The gift we desire is to be the best we can be.
The good news is that brilliant advice about how to do that is everywhere we look -- blogs, books, magazines, speeches, seminars, and more. The bad news is there's so much that we can't put it all into practice.
- Should I stop the negative self-talk or quit beating myself up?
- Is it better to be kind to others or take better care of myself?
- Meditation is good, but where? When? How? How long?
Meanwhile, little progress is made.
The Present You Need Most
It's taken years to find the simplest path to being the best I can be, so please let me save you some time.
The present you need most is to be present.
Not doing so is the source of unhappiness, stress, anxiety, pain, and suffering. Doing one thing and thinking another is the stupidest thing we can do. Why? Because doing so withers our relationships, weakens our confidence, brings worry instead of prosperity, and causes us to miss millions of moments of true happiness as they pass right in front of us.
For example, recently I took my two youngest granddaughters to paint pottery presents for their mommy. We were so excited that it didn't matter that I had to carry 20-month old Paige to stop her reaching for shelves of pottery or that once she began she was most interested in splashing water over the table and the floor. Four-year-old Ruby was in heaven, too -- what a good time!
Then I took a picture of Paige and sent it to our son, telling him where we were. He fired back a one-word text: "Hmmmm." Instantly the happiness dissolved, and I started weaving a story about being crazy, who takes a baby to paint a dish, what if she falls off the chair, he'll never trust me with them again... and on an on. The guilt grew like weeds.
Then I realized I was lost in a movie of my own making. Cut! It was that simple. End of story and back to the kids and enjoying their fun.
We make up stuff, get upset about it, and then lose touch with reality. Eckhart Tolle says it well:
"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.
Make the Now the primary focus of your life."
How to give yourself the present you need most
I realize you know that living in this moment is all-important. The trick is doing it. For years I thought it was impossible. Maybe for enlightened folks, but not me. And the truth is it's difficult, but not nearly so much as I thought. If you follow just one rule, the rest of the lessons come naturally:
Pay attention to what I'm paying attention to.
- When I'm driving, am I making a mountain out of the molehill from a remark Tim made this morning -- or enjoying the music and the journey I'm having right now?
- When I'm with a friend or family member, am I thinking about how I'm going to respond, jumping in to interrupt -- or listening to this person and treasuring the gift of our time together?
- When I'm brushing my teeth, am I brushing my teeth -- or elaborating my story about how unfair someone has been to me and how she needs to change to make me happy?
To wake up is challenging, but doing so is worth every bit of energy you put into it. Practice, practice, practice. And when you catch yourself weaving yet another negative scenario, just let it go, and waste no time criticizing yourself for doing it.
The blessings of being present are beyond imagination. Letting go and forgetting my stories is bringing freedom and happiness beyond anything I thought possible. And it turns out that not one of them has a grain of truth in them (unless I insist) and not one of them is what I want anyway.
I'd love you to have more of this experience, too. Start by treasuring this precious moment.
Please contact me about your experience or with questions about how to make this happen for you. Either leave a comment on this page or contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make your own Best Year Yet Plan:
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more