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5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much

5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much

Live in the moment. It sounds simple enough but we as human beings have an incredibly difficult time enjoying the moment.

Why is that?

I believe we tend to spend so much time replaying past moments or planning too much for the future, that we miss out on the great moments that are unveiling right before use. So often we fail to stop and smell the roses. We don’t take the time to enjoy the present moment. This is sad because we have no idea how many more moments we will be fortunate to experience.

I am not proposing that we should spend less time planning. That would be misguided advice. Goal setting is important for us if we desire a contentment in our personal and professional lives. Setting achievable goals and taking the steps to accomplish them is a powerful way to cultivate personal responsibility. Implementing this kind of goal-setting provides meaning in our lives because we exude dedication, a strong work ethic, and often perseverance in attainment of these goals.

I believe our society has become a society so enamored with planning. There is often way too much talk of building for the future but what about building for the now? We all desire genuine happiness, and in order to manifest this joy we have to live presently. Too much focus on the future often leads to stress and negative thinking.

Why should you be focused on living in the moment, rather than planning too much for the future?

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1. The present moment is the only moment you have control over right now

No matter how much you plan you never know for sure how life is going to play out. The only time you will know is when you are in that moment.

The moment you experience right now is the only moment you can control. You can choose to enjoy the moment or you can choose to loathe the moment. You can also choose to ignore the moment completely and waste it away, but either way, the present moment is yours to control.

Planning isn’t going to take you out of the present. It might help you accomplish your goals but it is not going to improve your quality of life for the present moment. Planning isn’t going to guarantee you a desired outcome for the future so why not accept what you can control now?

2. Each moment is a gift

There is no guarantee on the number of moments you will get to experience. This is extremely important to realize. No one knows when the next moment of their life is going to be taken away from them. Your next moment is not guaranteed, so why not take advantage of the one you are in?

You can’t live with this unique perspective if you are constantly planning for the next stage of your life. You can only experience this zest for life if you are living in the present moment. It may even sound corny and unrealistic, but it makes perfect sense.

Don’t take moments for granted. Plan when it is necessary but not at the expense of you enjoying the present moment. As the old cliche states that life is short, so you enjoy it while you can.

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3. Being present is a great stress reducer

Thinking too much about the future, and the past, are often causes of stress. Even though some stress can be beneficial, the stress caused from not living in the moment can be detrimental to one’s mental, physical, and emotional health.

Over-planning can lead to unnecessary stress when the planning prevents you from living in the moment. Invigorate your life with present living strategies that will enable you to stay more focused on each moment.

You probably don’t have the luxury of meditating five hours a day and not setting some type of plan for your future, but implementing small changes into your life should help reduce stress.

Observe when your mind begins to focus on the future instead of the present moment you are experiencing. Ask yourself if this thought process is necessary. Simple awareness and recognition of your thoughts will assist you in being more present.

4. Plans often don’t manifest themselves the way you want or expect

This is a reality whether you want to believe it or not. How many times have you tried planning something but it just didn’t work out the way you want? How did you react? Did you get upset or did you handle the situation with acceptance and understanding?

Plans fail. As a member of a flawed species, you fail often. It is a part of life.

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Attempting to plan for every step of your life is not only impossible but it is probably not healthy for you. The more you plan, the more likely you are to become irritated or upset when those plans don’t come into fruition.

I am not suggesting you shouldn’t plan with the attitude that the plan will fail, but I am proposing that you let life play its course and just be.

Go ahead and make plans if that is helpful for you but don’t lose sight of the present moment. If your plans don’t work out the way you want, then at least try to accept it.

5. Living in the present will make you happier

I don’t like to throw the phrase “make you happier” around too often because nothing makes you happy but yourself. In saying that, living in the present is one of the sure fire methods you can adopt in order to manifest genuine happiness in your life.

Without delving into the all the data and research that is available, it is being discovered that present living is one of the most influential keys to well-being. Too much long-term planning is going to prevent you from enjoying the beauty of now.

Don’t impede yourself from experiencing contentment. Practice living presently, and observe how it makes you feel. Plan when you need to but don’t lose sight of what is currently happening.

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Find a balance between living in the moment and planning. You are only going to be able to control the moment you have right now.

The moment you have right now is a gift. Enjoy less stress by relishing the moment. Understand that plans don’t always turn out as expected. Accept the present for what it is and be happy.

Plan as you feel it necessary. Save money for a family and house. Invest in yourself. Set goals for yourself and realize them. That is what you are supposed to do. In this pursuit of planning, don’t forget about where you are in the present.

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Featured photo credit: Alejandro Alvarez via unsplash.com

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Mike Oppland

Mike is the Creator of Carpe Diem Motivation. He aspires to inspire individuals who are seeking a little extra boost in their lives.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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