A Personal Reflection on Living “Just for Today”
“You are what you choose to be today, not what you’ve chosen to be before.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer
In the rooms of recovery, I’ve found there are a number of ways in which the term “just for today” can be interpreted and applied. Recently, I thought about one particular way of using it that holds value for me and I felt inspired to write about it.
I don’t know about you, but when I came into recovery, I’d spent years (if not decades) putting huge amounts of my mental and emotional energy and attention on the past and the future – not in a healthy way, of course – mainly, resenting or feeling guilty about my past, and fearing what the future had in store for me.
Back then, I could characterize my life, both literally and figuratively, as constantly looking over my shoulder or anxiously struggling to either avoid or control what lay ahead.
The fact is, I felt very little, if any, freedom to just live my life in the present moment.
Fortunately, I found my way into recovery and, through opening myself up to following my sponsor’s suggestions and practicing the 12 Steps in my daily life, I’ve been “released” from that particular form of imprisonment (i.e., destined to feel guilty or resentful about the past and fearful about the future).
Exactly how did I find this freedom? Well, first I began to see—through the example of others working a good program of recovery in their lives—how it was possible to choose where I put my attention and energy… and that “just for today” is where they were putting theirs. People who had, in the past, similarly “run amok” like I had, openly shared how their lives had changed for the better (sometimes slowly, sometimes quite rapidly) when they’d begun focusing themselves on what they could positively affect with their actions and behavior (i.e., the present moment, by making new decisions and taking new actions just for today). I learned they were also simultaneously shifting their attention and energy away from the seemingly constant swinging between “what happened” in the past and the “what if’s” of the future… neither of which anyone has control over!
Next, with the help and encouragement of my sponsor, I started to identify and write down in a bullet-point list the aspects of my life I could change and wanted to change (for example, stop the relentless blaming and recycling of past argument topics with my ex), as well as what future occurrences I’d typically worry about, but actually had no power to control (e.g., running my mind around in endless circles about what kind of sentence the judge in my case was going to hand down).
When I was clear about what I could and couldn’t control, I began consciously choosing to keep my attention in today, on my attitudes and behaviors in the present moment. Did I do it perfectly? No, and since then I’ve actually never done it perfectly. But less and less, I’d fall back into my old patterns of holding resentments or guilt in my heart and worrying about what hasn’t yet happened.
In time, I began feeling freer, less constricted within myself… and quite simply and naturally I’ve gotten into a new pattern of thinking, regularly focusing on what I can do—just for today—to affect what I currently have going on in my life. And truly, the results have been a blessing, because now I’m:
a. Not imprisoning myself in the endless loop of resenting or feeling guilty about my past and fearing the future;
b. Opening myself up to addressing the present moment with greater clarity and focus, which often brings me increased achievement and fulfillment, as well as more inner peace; and,
c. More conscious and available to receive the unexpected gifts of “being present” for what life offers up to me.
Living “just for today,” then, is a freedom and a blessing we can keep choosing to give ourselves, with a multitude of potential benefits, one day at a time.