Ten Steps to Cultivate the Now Habit

We all need something to anchor ourselves. Something to give us certainty and happiness through the ups and downs in life. A compass point to give the day direction and prevent feeling meaningless and letting disorientation creep in.

Some people use relationships, status or religion as that anchor. I believe the best one of all is simply the now. Cultivating a habit to focus on what is, not what might be or what was, is a happy way to live. Relationships can end, status can fail and religion can delude, but the now is a constant.

The Now Habit From Concept to Practice

I don’t believe centering on the now is just a fuzzy spiritual practice. The actual habit is just an exercise in focus. By redirecting your attention towards what you are currently doing, feeling or experiencing you can get more done while removing fears and stresses from life.

Here are ten steps to help cultivate the now habit:

1) Remove resistance.

Stop resisting what is. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, you are stuck in a traffic jam. You can’t center yourself in the now if you don’t accept it. Even if you are in a situation you don’t like or intend to change, accept it as part of your current reality.

2) Find rose-smelling moments.

Give yourself a few moments to smell the roses each day. Stopping your routine, even for only thirty seconds, and grounding yourself in what is around you can have a calming effect.

Most people don’t do this unless captured by something magnificent. But even simple parts of life deserve a chance at reflection. Spend fifteen seconds to see how the light bounces off the edge of a glass. Or look at the pattern of clouds in an overcast sky. Just a small investment can make you feel more centered for the rest of your day.

3) Experience what you are doing.

Here’s a big one. Actually experience what you are doing. This might sound bizarre, but how often do you eat a meal without really tasting the food? Listen to music without noticing the notes? Talk to your spouse without really listening?

If you are going to do something, engage with it. Try to isolate specific flavors in your sandwich. Notice the different instruments in a piece of music you’ve heard thousands of time. Empathize with a friend who is talking to you.

Whether you choose to experience something or not doesn’t matter for productivity. It takes the same amount of time for me to really taste a bowl of soup than just slurping it down. But by choosing to focus on your current task you can draw far more enjoyment and peace from it.

4) Cut down multitasking.

Cut out the need to do several things at once. Not only has this been shown to be ineffective from a productivity standpoint, it also makes it more difficult to concentrate. Concentration is key to the now habit. Without the ability to effectively use your attention, you can’t hope to focus on the now.

5) Enjoy limitations.

Freedom is a common concept in American culture. I believe it was the major theme of just about every blockbuster movie I’ve seen recently. But the kind of freedom discussed, external liberty, isn’t the most important freedom.

The most important freedom is from the internal conflicts of worries, negative thoughts and distractions. When you’ve cultivated a high degree of internal freedom, external freedom matters less. Cases of people such as Victor Frankl, who utilized his experiences in a concentration camp to create a more meaningful life are abundant.

Even if most of us have our basic rights and necessities, there will always be limitations. Going to work, chores, paying taxes are an almost inescapable reality. But you can use those limitations to guide your thinking towards the now. Limits can be the rules you have to abide by in the always interesting game of life.

6) Discipline your mind.

Where does this internal freedom come from? Discipline. Despite what much of Western culture would lead us to believe, discipline is the foundation of freedom, not its opposite.

Disciplining your body, thinking and actions means bringing the internal forces under control. This is a skill that takes time to develop. I certainly haven’t reached the pinnacle of human discipline, but compared with several years ago the difference is dramatic.

7) Follow a goal, but detach from the result.

Goals are a difficult subject to tackle when applying the now habit. How can you have a goal, which is based in the future, and still focus on the now? The answer is that goals give an overall direction to what you are doing today.

You can work hard by an inspiring goal and not be consumed by it. Emphasize the actions you are doing right now over the end result. If getting the million dollars, beautiful spouse or perfect physique becomes more important to you than the path towards it, goals can become a trap. As long as a goal serves to order your current actions, then it can help you focus on the now.

8 ) Daily gratitude.

Spend a few moments to reflect on what you are grateful for. Gratitude doesn’t mean, “Well it could be worse…” Gratitude means being happy now instead of just happy later. It means being thankful for the interesting challenges and opportunities life has given you.

9) Cut away distractions to a meaningful life.

Simplify your life. I might not seem like the best proponent of this, by constantly adding more to my life, but after any addition there needs to be reduction. Cutting back on things that aren’t contributing to your growth helps you focus. When you are constantly surrounded by noise of activities, media and people that aren’t adding anything, it is harder to focus on what does.

10) Engage yourself.

I don’t believe inner peace has to come from a monastic life in the wilderness. The happiest people I know are the ones most engaged in life. I usually wake up knowing I have a day full of exciting challenges and tasks. There are always moments for reflection, but by engaging yourself more you do what the now habit is all about, living and not just existing.

  • http://www.howtowakeupearly.com Wake Up Early

    It reminded me one my favorite books by Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

    “The time always was, is, and always will be now! Now is the time; the time is now.”

    “Stay in the present. You can do nothing to change the past, and the future will never come exactly as you plan or hope for. There have never been past warriors, nor will there be future ones, either. The warrior is here, now. Your sorrow, your fear and anger, regret and guilt, your envy and plans and cravings live only in the past, or in the future.”

    //Sleeping Dude

  • http://www.scotthyoung.com Scott Young

    Great quotes, thanks for sharing!


  • http://as-the-boomers-age.blogspot.com Martha

    Great post, Scott. I am putting many of these concepts into practice now. I still struggle with internal resistance which leads to negativity. Also, I have to learn to focus on enjoying the journey rather than rushing toward the destination.

  • Kali

    Kudos :)

  • http://www.parentwonder.com Abel

    It’s a timely post as many people worry about what will happen and forget about present moment. I like the last for points the most.

  • http://www.scotthyoung.com Scott Young

    Thanks for the comments everyone!


  • http://http:/www.newbalanced-life.com adrian

    Hi Scott,
    Great post my friend,
    I am a big beleiver in living life for NOW and a big beleiver in personal development.
    We all have unlimited powers to change our lives to whatever we desire and to do this I have realised that we have to get to know that person very close to us…….ourselves.
    A great book for discovering yourself is ‘wherever you go,there you are’ by Jon Kabat-Zin
    Alot of us can strive for material things in our life but we need to really look inside our hearts to find our real selves and our real destiny/journey

  • http://www.scotthyoung.com Scott Young

    Thanks for the comment adrian!

  • http://domestikgoddess.com Jen / domestika

    You’ve given some really good food for thought here – that “enjoy limitations” one is something I’m going to have to work to wrap me head around, but my gut says there’s wisdom there if I can only come to understand it, and how it applies to my own life. Thanks for a thoughtful post – so glad that techne-eikon.com’s ‘links of the week’ led me to discover your blog!

  • http://www.scotthyoung.com Scott Young

    Thanks Jen,

    Think of it a different way, limitations could be seen as cutting distractions, more elements to make you focus. Absolute freedom isn’t free if you can’t focus your thinking.


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  • http://www.boomerangband.ca Rick Pearson

    The Buddha said that desire is the cause of suffering. Desire reveals that one isn’t satisfied in this moment. Dis-satisfaction with the present moment is the denial of life itself. So what I want is to not want. In fact, I don’t actually want even that because….it’s always already alright. This is the magic moment of my dreams.

    In the west we tend to believe that the way to be is to do.
    Eastern wisdom says that the way to do is to be.
    Jesus said, Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, which lies within.
    He also said that unless we become as little children we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (which is at hand).
    William Blake encouraged us to see the world in a grain of sand and eternity in a moment.
    Meditation as both a practice and as a means to a goal is a good concept. Jesus said, “seek and ye shall find” and, ironically, the search will eventually lead to the realization that the goal has always been present….here and now, within. At that point, the search is over and the long lost Grail recovered….actually remembered.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/ Eugene

    Your article brings to mind a quote from the greatest book on success that is collecting dust on bookshelves around the world:

    “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

    “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

    “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    Matthew 6:26-34

  • http://http//msmederovac@yahoo.com Margie

    Thanks. You gave me some more things to do to accomplish a greater end.

  • Anthony

    What a brilliant list! Thank you. I also thought the one about enjoying limitations was an inspired inclusion.I remember a very dedicated and inspirational mystical teacher saying;- “It’s not what you think it’s about.”
    He was. of course, a great believer in the present moment (the only useable time) as the key to happiness as well as to the mysteries of the Universe. He also said words to the effect of;-“What one thinks is going on is not the reality of what is going on.” This is obviously a huge chapter or volume title, as well as a caution to rushing to judgement, but the first step to any deeper insight is always the one you outlined so well above.

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  • david

    after reading some of the notes and finer points from all, i feel like crying out because when the truth has been out there but u not listening.. the purpose in life far greater than urselves step in and create the inner turmoil as unhappiness,desolation,despair, creating a vacuum thats need refilling,and in the moment of all hopes lost,the Eureka moment expresses itself,and truth is I AM..

  • john

    As far as goal setting for the future and also being in the NOW, I find it much more enjoyable being motivated by the process of accomplishing the goal than the goal itself…right? its the journey not the destination. Once the goal is reached…its done…nice accomplishment but it took a second for the goal to be finished…but it took much more time for the process of reaching the goal. So do I grind out the process..work and toil…grunting all the way to the end until i reach the goal? Or do i actually enjoy the process…the experience of whatever it is that I’m doing? I choose the 2nd way!!

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  • http://www.plioz.com Rachel

    “You can work hard by an inspiring goal and not be consumed by it.” <– you got that right my friend!

  • http://www.bangkoksightseeing.org Ben from Bangkok Sightseeing

    It’s so funny that the first point you make is about being stuck in traffic. When I moved to Bangkok, that was one of my major upsets – because I was stuck in traffic for hours every single effing day. And I got more and more and more worked up about it. I guess my blood pressure went up in the first couple of weeks here. I used to curse at drivers, the government for doing such a shoddy job and everyone else who could remotely be blamed for this traffic mess.
    It took a while – but finally I noticed what I was doing to myself. And I started to use this as a meditative practice. Oftentimes, my habitual upset mode would kick me out of it – but I just went back right in. And nowadays, I’m one of those fellows you see smiling and beaming with tranquil inner peace sitting in obnoxious traffic jams, waiting in line. If you’re the way I used to be when I first came here, you’d probably wanna kick me in the chinbone for being such an overtly happy, relaxed and calm guy :-)

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  • C J

    I am so glad i found your site. Most people who talk about the now, leave out the information about goals. They were getting me depressed because i am an artist and therefore have goals that have to be thought out for now and the future, unless you just pour paint on a canvass, which is not my style.
    After reading and rereading your helpful “directions”, i feel like i am part of the now thing and maybe my depression will dissapear. I have already been able to be more present today. Thank you.

  • C J

    I also want to give credit to a very good man who had the same parents as me but does not consider me his sister, for helping me over the years to try to understand this information.

  • Mohammed Shayan

    Its really amazing and helpful post.

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  • Andrew Wiles

    Before I read your post, I was stressed, very stressed, about the fact that I will one day die nameless, not excel in my field and career and regret that I didn’t do the things I wanted to achieve in my life. I focused on the results and the gains from my goal and never gave a second thought about the process. I absolutely dreaded the process, I hated the long agonizing walk towards my goals, I looked at my watch every time I revise and study, I looked at it every second and I dreaded when the time seemed to slow down and I began to move through time like moving through water, heavy and husky. I didn’t pay attention to the NOW. But after reading to your post, I felt something I haven’t felt before… elation. I don’t know whether or not this will last, this moment of happiness but I don’t care. I am happy and free… right now. I am listening to this great piece of music right now, fits very good with the passage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_lRtkshuPI. Hope you will enjoy this piece of music and have a wonderful day! :)