This quote has stimulated a huge mindset shift in both my professional and personal life. I believe it is important to set goals and to reflect on our past accomplishments but far too often we are caught up in two places that don’t currently exist, ignoring our reality, the present.
It is so easy to become caught up in a comparison trap, especially with ourselves. We remember that time we seemed to have it all together, time for meal prep, worked out 5 times a week, spent time with friends and dominated at work, we reference everything we do to that version of ourselves. Or, we swing the opposite direction focusing only on future goals, what we are going to do, what will happen, when etc. We believe that both of these existences are better versions of ourselves and we have only to return or reach them.
Unfortunately, our memories or ideas of those places are never quite the truth, who we are now is likely who we were in the past and will be in the future. If we want to improve both we must first be fully present in each moment. We can only shape our past and future through present actions.
Using our past to be present:
We should aim to focus on the progress to date, rather than what is left to do. When we set a goal, we look at how long or how much effort it will take to achieve that goal, instead, we should focus on our ability to achieve it. One of the best examples I can think of is visualization in athletics. Visualization is a well-known and effective tool for athletes to work on their mental game, which is unquestionably as important as the physical game. For example, a hockey player wants to improve their play. They can optimize their performance by visualizing a time they were successful in scoring a goal during a past game: visualizing the plays leading up to the goal, the exact pass they received from their teammate, and then the execution of the perfect slap shot. By reliving the past goal, they remind themselves of what they are capable of. This leads to confidence in present situations, knowing they have done it before and are capable of doing it again and again.
Using our future to be present:
It is important to examine where we are going, with business, relationships, health etc. We want to set goals to help cultivate a sense of accomplishment and growth. They help shape motivation and commitment. They may vary in their origin (intrinsic /extrinsic) but all add value. Athletes (keeping with our example) will use their goals to celebrate the small wins or “champion moments” they make in practice and life. These ‘small wins’ boost confidence which in turn improves perceived ability. Setting the goal and then reaching it makes them more likely to continue doing the same. The imagination is great at turning ideas into reality and there is validity to the saying “If you can believe it you can achieve it”
How do we tie it all in? If we use our past and present wisely it will help to bring us back into the present moment, reinforced by our past and hopeful of the future we gain confidence and enjoy striving for every ‘small wins’. This aligns perfectly with our HHH Challenge (Honing Healthy Habits Challenge), remembering what you have already achieved but excited and set on completing Day 21. We can only achieve our larger goal by executing on today’s ‘small win’ which forces us to focus on the process and progress we are making on a daily basis, and that is the key to being fully present! Strive for what you have not achieved, appreciate what you have accomplished and love where you are now!