Some Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Happiness …And How To Stop
by Danielle Fagan
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living,” said Eckhart Tolle. What an incredible way to remind us to seize every moment of this precious life. Too often we miss out on the beauty within the moment because of technology and the desire to stay rigid to plans and control outcomes. Below are three of the most common ways distract ourselves from living in the present and how to overcome them with simple exercises.
Having A Rigid Road Map For Your Future
Life isn’t meant to be lived by rigid plans, it’s to be experienced. Many of us put so much of our time and energy into making rigid maps, blueprints, and plans for getting from A to B. We love focusing on the future and knowing how far our destination is and how exactly we can get there. The problem with over planning is that we can miss out on life when we’re in the realm of “what if,” “how,” and “when.” I have family members and friends that loathe their jobs and can only get through the day by focusing on their retirement. It’s unfortunate because their health and happiness suffer and their days slip through their fingers.
When you live in a state of waiting and planning without taking action on those plans or without enjoying the moments you are in, you miss out on the precious moments right in front of you. How many new moms and dads have said that they just can’t wait until their baby is potty-trained? In daycare? In school? It’s amazing how we so easily rush through life without even realizing it. We rob ourselves of joy when we continually set our sights on the next big thing.
Exercise 1: Ditch the plan for today. Focus on each moment. Take a completely different route to work. Eat something totally new. Start a conversation with a complete stranger. Be spontaneous for one day! See if you can do this exercise once per week. It’s refreshing and reminds you that being adventurous can be safe and fun.
Controlling The Outcomes
We formulate pictures in our minds of what the future should look like, but in reality, we can’t possibly know. Sure, the plan is to retire and travel at 65, but what if you love your job so much that you don’t want to stop working? Or what if you can’t stop working at that age because you can’t afford to? Life changes constantly and so does the future. Why spend so much time trying to control exactly how it should look?
There’s a difference between goal setting and needing to control every outcome. We are better off continually reassessing our lives as they change. For example, ten years ago, Jen enjoyed her career and saw herself remaining there until retirement. But two years ago, her new boss added stress and pressure to her life by giving her more responsibilities and deadlines that she wasn’t aligned with. She’s now not enjoying her career and may want to reassess her initial goal of remaining there until retirement.
Exercise 2: Look at your life. Where are you headed? Are the goals that you’ve made for yourself still worth keeping? If you’re in school, ask yourself if you’re still interested in the field you’re studying. If you’re married or in a relationship, ask yourself if that person still makes you happy. Does the relationship uplift you or bring you down most often?
Plugging Into The Distractions
Technology is great and can help us a great deal, but it can also make it even more difficult to focus on the present. It’s become very easy to disconnect from life and plug into something else. We have phones, computers, TVs, and iPods buzzing and beeping at us throughout the day. It feels like everything is fighting for our attention. I’ve been to the gym and have seen people running on the treadmill, listening to music, texting, and watching TV all at the same time. When we give our attention to so many things at once, we can’t enjoy any of the activities fully. We’ve fragmented our attention span into a million little pieces so that it becomes extremely difficult to focus on one task for an extended period of time.
Exercise 3: Try doing nothing for 60 seconds. Just focus on your breath. Do this exercise once per day – it’s a fantastic way to bring you back into the present moment. You can also spend one evening a week turning off the phone, computer, and television. You can spend this “technology free time” doing anything from reading to talking to a friend, going to the gym, or writing in a journal.
I really believe we need to ditch the rigid road map, daydreams of waiting for the future, pains from the past, and being too reliant on the distractions of technology. None of that matters when you’re present. The only thing that matters is doing the things that make you feel like a better person. Do what makes you happy… Now! Tell someone you love them, go work out, donate to a charity, hug your kids, book a vacation, go for a walk, spread some love.
Life changes from moment to moment. Loved ones come in and out of our lives, sometimes unexpectedly. Life is unpredictable. Embrace the unpredictability. There’s no better day to seize than today. So make this moment, “The second that everything changed.”