“[Hope and Fear] belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Although thinking ahead to plan and prepare for upcoming events is unquestionably beneficial, we often find ourselves fixated on the future in ways that, ultimately, can create suffering for ourselves. For example, thinking about possible outcomes of actions we might take may lead to worry, anxiety, and fear. And, while immersing ourselves in the hope that the future will be different from…better than…the present, we are, by definition, considering our current circumstances bad enough to warrant the change we hope for. In both cases, we experience the anxiety and unhappiness Seneca discussed in the quote above.
Today, engage in the necessary planning for future events by examining the facts of your situation as objectively as possible. However, once plans have been created and decisions have been made, turn your attention immediately back to the present moment. Avoid lingering in the future, and be especially wary of repeatedly creating and playing out “what if” scenarios. Whether the scenarios generate hope or fear, they take your attention away from both the concrete steps you can take in the present moment to affect the future and your appreciation of what, in this present moment, is worthy of appreciation. In other words, by fixating on the future, we become blind to opportunities for change and the goodness and well-being accessible in the here and now.
There is no need to transform possible suffering in the future into actual suffering in the present.