Present Moment Advantage by Janet Shlaes, Ph.D.
“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.”
~ Lao Tzu
Living in the present moment is a learned skill providing many advantages; it’s also an ongoing process that serves to keep you connected with your most treasured values and life goals. Living in the past keeps your emotions, thoughts and mindsets from past occurrences alive in the present. This would be amazing if most significant past experiences were positive ones. Unfortunately, when remembered past occurrences are particularly traumatic or distressing, you’re essentially reinforcing a life narrative that fails to serve you well in your present life. Similarly, when you tend to focus on an imagined negative future, you generate fear-based emotions and depressing life narratives that increase your anxiety and feelings of hopelessness and decrease your sense of influence over your future. Since the future is unknowable, you are sacrificing your present sense of well-being and resourcefulness for a feared unknowable outcome. My dear friend Sue calls this phenomenon, “paying interest on the future.”
Present-based living is an ongoing process, requiring intention, commitment and perseverance. As it’s in your human nature to be periodically pulled into the past and anxious about the future, how can you avoid this type of influence? The most critical skill to strengthen as a means to diminish this natural force is self-awareness; begin to observe, without self-judgement, when you are focused on a negative past narrative or generating a depressing or anxiety producing future narrative. The mere act of consistently noticing this pull will shift your energy around the past and future, while gradually increasing the requisite internal resources to combat negative past- and future-based narratives. Asking yourself what you can learn from the past and what you want to create for the future will continue to shift your focus and motivation. Although you can’t change the past – the facts are the facts – you can intentionally learn from the past about what you do and don’t want to bring forward, what you want to generate for your future and what you want to avoid or eliminate in your life. You can utilize your answers from these types of questions to envision a desirable future and generate action steps and strategies in the present that organically lead to your future vision.
For additional insights and strategies, check out the following links: