Log In

Reset Password

Inside looking out: Seize the moment!

In the movie “Dead Poets Society,” actor Robin Williams advises his students to “Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary.”

So, what about these words in relation to this thing we call life? Years, months, weeks and days pass us by and we just exist through most of this time. We do what the order of the day affords us. Working our jobs and attending to family matters consume billions of the breaths we take until we have little time left before we breathe no more.

Who plans to get up in the morning and go out into the world with a passion to make their lives extraordinary? Seizing an entire day is not practical. It would be exhausting trying to spend several hours with an intense level of focusing on enjoying every minute.

A few years ago, I learned an important psychological practice that has made the difference in loving life rather than just living life. The following conversation sets the example.

It’s a Friday night and Donny and Jim, two friends who just finished working together, sit down at a bar.

“Hey, this place is nice and it’s just what we need after working our tails off all week,” says Donny.

“You’re right about that,” says Jim. “On Monday, we gotta get that Myers proposal together for the sales contract.”

“Man, this beer goes down smooth,” says Donnie. “Check out the menu. The wings look really good.”

“You know we’re under the gun with this contract. If we don’t lock it up next week, we might be looking for new jobs,” says Jim. “By the way, I didn’t tell you, but I had to get a new roof on my house. Talk about expensive! That contract money will go right to my credit card.”

I have been guilty of being this guy “Jim” a good part of my life. Wherever I was physically, I was not there mentally, always thinking about the next thing to do or dealing with the next problem that comes up. There was no present time for me; the future was now.

Although seizing the day might be improbable, living the moment certainly is not. A counselor I knew put it this way.

“So, you come out of the post office. You have a lot of things on your mind and a long-lost friend you haven’t seen in 10 years is walking your way. It’s a wonderful coincidence. You embrace and he begins to tell you about what he’s been doing since you last saw each other.”

Now the counselor explains you have a conscious decision to make. You can put all your attention upon your friend and truly enjoy the moment you have with him or you can mentally check out. Imagine that while he is speaking to you, a train is coming by. On that train are all your worries, problems and tasks you have to do. You don’t know if you can afford to buy another car because yours is getting old and the repairs are expensive. You’re worried that it’s supposed to rain during the fishing trip you planned. You just had an argument with your son about where he goes and who he’s hanging out with after school. You have to remember to get milk on the way home.

If you jump on that train, you’ve checked out on your friend. Oh sure, you smile and hear him talk, but you’re just being cordial. If someone were to ask you later that night what he was saying about himself, you’ll remember only bits and pieces. When he asked how you were doing, you gave him a short reply because you needed to move on with your day. You’re riding the train!

Let’s go back to the two guys in the bar. “Hey that woman playing the guitar has a really good voice. Love the music,” says Donny.

“And my mother-in-law is coming next weekend,” said Jim with a frown. “That’s gonna be fun.”

“Listen, Jim,” says Donny. “I think you should just go home now.”

“Why?” Jim asks.

“Because you’re not really here. You’re everywhere else.”

Our lives are filled with chances for joyful moments that are often burdened by the things we carry in our minds. To change this behavior calls for lots of practice. I now can stay in the moment most of the time, and that allows me to appreciate life much more. Last week, after a tough day, I stopped for takeout food and a stranger saw me wearing my New York Mets baseball cap and he told me he’s a fan, too. He began to talk about the team and I engaged with him fully. Suddenly, I realized the stuff that happened to me before we met wasn’t so bad anymore. I was enjoying the moment talking with a guy I don’t even know about our favorite baseball team.

American poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Forever is composed of nows.” These words make me think that an entire lifetime can be mentally and emotionally lived through yesterdays and wasted in tomorrows unless we enjoy the moments of our todays.

American philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

No matter what your day’s been like, you can choose to enjoy moments. Savor your dinner. Watch a movie with your cellphone turned off. Take a walk and breathe the fresh air. Listen to your favorite songs and sing along.

Most of all, let the train that carries all your burdens pass you by.

Rich Strack can be reached at richiesadie11@gmail.com.