One of my greatest strengths is being able to envision my future in grand detail. I can then backtrack those dreams into specific tasks I can do to reach that goal. It’s the basic, where do you want to be in X years? And what can you do today to get there?
While this is a strength, a strength taken too far is a weakness. It has therefore been a lifelong struggle of mine to forever be nostalgically reflecting on the past or persistently wondering about the future and letting both rob my enjoyment of the present.
“Maybe I’ve been missing what it’s about-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Good Old Days”
Been scared of the future, thinking about the past
While missing out on now”
But in the last year, I’ve been having more and more experiences where I’ve been able to purely enjoy the moment. A 12-hour get-together with nine friends, summer nights in a local park, a spring afternoon working in a friend’s garden. The past has slipped away and the future has remained far off. How?
#1 — Slow down
One of the greatest thieves of our ability to enjoy the moment at hand is our busy schedules. We don’t slow down enough to live in the moment. We are forever running from one block on the calendar to the next.
If you want to enjoy the present, you need to have some open-ended time. Time where anything can happen, where you can go and do and see as the wind blows and be totally present because you don’t have something else to get to.
“Look around, look around-Eliza Hamilton, “That Would Be Enough”
Look at where you are
Look at where you started
The fact that you’re alive is a miracle
Just stay alive, that would be enough”
Both Hamilton and The Greatest Showman have strong themes about being satisfied with the present. Rather than continuously striving after fame and fortune, we must focus on the simple beauties of life. Not because that’s all there is, but because that’s what there is.
Take a deep breath and note your surroundings. Be grateful for everything you have in the here and now. Find the silver lining in where you are. Remember, it’s about the experience and everything you learn on the journey, not the destination itself.
#2 — Focus on the task at hand
Rather than viewing your current situation as something to get through for the sake of something else, pay attention to what you’re doing. Think about the process and find beauty in the steps.
Take one day at a time. Rather than looking at the big scheme of things, focus on each step as you put one foot in front of the other. As the analogy goes, to eat an elephant you have to take one bite at a time. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Focus on what you’re doing today.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might”-Ecclesiastes 9:10
In the slowing down mentioned in point number one, you can specifically hone in on tasks by doing something that can’t necessarily be rushed through. Do something that takes time, like journaling, cross-stitching, writing letters, or learning to play an instrument.
With every pen mark, stitch, or chord, you can train your mind to look for the small but ever-present beauty of individual pieces that make a greater whole. Yes, it is good to look at the bigger picture but, for those of us who are forever noticing patterns, sometimes it’s good to pay attention to episodes.
#3 — Spend time with your people
Instead of thinking about who you left behind, who you might marry, or who could help you reach your goals, spend time with people who make you laugh. Hang out and work on projects with the people who are in your work/school, family, and community circles.
A primary lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes is that, if you want to enjoy life, don’t go at it alone— but that doesn’t necessarily implore you to get married. You don’t need a spouse, but you absolutely cannot do without a handful of close friends.
“Will you share this with me?-Loren Allred, “Never Enough”
‘Cause darling, without you
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough”
As we were not made to be alone, life is naturally more fulfilling if experienced with others. What’s the point of traveling, making something, or preparing a meal if there’s no one to share it with? It’s not about where you go or what you do but who you do it with.
It’s the classic “projects over people.” We can forever be checking tasks off lists but it’s how we’ve impacted people that will have lasting rippling effects. In the end, it will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who means something to you that matter the most.