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I don’t follow the NBA like I used to, but one of the things I’ve always been fascinated about is the players’ mindset. The mindset they are trained to adopt in a game especially when the stakes are high. The mindset needed to maintain presence in spite of all the “chaos” in the court.
If your team is down by 20 points, you know they’ll lose if they’re too eager to score points. If players focus on scoring rather than strategy, they’ll end up rushing shots, losing ball movement and leave most of the work up to one player instead of trusting the whole team. The result is, of course, losing. Not even the notorious “clutch gene” can save the day.
If you’ve witnessed your team come back from a big deficit, you probably saw how they had to put their all into every single moment while maintaining composure. You see the players “just doing it,” and maintaining awareness at the same time, getting into a kind of balance, or the so-called “zone” as everything unfolds.
Eckhart Tolle, emphasized the role of the mind in his famous book, The Power of Now. According to him, you need to ask yourself whether you rely too much on your mind; you need to ask if you’re still in control of your mind or your mind is in control of you; and if you’re over-identified with it. The past and future, after all, exist in the mind, and treating them like they’re happening in the moment will only take you away from where you are, which is the here and now.
Your mind allows you to do what you need to do, but you can overwork it. You may think that you are it, forgetting you are more than your mind. Your mind is a tool. You can become too focused on thinking, dependent on the outcome, obsessive and dwelling on the future. The mind is designed to protect itself, and will remind you of the many implications and manufactured scenarios if you fail to do this, or if you fail to do that. That’s when you rush. Or when you wait with uneasiness. That’s when fear overtakes you, and you start thinking about the negative possibilities. You want to be more certain, so you try to control things. You end up doing more than you should. And you become anxious. You keep thinking and thinking. More often than not, the result—especially when there’s fear involved—would be undesirable.
This sort of “thinking” addiction is a problem for a lot of men. The underlying motivator, in this case, is typically brought about by the negatives exclusively, rather than by other factors and other outcomes. And one ends up missing the clearer picture. The future is not even here yet, yet you can act like it is. Instead of taking control of your life, you succumb to your mind. You’re highly identified with your mind, forgetting to take into account the gap between what is in the now and what is merely a perceived event, or the past. Thus, you must remember to stay in the present, and maximize what you can do in the “now,” for the future is merely a construction of the mind.
The past teaches us lessons and what happened helped shape who we are. The future represents possible scenarios that can change depending on what you do in the present. If you have hang-ups from the past, telling yourself to move on is not enough. Go find answers, or find ways to lead you closer to the answers you’re looking for. Speak up if you have to. Cut ties with people who just pull you down. Completely drop the issue if it’s a complete waste of your time. Go for what you want. Maximize what you can in the present for the “nows” to come. Make peace and forgive yourself in the process, if there isn’t anything else you can do. But don’t let your thoughts consume you for too long, because it is by moving forward and taking action (in the now) that more answers are revealed.
If you’re not dwelling on the future, you’re most likely dwelling on the past. You dwell on your memories. The problem lies in the obsession and the mind acting too much to the point it’s paralyzing, forgetting that you are more than your mind; or forgetting awareness, only to swing between getting stuck in the past and the perceived future.
For a big part, living in the now is often misunderstood, thinking it means to completely disregard the future (like not saving up money anymore and ball out of control) or to completely block out the past. You still have to take responsibility for things to come. You still have to learn from what has happened. It involves embracing everything, including the painful stuff. The difference, however, lies in how you approach the present, and whether or not you are doing something productive.
Being present intersects with a lot of lessons in human development such as self-acceptance, identity, happiness, and confidence. The more you work on understanding the cause of your obsession and dwelling, the more you’ll be able to stay present. If you hate your present reality then you can end up fantasizing about the past or the future, instead of taking the necessary action to cause change. If you grew up with over-worrying parents, for example, you might become too relaxed—so as not to repeat their same mistakes—to the point where you don’t do anything at all, thinking you’re alright even if you’re not. In a way, you have to find that balance, and the resilience to be in the present with whatever reality you find yourself in.
I recall a friend from years ago, where she said in all seriousness that she didn’t realize that a flower can have so many colors. What she said kind of hit home for me because I was thinking the same thing about noticing things I wasn’t noticing before but noticing them at a later time. When you think about the past or future, you may become so wary that you end up overlooking much of what’s right in front of you. You may overlook things that are readily available to you because you’re always looking in far off directions, transporting your mind to somewhere else, and forgetting about (and not appreciating) the present.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
― Thich Nhat Hahn
Granted, it’s a bit of a cliché, but the paradox of ‘trying’ is true. The more you try to find something, the more difficult it will be to find. The more you try to focus or to think, the more you’ll struggle to be inspired. Artists who thrive in creative environments know that the best ideas are born out of inspiration rather than forcing them into fruition. Somehow you have to let things come to you naturally, while simultaneously embracing change.
And with change, it tells us that things are irreversible. Time flows in a certain direction. You’ll never see things happen in reverse as dictated by the arrow of time. Change is constant; and as such, embracing change is important. By not embracing change you become stuck in the “now,” which becomes the past. And once again, getting ahead of yourself will take you out of the present. A good way of describing it is to be present yet moving; or being present yet in motion as everything is irreversibly changing.
It’s often been said that when you dwell on the past, or obsess over the future, you’ll end up missing the moment that could change a lot things. A moment can change a lot of things. But by dwelling or obsessing, you’ll definitely miss out on everything.