The Tyranny Of The Present



The way I feel at present is not the way it really is or the way it will be.

The facts of my present — how something feels, my emotional state, the weather, the smaller story of the pressures and distractions of the moment —  are pressing on me. But the noise and drama displace the truth about right now and the issues that are truly important. There is a tyranny to the present which seeks to keep me enslaved to its ever-multiplying, near-sighted focal points, while the truly important destinations over the horizon become dim lights that flicker then fade from my view.

Truths, such as value, meaning, substance, direction, destination, worth, and significance, get blurred by the fog of how I feel at the moment.

To seek momentary satisfaction in the present at the expense of future pain is a fool’s errand. Wisdom would dictate that we choose the inverse: Invest in pain now for future returns of satisfaction. Tension and release. There is no value in a life filled only with release, for this is the poison of hedonism. The lens through which we see beauty is fashioned with contrast.  There is no beauty when everything around us is beautiful. There is no satiation without first feeling the pangs of hunger. There is no warmth where there is no cold.

If you are not saying “no” now, and experiencing the pain of self-denial, there will be very few, if any, “yeses” in the future.

However, at present, I am engaged in activities and endeavors that feel more important than measuring out the truth. Or perhaps the small facts loom larger than they should be, and the large truths blend into my surroundings and ultimately disappear as my focus becomes more and more insular.

This should not be.

I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking? The tyrannous emotions that course through my body overwhelm my ability to chain together more than a few clear thoughts. My mind becomes a soup of disparate partial thoughts propelled, then ejected from my mouth by the brute force of feelings surging in my body.

Plans begin to form in my mind, nay, my gut, and, if unchecked, they will be set in motion with a fervor that should be saved for smarter moments.

I begin making decisions and choices that can only be described as impulsive. Looking back through my life, I see a wreckage of bad decisions. I see some good decisions as well. But my bad decisions have a common theme: They were the results of emotional reasoning. This clearly is an oxymoron, emotional reasoning, but unfortunately all too common. Feeling a thing, but calling it thinking, is futile and dangerous.

To change my future, I must change what is happening at the present. If I do not change the present, I am living my future now. This is it: I’m there; I have arrived. This is how it is, and how it will be. The way things are now will simply continue on and on. The system by which I live, my operating system, is producing the results I am getting. Put another way, I adopted a system of living in the past that produced the results I now have.

If I want a different future, I must adopt an operating system that will produce different results. If I change nothing at present, there will be no change in the future either.

If I were to reflect on how I currently make decisions, it would become painfully clear that I am mostly driven by how I feel. Not that feeling things is bad. It is not. Emotions and senses are a vital and beautiful part of a full and satisfying life. I am simply drawing as clear a line as possible between making decisions based on how I feel versus what I think.

So, what to do? All we are promised is the present. Without a clear roadmap of where we are headed, we misuse or misapply our ability to make choices.

So, make a map. Design your desired outcomes. It is nearly impossible to make good choices now if you have no future destination. Then learn to slow down the train of your emotions. Pump the brakes, and hold your emotions up against the picture of your ultimate destination and ask yourself if how you are feeling at the moment is going to help get you there. If not, you must learn to overlook the way things feel at the moment, and invest in the deeper truth of what will actually help get you to where you are going.

© 2023 Mark Whitmore

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Mark Whitmore

Mark Whitmore

Mark Whitmore is the Head Coach and founder of Lodestone True North, a dynamic firm of experienced business coaches who help entrepreneurs and managers get to their Land of Awesome.

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