Whether we realize it or not, during every waking moment, our lives are being created through our moment to moment experiences. We either create our lives through intentional activity and conscious experience, or we float along with low levels of awareness as passive recipients of happenstance.
I often use the metaphor, “sleepwalking through life.” Scientifically, sleepwalking refers to the performance of normal activities while barely awake in a state of low consciousness. Sleepwalking through life, therefore, refers to the state of unconsciousness living – unconscious consumption of environmental stimuli, underdeveloped awareness of our environments, and overall disconnection from a sense of purpose.
We create all of our goals and decisions within the present. Therefore, our future strivings and outcomes are based on the experiences and directions of the present. It is sort of like the butterfly effect; each flap of our wings sets other phenomena into motion which largely affects all future outcomes. This means that goals and decisions require present-mindedness because it is the only place where decisions can take place – we can’t go back to the past, and the future, without a doubt, is dependent upon the present.
Though it is impossible to fully control what we experience, being present and aware allows us to be active participants – aware of our options, able to make decisions, and consciously engaged in the sensations and experiences of our activities. In a nutshell, present-minded awareness allows us to experience our experiences. Furthermore, it allows us to experience life rather than be subjected to it.
Most people find comfort in the idea of having a sense of control over the direction of their lives. Intuitively, we understand that we cannot truly control every aspect of our lives. However, conscious living allows us to be more aware of our selves, purpose, and environments and, therefore, more able to embrace and respond effectively to our evolving experiences. Otherwise, how can we make appropriate adjustments toward our goals if we are not even aware of changes in the environment, or that our attention is being diverted from our purpose?
“When we are present in each moment,
the past gently rolls up behind us
and the future slowly unravels before us.”
~Rev. Richard Levy~
Since we are essentially creating our histories, as well as our paths to the future, it stands to reason that the way we experience the present directly determines our happiness and success outcomes. So if we think of life, not as game, but as a path being laid with both minor and major destinations (goals), it may be helpful to remember that success rarely occurs by accident . . . to create the life that we desire, it requires awareness and intention, which means that we actually have to be present and engaged.
Winning in life does not refer to an ultimate prize or defeating others. It simply means that we are able to remain focused and aware toward the end of accomplishing our goals, unshaken by the inevitable twists and turns of life. To be thrown off track (or to not even have a track) due to lack of awareness and intention, is not necessarily a loss (I don’t see anyone as a loser), but it definitely makes it hard to succeed.
Of course, there is no hard and fast rulebook for life. However, if one existed, I believe it would be approximately the size of a small pamphlet. Because, as much as we try to complicate life with deeply elaborate thinking, I actually believe the most important universal rules are very simple: take care of ourselves, be kind to others, what goes around comes around, have respect for the environment . . . and probably a few more. And then in fine print there will be one simple line with an asterisk that says:
*To build the life you desire, you must be PRESENT to win.
Where would you rate your level of awareness on a scale of “sleepwalker” versus “fully present?” How do you think your level of awareness affects your ability to accomplish life goals?