The Future is Unstable so Live in the Moment
As one of my New Years resolutions, I strategically scheduled January to achieve the most productivity - every project got its own designed hours for the week, time of day. Well, come the first weekend of 2018 and I was already behind. I was still catching up on sleep from my New Years celebration and a friend’s generous gift took me away from work for a whole day. Finally Saturday, my chance to catch up: my brunch plans went from 5 people to 2; I was late; and I was drunk about thirty minutes in! (BTW, I don’t like to drink…and the only thing I like less is getting drunk.) This completely threw me off, having to sleep off sangria for two hours in the middle of what was supposed to be a very productive day! But as disappointed as I was, I found it a good reminder for living in the moment.
Cherishing Taoism as I do, I believe there is a metaphor in nature for every important life lesson that can be learned; we need only slow down long enough to steal a glimpse of it to learn. I was reminded that Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, wrote “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Enter living in the moment. What happens in the moment is a release of all the burdens society, religion, and culture has taught us. It doesn’t matter which one comes first, the release or the moment - they are the same.
These burdens are programmed into us at an early age: we should be planning for the future; we should be married; we should own a home; we should be working toward and/or living the American Dream, white picket fence, family, 2 cars, and a 9-5 job with nights and weekends free. Well, that all sounds great but how many people have realistically achieved this? And more importantly, are those people happy?
Consider the current trends of married couples living apart, millennials still living with mom and dad, and home ownership on the decline. Not to mention the Baby Boomers’ retirement crisis. This all points to the uncertainty of the future, making it impossible to plan for. Paul B. Brown writes in How To Plan Your Life When You Can’t Plan Your Life (Forbes): “The way we were taught to think and act works well when the future is predictable, but not so much in the world as it is now.”
With nowhere else to reliably look, you’ve found yourself in the bosom of the moment. This is actually the consensus in response to these trends. Leo Babauta suggests in Planning Your Future Is Pointless. The How And Why Of Embracing Uncertainty (Fast Company): “Prepare yourself by learning about your mind, becoming trustworthy, building things, overcoming procrastination, getting good at discomfort and uncertainty.”
How do you do that?! “Focus on what you can do right now that will be good no matter what the future brings. Make stuff. Build stuff. Learn skills. Go on adventures. Make friends. These things will help in any future.”
I’m pretty sure Babauta just said: Live in the moment! This should come as a relief since it gives permission to explore your most authentic self before making life-long decisions. It’s contrary to the traditional push to start planning your future in high school. “The jobs of working at Google, Amazon or Twitter, for example, didn’t exist when I was a teenager,” Babauta says.
This means defining your work by defining yourself first, and doing it at your own pace instead of letting your work define you. This point of view basically hands you time itself. Starting with Step 1 in the Sustainability Cycle: Exploration in pursuit of defining your own Vision/Mission/Values. Brown writes:
“Instead of picturing/thinking about what the perfect job or career would be and working backwards from there, begin with a direction, based on a real desire, in which you think you want to go.”
The shortest path to finding your Vision/Mission/Values, or “Discovering your Y,” is to live in the moment. That means focusing in on what is present in your life (not what’s missing) and start noticing the opportunity and possibility that is right in front of you.
The Science of Character is a lovely 8-minute film demonstrating how to change your mindset around character. “Instead of just focusing on all the things that can go wrong with us, it's also important to celebrate all the things that can go right.” #AnotherWay
This was where I went wrong when reviewing my first week in 2018. I was so focused on the upset of unscheduled activities that I discounted all that I had accomplished that week: daily “word of the days” on Instagram, writing the first draft of this blog, a new client, a new partner, and the list goes on… A simple shift in mindset revealed that I had indeed touched on all my objectives, even if it didn’t look like what I had mapped out. It was less than I wanted, but turns out, it was enough. It was, after all, only 7 days into the new year...
I am absolutely not advocating for getting drunk by noon - sleeping through a short sunny day is criminal. But it was in spite of unexpected happenings that I actually completed a full Sustainability Cycle: Exploration (research & writing), Inclusion (accepting the full day gift from my friend), and Evolution (learning not to keep drinking when you already know you’re drunk). I thought I learned that in my 20s, but apparently I had to re-learn it. This time I’m listening with mindfulness - evolution never ends!
I've also found, the more positive I keep my mindset, the better 2018 gets! Living in the moment is in sharp contrast to the perpetual self-fulfilling prophecies I've subconsciously set for myself in the past. And it feels good!
Life might not end up looking like what you spend so much time convincing yourself you want. So if there is no fail-safe way to secure your future, why not enjoy the moment we have right now? It certainly cuts down on stress and worry (both useless emotions). Even after losing most of day, tremendous good came from my weekend brunch, where resources connected and connections were made. It was quality time spent and I’m grateful I didn’t truncate it in favor of my pre-planned schedule. There are hidden opportunities within every moment!
Emileena is writing a book about finding ANOTHER WAY, The Tao of Artist Development. To learn more about her work, please visit www.theshowgoesonproductions.com.
Original Artwork by Dave Law, freelance visual artist and illustrator. For more, please visit www.davelawart.com.
If you are an artist looking for development, consider Emileena's E-Velop program.