There’s a lot of talk in self-improvement about how living too much in the past or future is bad, as there is only this moment happening right now. There’s a constant chorus of “Live in the moment”, “Be present”, “Mindfulness“, and so on.
But just because you are “present” doesn’t mean everything will go smooth. In fact, there are two dirty tricks that your mind plays on you and they both have to do with being in the moment TOO much or over-identifying with it.
The first problem is when you get so over-concerned with your emotions in the moment, that you think that one event will ALWAYS make or break you.
That ONE client you lost for the business means that you will fail and be broke…
That ONE time you were hard on yourself means that you have low self-esteem and suck…
That ONE time you judged someone and couldn’t stop thinking about them in a shitty way means that you yourself are a shitty person…
These one off events don’t matter, but the patterns do – How often do you do these things and why? That’s what you need to be thinking about.
And the second problem with living in the moment – too much sweating of the small stuff.
Many of the minor details in life don’t matter, it’s the big picture that does. That could be applied to a relationship, a business, getting a degree, and more.
In fact, caring too much about the small details will cause you and those around you needless stress and anxiety, and never let you move forward.
Let’s explore these items.
Trick #1 – The Patterns Vs. The Events
The first “trick” your of-the-moment emotions play on you is that you FEEL like everything matters so much right now. The gripping anxiety, fear, craving that come up from buried micro-traumas of never feeling like there was enough, never feeling loved and all that try to bend you, and make you think that something happening right now is life or death.
But in reality when you get out on the other side, or step back from your emotions and logically ask yourself “Will this matter in 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months?”, you usually find out that it’s not a huge deal.
The fear of approaching that person isn’t your default state of living and you can survive through it and push through. And if you don’t go up to them because you feel too scared, it’s OK.
BUT, if you always back down from approaching someone because of fear and never get over it…
If you are ALWAYS hard on yourself and constantly beat yourself up…
If you ALWAYS stress about not getting work done and constantly feel chest pain from anxiety…
Then these are major issues.
You won’t really remember small details a few years or even a few days from now about how you missed out on one approach, or something. But you’ll sure as hell remember if you were ALWAYS scared. You’ll sure as hell remember if you always called yourself lazy and never gave yourself a break.
It’s these patterns or habits that you need to become aware of so you can break them. You need to get over your fears. You need to learn the importance of positive self-talk.
Otherwise you could really be screwing yourself and limiting your life.
Don’t worry about one-offs, but give MANY MANY fucks about patterns of events happening.
Trick #2 – Sweating The Small Stuff
The other problem with being overly concerned with the moment is thinking the really small stuff matters.
It’s kind of related to trick #1, in how one missed approach doesn’t really matter but the pattern does. But what I’d like to apply this to is an entire trip, life, event, or project.
So the fact that you were sick for a few days on your vacation sucks in the moment. You curse the heavens that gave you food poisoning on your well deserved vacation (*ahem* speaking from personal experience). You get frustrated and upset and angry.
But in reality a few weeks from now, you’ll say “Yeah I went on an amazing vacation and got sick for a bit, that sucked, but I did all this cool shit X, Y, and Z”. It’s a minor blip on an otherwise awesome radar.
For a project, you can tweak and fine tune colours, formatting, text, sayings, comments, code,… until the cows come home. But then you might lose sight of completing the entire project, or what is really important. I doubt someone cares about how one or two paragraphs looks, or using one word instead of another. But hopefully that doesn’t keep you from publishing an entire website. In fact, it could be an excuse not to release your work.
You have to be able to see the forest through the trees, and realise that most things that you think matter so much, won’t matter at the end of your life.
It’s the same in a relationship, where in the moment of one argument over something little, one moment of insecurity, one moment of vulnerability… we think that the person will hate us, life is over, or that we should break up.
Most likely these things won’t matter, and when we look back on the relationship we’ll only think about the grand overview about how we felt towards and with the person. It’s another reason why we can’t get too caught up in silly arguments, otherwise we’ll never be able to enjoy a relationship (friend or otherwise) in general.
One minor argument, one tough time… these shouldn’t kill the entire experience.
Our lives are purely constructed from moments. Block by block, piece by piece. As the arm moves around the clock face, we are stepping slowly to our graves and building our stories to last into time, and to reflect on when we are old.
Each of these moments do matter, and there is such peace in each moment compared to focusing too much on the past or future… But don’t let the moment overtake you to where you care so much. It can teach you a lot (Why am I so scared of approaching someone? Do I always back down? Why does confrontation scare me so much?) and you can use it to improve…
Just don’t get too scared or caught up in it.