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138 – The Greatest Obstacle to Living

The Greatest Obstacle to Living


“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

– Seneca

Show Notes:

– Do you think too much about the future that you are not living in today?
– This quote from Seneca hits two really great points of the Stoics.
– Momento Mori, remember you will die, and because we could die at any moment, there really is no other time than now. There is now and not now.
– Amor Fati, love your fate. Because we have so little control over what happens to us in life, worrying about the future is worrying about something that may never happen.
– So when you think about it, the only thing you have control over is your choices at this moment.
– Many of the great philosophies and religions focus on mindfulness, of being in the present moment.
– What does mindfulness mean exactly? What does it mean to live in the now?
– To me it mean bringing my focus, my attention, my awareness to the present moment. To be fully engaged in my life, and not stuck thinking about how great things are going to be in the future, but to be present and involved with what’s going on around me and the work that I am engaged in.
– To be honest, I do get very stuck in the future. I think about all these great things that I want to do and create, or how much better it’s going to be….tomorrow or the next day or next week, and pretty soon, it’s next week and I didn’t get done what I wanted and I didn’t enjoy the things that happened.
– It takes effort to keep myself in the present and not get stuck thinking about the future. It’s a lifelong habit that I’ve built up and it’s not easy to break. But I have found that being more present and more focused on the moment, things seem more vivid and intense, it a good way. It’s like I’m more awake to the world. For example when I go on a walk in the wood near my house, if I’m making an effort to notice more of the world around me, the woods seem more colorful and the smells more sharp. It’s the difference between being half asleep and fully awake.
– Growing up, we’re often too focused on what life will be like in the future. When we’re in grade school we want to be in middle school. Middle school we want high school. Then off to college, career, family.
– And the thing is, whatever our future holds, it’s all going to happen anyway, so why not focus on enjoying today?
– Have you ever seen the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat? For those of your who’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s the painting that they stare at in the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s an amazing work of art that is made up of tiny points of unmixed paint. By doing so, your eye fuses the colors together to create the end color. So to create purple, Seurat would paint red dots next to blue dots until the eye saw purple. Seurat focused daily, deliberately putting each individual brushstroke to canvas, focusing on each small section to bring out the colors he wanted, until 2 years later the 10 foot painting was complete.
– Creating a life is the same way. If we take the time to lovingly and deliberately focus on and live in each day, in this present moment, then we have a great life each and every day. We never have a bad day.
– There’s a great quote by Steven Chandler in his book The Time Warrior. “Don’t create your year, create your day. Figure out the perfect day and then live it. The year will take care of itself. So will your life.”
– What can you do to create your perfect day?
– I think choosing what are the most important things for today, and then doing them with care, and focus. Let go of what you’ll do tomorrow. Tomorrow doesn’t yet exist, so is not real. Now is real, and now is the only time that you can do anything with.
– Don’t be busy, be effective. Are you doing something that matters or are you wasting time?
– Do it well. Don’t half-ass your way through something. Do it with care and focus and in a way that makes you proud.
– What can you do to keep yourself in the present moment?
– Slow down. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. But it takes time to live deliberately. We get too caught up in finishing, that we forget to enjoy the creating or the doing.
– Stop. Sometimes just stop and breath from time to time and look around and see the world, to be thankful. I know some people set reminders so they take time to re-center themselves.
– Write it down. For me, one of the most effective things I do is to get all the things in the future out of my head. I write them down so they don’t spin around in my head. I take care of it now, or I choose a time in the future to take care of it. When I do that, when I get it off my mind, it frees up brain cycles for more important things. When I don’t do that simple exercise, I spend time trying to hold onto all these ideas, and appointments and such, and half the time I forget them anyway.
– Living immediately helps you to worry less about the future, because your focus, your attention is on the present. This also helps you not feel overwhelmed because the future is not your focus. Now is the focus, so you only deal with the now, and ignore everything that is not now.
– Like Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash


One reply on “138 – The Greatest Obstacle to Living”

Thank you so much for today’s reading! What a fabulous way to start my day. Drinking my coffee as I listen. Very insightful and solid reminders.

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