Worrying about the future is probably one of the most common difficulties that I have encountered in my clients – and people in general. The uncertain nature of the future seems to baffle a great proportion of people in modern society. Fear of the future can be quite debilitating.
It seems like the list of things we have to worry about goes on and on. We worry about things like:
- Our work or career
- Where we live
- Our looks
- Decisions we’ve made about almost anything
- Our children
- Our grandchildren
- Family, friends and other relationships
- Our pets
- Our diet
- Getting old
Many years ago, when I was still extremely confused about much of life, I was asked, “What are you afraid of?” It was an excellent question, because, at that time, I could not think of a single thing that I wasn’t afraid of. Looking back, I now see that I was afraid of life in general. I was so caught up in my own thoughts of all the negative things that could, (and probably would), happen.
When we get so consumed by our worries about what might happen in the future, we become far less able to function effectively in the present. It narrows our perception and stunts our intuition and creativity, and we become blind to new lessons that life will offer.
Keeping our attention on the present moment allows us to do our very best. Living in the moment enables us to fully participate in life as it happens – right now.
At any given moment, I can look and listen around me and I can perceive that there is no immediate danger of any kind. “Right now living”, as I like to call it, gives a certain sense of safety in which we can rest assured that anything the future may bring will turn out exactly as it should. There is nothing to fear or worry about.
Right now living equates to ‘peace of mind’ and it empowers us in such a way that we can trust that the answers we need will come to us when we need them. Worry and fear can only frustrate our recognition of life in the moment.
Every thought we have today is a contribution to our personal future. Every thought we engage with as it enters the mind will determine our current, in the moment, experience.
I’m not advocating for positivity here. There exists the concept of “toxic positivity”. It is extremely unrealistic to expect anyone to be positive all the time. It is psychologically and emotionally healthy to experience the full spectrum of human emotion. Conversely, it is psychologically and emotionally damaging to insist on constant positivity.
No, I am simply saying that, although you may not be able to control the nature of the thoughts that enter your mind, you do, we all do, have the ability to choose which thoughts we engage with – give attention to. You can, we all can, choose to dismiss any thought you want to, at any time, (the sooner we dispel any undesirable thought the more we benefit).
I like to think of each thought pattern as an investment for the future. The quality of my investments will determine the value of my life experience. Like having a bank account where money is put in and taken out, the balance value will fluctuate constantly; whereas, if I sit back and allow my investments to appreciate in value over time, I will benefit more in the long term. In this metaphor, fear and worry are like the fluctuating bank balance and ‘right now living’ is represented by the long-term investment.
Learning to live in the moment, exercising judgment about which thoughts we will become absorbed in or preoccupied with as they happen, and choosing wisely, is the single most important investment we can make for ourselves.
Thinking about our past, we can often recall things we were worried about that, today, we had all but forgotten. We can see that when we let go of trying to control everything, it all works out well enough. Right now living is not about not thinking about the future and making plans. We can still do that. Right now living is knowing that, right now, everything is okay and that only our thoughts and reactions to whatever is happening ‘right now’ is what causes all of our emotional and psychological sufferings. Worry and fear are resistance to what is – exactly as it is – whatever it is.
We can all learn to live in the moment. It may take some time to completely shift old, unhelpful, disturbing, and debilitating thought patterns, (but it can also happen in an instant). In any case, at any moment, we can observe that, overall, everything is good. Ultimately, there is nothing to worry about. The first instance of that observance may be all that is required.