This might not come as a surprise to some of you, but as a person with a passion for personal development, I am very goal driven. At all times, I like to have a big goal in mind that I’m working towards and a plan of smaller goals needed to achieve the end goal. As a result I spend a fair proportion of my time working to achieve these goals and that’s how I live my life and I love it. A couple of things have got me thinking about this recently and I wanted to share my thoughts with you in this post.
My current big goal is to quit my 9-5 job and travel the world. I’m now just over fifteen weeks (107 days) until my last day of work in my current job. To celebrate this fact I set up a countdown timer page on my computer at work to show how many days, hours and seconds it is until I leave my 9-5 life behind.
It’s no surprise then that people have said to me on numerous occasions things like “I bet you can’t wait for your trip” or “you must be so excited”. It’s like people assume that my life is a breeze because my near future looks so rosy. However, for me life in my 9-5 has felt harder and more frustrating since I announced my imminent departure.
I’ve been trying to work out why exactly that is. Perhaps being so close to achieving my goal makes me more impatient to get there or perhaps it’s because having done 90% of what was needed to achieve my goal, I now feel in limbo while I wait for the end result to materialise. Whatever the reason, acknowledging how I’ve been feeling has got me thinking that I mustn’t wish away the next fifteen weeks of my life, because that would be a terrible waste.
Don’t ‘wait’ your life away
Coincidentally, I recently picked up and started to read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle and I can barely put it down. I’m only half way through the book and will undoubtedly write a full post on the subject in the future but for now I wanted to share some of what I’ve learnt about the importance of living in the present.
In the book Tolle talks about the insanity of living in the past and the future, neither of which he argues actually exist. He believes that the only thing that is ever true is the Now, the present moment in which we exist. He highlights how easy it is for people to spend their lives living in a future (or past) that isn’t even there in that moment. In the book, he asks us to consider how much of our lives we spend waiting:
Waiting for the next vacation, for a better job, for the children to grow up, for a truly meaningful relationship, for success, to make money, to be important, to become enlightened. It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.
Waiting is a state of mind. Basically it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got, and you want what you haven’t got. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between you’re here and now, where you don’t want to be and the projected future, where you want to be. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”
Reading this had a profound effect on me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that I have been wishing my present away but I can definitely see how easy it is to slip into thinking about a ‘better’ future when you are transitioning from a situation that isn’t serving your needs to a situation more in keeping with your life purpose. I also think this explains my current inner conflict.
Honour the present
With my passion for personal development, I often have my eye on a future goal and as I read Tolle’s words above I started to wonder how I can ensure that I stay fully present as I work to achieve the goals that I have set for myself. Tolle states “there is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve things.” The error occurs when we fail to honour, acknowledge, and fully accept our present reality. He goes on to say:
When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going or at least the general direction in which you are moving, but don’t forget: the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”
If I take Tolle’s words and apply them to my own life, another example of a goal and journey is the one I’m taking to become a better public speaker and my attendance at fortnightly Toastmaster meetings to achieve that. The goal is to one day be a competent and accomplished speaker but if that were all I focused on and resented or overlooked where I am today and the step I am currently taking to get there then I wouldn’t be living and enjoying my present. As it is, I love my fortnightly meetings, I enjoy every moment of them and I enjoy each step I take to improve my speaking from one meeting to the next.
Tolle encourages us to watch and acknowledge without judgement when our minds are in the past or the future rather than the present. In doings so we can identify how much time we actually spend living in the now. I’ve tried to do this over the last week and I’ve been stunned to learn just how little time I spend truly enjoying the present moment. Tolle believes that:
As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action. So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action – just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord.”
Savour the journey
The whole concept of it not being the destination, but the journey that counts is not a new one but I think it is often dismissed as a cliché. Sometimes when something is said too often, I believe we fail to hear the importance of the message. The Power of Now is a book that has brought this message home for me.
In looking for a photograph to accompany this post, I decided on one I took during a trip to climb Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. It got me thinking. Had I foregone the difficult and challenging journey to reach the peak, would I have enjoyed the destination as much as I did? I would have enjoyed it but there is no denying that it was made all the more special as a result of the steps I had taken to get there. Yet another reminder for me that the importance of goals does not lie solely in their achievement.
I fully intend to enjoy the next 15 weeks. Who knows when I will get to go through such a transformative period in my life again? I want to savour every second of the step I’m on right now.
Are you waiting for a ‘better’ future whilst wishing away your present? Do you constantly have your eye on the horizon, blind to what is going on around you? Or have you learnt the importance of being fully present in the now? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you enjoyed the post please do share using the buttons below and if you want to avoid missing my regular updates please subscribe by popping your email in the box below.