Recently, someone asked me how I was doing, and I heard myself say, “I’m really busy, but once I get past the next couple of weeks…” I wish I had corrected myself right then, but it wasn’t until later that I realized the tragic mistake I was making. I was wasting my life by letting present moments go by unnoticed as I waited for the future to arrive.
The Japanese have a concept called ichigo ichie. It basically says that what is happening now will never happen again. So simple and yet so complex. We must value every moment as the unique and unprecedented miracle it is.
While you may not have heard of ichigo ichie, you probably have heard of the butterfly effect. As it is usually described, the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Hong Kong can result in a storm in New York. Simply put, any change, no matter how small, results in completely different future circumstances due to amplification. Although this is not the same as ichigo ichie, the two ideas are connected in a very important way.
While we cannot know the final results of our actions and decisions, it is true that every moment has essential value. What I do now will have a different impact than what I do later. My ability to be present and focused in each moment opens the door for my actions to be in harmony with others and with our best life.
Recovery teaches us that we must move through our lives one day, one hour, even one moment at a time. One of the most significant parts of this philosophy is the power that comes from knowing what we are in control of and what we are not. We are not in control of other people, most circumstances, and the future. We are in control of how we respond and relate to people, places, and things around us.
If we want to be more present in the moment, there are several things we can do:
- Be Zen. If we are constantly looking into the future, we miss what is right in front of us. Meditation is a great way to practice being present in and embracing the moment. When we are with other people, we can celebrate the gift of their presence.
- Be happy. None of us knows if we will see another day, yet we all live like we have an unlimited supply. Sometimes that leads to us choosing to spend a day being unhappy about things that don’t matter. True grief is one thing, but petty discontent is a complete waste of what could be your last day on earth.
- Travel light. Have you ever seen someone getting on a plane who had apparently packed everything they owned for a weeklong trip? So often, we overburden ourselves with unnecessary things, thoughts, concerns, possessions, desires. Life is an adventure, and you need to travel light. What can you let go of?
- Take aim. There is an old proverb that says the hunter who aims at two prey at once will kill none. Learning to do one thing at a time allows us to give each task, each moment, and each person the attention we would give if they were the most important thing in the world. If we did that, maybe they would be.
- Relax. Unreasonable expectations, predicting the future, and waiting for something to happen are all great ways to destroy the ability to be present in the moment. I am not suggesting living without plans or just dreaming away your life. I am suggesting that being preoccupied with the future destroys the beauty of today.
Leadership requires us to think about and plan for the future. If we fail to acknowledge the significance of the present moment, we lose our most effective tool to impact that future. More importantly, we miss the opportunity to be present in the lives of those we serve. This momentary lapse can be the difference between just making a living and making a difference, and that is The Kimray Way.