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Present vs. Future: How to honor the now while planning ahead?

Being in the now. Living in the present. May sound a hippie's propaganda or a guru's speech. Why is it so relevant to live in the present after all?

Living in the now is kind of an art. The art of being present and staying connected. In a world where people rush instead of slowing down, talk instead of listening, react instead of acting; learning to live in the now is an invaluable skill.

Often it may seem as if you are stuck in the present moment. You are here, though not moving anywhere, not going anywhere which is certainly frustrating. Enjoying the now is not about going through the motions and having no plan for your future at all. It happens though that we get pulled by the mechanics of someone else’s life, the priorities of other people and forget about our presence, our present.

Being in the now allows you to acknowledge what you have and be grateful for it. It enables you to recognize your strengths and abilities and prepare for what is coming next. Living in the now – without letting sight of the future – gives you the energy and focus to think ahead and plan while enjoying every curve of your journey.

So, why do we resist so much to be and stay present? Is there anything scary or challenging about the present moment? What is holding us back from being in the now? Or should the question be “What is NOT holding us back?”

There is so much to manage and worry about from our never-ending to-do list to our annoying boss, our demanding clients, our children’s tantrums. We spend most of our day worrying about worst case scenarios that did not happen yet, most likely will not happen and even if they did, the outcome would not be as terrible as we pictured in our head.

I usually say that there are those who dwell on the past, those who worry about the future and those who enjoy the present. Though I believe the words of Lao Tzu which I shared with you priorly are much wiser. He says: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present”.

Depending on if you are stuck in the past or worrying about the future – perhaps both – how can you adopt a healthier and more efficient mindset by focusing on the now? By using the present as a bridge to what you want to achieve.

Below are a few tools to help you stay connected to the present as well as strategies to simultaneously guide you in planning for the future. Being in the now

1. Meditation: Meditation does not equal empty mind. We have more than 6000 thoughts a day! Our mind is constantly running on worries, lists, solutions…thoughts of all kinds. Meditation allows you to connect with your inner world, towards a state of consciousness and awareness. You are not turning off your thoughts or feelings, rather learning to observe them from a place of non-judgement. As any other practice, it needs to be learned so you need to start somewhere. The same as with exercising, there are several forms of meditation. Go ahead and try it out, until you find which one suits you best. It might get uncomfortable in the beginning, as it’s like a muscle you need to develop. Though once you start, you realize its benefits on your mental, physical, and emotional health.

2. Breathing: It is common for our heart rate to increase in situations of fear or high stress. You start sweating and even feeling shortness of breath. Focusing on your breathing may sound paradoxical, but it is about regaining control. While you are breathing deep, make sure your exhales are longer than your inhales. This helps the body to physically calm itself down. Bring your attention to the present moment in those situations where you feel anxious or agitated. Observe your thoughts and body sensations, sit with them without judgement. Just accept whatever feelings as they come, trying not to respond immediately. Be there in the present moment in connection and synchrony with your breath and your body.

3. Spend time with kids: Maybe you are a mom or a dad, an aunt or an uncle; perhaps you have little cousins or friends with kids. It seems weird to consider, though spending time with children is a great way to stay connected to the present moment. For children, the past is already gone and the future is yet to happen. They live in the now, enjoying every second of it. Despite their occasional frustration or unexpected tantrums, their ability to be in the moment surrounded by its beauty and bliss is to be valued. When you get to be around children, do not miss out the opportunity to learn from them, to explore together with them the connectedness to the here and now. Planning for the future

1. Manage time efficiently: It is not only one, but a set of things you need to consider when it comes to managing your time efficiently in the present and also for the future. Start by getting ready for the day with intentionality. Set your mind for success and productivity through whatever morning routines work best for you. Make sure you prioritize your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. More than crossing out items from your to-do list, it is about having priorities as well as deadlines in place. In addition, working in batch is much more efficient than multitasking. This means focusing on a particular area or topic for a specific amount of time, instead of jumping from task to task. On top of that, make sure you remove all distractions, such as your phone, other people or surrounding noises. Last but not least, delegate whenever possible. Delegating allows you to go where your expertise might be required or your skills can develop, either by freeing you up in the moment or helping you grow.

2. Measure progress: You get to measure now the progress of tomorrow. Start by breaking down big plans into smaller projects, whose activities you can finalize in less time. Then, go one step deeper and turn these activities into small tasks corresponding to specific deadlines without forgetting the milestones in between. During this time remember to track your tasks by adding them into your calendar (paper and/ or virtual), both your work and your personal responsibilities, including the extra time you might need to get in the right mood. Self-assessment throughout this process is extremely helpful. So, make sure you perform weekly and monthly reviews, not only to track your progress but also to identify areas for improvement. Again, this gives you a perspective of your current and future realities.

3. Take action: You cannot move forward if you do not take action. Even though any action is better than none, getting closer to your goals and dreams is definitely a more efficient action plan. In other words, if you are meant to be busy, then be productive. When in motion, move toward your goals. When the moment comes to take action, act in alignment with your vision and purpose. Apart from being connected to your purpose which does not have to be deep and eternal, rather reflect yourself and your truth; making small commitments helps moving the needle. Step by step, you try, you implement, you do it. May not be the perfect timing or how you expected it to be, but you are taking action now toward your future.

You cannot change what happened back there. Though you can learn from the past and evolve to a better version of yourself, be in a better place. And what better place than NOW?! On the other hand, your future is happening now. It may sound contradictory as the future is yet to happen. However, what you are building right now – here in the present – what you are working on, dreaming of, planning for will be the reflection of your future. Challenge yourself every time you feel you are leaning to one side of the scale (past vs. future) and use that as reminder to get back to the present moment. Honor the present with your presence!



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