extremes and the power of now

Imagine being immersed in physically extreme situations with not much time in between. For example, imagine being in a context of extreme poverty in India, then in one of the new 6 star hotels (I think they’re doing 7 star now) in Dubai. Or being crammed in Tokyo peak hour then being on solo retreat in a wilderness, etc. I have often wondered about a reflective social / psychological experiment that travelled this gauntlet.

I came pretty close to this a couple of weeks ago. 2 days after swimming in the Mediterranean on a stinking hot French Riviera day I was standing in sub zero temperatures on the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland at 3500 metres. So, what did the experience teach me?

In a phrase, the ‘power of now’. While immersed in an extreme context it is nigh on impossible to muster the physical sensations associated with another. In other words, the warm waters and carelessness associated with the [stoney] beach may as well have been on Mars while the icey wind battered my naked ears.

Clearly this is not the case with emotions from extreme events, which we carry with us as involuntary baggage. What I am talking about here is the sensation of physical environments. So what?

For me it reinforced two things:

1. All I’ve got is now, or put slightly differently, ‘I’ve only got now, now.’ We can waste so much of our lives by wishing for another reality, often one that never comes. So, as my friend Steph reminded me the other day, the imperative is to be alert to truth, beauty and goodness now, right now.

2. The emotional skill of managing our emotions in any given context is non-trvial yet fundamental to a healthy life unless we want to be at the whim of circumstances. Our work with leaders helping to develop emotional intelligence encompasses this.

So, I wish you an alert week, a week where you have eyes open to truth, beauty and goodness … especially at work, while you simultaneously seek efficiency, effectiveness and profitability.