"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." - Buddha
In efforts to keep control in your life, you must focus on that which you have control over.
Dwelling in the past or getting lost in the dreams of your future will immobilize you from taking action in the present moment.
Living in the past, focusing on the negative will create an environment where negativity wins and inhibits you from making positive changes in your life. On the flip side, when you continually relive the "glory days", you stifle your ability to do great things in the present. Either way, by continually focusing on your past, you blockade your progress for greater things.
When you dwell on the dreams of what your future could be, it's easy to get lost in those lofty visions. It's good to have dreams for the future, but not to focus on them at the expense of the moment. Anxiety and fear can easily creep their way in, potentially creating a mental block due to fear. Fear in failing. Fear in not being "good enough".
If you find yourself feeling stagnant but desire to make progress in your life, it's important to keep focused on the here and now and the actions you can make toward that progress. Here are some ways that I stay focused on living in the present that you may find helpful:
1. Make a "Hot List"
The "Hot List" is a daily list of the 5 things that I NEED to get done that day. I don't care who you are, there are 5 things that you can assign to your Hot List. These aren't things that are routine. They are things that change daily. For example, if you exercise every day, then "exercise" should not be on your list because it is already a habit for you. However, if you are making attempts to initiate exercise into your life as a habit, then this would be a perfect item on your Hot List. Make a list every day. Every day. And make it a priority to complete it. Every day.
2. Slow down
In the rush of the daily grind, we can't help but move fast and try to get things done in an expedient manner. I would recommend slowing down. From the moment you wake up, do your best to take slow action in your routine. Savor the quietness and ritualistic feeling of the things you do to prepare yourself for the day ahead. This will set the tone for the rest of your day. Slowing down will give your mind the break from the noise and busyness that the world tries to force upon you, trying to remove your control. Reclaim your control by slowing down.
3. Make time
As we go throughout the day, we tend to get wrapped up in all the menial tasks that "require our attention", whether these tasks are job-related or family-related. There are 24 usable hours in every day. How you use them is up to you. Keep in mind, the average adult cannot function properly without 7-9 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. Also keep in mind that this is only approximately 35% of your time, which leaves you with 65% left to do whatever you want. I hear a lot of people make excuses and say things like, "I don't have time" or "I've got too many other things to do". Ultimately, how you spend your time is up to you. It's your choice. You just have to decide what is important.
It sounds easy enough, especially since we don't even have to think about doing it. I challenge you to PURPOSEFULLY think about making time (at least one minute) to focus on taking slow deep breaths in and out in a controlled and smooth manner. Try this method (the method I use): breathe in for a count of 4 seconds, hold it in for 4 seconds, breathe out for a count of 4 seconds, then hold the exhale for 4 seconds. This helps to bring clarity to the moment and brings a conscious effort to slowing my heart rate.
These are the things that I consciously make an effort to do every day. They help me to live in the here and now. It's good to plan for the future and work toward your dreams, but it does not do you any good to lose what's happening in the now. The events actively happening in your life are purposeful, it's up to you to make them meaningful.