Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Individuals who know me personally know that I’m a planner. I am goal-oriented. When I envision something getting accomplished, it’s pretty much tunnel vision from there. This, in addition to my years of education, has shaped me to be very future-focused. Some would say this is not bad in and of itself. However, this trait, which is needed in some spaces, has sometimes made it difficult for me to be and remain present…...
Can I be honest? Sometimes is an understatement. I’ve fallen into this trap a lot. To add insult to injury, in such a technology-driven world where we’re constantly informed about what others have going on, if we’re not continuously aware of our purpose and the pace of our journeys, subconsciously or consciously, we'll feel the need to think about what we then should plan next. This is a perfect formula for not being present.
When we’re not present, we miss out on a lot. Focusing on things that are currently beyond our control. There’s not always the guarantee that what we’re focused on will even manifest, consequently robbing ourselves of the moments right in front of us. Not being present stops us from enjoying those we love and care for, and those who love and care for us. We miss the many lessons everyday life and interactions can teach us. We can miss the beauty of creation being so stuck in our own heads.
Can I be honest again? A good chunk of my stress, moments of being overwhelmed, sad or even feeling insecure have been a result of not being intentional about being present.
Consider this: how many times have we driven and missed the entire ride to our destinations because we were in our heads? Pulling up wondering, “how did I end up here?”
We let our minds roam from one thought to the next, ending up on a never-ending trail of possibilities of the future and no certainties. Here’s the thing: being hopeful for the future and being consumed with the future are two different things. One is healthy; the other…not so much.
We’re oftentimes hopeful when we have visions or ideas of what tomorrow can or will look like, of what we’re created to do in the world. That is okay. However, the time of revelation is not always the time of execution. If you’re not careful you’ll allow your mind and will to get ahead of where you’re actually supposed to be and find yourself stress, exhausted, anxious, frustrated and maybe even feeling defeated because of the gap in where you believe you should be versus where you actually are right now.
What’s a good remedy? Actively be present. Dream. Envision your future. But also be present with what you have at hand. At the end of each day, allow that to be enough.
I had someone ask me where do I see myself in 5 years and how do I plan on getting there. These are the types of questions people with good intentions and potential employers ask, and while we may be able to provide a solid answer, the aftermath can open up a gateway into thoughts, questions, or doubts that could suck the life out of us. For those who plan to get married or have children, the self-defeating thoughts of “what if it doesn’t happen in my 5-year plan” can turn into “man, nobody wants me” all too quickly. Or “I’ll never have a child”.…you know, extreme language we speak over ourselves.
Because I’ve seen the effects of those types of questions, I’m learning to caution myself from asking similar questions. I will admit a few weeks ago, I did ask a friend what his 5-year plan was, and I loved his response: “I don’t know”. Very simple and I respected that because while I know he has desires, I believe he’s developed an understanding that he can only take life one day at a time. At any given moment and on any given day, life can look nothing like he planned. So why overwhelm ourselves with more than we have to?
When was the last time you’ve noticed yourself being present? How did you feel?
Being present can bring you peace, “for each day has enough trouble of its own”. Staying present makes you aware. You’re able to take note of and delight in the little details you’ve oftentimes missed. You’re also able to take note of how you’re actually feeling. Being present gives you the power to check thoughts and emotions, and engage in preventative measures to be well.
Honest moment: The first time this year I noticed I was fully present was August 10th, 2019 (lol yes, almost a month ago...yikes!). What was I doing? I spent time with friends who came to visit. We talked. We explored the city and we just….were. I spent time sitting on a patio, breathing. I looked at the trees, enjoyed the summer weather and was at peace. I sat out there and quietly prayed….and I listened. I had moments of thinking and when my thoughts wanted to take off, I gently and compassionately brought my thoughts back in and settled back to my resting state. I mean…. I was present okay?! I was present enough to acknowledge the various smells outside and hear various noises and animals. What’s usually background noise became the soundtrack of that moment, bringing tranquility and I was more than okay with that.
Even as we were driving around the city, I had moments when I was on the phone: texting, checking emails and scrolling on Instagram. But I also sat there and looked out the window. I looked at the buildings, and at the mix of beautiful colors as the sun was setting. We drove with the windows down and I stuck my hand out, with the wind smacking against my hand as I childishly tried to grab the air. I know this probably sounds like the scene of some sappy or corny movie you may have watched, but I was present and content. I was able to engage in simple life activities and take delight in them!
I wasn’t concerned or even curious about what others were doing that were not in that space with me. I’m amazed just by even recalling this moment. I was present!! Depending on your lot, being present may be more difficult for some than others. When you’re stressing about how that bill is going to get paid or if you’ll have enough food or gas to get you through the week, what I'm proposing may be difficult. If a major life transition is happening, maybe you’re overwhelmed with not knowing how to adjust. You’ve recently made a decision and you’re concerned about the consequences of this action. Maybe you are a caretaker of someone who has a physical or mental health diagnosis and you're constantly concerned with their well-being. I hear you. I validate those experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
I want to encourage you. Finding just a few minutes within your day to stop and be present can make a difference. It may not provide you with a remedy or answer (or it may!) but it’ll put you in a headspace and emotional state that may assist you in handling your lot a little better.
Here are some tips to stay present:
Practice gratitude: what do I have to be grateful for today?
Find time to unplug from technology
Don’t always feel the need to “multi-task”
Go for a walk and observe your surroundings
Fully listen when you are with others
Try this grounding activity. By asking yourself these questions, you may feel more present, centered and at ease:
What are 5 things in this moment I can see? What are 4 things in this moment I can feel? What are 3 things in this moment I can hear? What are 2 things in this moment I can smell? What is 1 thing in this moment I can taste?
If you have more tips that have worked for you, feel free to share them with our community! May you find moments throughout each week and even in each day to be present. You deserve it!
I'm rooting for you, always.
Diamond James, MSW, LCSWA