27 May 2013

Start Living it Now

Source: After the Cups

Have you ever felt like you are currently in a transitional phase, and that everything in your life will be much better once you have completed this tiny little thing that's bugging you? I have. And I would imagine my new life with a lot of new habits and great happy moments ahead, but that I can enjoy only if I'm done with this little thing. Well, I have decided to change that mindset.

First, let me give you concrete examples of what I am talking about here. After I came back from Japan, I decided to rethink all my interior decoration and imagine how my life would be once I bought the furniture and decorations I was saving for.

I imagined myself living in that appartment, drinking tea on the couch, reading a book in that great wooden armchair, inviting friends over, cooking more often, waking up earlier in the morning and enjoying a healthy breakfast, putting some jazz music on and writing short stories on the week-ends...

But how many of these habits are really related to furniture and decoration? I had that similar feeling when I started editing my wardrobe - all these things I'd be able to do once I'd be stylish again. Have you ever imagined how your life would be if you:

  • Lost a few kgs
  • Had finished decorating your home
  • Had bought that particular object you badly want
  • Had completed your wardrobe editing
  • Were finally done with this exam or that work project and will have more time
  • Were more fit and exercised more regularly
  • Cooked home meals more often

This is just a short list but maybe it gives you a better idea of the situation I'm trying to talk about. I noticed that in these situations, we tend to project ourselves in a sort of perfect future where completing this tiny little thing changes everything about our lives.

It is quite similar as comparing our lives with somebody else's really, we compare our life with our future self, and think we only need to achieve that one thing to magically reach it. Well, I've been thinking about the past years of my life, and it didn't really work that way.

Getting all of these new decorations after Japan certainly helped reclaiming my living space after one year away, but they didn't magically create that perfect future I was dreaming about. And it is the same for all similar situations I've lived before.  

There were habits I did implement and change over the years though, but they didn't magically appear thanks to a new object or situation. I worked on them for months or even years.

So I have decided to consciously fight that kind of fantasized future magically appearing if only I got that "tiny thing I'm currently obsessing about", and actually do something to make that future happen instead. I want to read books on week-ends, invite friends over and eat healthy breakfasts? Then why not start doing it now? What's stopping me? There is no such thing as a transitional phase, we are in the real life now, so we'd better start living it.

I have applied this when I moved to Paris. I had this whole fantasized Parisian life before I moved in: espresso coffees in terrasses, casual walks in le Marais or Saint Michel, museum and exhibit visits, long week-end reads at a Starbucks, writing short stories while listening to Jazz music in my mini-home, Sunday market visits and purchases...

When I arrived, I decided to actually do all these things. And sometimes, when I am into my mind a bit too much, or on a week-end with no idea what to do, I remember this dreamed life, and pick one activity I was dreaming to do once I moved in Paris. I now apply this to other aspects of my life - I enjoy my wardrobe even if it's not "complete" yet, I maintain my weekly restaurant and occasional bakery treat even when I'm in a Christmas weight loss phase, I keep exercising even if I'm not "fit"...

 It may sound a bit abstract, but something really clicked in my head when I became aware of that process. Besides, we tend to overestimate the positive when we think about future, as this TED talk suggests, so it is an unfair comparison, as is the one to other people. Does this make any sense? Have you lived that type of situation before?


  1. I absolutely agree. I find that I mainly use the "I can ____ when I finally _____" as an excuse when I'm afraid. My most recent example was when I moved into this new apartment and I wanted to start having large get-togethers to make new friends and see some old ones more. I kept telling myself that I would have everyone over when I had enough tables and seating to accommodate them, when I had enough dishes, or had finally finished decorating.
    After I thought about it though I realized how silly I sounded! Really I was just afraid that I would invite everyone over and no one would show up, or they wouldn't have a good time, so I was talking myself out of it.
    I finally did it (and have had one once a month since!) and it was a big hit. I didn't have enough plates so I wound up using paper and people pitched in with the dishwashing, I actually did buy stools but most people didn't even use them and just sat on the floor, and even though my first one only had six people, the last one 28 people came by and my social circle has become so much bigger because of ignoring that "eventually I'll do it when..." thoughts.

    So the short version of this is YES! I completely understand what you are talking about :)

    1. Ah, fear can certainly be a reason for this kind of behaviour too. Now that you mention it, a couple of examples pop in my head... Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. I think this is a great post.

    I try to do this, and the more I do, the more peaceful I feel.

    Meditating does help me with this too. Not in a really obvious way (like, major realizations about being present, etc.), but much more subtly. It is hard to put into words, but I think I have become a little more self-aware in a non-introspective or ruminative way, and more trusting of myself.

    There's something to be said for appreciating process, and accepting that many things are never done. Difficult to do, though!

    Another thing that I have noticed is how important consistency is. Not perfection, but continuing to try. By keeping exercise in my top priorities, but without following a strict regime, I have slowly but surely become more fit, and am starting to accomplish some athletic goals. Now some of those future visions actually seem more possible, because I am trusting myself to keep trudging along and trying, even when all I can muster is the minimum level.

    1. I guess meditating helps with mindfulness, and mindfulness helps staying in the present rather than getting lost in possible futures, so it would make sense that meditation somehow helps.

      Consistency over perfection, it's a good one! It's true that the habits I've managed to stick to are the ones I have been consistent in maintaining over the long term, even if I didn't follow them religiously on a daily basis. For example, writing in a diary, exercising, cooking my own food... I think we are in a society that doesn't tolerate mistakes, and that's a problem, because usually when someone tries and fails they give up, where they should learn form that mistake and keep trying (but that's the subject for a different post)

  3. Now that i'm in ways, transitioning from college to something semi-professional (internship), this has been bugging me too. It's so hard to enjoy the moment—it's something that's not really intuitive for my rather type A personality. Thanks for the reminder, i needed this. Carpe diem!!

    1. Ah it's certainly harder for some personalities than others. I also have a huge tendency to be in my head all the time, which makes mindfulness quite a challenge. Thanks for the appreciation note!

  4. This is coming at a perfect time for me. I am in France and will be heading back home in a month, it is a transition period, and I am not very happy about it.
    I decided to implement new habits, the type I could keep when I go back home. I can exercise, I can wake up earlier, and even if I can't paint huge canvases, I can make a time for smaller projects now, so that once I am home I'll make them bigger.

    It is sometimes so hard to face that it's now or never and stop procrastinating!

    1. Yes, I guess it is even harder to enjoy life as it is now when you know it is going to change soon. In that case, what I think is "OK, I'm going to leave in a few weeks and that period of my life will be over. If I left now, what would I regret not to have done while I was enjoying this transitional period?" Then, I do these things while I still can.

      I asked myself this when I was in Japan for instance, and I realised I didn't take much time to visit the rest of the country, and I knew I would regret it once I'd be back. So I spent the last 2 months of my exchange year visiting stuff and spending time with my local friends I wouldn't see again.

  5. Goodness I love your blog so much. You always say exactly what I'm thinking perfectly and your wardrobe editing series has been so helpful! In fact, I just paired warms and cools for my outfit tomorrow. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for the note of appreciation. It's always so nice to hear readers find value in my posts :)

  6. I did this a lot a few years back - once I'm done studying and start working I will do this and that, once I get a better position I will feel like so and so. I was thoroughly unhappy with my current situations at those times though, so there was more than just a tiny bit of realism in my line of thinking, although it certainly wasn't very helpful! Thankfully I don't do it much anymore. I love being able to take things more day by day than I did before, and we will never be in that "perfect" situation anyway :)

    1. I also noticed that the periods I used to do this most were times I was most dissatisfied with my life (which makes sense really). But in retrospect, I found that in my case, thinking that way didn't help improving the situation, quite the opposite, it made me feel even worse about my current state of things. So I figured a good way to start getting better was to fight this tendency. And you're right, the "perfect" situation doesn't exist...