How to Enjoy the Process and Practice PMRJ

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As I’ve gotten older, and more overwhelmed with responsibility, I’ve developed success tunnel vision. It often feels like there's this river of anxiety that pushes me to rush to get to the end of everything. Work, hobbies, the gym, feeding my kids dinner, getting to the subway, even the book I'm reading - they all get swept into the tunnel. The worst part? Often, "getting it done" just produces another thing to rush to the end of, and the satisfaction of completion is mired by the thousand other things I still have on my list. And my tunnel vision set on goals doesn’t allow me to relax into the moment and enjoy the process (the “process” is code for life).

Does this sound familiar? Are you a dissatisfied achievement junkie? If your answer is yes, or any of the above sounds familiar, keep reading. These are my tips for slowing down and enjoying the process, while still working toward accomplishing your goals. Let’s smell the roses, friend.

1. Practice marathon mentality.

I vividly recall being in college and looking out my dorm window, wishing with all my heart that time would hurtle me to the next phase of “real life”. Of course, I look back at her and think, “oh, you foolish kid, you were living rent free, your only responsibility to think and dream!” But as time has thrown more responsibility in my lap (children, multiple businesses, mortgage, etc), I’ve found myself falling into the trap of rushing to get the present tasks done, with some idealized, rosy future always out of reach. While obsessing over finish lines and goals, I forget to enjoy the race.

I have to actively train myself to be a marathon runner. To pace myself and embody the magic of the run, because that’s where the euphoria happens (runners will nod). To set small, accomplishable goals along the way and give myself props as I cross each one off. Confession: I am not a marathon runner, but I did use this same technique during childbirth, and it was a game changer.

It’s not about slowing down or even putting the brake on your momentum, it’s about changing your perspective and being mindful of the present moment. That’s where the magic happens.

2. Practice PMRJ, or Pure Moments of Recognizable Joy (aka, self-awareness).

I’m 24 and riding on the back of a motorbike through the warm evening, beside the moonlit arc of illuminated beach under swaying palms on the small island of Aitutaki in the Cook Island archipelago. Life is good. And I think to myself, “life is good,” which actually makes it better. Memorable. Because I acknowledged the moment and participated in it fully. I embodied the pure joy.

Obviously, most of life is not so poignant as this idilic motorbike ride. But I’ve made it a practice to try and live like this, think like this, feel like this on a daily basis. One of the ways I’ve trained myself to do this, to practice PMRJ, is mindfulness meditation. Here’s a guided one I made to help you do this yourself. Here’s a written description of how to do this. Here’s an article on how it works.

3. Acknowledge the process.

Wellness, meditation, exercise, self-care: none of it will relieve anxiety or make you feel better unless you acknowledge the process and accept the present moment. Unless you dive in. I’ve found the best way to start doing this when I am overloaded and overwhelmed is to set small goals for myself and with each, ask myself, “how does this feel?” as I am in the weeds of goals and deadlines. You don’t have to stop. You can enjoy the marathon, be self-aware, even as you’re still running.

4. Listen, really listen to your body.

The real trick is to gather the patience, the strength, the curiosity, to live in the moment, even if the moment kind of sucks.

Acknowledge that awfulness, don’t be ashamed of sedate it, allowing the pain to fester within you. This is hard. This is the challenge. You have to do the hard stuff to value and really cherish the good. That magical motorbike ride? It came after a winter in Antarctica. A hard 5 months of total darkness and bitter cold, of really hard work and physical discomfort.

There are so many days when I still struggle, when I’m overwhelmed and off my game. But I keep running, and I do my mindfulness meditation, and somewhere during those 10 minutes, when I listen to the train rumble by the house, the rise and fall of my breath, and I am grateful for simply existing even if it sucks sometimes. I say to the quiet darkness, ”thank you for this human body, my mostly healthy children, the love of my friends and family, this small life.”

Laena McCarthy