Written by: Jeffrey Craig
Last year was my 10-year high school reunion. It would be the first time I have seen individuals since graduation.
As I pondered the idea of becoming reacquainted with old “friends,” I began to feel anxious. My mind started thinking about how I would be perceived after all this time. I am not married, I have no kids, I am not a millionaire, and I don’t have a big house.
Questions come up like, “What have I done with all this time?” “How will I measure up to everyone else?”
While everyone else has most likely reached at least one of these milestones, I had nothing to show for 10 years. Or did I?
We all have hopes and dreams. At one point in each of our lives, we have fantasized about a life that has yet to come to realization. Even in early childhood, we have imagined our futures (shaving, baby dolls, playing cops and robbers).
Now, in adulthood, there is in imaginary finish line that we are all racing toward. What many have failed to realize, is at the end of the race, is our graves. We are all striving for the milestones in our life and the rest is just a nuisance. We are afraid of experiencing the pain of NOW. Individuals compare each other based on their pseudo “successes” – getting a house, getting married, starting a big career, kids, retirement, etc.
Due to the ever-growing pressures of Western society, we are left feeling unworthy around others until we have checked off all the boxes. We are in competition with those around us for something we have been told that we want.
Men struggle deeply with this need for success due to constant social pressure. The expectation to fulfill the requirements of provider, alpha, and procreator often leave men with unnecessary anxiety.
This race to the finish line of life prevents a lot of men from truly living. Here is how observing our past, present, and future can help us live a more fulfilling life.
Looking back on the past is the best way to tell if we have been living our full potential in life or running to the finish line of life (death).
As an exercise, write down your fondest memories from childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and so on. This list should be LONG.
Once you have your list, ask yourself if this memory was due to anything related to the social pressures of “success.” Most individuals’ fondest memories occur when they are around people they love, experiencing something they enjoy. It has nothing to do with external gratification, but instead sharing in the moment with others.
The past is also a clear indication of just how precious time is. When a moment passes, it is gone forever and all we have left is a memory.
If you are reading a self-help article, I can assume you have already heard about the importance of being present in the moment, but just in case, let me explain.
Too often, we go through life on auto pilot, living the same day over and over and over again, until before we know it, we are dead. We find ourselves constantly dwelling in the past or daydreaming about the future.
Being present in the moment allows a person to truly experience life to its fullest.
Some of the reasons being present is important not just for experiencing life, but also for piece of mind include: better emotional connections, improved focus and greater creativity, appreciation for the world around you, and less stress.
Some great tools to help be mindful of the present are: meditation, becoming more observant, taking in things you are grateful for in that given moment, and mimicking other present focused people.
The present is by far the most important moment of your life because it is the only thing you can control. You are experiencing life in a way you can never experience again in this moment.
Leo Tolstoy once said, “There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”
The present doesn’t care about what car you drive or how big your bank account is. The present is the only time you have to change yourself and your life.
Taking action on what you want for your future is far more useful than dreaming or worrying about it. The more present you are, the longer you get to experience life, and the longer you can appreciate it.
One thing to note about the future is, it hasn’t happened yet! You cannot predict it. You cannot control it. It can be just as shitty as it has been or currently is.
How many times have you made plans or mapped out your future and it has gone exactly as planned? You have no clue how many seconds you have left on this earth, so why waste one of them concerned about an uncertain future?
The future technically doesn’t exist. The past has happened. The present is happening. The future is unknown. The only way to be certain of any positive future is to become more aware of your present.
In closing, I never did attend my reunion, but the lesson was still learned.
Human beings are constantly bombarded with this unrealistic expectation of perfection that forces us to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. This pressure of achieving the “ideal” prevents us from enjoying life and instead puts us on the fast track to the grave.
The past can teach us how our true enjoyment of life is not found in these superficial ideals of perfection but instead in loving memories with others. The past can also remind us how precious time is and how important it is to make use of every moment.
Looking to the future teaches us that we cannot control what hasn’t happened, nor can we predict it.
However, becoming present in the moment is the best way to live an enjoyable and fulfilling life.