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When To Live

Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes

“Live in the now,” “stop and smell the roses,” “don’t let life pass you by”… There are dozens of quotes that all mean essentially the same thing: your mind should be focused on the present, not the future nor the past. Some tell us to be mindful of the past and take the future into consideration, but focus should be primarily on the present. To me, living in the present means being aware of your conscious choice to focus on the past, present or future—it is not necessarily having to focus on the present.

When I was in high school, I worked as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Although this job did not pay that much, and it was considered to be “dirty” work by most of my peers’ standards, I actually enjoyed it very much. For me, it was a time to mentally “zone out” and think about all the ideas that I had for making money. I would spend hours playing out just about every imaginable scenario in my head. I was motivated, excited, and most of all, I loved my job. Washing dishes is not brain surgery; after my first 10 minutes on the job it became a subconscious activity. Sure, I could have focused on the plates with regurgitated chicken bones and glasses filled with milk-soda-steak soup made by bored 12-year-olds, but during this time I chose to focus on my future, where I found more productivity, energy and enjoyment.

To this day, I spend much of my valuable time focused on the future as well as occasionally reliving positive events from my past. I do this when I am done getting all the happiness out of my present environment that I can. It is wise to stop and smell the roses, but how long are you supposed to sit there with your nose in a rose? Advocates of the “live in the now” mentality often overlook the power of daydreaming and creative visualization.

Surviving prisoners of war did not survive by living in the present and focusing on their pain, hunger, and undesirable living conditions. They survived by taking journeys in their minds, focusing on past events where they found joy and creating a future for themselves for after they were freed. In less extreme and more everyday situations, those with monotonous jobs claim to “keep their sanity” by daydreaming about future events. Why deprive yourself of the pleasure of taking a trip down memory lane, especially when you cannot find pleasure or enjoyment in your present environment?

Before you zone out to the past or future, understand that there are very good reasons for focusing on the present. By focusing on the present, you become much more observant and notice things you may have never noticed before. You begin to appreciate things you have never appreciated before. Being focused on present activities allows you to be more productive. Focusing on the present enables you to become an active listener.

There is nothing wrong with living in the future or the past, providing you are not sacrificing a present worthy of focus. I am often guilty of being in an amusement park on a thrilling ride, but thinking about something else. Or going for a walk with my family but thinking about business, while missing the smiling faces of my children as they are enjoying their present environment. Time spent waiting in lines, stuck in traffic and commuting can be time well spent using your creativity and imagination. Focus on your future success and visualize yourself living a life where your goals have been met. The choice is ultimately yours.


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    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD
    Social Scientist, Business Consultant
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    Personal Development : Personal Transformation
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