All we have is this moment. Each second that passes in our lives is like a grain of sand slipping away. With desperation, we can try, try, try to hold on and savor every moment. Yet the time just slips away. Our attention is drawn forever forward by an unstoppable force that no amount of willpower can arrest.
When I was a kid I was always focused on what was happening around me. My attention was fixed not in an attempt to savor the moment, nor to ensure that I got all that life had to offer. I was instead trying to predict the future. Trying to determine my next course of action. Ready for anything but expecting the worst. I lived in a self-made world of readiness. Anxiety loaded, a minuteman ready for life’s dramas. Always expecting the other shoe to drop.
As I grew into adulthood I became better at controlling my fear by constructing a chain of obligations and commitments that made me feel safe — a self-imposed workload with its only desired outcome to create a sense of safety. I was trying to control the future so that nothing would surprise me. So nothing would disappoint me. So I would be loved. I lived in a self-made world of obligation. Anxiety loaded, a minuteman ready to over-commit. (See my post on work-life balance.)
This over-commitment lifestyle, however, brought me no more happiness. In order to distract me from my fears I had to take on harder and harder problems. I wasn’t satisfied when anything was taken care of. I didn’t count my accomplishments because I was always afraid of the future.
I continued to evolve my skills and capabilities at project and technical management until I had developed a really good ability to actually predict outcomes of the teams of people I worked with — not in some psychic way, but with project management skills — the ability to see the patterns of projects happening in the moment, use those patterns to determine undesired vectors, and then apply pressure to get things “back on track.”
I could predict the future!!! I got compliments from people. I earned a reputation for being good at fixing projects. I had learned the masterful skill of applying my life-long hyper awareness to the complex world of software project management. I should have felt safe. I should have felt loved.
Alas, this was not the case. The more I tried to get into the future the farther I was getting away from happiness. By 2002 I’d worn out all my futurizing methods to feel safe and become happy. It was then that I realized my method was flawed at its very core. I needed something different. I needed to make a dramatic change. I needed to stop trying to make people love me by building dependence on me. I needed to stop trying to win at work by being “right”.
It was sometime in 2003 that someone told me I should practice “being”. I had no idea what that meant. Being? What do you do when you are being?
People kind of chuckled at my questions and said, “just be”. I had some anger at that answer. After a while I actually just stopped listening when someone told me to just be. I just couldn’t understand being.
But somewhere along the line I started learning to “live in the moment”. As I started to change, I found more and more that I cared less and less about the future outcomes of things. I stopped worrying about dates and obligations for the future. I became more and more focused on the moment. In fact the more I focused on the moment, not only the happier I became, but the better I became at being a husband, father, and Project Manager.
For now I could see the patterns and instead of worrying about the future, just started taking action to change things in the moment. I don’t like making schedules. I like making lists. I like analyzing complex problems and determining the course of action needed to get the project complete. I like getting people working on that list. I like helping them secure the tools, resources, and help they need to get things done.
I like solving problems by taking action. AND you know what? Somewhere I learned to stop worrying about the future. Somewhere along the line I stopped trying to control the future and started to just create the moment. Somewhere along the way I learned to feel loved just for who I am.
Today as I was in meetings discussing projects and problems, I started to feel that old way. I started to feel anxious. As I drove home I considered why I was feeling this way. As I got centered there in the traffic of Seattle, I came back to the moment and the anxiety went away. I was just able to BE. I realized somewhere along the line I had learned that to “just BE”, all I needed was “to be in the moment.” Today I know al little better what they meant when they told me to learn to BE.
I continue to learn everyday. Today was a good day for learning. I gained a deeper understanding that the secret to happiness for me is living in the moment — being in the moment.
Thank you for reading my blog and sharing this learning with me. I appreciate you. May you have the love, happiness, and serenity you rightly deserve.