Psychological Savoring: The Antidote to Blind Ambition

When was the last time you thought:

“Damn, one day this moment will be a cherished memory. I need to be fully present in it right now?”

If it’s been a while, today’s piece should help…

Cherished moments are fleeting.

And most of us only cherish what we had, not what we have while we have it.

Which is why you hear about so many super successful people filled with regret—because they were so focused on chasing what was in front of them, they never stopped to look around at everything they had in the moment.

We’re all guilty of this—it’s part of the double-edged sword of ambition.

As creators and entrepreneurs, we’re so busy pushing forward, we often forget to enjoy what we have while we have it.

Our ambition drives us and blinds us.

It drives us to attain more tomorrow, but it can also blind us to what we have right now.

Before we know it, we too are on our deathbeds looking back on a lifetime of regret we weren’t more present in the moment.

But I’ve discovered what I consider the antidote to blind ambition so you can avoid looking back on a lifetime of regret wishing you would’ve enjoyed what you had while you had it.

It’s called psychological savoring.

Here’s what it is and how you can practice it in your own life…

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Memento Mori and Psychological Savoring

Psychological savoring is exactly what it sounds like—mentally enjoying a moment and being fully present.

But if you’ve read my stuff for any length of time, you know I’m a huge fan of memento mori. So my specific approach to practicing psychological savoring incorporates a healthy dose of memento mori into it.

Here’s what I mean…

Imagine you’re on the phone with your parents.

They’re droning on and on about…nothing.

You think, “I couldn’t care less about whatever it is they’re talking about. I could be doing something else, anything else, than sitting here listening to them prattle on about the latest neighborhood drama or something they saw on the news.”

You can’t wait to get off the phone.

But here’s the thing…

In 30 years, when your parents have been gone for years, you’d do anything to hear their voices one more time.

You’d cherish the chance to hear them prattle on about nothing one more time.

And the same goes for everything else we take for granted and let pass us by in our pursuit of excellence.

Our ambition drives us forward, but it can blind us to what we have today.

One day when I’m older, I’d kill to be able to hear my dad’s voice one more time, hug my mom, have my grandma’s homemade banana bread, or hang out with my grandpa in the garage while the walnut wood burning in the stove infuses the air with a smell I’ll associate with him and these moments for the rest of my life.

Taking these moments for granted will be one of my biggest regrets when I’m older.

It’s a cold hard fact of life—everything you cherish today will one day be a memory.

But the issue is most of us are so focused on achieving more tomorrow, we never take the time to truly savor what we have while we have it today.

We only cherish things in hindsight—when it’s too late.

I used to be “too busy” to hang out with family. Too impatient to take a phone call with a loved one. Too ambitious to take the evenings off to spend with my partner.

Then I realized I’d allowed so many moments to become cherished memories that I never enjoyed when they were still actively happening.

What’s the point of ambition and doing everything we do as creators if all we’ll have to show for it on our deathbed is a lifetime of regret wishing we’d been more present in the moments that truly mattered?

Luckily, we have the power to shift our perspective and enjoy what we have while we have it—to practice psychological savoring in the moment.

To cherish a memory in the moment as we’re making it.

Here’s an exercise that’s helped me practice incredibly deep gratitude on a daily basis…

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Psychological Savoring In Action

This single exercise has legitimately changed my life, so I hope it helps you cultivate deep gratitude, too…

Step 1

Close your eyes and pick a favorite memory.

Step 2

Now try to recreate it in as much detail as possible—like you’re filming a movie scene.

Sights, sounds, the texture of the couch you’re sitting on, every minute detail you can recall.

Do you feel how real it seems when you recreate the memory?

If you recreate it well enough, you’ll feel an ache—a longing to actually go back in time and relive it with a newfound appreciation for how special that moment would be to you now—when it’s only a memory.

If only you could time travel back to that moment and relive it with deep appreciation and gratitude…

While you can’t actually time travel, you can psychologically time travel.

Here’s what I mean…

Step 3

The next time you’re in a moment—hanging out with family, playing with your kids, on the phone with a loved one, taking a walk with your partner in the grocery store—anything—try this:

Imagine you’re 80 years old and you’re trying to recreate the moment you’re currently experiencing in the present.

As you’re trying to recreate this memory, what are the details you’re focusing on?

What makes this moment worth revisiting, recreating, and savoring so deeply? Is it the sound of someone’s voice you haven’t heard in 30 years? The smell of their cooking you haven’t tasted in decades? Or simply sitting in their presence, knowing they’re alive and well?

This psychological time traveling allows you to deeply savor what you have while you have it instead of taking it for granted and letting the moment pass you by.

Step 4 (Bonus)

When you finish reading this article, take 10 minutes to do this exercise. Don’t just think about doing it, actually do it.

Some things to consider:

  • What loved one can you call, simply to savor the sound of their voice today?
  • What are small details about your life today that you’ll wish you could remember decades from now?
  • What is something about your life right now that, on your deathbed, you’d give anything to relive for even a moment?
  • What is something you’ve been taking for granted that when you’re older, you’ll look back on and wish you’d cherished more in the moment?

These also make great journaling prompts.

But more importantly, this exercise will help you truly savor moments that matter.

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Final Thoughts

You work hard, every day, to build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.

But don’t lose sight of what truly matters in pursuit of that better life.

One day, all you’ll have left of a loved one will be old voicemails, text messages, and fragmented memories. And everything you take for granted now—your health, your routine, your life—will be a cherished memory you’ll wish you’d appreciated more in the moment.

Like I said in “A Remedy for the Existential Angst of Being a Creator,”

“Ambition is great. But blind, inexorable ambition leaves us in a constant state of inadequacy. This not-enough-ness is the source of our existential angst.”

Don’t let ambition blind you to what you have right here, right now.

After all, what’s the point of everything we do, all the sacrifices we make, and all the business goals we achieve if we don’t enjoy what we have while we have it?

Psychological savoring, with a memento mori twist, is an antidote to this blind ambition.

Today, you have the opportunity to show up with intention—to be fully present and savor a moment that will all too soon be just a cherished memory.

Moments are all we have.

Memories are all we will have.

Make them count.