How do you plan for the future if you are supposed to be “living in the moment”? Does living in the moment mean you have to give up stability? How about success?
The last two questions I feel comfortable saying no to up front. But how about the first? Everyone needs something to capture their passion and push their dreams forward. Peaceful walks through the forest all day, every day will not do that. So where is the balance?
Since I was in a Buddhist monastery, the easy first choice was to look into Buddhist teachings. I don’t want to get in to a religious debate… So I will say, it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t get a clear enough answer. But I was getting closer. It’s not that the Buddhist teachings were wrong; I think I just needed them explained a little differently. The answer became more clear when I stumbled back West, 2,000 years in the past. Many of the ancient Greeks and Romans adhered to what as known as, Stoic Philosophy. A key idea in Stoicism is that we cannot control external events, only our responses to those events. As Marcus Aurelius said,
“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.”
Being in the present doesn’t mean we need to completely separate ourselves from our past and future. It means we need to accept our past, focus our effort on the present, and detach from the future, whatever that may be.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ― Lao Tzu
So do you need to make plans to live a full life? Regardless of how you define success, I see the answer as yes. When you are goal-setting, focus on goal-setting. Don’t be distracted or overwhelmed with how you will meet those goals. And if your plans start to unravel? Be mindful of the fact, and push forward even harder. If it helps: meditate, pray, workout, or do whatever else calms your mind. Don’t blame your surroundings. There is no winning from depression, anxiety, or anger. A calm mind is the only way to win.
Control yourself, control your reactions.
What do you think? Do you agree? Think I’m crazy? Tell me in the comments below!