Moving through life is like driving. When we are driving, looking out the front windshield, things seem to take a long time to approach us. When looking out the side window, they flash by. Think about that: when you look at what you are passing right in the moment, it is gone before you even really have time to experience it. When we do life in the fast lane, steadfastly focused on the future, we pass by the “now” without realizing what we rob ourselves of. It is not until we are confronted with a milestone – like a child’s first steps, a graduation or major birthday, moving out of a well-loved home, noticing the first grey hairs of someone that we love – that we take a glance in the rear view mirror and notice, with regret and perhaps a bit of sadness, just how much road is behind us.
At pLink, we believe with everything we’ve got that it is possible to have an eye to the future and a steady foot in the present. That great things can be accomplished by striving for the future, and you can be fully present for your life today. Our goal is that, when you glance in the rear view mirror at the road behind you, you are filled with gratitude and the deep satisfaction of knowing you are experiencing a life well-lived. All that being said, it is helpful to have techniques to slow time down and learn the art of savoring.
Here are some simple practices to keep your eyes to the future and a steady foot in today.
- Do nothing for 10 minutes. Literally sit in a chair or lie on the floor (preferably where you can soak up some sunshine). I start every day with a warm cup of joe, a view of the outside, and 10 minutes of nothing. When I notice myself mid-day feeling frazzled and pulled in many different directions, I set my timer for 10 minutes and just stop.
- Work in sets of three. Start out each day by making your short list of three things you will accomplish by day’s end. You may have 30 things you are thinking about, but if you look at them square in the eye, there is a priority to them. Commit to the three, and move on only after those three are done.
- Pay super close attention in micro moments. Many of our moments are filled with massive amounts of input. It is not entirely uncommon to be sitting in a meeting while simultaneously fielding emails and answering texts. You’ve solved a challenge at work, responded to your boss, and figured out how your kid is getting home from basketball practice. Now, repeat that hour eight more times and you’ve done an average day. Managing competing demands for your attention consumes emotional and cognitive energy. To counter that, take micro moments throughout your day – literally 60 seconds to 5 minutes – to notice and allow your attention to become completely absorbed by one thing. It can be anything that floats your boat: if you are a person who marvels at the sun, then go for that. If that sounds hippy-dippy to you, allow your attention to be fully absorbed by your dog, or the skyline, or the fact that there are 7 new planets that has Elon Musk all in a tither. Whatever it is, it is what all of your attention is on. This is incredibly relaxing and feels like a luxury. Frequency is more important than duration.
- Get into big, wide-open space. The positive emotion of awe, defined as “the feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder,” slows down the perception of time. I find that fascinating. Positive emotion does all kinds of good things for our bodies (strengthens the immune system, counteracts depression, helps us heal faster, makes us more collaborative) but the positive emotion of awe slows down the perception of time. A super quick way for me to do this is to get outdoors. Big, awe-inspiring space does it for me every time.
- Remind yourself – one life. I carry an ancient Greek coin. The coin’s age is estimated sometime B.C. Whenever I catch myself going too fast, I imagine that coin in the pocket of a Greek robe. The robed person is walking down a dirt lane and I can see the dust on their sandals. That coin was here a long time before me, and will be here a long time after me. I have one life here. I want to live my purpose and accomplish good things while I’m here. I want to notice, and savor, and be present for all the gifts of my life, even the messy parts.
The magic of these practices, which at their core are all about mindfulness, is that, while they bring you solidly into the present moment, they also help you deal with what’s coming much better. Coming “home” to your core, taking time to calm your busy mind, and reminding yourself that you’ve got everything you need on-board fires up your most authentic and creative self. You show up composed, interested, and interesting, and from there, you can lead a life on, and of, purpose.