Sometimes I go for a surf with my head full of thoughts. I think about the stuff at work, I try to solve some coding puzzles, I try to figure out why my wife cannot understand my point of view, or I bring day-to-day anxiety to the water. Long story short, it never helps with my surf abilities. If I start thinking about unrelated things, I get smashed by one after another wave, can’t pop up properly or drop on somebody stupidly. The ocean gives you a chance to disconnect. The only device I take with me to the water is the watch to ensure I’m not spending too much time so that nobody can call me and I receive no notifications. In theory, I could focus on surfing and pay all my attention to the activity. I can’t solve any problem at that time, so why bother? Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t work this way. If you don’t have big problems, even small things might become an issue that occupies your mind and takes all your cognitive capacity. The size of the problem is very relative, and I don’t think it helps to compare it with others. So not being fully present during your current activity is not a matter of seriousness of the stuff that makes your nights sleepless.
No matter how hard or easy your life is, you can stop overthinking and be present during the simplest activities. Recently I observed a little kid that did something stupid. He felt a bit ashamed for a second, but two minutes later, he forgot about it and kept going as if nothing had happened. “That’s a superpower,” I thought to myself. One drop during the surf can ruin my session. I keep thinking about things I said or should have said as if it matters. What happened, happened, and there is no way I will change it. I might try to behave better very next time, but overthinking can only ruin my whole session and bring a lot of anxiety.
The same thing happens in coding. Leaving all the daily concerns outside and focusing on the problem I’m solving helps me go quickly and really understand what I’m doing. I discovered that the “Pomodoro” technique helps keep me focused and connect with reality. Staying in the flow for long hours is cool, but real life can cause issues.
Being present in the moment is the best way to progress and have the best result in whatever we try to do. If we do one thing but think about another, very likely we won’t either do a good job or solve a mental puzzle connected to the issue that occupies our mind. So some advice for myself: If you surf — surf, if you code — code, if you play with your daughter — play with her, don’t try to be everywhere simultaneously, because you might end up nowhere.