by Mark Susnow
Many people have been saying that this era is different, there’s more stress and more to worry about. We all have concerns we’re dealing with but so did past generations. No matter what our challenges are, the decisions and choices we make on a day to day basis will determine our ability to enjoy ourselves.
I recently wrote, in Embrace Change that my son, Josh, graduated from high school and was off to college. I was reminded of how anxious I was to get out of high school, get away from home and begin college even though it was just across the bay in Berkeley. I believed college would be the answer to my problems. It was for a brief period of time but soon I started to experience the same disenchantment and longing that I had experienced in high school. My focus shifted again to the future which was getting into law school. And of course once in law school my new focus was graduating and passing the bar so “real life” would start. And what I called “real life” began… I was out of school, making my own money and involved in an intense love affair.
There’s no question I was excited when I began my career as an attorney. I was on a mission to change the world through the legal system. After a while financial realities set in and I began to struggle in business and in love. My mindset was that when business picked up and when I met “the one” I could start to enjoy life again. My concerns about the future clouded my ability to enjoy the present. I was repeating the familiar pattern of making an unknown future better than the present. For many of us this is a never ending pattern.
I’ve always been a firm believer in synchronicity…those chance encounters that change your life…those remarkable meetings. A friend told me of a magical swimming hole along a river in Humboldt County and my intuition told me to go find it. Off I went with my guitar, my dog and sleeping bag and drove North arriving at the river just as the sun was setting. In the morning I awoke at the crack of dawn in search of the swimming hole. I wasn’t making much progress as there was no real trail and you had to hike in the river. As I continued on the way to my destination I barely noticed a few campsites until a camper offered me some food and coffee. Although I found myself getting hungry and a little bit tired I said no thanks to the kind invitation—I felt like I just had to get to that swimming hole. After another twenty yards I turned around and said “that coffee sounds good.” It was what the camper said in the next few moments that has perhaps made the greatest impact in my life.
Say man, the journey you take is probably more important than your destination. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy the journey. From that moment on I did. I enjoyed my breakfast, enjoyed the rest of the hike and of course the swimming hole was fabulous.
I can honestly say it was that experience which transformed my ability to enjoy the present moment.
At a recent retreat I heard this same message in a different way. “The past is history, the future a mystery and the present a gift.”
Imagine your life in a new context and shift your paradigm about how you relate to the future. Imagine the following. Instead of waiting to arrive at your destination before you begin enjoying your vacation, you actually enjoy packing and the trip to the airport. Instead of waiting for that big opportunity or break to occur you are enjoying exactly what you’re doing. Instead of feeling despair about finding meaning and purpose in your life you’re enjoying the inquiry. Instead of waiting for something to change you are enjoying what is. Instead of waiting for that ideal relationship to happen you enjoy life exactly as it is.
Here’s a suggestion. For the next month or so experiment with completing the phrase “Life is….” in the following way. Try ending it by saying Life is… an adventure or Life is…. exciting. If you look at life as adventure rather than struggle, you will begin to live an inspired life.