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Living an Engaged Life

“Living in the moment” is a difficult phrase for me to understand. It sounds hippy, kinda silly, and impractical. How can anyone measure “living in the moment”? It’s like trying to measure air passing through your fingers. It seems impossible

My struggle in trying to understand how to be present has led me to realize I’m not alone. There are plenty of people, like you and me, who simply can’t live in the moment. It’s not that we don’t want to. We just don’t know how.

As I struggle through understanding this “moment” everyone is trying to live in, I’ve discovered some truths that have provided me with more context to my dilemma. Like most things I learn, they have come up as pure “coincidence”, which I don’t really believe in anyway. From a conversation with a friend or stranger, to a book I’m currently reading, practical examples of grasping hold of and living in this “moment” are popping up all around me. I’d be selfish not to share them with you. You are likely a fellow moment-fighter, which means we need to watch out for each other.

The most practical advice on moment-living was given to me by an incredible author and lawyer named Bob Goff. Rather than summarize his practical wisdom, here’s a full snippet of it:

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“There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I'm tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn't come in an envelope. It's ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It's the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I've seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.”

If you’re a moment-numb-er like me, this wisdom has great weight in our journey to living an engaged life. Never have I thought of living an engaged life meant accepting an invitation. Yet everyday I’m invited. And most days, I decline. Rather than living engaged in this current moment, I’m off dreaming about the next. Or reliving the past. Or worse: worrying about the next moment. Don’t we all do this at some point? Our focus is turned to being engaged in the future, or the past, rather than what is right in front of us? And just like that, we decline the invitation.

When I decline the engagement invitation, I become a pretty unloving person. Just ask my wife. I’m complacent, rude, selfish, and often unreachable. Instead of living in the moment, I numb myself with regrets from the past and worries of the future.

“Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven't really been invited. But you see, we have been invited -- every day, all over again”

Thankfully, there is hope! Everyday we get fully invited again to live an engaged life. And everyday we get to decide how we live that day. We can either decide to allow worry to overrun us and regret drive us, or just let the current moment we are in be experienced in full.

What does this look like in action? I think it primarily starts with our attitude. We’ve only really been given one thing in this life to control, and SURPRISE...it isn’t our bank account. It’s our attitude and how we react in every moment. The good and the bad moments. The genius wisdom of participating in an engaged, living-in-the-moment type of life is that we must control how we react to life’s ups and downs. Our attitude is everything! And it’s also the only thing we can control.

This is a really good time for you to step back and ask yourself these difficult questions:

  • Am I accepting the invitation to live a fully engaged life?

  • When I think about the past or future, what am I filled with? Fear, regret, worry?

  • What is the current posture of my attitude when things are really good or really bad?

  • Does my spouse, family and friends see me as someone who lives in the moment, or am I just fooling myself?

Be present with your kids, share a laugh with a co-worker, have a romantic meal with your spouse, smile and be thankful even when you get a flat tire.

These are the questions I prod myself with often. They keep me on the tips of my toes and engaged in every moment, taking in a full breath of life each day. Without evaluating myself, I tend to shift back into numbness. I tend to decline the engagement invitation and focus on things I can’t control. But when I decide to be engaged and let my attitude flow through all situations as simply and freely as a warm summer breeze, I’m happy. The greatest lie we’ve believed as humans is that a moment will make us happen. When, in reality, it’s the attitude that we choose as we approach a moment that brings us true happiness.

The final challenge I want to give you is simple: accept the invite. Be present with your kids, share a laugh with a co-worker, have a romantic meal with your spouse, smile and be thankful even when you get a flat tire. The way you approach each day will determine the type of life you live. Will you be engaged right here, right now? Or live your life constantly regretting the past and worrying about the future?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a great difference” - Winston Churchill

If you haven’t yet read Bob Goff’s book “Love Does”, you need to buy it immediately! The quotes used above were written by Bob Goff in this book. I dare you to read it; it’ll change your life!