Living in the Present and How It Affects Success

The power of the ‘now’ – the present moment in which we exist – is a cornerstone belief of many religious and spiritual groups. But it’s commonly looked over; indeed, to many of us the notion of being ‘present’ seems too abstract and fuzzy to be relevant.

The ability to exist in the present, independent from the shadow of the past or imaginations of the future, isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult. From childhood, we contemplate and plan for an unknown future – joy is eventually laboured by the fatigue of the unknown. What job will we have? How successful will we be? The past, meanwhile, drags out behind us as a colourful tapestry of better times, in which the stresses weren’t so real and the pressures so acute.

But nothing so valuable is ever easy. The ability to reside predominately in the present is a key enabler for success. This, we know, is contrary to popular believe. Too often we’re taught to dream of our futures, to focus on the realisation of our goals and use the taste of euphoria to incentivise our day-to-day strife.

Motivation is an invaluable tool, fuelled by an awareness of our desires and dreams. Yet to obsessively dwell on what we want over where we’re at is, at best, a constant distraction and, at worst, a perilous weight tied securely to our heels.

Ram Das, an American spiritual teacher, said: “The next message you need is always right where you are.”

Our obsession on future success forces us to wait for the next moment. It’s true even of buying a new car or a new house. We trick ourselves into believing our problems will be remedied in the next moment, with the next purchase, or through the next career move we make. This is counter-productive not just because it removes us from reality – the present moment – but teaches us to look elsewhere for satisfaction and validation. The present moment is where the self exists, rather than the fabrications of the past or abstractions of the future.

We want to be successful, but we don’t need it to be complete – or we shouldn’t. And if we do, there’s a treacherous irony that such an obsession will prohibit us from reaching the heights we desire. Nobody teleports to the top, unless nepotism is afoot. The journey to our dreams is a veritable slog comprised of innumerable moments that require our presence. Unfortunately, movies and TV shows are brilliant at whitewashing the journey in favour of the fireworks.

The future fuels anxiety. We try to understand it, to unravel it, to peak behind the veil and see what might be hoped for. It requires us to flirt with outcomes that are, for the most part, beyond our immediate control. We can know our outline and basic itinerary, but all else is susceptible to innumerable factors. To put it another way, we can create a mould, but we’re not able to fill in the detail.

No person lost in the future nor drowning in the past is likely to fulfil their goals. It’s essential both for business success and personal success, which are almost always intertwined. The act of living occurs in the present – it’s the only place we have true control – as otherwise, our minds control us. Or in Buddha’s words: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the presence moment wisely and earnestly.”