Staying in the present is really hard to do. If you are anything like me, as you are sitting at the bus stop you are thinking about your dinner plans, your law school applications, what you should have done yesterday and your long to do list. Your mind is completely focused on some combination of yesterday, later and tomorrow. 30 minutes from now you will find yourself on campus and be amazed at how you got there because you were so lost in your own head.
This happens to me pretty frequently. I find that I am so busy living in the past or future, that I am not enjoying the present. I also have a bad habit of letting the past dictate the future, or at least convincing myself that it’s going to be the same. Instead of making decisions based on the current evidence, I like to use the past as proof that it will be EXACTLY the same this time, when it normally isn’t.
I am a big “what if-er”. I can “what if” like the best of them and usually find myself doing exactly that. Instead of focusing on the reality of the current situation, I am coming up with all of the future possibilities of how it could play out. Although this is a valuable skill in some scenarios it usually leads to a lot of unnecessary anxiety and dread. No one knows what the future holds or how things are going to play out, trying to guess is practically useless and a big time waster. Lately when I start playing the “what if” game, I try and say something ridiculous like “what if dinosaurs come back tomorrow and took over the world”. This usually snaps me back into reality and allows me to realize how unrealistic I am being.
It’s easy to get caught up in regretting something that you did in the past or worrying about something in the future. After all, this helps you avoid whatever you are currently facing or not facing for that matter. I am a big avoider, even this morning I found myself doing 546 different things to avoid eating breakfast. (For the record, I enjoyed my yummy bowl of cereal and coffee). Focusing on the past or future is a good way to avoid the present but it’s not a very good way to live. When you aren’t focused on the present you really are missing out. Looking back to the past few years I have realized that I was always focused on the next thing and because of this I missed out on a lot.
For me, staying in the present means focusing on the here and now without thinking too much about the past or future. It means allowing myself to be 100% present in what I am doing, including my feelings. It means slowing down instead of accelerating and some times even stopping. It means being gentle, kind and compassionate to myself in times of stress instead of “what if-ing” and avoiding. It means being genuine and authentic to my needs, instead of pushing them away. It means cherishing and enjoying the little things and the big things. It means taking each opportunity as it comes and then letting it go. For me, staying in the present means actually living life, instead of sitting in the background and watching as a spectator. Carpe diem.
And here is something to make you smile/laugh. It never gets old! : )