by Lori Milner, author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
At this point in the year, we are gobsmacked that it’s November and repeatedly tell ourselves how the year has flown. But when we create days that are memorable, they seem to stick longer in our mind and it feels like time slows down just a little bit.
It is simple enough to make a day different, and therefore memorable. This raises the question of why we don’t do it. I found the answer in Laura Vanderkam’s brilliant book, ‘Off the Clock’ which explains it beautifully.
The answer is that the “self” is really multiple selves:
The anticipating self is wondering about, planning, and worrying about the future.
The experiencing self is in the here and now.
The remembering self thinks back to the past.
Creating more memories—and hence creating more time — requires privileging the anticipating and the remembering selves above the experiencing self in ways that require serious self-discipline.
Indeed, anticipation may account for most of the happiness associated with events. Knowing you have a reservation for your favourite restaurant on Saturday night allows you to experience some of the pleasure you’d have in the moment of eating. Unlike the moment of eating, however, anticipated pleasure can extend for weeks. The remembering self is anticipation’s sidekick. She is the keeper of your identity.
The anticipating self thought it would be fun to go to the art museum on a Friday night—when admission is free and there’s a bar and music!—and the remembering self will fondly recall the masterpieces, and maybe even a new friend made in line for chardonnay, but the experiencing self is tired after work. The experiencing self is the one who will have to brave the cold and the rain and the Friday-night traffic.
The experiencing self resents this division of labour. So she throws a tantrum. She ignores the anticipating and remembering self and justifies her betrayal with statements that are certainly true: I’m tired. The museum will be there next Friday. So I’ll just watch TV. Immediate effortless pleasure wins out over the more effortful variety. Writes philosopher Robert Grudin in Time and the Art of Living, “We pamper the present like a spoiled child.” We indulge its whim to scroll through Facebook posts from people we never liked in high school anyway. Then this time is nothing. It disappears as if it doesn’t exist.
There is no easy answer for solving this past-present-future dilemma. People are horrible at considering their future selves. When it comes to that critical moment of agreeing to or postponing that exciting something, I pause and try to remember that this is just one actor carrying on a monologue in what should be a three-actor play.
Then I repeat a two-part mantra: • Plan it in. • Do it anyway.
If my anticipating self wanted to do something, my remembering self will be glad to have done it. Indeed, my experiencing self may even enjoy parts of it. I am tired now, but I will always be tired, and we draw energy from meaningful things.
Also remember this: all time passes. Whether I do anything today or not, eventually I will be on the other side of the next twenty-four hours. It can be filled with “nothing” (in this case, meaningless somethings), or it can be filled with something more intriguing. As for that intriguing something, even if my anticipating self is more timid, eventually I will be on the other side of this activity.
It is the effortful fun that makes today different, and makes today land in memory. You don’t say, “Where did the time go?” when you remember where the time went.
Here’s to creating our memories,
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
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