From the time we wake up in the morning to when we go to bed at night, we are doing, being and thinking all the stuff to make us feel like a whole and successful human. We spend our lives trying to fine-tune our skills in all areas of our lives, with the goal of some level of mastery within the various roles we find ourselves in. Be it career, family and relationships we are frequently unsatisfied with the status quo and in constant search for something bigger and better.
For me, a recovering striver driver, type A personality, this default dissatisfaction was a welcoming feeling. It was the fuel I used daily to push harder. If I am feeling this way (and I don’t like it) I need to do something about it. The tricky part about pursuing the removal of this negative feeling is that it NEVER goes away. The best you can do is just dim it temporarily. Trying to remove that “feeling less than” is a never ending and unsustainable strategy for living a full and balanced life.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
I recently took some time to sit and chat with a gentleman that was “asked to retire” from an industry I am involved in. Part of me felt that this could be me in 20 years, past my expiry date and everyone knowing but me. I wanted to give him some human-to-human consideration and play some part of a graceful exit by telling him of all the well wishes for his retirement from his past clients.
What I thought would be a light chat very quickly became an airing of grievances and hard feelings, as he was clearly upset with the exit. He also spoke about past success stores in his over 50 years in business. Telling me about the days when all the things were all running right to help soften the blow to the ego of his feeling of failure in the moment. He saw his story as going from the hero to useless. From “go have steak and lobster on us” to “your services are no longer required”.
His stories sound hauntingly familiar as many of them mirror my own life, having taken a similar entrepreneurial journey. This path by its nature has more built in risk and at the same time the hopeful potential for more reward. His story can very easily be my story and for that matter your story as well.
How do we turn a rich and interesting life story into a tale of grievances and hard feelings? How do we ignore ten thousand successes and focus on one hundred failures? How can we not remember just how many times we turned potential disasters into amazing opportunities? We so often tune out the good stuff and focus (to the point of fixate) on the bad stuff. In the roles we play in life, we are in an almost constant comparing place. Comparing the often-unconscious optimal outcome to reality and feeling like we missed the mark, sending us into an almost constant search for more.
“Life is available only in the present moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
To get to a place of “I am enough” is a journey back to self. When we started this adventure called life, we had an open book with blank pages. Our job was to build the story of our life by our design. Unfortunately, that is never the case, parents, teachers, bosses, society, friends and family (to name a few) take turns building our story and because of this we give them the power to measure the perceived success or failure of our own journey.
By discovering the power of presence we get to step out of this constant and unhealthy comparing place. When we are present, listening to our inner wisdom, we can disconnect (even for a short moment) from all the outside noise created by all the roles we play in life. During this window of calm and clarity, we can hear our inner voice and reconnect into what we value as a fully lived life. The idea of success and failure fall quickly away, because both are built in traps of external identities.
When I am in a moment of presence my troubles fade and I am overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude for what my life has to offer. Very often cool new ideas and life solutions appear as I tap into my inner wisdom and what is truly important at my core. I get a glimpse of my own life’s design as I shed the attachment to the roles others have determined I play. These powerful moments of presence allow me to be the energetic leader of my own life.
Our minds are tricky; we spend much of our time dwelling in the past or projecting into the future, measuring and comparing crappy stories and optimal outcomes. But as our minds wander, practicing presence can bring us back to the only place we are truly living life…right here right now. Being present in this moment we get to shed all the roles and from a place of gratitude and appreciation we finally get to be the builder of our own life stories and live a life of no regrets.