Self-Leadership: Be Present

Be right where you are, right now. It is both very simple and extremely difficult to do. One of the big challenges that I see over and over (myself included) is the ability to be present, wherever you are currently. It seems that we develop pretty tough and nasty habits around not being where we are, but always being somewhere else in our minds. My hope through this little written thinking is that you will take what I am sharing with you and reflect on it a little while. With that reflection, you can develop just a little more strength and ability to be more of where you are and less of where you’re not. 

The Past and Future, Pulling Us Away

I am not sure when and why this problem starts, but it is wildly common amongst people of all ages, but it does seem to subside some as we grow older. We develop a process where we are constantly somewhere else mentally speaking from where we are physically. In some cases, this manifests itself as worry and anxiety. If you are worried about something that happened in the past, you are wasting your time. If you are worried about something that may happen in the future, you are also wasting your time. In either case, and this is very important, worrying will not help at all. 

 When I was younger, I always wanted to be older. I had a brother who was 4 years older than me and just the coolest person alive in my eyes. I always wanted to be older so I could do the things he was doing. This created a wonderful drive in me to “keep up” but it also created a horrible habit for me. No matter what I was doing, I was thinking about what I would be doing when I was older, when I was taller, when I was whatever that I wasn’t at that time. As I moved into adulthood, I carried this little suitcase with me. Except now, it was when I make this amount of money, or when I get this new title, or can afford this new car or take this trip. 

Making Peace With the Past

There is nothing wrong with striving to reach new things, in fact, it is highly encouraged. The problem comes when we disconnect from where we are in order to daydream about where we wish we were, or worrying about yesterday. Life will pass you by while you are looking to the next whatever.

Like most people, I have gone through a lot of things in my life to this point. Some of these things were amazing, some meh, and some pretty horrific. In each case, it is a part of my history and part of who I am. Those things made me what I am today. They are a part of my fabric and I have the scars to show for them. However, everything that has happened until this very moment is history.  

When the past calls you, it’s better not to answer, it has nothing new to say.

We also spend a lot of time looking forward with both fear and anticipation. We fear something that might happen, which we can’t control. What if I get fired, what if my girlfriend dumps me, what if my parent or child gets sick? Then, we often also wish our lives away with things like: When I get older, when I make this much money, when I get this title, or car or house…I will _____.  There is nothing wrong with daydreaming unless it impacts your mood and emotions of the current moment. Of course that is unless you are daydreaming all of the time instead of making things happen. 

Connecting With the Now

Finally, and this may be the most important. Take some time each day and put down your (many expletives) electronics. Spend some time with yourself. Make some time for quiet. Journal, go for a walk or meditate. Just do something to unplug. Facebook, I assure you, will be there when you come back in an hour. And recognize that Facebook, by its very nature is designed to take you away from where you are at that moment. 

Just like most worthwhile things in life, being present will take practice. The next time you realize you are fretting over the past, or feeling anxious over the future, stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath, and look around. Recognize where are you right at that moment, and focus on being right there and only there. I promise the dividends are huge when you practice this and get really, really good at it. 

Pay really close attention to what has your attention