Living in the Moment (But Not Getting Stuck There)

You’ll hear you should live in the moment. It’s good advice, to a point. Taken to the extreme, it’s very bad advice.

I’ve seen it play out horribly for quite a few people over the course of my lifetime. Mainly, it’s the people (all of us, to some extent!) who didn’t see change coming. People who were stuck in the moment.

We thought the world was sitting still, failing to see that change is constant. During periods of major technological and political upheaval as we’ve been experiencing the past 30 years, change is particularly rapid.

Most of it was in plain sight. Yet it was hard to see for many.

So we invested in dying industries. We stayed with dying employers or dead-end jobs too long. We bought real estate when it was in a bubble. We bought Cisco stock in 1999. We majored in disciplines in college that were tailored to a world that no longer existed. We thought that getting a B.A. or B.S. was the ticket to a good life, failing to see that today’s bachelor’s degree (in many fields) is yesterday’s high school diploma.

When we survey the economic and social landscape during my lifetime, the transformation has been stunning. Will it be any less so in 30 years when people look back to 2017? I doubt it.

Yet it can be tempting for some of us to live our lives as if the world is sitting still. Perhaps it’s because we desperately want it to sit still. Change can be unsettling. Scary.

It also can be exhilarating. And invigorating. Exciting. Purposeful. Meaningful. Gratifying.

Hockey fans will tell you that Wayne Gretsky was great because he skated to where the puck was going to be, not where it had been. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t living in the moment. Rather, it means living involves reaching out, not holding on. Thinking. Anticipating. Always building. The foundation.

But, still, living in the moment. And not allowing the future to dominate our minds. Not clinging to false hope or empty myths while failing to embrace the present reality.

Living in the moment with your eyes open is a good thing. Doing so with your eyes closed is not.