Lately, I’ve been besieged by the thought of “living in the moment.” I’ve previously written about embracing where you are and how parents can make time count; yet, I find myself pontificating about what it truly means to live in the moment. As many in my generation do when they want to blurt out their opinion, I turned to Twitter to express my conclusion. Here’s what I wrote.:
It’s easy to scroll past a quote like that because, quite frankly, it’s an abstract concept. In other words, I gave you a Yoda-like quote with no practicability or applicable instructions. The good news is this blog is not constrained to 128 characters, so I can provide that for you today!
Living in the moment is a balancing act.
Living in the moment is actually fairly complex for many of us because it requires intentionality. If you were to observe the world around you, I promise you will find someone opposite ends of the spectrum. Neither side of the spectrum represents “bad” people. Having been on both sides myself, my justification was supported with good intentions. Either way, I had to find my equilibrium point after a wild swing of the proverbial pendulum.
On one hand, there are some who simply exist. They are physically present, but their mind is elsewhere. They appear isolated and disconnected from the people and world around them. Their number one defense is: “But at least I’m here, right?” Many may call them boring or a “drag” to be around. I say they are living at the moment.
On the other hand, there are people who appear to follow the wind wherever it leads. It’s almost as if the only word they know is “yes.” They are the ones who live by the motto, “you only live once” and proudly sport a “Carpe Diem” tattoo. Oftentimes, these people have very sporadic and inconsistent relationships. Their decisions are sometimes erratic, careless, and dangerous. Many may call them “scatterbrained,” or as the Temptations so talentedly sang it, “a rolling stone.” I say they are living around the moment.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend that you lean towards either side of the spectrum. Instead, as Goldilocks learned many years ago, we should strive for the “just right” combination of both.
Living at the moment.
Being physically present is a huge part of living in the moment. Some would argue that’s half the battle. However, I’ve been this person, and I’ve been around this person before. Honestly, many times it feels better if they just weren’t there. They are so disengaged and uninterested that bystanders feel personally attacked by their presence. Their [our] physical presence wasn’t a gift to those around them [us].
In my personal experience and opinion–of which I am an expert in–I believe closure is the biggest contributor to living at the moment. Whether it be closure from a past relationship, loss of a loved one, past hurt, or even daily activities, lack of closure seizes your mind and leaves you thoughtlessly going through the motions.
Here’s my advice to seek closure.
Be patient with this advice as it takes time and practice.:
- Face whatever it is head on. It can and often will feel overwhelming, but it will steamroll you if you don’t accept responsibility for your own healing. Surround yourself with friends and professionals who can help you begin your journey. The only way to finish a large meal is one small bite at a time.
- Acknowledge and accept your emotions triggered by this event, series of events, deadlines, etc.
- Schedule time to journal out your emotions.
- Develop a daily “closure” action plan that includes what you need closure from and what you are determining to be “the end” for that particular day. You want to tell yourself, “I will have closure today once I finish [this].”
- Execute your daily plan or “ritual.” This is an intentionally scheduled time that ends with you declaring “the end” of that activity so you can become more engaged with those around you. I like to associate this step with a physical action.
- For example, if I find myself constantly thinking about work, I will choose to only work in a designated location. When I finish work, I will say “all done,” turn the computer off, close the laptop, stand up, stretch, turn off the lights, walk out, and close the door. Over time, the combination of these verbal and physical cues trains my mind to leave all traces of those thoughts in my office. This frees me to be both physically and mentally present with my family.
Living around the moment.
Another song that comes to mind when I think of this group is, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf! These are the thrill seekers who are either never around or so busy they never really have time to engage in normal human interaction. Since their minds are constantly fiending for the next thrill, their actions are usually infused with spontaneity. This isn’t inherently a negative thing until it impacts their [our] relationships with others.
Relationships are impacted because this group of people fails to exercise moderation. I believe they can find the same fulfillment and more if they add structure to their lives. Furthermore, I believe this group can benefit from the aforementioned steps for closure. Nevertheless, they must first become more organized.
Here is my advice to become more organized:
- Goals, goals, goals! Here’s a topic I’ve written about a few times. Why? Because structuring your life begins with setting measurable and achievable goals that will lead you to your desired end state. Zig Ziglar said it best, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
- Establish a “daily battle rhythm.” This is a military term that describes the deliberate, repeatable events we do everyday to achieve a specific goal. I know this sounds like nails on a chalkboard for spontaneous people, but don’t worry. You can (and should) schedule time to be spontaneous. Just ensure you achieve closure after each activity or series of activities.
- CCTV. No, I’m not talking about closed circuit television. I’m talking about checklists, clocks, timers, and voices.
- Checklists: Many scientists recommend checklists because–according to them– our brain releases dopamine every time we check that tiny box. That dopamine creates positive feelings which, in turn, gives us the adrenaline we need to complete the next task. This tends to work really well for thrill seekers because they enjoy that same dopamine release on their various adventures.
- Clocks: Allocate blocks of time to do certain tasks. It may be tough to accurately guess the proper amount of time starting off, but you’ll be able to create a better time schedule as you continue to practice.
- Timer: Having a scheduled time block is important; however, sometimes seeing that time dwindle is the psychological push we need to complete various tasks. Additionally, the act of counting down creates an urgency that gives importance and relevancy to each task. Some may argue that urgency draws on our adrenaline supply while increasing anxiety. Contrarily, I submit that the adrenaline rush is what gives us the momentum and focus to complete a list of tasks in a timely manner. Using timers are another method to combine physical and psychological activities to produce a favorable reaction.
- Voices: Listen to your voice and your accountability partner’s voice. Sometimes, our thoughts tend to drown out our own conscience. That’s why we all need that friend (or group of friends) who will help hold us accountable. Listen to them when they tell you to “slow down” or “you’re never around.” They may be trying to help you grow.
- Clean up! That “rolling stone” or “wild” lifestyle tends to make us a little junky. Physically organizing your personal and professional spaces is key to becoming more organized.
- Limit distractions as much as possible. I know this can be a challenge depending on your situation, but we have to try! Close the door if you can work in a closed door office. Wear headphones while at the computer. Stay away from the break room during normal “chat” time. Set time restraints on your phone apps and web browser. These are just a few ideas to get you started!
I get it; living in the moment sometimes seems like a foreign concept or “dream deferred.” None of us will get it right all the time. In spite of that, the beauty of our daily journey is that we can let yesterday go to have a better today so we can start tomorrow off on the right foot. Be encouraged. Living in the moment is achievable!
Thanks for reading!