Continuing with the lesson from yesterday, today I want to help you learn to love your present – difficulties and all.
The very first thing I want you to do is take a good long look at your life today. Identify any unhealthy relationships or generally negative people and either remove them from your life or make a plan to do so. I’m going to talk you through learning to love your current situation, but I am ONLY talking about situations that are simply unpleasant – NOT unhealthy. I am not in any way suggesting you learn to love an unhealthy situation.
Just like with your past, you don’t have to love the events of today to love the lessons you are learning. You don’t have to enjoy an unpleasant job to welcome the knowledge and experience you are gaining. You don’t have to like financial struggles in order to understand the appreciation you have for every penny when many take all of life’s simple luxuries for granted. You don’t have to love a 2-year-old’s tantrum to appreciate the growth and development a toddler gains through those unpleasant interactions (and how you handle them!)
Learning to love your present has a lot to do with thinking about the future – thinking about how your tough situations of today will lead to better situations later on. It also has a great deal to do with appreciating life’s simple gifts.
I want you to start a new page in your journal and spend some time working on three things:
Forecast Your Future
Think about the way that today’s situation is preparing you for a better future. Are you working to pay off debt? Raising a kind and confident child? Remodeling your home, slowly but surely? Write down the current situation and a couple of lines underneath it write down the future situation it is leading to. Now write a few intermediate steps on the lines between. For example, the top line might be “Living paycheck to paycheck” and the bottom line might be “Living debt free!” and the lines in between might be “Pay off credit card”, “Pay off student loans”, and “Pay off car”.
Setting goals gives you something to work toward and something to look forward to. It gives purpose to the things you do every day. Ruth Soukup, author of the book Living Well Spending Less and founder of the blog by the same name, suggests that you make choices about what you do each day based on whether or not that task helps move you closer to your goal. She has a great goal setting workbook and has an entire chapter about how “written goals can change your life” in her book.
For this exercise, I’ll have you look at your future forecast and simply write down 3 goals that you would like to accomplish in a year, in 6 months, in 3 months, and in 1 month. Take time to really think about it so that your goals can be realistic. In business, we use what we call SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Time Line. Goals that are specific tell you exactly what you want to achieve. “Be promoted” is not as specific as “Be promoted to department head and gain a 20% pay increase and an additional week of vacation”. Measurable goals let you know when the goal has been achieved. “Potty train Suzy” is not as measurable as “Have Suzy wearing undies during the day without worry of accidents” or even “Go 1 month without potty accidents!” Attainable and Realistic goals keep you better motivated because they don’t feel impossible. Is Suzy even ready for potty training? Do you even have the required education and experience for the promotion you want? Giving yourself a Time Line for achieving your goals keeps you accountable and gives you a “due date”. That is where the 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, and 1 month come in. You’ll end up with 12 goals total. Make sure that the goals in the shorter time frames are stepping stones to reaching your bigger goals!
Put your goals somewhere you’ll see them every day and think about them regularly. Start ridding your life of commitments and activities that do not help you achieve your goals and start looking at the challenges you face today that DO help you achieve your goals as stepping stones.
Start a Daily Gratitude Journal
Daily planners work really well for this because they already have the dates (or a space for you to write the date) and you can go back and remember what happened each day. Every single day, write down at least 3 things you are grateful for that day. Next, write down 3 examples of beauty that you witnessed that day. I encourage you to look for beauty in the simple, everyday things. Glittering snow. The first birdsongs of spring. The symmetry of your cat’s stripes. The song that came on the radio at the exact right time that you needed to hear it. The swirls in your cup of coffee. Your neighbor’s adult son who comes to her house to shovel the snow from her driveway. A mother smiling at her child. The person who lets another car in the lane when everyone else just kept on driving. Someone paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee. There is beauty all around us, everyday. And it has nothing to do with physical appearances.
When I first started this series, my intent was to leave it there. But fellow blogger, Havok over at Anxiously Being Havok, shared a wonderful idea: also write down 3 things that made you happy that day. How uplifting will it be to look back 6 months later and remember a happy moment?
Happiness is a choice. Happiness is intentional. Happiness is not something that happens to us, but something that happens through us. You can choose to see the negative or the positive in every situation. You can choose to let hardships define you or strengthen and teach you. You can choose to allow your present to shape a future you can look forward to. You can choose to see beauty and savor happy moments in everyday life.