One of the toughest ideas to process mentally when you get introduced to the concept of “living in the moment” is how to accept the present condition and also seek to build a better future.
The two ideas seem to be mutually exclusive–seek future goals and you accept that the present doesn’t live up to your ideal expectations. Come into full acceptance of the present moment and the idea of seeking something better doesn’t compute.
This is how things seem, but I’ve come to realize that living fully in the present moment, unconditional acceptance of our circumstances, and a desire for change are not mutually exclusive.
Trying to Lose Weight
For the last 6 years, I have struggled with a desire to lose 20-30 pounds and return to a weight I haven’t seen since my senior year of high school. I’ve tried everything–visualization, counting calories, various motivational methods, etc. with similar indifferent results.
A few months ago, I began to fully embrace the idea of present-moment living. Until this moment, I always saw myself in a negative light–either as someone with excess weight, or as my new, lighter self. The idea was always that there was something wrong with the way I was today, in the present.
This was extremely counterproductive. Inevitably, I would become frustrated either with the present condition, my progress, or both. No matter how well I was doing with my habits and my results, I would never achieve the perfection I was seeking.
Fast-forward to today. I have fully accepted who I am right now, every pound of the body in which I sit and write this post. It is a result of my past decisions, none of which I can change today. It will also not magically change, whether I imagine myself 5 pounds or 50 pounds lighter.
No, the only thing I have absolute control over are my feelings and actions in the present moment. There are only two options–take actions that increase weight or those that decrease weight. Results will flow accordingly from the sum of my moment-to-moment decisions.
And there you have it:
- I have accepted my present situation and past decisions without guilt.
- I have internalized the desire to lose weight, but have avoided setting an artificial goal, instead using that desire to guide my daily decisions.
Taking steps to improve your finances can follow a similar path. We carry around so much guilt about our past money decisions that clouds our thinking:
- Debt accumulated as a result of poor judgement.
- Income lost because of lousy negotiations or misplaced sacrifices.
- Business deals that went bad.
- Too much X and not enough X (fill in your own blanks).
It’s understandable to draw on past experience to make decisions and guide our way forward, but the only thing guilt does is perpetuate a downward spiral. Instead, try cultivating a complete acceptance of where you are today, complete with a non-judgmental understanding of every decision that led here.
Then, and only then, cultivate the idea that financial success is not a result of fancy plans and lofty goals. Success happens in the most minute decisions we make in our daily lives–the cup of coffee, the stock trade, the cigarette break at work, how we decide to spend our afternoons. Every decision aggregates to a complete picture of where we are headed.
It’s good to have goals, and to periodically ensure that where we think we need to be is still where we are headed. But the work of getting there, the real meat and potatoes, will never happen unless we choose to live consciously in the present.
Don’t you think? I’m curious to hear your input.