A guest post on what distracts us from living in the present. By: Greg Audino.
Don’t let anyone tell you that travel is too expensive. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t know where they’d go, and for the love of God don’t let anyone tell you they don’t have the time.
However, one thing I WILL allow them to tell you is that travel is, for the most part, pretty useless. I mean, we take vacations constantly and it’s still never enough.
Have I lost you? You look confused.
Oh, I see. There you go making assumptions again. No no, I’m not talking about going to Fiji, Italy, or even Delaware. I’m talking about the vacations we take in our minds. There are three of them, they’re as fantastical as you could possibly ask for and even though you probably visit each one countless times each day, they’re hardly serving you. If at all.
* Editor's Note: Listen to Justin addressing the topic of mindfulness in Episode 1227 of Optimal Living Daily. If you're a new listener, check out all the shows in the Optimal Living Daily podcast network!
Journey to the Rest of the World
The first vacation we like to take, the vacation which is the most distant and exotic of all, is to concerns of what the rest of the world is doing. This is an interesting spot because it doesn’t involve us in the slightest. Well, not to the naked eye.
At a glance, these are the thoughts about how happy or unhappy your ex is these days; what those politicians are doing behind closed doors; how your favorite team is approaching free agency this off season; what people are thinking of your Instagram post. These types of thoughts do interest and involve us in the sense that we like to assess the effects we have on them or they have on us, but in having these thoughts we ultimately plug into an ENTIRELY different universe: an alternate reality made up completely of thought and fantasy in which we do the thinking for other people.
It’s a movie you’ve made and you aren’t even in the scene. None of these assessments hold any weight, because they are so far from our being, so far from the moment we are experiencing right now, that in most cases it’s utterly senseless to be thinking them. In times of great strategy, it can be valuable to make educated guesses on things that may or may not happen, but 99% of these thoughts are instead devoted to what ultimately becomes anxiety: Am I worthy enough for that person to still think of me? If this happens instead of that, what will the world become? If they decide to go this route instead of that one, what does it mean for the rest of us? If it’s going to happen that way, what should I do in response?
The trick here is that no matter how valid our assumptions may seem, they can’t be counted on. There are simply too many curveballs that you can’t do anything about, so the danger once again lies in becoming attached to or convinced of these theories that you conjure up.
Journey to the Past
The next vacation, a more personal getaway way on the other side of the globe, is to the past. It’s only reasonable that we visit the past, because it makes us us.
Everything in the past, including everything I’ve said in the above video up to this point, has made you who you are. There have been countless influences, paths and decisions that have led you to this very point, so it’s quite easy to mistake the past for our identity because any time we question our identity, we first look to the past to see how we got here.
We try to learn from what we consider to be mistakes. We obsess about how things were better back then, how it was the good old days.
Did you know that our brains even go so far as to edit memories to make the past seem more pleasurable? It’s true. And even when our brains ARE being honest with us about bleak aspects of the past, we still vacation there and make up counter-factuals to consider how we could’ve done things differently and ended up in a different present. The only problem, however, is that every moment spent considering the past is a moment spent away from the present — the only part of your life you’re ever capable of truly knowing.
Journey to the Future
And the final vacation we love to take, especially the most noble of us, is to the future. Now, I know many of you probably want to interject here and punch me in the face before I try to sell you on why spending time thinking about the future is bad, but just hear me out.
Like reflecting on the past so as not to make the same mistakes, to set goals, to plan for something you want, and to visualize changes you’d like to make for yourself in the future is also very natural and logical. We want progress; we need progress. Hell that’s what I spend most of my time advocating, isn’t it?
So forward thinking can be a good thing, but like everything, it needs to have a lasso around it and many people fail to do that. Dreams are a dime a dozen. Anyone can have them and that’s why it’s easy to get caught up in them and it’s easy to spend too much time dreaming. The alternative to excessive dreaming, of course, is excessive doing. Putting your fears aside and turning ideas into action which not only speeds up the potential arrival of this dream, but pulls your dream increasingly into the present. And, hey, as long as we’re living in the future, it enables to you live a life of less regret and avoid the “what ifs” when it’s all coming to an end.
Where's YOUR Mind At?
Take a moment to consider how much time YOU spend in these places. The sad truth is that for most us, nearly all of our time is at least marginally spent in one of these places rather than completely in the present.
Why has social media taken off? Because it gives you the closest glimpse into what the rest of your peers are REALLY doing and thinking. Why is it that the highest grossing movies you’ve been flocking to these past few years are remakes such as Jurassic World, IT, Ninja Turtles, RoboCop, Poltergeist, Cinderella, Annie, Bladerunner? Because they use nostalgia to allow you to relive the past. Why are company slogans like Shell’s “Go Further With Shell” and Philips’ “Let’s Make Things Better” so effective? They plunge you into the future and into thinking about how much better things can be.
Don’t cringe, my liberal friends, but why do you think “Make America Great Again” got Donald Trump into office? Because in 4 short words, this line takes people back into what they consider was the good ole days and then immediately thrusts them forward into how that could be reborn in a better future. This and the other examples I cited are just a few of the ways in which marketing experts have capitalized on where our minds are at.
The Present Moment… Is Enough
To wrap things up guys, for as different an experience as each of these three destinations offers, they all have one thing in common — the very issue at the core of all discomfort — and that is that the present moment is not enough. It’s easy to want the most out of life; whatever, whenever and where ever that means to you, but the truth is that none of it even exists. All your brain is possibly able to capture in full is the exact moment that you are in right now. The rest are merely images disguised as real life. The future, the past, and the thoughts of others are, in a very real way, completely nonexistent.
So how much time are you devoting to that which is out of your hands?
GUEST BLOGGER: Greg Audino is an actor and certified life coach. He creates self-development videos to shine new a new light on many tough subjects we tend to have our minds made up about.