Nothing lasts forever, but doesn’t it seem like a bad joke that the tough times seem to stretch on and the good times go by in a blink? There are many reasons for this; some can be worked with to create different results. One reason we experience things this way has to do with our ability to disengage from the tough times and have deeper contact with the good ones.
This might sound strange. Why would we have a hard time connecting to good experiences? However, it is true. We can be challenged in letting go of negativity and connecting in with positive experiences.
It is common in personal development workshops to have people sit with their eyes closed, do some deep breathing, and then do something like taste a piece of chocolate or a raisin. In this exercise, participants allow themselves a long time to do something that they might otherwise have done in just a few seconds.
It is a great way to get in touch with the lost potential of each moment as well as to help open up the senses.
Similarly, in our day-to-day lives, we might stop paying attention when “everything is fine” or “things are running smoothly.” We might gloss over the days where things go according to how we planned them and fixate on the bad traffic one night, the mistake made by a coworker that caused us to work late, or the moodiness of our child.
We might do things like tell the story of these tales of woe over and over again—or at the very least, run over them again in our heads. We might spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix them—in some cases, necessarily so. However, do we put equal attention and energy into the things that work, the people who are showing up in a good way, the parts of life that are waiting to be savored?
Here are some reminders that will help you get the most out of your day-to-day life.
Rebalancing: Often, we are just looking in the wrong direction or giving too much weight to the bleaker side of things. We can rebalance our perspective on life with the following tools.
Lean a bit in the other direction. If you talk (to yourself or others) about the negative stuff, try adding something positive to the conversation. If you are looking at what is not working, look at what is working. Conversely, if you gloss over the more challenging stuff, make a point of giving that its time as well. This cultivates flexibility in perspective and helps us recognize the choice we have in the way that we perceive or focus our attention. Ultimately, we can choose to look at things in a way that provides us with what we are looking for in life.
Put things in perspective. Just because something is wrong in one moment does not mean it has been and always will be for all time. If someone acts like a jerk—maybe they usually don’t, or maybe most people usually don’t. If you find yourself getting caught up in one aspect of the present moment, sink in a little more deeply and see what else is there.
Appreciation Skills: Appreciating the varied experiences of life is part of what makes life rich and prevents us from resisting whatever is coming to us in the present moment.
Look at what you have gained from a difficulty. After a difficulty has passed, it is easier to see how it was helpful overall to your life. After we have done that for a while, we can begin to appreciate our challenges more, even in the moment. We can know that the hard times, sometimes even more than the good times, offer us some amazing gifts. This decreases our resistance and fear and helps us become more connected with what is.
Keep your focus. In any given moment, there are many different ways that we can direct our attention. When we learn to align and realign with what is in our highest and best interest, then we are able to steer clear of much of what might send us off on emotional or mental tangents that have little to do with what is happening in the present moment.
Send love to those who have made your life difficult. If you want to be a ninja of peace, send love to the people with whom you are struggling in the present moment. This frees you from engaging with them and does so in a way that keeps you away from more stories in your head, mental chatter, or rumination.
Appreciating your life is first about being connected more deeply to it and then learning how to cultivate the states that bring you the most joy and pleasure. To do this, we need to stay away from some common bad habits (such as overthinking), learn to be honest with ourselves, and find authentic ways to connect with what we want.
Appreciation is one key to a happier life. Learn about another – that of presence – in my article here: >>> “Developing Presence in Your Day to Day.”
Stop trying to be perfect: You already are. Yes, each one of us is a work in progress, but that work is perfect in its state of evolution. When you are driven by perfection, you are unable to appreciate who you already are. Try instead to look at what is right about you.
Stop Trying to Impress Others: The people who want to be impressed (in the way I am talking about here) are not worth your time. The people who will judge you without knowing you or based on some criteria that are not even important to you are just not your people. The people who matter will think you are amazing. Pay more attention to them.
Stop Trying to Be Someone Else: If you are comparing yourself to someone who has different talents than you do or if you think that you should be doing things a different way than is natural for you, instead start to appreciate how you do things and what your talents are.
Find What You Love: When you let yourself be yourself, you will naturally be drawn to what you love. But, what you love also shows you something about who you are. If you don’t know what you love, experiment. If you like it, try doing it again and see if it grows into something.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love: Once you find the things you love, do them a lot. The more that you do what you love, the happier and the more satisfied you will be with your life. If you know what you love but you are not doing it, get the support you need to give yourself permission to be happy.
Don’t Waste Time Doing Other Things: Why bother doing things that you do not enjoy? Yes, I understand life has some practicalities that need to be addressed, but once they have been attended to—are you still wasting time not doing what you love? If so, start a plan to cut out the things that are not in line with who you want to be or what you love, and then take action.
Slow Down: We can all get a bit ahead of ourselves. It is not about doing more or doing it faster, it is about really enjoying our life. We can’t do that if we are moving so fast that we don’t even know what is happening. Start by building some real breaks into your schedule.
Pay Attention to What Is Working (Most of the Time): Most of us would benefit from being a bit more positive. There is a place for looking at what is not working, but when we pay attention to what works, we often learn more about it and therefore can have more of it. We also feel better about what we are experiencing. If you see yourself getting negative, find one thing that is working.
Express Gratitude: Being grateful is one of the most effective ways to be happier. When in doubt, find something to appreciate. And don’t forget to apply it to yourself!
Learn to Fully Receive: The emphasis on doing that most of us have been enculturated into leaves us less skilled when it comes to receiving. But how can we have a full and rich life if we can’t receive it? The next time someone compliments you, take it in.
Ready for an even more fulfilling life? See my article here to learn about living in your truth >>> “7 Signs You Are Living Your Truth.”
One of the main issues that people face in their personal and spiritual development is in the cultivation of presence. Many people get so preoccupied with fixing what is wrong with themselves or healing the past that they forget the reason for doing all of this work: to learn how to be in love with their life each day.
Sometimes, we do not need to fix the past so much as we need to learn new ways of being with the present so that we can have more of what we want. In short, the solution isn’t in changing the past but in being more adept at each and every moment. We do this by learning to be more present.
Here are three steps to cultivating presence.
Slow Down: As soon as we slow ourselves down, we witness the chaos that drove us in each moment. This can be our chattering mind or our compulsive drive to keep busy. At first we are uncomfortable, but once we break through, we have access to a type of experience we did not have before. Slowing down creates an environment for cultivating presence.
Pay Attention: As we begin to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment—our distraction, how we are feeling, or something someone said—we begin to see what is really going on with us. Paying attention brings things into conscious awareness, which allows us to work with them.
Acknowledge Where You Are Giving Your Energy: We slow down so that we can create the space to pay attention. We pay attention so that we can see what we are giving our energy to that is detracting from what is now present. Then when we get caught up in something that we do not want to give our energy to, we can reapply our attention by acknowledging that we are doing so.
These three steps make us more aware. It is from this place of awareness that we can be more fully in the present moment and can choose how we want to proceed from this point—direct our energy or be more receptive. We learn what keeps us away from being with the present moment and we can make new choices about how we want to connect, create more joy, or take our next steps.
Cultivating presence can lead to more fulfillment – read more about this important topic here: >>> “10 Ways to Live More Fully.”