For Forward Thinkers: The Challenge of Being Present

We all know people who plan their social schedules for weeks and months in advance. They’re the ones you invite to lunch and they say they’d love to go, but already made plans weeks ago. Maybe you’re one of those people. I know I am. We like to be confident about the future and execute our plans well. I like to call us “forward thinkers.”

Imagine going on vacation only to stay in your hotel room researching your next vacation and your friends are sightseeing without you. When we’re laser-focused on the details of our future at the expense of being present, we start missing out on our real lives. In our divided attention, we miss the depth of the smiles and conversations with loved ones. Sometimes we walk around with a scowl. We get impatient in the grocery line. We miss family events because of work meetings. But the ironic truth is that we actually invest in our future when we’re fully in the present.

How can we be present?

  1. Be attuned to your body through physical exercises such as breathing or yoga.
  2. Focus on the face of the person talking with you, rather than multitasking while you’re listening.
  3. Show up for spur-of-the-moment gatherings that bring you no apparent long-term gain in your goals or hopes for the future.
  4. Have conversations with someone just to get to know them, without motivation for professional networking or social connections.
  5. Continue to make plans for the future knowing that they can change.
  6. Be patient with yourself while you practice being present.

The biggest take-away I’ve encountered while practicing being present is to start with myself and then move to my relationships. Actually, being present with ourselves can be the most challenging part. Between high expectations of self and hopes for our futures, we often rush years ahead; we leave our present selves behind to distractedly work our jobs and haphazardly invest in our relationships. Or worse yet, we are so set on what our future selves should look like that we can’t accept ourselves as we are in the present. As we learn to be present with ourselves, we will grow to be present with others.

Know that the present you is worthy of your time. Whether you’re sorting through challenging life decisions, navigating career stress, or rebuilding strained relationships, show up for yourself now. Set aside the expectations for your future self and invest in what matters most to you. To be present with someone else is to first be present with yourself. Know what matters most to you, and make the daily decisions that reflect yourself and your values. Allow yourself to be known by others by sharing your present self with those you trust. Sharing our ideal or future selves with others is an easy way to validate our self-worth; but the most authentic and beautiful self you can share is who you are now.

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