How to look into the future

It happens that I let an entire afternoon pass without getting anything useful done: because of something that is about to happen the next day, and that somehow looks very important to me, seizes my mind. It may be an important day at work, or a meeting with someone whom I'd really like to get to know more closely - generally something that will likely have some substantial influence on my life for at least some time. In such situations, it's terribly difficult for me to think of anything else but what will happen tomorrow. Even if I force myself to try and do something sensible, I quickly find myself back thinking about that other thing. (It's not something I'm proud of; sometimes I even get angry at myself later, but that's of course not helpful in the least.)

If you know that state of mind, you have perhaps wondered what is happening there. How can one actually know what one should do, have the time, be not blocked or hindered by anything - and still not do it? And it's not as if it would make any difference either. Tomorrow's events won't be changed by one's brooding for hours about them in advance. Of course, if the expected event is something that needs preparation, then one is well advised to prepare; but even if everything is prepared as much as it needs to be, there is no change in how it feels in those situations I'm referring to.

What holds us prisoners in such situations are emotions: we're hoping for something, or fearing something. They get their power from the importance that we assign those future events. (Remember, it happens only if it's going to have a considerable impact on how my life will go for a while.) And it's no accident either that they arise normally when we expect the outcome as something that isn't completely up to ourselves. A lot of painful emotion arises from our seeing ourselves as depending on events that we cannot control: those that come about by blind chance, or the actions of others, even things we might have been able to influence if we had only known about them earlier. Our fears and hopes are directed towards these.

This isn't good tactics: we should concentrate on the things that we can achieve: caution, and acting well when the moment comes. If you look back to similar situations in your past, you will notice that things happened which you couldn't influence, but those you don't take into account when you ask yourself how well you did, at the time. What counts is only what you actually did, given things were as they were. It will be the same in the future - what really is important is what you make of the situation, what you will feel, think and do.

So if you want to know how to best look towards a significant future event: instead of focusing on uncontrollable future things (hoping for or fearing them), you should rather focus on yourself, and what you're focusing on. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.