How would you like a free gift that would help you enjoy your work and life, right now? That’s the premise of The Present by Spencer Johnson. Interestingly enough, it’s a story within another story and as always with Spencer Johnson books, it’s a short read that won’t take a long time to read, but can give you enormous benefits and lots of things to think about.
I’ll keep things simple: three related takeaways from the book that I enjoyed:
The Present means focusing on what is happening right now
In the story, there’s a young man who starts things off on the right foot. As a kid, the only thing he knows is being in the moment. When he grows older (and like a lot of us), more worries come to mind. Things that happened in the past hold us back from moving towards new beliefs or activities (for example, a bad experience of almost drowning when you were young may turn you off from swimming as an adult). Or more likely, you are anxious about the future. How will I make my mortgage payments? Will I find someone that I will love and will love me back?
With these worries or anxieties clogging your mind, you don’t focus on the present. It happens to me at the dinner table when I drift off to check my phone. Or as I’m driving, I get pre-occupied with the driver that cut me off several minutes ago.
By bringing your whole self to the present moment, you will unlock your full potential into whatever it is you are doing. Have you tried to multi-task and in the end, did not do any of the tasks well? Being present is bringing 100% of you to one single task.
Examine the past when your present is not great
When something is not going well right now, it’s because of what you did in the past. In that sense, it is great to focus on the past (when you’re not focusing on the present moment) so that you can understand what you did to get to this point. Did your partner break up with you? You realize that there were times where you were inattentive or did not prioritize your partner. Was there a leak in the roof? You see that when you bought the house, your inspector told you to get the roof inspected, but you never followed up.
What specific actions did you do to get to this point? What would you do differently knowing what you know now?
The best way to predict the future? Create it
The reason why you should focus on the present is because by focusing on the present moment, you create your future. Don’t believe me?
- Exercising and eating healthy today means you are a bit healthier tomorrow
- Saving and investing money today means you will be a bit richer tomorrow
- Spending time with your loved ones and family today means you will have better relationships tomorrow
- Cleaning and organizing your home today means you will have a tidier and less cluttered home tomorrow
This is why it is so important to develop good habits you do every day. Identify good habits to do and your future will be better.
Some strategies for staying present
Although not part of the book, I’d like to also share some of the different things I do to stay present wherever I am:
- Eliminate distractions by putting away my smartphone.
- On my computer, closing everything except the task I’m working on, and any information related to that task I need.
- Listen closely and imagine that there will be a pop quiz after where I will be tested on what was said.
- Don’t always think of what to say next while someone else is talking. Listen first, take a moment, and then respond.
- Meditate and practice being in the moment. When I find my thoughts wander, bring myself back to the moment by taking a breath.
- Journal so I can get my worries and anxieties out of my head and onto paper.