Focus on the present to help perfect your future

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
To be honest, when I first came across the concept of "perfecting the present", I struggled with it. If I wasn’t where I wanted to be or have what I wanted to have then how could the present be perfect? asks life coach Jan Aitken. 

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
It’s really a change in attitude about how we view and live our daily lives. Perfecting the present is centred around being in the present, of not being so caught up in the past or so focused on striving towards the future that we forget to live now.

When rooted in the past or flying off to the future become our primary way of living it can create limitations to what we can actually achieve. The hitch being neither approach is about the present, where life actually happens. It can be incredibly useful to go back to resolve issues from the past and forwards to visualise a future that motivates you to grow. However, that’s best approached when our feet are firmly grounded in a healthy present.

What do I mean by the present? I mean the simple reality of your life as it is today. The present is what "is" right now, not what "could" be or "should" be or "was", but what is right here, right now, whether it’s comfortable or not. There’s a richness in the present and when it’s understood it can help place both the past and the future in a meaningful context.

Let’s break the concept down.

The first step is to accept where you are in life right now. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily thrilled about it, but it is what it is. It’s important that you acknowledge your part in being where you are in life and accepting the circumstances and the actions that contributed to getting you to where you are today. What would you do differently if you had the chance? How does this point in your life set you up to move forwards? What can it teach you about where you want to go?

Secondly, think about what it is that you want to be different. Be careful with your choices — make sure they match your core values, strengths and needs.

Next, look at what you have control over, what you can do to make changes you want.

And lastly, take action — if you do nothing, then nothing will change. This step can be a series of small steps, it doesn’t have to be one big life changing mega move, but it could be.

It’s easy to look at others and think their life is perfect. However, no one really knows what someone else’s life is actually like and comparison, especially material comparison, breeds discontent. Perfecting the present is learning to be content with what you have and where you are while intentionally taking action to move yourself in the direction you want to go. Successful people are intentional about their lives, they don’t just let life happen to them.

In short, look for a silver lining — not the Pollyanna "all my life is fluffy kittens and unicorns" approach, but for what is good. Most situations will have something helpful in them. I was reminded of this while listening to an interview with the president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay. He commented that the repression of the Tibetan people, their culture and religion had made the Tibetans one of the most organised refugee groups in the world and that had led to a widespread knowledge and understanding of Tibet, its people and its issues. In turn this meant that Tibetan culture and Buddhism would likely never die.

From someone who has never been allowed into his own country, I thought that was a powerful lesson in perfecting the present.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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