Fulfilled Life #2: Presence and Gratitude
To start out, people think that they need to make big changes in their life that are uncomfortable, scary, uncertain or often downright seemingly impossible. In order to live a truly fulfilled life, I am here to tell you that you do not need to do any of those things. While most of those feelings that I listed come from inner fears and self doubts, they do not have to be immediately faced in order to start living a happier and more fulfilled life now.
The key to living a more fulfilled life right now with what you have is presence and gratitude.
Some of you may be wondering what is this term “presence”? This simply means to live within the present moment. So much of our time is spent either thinking about the past or daydreaming of a future that has not yet arrived. This becomes our virtual world. We are not here in the present moment. This present moment is the only time that we have the power to act.
It is important to think about the future in order to plan. However, this future thinking portion of ourselves is simply a tool. You use the tool to plan the future and then set it down. So many people carry this tool and think that it is a part of them. They continually play out future scenarios. The interesting thing is that you can plan all that you would like and in the end the decision is spontaneous. You can never gather enough data in order to make a completely informed decision. This combined with the wild world of your unconscious mind is the reason you cannot truly tell why it is that you made a decision. So why dwell on what it is that you might decide in a future which never seems to come. The future is one half of it, the other is the past.
Constructing the past from your memories in order to re-live it, is something people do often. Although you do this in the present moment, oftentimes people are not present in this moment when they are doing that. They go into a dream like trance. Often when this is done, they are being hard on themselves for some mistake that they may have made either that day or in times past. The really interesting thing is that the past does not exist outside of your mental construction of it. With that being said, memories are a very interesting thing. When you recall a memory, you are actually recalling the last time in which you recalled that memory. It becomes a story that you tell yourself and every time you retell that story, you recast it. So your memories actually change every time that you recall them. So with this being said, we must be careful with what it is that we think we have done. We also must be careful to not dwell on the past. It can also be thought of as a tool. Recall the past, learn the lessons and move on. Leave the past in the past. As Tony Robbins so rightly says is that “your past does not equal your future.” Another good quote has a controversial starting point, so it will be listed as unknown:
"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."
Now that we realize the present moment is our moment of power and decision, what decisions can we make to have an immediately more fulfilled life? Practicing gratitude.
If you take time every day to write down the things that you are grateful for, you will find that you not only have some things, you have a lot of things to be grateful for. Our minds have been programmed to survive. This often leaves us focused on the negative aspects of life. This can be tied back to our caveman era days. If we judge the grass rusting as a non-threatening situation and it turns out to be a tiger, then game over. So evolution has preferentially selected for humans to survive that tend to fear more. Luckily for us, we no longer face such predators on a regular basis. However, the wiring and programming is still there.
It is easy for us to get stressed out in the modern world. Why is this? Why can we not have more of a sense of fulfillment around the things that we have already achieved? Our bodies are wired to have a fight or flight response. If something is going wrong, we either need to escape or fight. Unfortunately, situations that used to be a bear attack, are now simply deadlines. These deadlines are only mental constructs and the weight you put on them is completely relative. If you do not meet a deadline at work, or you lose your job, you are not losing your life. If you choose to practice gratitude in these situations you can turn them into learning opportunities.
One common scenario that I see all of the time is that of weather. People love to complain about the weather. “Oh, it is too hot, or too cold, or it is raining or snowing. I really hate the rain.” This is especially ironic since the same people will say: “Look at the foliage on the trees, what a beautiful site.” The rain is necessary for this foliage to prosper. What they also do not keep in mind is that the rain is necessary for themselves to prosper. Water is the most critical substance on the planet. Getting upset when it is raining is getting upset at nature for naturing. After all, raining, snowing, being hot or cold is what nature does. Not to mention anything that it does is far outside of our sphere of control. Therefore, being grateful for the weather patterns is necessary for a contented life. This can be extrapolated for any situation. Any time you find discontent is because you are creating a mental construct that is different than your present reality. The further your mental construct is from this reality, the greater your unhappiness will be.
So, it is our choice to live in the past or future and to focus on what is bad and wrong with life, or to be inherently in this present moment and become fixated on what is good, positive and going well in our life. In the end we do not have control over other people or our some of our life’s situation. What we do have control over is the way in which we let them affect us. If we choose a life of gratitude and presence, this will lead us to a happier, more fulfilled and emotionally rich life in a single moment.