When it comes to our future, words like doubt, fear, and anxiety often arise. We are optimistic about the future, but in the back of our minds we may worry about whether or not things will work out the way we’d like them to. We want a dream career, a dream partner, and a dream lifestyle. We place pressure on ourselves to make the right choices, but our future still remains uncertain. Here are some ways to calm your anxious mind when having thoughts about the future.
1. Remember that things take time. Anything worthwhile is going to take some effort, and more importantly it’s going to take time to develop. Strength is built on a solid foundation, which takes patience and time to develop. Take crash dieting for example: you may use drastic techniques to lose a significant amount of weight, but it’s not a sustainable strategy. You will most likely gain all of that weight back and then some. A better strategy would be to adopt a healthier lifestyle over time. Take your time. Rome was not, in fact, built in a day.
2. Live in the present moment. Many eastern philosophies claim that the source of unhappiness lies in regretful thoughts about the past and anxious thoughts about the future. The remedy they suggest is to strictly live in the present moment. Oftentimes we become so fixated on the future that we fail to enjoy life in the present moment, which is the only life we’ll ever have. Take time to enjoy little things like the laughs you have among friends or the weather on a gorgeous day. We live in a society that emphasizes action, but sometimes we should take a step back and enjoy the amazing world around us. Allow yourself time to just be.
3. Focus on the process and not the results. We expect instant gratification. When we’re working towards a goal, our natural tendency is to want to see results as soon as possible. If we do not see results early enough, we may become discouraged and believe that our efforts are in vain. The key is to focus on the process of your craft, not the results.
“Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi.
Is the approach you’re taking the correct one? If the process you’re using to get what you want refined enough? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.
4. Quit thinking you can control your life. It’s great to make plans. You should definitely have a destination that you’re trying to reach. At the end of the day, however, realize that even the most carefully crafted plans can so south. Even if you do everything right, things still might not go your way. You don’t have to be a total pessimist, but taking the time to consider potential pitfalls can help to soften the blow if you do come across them. We might believe that gripping the steering wheel more tightly will prevent us from swerving off the road, but this is not the case. Make your plans, but allow for flexibility and take things as they come.
5. Stay adaptable. Be obstinate about the destination, but not so much about the path. Experiment with different approaches towards your goal. Don’t give up just because one way you tried doesn’t worked. The key to progression is adaptability. According to Darwin, it’s not the strongest species that survive, but the most adaptable. You must have fluidity to your approach, a way of altering yourself, as circumstances require. Be ready to pivot at a moments notice and embrace change in your life.
6. Don’t be a perfectionist. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards, but you’ll never be satisfied if you expect everything in your life to be perfect. The universe is not going to acquiesce to every single one of your needs and wants. The paradox of choice is that with so many available options, it becomes even harder to decide what’s right for you. You may not land your dream job right away. You might have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Your significant other may not be model material, brilliant, down to earth, witty, adventurous, funny, and charming all at the same time. Some items on your checklist are destined to stay unchecked.
7. Be grateful that you’re here in the first place. It’s so easy to take our situation for granted. No matter your circumstances, chances are that someone out there has it ten times worse than you do. Many of us take for granted simple things like having food to eat and a roof over our head, when there are millions of people in the world who aren’t afforded that luxury. It seems almost absurd for me to complain about my life when I have a MacBook to type from. Even if your future doesn’t pan out the way you’d like, you probably still have many things to be grateful for, like the fact that you’re breathing.
8. Keep the proper perspective. The funny thing is that the only determining factor for our lives being good or bad is our own thinking. This is not to say that there aren’t inherently negative outcomes, that would be naïve, but the conception of good or bad is in literal terms, purely a construction of the mind. The same exact event can happen to two different people and be perceived in entirely different ways. The events themselves don’t paint the picture of our existence; rather it’s the meaning that we give to them that does. Decide that your story will have a positive meaning behind it no matter what happens.
9. Treat your success as inevitable. While it is true that things don’t always go your way, if you’re diligent and persistent, eventually you’ll get what you want. One of my favorite quotes illustrates this idea: “Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you develop discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time day by day. At the end of the day – if you live long enough—most people get what they deserve.” – Charlie Munger.
10. Always be prepared. You never know when an opportunity will present itself, so it’s best to be as prepared as you possibly can. Decide that if an opportunity passes you by, it will not be due to lack of preparation. Do what’s difficult when it’s easy. It’s easy to save money when you don’t need to. Having a reserve of cash can be useful for future opportunities. It’s easy to get in great shape when you aren’t in bad shape. Do this while you’re young to prepare for the future when you’re metabolism isn’t in high gear anymore. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to be blindsided by unforeseen circumstances.
11. Realize that in the grand scheme of things, nothing really matters. The universe has been around for billions of years, and it will most likely continue for billions of years after you’re gone. If the age of the universe was a roll of toilet paper, the amount of time humans have been around can be represented by one sheet. When you compare yourself to the size of a vast universe you realize that in essence you are insignificant.
Nothing we do really “matters” in the grand scheme of things, so why should we put so much pressure on ourselves? We shouldn’t. Live your life well and set your sights as high as possible, but realize that even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it’s not the end of the world.