A few years ago, I was giving a team-building workshop for a Fortune 500 company. After the morning meetings, I took the CEO aside and spoke with him. He had been so tense and driven all morning, he was unable to relax and see “the bigger picture.” Focused on everything that had gone wrong, or might go wrong, he was missing all the things that were going right. This was obvious to everyone but him. It was seriously affecting his ability to lead his company through a rough spot. “Walk outside to the courtyard,” I instructed him. “Go to the rose bushes and literally smell them.”
Twenty minutes later, he came back in and said, “All right, I smelled the roses—all one hundred and fifty-four of them. Now what?”
What a perfect illustration for how we live our lives today. Even smelling the roses becomes just another task to finish so we can get to the next thing!
We hear it so much that it’s become clichéd. “Live in the moment!” bumper stickers cry. “Live in the now!” self-help books declare. Movies like The Bucket List preach the importance of living life in all its fullness before your time on earth is up. Embracing each day of your life as a cherished gift, and each person you love as precious. And yet, no matter how easy it is to talk about counting our blessings, cherishing our families and living in the light, it still seems to be one of the most difficult things to do.
All we get is this moment. If we don’t learn to live in this fleeting, eternal moment, then we experience the ultimate loss: the living of our lives.
But “being in the now” is easier said than done, right? A lot of us remain mired in the past and fixated on the future. We fail to open our eyes, ears, senses, and hearts to what’s happening right here, right now. The intimacy of a relationship we’re in. The beauty of nature around us. The prosperity we enjoy. Or, on the other hand, we’re wired to go go go; there’s just no PAUSE or STOP buttons built into our software. We are “runners,” moving in ten different directions at once. We’re escape artists, slipping away almost invisibly from the here and now. As a result, we blow right past life’s most precious moments and miss the best parts of the ride!
Until we overcome our addiction to non-stop activity and diversion, and until we figure out how to pause, experience, and savor the moment—rather than running and escaping—we’re never going to receive life’s richness. We’re never going to be satisfied. We’re never going to feel a sense of gratitude or peace. We’ll just keep rushing on to the next thing—the next “fix” of activity—and justifying it as necessary.
If your life is showing signs that indicate you may be “missing the moment,” here are some fun ways to slow down and start exercising the joy muscle again:
1. Schedule a time right now to take a long walk, and really notice the world around you. Smell it, see it, hear it, and breathe it in.
2. Write down three things that weigh you down and prevent you from—or seem to justify—being less joyful. Referring to each thing, finish the sentence, “When it comes to this issue, I’d be more joyful if . . .”
3. Make a list of everything you consider to be a blessing in your life.
4. Treat yourself to a simple pleasure. Sometimes all it takes is some pampering (a hot bath, massage, etc.) to activate pleasure.
5. Volunteer doing an activity that brings you joy—coaching a sports team, teaching a dance class, or taking your kids and their friends on a fun hike, field trip, or play date.
6. Make it a point to smile, sigh, and laugh more. Studies have shown that smiling, sighing, and laughing release endorphins (our body’s natural pain-killers), and serotonin, which elevates our moods.
Joy is a muscle. If you don’t learn to flex it, the best parts of your life are going to pass you by. And this is not just a cliché! It’s a reality!
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Copyright Ken Druck, Ph.D., resilience expert, speaker, consultant, and author of The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Permission to reprint granted with proper credit.