I think the culture we live in often forces us to either reminisce and/or regret about the past or plan profusely for the future. That kind of attitude leaves very little room for us to enjoy the present. Yet being in the present is what life is all about. Living is all about the present because you can’t change the past, and you certainly can’t predict the future. But most people have problems living in the present, myself included.
I’ve actually been on a quest to find out how can I live more in the present and less in the past or the future. I’ve found lots of philosophical discussions on how to live in the present, but none of them was all that practical. But after searching for the past year or so, I think I may have found my answer in Randy Pausch.
Randy Pausch, for those of you who don’t yet know him, was the inspiration for many (including myself) when his “Last Lecture” was shared with the world via YouTube. Randy was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he decided to share with the world the lessons he had learned about life before he passed away. While Randy had always been a phenomenal person, the cancer death sentence dealt to him forced him to condense many of his living into the numbered days ahead of him. What do you do when you are told your days on this earth is numbered? You live your life, NOW, IN THE PRESENT!
Living in the present isn’t about not planning or caring for the future. In fact, Randy did just that. He spent his last few days on earth planning for his wife’s and children’s future without him. His “Last Lecture” was actually prepared so that his children would grow up knowing who their father was. He made recordings of himself and wrote letters to them so that they would have have something of him they could hold on to. Yet while he was preparing for their future, he continued to live everyday as fully as he could. He spent time with his children so that they could create memories together; he reached out and spent time with those who meant the most to him.
Living in the present isn’t about not looking back at the past either. Randy did plenty of that as well. He recounted his childhood dreams and aspiration and how he set out to fulfill all that he had planned. He looked to his past to remember the lessons he had learned throughout his life. He relived some of his most cherished memories of his childhood, his adulthood, and his encounters with those he had developed close friendship. Yet while he reminisced about the past, he continued to live in the present by continuing to learn from those around him and cherishing their presence in his life.
So how do you live in the present? Think like Randy. Better yet, live like Randy. Living in the present is all about enjoying the moment for what it’s worth to you. Living in the present means making the effort to create memories that will last you a life time. Living in the present means showing and telling people around you how much you love and care about them. Living in the present means making the most of your time now. How do you do that? Imagine you have terminal cancer and only six months to live. How do you make your remaining days count? How do you make your days count in the eyes of those who love you? What would you do to create memories with those you love? Your answers to those questions are the answers to living in the present.