If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. -Lao Tzu
According to Lao Tzu, the key to peace and happiness is to “live in the present.” Seems easy enough; don’t get ahead and don’t look behind. Just accept what is happening now.
For me, living in the present has been hard, especially as I’ve grown older. I feel like I just keep waiting, more and more anxiously, for the life I’ve envisioned for myself: waiting for the man, waiting for the success, waiting for the payoff.
Anything less than that just feels like failure. Each day that I wake up and I don’t have the things that I want chips away at my enthusiasm. It feels as though negative thoughts are now damaging this time.
And, it makes me wonder: How can I even measure this success that I’m after? And, what does it even look like? Will I wake up one day and say, “I feel it! I’ve arrived and I’m at peace!” And will that be enough?
I haven’t yet discovered the secret to staying in the now and being grateful for where I am and what I’ve accomplished so far. But, I’m trying and I'm giving myself — and you — mantras to keep it in check.
It’s safe to say that most people feel happiest when they are in relationships. Being single is great at times and can inspire amazing productivity and personal growth, but most people naturally have the end goal of being with “the one.”
When you start to see all of those engagement announcements roll through on Facebook, it’s very easy to feel the weight of being alone more intensely. We start to wonder if and when it will happen for us.
Some people get so scared that they settle for good enough or less than they deserve just so that they will some day soon get to make that announcement.
They join Match.com and piddle around with someone who they don’t even like very much because the fear and anxiety becomes too strong to do otherwise. A friend told me that she joined Match because she was “tired of waiting to be happy,” and it made me sad for every woman who feels that the only way to be happy is to be with someone else.
And then, even when you do meet someone, it is hampered by the anxious thoughts of getting to the finish line. “When is he going to call? When is he going to ask me to be his girlfriend? When will he ask me to move in?” How can we even enjoy the magic of a budding relationship when we constantly try to push it forward?
Find the man, get the solution. Relationship equals happiness.
Or, does it? What happens if your relationship goes sour, your marriage ends in divorce or you are constantly not getting your needs met? Then, not only are you not happy, but maybe even less happy than you were before when you were alone.
By this time next year, maybe you will be in a relationship with the person of your dreams. Those same people who were in what you thought was a perfect relationship last year may be single again.
You never know what will happen and when you will meet “the one.” And, since you can’t and have little control over it, you might as well leave it up to fate and focus on loving yourself.
Mantra: Stay patient. Don’t force anything. Let things unfold naturally. Enjoy being single because once you do meet someone, you may never be single again.
Everyone has different measures of success when it comes to their careers. For the people who have lofty goals and want to reach for the stars, the road to get there is often filled with roadblocks and detours and rough terrain. It’s a necessary path, though, as it weeds out the ones who don’t fit or don’t have the physical or mental strength required.
But then, what happens if you do get to your goal? Then comes a whole new set of goals and challenges. Maybe you are a basketball player who wants to play in college, and you start striving for the NBA.
Then, you want to be the best in the NBA, have the most rings, make the Olympics, break the records, make history. It literally never stops.
It’s good to have goals. It’s good to always want something, right? But, the key is to enjoy the journey, and always love the stage you are in currently. There will always be something bigger or greater that you could achieve. Once you achieve it, though, it doesn’t mean that all the challenges will cease to exist.
For me, my career often feels like a hill that I’m constantly climbing, and I fear that I will turn around and walk back down before I reach the top, simply out of impatience.
It’s important for me to remain positive and be persistent, no matter how much rejection I receive. It’s a mental game that I have to play with my brain, every single day.
It’s a funny thing that our minds do to us. “Once I get this, then…” And, what happens if you don’t? Then what?
It’s important to focus on what you have now and celebrate what it took to even get to that point. You may have so much more that you are striving for, but it’s important to think about what you can accomplish today.
You can look at the big picture and feel sad for what is not there, or you can be happy for what is, and look just one step ahead instead of 10.
Mantra: I am going to work as hard as I can to achieve my goals one day at a time, and I feel at peace with whatever outcome happens.
Sometimes, I think that once I finally have financial comfort, I will be happy. I know material things and savings are not what life is about, but I can’t help but feel like having them would greatly improve upon my life.
We all know the saying, “money can’t buy happiness.” And, while that saying is true, it does seem like money might bring about a great deal of relief. If we could at least just not stress about money, then we could focus on more important things that we want to do.
Money is so relative; if you have more, you spend more. Maybe your head feels further above water, but you still probably aren’t swimming in riches. With a nicer car comes a bigger car payment. If you want to buy nicer designer clothing, you have to shop at more expensive stores. You can finally buy that house, but now you have a mortgage.
Sometimes, more money does mean more problems, and definitely more financial responsibilities. It still seems like the better deal, but it’s important to know that it doesn’t guarantee happiness.
Being on a budget means not going out as much, not taking trips, grocery shopping and treating yourself less. It’s not an ideal situation, but there are benefits. For me, it means writing more. That doesn’t cost money and it brings me immense joy. Find the things that you can do with what your budget allows.
Mantra: I am not completely financially at peace yet, but there are much greater joys in my life then being able to pay for things.
You are the only thing that can ruin your happiness. Changes happen constantly, whether you like it or not. Your whole life could change tomorrow, for the better or worse.
Yearning for the future will cause you to miss the gift of the present, and the present is all we have. No one knows for sure how many days we get to have. So, don’t miss the opportunity to take full advantage of every single one.