If you’ve ever spent any time around mindfulness, meditation, or psychology, they talk a lot about being present. Being in the present moment is the optimum setting for our brains. It’s a place where we can centre ourselves and get in touch with what really matters to us.
As freelancers, being present is a tough ask. We’re often looking into the present as that is where the work opportunities are. We’re always thinking of the latest and greatest new project or product to launch. And we’re striving to build something for the future.
In fact, we’re regularly dragged into the future by comparing our freelancing with other freelancer journeys, shuffling in the next freelance job, and looking for the next pitch, grant or speaking opportunity.
We’re also dragged into the past a lot in freelancing as well. We can’t let go of jobs with outstanding invoices. We’re unable to finish projects when clients run cold on them midstream. We’re only as good as our last job, or so says our case studies. And yes, some of us are still healing from redundancies, broken working partnerships, abusive clients or other moments where things haven’t gone to plan.
The nature of business is to yank us forward and back with alarming regularity.
Yet if we don’t make being present a priority, we can invite prolonged stress. This can lead to acquired mental health conditions and physical and emotional strain.
Here’s a definition of what being present is and how you can work on it
Being present in a nutshell
Being present is about being right there, in the moment, experiencing as it happens. That sounds a little basic, but when you think about it, it’s something we don’t often do. It’s about being focused, aware and switched on.
A couple of ways often forget to be present in freelancing include:
- Anticipating what we want to say next instead of listening deeply to the conversation at hand
- Thinking so much about what we need to complete, we forget to reflect on what we’ve accomplished
- Lamenting over situations in the past or terrorising ourselves with anxieties about the future
- Relying on reactions and letting our emotions rule rather than learning to take your time, respond to situations and rise above the emotional maelstroms
- Seeking revenge or entertaining negative thoughts related to people, places and problems of the past
- Fixating on the next big score instead of savouring what we’re experiencing
- Forgetting about gratitude and/or catastrophising so gratitude is thin on the ground.
These are probably the amped up examples, but you get the picture. When we’re dragged into the past or too focused on the future, we forget to fully experience the now.
When we’re anxious, we’re often nervous about the future and what it may bring. And when we’re depressed, we’re saddened by the loss of opportunity our past contained. This pandemic has increased people’s feelings of anxiousness and depression. Look around. We all have fairly good reasons to be nervous. Even going to the shops or having encounter with another human being has taken on so much more risk and complexity. And we’re all grieving a loss of freedom, opportunity and life as we know it. You don’t have to have lost the right to move freely or lost work to feel as though the best laid plans of 2020 have been scuttled.
But no amount of wishing the pandemic away or being anxious what it will bring next will help us as individuals. We have each day as something where we do have a certain amount of control.
And that’s why being present is oh so important at the moment.
How to practice being present
You don’t have to take up meditation, Yoga or get a guru to be present. There are a few simple changes you can make that can start pulling you further into the present moment.
Being OK with the word “yet”
Instead of thinking “I can’t see my family/friends”, tack yet on the end. “I can’t see my family or friends, yet.” It changes the game. This applies to anything you can think of, business or personal. The aim is to remove the finality and open up your thinking for future opportunity.
“It’s OK to…”
A lot of conversations we have with ourselves and the people around us could do with a simple reflection of meaning attached to a phrase “it’s OK to…”
It’s OK to grieve the plans you had for this year.
It’s OK to feel frustrated with what is happening.
It’s OK to take more time than you normally do to deliver a project.
It’s OK to spend less time on social media.
It’s OK to not want to talk about COVID-19 all the damn time.
This simple phrase as part of your inner dialogue or in response to your family, friends and clients when they share can change the game. Need an extra shot in the arm? Check out a list of what freelance affirmations that have told us it’s OK to…
Allow yourself to change your mind
Have you heard of a growth mindset? It sounds like some slimy entrepreneur blarney. What it actually refers to is the difference between a fixed mindset and one that allows for change.
A growth mindset allows you to entertain new facts and take into account new information that might challenge some old conclusions. It also allows you to let go of previous held notions without feeling as though your ego has been challenged. You can accept that part of being a human being means that life is a work in progress and that as things change and new information becomes available, you may need to update your thoughts, beliefs and ideas. See how healthy that sounds?
This works with being present as it also allows you to mentally break away from sticking points and move on. It means you can resolve emotional upsets better. It’s loosening the grip on certainty and grudges and allowing you to gain enough learned detachment to recognise when it’s time to move on from unhelpful thinking or behaviour patterns.
We don’t always get it right. But we can always do better if we let ourselves.
Recognising your limitations
If you can honestly say to yourself “I just haven’t figured it out yet” and be comfortable with this notion, you’re being present.
The ability to introduce doubt into our brain and cope well with not knowing all the answers is us being OK with where we are and who we are right now. When we feel like an Imposter or that we’re not living up to expectations, we’re dragging our present selves to a future limit we haven’t built for yet. We have to take the steps in the present to build the person we want to be in the future. And we have to value that doing our best, working on that as a process, and making progress are all part of that.
We’re not robots. We cannot go and buy a new software upgrade that teaches us things in an instant. We can’t create time out of the matter swirling around us.
Accepting ourselves for who we are right now, lumps and bumps, potential and past, is the first step in creating a future you that makes you proud. Sit with yourself and enjoy it. Examine it. Revel in it.
Our society spends way too much time telling us enjoying our own selves is conceited when really, it’s far healthier than cynicism or self-punishment.