It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best. What matters is that right now is right now.
It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you’re in a good job market or a bad one, or that the obstacle you face is intimidating or burdensome. What matters is that right now is right now. The implications of our obstacle are theoretical—they exist in the past and the future. We live in the moment. And the more we embrace that, the easier the obstacle will be to face and move. You can take the trouble you’re dealing with and use it as an opportunity to focus on the present moment. To ignore the totality of your situation and learn to be content with what happens, as it happens. To have no “way” that the future needs to be to confirm your predictions, because you didn’t make any. To let each new moment be a refresh wiping clear what came before and what others were hoping would come next. You’ll find the method that works best for you, but there are many things that can pull you into the present moment: Strenuous exercise. Unplugging. A walk in the park. Meditation. Getting a dog—they’re a constant reminder of how pleasant the present is.
One thing is certain. It’s not simply a matter of saying: Oh, I’ll live in the present. You have to work at it. Catch your mind when it wanders—don’t let it get away from you. Discard distracting thoughts. Leave things well enough alone—no matter how much you feel like doing otherwise. But it’s easier when the choice to limit your scope feels like editing rather than acting. Remember that this moment is not your life, it’s just a moment in your life. Focus on what is in front of you, right now. Ignore what it “represents” or it “means” or “why it happened to you.” There is plenty else going on right here to care about any of that.
It’s our preconceptions that are the problem. They tell us that things should or need to be a certain way, so when they’re not, we naturally assume that we are at a disadvantage or that we’d be wasting our time to pursue an alternate course. When really, it’s all fair game, and every situation is an opportunity for us to act.
It’s a beautiful idea. Psychologists call it adversarial growth and post-traumatic growth. “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is not a cliché but fact. The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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