This blog was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. I think more now that ever it highlights the need to focus on the present. We are now dealing with circumstances that are forcing many to slow down, or at the very least stay home. What values can you honor right now in these unique circumstances that you couldn’t before? Where can you find happiness today? You will be referencing this experience for years to come. I am challenging you to take time to observe and experience. What do you want to remember from this experience?
We are a goal-oriented band of achievers living in a culture that rewards success. And, certainly this has enabled us to innovate and advance. But, I do believe our fast-paced sprint to “more” has a downside, and if we aren’t purposeful about slowing down and being present in the moment, we’re going to miss some important inputs. What’s more, staying in “go fast towards that” mode can rob us of our happiness and the sense of calm necessary for achievement. We need present moment observation and reflection to guide our trajectory and fortify our bandwidth. It’s brain health 101, and serves as the foundation for personal growth and life satisfaction.
I’ll Be Happy When
There are unhappy “successful” people. There are wealthy business people facing stunning poverty in their personal lives. There are people racing so fast chasing their next big accomplishment that they don’t even realize what they have already attained. We can fall into a trap of living “over there.” When I achieve X, I’ll have arrived. When I finish X, I’ll take time off with the family or do that thing I personally enjoy doing. We have to train our brains to come back to the present moment to realize true happiness. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has said, “We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.” Here’s the thing, it is going to be harder to be happy then, if we aren’t happy now.
Staying present doesn’t have to be the stereotypical meditation of sitting on a pillow, thumbs and fingers pinched, eyes closed, humming, unless that is your thing, in which case, go for it. Meditating can be simply sitting still looking out the window. It is about being purposeful in slowing down and shutting out distractions. You might try setting aside 3 minutes twice a day to practice being present. During these minutes, name three things you see, three things you feel, three things you hear and three things you smell. This is a great way to begin to train the brain to be in the moment. Anecdotally, it is also an excellent way to reduce stress! You are training yourself to be present. As time goes by and you see the benefits of this practice, you can expand the amount of time you spend on the exercise. It is important that you grow to where you are also observing what you are feeling in the moment.
Checking In With Values
Observing does not give us the green light to just ride along with the process we’ve put in motion. As we pick up the inputs on where we are in the process, we can, and should, consider our personal values and listen to our inner selves. I believe when we feel a tug of unrest, or when we are battling exhaustion or anger, or if we realize we have no inspiration, we’re actually getting a wakeup call to reflect on our personal values. Are we committing our time to things out of line with what we value? Yes, there will be times when we have to fulfill obligations, but have we shut out avenues for pursuing our true passions? I encourage you to take an active role in the time you set aside for personal reflection. This is part of the process, and it is up to us to trust the inner voice we allow to speak when we slow down and reflect. This is where we’ll garner wisdom and guidance to inform our trajectory.
Goal Setting AND Milestone Celebrating
I’m a coach. I’m not about to suggest you stop setting goals for yourself. It is important that we have a vision. Being intentional about what we want to accomplish is a proven path to achieving more. There is a time for setting goals. But, here I am talking about reminding ourselves of the goal of being in the now. And, this includes taking the time to celebrate what we have achieved. Think of it as climbing a mountain. You get to a plateau and you turn around to see the progress you have made. When it is time to turn back around and proceed forward, you’ll be encouraged by your accomplishment and you’ll be motivated to reach that next stop to again turn around and look at how far you have come.
Take Time Today to Be Present
Have you slowed down today to check in on where you are? Are there subtle (or not so subtle) clues in your present environment you’d be wise to process? Where is abundance sitting, waiting to be acknowledged? Are you passing up joy, friendship, connection and lucrative learning opportunities barreling down a path to a perceived land of happiness or pot of gold? You are where you are meant to be at this moment – the inputs are there for the taking. Show up now so you can realize your full potential. Trust the process. Take the time to observe and experience the present moment.
Are you capitalizing on the information readily available in your present environment? Have you processed your personal values? Could you or your team members benefit from greater self-awareness and customized plans for growth? Kathy Walter has been helping teams and individuals become their best through individual coaching, team development and assessments like the Energy Leadership Index and the EQ-I 2.0. Contact Brain Basics to learn more.