“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
I am a planner. An organizer. I like lists and I especially like checking things off those lists. I also like setting goals as well as breaking those goals down into manageable pieces and accomplishing them one at a time. I am also a perfectionist, so if I am going to do something it needs to be done “right”…the first time…which in turn emphasizes the need to plan things out properly so they end up being done correctly. It’s a bit of a chaotic cycle at times. I have been this way as long as I can remember…truly, it’s deeply engrained within me. And while I was never really opposed to doing things in the spur of the moment, that was just never my norm or my go to choice…I always preferred to know what I was getting into…I liked planning and preparing so, at least in theory, I could make the most of any experience. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. But as I get older I am realizing there is yet another layer to this for me.
Much of planning, organizing, and setting goals is focused on the future. It is not so much about the here and now, other than in terms of what steps need to be done now to reach the end goal down the road. Now is simply a means to an end. Now is just a step in the process. Now is merely a part of the daily grind. This is where I have started to run into an internal conflict – the very nature of goal setting and planning, being largely future-focused, flies in the face of what I have come to believe is an essential way to live and experience life – that is, being present in the moment.
One thing I have come to believe for certain in more recent years is the importance and power of being present in each moment. It is on one hand a matter of respect and common courtesy to those with you in the present moment, and on the other hand it is how you can ensure you get the most out of the moment, not missing anything or taking anything for granted. Being present in the moment helps you stay focused on what is really important in any given moment. It can help you be more aware of the blessings in your life…of what you have to be grateful for in life. It can teach you powerful lessons and open your eyes to amazing opportunities. And it can allow you to see all the wondrous things in the world.
Too often in today’s society we move from one moment to the next without noticing any of the people and things around us. We are so programmed, so stressed, so busy, and so focused on what comes next that we don’t appreciate or even see who and what is here with us in each moment. It results in so many of us feeling lost and disconnected…moving through life such that we “wake up” one day and wonder how we got to where we are. It’s the absolute antithesis of being present and mindful. And while we may have things organized and planned out and we may be achieving all of our goals…we are not connected to any one moment and as such we miss so much.
“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.” – Nhat Hanh
So what’s the alternative? How can these two things be reconciled? How can we be present and mindful in the moment yet coexist with our crazy, busy society that promotes this focused mindset of needing to plan, organize, set and achieve goals? It certainly is not an easy thing to do. What I have tried to do is to honor my internal love of planning and organizing while still being present in each moment. So I take time to plan and organize for the big things, my goals, and other long term vision items. I have a very intentional process I use when I plan, organize and set goals, so even when I am doing these future-casting activities I am doing them in a mindful way…being present in those moments of planning. And after the planning and goal setting steps are done and I am in the midst of the tasks that will help me reach my goals as well as all the other daily activities of life in general, I work hard to try and be present in each moment, appreciating each of those moments for whatever they have to offer, be it positive or challenging in nature. Again I have an intentional process (a daily morning routine) that really helps me set the stage for each day, reminding me from the very beginning of my day that I want to be present in each passing moment…I want to be aware of all the people and things passing through my day…I want to appreciate all the blessings in my daily life…I want to be awake and aware of the things happening in my life. And I have found that just setting this intention each morning goes a long way toward making sure it happens. But it has to be an intentional, conscious decision on my part each day…otherwise I find myself lost in the chaos of the day, going through the motions, and not truly seeing and appreciating what is in each moment.
Recognize it is a practice…it is not something you achieve once and have set in place forever as a result. Each moment you can deicide whether you will be present or not. Don’t get swallowed up in the whirlwind of life. Be present, enjoy what is happening now while working toward your future goals and endeavors. See all the beauty, opportunity, and lessons in each moment…even t those time when the moment is also filled with difficulties and challenges. There is no time like now, so don’t sleepwalk through your days…plan all you want, but just make sure to also be present, be thankful, and enjoy all that life has to offer you.