Back in 2010, when I was still racing bicycles competitively, I attended a cycling workshop hosted by professional cyclist Giana Roberge. During one of the clinics, we were working on some pretty intense drills to work on building our stamina during power moves such as time trials and climbing, where you need to be throttling it at your absolute max for a long time. To red-line your power output like that is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. The entire time you are fighting with your brain to keep mashing the pedals, while your whole body seems to be screaming that you need to stop. One of the things Giana suggested to help keep us motivated during this time was to identify a manta or phrase that we could repeat to ourselves during the effort that was inspiring and could distract us and keep us focused to push our limits. Her suggested phrase was, “be here now.” All that exists in this moment, right now, is for the pedal to get one more powerful turn, for my lungs to get in one more good suck of air, for me to pull myself out of the saddle just one more time. Do not think about the discomfort, about how I could be just sitting at home watching Netflix right now, or what I plan on doing when I get home, or anything that could distract me from giving it my all right now. Be here now, in this moment, giving it everything, because that is all that matters.
Six years later, and I am still repeating that phrase to myself, although it’s morphed to take on new meanings and manifestations since being on the bike. I say it to myself before I go into an important meeting, to focus on the content I have prepared and to not guess or predict what my client’s reactions will be. I say it to myself in between reading my toddler bedtime stories and tucking her into bed, so I can savor the short moment of one of the “good parts” of parenthood and not rush off to continue my own activities for the evening. Most recently, I say it to myself when I start planning to-do lists and big, overachieving projects I know I don’t really have the time or energy to initiate let alone actually complete.
Often I have felt in a goal-achieving funk. In the past couple years I’ve had to deal with a lot of Life Stuff that has taken up a good chunk of my time I used to spend working on my hobbies and goals. I feel like I haven’t had the focus or energy to put into the big, hairy goals I want to make happen next in my life. The other day I was looking for a book when I stumbled across some of my old planners from several years ago. Out of curiosity, I opened a couple to see what my long-term goals were back in the day. Out of habit, I always jot down my current 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals in the back pages of my planner, just for inspiration and visualization on days when I feel a little demotivated. Imagine my surprise when I realized that almost every 1- or 5- year goal I had written down – run a marathon, complete my family (2 kids!), work as a professional consultant, live in a big city, buy a “forever” home – I’ve done. These things just seemed to happen in my life at the time that seemed right, there was no “project plan” or obvious hard work or muscling it up that occurred to manifest these things. At some point I realized it was something I wanted to do, I wrote it down, and just kept working hard on the stuff I knew how to do. And magic happened, and I didn’t even realize it, because I was so focused on my plans for the future; I almost missed the “now.”
That’s not to say I didn’t work or plan for these things. But from the moment I dreamed up a goal, I had absolutely no plan or idea how I would make it work. It’s just something I knew I wanted. Then when time was right and opportunities presented themselves, I figured it out. But all the while, I was still planning and organizing the future, without stopping to look at the current. I forgot to “be here now.” And it stressed me out, making me feel like I cannot get it together and I did not have enough focus to make things happen. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. I just was too focused on making it happen rather than allowing it to happen, trusting that if I continued to work and act in a way that made me the person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to experience would come along shortly. Time and again, things have worked out for me when I least expected them to, and I can trust in that pattern.
Life has taken me on some really crazy detours, but they have always brought me around to the place I’m meant to be in the end. I’m starting to let go of my control-freak nature and just allow and trust things to go where they need to go as long as I’m doing what I feel like I need to do. Some would say this is sort of “let go and let God sort it out” sort of thinking. I see it as reducing the amount of crap I keep thinking about that I can’t control anyway, which frees up some brain space for just the crap that is in this moment. To “be here now” and let go of all of the stress, worries, and fears that Later might bring. Letting go of that control is sort of scary at first, like I’m just going to tailspin into the Land of No Forward Progress and Complacency, as if that’s a real thing. But the opposite is true. When I can truly let go and enjoy the moment, I feel as if the possibilities are endless. I have the capacity to do anything, without all of the weight of worry and control on my back. To “be here now” is such a feeling of freedom in this moment.