Living in the present #3

The problem with dwelling in the future

Of course, there’s a very important place for looking into our future so that we can follow a structured plan and anticipate certain eventualities; but we must always come back to the present in order to put plans into action. Yet how much time to we often spend dwelling on the future, in a way that is fearful or worrying, rather than constructive? If you look back over say the last week or month, how much time do you think you may have spent fretting over eventualities which in the event didn’t materialise, or which turned out very differently? Probably something like 90% of our suffering is over something that isn’t happening right now. Even if you have well-founded concerns about a future eventuality, spending excessive time worrying about it isn’t going to help.

Excessive future orientation is also manifested in the trait of habitually putting things off from the present and assigning them to some vague undisclosed time in the future, and perhaps reassigning them forwards when that future arrives. It also appears in the habit of perpetually considering that life will only be workable when future conditions are met: \’Things will be better once I’ve got a new job/ new house/ new relationship/ settled down/ retired…’

Dwelling on the future in a prolonged, excessive or habitual way causes anxiety in the present, and has an adverse effect on your ability to cope with things as they arise now. Will I find the right person to marry? Will my partner divorce me one of these days? Now that I’m a successful millionaire novelist supermodel, will I miss being a bookings clerk? Again, the recommended positive process is:

  • think about those future events which you can do something about now
  • work out what you can do, then do it or make a time-framed plan to do it
  • then let go of dwelling on it.
  • If it comes into your mind again, remind yourself that you’ve done your preparation and that you have a plan, and come back into the present.

Next instalment: the problem habit of sabotaging the present