A model for living every moment to its fullest

April 19, 2013 by Joshua
in Awareness, Exercises, Models, Tips

[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Do you enjoy every moment of your life? Do you wish you could?

Have you ever felt like you wasted a lot of your life? Do you wish you hadn’t?

Do you wonder how you could live more in the moment?

Today’s model shows you how.

It comes from an unlikely source. You might know about the researchers who asked people who won huge lotteries and people who just had accidents leading to becoming quadriplegic how happy they were (you should because I wrote about them about six months ago). The lottery winners were happier. But when they asked them a year later, the difference in happiness disappeared. Everyone seemed about as happy as they had been before either event.

What can we learn from this? If you didn’t think that much about it, you might think that in the long run it doesn’t matter what you do today — you’ll eventually end up no happier a year from now.

I talk about this experiment with many people and when I ask them if in the long run you end up no more happy, why do you prefer winning the lottery to becoming quadriplegic? Few people come up with meaningful answers.

My answer is today’s belief. If you’re happier one way even temporarily, all else being equal, that extra happiness counts, even if fleeting. If one way you were happier, or you had more of something you wanted, for only one moment more, all else being equal, that way would be better.

A model for living every moment to its fullest: Every moment counts

Every moment you live could have more or less of what you want in life. In fact, your life consists only of moments (I liked the title of a book on meditation I once saw: “You have only moments to live.”).

Every moment has value. Every moment counts. Any moment you let go by without getting value out of it is a moment lost.

You know this intuitively, but you may forget it when choosing what you do with your life. I’ve heard people choose jobs they don’t like for decades for imagined futures yet more decades away. They live miserably for longer than they plan to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

After decades of learning misery, I’m sure they’ll be so skilled at it, they’ll find ways to be miserable after retirement too. What else do they know?

More people choose to sacrifice smaller times, but they’ve made similar choices. If you wouldn’t sacrifice thirty years for some hoped-for future but might sacrifice ten, consider lowering your limit of what you’d sacrifice. After you lower your limit below ten, try lowering it to five, then three, and so on, and see how low you can get your tolerance for choosing misery.

You might be surprised at how much you can achieve in life without misery. I’m not saying it’s easy to switch to practicing this belief if you believe you have to trade joy for security or stability, but you can. I was raised that way too.

The alternatives don’t mean you have to act recklessly. Sometimes you learn to find joy in something you otherwise would have found miserable — your environments and beliefs may stay the same but you might change your beliefs, for example. I won’t try to convince you because you have to figure out how on your own, and you have to experience it to believe it, but you can.

When I use this belief

I use this belief every moment, but especially when I’m thinking about what to do. I used to not worry about my time sometimes, like I’d watch TV for an hour even when nothing was on, just letting time pass.

I don’t do that anymore. Because every moment counts.

What this belief replaces

This belief replaces wasting time with valuing time. It replaces wasting moments in the present while worrying about the future or past with noticing the present moment.

Where this belief leads

This belief leads to paying more attention to the present moment.

I came to this belief from the experiment I mentioned at the top of this post, but that was just the entry point. I’ve come to reinforce the belief by noticing that every moment does count for me.

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