Journey vs. Destination: being present

I admit, I’m not always great about staying in the present.

I know that’s what makes sense. The here and now is all we really have.

But oh how enticing it is to rehash the past and rehearse the future.

Especially that latter one for me.

The future is a wonderful place.

I love visioning, goal setting, and planning. I love dreaming and designing what I want for my next chapter. All of which are about the future.

But if I’m not careful, I can live tomorrow and completely miss out on today.

In fact, this focus on some future destination used to be such an issue for me that it made its way into my Manifesto as a reminder: The journey is at least as important as the destination.

Of course, your focus on the future could be more about worry than scheming and dreaming. But that’s problematic too. Leo Buscaglia captures it perfectly:

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.

The past doesn’t have as much hold on me as the future.

But many of my clients share the past is where they get stuck.

They ruminate over past conversations and mistakes. Replaying them over and over in their mind. Wishing they’d said this, done that.

It’s one thing to replay the past in order to reflect and learn from it. It’s another to replay and retrace and ruminate—ending up where you started: The past cannot be changed.

Just as with the future, when you’re focused on the past you miss out on the present. Opportunities to fully show up in your life and notice now are missed. Every day spent dwelling in the past is a day you won’t get back.

So how can we stay in the present?

I’ve found moving through these 5 steps, one quickly flowing into the next, helps bring me back from the past or future, centering me in the here and now:

  1. Stop multitasking and turn off autopilot.
  2. Take a couple of deep belly breaths.
  3. Look around with fresh eyes, noticing sights, sounds, smells, sensations.
  4. Take a couple more deep breaths. In. Out. From the belly.
  5. Then ask: What am I grateful for right now?

Being present —and staying present— is something I continue to practice.

I know this moment is all there really is.

But the future calls. And the past sometimes nags. So it’s a practice.

I’m not striving for perfection with this, but I am committed to living more of my life in today than in tomorrow or yesterday.

What about you? Are you rehashing the past or rehearsing the future? How do you stay present?

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