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Live in the now

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Thad R. Middleton
  • 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander
The following is not a call for the masses to abandon career paths in order to join roaming bands of vagabonds along the coasts or to take up a hermit's quest for nirvana deep in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains.

This is a request for each of us to take a second and live for today, live in the now.

Too often, leaders become so focused on the horizon we fail to see the details of the path at our feet. Heads up, eyes forward, we guide our Airmen toward future achievements, goals or career opportunities.

Not a day passes when we are not discussing an individual's potential for an award, the need for Community College of the Air Force or advanced academic degrees, or counseling on the things needed in order to arrive at ones desired career objectives. Heads up, eyes forward, we keep the pace moving toward the horizon.

It wasn't until recently, while on a long overdue vacation to Yosemite National Park, I started reflecting on this heads up, forward looking mindset many of us have as leaders. Watching a 5 and 2 year old run through a field at the base of Half Dome, turning a fallen tree into their own personal jungle gym, makes you think. In that sun-soaked moment, I realized I had been so caught up in the ever so important tomorrow, I was missing the now. My feet were moving so fast toward a faraway horizon, I was missing what truly mattered most.

I can't paint everyone the same, but I think many would agree that if we took more time living in the now, we would all be better spouses, loved ones, friends, children, siblings and leaders. Being present means we press pause and take time to truly listen to what is being shared; away from our computer, desk, Blackberry or even office.

Stepping away and putting ourselves in the moment allows our minds to focus on the individual and not on the situation surrounding that individual. We can see what matters and dismiss the noise that doesn't. For many of us, it is hard to turn our minds from the various tributaries associated with certain conversations because that's how we are wired, but there are times we need to fight that temptation and focus on what's in front of us. Most often, that is someone who needs us, someone who needs us there living in that moment.

There is a lot of turbulence today and some would say staying focused on the horizon is nearly impossible because of the uneven path rising up to meet or consistent stride. This undulating ground under our feet only drives our need to sit and connect with our Airmen, their families and our own loved ones. There is a need to discuss the struggles of today without trying to find answers for tomorrow.

If we open ourselves up to listen, we may see we can better serve the needs of those who need us the most and possibly illuminate better opportunities in the future. Our families need us present every day without the distractions that creep into our lives. Our Airmen need leaders who can divert their attention from that far off horizon and focus on their struggles today. They need leaders not afraid of living in the now.