Learning to laugh without fear of the future

I see this question posted a lot online randomly: “Are you more focused on the past, the present or the future?” 

For a while, I always felt like I was a little more focused on the past than I would’ve liked to be. But once I started getting real with myself, I realized I don’t think about the past any more than any other person.

What I do is obsess over the future.

It’s the future that’s so unknown to me and brings my biggest fear to light.

That fear is that I’m afraid of what the future looks like for me.

It gives me a pit in my stomach just thinking about the fact that all of the big dreams and goals I have for myself won’t come true. The problem with this is that by obsessing over that fear, I’m doing nothing but sabotaging myself.

One of my favorite Bible verses goes a little something like this:

Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

The most basic verse of all time, I know. I’ve repeated this to myself over and over again for years. I wanted to get a tattoo of it. I thought it painted such a beautiful image of a strong and confident girl with a world of opportunity ahead of her.

Then I started to feel a little like a fraud. I sure do laugh a lot, but I’m sure as hell terrified of the future.

Think about this.

Do you ever feel like you’re running on auto-pilot? So much so that you’re missing out on what’s around you?

It’s kind of a complicated feeling to explain. If you live with any form of depression, you probably know this feeling well. You begin to feel like a spectator of your own life rather than an active participant. Watching the game without playing in it. Invested in the outcome but not enough to get out there and fight for it.

It’s kind of a weird thing. It’s a sensation I battle almost every day. Sometimes, it takes me a few days to realize that I’ve been so in my head. It takes a conscious effort me to say “snap out of it, you’re missing out on the good stuff!”

For me, I’m in a constant competition. I’m always trying to find my next adventure, create my next challenge and find ways to do better than I did before.

That competition is me vs. me.

It took me until recently to realize that in a lot of ways, I’m losing. I’m barely playing in the game. I’m missing out.

Obsessing over the future has its benefits, sure. I’m a very driven person and always strive to be better and do better. I get my stuff done and my work is high quality.

That said, it also has some extreme downfalls.

How on earth are you supposed to enjoy your success if you’re always planning your next move?

You can’t. And you don’t.

Being so future focused causes me, a lot of the time, to be in my own head. So much of the time I’ll realize that during events I had been looking forward to for months I barely remember them. I don’t have some kind of memory problem. I’m just not present in those moments. I’m barely there. I’m thinking about next, next, next.

Instead of focusing so much on the future, I’ve learned that I need to take things one day at a time. Instead of looking at life like this massive journey, a constant obstacle course that I’m building for myself, I need to start smaller.

Each day is a mountain to climb in its own way. There are small victories that need to be celebrated and enjoyed over every hour. 365 little mountains every year.

By focusing too much on what’s ahead, what’s right in front of you goes awry. You’ll be overwhelmed. You’ll stay stagnant.

Staying “present” might sound a little like some weird hippy meditation stuff, but it’s so damn important. And it’s pretty simple.

Embrace the waiting. Sit in comfort in every day. Focus on the small victories of every hour. Make the very most of each second. Tomorrow is tomorrow’s problem.

Stop saying, “Okay, what’s next?” Start thinking “okay, what am I doing right now?” I’m not saying don’t be future focused at all—keep those goals in view—but know that you’ll be a little less blinded by your big dreams if you zoom out just a smidge.

By embracing the small but important moments in your daily life, you’ll begin to enjoy more and worry less. It’s hard at first, but gets easier every day.

But don’t worry about that yet. Just worry about right now.

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