The Gift of Presence
||Title: The Present
Author: Spencer Johnson
Publisher: Bantam Books
Price: Rs 125
From the author of Who moved my cheese? comes The Present,
a parable that attempts to connect with its readers at different levels. Spencer
Johnson tells you that the secret to success and happiness lies in living in
the present rather than dwelling in the past or in the future. Like its predecessor,
The Present is short and to the point.
As a business grows, pressure builds on the CIO to juggle projects for various
departments. Naturally, his or her time is at a premium and the book offers
a way to address the problems of a stressed-out work life and the constant feeling
of having less time.
As in Who moved my cheese?, the point is made that embracing change and evolving
with it is critical. The difference is that this time around Johnson offers
a way to do just that.
The book opens with a contrasting pair, a man who is seemingly happy even though
he has more work than he used to, and a woman who seems tired and anxious. The
Present is the story of the man's success. A child comes to know of The Present
from a wise man, and hopes someone will give him something like that. As he
grows older he meets with life, its problems, and confronts his failures. Embittered
and unhappy he yearns for that present. He imagines it to be something that
will take him away from the reality of the world.
In stark contrast to his expectations, he learns with the help of the old man
that what counts is not escaping from reality but living in the present and
facing the challenges of daily life, one at a time. The young man recalls how
his mentor had once told him that he already possessed the present as a child,
but had just misplaced it. This approach helps him achieve his immediate goals,
but after a while he seems to be caught in a rut once again. He then realises
the importance of learning from the past and planning for the future.
The tenets of what the book preaches are as follows:
Although you should not wallow in the past, you should take a good look at it,
and change the way you did things that went wrong.
Staying focussed in the present and channelling your attention to what you are
doing at the moment is the key.
You have to visualise a future and figure out what you are doing today that
will help you get there.
As part of his thesis, the author also defines happiness and sorrow. He identifies
the pain causing the sorrow as the difference between what you have and what
you expected and wanted to have. Happiness in contrast is to be positive about
whats already there, and focussing on the present to make a better future.
Beyond the short-term
Over and above this, Johnson suggests that everyone needs a purpose that justifies
all of their actions in order to find fulfillment. A man's purpose in life,
as the protagonist of the story finds out, must expand beyond selfish interests.
That, says the author, is the key to success and happiness.
The author says that everyone posses the present and has truly experienced it
as a child. At some point, while growing up, we lose track of it, and get caught
up in anxieties from the past and the future. Johnson ends with a compendium
of the ways in which different people have been affected by the story. That
said, he confesses that some people merely put it away, and remain unchanged
after being exposed to his book.
The Present makes for good reading as it awakens your conscience about daily
sub-conscious actions. After listening to the story, a sales person realises
that every time he finds his listeners not responding positively, he thinks
about how much harder it is to sell at that moment than in the past. The book
puts things in perspective, and helps in prioritisation and time allocation.
- Deepali Gupta