The Power of Living in the Now
Living in the now may sound like a New Age concept for hippies, but it can be one of the most powerful tools for living your best life once you start to practice it. We are human beings, not human ‘doings’, and yet most of us, especially in the West, are constantly chasing after what we believe to be ‘success’.
Yet success is not a fixed concept. It is in the eye of the beholder. In the West, being a veterinarian, doctor or lawyer might be considered a sign of success, yet we know that there are many unhappy doctors. In fact, they have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. (Veterinarians are actually #1 on the list of professionals most likely to commit suicide.)
The drive to constantly do something makes us distracted and keeps us so focused on the daily grind that we have little time for relaxation, de-stressing, or self-development. Even worse, it makes us feel stuck, as if we can’t change because we have no time, that the whole world we have created for ourselves will fall apart and more.
In this guide, you will discover the power of living in the now in order to achieve personal transformation, and how you can be more present in your life in every sense of the word.
Let’s look at one of the main reasons we fail to live fully in the present and sacrifice our personal power, the mistake of living in the past.
How to Let Go of the Past
Many of us think we are living in the present, day after day, but the truth is that we are often more focused on the past and future than on the present. We are plugged into a particular role in our family from the time we are born, such as the ‘good son’ or ‘little lady’ and our interests, even our clothing, are dictated by societal norms about what color boys and girls should wear and how they ‘should’ behave. Boys get blue, girls get pink.
Yet it is all a question of perception. For example, you may think that black and white are straightforward, but the truth is that they carry different symbolic meanings depending on one’s culture. White used to be the color of mourning in Europe in the Middle Ages, so the idea of a gorgeous white wedding dress would have horrified them. Similarly, a ‘sexy’ little black dress would horrify Buddhists, especially those in Japan, because black is considered to be an ugly color.
As we are thrust into societal roles and live them day after day in our parents’ house, it can be hard to break away. It’s easy to just do what you’ve already done, go along with what they want for the sake of survival and deny parts of your inner self. You might long to be a writer, and be very talented at it, but nothing will satisfy your parents except you becoming a doctor.
Old habits die hard, even when you long to make positive changes in your life. Sticking to your worst habits you know you should change is a lot easier than breaking them, such as quitting smoking or stopping overeating.
We also stay stuck in order to avoid conflict. No one wants to be alone in life, so we put up with certain situations in order to maintain the relationship. Why? Because change is scary. For anyone who has ever wondered how any battered wife would remain with the spouse who has been harming her, the truth is that the future is more frightening for her than her current situation, even though it is so terrible.
The past soon becomes a pattern. And If something traumatic happens to us, it can often cause us to ‘freeze’ in that moment and have trouble moving on, or changing. A death in the family might be one example. A bad break-up with a spouse might be another, causing us to have trouble ever trusting or loving anyone ever again.
Just a simple argument can cause people to get stuck in the past. They might hold a grudge and not speak to each other for years, to the point where they can’t even recall what triggered the disagreement in the first place.
Or they might say, “I’m a depressed person because X happened to me when I was 12.” That might be a good explanation when you’re 12, but when you’re 50, it sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?
Living in the present allows you to create a new identity by releasing the pain and the self-limiting thoughts from the past, and taking things one day at a time.
Another reason we get stuck in our lives is because we get too wrapped up in the future and don’t pay enough attention to the present. Let’s look at this topic in the next chapter.
How to Avoid Getting Wrapped Up in the Future
Most of us are so busy chasing the future of our dreams that we overlook the joys of the present. Even worse, if we don’t get what we think we desperately want, our life might seem ‘ruined’. Look at all the pressure put on teens to get good grades so they can get into the college of their choice. If they don’t get in for any reason, they often feel as if they are failure or as if their life is ruined.
Happily married couples think kids and a home of their own will make their lives perfect, until they discover one of the partners is infertile and the roof starts to fall in due to heavy winter snow. It’s times like these that test a person’s character, and often make or break even the best relationships.
Outside stresses abound, but we place a lot of stress on ourselves due to all our expectations, thoughts and desires. We spend so much time chasing after the future we want, such as money for the down payment on that dream house, we fail to live in the now. We do what we have to in order to keep our jobs so we can keep on earning in order to pay the mortgage, but there seems little time for anything other than work and other commitments. Then we get frustrated and feel like a giant hamster running in a wheel all the time.
This constant doing instead of being, of living in the future, instead of living in the now, can cause anger and frustration to build. Very few of us are at our best when we are stressed and angry. It can cause us to do something we will regret; such as do or say something to our partner that might be very hurtful. Once or twice might not be a deal-breaker, but if you find yourself arguing about the same issues over and over again, it’s time to look at your present if you ever intend on having a future with that person.
The #1 cause of divorce is money trouble. Money can’t buy happiness, it’s true, but it does give you a lot more choices than being poor. The important word here is choice. Do you find yourself just doing the same thing over and over because it is easier than trying something different? Or ignoring opportunities because they don’t fit in with what you picture your future to be like?
The truth is that your life unfolds moment by moment in the present. In the time it’s taken you to read that sentence, about 10 seconds have already passed into the past. By the time you finish, which might take about another 10 seconds, those future seconds will become the present, and then the past.
Understanding this can help you realize just how precious your time is, and how each present moment is the foundation to a happier future if you take time to live in the now. Let’s look in the next chapter at some of the ways to free yourself to live in the present.
How to Live in the Present There are many ways you can train yourself to cut links with the past and stop chasing the future so you can live in the present. This will mean some focus and effort, but the results will be well worth it.