The scary part is that you know what you want to do. You’ve probably rehearsed it in your head for a long time. And yet you don’t act. Why? Why don’t you leave that bad relationship? Why don’t you ask that person out? Why don’t you quit that lousy job? Why don’t you get up on stage? Why don’t you go travelling, or have a baby, or pursue some idea your peers or family think is crazy? Why are you leaving your life unlived?
The question’s real: what is your motivation to avoid all of these things? In general, it’s some collection of fears involving failure, rejection or possibly even physical pain. But is avoiding those things removing failure, rejection or pain from your life? Hardly. Most people I see suffer more in a hour than I would in a month. They’re tortured by thought.
All day long people skip their consciousness like stones over the “highlights” of their life, building multiple scenarios of what might or should have happened. And then they react to each of their own narratives, and each reaction leads to another set of narratives. And this can go on for years. It can happen inside our heads as ruminations, or outside our heads, as when people get together with others and gossip to try and get ahead of the game—to ensure success. But what is success?
How can you be successful when your consciousness is focused on tomorrow or yesterday? There is no way to navigate life unless our energies are focused on the experience we’re having in the moment we are In. We cannot change what we did, and we cannot do what we might. We can only act in the moment we are In and it is that moment that people should be focused on. Because that Moment is where you live.
Do you comprehend that your ruminations and gossip are themselves experiences? Do you see? You are not avoiding an experience by thinking about it. Thinking about it is an experience. And it doesn’t matter if that thinking is quiet, like when we create internal conversations about something, or if it’s out loud like gossip—the moment you’ve engaged your consciousness with it, it is an experience. It is an unrecoverable part of your life. It has been spent.
That is the regret many people have on their death bed. They realize then that they obviously only had time for a limited number of experiences. And being near the end of them, people get very clear about the fact that it would have been wise to spend less time discussing or contemplating how to “win” or “be popular.” It is much more rewarding to focus on having actual experiences themselves, rather than investing time and energy on thinking about people’s judgments of our previous or potential experiences.
Is your life going to end today? This week? This month? This year? In one of the years ahead? It’s one of those for sure. Since your death is inevitable, the only question becomes: what are you going to invest your time experiencing between Now and that particular date and time?
That is the only question that ever matters. And every single Moment of your life you will answer that question with your choices.
Life is short. Make sure you’re awake for it. 😉
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.