The Present-Moment Paradox: In Praise of Preparation
Live in the Moment
The present moment is where we experience life. It’s a blessing and a joy to be mindful and take it in. We often hear that this is the only time there is, and we miss it if our attention is on the past or the future. I want to add nuance to that understanding, an appreciation of what it took to prepare for this present moment.
Many present moments are made better by what we have thought about ahead of time, in an earlier present moment, when we put attention on the future.
Prepare the Way
Ordinary examples of preparation are keeping the keys in the same place each time you come in, or bringing home fresh food to make for dinner. If we’re lucky, we learned the habits of making our beds when we get up, and washing the dishes before leaving the kitchen. We’ve prepared the way for ourselves to move forward with grace and ease.
Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People guy, talked about the need for what he called P, or “production,” and for PC, or “production capacity,” activities which are done to support the more productive times. If we don’t do it, i.e. get the teeth checked, or the oil changed, things fall apart. So we have to invest in PC to be able to show up and produce our best.
Say Thank You
Often, we don’t appreciate what it takes to prepare. Life experience teaches us how much better things go (like public talks, for instance) with the extra hour of preparation. Preparation that shows wins the hearts of participants. When it’s not there, they notice.
It is important to appreciate what others have done to prepare the way for us. Both in public places and private life, a lot goes into anticipating what you need. A water fountain in the right place. A charging station in the airport. Our friend asking us what we like for breakfast when we come to stay. The person on our team who organized the meeting so it flows smoothly.
Balancing Now and Then
It’s also important to give ourselves appreciation, recognizing the little things that make our life easier a few days or months or years later. I find myself saying thank you to my younger (even if only a day or so younger) self, who bothered to think ahead and prepare the way for this moment to be so much easier.
I am glad to have overcome the aspects of my Puritan heritage that don’t allow the enjoyment of the present because of constant focus on the future. Instead, there’s a balance between being here now and preparing for what’s next.
Many of us find time to notice the things we forgot, or didn’t prepare. When we feed that forward and do better for ourselves the next time, let’s appreciate the investment we are making in the future.
So, yes, live in the moment, grateful for the freedom and success that came from thinking ahead.