“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – John M. Richardson, Jr.
A few days ago we looked at how to let go of the past; the first article in our two part series on letting go of the past and facing the future. Today we are going to go over part two – learning how to not fear your future. I hope something I write is helpful to someone out there.
Letting go of the past is necessary before you face your future
The reason I spent the first article talking about letting go of the past is because it is necessary to do so before you can face your future with any real sense of fearlessness. Those people who have accepted their mistakes/failures and moved on from times gone by are much better equipped to deal with what is going to happen in their future.
If you are really serious about learning to face your future with bravery you need to let go of the past. Accept your failures and mistakes and let go of that baggage.
How to not fear your future
I have always found it extremely interesting how some people are caught in the past while others are terrified of the future. I don’t know why, but it always seems as though we are trapped in one extreme and never balanced in the middle.
When you fear the future you are unable to truly live in the present moment. You destroy your chances for happiness because you spend all your time worrying about what is going to happen instead of enjoying the life you actually have. Here are some suggestions that might help you move away from fearing the future. If you can apply these to your situation you will, hopefully, be able to find some happiness.
1. Understand that the future is uncertain
If you think that something bad is going to happen down the track you need to realize that this is uncertain. No body knows what is going to happen even a few hours from now, let alone ten years down the road.
If you find yourself worrying about the future it is important to remind yourself that it is uncertain as to what is going to happen. Your situation might not be as bleak as you think. In fact, what you understand that the future is uncertain you will be well equipped to understand the second point.
2. The future can be created
Your future is in your hands. No body is going to make anything happen for you unless you go out and try to achieve it yourself. Now, instead of being depressed by this fact it is important to realize that you are in an extremely hopeful place. You are living in a time and a place where opportunities are everywhere. At no other time in history have human beings been able to give up their livelihood and search for something new or something better. But we can.
Why fear the future when we have control over it? Why worry about the next few days or weeks when we know we can do something about it now? And while everyone tells you to live in the present moment you still need to make preparations for tomorrow. That is fine as long as you do it with mindfulness and awareness.
3. Realize that things change slowly
When I was in India a few years ago I was staying in a Buddhist Monastery where a very powerful Tibetan lama was staying. People often reported that being near this particular lama caused powerful emotions to arise and you could either deal with them or let them scare you away. Well, I decided to deal with them. True to legend I started having very emotional thoughts about the future. I was scared. Panicked even. I was worrying about where I was going to be, who I was going to be with and whether I’d ever be happy.
After a few hours of this emotional mess I had a bit of a breakthrough. Although it wasn’t anything like a sudden realization or awakening moment, it has stayed with me my entire life. I understood that things change slowly. It does not all happen at once. You do not wake up one day and all your friends are dead and you have no one to talk to. Things change slowly. When you understand this fact you give yourself a lot more room to move – it is not as scary.
4. Meditate on mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation is one of the premier ways to deal with a fear of the future. Why? Because it brings you in touch with the present moment better than almost anything else. And when you can do that you will find that all of your fears and worries dissolve of their own accord.
Again, I want to point you to this article on meditating on mindfulness. It is simple to do and extremely effective. As soon as you notice that you are becoming worried about the future begin the meditation. Focus on the breath going in and out of the nose. Count the breaths. Relax. Once you become expert at this you will find that your thoughts no longer control you as much – you learn to see through their illusion. Perhaps your idea of the future was just a false concept that you cooked up?
5. Remember you are not alone
Community is a very important thing. Human beings are social creatures and, more often than not, they need the love and affection of other humans. This is important to remember when you are thinking about the future. You need to remind yourself that you will always have people who love you.
Let me give you an example. A few days ago I was getting quite uptight at the possibility that I might have to leave my home town to go and live in another city. The idea really frightened me – leaving my friends and family behind. But, after a while I realized that a lot of my good friends are now overseas doing other things. We stay in contact on email or sms and usually see each other once or twice a year. Furthermore, I realized that I could always call home or book a flight back for the weekend. No matter how lonely your prospects of the future might seem remember that you are never alone.
And, if worst comes to worst, you can always chat to me on Twitter. I will be happy to be a shoulder to lean on.
6. The future is the same as the monster under your bed
The final thing that I want to say is that worrying about your future is the same as worrying about the monster that was under your bed when you were four. Essentially, us grown adults, are worrying about something that doesn’t exist. The future has not come about yet. It is not a solid thing that will hurt you.
The future is like the monster under your bed – recognize that it is a concept created by your own mind and you will have a great deal of power over it.
Letting go of the past and not fearing the future can be hard. But it is important to try and do it. If you can learn to live in the present moment your life will be a lot more spontaneous and joyful. It will be a lot lighter and spacious and you will feel less stressed and trapped.
If anyone has any other tips on how to not fear the future please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you have to say.