I vividly remember being 8 years old, wading in the small pool of our front yard while my mother sat in a chair. While in the water, my mind drifted to the future. I imagined a day when I was a grown up, a mother myself, and it was Christmas morning. Fear and doubt crept in as I contemplated whether Santa was real.
On one hand, what if Santa is not real and I believed he was. I would neglect to buy presents for my children and they would have nothing on Christmas morning.
On the other hand, what if I bought all the presents and then he turned out to be real and he showed up with everything on top of mine.
I could no longer deal with the uncertainty, and I demanded my mom tell me the truth. Her answer had always been, “it’s whatever you believe in your heart to be true.” But this day was different. The stress of what I would do as a grown up was too much, and I needed to know my plan. I remember insisting that she tell me. Engrained in my long term memory is my mother with very sad eyes shaking her head no and saying we would talk about it later because there were too many younger kids around.
Although I could tell she was disappointed a season of my childhood was gone, I felt reassured and confident. Now I would know what to do….a piece of information that would not come in handy for TWENTY MORE YEARS.
I tell you this story because it’s indicative of my entire life. I cannot help that when left to daydream, my mind naturally wonders to hypothetical scenarios of the future. Constantly. I rarely dwell on the past. I learn from it and move on, but my mind struggles greatly with staying focused on the present moment.
What we have learned is that almost everyone struggles with staying present in the moment. Very few people are able to spend the vast majority of their attention on just the current day’s concerns.
Over the years I have worked diligently to form habits and practices that help me stay present. My daydreaming often robs me of my focus. At this point, I have come to accept that this is how I am wired, and I no longer expect it to ever change. However, if I want to fulfill those dreams my mind creates, it’s imperative I develop skills that help me redirect my attention back to the tasks at hand.
Maybe you can empathize with me and you too are often drifting off into the far future with either hopes or fears. Or maybe you are like millions of others who find their mind wandering to the past. Replaying scenarios that have already occurred and filling your mind with regrets or doubts.
Either way, we can all benefit from learning to be more present in the moment at hand.
We cannot change the past, but we can change the stories we attach to the events that happened.
No matter how bad a past experience may have been, can you find gratitude in it? Even if the only gratitude is for the lessons it taught you, how much stronger it made you, or the empathy it gave you for others?
Regarding the future, since we don’t know what will happen anyway, you can CHOOSE to attach different stories. You can attach stories that involve fear, worry, worse-case-scenarios and failure. Or, you can CHOOSE to have power over your mind and choose to assume the best.
The link below will take you to a PDF I developed for our free 5 day mental fitness group that ran last week. It includes an exercise to help you self-reflect on how much time you are spending in the present moment, and it will give you some ideas to help you develop more habits to keep you centered.
Grace and Peace,
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