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Present vs Future

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

The dogwoods are out in full force right now. I snapped these last year during the height of the season - graceful, beautiful and unpretentious. I saw many shades of these blooms as we took our daily walk yesterday. They really do bring me so much joy.

I've been struck recently with a thought that actually quite surprised me. I don't know about you but in my normal day-to-day life I seem to struggle with living in the present. I'm always looking to the future, planning for it, thinking about where I want to be and what I need to do to get there. In the last year I've been convicted that I'm way too focused on the future and not living enough in the present.

But all that shifted when this virus completely disrupted our lives and turned the world upside down. I started noticing that I was focusing entirely on the present. It was even difficult for me picture the future as so much is unknown. But I made a discovery. The correlation - my thoughts usually travel to wherever my anxiety is. Yikes, not something I'm really proud of but there it is.

In normal busy times my anxiety lies in the future. Focusing on the present helps to keep me grounded and not get too caught up in a future I can't control. In these unprecedented times, anxiety around my present has the same result - stress, worry, and extreme discontent. And you guessed it, shifting my focus right now to the future brings me not only comfort, but hope.

Why? Because I know my present will not last forever. This virus will not live forever. We will exit our homes, congregate again, people will have jobs, we will thrive. There will be an end.

So it got me to thinking... are there times when past, present and future make sense from a mental focus perspective? I think so.

Past - not good for dwelling on mistakes but good for learning to apply to your present/future ("I won't do it that way again" or "That worked really well for me").

Present - focus is good in busy and stressful times (helps me focus on the people I love, the things I enjoy vs stressing about what I can't control in the future). Obsessive focus on current circumstances is quite damaging to my well-being.

Future - obsessive focus in normal times can cause stress and discontent. Focus on future can bring hope during stressful experiences in the present (Reminding myself, of what I know to be true).

Simple, yes, but this pursuit of focus is helping me...

We are all trying to find ways to cope in a situation that feels completely out of our control but I hope this simple strategy can help. It may be a daily or hourly strategy, but there is hope on the other side of this and a future that may seem scary in the short-term but won't last forever. It won't always be this way!

Now, how do I get my hands on some toilet paper?

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