The future is now, and yours
When I have more money, then I’ll be happy. Once I’m on holiday, then I’ll be able to relax. Once I’ve moved to London, then I’ll have more friends and be oh so happy and the world will be full of unicorns.
Sound familiar? This kind of thinking is so common, so normal, amongst human beings that we rarely even notice when we are doing it. We all want to have something to look forward to, but often we can slip into the habit of doing this in all areas of our lives.
I recently applied for a few different job positions, and found myself getting scared out of my skin. What will my current employer think if I find a new job? How much free time will I have left? Won’t all my goals go up in smoke? All the while I was sat on my bed fantasising and catastrophising, the real world was passing me by. It was a fairly similar story with my book, although the concerns were different – what will I do once I’m finished writing? Will it be the success I want it to be? Blah, blah, blah.
You see, as human beings, we crave certainty above many other things. Certainty gives our minds an impression of safety, of continuity, of things being well. When the future seems uncertain (which, by the way, it always is) our minds automatically work overtime to try and make some sense of certainty out of it so that we can relax.
There’s a certain irony to all this, however. We subconsciously crave certainty and a secure future, but if we were really to look and think, would we really want a future where everything was certain and predictable? Part of life involves taking risks; taking a gamble and seeing how it works out. Without this, life would be a bit dull.
The main issue with this future-based thinking that we all seem to love, however, is that all the while we’re fantasising or worrying about the future, the real world – the present moment – is passing us by. I assert that we think about the future so much for two main reasons – firstly, the future seems so much more interesting and magical to us than the present moment does, so we subconsciously block out the dullness of the present by fantasising about the future. I am particularly guilty of doing this! I basically built up an entire fantasy around going to university, thinking it would be so cool to live in London and that uni would solve all my social and romantic woes at the drop of a hat. When this didn’t turn out to be the case and the fantasy got broken, so to speak, not only was I frustrated and disappointed, but I was left with a nice pile of student debt from two years of studying!
The second reason we fantasise about the future so much is because we really believe that we have it. We really believe that we have tomorrow, that we have next year, maybe even that we have twenty years from now. The reality, however, is that the only moment we ever truly have is this one – the rest is all an illusion, a fantasy. Think about it – you could be hit by a bus today and never wake up. Sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but it’s possible! Or some massive natural disaster could strike out of the blue. We live like we always have the future, so even if today isn’t great we always have tomorrow to sort it out. This stops us from taking action in our lives now to improve things.
We have to bring ourselves back down to reality and look at what we feel is missing or lacking in our lives right now that makes us live in the future so much. What do we not like, what do we wish were better, what do we want, that we’re projecting off into some future-based world? Part of living in the present involves telling the truth to yourself and being authentic where you’ve been being inauthentic.
Once you’ve distinguished the kind of life you’d like to have, you can then start to put a plan in place in order to get there. This is part of reclaiming your own power in life and grounds you in actions you can start to take right now. If you’re really committed to living a life you love – not at some point in the future, but now – then this is a really important step!
And what about those pesky ‘what if?’ kind of thoughts that so often seem to come up when we do, or consider doing, something new or risky? Well, what if? Sometimes with these thoughts, it can help to actually examine all the worst-case scenarios your brain is imagining and seeing if they’re really that bad after all. Ask yourself, ‘realistically, what’s the worst that could happen?’ and see if it’s still so bothersome afterwards. If the worst case scenario really is awful, then it might be worth reconsidering if it’s a risk worth taking.
If you’re curious about all the benefits of living a more present-based life, then we highly recommend you read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s basically the Bible of living in the now! And if this article has made a difference to you in any way, please consider sharing it.