In the recent Dreamworks movie, Kung Fu Panda, Oogway the wise turtle and Kung Fu Master, says:
“Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
But today is a gift.
That is why it is called the present.”
You might not think that the effects of the current economic turmoil are a gift, but it is still the present. And it is the present that we are living in. And it won’t always be.
Things will be different tomorrow. You will receive a new present. You don’t know what it will be - it is a mystery. And today will be history.
Each new moment arrives with a new present.
And as each new present arrives, the last one becomes history.
There is only ever now.
So how do you make the most of all these presents? And make sure that they don’t just become so much clutter in the attic of history?
One way is to create each tomorrow as something that aligns with your values, and that will move you towards the fulfilment of your dreams, goals and commitments.
Over recent weeks, many people have said things to me like “I’ve been through recessions before, but this one is different - I have no idea where it is going, when it will end or what to do. It is like being in a thick fog.”
Well, first of all, one thing is certain - it will end. Equally certain, some things will never be the same again, and that’s fine, because progress only happens when things change. If we kept recreating the past then all we would end up with is more of the same - and very little opportunity for growth.
And even in the depth of all the fog and confusion, it is still possible to keep moving towards the fulfilment of your dreams, goals and commitments.
Too often we live life like it’s a short term game - many argue that that is one of the reasons why the financial sector is experiencing the turmoil that it is now: too much focus on short term results. We lock onto the short term; the next few days, weeks, months or at most 2 or 3 years, and that causes us to become lost in the fog. If we have only short term plans and can’t see as far as them, we have no idea what to do next.
Imagine for a moment that you are literally lost in the fog - if you focus on a short term result, say being certain that you travel the next 50 yards in exactly the right direction, then you probably won’t move at all because any movement, except directly towards you target, is taking you away from it. If you happened to be unlucky enough to go in completely the opposite direction, you would end up twice as far from your goal.
Now, expand your vision. Say you aim towards a point 500 miles away. Any movement you make has a 50% chance of being towards your target, and even if you set off in the opposite direction, because it’s a short term movement in a long term context, you’re only a small distance off target, and can easily correct for it when the fog clears. Incidentally, did you know that long haul aircraft fly in the “wrong” direction for about 95% of the time, and are constantly making course corrections?
Bring that concept back to the metaphorical fog that we find ourselves in now. If your business or life plans are for, at most, 2 or 3 years it’s not surprising if you don’t know what to do right now. How best to deal with current circumstances? As I said earlier, things will be different, but right now, few people would want to bet on how. However, if you have a vision, based on your values, that stretches ten or more years into the future then that will give you the direction to take today. When you work this way you acquire a kind of inbuilt compass, which gives you a strong innate sense of direction, even in the thickest fog.
By creating that vision in the present, you give yourself the gift of certainty. The current conditions will change and we will find ourselves in a growth environment again. Many of today’s most successful businesses, such as Sun, Cisco and Adobe, were started during recessions.
Also, by working on a 10 year plus time scale, anything (and I do mean anything) becomes possible. In September 1998 Google was incorporated, opened a bank account and hired it’s first employee. 10 years later, it employs nearly 20,000 people, turns over around $20 billion, and is valued at almost $160 billion! Like I said, anything is possible in 10 years. And what has given them direction throughout that time? Five words that align with their values and move them towards the fulfilment of their dreams, goals and commitments: “Never settle for the best.”
I’m sure that in 1998 they didn’t have a detailed plan to get where they have by 2008. And I’m definitely not suggesting that you should either. It is about creating a vision and a direction, and then pursuing it relentlessly.
And there is only ever now.
And as for tomorrow? Well, that’s up to you.
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