We often get so caught up in our long-term aspirations that we forget to pay attention to the present—but this type of thinking can harm our professional and personal lives, warns Dr. Emma Seppala, science director for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.
“We tend to focus on the future a lot, and on our careers,” Seppala points out. "And that’s a very good thing, in terms of having goals, ambitions, and aspirations. However, if you’re doing it constantly—if you’re always thinking about the next thing you’ve got going on, and trying to check the next thing off of your to-do list—you’re actually hampering your productivity.” This is because you’re less able to focus on what’s happening right now, she says. As a result, your performance will suffer in the moment—and so will your relationships with other people.
However, Seppala has simple advice on how you can become more mindful in your day-to-day life. The trick lies in your breathing: By taking long, deep breaths, you can slow your heart rate, calm your nervous system, and quiet your brain. This way, you can focus on the now ... and stop worrying about what’s next.