NOW. Is that what I call music or is it the word my parents would use emphatically so I would get off my ass and do something? Now is both and it’s so much more. Now is so much more than three letters or the title of a never-ending music compilation that started in the 90s. Now is like pi: infinite and ever changing. Now is everything. Now is all we have. If you want to make a change, the best time to do it is always now. Life is just an infinite series of nows. Now was yesterday’s tomorrow. Now is tomorrow’s yesterday. Now is when I am writing this blog. Now is when you’ll be reading it. My initial subconscious response to, “I need to write a new blog post,” was, “Just do it tomorrow!” which is silly considering it will never be tomorrow, but it will always be now. If I had a dollar for every time I put something off until tomorrow and didn’t end up doing it at all, I’d be wearing a smoking jacket in an expensive, wood-paneled study, swirling a 21-year old single malt around a snifter, and dictating every word of this blog to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, which means there’s no reward for putting off taking action. Other than our thoughts, the most powerful tool we have is right now. This very moment, you, me, the lady next to me drinking a peppermint hot chocolate, the president of the United States, the homeless guy begging for change next to the 50th Street 1 Train station, Elon Musk, and the inmate on death row have the same opportunity: to make the most of now. The biggest obstacles to making the most of now are yesterday and tomorrow; past and future; what happened and what could happen.
Out of the Now and Into the Past and Future
Time is such an abstract concept that don’t even try to wrap my head around it. What I know about for sure is the power of right here, right now. To dwell on past or future is to cost ourselves the opportunity of the present. When I was in Tennessee last week, I met a very pretty girl at a restaurant. We had a fun, lengthy conversation about food and bourbon (two of my favorite things), said our goodbyes, and parted ways. The entire time, a little voice in the back of my head was whispering, “Ask her for her number,” but every time, I responded, “There’s no way she’s going to give it to you – you’re only here for two days.” The next night, fate decided I should have a second chance, so she came running across the room at a random bar, hugged me, and struck up a conversation. Here was my train of thought:
“Dude, get her number!”
“What if she says no? Besides, you’re leaving after your presentation tomorrow anyway. There won’t be an opportunity to hang out.”
She went back to her friends and we continued on with our nights, but as I put on my jacket to leave, she came back and asked what I was doing the next day. She was giving me every opportunity to get her number, but my head was too in the future to notice:
“It’s getting late and I’ll be so tired tomorrow morning if I stick around. Plus, she probably doesn’t even like you.”
I explained to her that I had to drive an hour for my presentation the next morning, but she gave me another opportunity: “I’m off work tomorrow, maybe I’ll come watch you perform.”
In case you lost track, she had given me at least four opportunities to get her phone number, including the previous night. At this point, I had to ask her, right?
“That’s a long drive just to see me present. Plus, it’s early in the morning and I’m leaving right from there to go back to Ohio.”
If I had a dollar for every time I have facepalmed myself while thinking about this exchange, I’d be wearing an invisibility cloak and hunting endangered lions on the plains of Africa while dictating every word of this blog via cranial implant to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, so it’s obvious that kicking myself over past events isn’t exactly moving me toward lavish, morally questionable safaris. In that moment, I was subconsciously basing my decision not to get her number on past situations where I had failed to get phone numbers and had my ego bruised, and also on a potential future situation that wasn’t guaranteed to happen. How could I know whether or not she’d give me her number? Instead of being in the now and listening to what my subconscious was telling me to do, I was stuck thinking about what could happen instead of what was actually happening. We became Facebook friends (a consolation prize), hugged, and parted ways. Instead of taking control, I shifted my consciousness out of the moment and put control over the situation into her hands. As I left, I remember thinking to myself, “I hope she comes tomorrow.” She didn’t, and it was because I chose to live in the past and future instead of living in the moment. Was she really trying to give me a cue to get her number? I can never know for sure, but I do know I can learn from this and stop facepalming myself when I think about it.
Stop Facepalming Yourself
Fun fact about facepalms: if done properly, they hurt. Facepalming is painfully metaphorical for what happens when we live in the “what-ifs” of the past and future. When I think “What if?” in regards to this phone number situation, I imagine all the fun I could’ve had with a pretty cool girl, thus leading me to another mental facepalm:
“David, you’re so stupid. You should’ve asked for her number and invited her to your presentation. It could’ve been so fun! Instead you had to be a big IDIOT and leave!”
When I talk to myself using this tone, it doesn’t exactly generate any warm, fuzzy feelings. What this self-talk is actually doing is taking me out of the moment – the same thing that happened at the bar. When we spend now dwelling on past what-ifs, shouldas, and could’ve-beens, and future what-ifs, that-won’t-works, and I-can’ts, we take our attention away from the what-can-I-do-nows. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the past or future as long as it’s working in your favor now. Past events are opportunities to learn from and positive possible future events act as goals. Right now is an opportunity, but so are past events and future goals.
The past is just a series of former nows that we can use to learn from in
The present. Because decisions we made in past nows have led to now, that can only mean what we do now creates
The future. Just like now was yesterday’s future, tomorrow’s future is also going to be now. Yet another opportunity.
Take what you learned from past nows, do something now, and in future nows, learn from what you do with your current now and keep taking action. The next time I’m faced with a situation like I was in Knoxville, I’m going to re-direct my thoughts to the opportunity of now and do something about it. No more facepalms. Just NOWs.
What About Now?
The next time you feel angry, sad, stressed, tired, self-conscious, nervous, etc., check your thoughts. Chances are they’re focused on the past or future and not the opportunity you have available to you now. Try it the next time you’re stuck in traffic and thinking about your boss yelling at you for being late or all of the things you could be doing, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you’re about to give a big presentation and thinking about forgetting parts, getting laughed at, or failing to make the impact you want on your audience, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you have an opportunity to ask someone out on a date, but you’re thinking about how they might say no and looking foolish, realize you’re missing out on now. Catch these thoughts and say, “Yeah, but what can I do now? How can I make now the best now until the next now?” Isn’t it silly to think, “I can’t wait until the next time I’m bored, pissed off, or way too nervous to do something,”? By leaving the now we make these outcomes inevitable. What do you have? All that exists in your life right now. Now ask, “How can I transform now into what I want?”
If I had a dollar for every time a past now led up to my present now, I would have the exact dollar amount I do right now, sitting in a Starbucks typing on my Macbook about my hypothetical manservant Javier while the song “This Moment” by Janine and the Mixtape coincidentally plays over the speakers (Seriously. You can’t write this stuff. Okay universe, I’m listening). This is my now. How can I make it the best now until the next now?