I remember seeing this picture when I was in graduate school and thinking about how much I couldn't wait to be a licensed therapist and do what I love every day.
"I'll never have a problem with Monday!" I thought.
"I'll always be happy and grateful because I reached my goals!" I told myself.
It's unrealistic to expect ourselves to practice gratitude every moment of every day. It's unrealistic to believe that once we get to where we want to be, we will be in a constant state of happiness.
There are mornings when I don't want to get out of bed. I love sleeping in and I have always had difficulty waking up early. I absolutely do get to practice what I love on a daily basis, but I'm still a human being who can fall into the trap of complacency.
And that's okay!
Too often, we shame ourselves for our basic human nature. We tell ourselves things like, "I should be more grateful all the time," and even, "I don't deserve the things I have because I'm not always grateful."
But how false this is.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of returning to our awareness. When I slide into negative thinking and become ungrateful, I can bring awareness to this state of mind, forgive myself, love myself, and allow myself to feel whatever it is I'm feeling.
I have always been susceptible to waiting for the next chapter of my life.
Towards the end of high school, all I could focus on was college.
When I was in college, all I could focus on (besides partying) was graduate school.
When I was in graduate school, all I could focus on was having a 9-5 job and being an "adult."
When I had my first job as a therapist, all I could focus on was working somewhere else.
Now, sometimes I don't know what to focus on next.
When I first started writing for Elephant Journal, I came across this article:
Every word hit me square in the face.
I realized how I was always thinking about the next thing.
The next stage of my life.
The next phase of a relationship.
The next assignment that was due.
The next part of the day.
The next time I could get back in bed.
The next exciting thing I could look forward to.
I constantly hear people talking about their goals. Goals inherently are wonderful to have, without a doubt. But the problem with fixating on our goals is that we can rob ourselves of the present moment. Of the journey itself. I have numerous friends who are currently in school and will tell me that they are envious of the fact that I have finished school and am now just working full time.
But what they can't possibly see, not yet, is that once everything is said and done and they've reached all their goals, that state of gratitude is not permanent. Our complacency and irritability with our life circumstances will undoubtedly come back, just manifesting in different life situations.
As with mostly everything I write, I'm writing this as a reminder to myself.
Everything I am looking for is already within me.
No goal or task completed will make me feel inherently whole unless I work on being whole internally.
If my worth is contingent on external factors, I will always be seeking more.
So my challenge to you on this chilly Monday morning is to be here now.
Take a moment to look away from the screen, acknowledge your surroundings, your body, your breath, and pause.
Recite the mantra,
"I have everything I need."
And if you're feeling extra willing this morning,
"Everything in this moment is perfect, and exactly the way it should be."