I was your typical type A personality - I like to be productive, achieve goals and win in life. I plan ahead, I set goals, I make lists and I tick them off. Even to a day to day level.
This all served me well until one day. That day was the day I brought home my tiny little princess, my daughter. You see, I worked until 2 weeks before my due date and then I quit my job to become a full-time work-at-home mother. I had a grand plan of starting my own empire aka working for myself while looking after my child. So naturally for me, I had already set out a plan of what I wanted to do, what I needed to achieve, how many hours I needed to spend per day, a breakdown of daily tasks and so on. Little did I know that a small baby requires constant monitoring, feeding, changing, petting, carrying and when they are sleeping, you can't really do much expect to sleep or eat too. And maybe go to bathroom.
So all my plans went out the door and I was feeling very confused and frustrated. Of course, I love my daughter unconditionally but the lifestyle change was hard for me to adapt to. Very hard. To make matters worse, I blamed myself for it because I thought if I did a bit more research about parenting, I could have done a better planning.
But at the same time, I knew something had to give. And the very thing that I had to change was my mindset. I talk about mindset a lot and it's true; when you can control your mind, you can conquer anything.
As a result, instead of trying to accomplish many things every day, I decided to make a change. Besides looking after my daughter, my only goal then was simple - to have at least one shower a day. It may sound silly but it worked for me because it helped me from going insane and feeling like a failure. I set a realistic goal for me at that time. It was then I was able to enjoy being a new mother and everything that came with it. It was then I really learned how to be present in the moment and enjoy what is in front of me, instead of thinking about the past or worrying for the future.
Learning to live in the moment is a wonderful thing and I have to admit I had been goals-oriented to a degree that I forgot to be present. It is not to say I didn't know how to enjoy life or that I lived a miserable life. To me, the difference between being present or not changes our perspective on how we look at things and our ability to enjoy and be grateful for daily moments, however small it may be.
Now, I would like to share three things that helped me to stay in present and enjoy small moments.
There is always something to be grateful about. To give you a simple example, when I am having a hard time getting my daughter to eat nutritious food, I am grateful that she is healthy and we have a lot of choices so she can be choosy. When I am at work having to do mundane boring tasks that get the better of us, I'm grateful of learning opportunities. When I am faced with difficult people or rebels, I'm grateful because without them, the world would be boring otherwise. So you see, there is always something to be grateful for, and when we are seeing things from a different perspective, there are more reasons to enjoy what we have right now, the present.
There is a saying that comparison is a thief of joy. It's our human nature to want to compare and we have been doing it for generations. When we were young, our parents would compare us with children of their friends or relatives. When we went to school, we compared ourselves with our peers and even if we didn't, teachers would do. When we got older, we compared ourselves with everyone we knew or even those we have just heard about, siblings, friends, colleagues, neighbors, celebrities and the list goes on. It wasn't easy to simply stop comparing, but I now make a conscious effort to stop myself and move on whenever I catch myself comparing. Because in the end, everyone is different, we have our own strengths and weaknesses and we never really have a complete picture of others because we only know what others want us to know about them.
If you're not happy, do something about it
As I mentioned earlier, when I was very frustrated and feeling like a failure, I knew something had to change. There may be times when being grateful alone doesn't work. I was grateful to be a mother, but I was still unhappy with my lack of productivity work wise. By resetting my goals, it helped me move on and embrace my new role as a mother. It is hard to be present in the moment and enjoy when we have so many things in our minds that are bothering us. So my advice is to take control and do something about it so we don't have to compromise on our happiness. This may be as simple as accepting the truth, or acknowledging that there are things beyond our control, to a more radical approach like resetting our priorities, or leaving some things behind to make room for bigger better things. But if we don't do anything or if we don't take action, it is unrealistic to expect anything to happen for us, in our favour.
The joy of being able to appreciate and live in the moment is amazing, and I believe it also brings health, well-being and performance benefits. But we must remember that there is no better time to start being present than now and only we can take the action for ourselves.