Remembering to Live in the Present

In recent weeks since the holidays ended, I’ve been feeling increasingly anxious. Part of the reason is I’m pregnant, and it’s easy to worry about the future when you are planning to bring a new life into this world. But this kind of worry seems to come to the surface for me regularly after the holidays. In January, we put so much focus on the new year, on how we are finally going to tackle our big goals, overcome obstacles and reach new heights. We do this at the same time when the evenings are dark and days are cold, when we are sad about the end of the holidays but summer seems so far away.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all our goals this time of year and much harder to get excited about the present moment.

Whenever I’m feeling this way, I get out my trusty bible – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:  Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry by Dale Carnegie. It was written originally in 1944, buts its lessons are as pertinent today as they were back then. I’ve read and reread the book several times. I keep quotes from it around my classroom at school and on my desk at home. I like to be reminded regularly of its lessons.

When I pulled it out recently, on an evening I was overcome with worry about my goals for this year and how I possibly could get it all done with a baby on the way, I flipped right to this passage, which really made me stop and pause:

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today… Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour.”

It struck me because I had been so guilty of this lately. I kept thinking that, if I could accomplish the goals I had set for myself in 2018, then maybe I could finally relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor. But as I read this passage, I thought about everything I have to be grateful for right now, in this moment:

  • my husband and children
  • my family and friends
  • my home
  • my careers
  • and even the simpler things…maybe not roses outside my window, but the cold air in the winter that makes my lungs feel alive when I breathe it in, the beauty of the snow in my backyard when the sun shines on it, a fire in the fireplace, a bowl of popcorn and snuggling under a blanket with my two handsome boys…

It’s not shocking that so many of us spend our days and nights ruminating on the past and worrying about the future. From a young age, we are told that success means finishing school, getting a job, having a home and family, and that true happiness will come when that all falls into place. Once we have those things, however, we don’t have anyone to teach us how to truly enjoy it. We set new goals and think only once we accomplish them will we erase the mistakes of the past and find “true happiness” in our present.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about setting and achieving goals.  But if we don’t find a way to live our lives now, regardless of the condition of our careers, relationships or bank accounts, we’ll eventually look back and realize we put off living until it was too late.  I must agree with Dale Carnegie – that is truly one of the most tragic things.

It’s not easy to keep that mentality all the time, especially in the new year when we have put so much pressure on ourselves to finally reach our highest ambitions. That’s why I get out my book every so often and take some time to remind myself to live in the moment, to enjoy the journey, while still looking forward to the goals I will achieve in the future.

That is my New Year’s resolution.  I’d love to hear how you plan to enjoy your moments this year in the comments section!

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