You’re Not Lost So Stop Trying To Find Yourself

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“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Bil Keane

The topic of “finding yourself” comes up regularly on blogs and in person conversations. We all seem to be a bunch of confused people who aren’t sure what’s happening or why.

Good. :)

We should embrace the fact that we don’t know exactly what’s happening from moment to moment.

Who knows where this relationship will lead?

Who knows if this is opportunity or a dead end?

Who knows how the recipe you’re trying for dinner will turn out?

Not knowing is where the fun lies.

I used to be extremely uptight. I needed to know everything about everything about everything and if something was just a little bit off I would become stressed to no end.

Embrace Uncertainty and Live Certainly

If you’re trying to find yourself it means you’re either living in the past or the future (or both!).

Do you know what happens when we live thinking about and planning for every contingency?

When something unexpected happens (and it will) we’re actually less prepared to deal with it. Instead of being in the moment and dealing with what’s happening right now, we live in the future and the past.

“Oh no! Why did this have to happen to me?”

“Oh no! What will I do about this tomorrow?”

How about this instead: “Let’s figure out how to deal with this situation.”

Robots, Machines, and Feelings

Somebody recently mentioned to me that you can’t help how you feel, not quite going so far as to calling me a robot.

“You can’t turn off your feelings.”

She’s right. You can’t. Humans think and feel.

What you can do is live with the moments as they happen as opposed to wondering about the past and stressing about the future.

You can learn how to deal with anything in a positive, beneficial way.

Note: Although my body is a machine (yours is too if you want it to be), I’m not a robot. My heart and mind are real just like the next guy or gal. ;)

Don’t Watch The Past In The Present

Say you’re into basketball and your favorite team is in the NBA Finals. Is it worth watching the games after the series is over? No. Unless you’re a super-fan, it’s all about watching the moments unfold in front of your very eyes.

Why should life be any different?

It shouldn’t.

Don’t Watch The Future Before It Happens

You buy a lottery ticket and have already spent the money you haven’t (err, won’t) won. You plan a trip and imagine exactly how it’s going to turn out.

This sets us up for incredible disappointment. Instead of buying a lottery ticket, buy a sandwich. Instead of imagining a trip down to the last detail, give it space. Imagine a fantastic time with lots of unknown variables.

In the paraphrased words of Denis Leary:

“Live life moment to moment, street to street, beat to beat.”

Special comment love request:

1) How are you?

2) How do you live moment to moment?

(Also, remember: Only first or full names in the name field. No URLs/branding.)



57 COMMENTS

  1. This is something I really struggle with. Meditation is my best defence against worrying about what has happened or what is going to happen.

    How did you learn to be less uptight?

  2. How am I? Sniffly (ragweed season here in New England!) Overwhelmed (trying to do grad school, care for my 1-year-old, write my first ebook, work, etc etc etc) Hopeful, ambitious, happily busy.
    I have trouble staying in the moment sometimes. I’m trying to focus on the day at hand, play on the floor with my kid instead of being on the computer all day, and make very detailed and specific to-do lists!

  3. Not sure if I agree with this one.
    I used to think that trying to find yourself was a silly idea, until I found myself in in a situation living a life I was unhappy with. When I got out, I had to find myself. When I was free to do what I wanted, I had to figure out what was it that I really wanted or “find myself”. But this did not take years, more like a few months. All the while being embracing the present.

    • Thanks Rosa. Figuring out what you really want in life and finding yourself are different. Someone who is trying to find themselves never actually does.

      • Thank you for clarifying this. I’m in transition from mom of children who are young and need her often to mom of children who are preparing to leave the nest. I’m finding it a difficult, yet important, season of life. I’m wrestling with the questions of what I want in life and where my “sweet spot” lies. At the same time, I want to “be present” savoring the moments and opportunities of today.

        • Since I don’t have kids I don’t have anything good to add on that front. I will say that we are all in constant transition and it’s a beautiful thing. It shouldn’t be difficult. It should be an adventure! I don’t know what will happen today or tomorrow or next year so I don’t worry about it. Right now I’m answering a comment on my blog from Deb (that’s you!). And that’s as far into my life as I can see with 100% certainty.

  4. How am I? Excited about my new project, looking forward to my husband’s birthday dinner tonight, grateful for all my life is full of!

    How do I live moment to moment? Well, my body makes that easy, as it’s getting past its sell by date, and throws curved balls at me all the time! I assess what i’m capable of throughout the day, and squeeze in as much as I can, while I can. Today is a good day, and I’ve managed more than yesterday, putting up a new item on my Folksy shop, and I’ve nearly finished another, so I feel like I’m on a roll! Yesterday i didn’t get so much done, but was able to read a good book and lots of lovely links from Twitter, so I got what i could out of it.

    You are so rifgt, Karol, we only need to seek for ourselves if we’re looking outside the present – I’m not the slim, elfin Twiggy-alike I once was, nor am i the post-natally depressed young mother I was – nor am I yet the helpless old woman I may well become one day! Today is great, everyday – i woke up in the morning, didn’t I?!

  5. i’m a very practical person so I’ve never been one for “finding myself”. My technique for living in the moment involves me simply asking “whats the worst that could happen”. I’ve yet to come across a situation where the “worst” is something I thought I couldn’t handle.

    This line from The Sunscreen Song (I know its cheesy) sums up my thoughts:

    “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
    life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
    wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
    olds I know still don’t.”

  6. “How about this instead: “Let’s figure out how to deal with this situation.””
    How appropriate is this… I just tried to withdraw some money when the ATM took my card. Even though I am now without cash or a card (of course I can borrow some), instead of getting upset of why this has to happen to me (which I used to do), I find myself not really caring. I’ll just call the bank and sort things out.

    Great post!

  7. 1: Pretty well, thank you. :)
    2: I often live in the past, future, and other worlds, but I try to make sure I spend at least a little time every day in the right here, right now. I like to stare at the sky and just be, I find it calming to feel the breath flowing in and out of my lungs, and snuggling my cat or my husband always brings me home to the present.

    I do find value in the past, future and other, though. The past holds both lessons and joys. The future holds potential direction for present choices. As a lover of dreams and fiction, and as a fiction writer, other worlds hold treasure troves of emotion and possibility that add extra context, ideas and hopes to the here and now. It’s all good, to my mind – now, before, later, and wouldn’t-it-be-neat-if. :-D

    • Thanks Anthea! I like your approach. When I say live in the present that doesn’t mean don’t use the lessons of the past. And it doesn’t mean don’t have goals for the future. It simply means to live today mindfully.

  8. Love this topic! So many people are trying to “find themselves”. I think rather than trying to find ourselves, we just need the freedom and time to remember who we are and give ourselves the space to become the person we’ll be in the next moment. Right this moment I’m great because I’m responding to one of my favorite blogs. :) I’m not very good at staying in the moment, but when I manage to do it, it’s because I look at what I am projecting into and try to decide if I can do anything about it right now. If not, I try to let it go. If I can do something about it now, I try to focus on that. I do think we often put off the small things we can accomplish waiting for some big future event to happen. Like save enough money, or find a new job or meet the right person. Miracles generally don’t fall into our laps and only through hard work and perseverance do we make change happen and hopefully improve our lives or even accept that our lives are pretty sweet as is and be grateful for that. Thanks for another timely message.

  9. 1. I am awesome and excited (and a touch nervous)…..
    2. …..because 3 weeks on Friday I break out of a career (and all its planning and stressing) that now I have arrived where I thought I wanted to be it is not what I wanted/needed after all and it’s time to follow my heart and make a giant leap into the unknown and take life as it comes :o)

  10. Dear Karol,

    Nice post once again.

    I also have had many problems in the past, and some even in the present. But instead of giving up and accepting it i just try to deal with the situation.

    I live my life knowing everything will be just fine. I am to young and to stubborn to give up.

    My tip would be,Never think your alone.
    there is always someone in the world who supports your way of thinking and your idea,s, and might be able to help you out.
    Many people on the internet have done great things for me,witch helped me trough though situations. Dont worry, Be happy ^^.
    Henk.

  11. All is well here–thanks for asking :) It’s autumn weather here in Wisconsin and everything feels like a fresh slate. I do pretty well with living in the present but do find myself straying regularly so have to nudge myself back on course. The funny thing is, the better I am at living in the moment and not ‘pasturizing and futurizing,’ the more I truly do seem to ‘find’ myself. I enjoy what I do so much more, seem to gravitate towards things that resonate with my values. Guess I just need to get out of my own way :) Thanks for another awesome post.

    • Autumn is a good time of year. Until it gets too cold. ;)

      “I do pretty well with living in the present but do find myself straying regularly so have to nudge myself back on course.” I don’t think you can ask much more of yourself. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about seeing that living the day is more effective for a happy life than living in the past/future.

      Thanks Jean!

  12. Karol,
    Thanks for the reminder that I’m right here and don’t need to be looking for “myself.”

    1. A bit stressed as the new school year has started. It’s a jet lag-kind of feeling as I shift from summer to school mode.

    2. Take action and focus on doing that thing well. Otherwise, I’ll be paralyzed by over-analysis of the past or over-planning for the future. I’m coming around to understanding that I’ll probably end up with a “better” future if I accumulate many good “presents.”

    • Hey Greg! Analysis paralysis is a big one for a lot of us. I’m not completely immune to it either. Sometimes we all need a booster shot. ;)

      Love it! –> I’ll probably end up with a “better” future if I accumulate many good “presents.”

  13. I totally agree with you on this post. We’re not actually lost, we just need to tune out all the noise and external worries that cloud our picture of who we really are. When we tune into ourselves, well, there we are…

    1) How are you?
    I’m good. Just working on my plan to be like you one day :-)

    2) How do you live moment to moment?
    Pull away/stop my thoughts about the past or present, and fully engage my senses. Feel textures and see colors and smell aromas, all of that. Just breathe and think about what I like about what’s directly in front of me.

    • Hi Anilia! Working on a plan to be like me one day is living in the future. ;) I would love for you to live like you … today, and every day!

      • awee, you killed my joke! :-P

        But seriously, I only hold the image of what I want as the end result, and let it go to live now. I’ve tried to live without a ‘plan’, or at least an idea of the direction I want to go, and I just can’t. I need something to guide my present actions by.

        Kinda like when we write mind control letters, during that effort we have to live in the future to imagine what we desire, with as much detail as possible. But like you instructed, after that put it away and go on living.

        • haha!

          I am for having plans and goals. It would seem that would be living in the future, but it’s not. The difference is you have to work on your goals/plans today (right now!) and not “tomorrow.”

          Example: I have plans to go out tomorrow night. Does that mean I’m living in the future? No, they’re just plans. I’m not counting down the minutes or itching to make tomorrow night happen right now. It simply means that when tomorrow night rolls around my present will be at some specific place with a group of people.

          • that’s exactly what I meant!

            Now this digital world we live in, full of iPhones, Blackberries etc make it hard to stay present and enjoy the moment, but we gotta do it! Thanks for reminding us.

    • Thanks Misty! At first I thought it was an actual book and thought “oh cool!” But now I know you meant it’s a good title for a book. :)

  14. 1) Determined. I have a lot of important things I am trying to make happen.
    2) Good question! Moment to moment by doing what excites me and inspires me. If one of those two aspects start to wane I put project to the side and move onto something else.

    I really enjoy your work Karol. Take it easy.
    -David

    • Thanks David.

      1) Make it just 1 important thing. ;)

      2) The problem with jumping from project to project (which is very common) is that nothing ever gets done. Hence making it “just 1 important thing.” :) If the 1 thing actually is important you won’t feel the need to jump.

      Thanks man!

  15. Really good idea! We’re not actually lost we just pretend we are. I love it, such a simple semantic change, but it makes a huge difference. If people can wake up in the morning thinking that they are already “there”, what a huge difference it can play on their everyday lives.

    Keep up the good work!!!

    • Thank you Mathieu. Good point regarding “we just pretend we are.” This stems from the fact that a lot of us want to feel sorry for ourselves and want others to feel sorry for us. To which I say: fuck feeling sorry! Do something. I just inadvertently quoted Britney Spears … but the message is still serious. ;)

  16. I’ve gotten myself caught up in this quite a bit recently. Thanks for the reminder to take a step back and live in the present, where I have control – not in the past or future.

    1) I’m aware and perceptive.
    2) I take every opportunity to make the most of the present moment for myself and those around me. (Hat tip to Tony Robbins for the ability to do this.)

    • It’s cool Casey, we all get caught up in the past/future sometimes. :)

      Tony Robbins rules. Haven’t listened to his stuff for many years, but maybe it’s time to give it another go. :)

  17. «How are you?» My fiancee dumped and my father was seriously ill, so it seemed I must be completely destroyed. Instead of that I feel a lot more mature and reflexive; I think I have embraced how ephemeral things are.

    «How do you live moment to moment?» Just doing it, enjoying the trip and not over-thinking. And keep reading this blog :D

  18. 1) I am. 2) In balance.

    There is a great concept about how we are born and develop a “survival self” in order to cope and function in whatever environment we find ourselves in. A necessary thing if we are going to learn how to be social creatures. But that at some point, we need to allow that “survival self” to die so that our true self can emerge. This typically would happen during the transition from child to adult. (possibly from Dwyer, I have it noted somewhere)

    I don’t think that the “survival self” is too different from the lost feeling people refer to as a separation from their true nature. Sometimes we can become lost – within our environments, within our heads, within the expectations of ourselves and those around us. We are human. Even those of us who try to be super-human.

    I think it is a matter of semantics. “Finding” myself could just as easily be replaced with: discovering, uncovering, reconnecting, tuning into, being present with, etc. Lost can be anything from a moment to an eternity. I don’t think it means we are not living in the present necessarily. I think it is entirely possible to live completely in the present, and be in the moment…. but be in the wrong moment. A moment that may be the perfect moment for someone else, but is not the moment for us, no matter how present. I know I have had a few of those.

    Yes, it is our decision, but unless we have a spark to light the darkness that some of us exist in, it is not as easy as just deciding to if you don’t even know what your options are. You have to overcome conditioning, biases, ignorance, and open yourself to a world you are unfamiliar to, if you even know there is a world to open up to. Easier said than done for most.

    So, although I realize you are writing to a specific audience, and I can respect your message, maybe allowing people to use whatever language they are comfortable with as long, as they are heading in the right direction, isn’t such a bad thing? Certainly better to try to “find yourself” than do nothing at all I would think…

  19. This article can do me some good. Career-wise I’m really in a limbo right now. I overanalyze things. So much that its already affecting me job now and it hinders me to focus on what’s going on in my life at the moment. Glad to have read this post. :)

  20. I’d come to give blessing with you one this subject. Which is not something I usually do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!

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