It’s easy to say “live in the moment,” but it can be pretty hard to actually do it. Our minds like to move forwards and backwards—sometimes both at the same time—rather than staying still and focused on the here and now.
As both a certified career coach and life coach, one of the things I try to do and encourage in my clients is a sense of being present. In fact, I was working with someone just last week who was struggling with this issue. His mind was preoccupied with what he could have done differently, what he should be doing differently in the future, what he wanted to do versus what he believed he could do… All of these thoughts were taking him out of “today.” He was having trouble formulating his next step because he didn’t have a firm idea of where he stood. When he realized that he was creating his own unease, he was able to relax and take a more objective look at his current situation.
When you don’t live in the moment, it’s rather like standing in a long tunnel. You can see light at either end, behind you and in front of you. You might even catch some glimpse of what’s going on outside—but you’ll have no idea what’s right under your feet. Not only can this make it more likely that you’ll make a misstep and skin your knee, you could walk right past a golden opportunity and have no idea you’ve missed it. When you become present, it’s like flipping on the light switch.
When you’re in the process of changing direction with your business or moving forward in your current job, living in the moment becomes really important. Opportunities are all around us, every day. But when we’re lost in the world of “could’ve-should’ve-would’ve,” they’re easy to miss. Often, when we’re in an uncomfortable position—like when we’re between jobs or when we’re unhappy with our boss—we try to escape the here and now by looking forward or backward. But because neither the past nor the future give us firm ground for plans and progress, this mental escapism doesn’t do us much good. When we take each day as it comes, we’re more likely to see the good in a situation, and more likely to seize opportunity when it presents itself. On the other hand, living in the future makes it hard to be objective, and you may overlook an opportunity because it doesn’t look the way you imagined your opportunity should look.
In our personal lives, we also run to the past or the future, and in doing so we miss a lot of good stuff. For example, if you spend your entire day off thinking about all the work you have to do when you go back to work, you probably won’t be able to relax and have fun with your family. Or, if you think too much about someone who’s hurt you in the past, or something you feel guilty about, you’re transposing the past onto the present, and coloring today’s page with yesterday’s marker.
In a way, my career as a coach has prepared me for my new role as a foster parent. Knowing that my foster son might be returned to his birth parents at any moment makes living in the moment really important. When I’m with him, I don’t think about how painful it will be to lose him: I try to think about how wonderful it is to have him with us. There’s no such thing as permanence in life; there’s only right now. If I spent my time with my foster son worried about the future, I’d miss a lot of great moments.
Your action step this week is to consciously bring your thoughts back to the present. When you find yourself saying, “I wish… had been different,” or “when this happens, I’ll…” try to come back to the here and now, and say instead, “Today, I am…” You may be surprised what you learn about where you are right now. If you’re craving change, make a list of things you want to improve, and then list five things you can do right now to help you reach those goals.
You can also try this daily exercise to help you return to the moment. For 5 minutes, sit quietly, eyes closed, and simply hold the word “be” in your mind. Do your best to open to the experience of just this moment. Don’t think about what “be” is; just try to open your whole awareness to the experience of it. Don’t worry about doing it wrong. When your mind wanders, just come back to the word “be.” Before you open your eyes, notice how you feel.
If you need more inspiration, you can read this great article from ZenHabitats at http://zenhabits.net/2007/07/5-inspirations-for-being-in-the-moment/.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” (See ICF’s Code of Ethics.) If learning how to live in the moment is what you need to succeed, I’m here to help! Just give me a call!