Question of the Month: Why do we constantly have to feel like we are moving forward?

DeathtoStock_Meticulous-07.jpgImage via Death to the Stock Photo

It’s occurred to me recently that I have a very hard time enjoying the present.

It wasn’t exactly easy to enjoy the present as it was in late 2015 and early 2016 so I’ll cut myself a break on those.

During that time, I convinced myself to focus on some key goals. I realized that a promotion was likely at least a year off but I committed to doing my job to the best of my ability and working toward an eventual promotion. I realized that getting frustrated with the seemingly far off promotion would be unproductive. I also knew that I was happy with my current gig and that it wouldn’t have been a good idea to start searching around for something seemingly better and high-paying.

In terms of my personal life, I knew that many of my friends would be experiencing huge milestones and my life would likely feel stalled for a while. And I learned to be okay with it. And as I discussed before, it became easier and easier to feel genuinely happier for my friends and acquaintances.

But as a self professed Type A person, I have realized that I’m really bad at not having the next milestone (whether personal or professional) in sight. I think that being able to enjoy the current moment is a truly impressive even resume-worthy skill. If you can do this, I envy you (and being in the moment on vacation doesn’t count, I’m sorry. I’m talking about living in the moment during your monotonous everyday routine). I’d also like to note here that I think I’m significantly worse about this than other people. I’ve usually spent every phase of my life preparing and waiting for the next phase.

Here’s the other thing: when I reach those milestones, I don’t even really enjoy them. It’s true! I got a promotion the other day and I’ve been working hard toward this goal for almost two years. I started comparing myself to others and didn’t fully enjoy or grasp what should have been a fun and exciting moment for me.

So, I’ve been making changes to try to teach myself this skill of appreciating the present more and I can say that things have improved a little. I’m hoping for gradual change over time. Here are some little things I’m doing to work on what I’d consider to be one of my biggest character flaws.

  1. Practice gratitude. I think of gratitude as a muscle you have to train. Honestly, it’s tough some days when it feels like there’s nothing positive about your day. Sometimes you have to be very creative. Sometimes it’s as small as “I’m happy that the Sweetgreen line server gave me an extra large serving of cheese on my salad today…” (I realize for some people that may be a nightmare but I don’t think the extra calories count when they are given to you for free or by mistake.)
  2. Try to find joy in the routine. There must be some things about your routine that you enjoy otherwise why are you doing those same things day to day? If you absolutely hate your routine, change it. I recently tackled the tough question of whether my morning workouts were something I hated doing or something that made my life better. Most days, I am motivated to get up at 5:30 am and over to the gym because I know it will make me feel better. On the days where I can’t be bothered, I don’t go and I have a different routine for those days. You have to have a backup plan that allows you some flexibility.
  3. Unplug. Technology makes enjoying the present much tougher in my opinion. For example, for a while I felt like my walks with my dog should also be productive. Like, I should be listening to an informative podcast or a book on tape while I’m walking my dog. Turns out, I’m not good at doing both at once. I often realize I’ve completely zoned out on the podcast or that I’ve not paid attention to my poor pup for more than a few minutes. Recently, I’ve been leaving my phone at home and enjoying nature in all her glory. I’ve seen my dog do some pretty entertaining and klutzy things on these walks when mesmerized by squirrels and I also like to think she’s sooooo appreciative of my full attention (sure).
  4. Learn to be okay with lazy days. Sorry I haven’t written a blog post since December. I’ve been spending my weekends doing basically nothing! Just kidding. I have a drive to be productive even on the weekends. Sometimes this is good (if I put off my taxes until April 18th, I would surely have a complete breakdown) and sometimes this is very bad. I’ve realized I’m best prepared for the week if I’ve given myself at least one morning with no alarm clock and at least a few hours to zone out with a book, a show or a magazine.

I’m a completely noob at living in the moment so I’d love to hear your thoughts on how I can become even better at this. What do you do? Also, do you think I’m crazy? Do you feel like this sometimes?

2 Replies to “Question of the Month: Why do we constantly have to feel like we are moving forward?”

  1. It’s great you recognize this and are actively working to make changes that will result in a happier you! What you’re putting into practice is very aligned with mindfulness; you may want to read more about it to find other ways to hone in on the joys of the present. ❤

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  2. Can’t remember if I told you this but I started a “Goodness Journal” for 2017. Three lines. Less than three minutes. 1. Best part of my day. 2. Something kind someone did for me. 3. Something kind I did for someone else. It has helped me focus on the little moments of each day that make me happy. I’ve seen patterns and worked to include those things more in my daily life. Also, I think humans are fundamentally kind and I like reflecting on that each day. I have loved it! (p.s. You were the best part of my day twice in DC!)

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