Your whole life has prepared you for this moment. I’m not trying to sound like a refrigerator magnet or cheeseball Instagram quote account. Matter-of-factly, all the skills you’ve developed, all the resources you’ve collected, all the relationships you’ve formed have been preparing you for now. Not just for the remarkable and pivotal life moments, but the mundane and subtle and pandemic-induced frustrating ones, too. This moment, where you read this email – it required reading lessons, knowledge of mobile technology, and a complex web of social connections. Just to read this.
Why do we hold some moments more heavily than others? Don’t they all weigh the same – don’t they all carry potential?
Sure, some moments have greater downstream impacts than others. But we don’t know that until the moment has passed. And we’re not all that good at predicting which moments are which.
Moments we think are insignificant often change our lives.
One time I accepted an invite to play Words with Friends with someone I hardly knew. Now we’re married. One time I randomly dropped into a yoga studio because the logo faintly resembled boobs. Now I’ve done over 1,000 hours of (not boob related) yoga training.
I have to consider the opposite, too – how many moments have I missed or dismissed that had the potential to lead to something beautiful? How many networking calls did I pay half attention to when that person could have become a great friend? How many great ideas have I ignored because I thought I already knew the best solution to the problem?
Every moment has potential. But most of the time, I’m too caught up in my prediction of the moment to see it.
The way out, I think, is to experiment with living as if each moment was equally important – had equal potential. We’d have to stop dismissing, ignoring, autopiloting, or escaping the moments we expect to be unpleasant or unhelpful. We’d actually have to stop placing expectations on the moment at all. We’d have to show up, fully alert, completely curious, looking for what potential the moment holds.
When do you think you’re more likely to see the opportunity in the moment – if you predict there’s no opportunity, if you’re expecting a particular opportunity, or you’re looking openly for any sign of opportunity?
My hypothesis: if we held each moment with equal importance, we would start to see opportunity everywhere. We’d do more of what matters. We’d say yes when we mean it, and no when we mean that, too. We’d stop dreading the menial – we’d wait to see what it could hold. We’d stop letting boredom make our public health decisions. We’d be less careless with our time and attention. That kind of awakeness would be tiring – but we’d have to choose to rest rather than run continuously at 10% capacity.
It’s been a tough year. But your whole life has prepared you for this. Not for some future, happier, more “normal” moment. It’s prepared you to see the opportunity right now.
What expectations am I placing on this moment? What less-obvious opportunities does it hold?
If you have…
5 minutes: Recall a moment that felt big to you, but insignificant to someone else. Then the opposite – a moment that felt insignificant to you, and important to someone else.
15 minutes: Meditate. You pick the type. But nothing helps level one moment to the next like sitting in stillness and silence.
50 minutes: Listen to Sam Harris interview Tara Brach on non-dual meditation on the Waking Up podcast. He helps explain how the sense that two things (two moments) are any different is a result of our perception, not a science-backed reality.
a quote for the road
This is from Dr. Edith Eger, whose book The Choice will change your life. And if you’re not a big reader, her podcast with Brené Brown is great, too.
“At Kennedy International Airport, waiting for my flight home to San Diego, I sat and studied the faces of every passing stranger. What I saw deeply moved me. I saw boredom, fury, tension, worry, confusion, discouragement, disappointment, sadness, and most troubling of all, emptiness. It made me very sad to see so little joy and laughter.
Even the dullest moments of our lives are opportunities to experience hope, buoyancy, happiness. Mundane life is life too”
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