Don’t just think about how you spend your time, think about WHERE you spend it! There are three definitive time zones that the human mind can scan at any given moment. They are the past, the present, and future. It is very important that we think about our focus on these time frames and concentrate as much as possible in the present.
Why? When you concentrate on the past, think about the thoughts that constantly scroll through your mind. Do we normally think about past thoughts in the context of, “I should have…”, “If only I…”, “I never should have…”, “If that never happened…”?
How many times do we run past scripts through our mental processor only to come up with a one-word moral to all the stories, regret! When we focus on the past the vast majority of our focus is on what we should’ve, could’ve, didn’t, or wished I didn’t. In other words, we are regretting our past actions and wishing that we can act them all over again.
Guess what? We can’t! Thus, focusing on the past only allows us to concentrate on some negative outcome that we want to change but do not have the power to change. The only residual effect of that mental process of rehashing past events is that we are feeling bad. We felt bad when it happened, and now we feel bad again. Spending a great deal of time in the past, as you can see, is not good for our mental health.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” – Bil Keane
So let’s look at concentrating on the future. When we think about the future we tend to think about, “What if this happens?”, “What if this doesn’t happen?”, “What if there’s not enough money to…?”. So what is the moral of concentrating on future events? It allows us to live squarely in the camp called worry. (Again, not a nice place to be!)
I read an interesting statistic many years back of a few psychologists that did research on worry and what they found was startling. They found that 92% of what individuals worry about never happened. And the other 8 % is inevitable, so there’s really no need to worry. In other words, the vast majority of what we worry about is useless because it never comes about!
Think about how much time we spend thinking about the past or the future. In other words, think about how much time we spend in thoughts of regret or worry. Both of which, I’m sure you’ll agree, are extremely unhealthy patterns of thought.
There are only three time frames, past, present, and future, and by the process of elimination, we have determined that living in the past or the future are poor alternatives, it leaves one choice: the present!
If we can train our minds to be more focused on the present, by virtue of the law of displacement (only one thought can occur in our mind at any given time), we will automatically eliminate both regret and worry. So the question before us is what can we do to be more “present centered”.
Here are three easily installed behaviors that can cause you to spend more time in the present:
1. The first 15 minutes of your day belong to your thoughts
The 15 minutes directly after you wake up is very important to setting the climate for the day. It is a time when both conscious and subconscious mind are alert and active. In that time, take a minute or two to observe your physical well-being and any overriding thoughts you may have whether positive or negative. The goal here is just to observe, not to change. By virtue of observation you are in the present.
2. Find your anchors throughout the day
During the day, with the pressures that each of us have trying to earn a living, we need to find anchors that can assist us in thinking about the present. If you are in sales and are on the road, you may want to think about the moment you get into your car, or the moment just before you leave your car, as a way of thinking about the present. If you are at a desk, perhaps every time you get up or sit down, or every time you hang up the phone. In other words, one minute observing how you feel and the thoughts are going through your head using your anchor to remind you. The goal is not to change, just to observe.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
― Mother Teresa
3. Observe before bed
At the end of the day when you’re in bed and ready to fall asleep, prior to your subconscious mind taking control for the last time of the day, think about how you feel and what you’re thinking. Just observe. Don’t try to change anything. Observation keeps us firmly entrenched in the present.
These are three simple methods for concentrating on the present and not the past or future. I am not suggesting that we should not learn from the past and I am also not suggesting that we do not plan for the future. I am simply suggesting that we don’t want to live in either of the neighborhoods. They are fine to visit but we want to come back home to the present. Think about installing 1, 2, or all 3 of these behaviors and watch what happens in a month of being centered in the present!