One of the biggest struggles I’ve ever faced is learning to live fully present. And this isn’t just a problem I wrestle with. Seems like everyone I talk to wants to be more “present”.
Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a busy executive, a college student, or in what some jokingly tell me is the busiest season of life “retirement”, I bet your struggling with feeling like your often busy and distracted. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe that their life would be richer and even more productive if they could life fully present more frequently and yet most of us complain that it just doesn’t seem possible.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
It’s so easy to get paralyzed in life waiting for the absolute perfect conditions. In my experience, I’ve found that there are a couple of different mentalities that keep us from being fully present in our lives. My friend Mike Foster articulated these mentalities perfectly in his incredible workbook, Wonderlife, where he talked about these conditions that tend to keep us locked in our past or paralyzed by our unforeseen future.
There are two distinct groups of people in life. Those classified as “hyper-past” or “hyper-future”. You probably tend to fall into one of these two camps (and when I say probably, I mean you do to some degree or another).
So for those of us living in the hyper-past: this means your past has a disproportionate amount of influence on your current life which is keeping you from living fully present. There’s often a couple different classifications amongst this group as well.
Some are the victims, who are defined by the hurt of their past. Something happened to you and you’re just paralyzed by it. Or, there are the romantics who are just stuck in their glory days. You relive old dreams and think your best days are behind you. If I’m honest with you, I feel myself in this realm quite often these days. It’s easy for me to not be fully present in my moment because I keep getting pulled into daydreaming about my past.
On the other end of the spectrum from the hyper-past group, we have the hyper-future group; those who are paralyzed by the future. And once again we see a couple of subgroups here.
Some of you are what we call “the planners”. You can’t focus on today because you’re consumed by this big giant nest egg. You obsess on retiring. You obsess on whether or not Prince Charming is on his way to you. You obsess about the potential of illness. Listen, planning for and anticipating your future is valuable and important. But we must still enjoy the present while we are saving for the future.
Now, shifting gears to the other subgroup of the Hyper Future folks: “the after-lifers”. These are the super religious people who have no interest in this world and are just waiting around for heaven. They see no real purpose to the days between now and then and chug along at what they think they’re “supposed” to do all in effort of getting to point B, but missing out on truly living their life for the kingdom’s cause.
So which camp do you see yourself most in?
Are you hiding from your past? Are you paralyzed by your future?
Here’s a few practical tips to help you live in the here and now that I’ve been incorporating into my life recently.
1) Regularly unplug.
One of the greatest enemies to living fully present in our world today is social media. By its very nature it’s going to lure you in to wish that you were somewhere other than where you are. We all need scheduled times during the day where we’re protecting our minds from being bombarded by the temptations of social media.
2) Be there for others.
There are few things that help me be really present in the moment like stopping to be there for someone who needs a hug or a listening ear. Hurry is always going to keep you from living a compassionate life. Slow down long enough to be fully present and notice that almost everyone God allows you to lock eyes with in the course of your day needs some sort of healing.
3) Permit indulgences.
This is a tough one for me because I’m often tempted to tie my self-worth to accomplishing things. So I have to push back against the lie that “me time” is actually “good time”. If you want to live fully present you need to find time to do the things that really fill you up. If it’s writing, make sure you schedule 30 minutes a day to write. I’ve recently found so much joy in just taking my dog for a walk. What is it for you? Get a massage, have a glass of wine, take a walk around your office building- just find ways to reward yourself during the day.
4) Find reasons to celebrate at work and in your personal life.
Very few of us celebrate too much. It’s almost always the opposite. I’ve found that living fully present means taking the time to find reasons to celebrate and I don’t think you can find too many of them. Whether it’s someone’s work anniversary or wedding anniversary. Maybe it’s a friend who got a raise, or your buddy who sold a car today. Life is full of little moments that we can celebrate. So find a good reason to throw some confetti around. It won’t kill you.
5) Start your day by thinking about the end of you day.
This is something I’ve started doing every morning as I fill in my calendar for the day. I got the idea from a productivity worksheet I downloaded from my friend Donald Miller. Every morning I start by asking myself “If I could live today over again I’d ______”; and then I write it down right there on my schedule for the day. Here’s a few themes I’ve seen pop up quite a bit for me.
If I could go back and do today over again I’d…
-Spend less time on social media.
-Not worry as much.
-Ask more questions.
-Talk less, listen more.
There’s something about answering that question each morning that gives me a little more focus and the ability to more fully live present in each moment.
So how about we all decide today to live in the now. Decide today that we accept our present regardless of our past or future. And decide today that there are people, moments and lessons in “the now” that can shift our lives forever. We just have to open our eyes to them.