I’m not going to pretend that I’m some expert on this. As a matter of fact, humans in general aren’t engineered to just look at what is. Civilization is a testament to dreamers and their visions, for better and for worse.
But it’s important to know when to dream and when to build your dream. You can’t be dreaming whilst you build. Not only will you be adding more and more to the vision, you’ll overwhelm yourself and you will fail to complete the task. There is a time and place for everything.
To be able to look at what is, you need to be able to do two things:
1. You are focused on the present moment, and
2. You do not have thoughts that compel you to address the future
Some of us are naturals at the first thing on that list. If you know about the Myers-Briggs Personality Types, the types which have strong extroverted sensing are masters at being in the present moment. These are ESFP, ISFP, ESTP and ISTP. The rest of us will largely struggle with this and can be more easily pulled into focusing on the future.
But in studying extroverted sensing we find the solution for how to be in the present moment more often. Using extroverted sensing means that we take in information using our five senses. As a result, we focus more on the smell coming from the kitchen — maybe something needs to be thrown out. Or we’re more aware of the intensity of someone’s stare as you talk — they’re very focused on what I have to say; I guess I’m saying something valuable.
To be able to improve your ability to be in the present, meditation is often touted as a great antidote because the goal is to focus either on an object in your environment like a candle or mirror, or you can focus your attention on internal states like your breath or your heart.
But sometimes it’s tricky to sit still, so what can you do then? Taking up a hobby where you have to be present helps too. Playing video games and sports compel you to take in a lot of sensory information and to take action on the goal you have for the game.
Okay, but maybe that’s too active. What else can you do? Visual arts like drawing, painting and sculpting work well. Writing and reading do too.
Lastly, having little reminders in intervals throughout the day to be in the moment and smell the coffee can also help you a ton because you are learning to connect to what is, instead of what is upstairs in your brain as you try to figure out this and that, which is a great segue into the second point.
Being present helps when it comes to ruminating on the future. If you’re too busy soaking in the moment, you don’t have time to think.
However, there are times when we think the thoughts we’re thinking are very important. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they’re not and even worse, the thinking is being done at the wrong time and place. At this point it may even be compulsive.
To be able to tackle this, we have to do some introspection and I would suggest writing your thoughts down. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to prevent by thinking about this thing so much?” Often we’re trying to forge a better tomorrow and so that’s why we think so much, but I’m afraid that behind that is the primary desire to stop what is happening.
What I mean is, there are things happening in our present moment or in our lives in general that we’d rather not focus on and want to end once and for all. So we turn to the future because at least there’s the possibility that things will be better later. We make plans to escape our painful reality but when they fail, or when new problems surmount, we go right back into future-oriented thinking.
By asking, “What am I trying to prevent by thinking about this thing so much?” now you know what’s annoying you instead of it being some background thought that’s governing way more than you should be comfortable with.
You can now come to peace with what is instead of hating on it. But if the situation is too much to bear, you have to take action to put it to an end. You don’t need to be thinking about the future to do this. The only way to take action is to be in the Now anyway.
Because you are no longer trying to escape the present, you can now be more realistic with the reality of a situation rather than what you wish.
Instead of hoping this guy or girl likes you, you will be immersed in the moment and notice his disinterest or feigned interest. Because you acknowledged that you are just really tired of being alone, you try to stop hating your reality instead of projecting a hope onto someone you can’t fulfill your needs.
Instead of daydreaming about getting your big break really soon, you acknowledge that your career means you will always be putting in work and learning. Regardless of a big break or not, work must be done. Also, because you asked yourself what you were running away from, you realize that you are desperate for a big break because you hate not being able to afford better things. As a result, you take action, put in the work and try to make peace with what is.
As I said at the beginning, this isn’t my forte. But I get results when I remember these tips. Dreamers really can change the world but change can’t occur if you don’t smell the roses and you definitely can’t change your own world if you’re constantly trying to escape the present.