What are you dwelling on? I recently wrote a post on Chris LoCurto’s blog entitled, the Leader’s Prayer, my take on the Serenity Prayer for leaders. Part of the prayer calls for “Living one day at a time…” But what does living one day at a time look like?
We choose to live in one of three time periods: the past, the present, or the future. Living one day at a time means living in the present.
Dwelling on the Past
When you dwell on the past, you are saying, “There I am…still.” You are effectively relinquishing control of your present, binding yourself to the past.
Your thoughts will center on words like:
“If I only had done that.”
“Why did I do that?”
“How did I end up here?”
Those last two questions are not inherently evil actually. More on that shortly.
There are three responses to the past:
- We ignore it. When we ignore the past, we are destined to make it out future. History does indeed repeat itself when we ignore it.
- We get stuck in it. This is “If I only had done that” thinking. When you allow yourself to park in the past and relive events in real-time, you are stuck there.
- We learn from it. The past becomes a tool. Our biography to date becomes our greatest book from which to learn. That is why those last two questions are useful when asked the right way.
Dwelling on the Future
When you dwell on the future, you are saying, “When I am…”
“One day I will”.
“If only that happens.”
“I can’t wait until I have _____.”
It’s just as dangerous as living in the past.
A healthy vision of the future is necessary. You must have goals…something to aim for. But an unhealthy dwelling on the future usually results in one of two things:
- Delusions of Grandeur (Not necessarily in the clinical sense). Dwelling on the future in any regard often produces unrealistic or unhealthy fantasies of future events. By all means, dream big. But remember, that dreams with commitment (action) are just fantasies.
- Worry. The opposite of a fantasy with a positive outcome is worry. Worry is a substitute for faith or action. (Click to Tweet) Rather than have faith or take action, you worry. Why? Because it is usually easier, even when you know that it will kill you.
Living in the Present
Living in the present is saying simply, “Here I am.”
There is immense freedom in accepting the world as it is, not as you would have it.
I believe that each individual has incredible power. Power to “change the world.” But there are two things we cannot control or change: The past and other people.
Jesus, the only perfect being to walk this earth, knew the world was not as it should be, but He accepted it as it was. Even for Him, the past was unchangeable and He chose not to control the future.
Living one day at a time means living in the present. It means not getting stuck in the past, but learning from it. It means planning for the future without fantasizing about it. It means accepting events as they happen and accepting others for who they are.
It means giving up control, having faith in the process, and attacking today with all that you have.
Where do you most often find your focus? The past, present, or future?