Select Page

Living in the moment

by Barry Richardson

Life can be challenging and it can be hard and sometimes you just don’t know how you are going to through it. Having people tell you that you need to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘come on just get on with it’ really doesn’t help or needs a persistent approach.

These times don’t have to be life changing they can be small events things, the little everyday decisions we make, should I have that chocolate bar, I might miss the gym tonight because it’s cold outside (even though most gyms are inside!).

There’s a lot of help available to deal with such things. Excellent books about managing your inner chimp, meditating and being mindful, all of which there are some excellent books.

I would not even try to comment on such areas as I am not qualified to do so.

So what I will share with you is how I try to navigate my way through these tough times and tricky choices, whether it’s ‘do I have that bag of crisps’ or ‘how do I deal with the big hairy problem!

Past thinking: 

When faced with such challenges, I often find myself allowing what has happened before to influence what I do now.  Even when the result was not favourable, but at least I know what the result is.  The ‘known’ always feels more comfortable than the ‘unknown’ even when we aren’t getting the result we want!

Of course, there are times when past thinking allows me to influence a situation so that I get what I want (because it worked before) whilst not helping those people involved. Whilst not helping those people involved.

So is past thinking bad? 

The simple answer is no! It isn’t but it doesn’t give all the answers.  

It might stop you doing something, your previous experience teaches you never to do that again.  Unfortunately, we generalise, so something that has the merest look of a previous experience will be treated as if its the previous experience.  You may not recognise this in your behaviour but I am pretty sure you will have seen other react in a disproportionate way is similar to a previous experience.

How many times have you repeated a behaviour not because it’s the best thing to do but because it gives you a known result?

Think now and remember the times when you did something and on reflect you could have guessed the result you got.

Imagine sitting down with a full description of what you had done in the past 24 hours and analysing how much of your time was spent repeating behaviours from your past, replaying them again because they give you a known result.

Of course, the past provides us with benchmarks, with our comfort zone our knowns, but are they always helpful?

So is future thinking bad? 

Simple answer no it isn’t but it can reduce our enjoyment of the present and limit the choices we give ourselves. 

Mind reading and fortune telling are some of our most common thinking errors, there is no point in doing that because it won’t work, it won’t do any good or there is no point.

I am not saying you should run in before considering the all possible outcomes, but many people give up before they have even thought looked into how they might achieve their goal.

Is there a solution? 

The simple answer is no, we are built to think in the past and in the future, it is one of our great gifts.  

Unfortunately, the way in which we live means that we now spend most of our lives thinking about what we have done and what we are about to do, both of which are good but not is we aren’t thinking about where we are.

Living in the moment

What would happen in you only focused on where you were right now and what was happening at the precise moment?

Would you be able to focus or past and future thinking? Those dialogues running through your head?

The reality is all you could do id focus on what your senses were telling you right at that moment, without any explanation, because an explanation would mean you would have to go into the past or into the future. How would noticing what was happening right now help?

Would sometimes stepping out of the meeting that’s going on in your head almost constantly help you to gain perspective and help put things into context?

You can then use your past and future thinking to help inform your choices rather than drive them.

Future thinking: 

Thinking about what might happen or what you have to do next, how many of us are in the middle of one thing and thinking about the next thing or the next but three things we have to do?

So is future thinking bad? 

Simple answer no it isn’t but it can reduce our enjoyment of the present and limit the choices we give ourselves. 

Mind reading and fortune telling are some of our most common thinking errors, there is no point in doing that because it won’t work, it won’t do any good or there is no point.

I am not saying you should run in before considering the all possible outcomes, but many people give up before they have even thought looked into how they might achieve their goal.

Is there a solution? 

The simple answer is no, we are built to think in the past and in the future, it is one of our great gifts.  

Unfortunately, the way in which we live means that we now spend most of our lives thinking about what we have done and what we are about to do, both of which are good but not is we aren’t thinking about where we are.

Simple test – 30 secs

Set the timer on your phone to 30 secs and focus your attention on the tips of your middle fingers and only on the tips of your middle finger, see how long you can hold that attention for to the exclusion of all other thoughts.

How did you do?

It takes a lot of effort to do but even if you can do it for such a short amount of time it will change your perspective.

Spend some time putting yourself in the moment checking how you are feeling, what you are feeling and where you are feeling it, and do the same for all your senses sight, touch, taste and smell.

Finally, I am still exploring this whole area, and getting things wrong, but I would love to hear from people who are on a similar journey or who have insights they think will help me on mine.

Barry Richardson is an L&D Consultant who has worked in a wide variety of organisations and with a wide variety of people and who can still get it wrong!

Further Reading

Matrix Development

Difficult Situations and People

During my 30 years as a Learning & Development professional, one of the most common questions or requests I am asked is “how do I deal with difficult people?” It’s a really good question, wouldn’t it be great if there was a technique or a model that you could use that would mean that would mean you …

Matrix Development

The Mechanics of Persuasion in Life

Persuasiveness is one of the greatly prized skills in today’s world, whether in business or socially our ability to influence other around to our way of thinking often is the determining factor as to whether we are a success or not. However persuasion is seen as one of those natural gifts that …