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Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to enjoy life one day at a time

If you know someone who's always distracted because while doing something, he's thinking of something else (could be worries in life, a pending project, or anticipation of a future event), the book The Present is a good gift to give.  Being preoccupied and not giving our full attention on what we're doing (as we do them) robs us and our loved ones from fully enjoying life.  I am so guilty of this especially when I am alone - did I turn off the lights and unplug all the cords when I stepped out?  Did I lock my car door?  Simple things which I did only 5 minutes earlier and yet, I've no recollection if I did them! And so I always end up going back to check for my peace of mind. 

Anyway, The Present by Spencer Johnson is deeper than my examples of absent-mindedness.  It tells a story about an an old man and young boy who developed a special friendship.  They would catch up at different points in their lives to talk about the world's greatest gift which the old man calls The Present.  The old man said what makes The Present the greatest gift is it allows you to enjoy things more and enable you to do better each day. This started the boy's quest for The Present which he needed to discover on his own.

The boy grew into a young man and never forgot about his quest for The Present.  He read, asked people, researched but couldn't find anyone who could tell him what the Present was so he just gave up his search.  

When he was at work, he thought about where else he might enjoy working more.  Or he thought about what he would do when he got home.  His mind wandered during meetings and conversations with friends.  When he eats, he's distracted and is even unaware of the taste of his food.  

After some time, he realized he was unhappy. He was hoping to get promoted since he considered himself a hardworker as he was punctual at work and always puts a full day's work.  Unfortunately, he had been passed over for promotion which he thought he was entitled to.  He became angry and couldn't understand why he didn't get the promotion.  He acted like he didn't care about the promotion but deep inside, he harbored resentment.  Anger consumed him and the quality of his work got affected.  

Everyday, he went home more tired and disappointed.  He never seemed satisfied with what he's doing.  He knew that he wasn't fulfilling the promise he'd showed when he was younger.  He was not happy nor successful as he wants to be. On certain days, he thought about the past when life seemed simpler.  

The next time the old man and young man met, the old man suggested for the young man to take time off from his regular routine.  He said that when you stop trying so hard to find The Present, you'll find it's easier to discover.

So he spent some time in a cabin in the mountains.  He walked for miles thinking about The Present but didn't get an answer.  He also thought about his past failures like not getting a promotion and his anger came back.   

When it grew dark outside, he went to the cabin and lit a fire to keep himself warm. Then he noticed the cabin's magnificent fireplace -  it was made of well-chiseled, carefully-arranged big and small stones like it was some piece of art.  He thought about the mason who designed and built it.  He thought it must have taken him full concentration and that he must have loved his work so much to have been able to build such a masterpiece.

Then he realized - The Present is the present moment!
Being in the present means focusing on what's happening right now, tuning out from distractions, paying attention to what is important now.  It means appreciating the gifts you are offered each day.  You don't think about the past nor feel anxious on what will happen in the future.  

On his next conversation with the old man, the young man asked what if the present happens to be a bad situation?  The old man replied to focus on what is right as it will give you the energy and confidence to deal with what's wrong.  When you start focusing on what's wrong, you'll get discouraged. But when you focus on what's right, you become more relaxed and are able to enjoy the present.  
So when the young man went back to work, he realized that though he may not have been promoted, he still had his job, that he was in a good working environment and that there are still other opportunities to earn recognition from.  

However, after some time, he became unhappy again so he sought out the old man again.  The old man shared with him that when you become upset or unhappy in the present, it's time to learn from The Past because your feelings can teach you.  There are 3 questions to ask yourself he said:
What happened in the past?
What did i learn from it?
What can i do differently now?  
The old man also said to remember not to be too hard on yourself because at that time you made a mistake, you probably did the best you knew at the time.  

The young man also asked the old man about how not to get worried about The Future. The old man said:
If you want to help create the future, first appreciate what is positive about the present moment.  Then imagine what a better future would look like, make a realistic plan and do things to help it happen.  Planning and doing something today to make it happen reduces fear and uncertainty.  

The old man likens The Past, The Present and The Future to a camera tripod.  Without one of the legs, it'll topple over.  If you are not aware of the present, you won't be aware of what's going on.  If you've not learned from the past, you won't be ready to create the future.  If you have no plan for the future, you are adrift.  

There are 2 more important teachings which the old man shared with the young man and I think they are the most important ones: 

1.  Have a why (purpose) in life. This means rising each day and seeing what meaning it will hold for you and others as a result of your actions.  

2.  Being successful means getting more of what you need - whatever you think is important. 
It varies per individual and it may change at different times in our lives.  When you're young, it may be getting good grades in school or doing better in sports... later it may mean being more productive or feeling more peaceful.  When the young man asked the old man what success for him was, he answered:
At this phase of my life, it means laughing more often, loving more deeply and being of greater service.  

I like laughing more often!  I think I should add that to my list of metrics.  Haha...

The Present is just a quick read - just a little over over 100 pages.  The author, Spencer Johnson, is also the author of the bestseller,  Who Moved my Cheese.  The Present is available in all leading bookstores but I got my copy from for Php332. 

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