, and take a deep moment, and remember why it is that you do what you do. Turn off the television and the smartphone notifications, and listen to the silence, if you can hear it.
It literally will mean everything in the world.
Now where do you have to be?
-Photo: Doctor Popular/Flickr
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