If you would prefer an audio version of this post, you can listen to Episode 5 of my podcast, When This Moment is Enough.
“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life — the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough.” –Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh
It was November 3, 2014–the night before I was to launch my first book, The Gift of Maybe, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York City—and I was a suffering. My agent had called me a few weeks ago. She is a lovely woman and has always been supportive, but what she told me on that call sent me into a tailspin. “Allison,” she said, “If you don’t sell 25,000 copies of this book, you’re not going to get a book deal for your second book.” Now, my second book wasn’t even completed yet, and my first wasn’t officially launched. It had been a dream come true to publish with Penguin Random House. I had been able to change careers, leaving my first profession behind for one I truly loved—working with people to transform their professional and personal lives.
Initially what my agent said didn’t bother me, but the night before my book launch, I was in agony about the uncertainty of my own future as an author. With that one comment from my agent, I had started to feel the pressure and stress of having to sell 25,000 books to continue my journey. Instead of reveling in the moment, I was beginning to obsess about what I did not have or what might not be. What if my path was limited? What if the seemingly triumphant moment I was in was not enough?
I sat there trying to release the thought that I needed to sell 25,000 books to be successful, joyful or to continue my journey as a self-help author. It wasn’t working. So I took a few breaths and decided to see if I could take my own advice. I cracked open my brand new book. After about twenty minutes of doing a Maybe exercise at the end of the first chapter, I was finally able to let the maddening thought about 25,000 books go. I now look back and laugh at the image of a self-help author desperately poring over her own book to make herself feel better!
The next day, I was able to enjoy the launch of The Gift of Maybe. Still, in the year after I published, the worry about how many books I’d sell and whether my second book would ever see the light of day returned to haunt me. It became such a familiar pain I even gave it a name –“second book suffering.”
If I appeared on a radio show and did not sell a lot of books in the days that followed, or if I failed to secure an appearance on a morning television show, my “second book suffering” reared its ugly head. The Maybe mindset always helped me get out of the trap, but so did embracing the idea: This moment is enough.
I simply got tired of the suffering and the inability to enjoy what I had and what I was experiencing. So whenever I wrote a blog, spoke to a client, or appeared on the radio, I would choose to say to myself before the event, “This moment is enough.” When I heard from someone that my book had helped him or her, I thought, “This moment is enough.” I still work very hard each day, I have goals and dreams, and I am still working on that second book and hoping to see it published. Yet, most of time, I am satisfied with what is happening in this moment and this makes my heart feel open and completely joyful.
One of the key reasons we all suffer is because we believe that this moment is not enough. We might be dealing with a problem or working on a goal and we believe if we can just get through the issue or achieve our goal, then we will be able to rest, smile and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But what if we could see that, in focusing so exclusively on that one thing that will bring us future happiness, we are actually creating suffering for ourselves? Regardless of what is happening in our lives, we always have an opportunity to transform our suffering and experience something wonderful in the moment. So when you hear the phrase, “Let this moment be enough,” take a deep breath. You might find that you feel immediately relieved.
It is also possible, of course, that the idea of letting this moment be enough makes you feel nervous or agitated. You might feel that you have so many dreams or goals in your life and you want more than this moment is offering you. These thoughts are, paradoxically, the root of suffering. It is truly life changing to let this moment be enough. When you allow this moment to be enough, it doesn’t mean you stop working on what you want your life to be, it just means you are opening your heart to a more joyful life right now.
Here is an exercise to help you embrace this moment as enough.
1. What is bothering you most at this time? What is most on your mind? Now ask yourself this: what are these thoughts stealing from your life? There will always be things in the outside world that might not go as we planned or desired. There will always be something else to do or achieve. We are always thinking we have another day so this day doesn’t have to be our best moment. We tend to believe the moment we’re in can be “sacrificed” for another time when things in our lives are better. But what if that day never arrives? What if we keep putting off everything and never enjoy what is in front of us all along? And even when we achieve our goals, won’t there always be another goal or unexpected challenge and thus a new type of suffering in our lives? Take a few moments and consider these questions. Imagine what you could gain if you weren’t worrying about your life beyond this moment.
2. Now name your suffering. Do you have “career suffering,” “my child is doing poorly in school suffering,” or “I wish I could be happy with a husband or wife suffering”? When you name your suffering, it has less of a hold on you. It is as if, in naming it, you separate from your suffering on some level. You start to see it is not reality, just a thought taking up space in your head.
3. Recognize that if you persist in believing that this moment you are in is not enough, even if you are able to solve your problem or achieve the goal you are thinking about, the next day you will most likely have a new type of suffering. For example, I had a client who had “my child is doing poorly in school” suffering and she helped her son improve his grades. But now she has “I need my son to get into a good college suffering.” I also had a client that had “I want a boyfriend suffering.” She married a great guy and now she has “marriage suffering,” worrying about all the things that might go wrong in her relationship.
4. Say to yourself, “This moment is enough.” How does that make you feel? Say it again, “This moment is enough.” Does it alleviate a burden inside of you? Remember, you are not saying that you will stop pursuing your goals or dreams and you are not denying you have problems. You are merely allowing this moment to be and making peace with it. You are not struggling with what this moment brings. Now you can see its beauty and its depth, which is also the depth of everything that you are and everything around you. Say it again, “This moment is enough.” This moment being enough doesn’t mean all your pain will go away if you are struggling, but it does bring the joy of what is right in front of you to center stage.
It is such a relief to let this moment be enough. We add so many unnecessary layers and complications onto our everyday lives. We place conditions on what needs to happen for us to be okay, or in order for us to finally be satisfied. But when this moment is enough, our minds can rest and our breaths can calm. We can look around us and see the beauty of being alive. We can appreciate who we are and where we are. We can enjoy what we have accomplished. We can enjoy the book launch, the sunrise, a cup of coffee or a conversation with a stranger. Everything becomes important and sacred—a wonder to behold.
Don’t forget – life has Maybe and Maybe, it turns out, is a gift that allows us to create the future we want…without sacrificing today!
For weekly information on how to reduce stress and worry check out my podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, follow me on Twitter @giftofmaybe or Instagram, follow my Blog or check out my book The Gift of Maybe.
Originally Published in Psychology Today