I’ve spent the past several days away on a family “sun-cation,” as I like to call it. We needed to break out of the cold and snow for a few days and soak up some rays and relax. I spent much of my pool/ocean side time reading. Everything from straight up self-help to borderline trashy romance! One theme that kept jumping out at me was living in the present, being in the moment.
Think about that for a moment, do you live in the present? Or, do you dwell in the past about events, words, and things that happened that can never be returned to, you’ll never have a do-over on those moments? Or, do you spend so much time planning for and fretting over the future that you’re too preoccupied to enjoy the here and now?
We landed at our destination in the afternoon, on the shuttle ride to the hotel I was so busy chatting with my family about what we would do when we got to the resort that the boys completely missed out on taking in the scene as we traveled. We got to the resort, checked in, got to our room and all the while I was talking about the “what’s next.” I was robbing them of taking in the grandeur of the place. Noticing the happy, tan people running around everywhere. Hearing the local chatter that wasn’t in our familiar tongue. Exploring the signage, the views, the happenings. I had them completely focused on the future.
Of course, we still had a great time. We made it through that first afternoon and evening, saw many things, did many things, had new food, sand under our feet, a dip in the pool, a few frozen drinks, and it was certainly enjoyable. On day two when I was sitting reading, I came to realize what I had been doing. I immediately tried to make a shift in my thinking. It isn’t easy! Now for some it might be simpler, I’m a very Type A, let’s get this planned out and done kind of person… for me… GIANT CHALLENGE!
It was blatantly apparent on vacation, but this applies to our daily lives as well. How often are we caught up in past events, things that have happened to us, or been said to us that we let define our present? Way too often!
All of the things that have happened in our past that have been negative, we have a knack for storing those up in a little bank in our minds. That negative Nancy voice within us pulls them out to use as examples to feed fear within us when we are in the present. Daily we have are faced with decisions.
- Should we speak up in a meeting at work with a great idea? Maybe that voice within you says, “No, remember that one time when you spoke up and were shot down. Don’t be be a fool, no one will like your idea.”
- We have an opportunity to do something that we have a burning passion for, but that voice says, “Are you kidding me? What if you fail like the last time.”
- You’ve found a love, he’s amazing, you both want to move on to the next step of your relationship. Negative Nancy says, “Don’t do it, you know he’ll just hurt you. Put your guard up.”
- Your friends are getting together to run a half marathon for a great cause you support. That darn inner voice says, “No way you can run that far. You’re too weak, you’re not good enough.”
Friends, tell Nancy to shut up! She’s instilling doubt and fear in you that is keeping you from experiencing your present to the fullest. You have to push down the voice in your head that feeds off of past experiences like these and instills fear within you. You MUST shut it out and go for it!
Similarly, if you’re so focused on the future and have set up all sorts of plans and expectations for yourself and others, you may end up disappointed when it doesn’t unfold exactly as you’d imagined. I’m not saying don’t plan for the future and don’t make plans. What I am saying is when you go into an event, situation, or family time with no or limited expectations, you’re open to enjoying whatever does happen.
For instance, I’m thinking about a time when I had planned to surprise Ricardo with a night out when he returned from a business trip. My thinking was that he’d return from a few days away and be really excited to go out to dinner and spend the evening on the town. My EXPECTATION was that he’d be really pleased with the plan I’d made and we’d have this romantic, fun, and enjoyable evening together. Turns out, he was really tired when he’d gotten home. He was beginning to come down with a cold and the last thing he wanted to do was go out. I was bummed. Instead, he suggested ordering takeout and cuddling up on the couch with a some Netflix and a bottle of wine. In the end I was still spending time with my sweetie, which is what I was after, but because the evening didn’t meet my exact expectations I was a little bit pouty and didn’t enjoy the present moment to it’s fullest.
We never really know what may unfold at social engagements, family vacations, trips to the park, evenings at home, etc. We rarely know what kinds of things are impacting our family and friends and how it’s effecting their mood, so it’s unfair to have a whole bunch of expectations around how they will act or what the happenings may be. But if we go into it with an open mind, we are able to enjoy whatever does come about to it’s fullest. We forgo that whole disappointment part. We are fully engaged in the present and toss out opportunity for resentment, angst, and let down.
I remember those evenings in my 20’s when I was feeling kind of blah. My friends were busy or working, but I just needed to get out of the house. I’d head out to one of our local college spots alone, just planning to grab a beer or a coffee and see who was out and about. Some of those nights turned out to be the most fun! I would inevitably run into someone I hadn’t seen in a while, maybe they were on their way to do something fun and invite me along, maybe they were in the same boat I was and just wanting to socialize. I remember sometimes one beer turning into a night of bar hoping and listening to bands, sometimes heading back to friends’ dorms and playing cards until who knows what time, and sometimes just sitting around catching up with those I’d lost touch with for a couple of hours over coffee. My night of unplanned, no expectations turned into a great night where I was able to enjoy spontaneity, go with the flow, and enjoy every bit of it!
Point is, endeavor to leave the past in the past, let the future organically unfold, and fully enjoy the present! It takes a little practice, but I promise you’ll thank yourself!