At one time or another, we’ve probably all heard the adages: “Just take it a day at a time!” and “Life is a journey, not a destination!” Both these quips are fantastic advice. But all too often, I live my life thinking too far ahead, berating myself for not reaching my goals yet or focusing on everything that’s wrong in my life.
But when I am able to slow down…both in thought and action, I am able to truly see the value and peace found in living in the moment. While it is good to have goals and have a destination in mind, it is easy for the race to the destination to dull the joy of the journey.
So what steps can we take to enjoy the benefits of taking life a day at a time, enjoying our unique journeys and living in the moment?
Put off distractions. What things in life tend to distract you and disturb your peace the most? For me, it’s often comparing myself with others, or spending too much time playing on my phone. These things are an enormous waste of time. When I’m comparing myself with others, I’m allowing my insecurity to dominate my life and thoughts. And when I’m spending too much time on Facebook or Pinterest or lost in a game on a screen, I not only foster discontent in my life, but I’m also completely distracted from what is going on right in front of me in the real world. If I’m distracted all the time, it’s very hard to appreciate the current moment and it also encourages me not to deal with difficult things. If you find yourself constantly seeking distraction during calm moments, it’s time to turn off the phone/tv/internet browser. I am striving to minimize these distractions in my life.
Notice the good. When you identify distractions and begin to eliminate them, you’re free to notice the wonderful things that surround you. Just stop and look around. What do you see and feel? Is it a beautiful day outside? Is your office chair super comfy? Is your dog sleeping in a position that makes you laugh? Are your kids giggling and playing with each other? Are you working on a really exciting project at your job? Is it crisp and cool enough outside that you can wear your favorite sweater? You can’t live in the moment if you can’t see the moment.
Give thanks. I believe this is the most important step because it changes your perspective. If I’m unhappy or discontent, I’m usually doing one of two things: over-thinking and living in the future, or trying to distract myself from something. But if I just turn off the distractions for a moment, notice the good around me, and give thanks for it, my perspective shifts. When I practice giving thanks, I find there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. We can grumble, and not want the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but it is our choice whether we focus on what we don’t have or on what we do have.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste the journey of life by focusing solely on the destination or on everything that’s going wrong in my life. It’s important to remember there’s always something I’m striving for, that I’d like to change about myself, or some way in which I would like to grow. And I don’t think this will end in my time on earth – it’s human nature. I think I will always have some destination to arrive at.
If we live our lives as if we cannot be satisfied until we reach our destinations, but there’s ALWAYS a destination, how will we ever enjoy peace? The answer is to revel in the moment by removing distractions, noticing the good all around us, and giving thanks for each day, each hour, each moment in our respective journeys.
I saw a great quote somewhere a couple weeks ago by Aristotle Onassis that illustrates this
beautifully: “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in the high winds.”
This is freeing to me. When I put so much pressure on myself to arrive at my destination, I cannot enjoy the path God takes me on to get there. When I accept that I will forever be growing, changing and learning, life seems more exciting than monotonous or slow-moving. When I see and am thankful for everything I have right now, I move away from discontent and into the present moment.
To me, this is the most simple way to live. It doesn’t mean things are always peachy keen and it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time. But true growth and change often occur when we are able to lift our eyes during even our hardest moments and say, “I see all that I am blessed with, and I am thankful.”