Most of us would agree that it is important to live in the moment, to fully soak in what is going on right now because life goes by so fast.
I’m sure that I am not the only one out there that knows that this sentiment is true, but still struggles to put it into practice. I am such a planner, a worrier, and an over-thinker.
I am always thinking ahead to the next thing that I need to be prepared for or making more plans for myself. It almost feels like I am hitting a fast-forward button when I focus so much on the future, or at least everything seems like a blur when I look back at specific times in the past when I spent days at a time hurrying to do everything and anxiously planning for the future.
I don’t want my life to rush by me without me enjoying every minute of it, so I have been collecting some practices that I can integrate into my life that will help me to do a better job of living in my now.
Live it up!
We each only live one time and we need to be making sure that we are making the most of it! Not everything in life that we have to do is going to be enjoyable, but we still need to do everything to the best of our abilities.
At the end of the day, I feel so much better about what I have accomplished if I know that I gave it my best, and I have a feeling that I might feel the same about my life in total once I reach the end of it.
I don’t want to take the chance of looking back and wishing that I had tried a little harder. I believe that all of us are capable of doing almost anything that we want to do. If we want to be our very best at something, we have the power to make that happen.
Conor McGregor said it this way when asked about his MMA talent, ‘You can be anyone if you put in the time. I am not talented, I am obsessed.’. I don’t think that we all need to become obsessed with everything that we take on in our lifetime, but I want that statement to remove some of our excuses about not finishing things that we start or not doing something the way that we know we should have.
Let’s stop saying that we would play with our kids more if we weren’t so tired, or that we would meet the deadlines that our boss expects of us if he wasn’t such a jerk. We are capable of doing much more than we tell ourselves, and all it takes is changing the way that we think.
Our chores and our jobs have important places in our lives, and we cannot skip out on those tasks. However, we should also make the things that we enjoy doing a huge priority. Having fun should be a mandatory part of our lives! I know that I often make the mistake of taking life too seriously.
I get wrapped into the hustle and bustle and I forget to do things that I enjoy. In my desire to be successful and driven, I have often neglected plans with friends, spontaneous trips, or taking time for myself.
I even feel guilty for not using most of my time in a ‘productive’ way. Being successful at living is about much more than a resume can display though, and as each year goes by, it gets harder and harder to remind myself of that.
I don’t want to wait until I retire to start really living when I could be really living every day! We all need to remind ourselves to take more risks, have fun every day, do what’s right for us, and put our happiness first.
Stop worrying about the future
I have a feeling that I spend more of my time with my headspace already in the future than I realize.
The other day I found myself stewing in a puddle of self-created anxiety about which path I should take in my next career step – what jobs I should look for, whether or not my skills really matched my desires, if anyone would even call me for an interview.
After stressing for a few days, I starting to think about similar worries that I had a few years ago and realized that things worked out just fine for me then. If I had been able to send a letter to my past-self, I would have told me not to spend too much time worrying about something that the universe had already worked out for me.
A year from now, or five years from now, I will probably look back at this current time of my life and think the same thing. The troubles we go through are temporary, but that is so easy to forget when we are right in the middle of them.
As C.S. Lewis suggested, ‘There are better things ahead than any we leave behind’. No matter what we are struggling through right now, there is a future waiting for us with solutions to our problems that are probably better than anything that we could imagine right now.
Talking about the future seems like it would be counterintuitive to a conversation about focusing on ‘the now’, but I think that in times of stress it is important to remind ourselves that the future will come regardless of if we worry about it or not.
It will not help us to waste our current moments lost in the worrying of what is to come.
Face your worries
I have found that I have an uncanny ability to stress about an endless number of things at the same time. I mix it all up in a big stress-soup and then it just floats around in my mind with a different stress bubbling to the surface every few minutes just reminding me that it’s in there.
My usual reaction is to just stuff the item back down and try to focus on what I am working on at the time. Doing this so often has had negative affects on my emotional health, my ability to focus on tasks, and it has caused visible tension in my back and shoulders.
There have been times that I can physically feel the symptoms of stress in my body, but I can’t even remember what it is that I am worrying about. Even when I try to put my anxieties to the back of my mind they still affect me.
The only way for us to prevent our worries from taking over our subconscious is to face them head on. It hasn’t been easy, but over the past few weeks I have been trying to practice this. I sense that something stressful is bubbling underneath the surface, so I let it come to the front of my thoughts.
Then I think through the circumstance logically and either find a solution, if there is one, or accept that there is nothing that can be done and allow it to leave my mind since I have no control over it. It’s the same concept as turning the lights on in your bedroom when you were a kid because you thought that you were seeing monsters everywhere.
If you stayed in your bed laying there in fear, the monsters grew and moved around your room watching you. Once you flipped on the lights, the monsters fled and your fear usually went with them.
This practice has also helped me to deal with conflict better because if there is something unsettled between me and someone in my life, it challenges me to deal with it right away instead of letting both of us sit in the unknown.
Taking back some control of my stress levels is already having a positive effect on my body, my mind, and relationships.
Stop multitasking all the time
This topic gets me right where it counts. I am the queen of trying to do a million things at the same time. I want to get as much done as possible and there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
- I eat my lunch while I am working.
- I verbally dictate notes into my phone while I am driving.
- I have a conversation with my partner while reading an email.
All day long I juggle multiple plates all at once to keep this circus operating at the rate that I seem to think that it should. I know that I am unable to do the things that I am doing very well with my focus split this way.
I am sacrificing that quality of the tasks that I am performing by attempting to do them at the same time. Sometimes that means that I have to repeat the same task multiple times to get it right when I could have just focused better the first time and done it correctly, so it’s not saving me any time anyways.
There is a Zen proverb that states, ‘When you walk. Walk. When you eat. Eat.’
If we are attempting to get the most out of each day, then we need to get the most out of each interaction and each experience, whether the experience is sending an email or walking down the street.
Live off the Clock
Our culture is so driven by time and by a constant monitoring of our schedules. I feel like I am buried under a list of appointments, meetings, obligations, home renovations, etc.
I have VERY few days, if any, with nothing to do. As a result, I am always checking my planner and looking at my watch to make sure I am not forgetting something I need to be at or that I am not running late for the next scheduled thing.
Because I recently became aware of how much I live by the clock these days, I am trying to be more aware of it. After work, I have been trying not to look at the clock or hurry myself through the rest of my night.
Instead, I exercise, stop at the grocery store, make dinner, and get myself ready for bed at the pace that I want to instead of trying to beat the clock and do everything as fast as I can. I am also attempting to give myself more days with absolutely no agenda – just going with the flow and doing what I feel like doing.
Even though I currently have to plan ahead to have a day with no plans, when I do have those days I find that I am able to focus so much better on what is going on around me. I listen to conversations with friends a little more intently, I take the time to really take in the scenery, I explore places that I would not have ventured to otherwise, and I end my day feeling rested and ready for the schedule the that awaits me in the days to come.
Being diligent about making the most of our present moment is the key to creating a better future for ourselves. So, while they seem like opposite advice, ‘Focus on the NOW’, and ‘Don’t get so caught up in the NOW’, actually mean similar things.
We need to remember to let ourselves fully soak in the sunshine, our friends and family, and our free time without obsessing about making sure that everything is going exactly the way that we think it should be.
This very moment, we have the ability to free ourselves from our pasts and prepare ourselves better for the remainder of the days to come. It all starts with making changes to our lifestyles and to our habits that foster mindfulness, self-awareness, and slowing down.