“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there,” said Dan Sullivan. Zig Ziglar says, “most people are thinking about their family while they’re at work, and thinking about work while they’re with their family.” Does that hit home with you? It does with me.
Our minds wander, especially if you’re a thinker. Everyone thinks, but some people are true thinkers… always thinking about how everything is going, what’s going to happen, what they’re going to do next. I fall into that category.
Unfortunately, this often turns into worry.
As Paul said, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
We’re not called to worry. We’re not called to live in the past or the future — we’re called to live in the present. You won’t get anywhere if you live in the past, and you’ll never see it come to fruition if you always live in the future. Live in today. That’s all we’ve got.
Work When You Work
What are you thinking about when you’re at work? Everything going on in your life? Are you making family plans and vacation plans while you’re at work?
Are you actually working?
Sometimes work is busy and we have no choice but to do what has to be done, but when it slows down, you’re still getting paid, yet often we stop working. Why? Because we’re so focused on something outside of work — something outside of what we’re currently doing.
When you’re at work, work. Focus on what needs to be done in the office, field, or whatever environment you work in. That’s not the time to be thinking of future family plans. Focus on your work, and do the best job you can.
Teach your kids to devote themselves to everything they do, and not to get sidetracked by personal things. And likewise…
Play When You Play
When you’re on vacation, or even just at home for the evening or weekend, that’s not the time to be thinking of work, and it’s definitely not the time to be working. If you have a job that requires you to continue working at home, consider re-prioritizing your life, and possibly even looking for another job.
In the same interview where the late Zig Ziglar said the quote at the beginning of this article, Zig also made another important point. When he traveled for work, he was either reading or writing on the entire plane ride, and every time in between appointments and engagements. He worked hard the entire time.
When he came home, it all stopped. He didn’t think about work. He didn’t continue to work. He focused on his family and his home. When he did his reading and studying, it happened before everyone else was awake.
I’ve said before how important a morning routine is to get you focused and to be productive before everyone else wakes up. That’s your time.
Keep your family in the forefront of your mind when you’re with them. They’ll know if you’re not.
If you use every single hour you’re at work to do some serious work, you’ll have every single hour at home for family time and relaxation.
How to Live in the Present
The idea of living in the present sparks thoughts of New Age, Eastern beliefs for many, but it’s actually a Biblical concept.
Jesus said, as recorded in the book of Matthew, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34). When Jesus taught us how to pray, he said, “give us this day, our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). He didn’t mention the future since today is enough.
It’s great to think about the past when you’re journaling or reminiscing, and it’s great to think about the future when you’re planning. The problem comes in when you’re only thinking about the past or the future, and never living in the present.
Be where you are.
In fact, the first step to living in the present is getting the past and the future out of your head. As David Allen recommends in his book, Getting Things Done: have a place to put your ideas. You’ll constantly get ideas throughout the day. Some are worth a lot, some are worthless. For the good ones, have a place to store them. I use the Chaos Control app on my phone and computer.
Again, journaling is a great way to get all the past events out of your head. It’s best to do it in the evening while the information is still fresh. Plus, it helps you sleep once you get all of that information out of your head.
When it comes to the future, those ideas are captured in whichever tool you decide to use (a simple notepad works fine), but you’ll need to turn those ideas into plans. Once you have those plans, it’s good to focus on them and stay diligent, but while you’re striving to reach your goals, live for today, each day, one day at a time.
Finally, to completely settle your mind, meditation helps. It really does. The Insight Timer app has plenty of Christian meditations where you meditate on Scripture, and pray, while focusing on breathing and relaxing. There’s also plenty of basic breathing meditations on there.
Let’s break down the steps:
- Journal your past
- Capture your ideas
- Plan your future
- Meditate daily
Those four steps—once you get comfortable with them—are the key to living in the present. Get everything out of your mind other than what’s right in front of you.
How to Teach Your Kids Presence
If you think your mind is running wild, try getting into your kid’s head.
Kids’ minds run rampant, and that’s great, because that’s exactly what kids’ minds should be doing. As children start to hit the teen years, it’s important to teach them to find a place to store their ideas (so they’re out of their head), plan for the future, and live in the present.
It’s actually easy to start teaching when your kids are young. If they bring up future plans or past events, discuss them, but if they seem hung up on living in the past or only dreaming of the future, explain how they need to focus on today.
It’s an easy concept, but it’s not always easy to practice.
Living in the moment takes a constant reminder to do so, and at first it may feel like you aren’t allowed to think of anything but the moment. It’s not that bad. It doesn’t have to be forced. It should be desired.
The easiest way to live in the moment is to practice gratitude.
When you’re constantly thankful for what you have—instead of thinking about what you had, or what you don’t yet have—you’ll be right there in the present. Gratitude leads to contentment, which leads to a happy, fulfilled, joyful life.
It’s perfectly fine to be discontent with the way certain things are. Sometimes discontentment can drive us to positive change, but only in specific areas. You can be content with your life overall, and still be discontent with one area.
Use that discontentment to move you toward your goal, while still appreciating everything you do have, and being content with your life as a whole.