I have lately been consumed with laying the foundational pieces for my SOMEDAY. I have been busying myself with business plans, launch events, marketing strategies, and brainstorms for future books. The prize that my eyes have been focused on is the giant impact I want my life to make on this world. My whole, long life. I envision it as a big body of work that, over the long haul, positively impacts lots of people. With that recently-acquired long-haul perspective, my actions have been mostly future-oriented. There is a lot of “this will make the next stuff easier” and “keep my nose to the grindstone until I get established” in my thought patterns. Lots of process.
Of course, I understand that operating with a vision of how I want my future to be is essential to working toward that vision more efficiently. I know that I have to keep my eyes on the prize. Big goals are important motivational tools, and they help to put in perspective why it is worth all the hard work. If I don’t remain clear about my dreams and how much they mean to me, I could start sliding again. I don’t want that. I don’t ever want to live by default again, not questioning what I am doing and why. No, from here on out, I am living by design. That is my plan. Thus, I must keep the grand design front and center. That is how I have been operating lately: big picture, full life, long-range plan. Building the foundation.
I have been commending myself pretty regularly in my daily journal entries for doing a good job of chipping away at these big rocks, grinding to get them rolling toward a brighter future. I have stayed on task quite well. After all, many of the things I have been doing—government paperwork, marketing, and building websites, for example—are not at all the kind of work I love to do or that get me out of bed in the morning. Thus, as I said, I have been trying to applaud myself as often as possible for doing these tedious and uncomfortable tasks for the sake of my SOMEDAY. For the sake of my dreams. For the sake of the big life I am trying to live. It is all about the future. I applaud myself in order to make this grinding phase more palatable, hopeful that it will all pay off and that my SOMEDAY shows up sooner rather than later.
But then today, while writing in my journal, I started thinking about “the precious present” as it relates to enjoying this special time with my kids. I know that they will grow up in the blink of an eye. Rather than lament that fact and try to cling to something that cannot be stopped, the best thing I can do is to live completely in each moment, keeping my heart and mind in the present to soak up as much of this love and innocence as possible. Be present! The kids make that so obvious. It is why kids do life so well. They stay in the moment.
Of course, being present is something I have preached about so many times over the years. In all of my most serious spiritual and philosophical writings, it is plain that I am a big believer in the precious present. There is no greater gift you can give to yourself than to BE HERE NOW. That is why I have long been a big proponent of meditation and yoga, which encourage just that. I have used it countless times on the tennis court in helping students—and myself—handle pressure-packed match situations. I encourage it with my Life Coaching clients. Indeed, it is how I prepare for coaching sessions to serve my clients best: I center myself in the present. It is where Life works best.
And this is the realization that made me stop and think today as I was writing my journal. In writing about the value of the present, it suddenly struck me how many of my recent thoughts and actions have been not about the present, but instead about the future. I have forsaken my todays in favor of that elusive SOMEDAY. How can I justify this? Is it acceptable? Am I being hypocritical? How did I lose my way? How do I find my way back to the present? I need some clarity.
Of course, my first reaction when I am told that I am wrong—even by myself—is defense. My first justification is that at least I am not stuck in the past. I think that is much less healthy than focusing on the future. Next, I fall back on the age-old question: how does one remain present and living for today while also being mindful of building a better life for himself and pursuing his dreams? In other words, how do you balance stopping to smell the roses while planning to till them up to plant cucumbers and carrots? I honestly don’t know the right answer to that question. As I said at the beginning, I think it is important to know where you are trying to go in this life, to understand what your purpose is and how you plan to live out that purpose in a way that fulfills you. You have to look ahead sometimes!
Even with that justification, the thought of being stuck in the too-distant future continued to nag at me. Perhaps I have taken the justification too far lately in my quest to launch my businesses and the future of my dreams. I forgot to keep a balance between making the best of today and planning for that even better tomorrow. So I challenged myself: What is one thing I can do today to make TODAY better? What can I improve on from yesterday, for the sake of TODAY? Sure, it could be good for me tomorrow, too, but the point is to get better for NOW. No groundwork-laying. No SOMEDAY book outline or business plan. What habit could help me today?
After brainstorming my countless faults and shortcomings, I decided that the one thing I am really going to make an effort to do today is to be more friendly and outgoing with strangers. I am terrible at this! I mind my own business and use manners, but I don’t put any of myself out there. When I pass people, I try to look them in the eye and give them the cordial nod, but I have noticed that I keep my lips pursed every time. I don’t start any conversations in the grocery line or at the gym. I don’t give enough people compliments that might just make their day. I just don’t engage. Until now. Yes, I am going to do better with this. Starting now, and for the sake of today. I am going to be more present with everyone. I am going to consciously smile at people—with my teeth—when I pass them on the sidewalk, or when they swipe my card at the store or gym. I am going to wish people a wonderful day—with words, not just in my head. Rather than finding excuses to not bother people, I am going to come up with excuses to give them compliments. I am going to share my light. Today. For today. Not because it is some great plan for the future—though, as I write this, it does sound like a good idea to build upon (and kind of fun!)—but because it will improve my little corner of the world right now. I can move forward on those big dreams of SOMEDAY at the same time, too. But it is time to bring my own gift to the present. Today is my day!
How about you? What can you do today to make your life better? Open up your journal and your mind. Share yourself freely in the pages. You will be rewarded for your honesty. Which tense do you spend most of your thoughts in: past, present, or future? What percentage of time in each? How about your actions? Do you spend most of your time on what it takes to get you through the day, or are you building for the future? Are you living by default—just going through the motions—or living by design? How far ahead do you look when it comes to planning or goal-setting? Do you ever get too stuck in the future that you don’t take care of today? How about the past? How much of that do you carry around every day? When are you going to decide to let it go? What is the one thing you can do today that will improve your life today? How difficult is it to do? Why do you think you have waited this long to do it? Are you committed to it? I dare you! Leave me a reply and let me know: How are you going to make a better TODAY?