The Importance Of Being Present
It’s eight fifteen in the evening when I finally sit down for dinner. Steam erupts from the heap of rice and chicken that I accidentally left in the microwave for six and a half minutes. As I ponder the melting point of solid food, I let out a deep sigh that is immediately followed by a large, refreshing breath. During this delightful inhale I suddenly realize that this exact moment is the first time I have been present all day. For better or for worse, another day has flown by in which I was on autopilot.
Let me be the first to admit that being on autopilot isn’t always a bad thing. First, it’s incredibly efficient and it likely means that you have a strong daily routine. Second, there will always be a small percentage of days that are going to suck no matter what you do, and autopilot can be a lifesaver for these. I believe however, that most days can and will be incredible if you make an effort to be fully present and aware. And since the majority of life is fantastic, it’s absolutely necessary to practice being mindful of your surroundings – otherwise you are going to miss out on so much.
It’s not always easy being present. From the moment I wake up, there are countless antagonists working against me. There’s the ever seductive snooze button, the endless black-hole of instagram, and a barrage of negative news telling me how the world will likely end next Tuesday. With so many distractions nearby, the easiest choice for me is to avoid the temptations entirely. I accomplish this by adhering to a strict no-phone policy for the first hour hour of every day, which has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
This decision, along with my daily meditation and journaling practice has changed my life. Instead of filling my head with other people’s thoughts each morning, I use this first hour of solitude to visualize and imagine my ideal future. I think about who I want to be and what impact I want to have. I then consider what character traits, skills, and overall demeanor I need to cultivate in order to become the person capable of executing and performing in this optimal future.
Once I have written this all down, I grab a seat on the couch and settle into a 15 minute meditation. I reflect on everything I mentioned above, but most importantly I practice radical gratitude. I think about how amazing each breath feels, and how lucky I am to be alive. I let the fact that I have another full day ahead of me, another opportunity to improve myself and maybe the world, fill me with pure joy.
Taking this single hour for myself each morning has had an enormous impact on my overall wellbeing. I am happier, more relaxed, and feel like anything is possible. And by the time I get into work, or meet-up with friends on the weekend, I often get the sense that everyone is wondering why I can’t stop smiling.