We all dream about being successful and finding our purpose "someday."
Regardless of what success looks like for each of us individually, it always entails a brighter future. We imagine a world where the people, places, and things around us are better than they are today, so that we can ultimately experience more joy and less pain.
But I'm here to offer an alternative perspective. One that I find more liberating.
A few years ago I heard a quote that stuck with me, but only now do I understand why it resonated:
"To be successful you don’t need to do extraordinary things, you just need to do ordinary things extraordinarily well." - Jim Rohn
At the time, I liked it because I felt a sense of relief. I understood I could be great just by putting more effort into the things I'm already doing throughout the day. In a way, that was liberating for me. I didn't have to wait for the future to be extraordinary.
If I translate the quote today, however, I understand it at an even deeper level:
Instead of making friends with the future that does not and will not ever exist, why not befriend the present so that no matter what happens, you can be joyful?
By definition, the future can never happen. The only thing that can happen is the eternal present moment. So what sense does it make to live outside of it?
At this point, if you're like most people, you might be saying, "Yea yea, live in the moment. Be present. I've tried it before. Didn't work for me. All this mindfulness talk is bullshit."
That's not true, and here's why.
We've all had glimpses of true presence, when we're so engaged in an activity that time temporarily ceases to exist. When something takes our breath away and literally blows our mind by quieting down the voice inside, albeit for a short burst of time.
Chances are, what you did was try to force presence with your mind, which only makes matters worse. Rather than quieting the mind, you've effectively added another voice which is telling the other voice to be present. Now you're witness to two voices!
Limiting our success and joy to a future state is problematic. It cuts off our ability to be happy now, and it's a never-ending quest. Even if we did achieve every outward goal we ever had, we would then wish for something else. That's the nature of the mind. It can never have enough, because when it thinks it has everything, it then looks for ways to not lose it all. Our entire lives are spent in service of this lower, personal self we call the ego.
My goal in this post isn't to tell you how to be present. I touch upon that in many other posts, and I am also still working on the practice myself. Instead, my only aim is to get you to ask the same question that I'm asking in my life:
Why not transcend this lower aspect of our beings?
Inevitably the day comes when we realize we haven't done anything meaningful in our lives. We think it's because we haven't outwardly achieved anything. But the truth is, it's because we haven't been present.
The only true freedom is right here, right now. If you're suffering because you're sad, depressed, anxious, or stressed - you're focusing on there and then. In most cases, whatever you're suffering about is not happening in reality. It's only happening in your mind.
I challenge you to rethink your quest for success. Do you really think that you'll be happier some day in the distance?
All my life, I've always observed how happier people tend to be more engaged in whatever they're doing. Now I know why. They don't aim to be the best in the future. Instead, they let their best shine through right here, right now, always.
Live with substance!