The Gift of Control:
Being Present in the only Moment that Matters
Moments of Nostalgia
Today a saying popped up on my Instagram feed. It read “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you left them”. I found this saying quite profound. I think it’s safe to say that there are days when we tend to dwell on the past. I am certainly guilty of it. I will sit and ponder about things I should have, could have and would have done if I had the opportunity to relive the moment. I must admit that at times this can be therapeutic and even enjoyable if those are moments of nostalgia. However it can equally be destructive if your thoughts of days gone by are negative ones. At the time of writing this, I recently went through some adversity. For months I would relive the mistake I made and question why I decided to go on that path. Not only did I relive them, I beat myself up as the consequences impacted my life greatly. This is not a healthy way to live.
I once read “The past is never where you think you left it.” There are moments when I believe I have moved on however things trigger me and I find myself back to square one. The pain or hurt bubbles up from inside like I drank one too many tequila shots. Whether it’s a song, a place, a word, a smell, the past can sometimes pop up into the present. If the above quote is true, we must be able to at least strategically place the past where it should be so that the future isn’t hindered by surprise triggers. We will get into how to do this in a moment.
Past is Past
My belief is that just as you should keep your focus off yesterday, the past is the past and you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one. Conversely you shouldn’t always have it on tomorrow either. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. For instance, in the United States, a 30 year old man has about a 1 in 260,000 chance of dying tomorrow. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, you have a 1 in 24 Million chance of dying on a rollercoaster ride. Okay, enough of the morbid depressing statistics. The point I’m trying to make is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. If you are constantly thinking about tomorrow and what the future holds, then you will never get anything done today. This will allow life’s great moments to pass you by which starts the cycle of past regret that I spoke about in the second paragraph. We must be able to gain some level of control to prevent the past and the future from controlling us. In order to do this, your focus needs to remain in the one area where you have some control – TODAY. I must admit that there is irony when we say that if you focus on today, your tomorrow will become better. Regardless, I believe this thought to be true.
“We are products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life
So how do we grab life by the horns and take control? There are a few things that I try to do to help me develop the habits needed to regain some mastery. The easiest one is that I read daily. Leaders are readers. If you are to lead your life in the direction it is meant to be, you must feed your brain by reading. I listen to others daily to broaden my perspective on life and topics that impact me and those around me. Stephen Covey once said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.” We have two ears and one mouth. We are meant to listen and learn first before speaking. I am a thinker. I admit I think a lot. I spend my time thinking daily to apply what I am learning. I ask myself “How can I apply what I just learned and what is the relevance of this lesson?” There’s no point to learning if you can’t use it. If you have heard me speak on stage, I always say “Knowledge is power only when executed.” I also try to write daily. Whether it’s in my notebook or on my phone, the act of writing helps me remember what I have learned. As a kinesthetic learner, I need to feel myself in the moment so writing helps bring my thoughts to life. Finally, I try to share my new found knowledge. The best way to reinforce your knowledge is to teach it to others. If I couldn’t explain my thoughts to a 9 year old, I would be over complicating things. Teach your knowledge to others in a way that they can easily understand it while simultaneously ingraining it in your own mind. Your past and present experiences will build up your knowledge base and you will learn that today’s lessons become tomorrow’s books.
Remember that you can’t change yesterday and you can’t count on tomorrow. But you can choose what you do today!