Being present and enjoying your life as it is now while dreaming of what can be
Ah, this is a difficulty that comes about when you have a plan that you’re very excited about or a milestone you can’t wait to reach! It is also a natural part of playing the long game.
After several years of living without a clear plan, enough pieces began to become clearer and it felt time to make a 3-5 year plan. (I was initially getting so hung up on the number of years, that we later jokingly called it our ‘Several Year Plan’). Our plan appeared very quickly, over a couple of weeks. All the pieces just sort of fell into place. It was such a relief to know where we were going next!
Having a vision that we were really excited about and that felt deeply aligned with where we wanted to go, was wonderful. But it also lead us to a new problem…
How to fully enjoy our lives now, while working toward what is most-likely a multi-year goal?
It’s not easy, but learning to enjoy your present will help you feel happier and calmer in your daily life as it is now. Not only will it make you happier day-to-day, it will free up your mind and your energy for better uses! This will help you to feel better aligned, be more focussed, and possibly even achieve your goals sooner.
Below are some things we’ve found helpful as we navigate this struggle to live in the present while working toward a future vision. So far, as we have filled our current year with things that we look forward to and that edge us closer to our goals, we have found ourselves embracing the time ahead.
As we have filled our current year with things that we look forward to and that edge us closer to our goals, we have found ourselves embracing the time ahead.
Be clear on what you want and where you’re going
I have found creating a vision story to be a very useful exercise and tool. If you’re doing this with a partner, I recommend that you each make your own version. They are very personal and different words and images may be more or less impactful for each of you. If you wish, you can take some time to share them with each other when they’re ready, over a cup of tea. Of course, also do all the asking, researching, and planning that your goals require.
How to keep it from taking over / becoming a form of procrastination
Try to keep it contained, work on it at designated times, such as in evenings or on weekends. Don’t allow yourself to work on it before you start your day. Except: in your journal pages. Or if you are 100% confident that your job will not allow you to surf the internet or go down any ‘research’ rabbit holes. Don’t pick it up in the middle of your day, or it risks seeping into the rest of your day (either as a mental distraction or by leading you to actually work on it instead of on what you intended to do with your day).
Stay in the present
Practice mindfulness. Practice breathing and connecting with your body. This might be going out for some exercise, meditating, writing in your journal, or going for a walk around the neighbourhood. I find anything that involves moving my body, paying attention to my breathing, or that allows me to work with my hands can help me slow down and feel more grounded in the present. You may also wish you try starting a daily gratitude practice to feel more aware of and happy with what you have.
Set goals and intentions for your life as it is now. Set some smaller stretch goals for various areas of your life as it is now – in your current job, at your current home, with your current things. Think about things you wish to experience or savour in your current life. You could write these in your journal or add an extra page or two to your vision board – which is what I have done. This will help you feel excited about what you’re doing right now. Check in with these goals and ideas regularly.
Call procrastination what it is
Notice when your ‘research’ is actually procrastination. Be honest with yourself…. Do you need to know this information now? Is it really helping you to work toward your goal? Or is it draining your energy, attention, and focus from the tasks that will actually work you closer to the end goal?
If you are not doing the tasks right in front of you, the most likely cause is fear. Fear can be a little sneaky and we don’t always realize that it’s at the root of a situation or behaviour until we take the time to look and unpack why something is happening. It may be fear that you can’t do it, that it’s too hard, that you don’t know where to start, that it won’t work out… It’s important to acknowledge it to yourself and be honest with yourself about it.
Don’t let your dreams make you feel bad in the present. If you notice that thinking about your dreams and goals is making you feel badly – like you’re dangling a carrot in front of yourself that you can’t have – step away from it and do something small that brings you joy in this day, here, now. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk, tend to your garden, laugh with someone you love.
In general, if you notice that you are feeling bad/worked up/jealous/impatient after doing something, focus on that, learn from that, and consider maybe stopping the action that is causing that. I find this is a deceptively powerful approach. It seems so simple, but I’ve made lasting changes in my life that started just by noticing when something made me feel badly.
Give yourself permission to dream
Set aside time to dream freely about your goal. This may be before you fall asleep at night or while you wait for your tea/coffee. Take a few minutes to picture how your life will feel. Be sensual about it – how does it smell, look, sound? What are you doing? Who is with you? What’s the weather outside or what kind of space are you in? Visualizing is very effective.
Talk it out. Are you moving toward this new life chapter with a friend or partner? It can be energizing to talk about it with them. Have fun. Get on the same page. Run through new ideas. Plan your adventures.
Be attentive to dreaming in a way that is exciting and motivating to you, and not in a way that makes you impatient or angry that you are not there yet (see above).
Remember that every day that you showed up and took the right next step toward your goal is an accomplishment. You beat out fear and many other temptations. You were strong and brave. Be proud of that.
Hold steady through the daily steps
Practice your patience. You might do this by meditating, breathing deeply and slowly, journaling, gardening, or perhaps by practicing your faith, or taking a class that is meditative for you like pottery or yoga… Patience has always been difficult for me. I want to do and have things as soon as I know that they are the right things for me! It’s natural. Be kind to yourself and keep practicing.
Give yourself encouragement. It can be hard to see things that are accomplished a small step at a time.I find this especially tricky and especially important when working toward things that don’t have concrete visible results or external validation. If a big milestone is a ways away, set aside some time to check in on your progress every week or two along the way. Consider a lunch date with a friend who can encourage you and celebrate your progress with you.
You may wish to to chart mini-milestones or actions taken. Track them in any way that makes you feel as though the progress is real and concrete. You might create a spreadsheet to track progress. One thing I like to do within my art practice, is periodically set aside an hour to go through all the work I created over the past few months. I also clean up and file my work about once per year and this really helps me to see how far my skills have come and how much work I have created. Sometimes, when you get caught up in the day-to-day, you can lose sight of all that you have accomplished.
Create little moments of celebration for yourself. Go out for a cup of coffee or cook a nice meal. Say or write out all the steps you’ve taken and what you’ve accomplished so far. This will help you to better see all the little actions you’ve taken and progress you’ve made.
Trust the process. If you are showing up and taking action on your behalf, trust that you are changing and that you are moving toward realizing your goal. Even if you can’t see it, yet, or if the progress is less/less exciting than you had hoped. Big things are achieved one small, unglamorous step at a time.
Finally, remember that every day that you showed up and took the right next step toward your goal is an accomplishment. You beat out fear and many other temptations. You were strong and brave. Be proud of that.
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I wish you a beautiful season and happy dreaming ♥
Learn more about how to create a vision story. A vision story is a very clear and effective way to set your course as you move forward. It uses a combination of images and text that tell the story of what you dream of, want to experience and have, and where you intend to go.
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