I was chatting to a client’s PA last Wednesday – she started the conversation with “Are you looking forward to the weekend?” When I mentioned to her that it was only Wednesday, she replied “Ah, but the weekend’s almost here once you get past Wednesday lunchtime!” Indeed, as I write this on a Thursday morning, I’ve already received a couple of emails finishing with the line “hope you have a great weekend!” or words to that effect.
As normal people, we spend so much of our lives looking forward. First of all, there’s the negative kind of looking forward – we all know and love this one as “worry” – in fact, I’ve just got an email from a client asking me how could he stop the ridiculous worries that come into his head at 4 o’clock in the morning. And another client recently told me that he was worried because he could think of nothing to worry about! Psychology suggests that we’re hard-wired for worry – that, of the 50,000 random thoughts that whizz through our minds every day, we’re more inclined to focus on and believe the negative ones. Worry takes us down all kinds of blind alleys and mugs us. Worry has absolutely nothing to do with reality and, in fact, based on how quantum physics explains the workings of our universe, worry is dangerous – in worrying we invest our energy in the things that we don’t want to happen. Can you see the sense in that – because I can’t!
Then, of course, there’s positive looking forward. “I can’t wait for the holidays”, “I’m really looking forward to the girls’ night out”, “I’m going to hire a campervan and travel the world when I retire”, “Are you looking forward to the weekend?” A few years ago, as I stood in front of twenty clients on a Monday morning in Dublin, Ireland, one of them asked me if I was looking forward to getting back to my family and the French Alps at the weekend. My answer was “I simply can’t figure out how to think that far ahead – if I was to think that far ahead, I wouldn’t be here with you now!”
Life is lived in the here and now – and every here and now counts. What you do here and now echoes throughout the rest of your life. Every single turn you have taken each moment of each day up throughout your life has brought you to where you are now. What you do now and how you do it has a direct and lasting effect on your success or, more normally, abject failure in comparison to the success that you could actually achieve. If you waste your mental energy – even a little of it – looking forward either positively or negatively, then you’re screwing up your own life on an ongoing basis, permanently. Little wonder that normal people are “not so bad”, little wonder that university research suggests that normal people only use about 1% of their mental energy doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the only place and time that’s real – the here and now.
The course of your life, which is determined, if you think about it, by apparently random events that have brought you to where you are, will be altered for the better if you stop looking forward and start looking at what is before your very eyes. Those apparently random events happen now – and many of them will take you to where you want to be in life, if you just open your eyes and notice them. These random events are called opportunities! – and life is full of them if you’d just tune in even a little more than the pathetic norm.
But, as a normal adult, you’re not used to tuning in – so you’re going to have to train yourself to do it. Train when it doesn’t matter so that you can be really effective when it does. Make a little time each day to deliberately use your five senses to appreciate what is actually going on. Don’t interpret what’s happening – that’s what you’ve been doing all your adult life and you normally get it wrong (a whole other article would be needed to explain how and why). Don’t bring your preconceived notions to the present moment – just take it in by seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting each little happening as it arises. A car might drive past – just notice it, because in the moment it passes, the wind might disturb your hair – just feel it, because next moment, a bird might fly past overhead. You’ve got to come to your senses to appreciate what life is offering you just here and now. Start small and big things will follow.