How to Avoid Fast-Forwarding Through Your Life
This week, my son reflected to me, “In kindergarten, we had to take naps and couldn’t wait for them to be done. Now in fourth grade I look back and think it would be awesome to take naps.”
I knew just what he meant. “Yes,” I responded, “we often resist what we wish later we had.”
Someone close to me entered hospice this week. In my last visit to the hospital, he lay there unable to speak or move more than a hand. I held his hand and cried. I cried for him and the loss of time.
That night his wife sat beside his bed in silence as she talked through photo memories on her laptop. His eyes were fixed on the screen, watching images of his life.
One day I will watch images of my life flash before me. I wonder, will I have appreciated them enough? Or will I remember continuously wishing that I could get from kindergarten to fourth grade—that I could fast-forward from here to there?
What Do You Resist?
My job regularly presents me with things I’m anxious to move past. For example, I’m ready to grow revenue to the next level. I want new colleagues to already be up to speed. And we have debt that I’m just ready to be done with. In all these situations, I resist the discomfort of not being there yet. Meanwhile, the future calls to me, saying, “When you arrive, things will be so much better.”
Can you relate?
Perhaps we need to get back in touch with the practice of contentment. It requires being here, now, in this moment, even with all its discomfort, and appreciating what we want to resist. Otherwise, before we know it, we’ll be in the fourth grade, wondering why we wished the time away.
Here are some good reminders to help you value the moment and find contentment, even when the moment itself isn’t so comfortable:
- Whatever you’re doing is (or will become) frustrating. With any job, relationship, project, or initiative, frustration will set in within four to six weeks. Been promoted recently? Starting a new job? Joined a new group? Got married? Don’t be surprised or let down by the frustration of things not living up to the anticipation of them. Expect it. And when it comes, welcome it as part of being human.
- You can’t re-live yesterday or pre-live tomorrow. In his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie famously said that we should live in “day-tight compartments.” The only life is now, with all its not-yets, not-theres, and let-downs. This is what it means to be human. Avoiding, deferring, numbing, pretending, defending, and resisting will rob you of the only life you have.
- You can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time. Dale Carnegie also said, “About ninety percent of the things in our lives are right and about ten percent are wrong. If we want to be happy, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ninety percent that are right and ignore the ten percent that are wrong.” In other words, count your blessings, not your troubles. Try being thankful for what’s good, and see what happens to your impatience about the present circumstances.
- This, too, will pass. An ancient fable tells of an Eastern monarch who asks his wise sages to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad. After deliberation, they etch on a ring, “This too will pass.” While it can also be a melancholic reminder that good things don’t last forever, it tells us to stay in it, to persevere, and to endure. As I’ve written before, suffering will pass. And it will make us grow. What we resist, we often later appreciate.
- You can be content and an agent of change. Dale Carnegie said, “Cooperate with the inevitable.” He didn’t say, “Cooperate with what you can change.” Being content doesn’t mean you have to passively let everything happen to you. Start with the thing you have the most control over: your own attitude and actions. Practice contentment, while remaining responsible for your circumstances.
What do you have to do right now that you don’t like? What circumstances frustrate you? Perhaps your best move is to stay committed and appreciated the moments, no matter how hard they might be.