Life is an ongoing array of experiences to be enjoyed. The moment the sun breaches the horizon and silently sprays brilliant streaks of orange and yellow glow into the morning sky. The wonder in the eyes of a child taking a first step, realizing his/her first instance of independence. The sound of the ocean waves crashing upon the shore, with the spray of saltwater in your nose … or the sound of a distant train in the still of a hot summer night.
I can go on sharing special moments but instead I have a confession to make. As a younger man, my ambition blocked me from enjoying many of the momentary experiences that sadly can never be retrieved. I was so focused on building a business, creating a program or developing a sales team that I missed the simple pleasures occurring all around me. My obsession with future success stripped me of the joy of the present and I wasn’t aware it was happening.
Being physically present but mentally elsewhere
There is a moment that has haunted me for more than 30 years. I was in my mid-20s, married and a first-time father. I was an aggressive entrepreneur. Building a prosperous future for my growing family was in my crosshairs. I made myself believe all the traveling and late nights away from home was for them. I now realize it was a lie I told myself to justify the time and effort I transferred from home into my business. In truth, it was about my ego and the power and talent I believed I possessed to build a business monument … to me.
One evening, I arrived home late, missing dinner and full of my accomplishments for the day. I entered my front door speaking faster than could be received, spitting words like bullets. After a minute of nonstop talk, I noticed Arlene, arms folded and looking down at my feet. There, my 3-year-old son Toby, was holding my leg, crying, saying his name over and over … “Bopy! Bopy! Bopy!” The two most important people in my life were present, one grasping my leg, crying, screaming his name, trying to get my attention … and the other disappointed at my lack of awareness. Up to that point, all I could think about was bragging about my day. I look back at that incident with great sadness.
Our careers are often hectic, demanding and if we are not careful, all consuming.
One day it all changed. I made the decision I never wanted to wear a suit and tie again. I had lost the passion and had no interest in building or leading a business. I determined I would write, even though I had no previous training as a writer. My education was in music and my experience was as a business leader and entrepreneur, but there were stories I wanted to tell and things I wanted to say.
It’s been more than 10 years since I sat at a big desk and had the responsibility of a CEO. Three books, two screenplays, almost 50 newspaper columns and a new YouTube channel later, time has allowed me to reflect on the fact that I wish I would have lived my earlier life in the present. I can’t change the past, but my focus today is living in the moment and enjoying the simple gifts of life. I want to encourage you to do the same.
This isn’t exactly the column I planned to write, but I think encouraging us all to live in the present is a good use of this space. I’m still learning but I now realize that I can’t wish away today while thinking and planning for a better day ahead. For those listed in today’s obituary, that day will never come. So, I choose not to dwell in the past or spend too much time dreaming of the future.
When I’m fully in the present, I feel alive. My senses are heightened, and I see, feel, hear, taste and smell the experience in real time. When I’m living in the future, it’s like watching coming attractions of a movie I may or may not see, while living in the past is only watching reruns. Instead, I strive to embrace the moment. I concentrate on the joys at hand. I walk, take in the surroundings and notice the little things. I sample the aroma’s in the air, feel the sunlight on my face and listen to the sounds. Life is ever-changing, and we only have a finite existence on this earth.
I am striving to enjoy today as if it were my only day. I want the same for you.
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Lao Tzu
My challenge to you
This week … Listen more than you talk. Experience your surroundings with all your senses. Embrace the opportunity to live in the moment.
I am imperfect but up to the challenge.
Will you join me?
- GARY W. MOORE is a syndicated columnist, speaker and critically-acclaimed, award-winning author of three books including the bestseller, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and garywmoore.com.