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Half the time, we’re so distracted by so many things, we practically let our lives fly past. Sometimes we’re just in our head, opening the portal to the doors in the space-time continuum labelled “Past” and “Future”. Other times, we’re sucked into the Black Hole of the Internet. It’s like we can’t afford to pay attention to our life anymore, and for some, it takes walking right into a glass door with our head hung over our phone to knock some sense into us. Or not.
So what does being present mean? It’s self-explanatory really. It means being present in the present while you work, eat and hang out with people. While it may sound simple but how many times have we rushed our meals while doing something important? How many times do we multi-task per day? And it seems that people spend more time photographing their dinners than talking to the people they go to those dinners with. Here are five practical steps to take control of your life and Be Present:
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There’s a whole industry out there trying to convince you that the new year is the year of a new you. As they try to shove yearly planners down your throat and sign you up for a whole year of gym membership at a 50 % discount, it’s very easy to be carried by the wave. If you really think about it, they should verify the famous slogan to, “New Year New You with a More Famished Wallet.” Despite all that hype, only 8 % of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions – statistics which make one wonder why the 92 % even bother.
Making NY resolutions tends to be more of a procrastination strategy than a personal development one. The idea that you’re supposed to wait for a certain time or date to begin something makes it easy to procrastinate on important life decisions. Decisions you know would make you slightly uncomfortable.
“I want to eat healthy, but maybe next year I’ll add it to my New Year’s Resolution list.”
“I want to read more, but maybe next year…”
So the obvious solution to that is to implement a good idea the day you hear it, regardless of whether it’s New Year’s Day or Mid-April or the end of November.
A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself. The main reason promises find themselves broken like new toys in the hands of a toddler, is because the mindset breaking it is different from the mindset making it.
On January 1, it’s very easy to be pumped up and excited about our resolutions because many people are talking about it. You write your resolutions about losing weight, eating healthy, spending less on a large sheet of paper. Come Day 30 and that paper acts as a coaster for your ice cream tub. So an alternative to making this promise to yourself and then disappointing yourself continuously is to take stock of your life right now, and work on fixing it one small habit at a time. It’s known that drastic changes are hard to make because of our habits. We can say that we want to lose weight but as long as the cue-routine-reward cycle exists in our brain (as explained in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), it’s going to be tough.
So this is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions:
- Know thyself. Identify your habit cycles and start breaking them down. The Power of Habit is a highly recommended read for this particular step.
- Think in terms of forming habits instead of making individual goals. For instance, let’s say we want to lose 5 lbs this year; that’s a goal. We’ll always be in a state of disappointment until we reach that goal – that’s if we reach it. And as millennials we’re not so into long-term gratification. We want results like…yesterday! So instead of setting a goal that way, we can focus on making it a habit to take a thirty minute walk everyday or hit the gym three times a week. Taking that first step will help provide us with instant gratification, build our success spiral and all in all, make us feel good.
- Link habits together to build integrated systems. This needs some thinking and tinkering but basically the secret is to link new habits with long-established habits. So if you’re used to taking a nap in the afternoon, and you want to start doing sit-ups for instance, link the afternoon nap with the sit-up to maintain consistency. The moment you pile habits together and build a system, it becomes this behemoth giant that’s hard to slow down once started.
- Work from your personal values. I’ve written about this previously. A lot of times we just want to incorporate things into our lives because other people think it’s a good idea. But if it’s not a good idea for us on some deep personal level, then we’d lose traction faster than tires on black ice.
- Reduce the inertia. We’re not big fans of change so the hardest part of starting anything is overcoming that initial inertia. Sometimes one needs to think of ways to reduce the inertia, for instance in the gym case, some people keep their gym clothes ready the night before so they can launch into their workout routine as soon as they wake up.
- Experiment. Everybody’s system is going to be different and there’s no way of knowing what works for you until you experiment. Some people get stuck in the idea collection stage without executing anything but until we try we never know what’d work. The secret is to work on your own personal project and have fun doing so.
- Last but not least, just start! Today. Not tomorrow. Not January 1. Not May 25. Just start today.
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In The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha writes how when he was blogging, he kept on setting more and more ambitious goals and hitting it. He finally realized, “No matter how many external goals I achieved, I just kept setting more. I started realizing that external goals didn’t help me become a better person. Only internal goals did.”
How many times do we find ourselves in the same situation? We reach a goal and suddenly, we’re not satisfied with what we have, and we end up wanting more. That’s practically the definition of ambition, and it’s a good trait…except when it’s not. Like when a person back stabs a friend to get ahead or when that hunger causes them to sell their family…
You were willing to sell your family for pizza?
I actually read something close to that once, and found it funny…
The Let-It-Go approach
I’ve seen people suffer because they hung their hopes on one job, one person, one thing…and when they don’t get it, or when they get it and end up losing it, they spend far too much time whining over it. So the let-it-go approach is simple, especially when it’s something or someone (I guess I’ve seen more scenarios where that thing was a person) that’s making you unhealthily obsessive…just let it go. Cut all connections with them. No FB friendships, no twitter following, no blog following….just let them go. And I would like to tell you that with time they might come around, but chances are, they won’t but you’ll be happier without them in your life anyway.
I mean, so many times I’ve seen people trying to force a narrative in their life; two people who come from sparring claiming to fall in love just because they want to stage a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of story even though they’re totally incompatible….and every time people try to force such narratives, things become so complicated that eventually it breaks apart.
So let them go. Write their name on a paper and burn it. Find reasons to hate them if it’s possible. Freeze your heart whenever you hear their name, and scowl. Do whatever it takes for your peace of mind.
So let it go. And don’t follow.
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