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Being Fully Present – Training our Thoughts for Simple

Image: by David Castillo Dominici

I really struggle to live and enjoy the present …but it is something I have been really working on this year.  I think it is key to both simple living and minimalist living.

I find it much easier to plan and dream in the future.  Things in the present are taken care of as they pop up, but my mind lives weeks and months ahead.

The future is addicting, it is filled with promise and hope.  Why focus on where I am at now on my book, blog,  or savings account when I can see the future when I reach my goals?

Living in the future also brings a lot of worry.  A deadline or a looming problem can take all my time when there is nothing I can do about the thing I am worried about.

It isn’t that we should only think about the present.  Not at all!  We need to have plans and we need to remember what was done in the past.

But we need to live our lives in the present.

It has been a struggle, and I am still learning, but I am doing much better in my life.  I wanted to share some things that have helped me in this past year be present.

First off I want to talk about the problems, especially the ones I was struggling with, that were a result of not having this present thinking:

  • Worry – unnecessarily and only on possible problems
  • Daydreaming and deep in thought for hours, only being physically present at home with my kids
  • Spending time and energy planning for changes or opportunities before they were even known for sure
  • Time thinking and dreaming instead of working

I have struggled to really connect with my kids.  Even though I am home with them all day, teaching them and taking care of them my mind can be in another place and it is hard to really listen and talk to them.

All the mental exercises of the future leave me exhausted and makes it hard to talk and spend time with my husband.  It was this past year when I was really trying to do better in these areas that I noticed these relational problems it has been creating.

But, I have been doing better :)

Here are some things that have helped me live and enjoy the present even more this past year.

  1. Everyday parties – I love creating a party for no reason.  The kids love it too.  Sometimes it is fancier than others, but they are always special.  Last night it was a movie night where we all curled up and watched Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  The kids loved it :)
  2. Spontaneity – Changing up plans at the last minute, especially to do a party or changing up the schedule, always brings the focus to the present and enjoying it.
  3. Senses – especially taste, smell, and touch that we focus on less.  Light a candle that has a good (or different) scent, or treat yourself with strong flavors (like chili dark chocolate, yum) and enjoy the moment.
  4. Look at people who are talking – Really look at them, not just politely point your face in their direction.  The kids when they are talking, the pastor when he is talking, the waiter… everyone.

Do you struggle with living in the present?  Have you learned other ways to help train your thinking to enjoy the present more?


  1. I used to be a big dreamer, but mostly unintentionally have been more focussed on the present. If I make it intentional, then I am sure to improve. Thanks for some ideas.

  2. Ana Ana

    I also have a big problem on focusing on the present! But this year I’ve started to change that :) The biggest thing that is helping me is decluttering and simplifying my life and the other one is really forcing me to be in the present moment every time my mind starts wondering about the future and the past. For me not only the future is a problem, I think about the past many many times! But I am becoming better and I don’t think so much about it as I used to, so I’m happy :) Thank you for this post, it really helps me to keep going!

    • Yes, the past can be a huge problem as well. Keep going :)

  3. I am constantly looking towards the future, but I have been trying to dial it back a bit. I have all of these lists with goals, and I know I am working my way toward them, but I need to be more present as well. Taking a step back to realize that even though we are trying to pay off debt, I can’t only think about when we have completed that goal, I still need to be making fun times for us and our kids now (which we do, but maybe some more thought could go into this instead of paying off debt). Plus, I feel like when I have all of these goals, checking one off doesn’t end up being a huge accomplishment – because I am already thinking of the next one! Good reminder!

    • “checking one off doesn’t end up being a huge accomplishment – because I am already thinking of the next one” yes! yes! I totally understand. Somehow maintaining the balance of goals and direction (i.e. getting out of debt) but spending most of our mental time in the present is so important :)

  4. Emily Emily

    What a gift your message was this morning! As I processed it, I was able to reflect on what works for me. I can so easily get lost in details and worry! I recalled what I have learned in 2 favorite books (which I would love to reference if you’d like!). 1. Plan your trip, but don’t pack your bags until just before you leave. I’m always trying to keep the big picture in mind, and not get lost in the details…they so often take me out of the moment. I often write down ideas so I can get them out and don’t have to keep holding them all in my head! I also may start a dream board this year–to keep a visual of my future goals. I recently had a huge one come to me, and had to remind myself to be faithful in waiting for the details to fall into place as they are supposed to. It always seems to work out better when I don’t get too involved in the middle of things, but just be open and willing to receive divine messages. 2. If you realize you’re “out of the moment” you must be back in it if you realized you were gone! :) Mindfulness and focus are muscles too, and have to be strenghtened over time. I’ve loved these lessons.
    Self-care is also a big one I’ve had to work on. If I’m well cared for, I can focus on my family…and that includes quiet time to dream.
    After reading your message this morning, I turned on my “favorites” playlist, and it was Eric Clapton “Wonderful Tonight”. My daughter wanted to dance. I gladly stopped what I was doing and danced with her…..until she wanted to hear “Jingle Bells” instead! :)
    Have a wonderful day!

    • I would love book recommendations :) I love the idea of writing things down to get them out of my head as well. Lots of times when I actually write down what I am thinking it doesn’t look near as big or hard as I thought.

      • Emily Emily

        I agree completely!
        The 2 books that have helped me immensely:
        Payment for Passage by Janie Wells
        Living with Your Heart Wide Open by Steve Flowers and Bob Stahl

  5. Elizabeth Kane Elizabeth Kane

    Definitely struggle with this one. I’m a planner, a list-maker, a dreamer, and a worrier! It’s tough finding a middle ground between planning your goals and living in the present. I like your recommendations on how to make that effort.

    I think it’s ok for some of it to spill over into each, like if you have a great idea you want to write or research more about. I’m finding with writing that instead of letting an urge take over my brain completely if it’s not the best time (like right in the middle of dinner with everyone), I’ve started making a real conscious effort to jot it down with a few sentences and then plan almost immediately to sketch it out later so I don’t lose that energy.

    • yes, I understand. I get ideas to write about all kinds of random times. I just put a note in my computer and then my mind can come back to what I am doing instead of trying to hold on and juggle the idea :)

  6. Great post, Lorilee! I especially like your suggestions. Insightful thoughts to keep our minds on the here-and-now, even when it’s not as glamorous as what might be coming down the road a bit. :)

  7. Kerry Kerry

    I can so relate to this post! Several months ago I began taking the one-day-at-a-time approach during a time in which my career was causing a lot of undue stress, and the effect has been remarkable! Living in the present moment really does help me focus (eye contact, making my words count, etc.). In a sense, it’s about decluttering our psyche sometimes! We can fill it with so many things that distract us from really living the way God intended us to live. Amazing how it parallels with decluttering our material possessions. :)

    • yes, the longer I have thought and tried to practice minimalism the more areas of my life it seems to be able to help :)

  8. This is something I really struggle with. I constantly think about the future, how things will be, etc. I like planning, but I know it is kind of ridiculous to plan for something when I don’t even know if it will happen and I’m not there yet. I know the future can change at any moment, but I think my issue is one of contentment. I am not content with my life, and thinking about the future–where we will be living, where I will be in my career, what our vacations will be like–helps me deal with the fact that I do not like where we live, I am not satisfied with where I am professionally, and I can’t stand the fact that we can’t afford to travel. I feel like, if I knew that this is all my life would ever be comprised of, I would be crushed.
    Do you think that is a problem?

    • na, not a problem. Probably normal :) I think we need to dream. If we don’t dream we never get anywhere. We need dreams, plans, and goals, but most of our living needs to happen in the present.

      Contentment is huge too. I have slowly been learning that if I can’t be content with where I am now I might never be content. There will always be something to fix, something to make better, more money to save, or better career opportunities out of my grasp. I need to dream big, but I need to be content with where I am now and enjoy everyday for what it brings :)

  9. The tension between planning for and imaging the future and mindfully living in the present is a daily struggle. Your suggestions for staying grounded in the moment are a reminder me staying in the moment is made easier by remaining attached to the physical. Lighting a candle or looking at the person you are talking to them requires using two key senses…two senses that keep us in touch with the here and now.

    • Yep, I am not usually really creative, but when I can find things that stimulate the senses it always seems to help remind me to live in the present.

  10. yuree han yuree han

    I have a problem also being fully present. I like the parties idea and being spontaneous. Thanks for the suggestions. These are great!

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