on staying present: a work in progress

My mother always seems to be the one to catch me in my daydreams, mind racing 20 miles a minute and living 30 years into the future. I, of course, jolt back when I hear her voice break up my thoughts-a little guilty, a little embarrassed -for having once again escaped from the present.

I have no problems with the concept of daydreaming. Rather, I think that allowing yourself the space to dream and imagine and conceptualize aspect of your life that extend beyond the boundaries of your current existence is important. However, in my daydreams I was finding myself constantly focusing on hopes and goals set at least 3 years in the future, often reflecting the thoughts that I carried in my conscious moments. Everything I acted upon needed to have a detailed 5 year plan, decisions were made from the viewpoint of a future self. My mind was so set on life 10, 15, 20 years ahead of me that the time I had before me presently was simply passing me by, unlived,- and I hadn’t noticed.

I had a conversation with a good friend recently, the type you might consider to be “type B”- more laid back than I, slower with his thoughts and, more importantly, more resolved and tempered in the way that he walks through his life. He is talented, ambitious and has all the success ahead of him. Yet, he never allows the future moments to detract from his present, always taking time for friendships and family, taking in and relishing in every joyous moment in life-- because he knew every moment had something to appreciate. And that was a peace that I constantly sought and yearned for myself.

So, after that conversation, I made a promise to myself to live- and truly EXPERIENCE- my life by taking account of all of my present moments. Learning to be still, to listen, and to allow myself to just ….be.

Now, mind you, as a professional planner, this is not an easy task. However, I have picked up lessons along the way that assist me during times when I begin to “futurize” my existence. I hope that you find the same guidance in these tools as I have and find yourself more ‘present” in your own life.

Breathe. There is something powerful in watching your breath, counting the way that the life force circulates within your body before exiting and beginning the cycle again. At times I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or worrying about hypothetical problems years ahead of me, I tell myself to stop. I put down whatever I’m reading/working on and close my eyes. Count my breaths down from 10. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. And then resume about my day. The breaths make me more able to focus on the present moment and devote more energy and kindness to the tasks at hand.     


No phones allowed. Grabbing my phone absentmindedly quite literally became a habit. I would find myself scrolling through Instagram in the car ride, on the train, while walking to class, in between TV commercials- essentially during nearly free lapse of time. By doing so, I allowed my life to exist in a cycle that consisted of “living” in the future and burying my head into the lives of other people. There was no room for the present me in my own life.And so, with O.T. Genasis singing to me in the background, I knew that was a habit I needed to cut.                                                                                                                                                                  What has helped me is cultivating purposeful phone use.I try to make an effort to have an intention whenever I pick up my phone- sending a text, email, looking up some information, etc- and I have found that it has drastically reduced mindless time spent on my phone. I allow myself to be still and just sit, or walk outside, or engage in conversations individuals beyond a plastic screen- and because of this, my life has been enriched beyond measure and I almost always find myself just joyful.                                                                                         

Gratitude. You guys have heard me mention gratitude a million times before on the blog. But, this is one of THE most important things have in your life. Oftentimes, we live and plan so much for the future because we are so dissatisfied with the place we are now, the situation we are in, the relationships we have. However, if we can find things to be grateful for in whatever place we are now, we can experience life in a completely different way- one that is full of love and appreciation of self as a beautiful, ongoing work. Each night, I write 5 things I wish to give gratitude for the day and this gives me time to reflect and take stock of the days events. The more I followed this practice, the more I purposely sought things to include in my reflections at night-- and it lead me to see the many reasons I had to be joyful.

Here is to the work that is occurring in both of us-- and may we continue to support the growth in each other. If you have any tips for how you stay present, feel free to share your narratives and lessons below!

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