Being Present

Note on cork board

Yesterday, I chatted with another coach about how it feels to be in “survival mode” versus operating from a sense of purpose. (We’re taking a business class together and we were discussing what it had been like to be in jobs that did not align with who we really were.)

I love both coaching and being coached, because often what I learn is not what I expect.

I expected to come away with a painful reminder of how ill-fitting my old job had become, and from that, even more inspiration for my current coaching business.

But instead, something else happened.

I realized that although now I have work that is meaningful to me as well as a meaningful personal life, I’ve been subtly relating to things that compete for my attention as though I am still in a tug of war between my obligations and my dreams.

When I’m focusing on my business, I feel the pull of family life. When I’m taking care of my family, I feel the pull of business tasks. I often feel that no matter what I do, I’m neglecting what matters to me (whereas before I felt a pull between my survival and my purpose).

Recently, I rediscovered this quote:

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. — Lao Tzu

The meaning of the quote has been gently tugging on my mind since then. I’ve always thought of “being in the present” as choosing to focus on what’s in front of me, rather than being sentimental—or regretful—of the past, or longing for the future.

For years, I segmented my life into what I “had” to focus on to pay the bills, and what I needed to focus on for my soul, and I expended a lot of emotional and mental energy trying to run back and forth between them.

That didn’t leave enough of me to give to either.

I didn’t post in my blog for the past two weeks because I was out of town for ten days for a family emergency. I want to be there for my family. I want to give them as much support as I can, to connect with them, to make sure they know how deeply I love and value them.

I also want to be there for myself, for the life I am building in service of others.

Purpose sign

So it’s not “either or,” it’s both.

Now that I am a coach and I love what I do, and the things that pull me away from my business matter deeply to me, my old way of surviving doesn’t fit the new pattern of my life.

And I see more clearly how it never worked anyway.

Now, “being present” means that I’m not being fragmented by “conflicting” forces. It means that I see the bigger whole of my life, and accept where I need to put my energy and focus.

For me, being in the present is living in a sense of wholeness, looking for patterns and meaning in the good and the bad, and as much as possible, trusting the flow of my life instead of fighting it.

What do you notice when you look at your life more holistically?

How do experiences in one area of your life teach, inform, or help you in other areas?

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