Being present is easy. As easy as walking. As simple as breathing. Yet, often we make a mess of things. We get overwhelmed, distracted, and do stupid things. Most of us get the feeling. "If I could only relax, and be more present, life would be better." Actually, we are able to do these things, only we go about them the wrong way.
High above the city, these workers enjoy a lunch-break. If they slip, or fall, they will die. Yet, they casually chat and read the paper. Although they are almost 1000 feet in the air, and could plummet to their deaths, they appear relaxed. The secret to their relaxation, is that they are more or less just sitting on a bench. A bench high up in the air is no different from a bench in the park. Really they are just sitting. And sitting is easy. Often the things that seem so overwhelming, are quite simple when looked at differently. Here's three steps that will make all the difference to being present with your life.
Step One: Enjoyment
Squeeze enjoyment from each moment. "If life throws you lemons, make lemonade." Being able to enjoy where you are is very important. For me it's easy to enjoy life when I'm playing guitar, dancing or writing. These are things that I love. Taking pleasure in the everyday tasks, like getting the car insured, posting letters, driving my daughter to the Doctor's, all require a shift in perspective. Each little task, has a life of its own. A beginning, a middle, and an end. When we view each task as a kind of story, a mini adventure, even every-day things become more satisfying. Most of us allow our minds to run riot. Our thoughts fly wildly about. One moment interested in this, another moment worried about that. Training the mind requires effort. Bring your thoughts back to: the email you are writing, the food you are cooking. The bed you are making. Be part of the journey. Life is made up of all these tiny tasks and moments. We can only enjoy them if we are present.
Step Two: Goals
Have clear goals. In the morning take a few minutes to plan your goals for the day. Setting goals gives a feeling of freedom and power. You get to choose your goals for the day. You decide what to prioritize. You know where you are going, you can relax. When you feel that you have choice, you can start to enjoy. Every few months, take time to plan bigger goals. Discuss them with a friend.
Step Three: Feedback and Review.
Before you go to sleep, daydream through the day you just had. Let your day move through your imagination, like clouds through the sky. Then drift off to sleep. This kind of review is hands off. You don't get caught up in what worked, and what didn't, you just let the whole day pass through. You can also write down what worked well, what failed, what could be better. It's valuable to do this kind of review after a meeting, an event, or a trip. Give yourself feedback. It is very satisfying to reach goals. It is also satisfying, to decide for yourself that you will do things differently/better next time. Be specific. After a party. "Next time, I will say goodbye to all the guests, even James who usually runs off before saying goodbye." Use Birthdays, and Christmas as markers for the whole year. You can ask yourself. Have I reached my goals? Am I moving in the right direction? What could I do differently?
Three steps to being present
Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present. (Bil Keane).
We can enjoy each day more by being present with what it brings. The more we feel that we are free to choose goals for ourselves, the more likely we are to enjoy them. When we review our day and our goals, we get instant feedback. This feeds into the enjoyment loop. These three steps: enjoyment, goal setting and review, can help us be fully present with each day.