Change. It is a certainty. It never ceases to amaze me how life can completely change in the blink of an eye. It invigorates me and leaves me a little terrified at the same time. We often go about subconsciously believing that we will live forever—that time is always there. The mind is amazing how it can trick us in that way. But we rarely fully experience the present, even though it is the only thing that is certain about our time here on earth.
Experiencing the sudden death of my father and the traumatic birth of my daughter (born with a rare genetic disorder) heightened my awareness of how life can turn on a dime. I’m sure many of you have had similar life curve balls. Yet, we know that not planning for our future makes us irresponsible, right? Most of us have a million things on our to-do list that are future-based. If I knew for sure that I was going to die next week, I would not have worked out today (or done any work for that matter); I would be eating a dozen donuts right now and planning a trip with my family—leaving tomorrow to party like it’s 1999!
So, how do we live in the present, striking that balance between splurging everything and planning for our future?
1. Never allow waiting to become a habit.
Life is happening now! Don’t wait. Follow your dreams. No matter what your life circumstance is, you can always be doing something to move you closer toward your goals. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you are stuck and just have to wait.
2. Take risks.
There is nothing more invigorating than taking a well-calculated risk, except for taking an uncalculated one. I’m not saying drain the bank account, but once in a while, throw caution to the wind and dance. The biggest risk is getting to the end of your life and realizing you should have just leapt into the unknown and really lived!
3. Take small breaks.
Try to remind yourself at least a few times a day to stop, look around, and savor life (yep, smell those roses). For me, it’s looking in my daughter’s face and being fully in the moment, breathing her in and feeling thankful that God gave me such a wonderful gift. It is so easy to become exasperated by all her little messes and want to hurry up and get her to bed already! But just those few seconds of enjoying her now, just as she is, creates such joy that would have been overlooked. Doing so helps me to enjoy my kids more, plus they have a better experience of me as their mom when I take the time to just see and be in the moment with them. The present really is a gift. Just hang out here once in a while.
4. Treat yourself.
How often do you hold back from doing something for yourself and put it off until some time in the future because you are too busy taking care of everyone else? When will be your time? Take a few minutes a day to focus on self-care.
5. Give more to others.
If you knew you were about to die, wouldn’t you give your stuff away? After all, you’re not taking it with you! So, maybe give a little more now and stop letting the fear of your future turn you into a little Scrooge.
6. Change your routine.
It is so easy to zone out when you are doing your everyday, mundane thing. When we zone out, we are not being present. We are losing life moments. Try something different. Go out of your front door instead of the garage door. Take a different route to work if you aren’t late. We become sensory blind when we do the same thing over and over. It’s amazing how you will become more aware of the present when you change your routine.
7. Stop worrying.
Yeah, I know this is a super hard one, said by an almost converted worry wart (always a work in progress). Eventually I figured out that in all my years of stressing, that thing I worried about never happened, and unfortunately, sometimes things I never imagined did happen. Either way, it was all a waste of time. Think about this: 99% of our anxiety is future-based, not present-based (I made that number up, but it is totally true). Our imaginations are so cruel. Did you know that it is more traumatic to watch someone being seriously injured or maimed than it is to actually experience it? (I didn’t make that up.) This is because our minds imagine how horrible it is and we traumatize ourselves. Research has shown that you are much more likely to experience PTSD having witnessed something traumatic than actually being the victim of something traumatic. This means that all of your anxiety is almost 100% made up by you—the master storyteller. Do you know how much money pharmaceutical companies make off of your anti-anxiety medication because you make stuff up? It’s not that I don’t get how debilitating anxiety can be. Remember, I treat people with anxiety for a living. I know it can take a lot of work to reduce it in your life, but if something is really troubling you, focus on fixing the situation. Worrying is just a time-waster. Get some help, it is so worth it.
Live now with grit and grace! It is the only time you’ve got.
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