It’s a problem we all have.
We spend so much time trying to accomplish our goals so that we can be happy that we end up living out most of our life missing out on the very thing we were trying to find in the first place. Happiness, that is.
Don’t get me wrong, the process of working to achieve our goals itself can bring us great happiness. However, this isn’t an automatic thing. It needs to be done in the right way to distill out the sense of meaning and joy you can get from doing so. Until this is understood, you’ll continue to run in circles, feeling as though you’re never getting anywhere.
People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
If you want to realize the deep sense of meaning and joy you get from going after your dreams and goals, you need to put the work you’re doing in the right frame of reference. There’s nothing wrong with working towards something in the future, but there is when you expect to find that happiness in the future.
Below is a collection of three separate principles that gets to the very heart of what helps us live better. They’re three separate principles but they interconnect, like links in a chain. Each of them will place you in the right state of mind as you have the time of your life making progress and working towards your goals.
‘Do one thing’ is exactly what it sounds like: it’s single-tasking. However, it’s a little more than just that. Regardless, this is the simplest lesson of all, but it holds no less importance.
Multi-tasking has not only been proven to be ineffective, it’s actually damaging. Making the commitment to live your life in a way that you do the one thing that’s most important in each moment means to live with greater clarity and perform more effectively at everything you do. It also promotes greater concentration and mindfulness, the point of this first principle.
Of course, there are times in your life where things aren’t so simple, sometimes more than one thing will call for your attention and you won’t exactly know what to place your undivided attention on. But the point is to aim to do so in every moment, to give your best effort.
It’s not going to be perfect and it’s not going to be pretty. However, if you give your best effort to focus in on the one most important thing for you to do in any given moment, it will be enough.
-Concentrated mind & body-
To do something with every ounce of your being means to live with your full awareness in this moment. It means to be totally and completely focused on that one thing with every ounce of yourself. This doesn’t just mean to avoid multitasking and to focus on the most important task, though, it also means to be totally concentrated on the one thing that you’re doing in each moment with your mind as well.
This is best put in the perspective of mindfulness practice. Specifically, being mindful as you go about your daily life. You don’t walk from one place to another while forcefully pushing away any thoughts or outside sounds that arise, you walk with all of your being, two feet on the ground and one mind on the act of walking and being here in this moment, while still being open to whatever arises within that moment.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a hard, vein-popping, concentration that you’re acting with. This is a soft but persistent focus on the present moment. You’re being here, awake to your life. And that’s really what this is all about. It’s about bringing that same single-pointed and mindful awareness that’s cultivated in meditation practice into your everyday life. And there are surprisingly simple ways to begin cultivating this.
The most important way to begin cultivating this “one mind” attitude is to simply do one thing with all of your body.
Examples of this are opening a door with both hands, as opposed to with one hand on your smartphone and one hand on the doorknob, holding your cup of coffee, tea, or other with both hands, and sitting while maintaining proper posture while working, eating, or doing anything else.
-Rooted in the present moment, as opposed to an image of the past or future in our mind-
To be fully of this moment means to give your full being to this moment. To live in this way means you leave nothing on the table; you reserve no part of yourself, hold nothing back and regret nothing. You act as one unstoppable force in this moment – no matter what you’re doing.
The way most of us live our lives, we’re usually doing something now in preparation for something later, like achieving a goal or reaching some new level in life. In each moment, we’re more concentrated on the next moment than we are the present moment. Because of this, we’re never fully present in our own lives and almost always living in our heads, half asleep. This is a recipe for unrest and dissatisfaction.
To live mindfully, deeply, and fully engaged in this moment is to let go of the future and be fully of this moment – the present moment – in this moment. It doesn’t mean you cease planning for the future altogether. You plan for the future and reflect on your vision, but when it comes time to take action and do what you do in your daily life, you plant yourself primarily in this moment.
Think of it as your internal reference point, whereas most of us act from a future reference point, never allowing ourselves to be happy because we’re chasing something that never comes to be. If we hit one goal, we just set another and never allow ourselves to be content with what we have now.
You work present rooted in this moment, create from this moment, and remind yourself that everything that is real is in this moment. As long as you don’t let yourself get carried away with the future and stay rooted in the present, you’ll find great joy in striving to achieve your goals and dreams. It’s what Gary Vaynerchuk calls, “falling in love with the process.”
Bringing it all together
Each of the above principles is deceptively simple, so much so that they can seem almost like the same thing. However, they each have their own place in the principle of One Thing, One Mind, One Moment.
Don’t fall into the trap of fixating on the future and expecting some magical pot of gold to bring you everlasting happiness. If you’re expecting that to come, you’ll be sadly disappointed to find out that it doesn’t exist.
But by bringing all three of the above principles together, you’re able to derive great happiness and meaning from the process of working to achieve your goals, no matter what happens along the way.
It’s hard to explain just how incredible it feels to be working to achieve your dream or major goals while having a blast doing so, but I can say from experience that it’s one of the best feelings you’ll ever experience in your life. And it’s these three principles, along with a clear and compelling vision for the future, that will help you accomplish that.