How to Stop Dwelling on the Life You Could Be Living

Posted on 26 March 2012

“If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I’ve often compared myself to others and imagined that they have a better life than I do.

The youngest of eight children, I grew up with a mother who often said, “So and so must really be happy! Look at them! They know how to live life.”

Becoming a widower at the age of forty with eight children to raise was not easy on her, which is why she constantly wished her life were different. And somehow, those thoughts and words stuck with me.

I’ve frequently felt that I’m not enough, despite being a professor and researcher, having published books, and having presented at conferences in Brazil and abroad.

No matter how much I’ve done and accomplished in my life, I usually catch myself looking at other people´s lives and thinking they´re better off (despite all the webinars, self-development books, self-improvement mp3s, and meditations I have done).

I compare myself to people who somehow “seem” to lead a more fun life. In the beginning of my career, I thought that other researchers were always “producing” more than I was.

This type of thinking also manifests in the suspicion that I could be living another life.

Let me explain: We sometimes get stuck, thinking the past, or our “lost opportunities,” as we like to label them, are better than the present.

Our thinking might sound like this:

“If I had done such and such, I would be living my dreams.”

“I could be living this adventurous life in another city doing something else.”

“I´d be so happy if only I had…”

This is where the problem lies.

Lost opportunities happen when we are nowhere instead of now here.

We are nowhere when we live in the present lamenting the past, dreaming of a future that may never come if we are not mindful about our present, about the now here.

No one can be happy if not in the present.

When I stay in that mode, I feel miserable. I feel like a victim—like I´m not enough, or a failure. All lies.

These big lies come from our shadows, from our fears, from our egos. This happens because we identify with our thoughts about what we could have done or what we should be doing. Being mindful is the opposite of that.

I have realized that I need to know how to differentiate my ego from my love voice. What does it feel in my body when I experience each of these? These are my thoughts about it:

Ego voice:

It would be so much better if you were somewhere else. Life on the other side is much better. You could be living in another country and you would happy; instead, you are stuck here. You lost your opportunity to live this life. You failed.

These thoughts make me feel anxious, fearful, nervous, and jittery.

Love says:

Your life is wonderful and you have so many possibilities and opportunities, right here and right now. You are wonderful and you are loved. Open your eyes to the doors of opportunity near you, to the beauty that you already create right here and right now. All is well.

These thoughts bring peace and calm to my body and heart.

As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi says, “The ego looks for what to criticize. This always involves comparing with the past. But love looks upon the world peacefully and accepts. The ego searches for short comings and weaknesses. Love watches for any sign of strength. It sees how far each one has come, and not how far he has to go.”

So, how can we get out of this rut? How can we live our lives and be more present to ourselves? I’ve developed this list for myself, and it just may help you too:

1. Breathe.

Breathing brings us to the present and it connects us with our higher selves. Whenever you see yourself comparing and going to the past, take a deep breath and bring your awareness to the present moment.

2. Listen to music.

Nietzsche said, “Life without music would be a mistake.” When you start getting down on yourself, turn up the volume of your favorite song. Soon you’ll be singing along, getting in the zone, and feeling good in the now, since music is the language of love.

3. Say a mantra.

I have learned that mantras can be incredibly powerful tools for mindfulness and empowerment. The one I like most is: “I am the Light. The Light is in me.”

4. Say affirmations.

I have made my own and have copied others that appeal to me, and I repeat them every morning before I get up.

If you find yourself dwelling on the past, affirm to yourself, “I accept all that is. All is well. I trust the divine order. I cherish all that I have and all that I am.”

Claim these words and really feel it as you say them.

5. Do some yoga poses.

Whenever you feel stuck, get your energy flowing with some yoga poses, such as the child posture, downward dog, or the tree pose. If yoga is new to you, you may want to start with some basic stretches, syncing your breath with the movements.

6. Marvel at nature.

Nature is here to nurture us. If you feel empty or lost in your negative thoughts about yourself and your life, step back and look at the world around you. I like to look at birds that come to eat in the backyard in my house. I see how free they are, and it reminds me I can be free, as well, if I choose to be.

7. Be thankful for all you have and are.

Gratitude is powerful because it helps us recognize all the good things around us, instead of dwelling on all the good things we think other people have. In fact, a good mantra is: “Thank you for everything. I have no complaints.”

8. Read inspiring spiritual messages and blogs.

One good blog is Tiny Buddha! It always uplifts me and puts me in a Zen state.

9. Do one tiny thing to create the life you want now (instead of dwelling on the life you could have had).

Ask yourself: what can I do right now to actively create the future I visualize?

10. Enjoy the present!

Being present means noticing the thousands of things around us that make life interesting. It also means making time for fun. It can be listening to your favorite song and singing along, or going out for a walk, writing in your journal, or savoring your favorite food.

Enjoy being here now and experiencing this beautiful world. Most importantly, enjoy the person who you are right now, exactly as you are!

I still have moments when I wish I lived a different life, but I see them as opportunities to practice being in the present and cherishing all that is happening now. I am learning to see these moments as tiny reminders of living in the moment.

How can you embrace and enjoy your life as it is today?

Photo by jk+too

About Ana Barcelos

Ana Barcelos is an English teacher and a wanna-be blogger. Find her first time posts at http://higherselfnotes.blogspot.com/.

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The post How to Stop Dwelling on the Life You Could Be Living appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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