There Is Nothing Else Than Now

Cherish yesterday… Dream tomorrow… Live today.

Some years ago, one of my childhood friends got married. As tradition would have it, he and his wife saved the top layer of their wedding cake for a whole year in their freezer. They wanted to pull it out on their first anniversary and celebrate the special occasion.

However, saving the cake was a real sacrifice. They had one of those old refrigerators with a freezer compartment just big enough to hold a tray of ice and a quart of ice cream. To keep the cake in there, they had to go without ice and ice cream for the entire whole year.

When the big day came, when it was time to pull out the cake and celebrate their first anniversary, they were in for a shock. As they cut into the cake, they discovered it was entirely made of Styrofoam. They had sacrificed for nothing.

They learned, as we all need to learn, to live, to really LIVE TODAY. And yet that’s so difficult. There are so many forces that seem to conspire against us. But I’ve found two things that work.

=> 1. Know The Truth, The Whole Truth.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. It’s hard to know the “whole” truth, the “positive” truth, when the media makes its living selecting the most negative stories they can find and then emphasizing them.

In fact, if you only read the papers or watched the television news, it would be easy to conclude that the world is teetering on the edge of disaster. It would be easy to get negative. And it would be difficult to LIVE a full life TODAY.

For example, there’s an e-mail floating around the Internet that says little has changed since 1980 in the world. Things are as bad as ever. That e-mail says that 80% of the world’s population lives in substandard housing, 70% are unable to read, and 50% suffer from malnutrition.

Philip Yancey, author of “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” was very distressed by that e-mail. So he checked into it. He wrote, “I spent several days tracking down statistics from authoritative sources, only to find that the e-mail is downright wrong. In fact, the world had made major strides in the last few decades.”

Yancey went on to give several specifics. According to the best estimates, 25% — not 80% — of the world’s population lives in substandard housing. Thirty years ago, the global literacy rate was 53%; now it’s 80%. The percentage of people suffering from malnutrition has dropped by more than half. And whereas 75% of the world’s people did not have access to clean water, 75% now do. Great improvements have been made.

Maybe it’s time to doubt the doomsayers. Maybe it’s time for you to get the “whole” truth — which is a lot more positive than the media might lead you to believe. And getting the “whole” truth can be very liberating. As the old proverb indicates, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” So be careful of what you believe.

Of course there’s lots of hurt, pain, and trouble in this world. I know that, and so do you. But if you’re going to live a full, happy, positive life today, it helps to know the “whole” truth.

And once you know the truth…

=> 2. Step Out With Courage.

I speak to thousands of people every year, and I listen to hundreds of them ask me questions. But I’m continually saddened by the number of people who live such “small” lives. They’re constantly plagued by the “what if’s.”

In other words, what if the stock market goes down? What if their company merged with another? And what if they decided to marry someone and it didn’t work out?

And on, and on, and on. They’re so plagued by the “what if’s” that they don’t do much in life. They’re paralyzed by fear. As Vincent Van Gogh observed, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Of course, a person should use his intellect and intuition to plan for the future as best he can. But no one will ever be able to plan for all the “what if’s.” Dr. Vanneuar Bush, head of the World War II office of Scientific Research Development, was aware of that. He said, “There’s no such thing as absolute security. In this uncertain and complex world, there is no workable security without the willingness and courage to take risks.”

That means, if you’re truly going to live today, you’ve got to step out with courage. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, documented that in his book, “Psycho-Cybernetics.” He said, “Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not the one that has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk — and to act.”

Perhaps you remember the time a brick shattered the bedroom window of five-year old Isaac Schnitzer. The target was a menorah, or candelabra that holds eight candles for the Jewish Hanukkah festival. The FBI told the Schnitzers to keep a low profile because members of a neo-nazi hate group had attacked minorities in Billings, Montana before this.

Instead of following their advice, the Schnitzers decided to stand up and speak out. And their neighbors joined them — then the local association of churches and the Coalition for Human Rights. A number of pastors led a campaign to distribute and display pictures of menorahs.

Then the churches, schools, and hundreds of people joined the campaign. The neo-nazis threw more bricks through more windows and even shot a few bullets. But the good people of Billings wouldn’t be intimidated.

As one Native American shopkeeper said, “I figured if we all put up menorahs, there wouldn’t be enough bricks to smash them all.” The police chief admitted, “There was some danger, but sometimes you have to risk a little to gain a lot.”

On the eighth and last night of Hanukkah, the Schnitzer family took a drive through town. They saw menorahs on houses, stores, billboards, and some nestled among elaborate Christian displays. Little Isaac was amazed and said, “I didn’t know so many people were Jewish.”

His mother replied, “They’re not all Jewish. But they’re our friends.”

And the attacks stopped.

Action:  Are you truly LIVING today? Or are you dwelling on the past or worried about the future? Take an inventory. Where do you spend the majority of your time? In the past, present, or future?

Of course you want to learn from the past, and you want to plan for the future. But if you spend too much time in either one of those places, you lose the only time you really have — which is the present.

Write down three risks you need to take so you can LIVE more fully TODAY. Then step out with courage and take those risks — if they make sense.