Understand This Truth to Better Deal With the Past, Present, and Future
Most [people] make the error of thinking that one day it will be done. They think, “If I can work enough, then one day I could rest.”Or, “I’m only doing this now so that one day I can do what I really want with my life.” The […] error is to think that eventually, things will be different in some fundamental way. They won’t. It never ends. As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, andmake love with the present moment while giving your unique gift. — David Deida
It doesn’t matter how successful you become. It doesn’t matter how much momentum you’ve built up. Eventually, something is going to happen that will throw you off course. Sometimes it’s small, a petty annoyance that throws you off for a day. Sometimes you experience something devastating that sets you back for months, years, even permanently.
Even if you get what you want, you’ll get used to it quickly. I used to think that getting everything I wanted would solve my problems. It felt good for a minute. But I got used to it. And then I got handed an entirely new set of problems.
Don’t get me wrong, you can grow to a point where you’re in an overall much better place. But you’ll never reach an endpoint where you can build up so much ‘equity’ in life that you’ll reach this eternal state of balance.
So, what do you do?
If You Hope to Build a Better Future, Start Optimizing For Right Now
I just did a podcast interview yesterday. The host asked me where I saw myself and my career five years from now. I replied, “I have no idea.” I make plans. You have to. I have projects I want to work on with deadlines. I have aspects of my business that I want to grow in the near future.
But I’ve been focusing more on training myself to live in the present moment because…that’s all I have. It’s a difficult balance to strike because sometimes there are some things in your life that you wish would happen right now, but they just won’t.
You have this vision for who you want to be in the future, but you get so stuck thinking about that person that you never do what you need to do in the moment to become that person.
Sometimes living in the present moment just sucks. Who wants to live in the present moment when they hate their job? When they just had their heart broken?
You might also catch yourself living for the future even though you’re in a great place. I’ve been trying to focus on doing what I love, today, without climbing up the never-ending ladder of desire. I find myself wanting more, no matter how much I accomplish. I find myself constantly pushing toward the future, even though I’ve grown.
I’ve found no permanent way to turn off this future-thinking permanently, but there are some insights I’ve used along the way to work with my nature instead of fighting against it
- Remember this truth — To snap out of daydream future think, realize that you have to take those steps right now. Can’t build your writing career if you don’t write something, right now. Can’t get in better shape unless you go to the gym today. As much as you’d like to, there’s no skipping the steps.
- Think about the anxiety of wasting the present — With each moment that you procrastinate, you feel a little bit worse. That hesitation to live the way you want to live in the present moment pushes you even further away from those future dreams. Try to use this anxiety to your advantage and motivate yourself to do what you can to make today a good day, to make right now a good right now.
- Give yourself infinite clean slates — Look, you can either stay trapped in the cage of thinking about your past mistakes and wishing for a better future or you can just get on with your life, with whatever your present circumstances are, today. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called ‘mulligan’ and started over clean after I’ve had a setback. I do this pretty much every day. And I’ve done it enough that I’ve strung together enough successful days to overhaul my entire life.
Stop Trying to Rid Yourself of Your Nature
You’re never going to fully get rid of that need to climb. You’re never going to fully rid yourself of the idea that if you reach some milestone that all the petty BS is going to go away.
Life is funny that way. You can live a really good life, but you almost always have to choose between the “lesser of two evils” that your mind creates. You can work on building a better future only to find out it wasn’t everything you thought it would be. Or, you can forgo some of the dreams you have in your mind and always have to wonder what if.
If you find someone out there who’s perfectly content, balanced, and eternally in the midst of the present moment, please send them my way because I’d love to meet them. But, outside of the monks living in some monetary in Tibet, or Eckhart Tolle, I don’t know if this type of person actually exists.
Like the quote said, it’s best to learn, play, and challenge yourself while trying to stay as present as possible. Some days you have major wins and you feel euphoric for that day — it’s an ephemeral feeling but at least you get to feel it for that moment. Some days you’re just a bit off or you don’t do what you want — those days you tend to quickly forget about.
Then there are really bad days, days where something in your life happens or you make such a big mistake that you’re completely stuck in a mental loop of thinking about what could’ve gone differently. When you’re in those loops, you’re pretty much f***d and you have to let time do the work for you, but it will.
And your life is a collection of these moments. And you’re always in the present moment when you judge yourself for the past or think about your future. There’s no perfect answer to this other than to use your nature to your advantage.
How I’m Using My Nature to My Advantage
More and more I’m trying to cultivate this ‘let the chips fall where they may’ attitude.
I don’t have specific revenue goals for my writing and business. I want to write my best work and create my best products. We’ll see what happens. I still have that future thinking mechanism in my mind, but I’m trying less to think about what’s going to happen far into the future. I’m giving myself room to be more fluid as time moves forward.
I’m working on using the past and the future to help me deal with the present. When I get thrown off, I think about all the times I’ve been thrown off and how much that caused me to lose the present, and it helps shorten the time I feel thrown off. I knew I got over those past situations eventually, so why not do it more quickly, right now?
When I get super anxious about building, wanting to conquer more and more territory, I remember that I appreciated the growth more than the results anyway. A bigger bank account isn’t going to change a ton. Niether will a bunch more fans. I’m human, driven to create and grow, so I focus on creating and growing for the sake of creating and growing.
The end goal for you? Try to stop letting the past and future torture you so much and fight the losing but worthwhile battle of doing your best in the present moment. Over time, let go of the idea that there will be this perfect end state where you no longer have to deal with the major and minor tragedies of being human. Understand that a whole life includes high highs and low lows — resolve yourself to become better at handling both.
So, let’s see what you can do right now. Let’s see what you can do today. Start there.
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement