“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ~ Unknown
As I begin this post, it’s a rainy, dreary-looking morning, by all appearances totally uninspiring. Up until I sat down to write, I followed the same-old, same-old routine I perform most workday mornings, in the exact same order, beginning with hitting the snooze button.
Rediscovering this quote totally changed the tenor of my morning. In fact, I believe it will reconfigure my thoughts, moods and actions for the entire day.
It’s so easy to slip into the comfortable but unproductive habits of regurgitating past conversations and events that upset or aggravated us, or worrying about conversations and events that haven’t happened yet. In his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle gently but persistently pulls us into the only moment in time where we have any influence at all: this one. Only what we think and do right now has any power to affect or shape the next hour, day, or rest of our lives.
This is one of the most empowering concepts you can ever embrace. And, if you’re anything like me, one of the most difficult.
Whether due to a physical condition like ADHD, or simply a lack of mental conditioning, my waking thoughts ebb and flow and twist and twirl like autumn leaves in a windstorm, unless I am working on something specific, like this blog post, or a project at work.
Or, if those thoughts do settle down into something specific, they take the form of the last song I heard on the radio before turning my car off, playing over and over in my head in an endless loop, or repeatedly rehashing an unsuccessful conversation or a poor decision from the day before.
Pulling oneself from that cesspool of thoughts into the present moment has some powerfully positive impacts:
- It awakens the senses. Yesterday morning, my great-nephew Justin posted on Facebook, along with a photo he took: “Birds chirping in the trees this morning! I just love walking outside every morning to the wonderful/peaceful sound of birds chirping!” What a marvelous present moment experience—and one he would have totally missed if he was busy worrying about how he did on a math test or reliving a disagreement he had with a friend. How much more pleasurable life is when we truly savor the foods we’re eating, inhale the aroma of baking bread or the luscious scent from a lilac bush, relish the comfort of a good pair of shoes or marvel at the glory of a breathtaking sunset. Or, like Justin, listen to birdsong.
- It allows us to experience gratitude. Sometimes, as I walk the short distance from my car to my office building, I am struck with a lightning bolt of gratitude for being able to walk, or for being able to see the rich blueness of the sky, or for having a jacket that’s warm enough to protect me from the elements. Feeling and expressing gratitude for what we have in our lives—our families and friends, our homes with all of their amenities, our opportunities and even our challenges—not only opens us up to fully appreciate the present moment, but clears the way for even more good things to come into our lives.
- It helps us to focus. This actually brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this post. How could we possibly do something today that our future selves will thank us for if we are replaying scenes from yesterday, concocting stories about tomorrow, or simply letting our thoughts run amok? Awareness of the present moment, of what is going on right here and now, gives us a chance to make this moment count: with little gestures, like letting a car cut into traffic in front of us or relinquishing our seat on the bus to someone who needs to sit more than we do; to big, perhaps even life-altering actions, like coming up with a new solution to an age-old problem at work, or coming to the aid of a friend at his or her darkest hour—opportunities we would have otherwise missed, or maybe regretfully realized later.
That’s the power of living life in the present moment.
As I said earlier, I struggle with doing this myself. More often than not I’m either rethinking and maybe even regretting something I said or did yesterday, anxious about a situation that may never occur, creating endless to do lists in my head or not paying much attention to my thoughts at all.
But when I remember to do so, I pull my attention to what is in front of and around me. It’s at these moments, when attention and intention intersect, that I can choose to make the rest of my day matter. I want to experience more of those. Every day.
I invite you to do the same. It will not only change the tenor of your day—it may change your life.