Mindfulness practices, meditation, and yoga are so trendy right now that the phrase "living in the moment" has become ubiquitous.
Whether it is someone's goal to live in the moment or someone thinks that they live in the moment and so are setting the intention to continue doing that, the phrase itself has already lost a lot of power by how commonly it is used.
Here are some real world examples that are relevant to my work of "Living in the moment":
Even though entrepreneurs make long-term vision goals for their company, they often cannot actually plan for anything too far into the future because every day at work is filled with so many risks and so many dynamic challenges. Personally, I can only plan for MAYBE a month ahead of me. Maximum. That is it! The most important thing is what I am working on in the here and now.
In traditional psychotherapy, the common conception is that you spend years and years talking to a therapist about your past and that is all. As a result, it is often forgotten that people go into therapy in hopes of addressing a very current problem and ameliorating it for the future. Though a good deal of time is spent talking about the past in therapy, a good therapist should always be able to loop it back to what is going on for the client right now in the present.
I could walk you through every single industry and make the same point: It does not matter what you do, you are always in the present. In this moment.
So where do people go astray?
The Thinking Trap
In their thoughts.
If people spend too much time thinking about their past or dwelling on a single event in their past, then their focus is distracted from what their body is doing in the present. This can lead to rumination and depression.
By the same token, if people spend too much time thinking and dwelling on what might come in the future, they get stuck in massive fear and the fear blocks any productivity in this moment. This can lead to anxiety and panic
The British philosopher Alan Watts talks about everything that happens occurs in the Now. The past is created by events that happened in a past version of the present. He says:
"Things are not explained by the past. Things are explained by what happens now, which creates the past."
In this way there is a healthy consideration of the past in the present but only as a collection of relevant information to tell us about the present. We are not taught history in school in order to sit all day long thinking about something that happened hundreds of years ago. We learn history in order to affect what we may do in the present.
Same goes for the future. Thinking too hard about something potential in the future does not serve anything unless we do something in the present to make it so.
The Perfect Balance
Everything that happens always happens in the present. I am writing this NOW. You will be reading it in your NOW.
If you want something to be different in your life, change will not come on its own in the future, nor did you lose any opportunity to create change in the past.
Tony Robbins coaches that "all change happens in an instant when we finally commit to making that change." We can prepare all we want, and the preparation becomes the past. A lot of people deflect personal responsibility and wait for change to happen in the future, but it still will not happen until we choose to make it happen.
The past is important to understanding who we are and why things are the way they are, and the future is important to have ambition and goals for which to strive, but the only thing that can be controlled and manipulated is the present.
As a result, the most successful and fulfilled life is lived by striking the perfect balance between what you need to think about from the past and what ambition you have in the future as supportive data points to the experience you are having in the present.
A client describes this as three friends in a car. The driver is the one living in the present, steering the whole experience onward, the friend in the passenger seat is looking ahead and navigating (informing the future destination) and the passenger in the back has a good view of what is behind the car when needed (looking back to certain events and experiences of the past).
If the whole group of friends can work together to get the car where they want it to, then the present path for the driver to continue driving becomes easier, clearer, and free of obstacles.
In other words, use the future and the past in appropriate doses to support your success and fulfillment in the present.
What are you working on right now in your life?
Does one thing seem most important?
What about the past is relevant to that one thing?
What about the future that this one thing lead to / impact / connect with?