Don’t just see the forest. Let yourself see the trees.

We have all heard the adage that someone couldn’t see the forest for the trees, meaning that we get so wrapped up in the details that we lose perspective and can no longer see the bigger picture. I worry that we get so wrapped up in planning for the future, for that bigger picture, that we lose the beauty of experiencing the details. I am not saying you shouldn’t see the forest, definitely see the forest, the big picture of the forest is undisputedly important. What I am saying is make sure that you also allow yourself to see the trees.

I am a planner. I make lists and do research and create elaborate itineraries. When planning for a recent trip, I was deep into my research process and caught myself. How much time have I spent preparing for this trip? Checking restaurant reviews? Determining the best hotel location? Coming up with a plan and a rainy day plan to be the back-up plan to my plan?

The answer was a big ‘ol bunch of time. When the amount of planning time starts to rival the amount of time that will actually be spent enjoying the trip being planned for, I’d say it is safe to consider it too much time.

I just get so bogged down in details, in striving for perfection, in making sure I’m not missing anything. This travel planning anecdote is just a trivial example, though. I also get bogged down in the details of day to day life. I get so busy focusing on the tasks that need to happen to achieve the end goal of an impeccably kept home that I miss the opportunity to color or read or play hide and seek with my kids right now. I get so busy planning out schedules to make my family’s calendar run smoothly that I miss the enjoyment of the individual items on that calendar; enjoying my daughter’s gymnastics class or watching my children participate in story hour at the library.

I am seeing the big picture forest goals, but I am not always seeing the individual moments of the trees.

I think that we could all benefit from letting ourselves experience, and I mean truly see and enjoy, the trees a bit more. The beauty of life is hiding in the minutia. Let’s be more mindful of the moment that we are in, choosing to interact with our loved ones, stop to appreciate a beautiful sight and, gasp, actually sit and chew and digest. Letting ourselves experience the little moments that are happening to us and around us every second will let us actually connect to the life that we are working so hard to create.

The next time that you find yourself completely wrapped up in planning for a future event or checking things off of your to do list, make a conscious effort to stop and notice what you weren’t noticing in the present moment. The next time you tell your child or loved one to wait a minute, check in to see what is so important that you are putting real-time life on hold. And in those moments, even though you know there is a whole forest out there, stop to appreciate all of the beautiful trees that are the entire reason the forest exists.
An edited version of this post was published by the good people at Elephant Journal. Here’s the link: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/dont-just-see-the-forest-let-yourself-see-the-trees/

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