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Living in the Present Moment - Importance vs. Urgency

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Updated November 03, 2005

Living in the Present Moment - Importance vs. Urgency

January 19, 1998

It sounds like one of those New Age clichés. Of course we are living in the present moment. When else would we be living? In truth, many of us live 'everywhen' except the present moment. We spend a lot of time dwelling on the past and worrying about the future.

This concept is sometimes referred to as mindfulness. It originated as a Buddhist concept, but it is now incorporated into many stress management programs. If we live our lives mindfully we will get more out of life.

A related concept is the distinction between importance and urgency. We often let life slip away by confusing these two concepts. Important tasks are those which we place value on. Urgent tasks are those which someone tells us to do right away. While we are busy with a task with an urgent deadline we may be missing a much more important task.

Just last night I missed a moment. My daughter Allison asked me if I would help her study for her Biology test. I was busy updating this site. I told her that I would help her after I finished, and she replied "Never mind." I offered to help twenty minutes later and she replied that she could do it herself. Allison turns 18 next month. Did I miss my last opportunity to help her study?

Updating this site seemed urgent. I try to do it the same time every week. But Allison is so much more important! I got the site updated early but I missed an opportunity to interact with Allison. I had already resolved to spend more time with her this last year before college and I blew it.

I need to be careful, though. The other way to avoid the present is to dwell on the past. I need to learn from it, and then let it go. I will accomplish nothing by beating myself up over neglecting my daughter.

I need more work on enjoying the present moment. I need to grab the moments that I have with important people in my life - my family especially.

All we really have is this moment. When it's gone we'll never get it back. What's important in your life? Is that where you are spending your time and energy?

These books and cassettes are good ways to explore mindfulness in your own life:

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