Using the Reality of the Moment

Yesterday, I read a wonderful article by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits entitled The Reality of This Moment. The article encourages people to think about how we’re okay in the moment:

As we go through our day, we’re often stressed because of all the things we have to do, the things we’re not doing. We worry about how things will go in the future, and procrastinate because we’re afraid of an overwhelming task. We feel we’re not good enough, we compare ourselves to others, we fall short of some ideal. We replay a conversation that already happened.

That’s all in our heads, but it’s all fantasy. The reality of this specific moment is that you’re OK. Better than OK, actually: there are so many good things to be grateful for, in this moment.

This certainly sounds like the constant conversation in my head. As a day goes by, I’m filled with worries. Am I doing a good job as a father? A husband? Am I helping people come to grips with the personal finance changes they need to make? Am I being a good friend to a friend in need?

Often, I feel like I’m falling short. It is in that moment when I feel as though I’m failing that I show my greatest weaknesses.

I might choose to do something irrational to try to “fix” something I see as a personal failing. I’ll be tempted to buy my child an item at the store. I might spend far too long writing and rewriting a single sentence or paragraph, trying to make the words express something that I want the words to say. In that moment, I’ll overcompensate.

On the other hand, I might choose to cover up that pain with a quick salve. I’ll buy myself a treat. I’ll burn an hour playing a computer game. In that moment, I’ll choose to do something to make me “feel” better for a little while, though it does nothing to actually fix the problem I perceive.

Both of those things are mistakes themselves. Those moves are just misuses of time, energy, and money.

They come from the same place, though. Those mistakes start in the moment when I feel inadequate.

The solution is pretty easy, too.

I simply need to stop and reflect on the fact that my children are turning out (so far) to be relatively well adjusted children. They have a happy childhood.

I simply need to stop and reflect on the fact that my marriage is solid and that I feel completely comfortable communicating everything with my wife and that I genuinely love to spend time with her (and she seems to feel the same way about me).

I simply need to stop and reflect on the fact that my writing has helped a lot of people with their personal finance situations. I need only to look through my email archives to see proof of that.

In short, things are okay. There are no problems I need to throw money at. My personal and professional choices may not be perfect, but they’re good enough to achieve the things I want.

My life is okay in that moment. If I look around, I see proof of that. I don’t need to throw money or energy or time at some perceived problem right now.

If there really is a problem, I can reflect on it later. I’m not failing my children or my wife in the moment. I don’t need a “treat” to cover up some deep pain.

Not only that, there are a lot of good things in the moment. The sun is shining. There’s a good song playing lightly in the background. I have a good book in front of me. My health feels good.

The reality of the moment usually reveals that your life is better than you think. When you listen to that reality, most of the things that you might do to “improve” things seem unnecessary.