Living in the Present

I’ve always been in the habit of asking myself a question: am I doing what I need to be doing? Lately, I’ve struggled to answer it. I usually compare what I’m doing today to what’s worked for me in the past. In recent months, I’ve compared what I’m doing today to what I did before COVID-19. I lifted weights four or five days a week to release stress and stay healthy. I traveled by plane every few weeks to maintain existing relationships and build new ones. I went to the office every day to focus on work. I ate out often because I was busy.

When the past is my baseline, the answer is no, I’m not doing what I need to be doing. It’s not that I don’t want to do these activities. I do, but I’m just not comfortable doing them in this environment. That got me thinking about my approach. Should the past be my baseline?

The world has changed so much over the last few months. Many things that were commonplace aren’t viable today. I decided that using a comparison that isn’t feasible doesn’t make sense. In fact, I think it’s unhealthy.

I’ve started to ask myself a different question: am I doing what I need to be doing in the current environment? I no longer use the past as a baseline. What matters is whether I’m getting what I need in the best way possible given the current reality. For example, I need to relieve stress and stay healthy. I’m not comfortable going to the gym, so weightlifting is out. Instead, I’m running outside. Well, it rains pretty often, so I don’t consistently run four or five days a week. Two or three days is more realistic. Since I’m not as active, I now eat home-cooked meals to keep calories down (take-out is full of them!).

Is running two or three days a week what I’m used to? No. Does it give me the same results as my old workout? No. Are running and eating home-cooked meals what I need to be doing now to stay healthy and relieve stress? Yes.

I realized that benchmarking my life against the past was doing myself a disservice. I couldn’t fully embrace the present—which, after all, is all I’ve got—because a part of me was always holding on to the past.

Next time you’re grading yourself, consider thinking about what you need now, in today’s circumstances. You may realize you’ve been shortchanging yourself.