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How Satisfied are We With Living in the Present?

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For as long as I can remember, my mind would wander and focus on thinking about the future. We can all relate to the thrill of being one year older, turning double-digits, hitting the fun age milestones. I still love looking forward to birthdays, but I also notice something else that has crept into my mind: wishing upon the future. I don’t know when it started but it hit fever pitch in the last several years. I dream of the future and in doing so I miss out on today. What am I rushing for, when at my age the future will get here quicker than dinner.

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I took this photo stuck in traffic on a snowy day and thought it exemplifies being present in the moment. The trees standing still in time, as the world continues to move forward at its own pace.

I whizzed through the sandwich generation, my 30s and 40s where we have older parents while raising young children, now I find myself a semi-empty nester; grown children, still somewhat dependent on us, and with much older parents. To be honest, the sandwich generation as described really didn’t impact me. Where I struggle, is where I am now: I am an in-between, with a good chunk of life in the rear view mirror. A place where retirement is being contemplated, and how does that look? How I choose to approach this time in my life is very important because if I don’t, I will miss out.

Recently it was kindly pointed out, well bluntly pointed out, that I had a plan for everything, I thought this was normal behavior. It’s not. My mind functioned like a whirling dervish, just waiting for the next idea to pop into my head, simmer and them come out my mouth. I had a plan for next week, a plan for all my future vacations, a plan for where I wanted to live next, a plan for the next car I was going to buy, my next venture, a plan for everything. If you spent enough time with me, I would have a plan for you too. The problem with this thinking is, it is distracting. I was so focused on the future that I failed to appreciate today, let alone live in it.

My father never wore a watch, I asked him why, he said, “Time will fly by fast enough, I don’t need to watch it.” True. What does living in the future say about me? I am a time killer, I want to bury the past, ignore today and live in the future. If you need a label, it is considered typical of a “type A” personality, I run from task to task never coming up for air. Many of us are considered workaholics, we can destroy the here-and-now time frames by not acknowledging it. Everything is in the future and it will be great. The problem is we are never satisfied. The future presents itself daily, I just don’t notice it, because I am constantly reaching for more, looking for satisfaction that has alluded me.

The answers to this complex mindset could very well be found in the level of satisfaction we experience in our lives. Being satisfied is different than being happy. Time Magazine did an article on being satisfied with your life that is fascinating. Too often we confuse being happy, with being satisfied. I am happy in my life, but satisfaction is not happening on the levels I would like it to be. I am restless. This could give rise to why I am always looking to the future.

Here are 5 steps to achieving a more satisfied life, as reported in Time:

  1. Friends. Having lots of close friends boosts satisfaction by 20%. A group of supportive friends boosts that number even more. If you are part of a religious community this number goes up again.
  2. Have a life story. What do you tell yourself? Write down the story of your life. This will boost your satisfaction by 10%.
  3. Have goals. People who are passionate about something will experience 26% percent more satisfaction.
  4. Being materialistic. Those who are focused on materials things rate their lives as the least satisfying. Subtract points here.
  5. Keep growing. Older people who continue to learn and read are much more satisfied with their lives, 18% more!

This is a great list and it looks easy to achieve. A few tweaks here and there, is all that is needed to gain greater satisfaction. This list will help keep me in the present. Under goals, I am going to list staying present, right where I am at, in today. Number 5 is one I engage with all the time. I am very passionate about growing and learning new things, but this wasn’t always the case. I have had to push through my comfort zone and feel uncomfortable doing new things, until it became comfortable.

How do you plan on being satisfied and staying present?

6 Replies to “How Satisfied are We With Living in the Present?”

  1. Very thoughtful post. I like the list and could use a goal to focus on. I know what you mean by speeding through the days and planning ahead. Being present takes practice- great goal.

    1. You are so right about speeding through the days…time to ease off the gas pedal! I am not good at being in the present. It is a practice I struggle with, being mindful that it is happening will surely keep me in the “today” mode. Thank you so much for reading!!!

  2. With a list of 16 things to do today, flipping constantly through my mind, I grabbed my coat and phone as I prepared to walk out and into the cold morning…certain that achieving them all would also mean that I would run myself ragged and end the day crawling into bed exhausted, but not sated. Tomorrow would be another day and another list…

    What stopped me from starting my day as I envisioned was your post, Karen. I actually sat down instead of walking out as I read your beautifully written story.

    I’d be lying if I didn’t also share that it squeezed my heart a bit as I saw myself in many ways having done the same – not living in the present. My challenge however has been letting go of the past. I have been consciously working on it though in recent months and can honestly say letting go can be a beautiful thing, but at times, I need a reminder that everything doesn’t have to happen when or how I think they need to…

    Sooooo, I’m going to interject some play into my day and partially complete my list.

    To letting go and enjoying the moment – thank you for reminding me Karen.

    Besos —

    Natatia

    1. Natatia…what a beautiful comment! I am so thankful you read my post. We do have to remember to add playtime to our day and be kind to ourselves when it comes to the unending “to do” list. Living in the present takes practice my friend, we will slip back but the important thing is to recognize it and stay put again. I have added meditation to particularily stressful days, it forces me to stop and be silent. XO

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