BOB MUELLER: Don’t get ahead of your nose

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By Bob Mueller

No matter what we do or how perfect our input, the fact is, we are never in control of the outcome of any situation.
Even when we know that we cannot count on a particular result, we tend to expect things to turn out as we’d planned.
And when they don’t, we will look for someone to blame. Some of us are terrific at blaming ourselves and then feeling unnecessary guilt or shame. That’s how hard it is to believe that outcomes are not controllable.
Are we responsible for the fact that life is unpredictable? No, we are not. The only thing required of us is effort. We must keep pushing the wheel forward.
Most of us learn early to confuse effort with outcome. We learn that we must always finish what we start and get good results!
If we don’t learn this in our family of origin, our bosses and workplaces will usually step in to teach us this lesson early on.
We are praised for being extremely responsible and criticized for not being responsible enough.
Is it any surprise that we become so outcome-oriented?
Becoming able to discern the difference between making a responsible effort and taking responsibility for the outcome takes courage and an understanding of our limits and the role of the divine.
Most of us are very good at being future dwellers. As children we planned for the day we would drive a car. As teenagers we planned for the day we’d go to college and/or marry.
As soon as we joined the workforce, we planned on the first promotion and the next one, too.
Looking ahead can have its positive side, of course. We do need to plan where we want to go in our lives, occupationally and personally, in order to seek the right preparation.
The problem comes when we live in the future plan rather than in our current experience; in doing so we miss entirely what our life is teaching us on a daily basis.
We have only so many moments to live, and we have no guarantee beyond this one.
No crystal ball can foretell how much time we have left. But if we wrap ourselves in the present moment, like a soft comforter, we will be at peace. Nor will we live in fear.
Now is synonymous with peace. Should you have any doubt, wrap the comforter around you and test this hypothesis.
Most of us have heard too many tragic stories about friends who died quite unexpectedly, and I always wonder (perhaps you do, too) if they were having fun at the moment of passing.
Were they living in the moment or busy worrying about an upcoming event, or fretting over the outcome of a situation already in motion?
Worry is a state of being that is only possible when we are not living in the present.
It is evidence that we are anticipating a future that we think will mimic our past and the painful experiences that we don’t want to repeat.
My wife Kathy often tells me when I get out of sorts: “Don’t get ahead of your nose.” It’s a great reminder that I am projecting, and it quickly brings me back to the present.
I also suggest that whenever thoughts of the future come into your mind, envision blowing them away. This may sound silly but it’s effective. I have used it for years.
In my work as a writer, speaker and minister, I often have a very full schedule.
If I begin to think about every activity on my schedule, or even just one that is a few weeks away, I can get fearful and overwhelmed. At that point, it’s time to return to now.
Whenever I let the future, rather than the present, call to me, I miss the peace of the moment.
At these times, I try to follow the suggestion I just mentioned: I blow my mind free of the thoughts, and I practice, once again, trusting God will help me handle all that I have signed up to do, when the time to do it arrives.
Joy is always available to us, moment by moment. But we must keep our minds open and pay attention.
A closed mind or a mind filled with fear or judgment will never know joy.
A red rose beginning to open, a willow tree swaying in the breeze, the rainbow after a shower, the dew glistening on each blade of grass in the early morning, a baby taking her first steps – all these moments hold the potential for joy.
Every moment of every day we can see evidence of God everywhere. And we can feel overjoyed by this evidence if we want to. The decision is ours.

Bob Mueller is the assistant vice president of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. For information, visit www.bobmueller.org. The views in this column are those of the writer.