We are the Sandwich generation of today who is exposed to the frugal value systems of the previous generation while being instrumental in feeding the consumerism wave. For us to “Live in the present” is more of a social tagline rather than our lifeline.
Our generation or the DIMUPs (Double Income Modern Urban Parents) feel the moral responsibility of planning for the future while living with the guilt of overindulgence in the present. Not surprisingly, the vicious cycle of work pressure, social responsibilities & living up to an image in our day-to-day life, takes away the true sense of happiness and we get sucked into this rut of Appearing Happy rather than Being Happy.
So is there something called Being Happy? There is no single right answer to this question. But what we all have is our survival kit which helps us find our MOJO for Happiness. My husband & I call ours – “Flag Post Theory – 5 Simple Ways to Live in the Present.”
Like any other working couple, we have had our shares of corporate stress which follows us home. These flag posts are a great breather in an otherwise demanding schedule. These can be the next holiday, a movie date or a dinner at a friend’s place. Similarly our Flag posts at work need not always be that coveted award or the appraisal rating which will come once a year. It can be the weekly team lunch, a quick coffee date with an office colleague or simply wearing that new dress to work.
The Flag Post Theory enables you to Live in the present and seek happiness in small events of your life. Let me explain further. We earmark events in our daily routine as flag posts and focus our energies on that event as if it is the biggest red carpet event in our lives “at that moment’.
For e.g. when our daughters were small, any birthday party of their friends was an event to plan for and look forward to. So right from what they were going to wear to what gift they will carry was an event hence brought in the excitement in a rather mundane life. Now that they have grown (well in their teenage years), they asking us to accompany them for their many shopping expeditions is a big event :-). Jokes apart, breaking our life into these small events makes every moment worth living for.
When we derive happiness in the normal routine and not wait for the windfall, we realize that it is quite simple and an achievable goal. And more than us, our current generation of Zillennials (refer to my blog on Powerful Parenting That Will Make Your Teen Soar) need to realize the value of this theory. For them, instant and regular gratification is very important. And that can be only derived by seeking happiness from these everyday events. They have to learn to live in the present.
So how do we do this? Here’s the 5-step approach that worked for us:
- Setting short-term flag posts
We start with setting flag posts which are for next day or next week. These can be a great motivator to look forward to when you know your days or the week is a heavy one. For e.g- an after office coffee date with your friend will help to take you through a difficult day or a weekend movie flag post can be great motivator to look forward to when the week is packed with meetings. In Corporate life, targets, meetings, presentations can be intertwined with team lunches, time-out with families & one-on-ones.
2. Seeking happiness in enjoying small things in life
Happiness is not directly proportional to the size and scale of the event. The key to happiness is to give your 100% to whatever you are doing. Therefore our Flag posts need not be always larger than life so that we have a sense of achievement. They can be as simple as keeping a game date with your kids or reading that book which you have been putting off for the lack of time. In Corporate life, this can be the ice-breaker chat that you always wanted to have with a difficult colleague.
3. Identify new Flag posts which probably never existed earlier.
This is by far most difficult to practice. However, it is probably the one which gives us the most satisfaction as we are learning something. Making Flag posts of your hobbies, adopted or re-discovered, is a great stress-buster. Some of the Flag posts can also be learning new skills at work, working on a new application, or software. The sky is the limit here.
4. Common Flag posts that can be shared with friends & family
How many times we have complained that we don’t get enough time with our family or friends? This has been our favourite alibi, isn’t it? The easiest way to solve this is to calendarize and make flag posts of celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries thus bringing people together and spreading good cheer.
5. Continue to set Flag posts as a habit
Setting Flag posts is not a one-time exercise. We must inculcate this as a habit in our daily routine to get the desired impact. And as we keep achieving our current Flag posts, start setting new ones. Doing so, there is always something to look forward to and keeps the excitement going.
The Flag post theory is all the more relevant today as the world reels under the #Covid19 pandemic. Most of the countries are facing lockdown and the stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. Everyone is hoping that either the virus will suddenly disappear or we will have a vaccine for it soon. But the future is uncertain and we don’t know how long we will be in this situation. However, the bright side is that we are getting so much family time together. It is the right opportunity to inculcate this Flag post theory by following the approach mentioned above with a few minor alterations.
For me personally, #Covid19 flag posts look like these:
- Our next holiday Flag post is replaced by the new dish I am going to try aka Masterchef or my next painting session.
- A simple walk down in my lane is a breath of fresh air and something to look forward to. We had taken this for granted till now
- Flagpost for acquiring new skills or rekindling old ones like reading and writing. Similarly, my younger daughter is honing her cards magic skills for her first online tutorial
- Family & friends Flag posts continue to fly high .. only the medium has changed to Online.
- Setting new Flag posts once we overcome COVID. These may include meeting my family back in India or going out to the beach or a movie or maybe a place of worship.
Setting these flag posts motivate us to go through the rough patches with an eye on reaching that flag post. And once achieved, we are ready to set another one.
To summarise, this is not about goals and I am not propagating setting short-term goals rather than long-term goals. This is about the “Moments of Life”. Let’s understand it this way- It is important to be here, fully connected with the current moments, paying attention to the so-called ordinary details of life rather than dreaming of having perfect moments someday in life which no one can predict. After all “Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is!”.. Mandy Hale. And setting flag posts helps you to Live in the Present.
So what’s your next Flag post?