Be Here Now
“We spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary.”
To put things in perspective, 100 years vs. infinity is nothing. In the blink of an eye, we’ll be gone. You’ll be looking back and thinking “I should have been engaged, laughing, fully present, and now I’m dead”.
Thankfully, we still have a great amount of time on our hands, and without doubt, the best use of the world’s most precious resource is done when we are fully present.
Why is this topic so prevalent now? Perhaps because it’s now harder than ever to be present. Everyone everywhere is asking us for our precious attention, and our attention is quickly becoming one of the world’s most valuable commodity. When it’s not a text, it’s an email, or a phone call, or your Instagram feed, and it just doesn’t end. All these little bite size pieces of dopamine bring us elsewhere, far from the here and now. Nothing great gets created with half our attention. So let us study the present moment, and how we can maximise our very short time on this planet.
Living in the present is a practice, and it pays dividends
“We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way we experience it”
Living in the present is a state of active, open, and curious attention on the present. Some call it mindfulness. It is a very subtle detachment from your thoughts. It’s allowing yourself to simply observe them, neither trying to grasp them, or push them away.
Studies in the field of mindfulness are young, but are also compounding with an impressive speed. Science can now prove that mindfulness people are healthier, happier, more emphatic and more confident. They can see clearly their strengths, and are accepting of their weaknesses.
Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard said it best with, “Everyone agrees that it’s important to live in the present, but the problem is how”. So let us break down a few key points psychologists agree upon.
Self-Awareness & Acceptance
There are many layers to self-awareness, and the more we dig in, the more likely we are to find something that bothers us.
The first layer of self-awareness can be the simple understanding of one’s emotions. Even that sometimes can prove to be difficult. We feel upset, stressed, short-tempered and have no idea why. Our natural tendency when faced with negative emotions is to attempt to avoid them. That rarely works, and is much more likely to magnify these negative sensations.
If we navigate past the first layer, we want to ask ourselves why we feel certain emotions. Such questions are vital because they will illuminate our core values and what we consider success or failure. Questions help us understand the root cause of the emotions, and the understanding helps us accept these emotions. Acceptance is being ok with the way things are in the moment, without feeling the need to change them. It’s the strongest step in being present.
To be present, lose the importance you attach to time
A state of complete detachment from everything but your current task is commonly referred to as flow. Flow is an elusive state, and just like sleep, romance or friendships, chasing it may only bring you further away from it.
Famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spent much of his career studying flow, what he found was this:
- The best work is created in the flow state
- first requirement is to set a goal or task that’s challenging, but attainable
- The goal or task should be in one of your “high-skill” areas
- The goal should come with direct, and immediate feedback
Paradoxically, losing this sense of time will ground you deep within the present moment. Your focus will narrow and a sense of mastery will bring you unmatched joy.
Be a Little less Certain of Yourself
Ever been in a conversation when, after being asked a question, you had to say: “Wait, what did you say?”. Or when driving on a highway, thought to yourself: “I have no recollection of the last 15 minutes”. Ellen Langer refers to these as moments of mindlessness: moments where being lost in thoughts bring us exactly at the opposite end of where we wish to be. Life passes by us without us feeling like we are living.
The best way to circumvent such situations is two-fold:
- Be a little less certain of yourself. Once we believe we know something, we stop paying attention.
- Develop the habit of always noticing new elements.
If you practice it often enough, questioning yourself, questioning those around you, applying curiosity to simple tasks, and intentionally looking out for new things will cement you into the present moment, and you will live every moment to the fullest of your capability.
“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know”