- To be fully present is often seen as the Holy Grail in performance – to enter the zone where you’re completely caught up in the moment, fully engaged, just enjoying the moment, not analyzing it or hoping it will turn out well.
- The main reason most of us aren’t fully present, so often missing the moment, is because we don’t realize we’re caught up in a culture designed to steal our attention, and our hearts, promising the world yet delivering emptiness.
- The solution is to love life itself, love itself, with your whole heart–so you can be in the moment without judging the moment.
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“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”
― Henri Nouwen
In life, most of us are constantly immersed in the tension between having what we love and the fear of losing it. Or not having what we love and the fear of not getting it. This gap, between love and loss, is the great battle for our attention, and our hearts.
When we win this battle, the ultimate victory is to be fully present at the highest level, which has two notable components:
- A sense that anything is possible
When you’re fully engaged, heart, mind and body (which is how I like to think about being fully present at the highest level), there’s no concern for self, which therefore means no fear, no anxiety, and actually no concerns at all.
The reason the mind constantly wants to jump to the past and future is largely from concerns and desires; concerns of what we hope won’t happen, and desires for what we hope will.
When you’re fully present, concerns and desires are swept away by being fully engaged, and when you’re extremely present, by peace and joy.
The primary reason the mind jumps to the past and future–which includes every goal you set and every result you get–is that it has too many concerns.
So what to do with all the concerns, which for most of us, are numerous?
Climbing Mt. Everest
Imagine you’re climbing Mt. Everest with Liz Rose (the youngest Canadian to climb the 7 summits–who finally got Inner Excellence to the top 😎). Your goal is to get to the top (and back down!). But you keep looking at the top and bottom and every crevasse and see how scarily distant and deep they are, and you weigh the odds and realize the risk of death is high. Those are very pressing concerns (I don’t wanna die) and desires (I wanna live)!
So what do you do? You stop looking at possible scary outcomes or glorious victories and focus on one step at a time. And you can do this because you’ve visualized this moment 100s of times before you arrived at base camp, and you’ve practice your tools (the ones that keep you present), and you’ve harnessed your ego (that keeps thinking about the Instagram post at the top).
The present moment is often experienced as the gap between having what you love and losing (or not getting) what you love. When you have what you love, it’s easy to be present. When you have love, you have joy, because joy comes from love. When you fear you might lose what you love, joy disappears and fear takes its place (and you’re not present).
The greatest pain comes from losing what you love; losing a game or match or relationship, or perhaps your health.
For most of us, most of the time, we’re in limbo, balancing in that shadowy twilight where we’re afraid of losing what we love or don’t yet have what we love. The problem is compounded because the heart often misleads us; sometimes when we get what we thought we loved, we’re still in that gap, but even emptier.
The solution is to break free from the constant pull back and forth, between cherishing something you love (but knowing you could lose) and the fear of losing it (or never getting it).
Thankfully, there’s a way out of the tug of war, and it’s to stop using circumstantial concerns and desires as your motivator.
The Holy Grail in performance
The much more powerful, inspiring way to live and perform is to let go of your temporary, transactional desires and grab onto the reason you want those desires, which is for love itself, because love becomes joy.
When you stay in (connected to) love, you stay in the moment.
The stressful balancing game ends. The tense test becomes a slack line of freedom.
Here’s how tennis star Rafael Nadal explains how he navigates the gap:
“The glory is being happy. The glory is not winning here or winning there. The glory is enjoying practicing, enjoy every day, enjoying to work hard, trying to be a better player than before. My motivation is tomorrow, just one day at a time, right?”
What?! I thought the glory was in raising the trophy on the clay at Roland Garros? I think Rafa’s glory (and the reason for his dominance) is his love for tennis itself, even more than what he can get out of it (money, trophies, adoration, etc.).
To get off the emotional roller coaster, you must cultivate a love for love itself, for life itself–not the accolades or perks or fleeting feelings that come from great (but temporary) circumstances and results.
How to love love itself
Like Rafa, prioritize learning and growing–in love, wisdom and courage–each day. Make this your highest goal, higher than winning (winning takes care of itself).
Love is inherently sacrificial and unconditional. It’s also selfless (and therefore fearless). When you embrace a life of selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, not just for your sport or what you do during the day, but in order to become the type of person who lives that way unconditionally… then life starts to change.
Time slows down, flowers become more fragrant, beautiful moments (especially the ones of growth overlooked in the past) start to reveal themselves.
As your love for love itself deepens, your capacity to love others — especially your opponents–will markedly increase. You’ll dream about providing your opponents with a good playing partner, good rallies, and giving the crowd thrilling back and forth competition.
In doing so, the more moments of joy you’ll have and more times where you feel anything is possible.
Let me know how it’s going for you!
Know anyone that wants more amazing moments filled with joy and a sense that anything’s possible? Invite them to (or gift them) the Inner Excellence Retreat coming up August 18-22, 2023. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of a life-changing week, for yourself and the family.
As you know, the Inner Excellence audiobook is available on Spotify, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Google Play and multiple other websites. Check it out here on Spotify (Audible still to come). You might start with the 3 pro athlete case study interviews at the end of the book.