I recently watched a film recommended to me by a friend. ‘About Time’ is a 2013 RomCom about a young man who discovers that the male members of his family can travel back in time. His father shares this family secret with him on his 21st birthday and the film’s story line revolves around the humour, chaos and tragedy of someone living a ‘normal’ life while keeping a time travelling secret.
It’s just what you would expect from a British RomCom and it delivered exactly what it said on the tin. But then, towards the end, just when I was feeling all RomCom-warm-and-fluffy, I was struck by a scene that genuinely intrigued me.
The main character, Tim, was given the formula for a happy life by his father, “And he told me his secret formula for happiness. Part one of the two part plan was that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else. But then came part two of Dad’s plan. He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.”
Tim’s father didn’t tell him to ‘live every day as it’s your last’. This is a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately and, quite frankly, it has the same effect on me as a rabbit caught in headlights. Apart from the fact that the decision making for a ‘last day’ would stress me out, I’ve seen some actual last days, especially those lived by my mum, and I would not wish them on anyone.
No, what I would rather concentrate on is spending more of my time really seeing, feeling and appreciating what is around me right now. Accepting the joy in those moments that are all too soon gone and also realizing the influence and impact that our decisions and actions have on those around us. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to live each day twice and have a second chance at getting it right?
But, and it’s a big BUT, it is far easier said than done. It sounds like a great idea and I’ve tried before, I really have. I’ve read all sorts of Zen style books and articles explaining just how to reach this state of mind…and then, promptly felt like a failure that I can’t. The thing with thoughts, at least mine, is that they have rather a habit of just thinking for themselves. They often arrive out of nowhere, seemingly regardless of what I would like to be thinking of and usually at inconsiderate moments. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they drop into my subconscious and then work hard to make my consciousness listen. I call these pre-thought thoughts; in other words, they arrive before you’re even aware that you are thinking anything.
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where I do honestly feel in the moment; when I practice autogenic training, go to guided meditations or practice yoga, but, while these times are very precious, they are also fleeting.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I would actually love to hear from anyone who has really, fully achieved this state of being in a real world with deadlines, bills, kids, a challenging boss and a heap of laundry just through ‘living in the moment’. I will challenge anyone that tells me they are living and loving life in the moment…the moment they stand barefoot on a piece of Lego.
I pre-empted the film’s ending and thought that was that, another lovely ‘live for the moment’ message. This was why I was so bowled over when Tim said, “And in the end I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I’ve even gone one step further than my father did: The truth Is, I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” And that was the answer for me, ‘the mothership’ of realisation that we actually can live with second thoughts. We can create our own sense of deja vu.
Have you ever been getting on with your task, your to-do list, your day, and then, out of nowhere, stopped and had second thoughts? Almost like waking up from a trance. We use the term ‘having second thoughts’, to mean having doubts or being uncertain. But, when we have these second thoughts, what we are actually doing is stopping and re-thinking just for a moment. What it actually implies here for me is waking myself up from the ‘getting on with it’ trance I’m in and kicking those pre-thought thoughts into touch long enough to enjoy the luxury of second thoughts-second chances taken now.
…”He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.”
You can take this as far as you like. You might have guessed that I love hearing and telling stories, so that’s what worked for me. I’ve started telling myself time travel stories:
When I had to wake my son (not an easy task), I pretended that my time-travelling-self had discovered that today was the last day he would want me to wake him. Tomorrow he would decide he was too grown up for a Mummy snuggle, his bedroom door would stay solidly closed to me and I would be replaced by an alarm clock. With my ‘second chance’ I really enjoyed waking him up, made it as fun as I could and really appreciated an extra-long hug.
When I was in a rush and didn’t really have time to do the hair-do my daughter was asking for, I pretended that I knew she would have all her long hair cut short tomorrow and wouldn’t want or need me to brush it for her any more. With a second chance, I enjoyed every brush stroke, took time to really notice the colour and feel of her hair and created something ‘new’ that she was thrilled with-and I surprised myself with!
When a friend called and wanted to talk when I didn’t really have the time, I imagined that I already knew that this phone call would change that friend’s life tomorrow either for good or bad depending on how attentive I was. With a second chance, I actively listened and actually learned something myself.
Do you get the idea? It may be that tomorrow you discovered:
- That today was the most important day to be kind to someone in the office that you usually avoid.
- That your partner is going to have an accident so you have to make the most of your evening together tonight.
- That the time to say ‘I love you’ (and truly mean it) will be too late tomorrow.
- That a good deed today has a huge impact on what happens in your life tomorrow
- That telling your boss about the great idea you’ve been too nervous to share changes your life, but only if you say it out loud today.
- That your team achieves something amazing next week, but only if you can give them your attention, listen to their needs, hopes and dreams and get them all on board this week.
…and you’ve been given a second chance to change history.
Can you imagine the power of coaching and being coached utilizing ‘second thoughts’ in this way? It means having your positive vision for the future as clear as if you already saw it on your time travels and the knowledge that (re)doing the right things in the right way today, in this moment, is the only way to achieve your goals. Think, “How would I have done this ‘yesterday’ and how can I do it better ‘today’.” Give it a try and don’t put those things off any longer: Take the chance, speak up for yourself, tell that person how you feel, listen attentively, ask the thing that you’ve been too scared to ask, say ‘I love you’ and really mean it and really appreciate the people around you because, even without playing with second thought time travelling, life is so very short and you just never know…
The only thing holding you back is your imagination! Tell yourself stories about what you found out in your future. Make them as crazy, funny, dramatic or exciting as you like and wake your second thoughts up from their trance. Already knowing how amazing tomorrow will be will give you the hope, trust and strength to do things better today.