Hello everybody, welcome to episode 156 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino here with an episode revolving around something quite important yet not often inquired about: living in the present. It’s easy to fantasize about the future, but what happens when we do it so much that we realize it’s impacting our ability to get there, as we can’t focus on what we need to do in the now? Our asker today has found herself in that situation, so let’s get to the important stuff and try to help her out. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I'm thinking too much about my future. I'm just imagining a dream life with a lot of traveling, etc. That future is only possible If I study now, but I'm distracted and I'm not studying. Instead I’m day dreaming about it and I know if I don't work now, the life I have been imagining will not come true.
How can I stop comparing my present to my future and not be jealous of my future self? Could you enlighten me on how to live in and enjoy the present?“
Excitement for the Future
Well, at least you have something you’re looking forward to and you know that you have to work for it. Even if it’s tough getting that work done right now, at least it’s because you’re feeling a lot of hope and excitement.
I don’t want to undersell this, though. I also understand your frustration and maybe a bit of worry that’s seeping in about your dreams not coming true if you can’t buckle down a little bit more and ground yourself in the present.
The feelings of excitement for the future are okay and natural, but we should all be careful of looking too forward to the future, because such thinking only steals the time we have right now.
And even though the time you have right now may not be filled with a lot of joys you’ve planned for the future, there’s a whole lot that it can offer, which we’ll talk about today.
How Do You Fully Appreciate the Present?
Now when it comes to fully appreciating the present, I think there are two ways of approaching it.
There are some quick strategies you can use to ground yourself moment by moment, and there are also pressing questions you can ask yourself which I think will have long term effects to help you connect with the present.
The quick stuff probably isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. Meditation and deep breathing are things you can practice at any time that will bring you back to where you are and do a good job of clearing your mind of thoughts that don’t need to be had at this moment.
Use Your Five Senses
A technique I also enjoy is getting in touch with the five senses; so stopping yourself and taking inventory of what you’re smelling, seeing, tasting, feeling and hearing.
You can also take a minute or so to simply look around the room and try to name every item in it or each color that you see.
These are simple, yet powerful tricks you can use to settle down a bit and remind yourself of where you are and a nice precursor for helping you be able to actually enjoy the present.
I tend to veer more towards an existential, almost abstract approach, though, and I think that such an approach makes you want to actually stay in the present once you’ve acknowledged that you’re in it, if that makes sense.
3 Questions on Living in the Present
I’ve thought up three questions that I think you can get to asking yourself to help you not just be present, but want to be present and not need to rush off to thoughts of the future so quickly.
1. What benefits do you have now that you won’t have in the future?
So what good stuff do you have in your life right now that is limited to right now, or will at least be harder to have in the future?
If you’re having a hard time thinking of some stuff, look to the past. What kinds of things were you eager to get past that now you wish you could have back? Maybe school being easy, your parents making you lunch every day, not having to work, more time to get together with your friends, better joints and metabolism (depending on how old you are).
What versions of those things do you have now that you’re not giving credit to? Maybe it’s parents that are still relatively young and healthy. Maybe it’s not having a mortgage. Maybe it’s not having wrinkles.
The bottom line is to think about what kind of stuff you’ll miss when you have this big future of yours. The more clear you can get on this, the more you’ll find time to appreciate them and not be in such a rush.
2. How can you bring some of the future to your present?
If you’re spending all this time thinking about your future, surely you must have some very concrete ideas now about how you want to spend it. How can those ideas be integrated into your life now, even in small ways?
You mentioned travel in your question. Maybe you dream of international travel, but money is tight and time is short right now. That doesn’t mean you have to wait till the future to do any traveling.
Take a weekend drive to a new place, or even just a day trip. Go camping. Take a long bike ride. Seeing new places doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming and if you want to be a good traveler, you’ll have to learn how to appreciate anywhere you go for it’s intricacies, even if it’s a small town a couple of hours away.
3. What ideas for the future did you have in the past that didn’t come true?
I hope this final question you can ask yourself will be the one to provide you with the biggest glimpse of reality.
When you think back, I’m sure there have been plenty of things in your life that didn’t go according to plan – for better or worse. Even if you’re quite young, there must be examples of this.
The reason it’s important to think about the things you wanted to happen that didn’t come true is because this is a pattern that will follow you all throughout life and not accepting it would be foolish.
You may very well have a bright and wonderful future ahead, but changes will still occur.
The sooner you can get comfortable with this and acknowledge how out of your control it is, the more appreciation you’ll have for your life as it is right now and the good things that come with it. Everything around you at this moment is going to change, and it’ll keep changing even when you’re in the middle of this future you envision.
Conclusion: Living in the Present
So don’t get stuck in any period of time, wishing that it never changes.
Resisting it and trying to force things not to change will severely prohibit your growth. Understanding this will help you not be so attached to any period of time, and the attachment is really the problem here.
The past was the past. Now is now. The future is the future.
The only constant is you, the changes happening around you, and your ability to embrace those challenges.
Hopefully a nice grounding, and maybe even humbling episode for everyone out there. Even blabbering at you guys about it, I found that I was in need of this reminder to.
I hope you enjoyed it, I hope the asker got what she was looking for and I thank her for not only helping us make another episode possible, but for giving even me a healthy reminder today to appreciate the time we’re in right now.
That’ll do it, friends, so if you’ve got a question you’d like help with in an upcoming episode, please email us with your concern at advice AT oldpodcast.com
We’re here and ready to help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out.