One of the defining moments of my life was the time I got hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle. One minute I was pedaling along on a perfect spring day with my wife; the next I was sprawled on the pavement, racked with pain and fighting for breath.
I spent weeks afterward looped on what seemed like every painkiller known to medicine. The pills dulled the pain, but twisted my brain into a classically bad trip.
In my mind, I was alone, under siege, and destitute. I couldn’t connect with the reality of being surrounded by people who cared for my every need, sitting in a comfortable home with money flowing into my bank account even though I wasn’t working. I had everything I could need and want, but I didn’t believe it.
This was my master class in how to create security.
First, I realized that security — that safe feeling that we have enough of everything, including time, money, love and energy — has nothing to do with the actual facts. I was getting the best of everything while I was recovering and yet was convinced I was only days away from living on the street.
And while you might say it was the drugs talking, that experience of mortal fear – of losing my job, of losing my marriage, of not having enough time to get things done – was actually common in my life up to that point. And my life up to that point had been a charmed one: a wealthy upbringing, great schooling, a solid marriage, and a prestigious job at the top of my profession.
And yet still, I lived in fear of losing all of that. (Come to Phoenix with me some time and I’ll show you the highway underpass I was certain I’d be living under as soon as the good times inevitably ended.)
Sometimes I’d catch myself and see the crazy disconnect between my actual life and what I feared would happen. And then I’d tell myself it was a good thing to not get too comfortable or else I’d lose my edge. (As Intel co-founder Andy Grove famously said “Only the paranoid survive.”)
How did I manage to block out reality and wallow in fear of scarcity? I did it by jumping past the current moment and into the future where all those bad things could happen. Never mind that in the now moment I was comfortable, loved and successful; by jumping to the future I could conjure up a thousand scenarios that would dissolve all of that.
The other thing I learned — in that moment between feeling the car hit my body and my body hitting the pavement — was security is not even a real thing. My feelings of safety and security were stories I told myself so I didn’t feel so scared. The reality is that there are no guarantees; life can change in an instant.
So given those two lessons: that security is a state of mind and that it has nothing to do with what is really going on around me, I realized I have a choice. I can choose whether to feel I have enough of everything. And if I focus on what is really happening in the now moment, at almost every instant I actually do have exactly what I need.
These days, I choose more and more often to stay in the now moment, appreciate what I’m actually experiencing, and to feel that is abundant. This, together with a bright orange helmet and flashing red bicycle light, have greatly improved my quality of life.