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Are You Stuck in the "Future Trap?"

Are You Stuck in the "Future Trap?"
The future trap is a common one.
But it’s also a very dangerous one, most traps are.
What is the future trap?
It’s when you throw your hopes into the future and think, It will be better when..
If only I had this, then…
I will be happy when I…
The future trap will ensnare you and cause anxiety.
Because it’s not here yet.
Because you’re not there yet.
The only way to the future is through the present.
And there’s more to the present than you might realize.
By the end of this article, you’ll have the initial ideas to cut through the future trap and plant yourself firmly in the present.

The future is so alluring, but thinking about it can go on forever.
The future is so alluring, but thinking about it can go on forever.
Stuck in the Future--The Way Out
I’ve lived with anxiety as long as I’ve been able to remember my conscious thoughts, and I’ll tell you what.
It stinks.
It always seems like it’s going to get me somewhere projecting myself into the future.
But it never does.
It never gets me anywhere at all.
Still, I zoomed into the future as much my mind could carry me, for years and years, over thousands of different scenarios.
Maybe you’ve done this–or do this–too.
Maybe you think the future can help you solve your problems as well.
After all, it seems so tempting.
It’s almost within reach.
It seems so easy to manipulate.
And yet–something goes wrong.
Because the future is a step removed from the only time and place where you can have any meaningful impact: right here, right now, in the present.
A Subtle Shift in Thinking
But why did I get attached to the future even if knew that the only time I could actually accomplish anything was in the present?
Anxiety is like that–it will trick you into thinking you’re capable of impacting events over which you actually have no control.
Anxiety will trick you into believing that if you just think hard enough, if you devote just a few more minutes of your precious mental energy, that you’ll figure it all out.
But like I said from the outset, it’s a trap.
Anxious thinking, also known as ruminating, is an endless loop. It doesn’t go anywhere meaningful. It’s running in place when you’re already late for your meeting.
It took me years and years to understand this.
And it wasn’t just one thing that made me get it for good.
It took reading about anxiety. It took learning different modes of thought and different frameworks for being in the world. It took realizing that not all cultures view the world in the same way–and that thinking about the future is not the same thing as being productive and making an impact in the present.
Thinking about the future is an endless loop.
Thinking about the future is an endless loop.
How I Started to Get Out of the Future
One particular life philosophy that had an impact on me was the Buddhist way of thinking–or way of being, rather.
American nun Pema Chodron was my introduction to this way of thought.
Later came Eckert Tolle with the book, The Power of Now.
They both wrote about something that was elusive up until my early twenties–that thinking will only get you so far.
And by so far, I mean, they won’t get you very far at all.
Because the only place that you can make real change is in the present, in the moment that you’re currently in.
Some Ideas About Returning to the Present
And so I will leave you with some thoughts about how to enter the present moment, the only place where you can create real change.
Because being in the present moment requires a mental shift. It’s not something that can be forced upon you–it has to be experienced.
A fish doesn’t realize she’s in water until one day she does.
The same is true for you.
Do you realize how much potential is in each moment?
Do you realize how much you can actually do with what’s in front of you?
To make money online, you don’t need a fancy site. You pitch an idea to 5 online friends and see how it goes.
To solve your relationship problems, you don’t have to wait years for the other person to change. You could go first and have the tough, vulnerable conversation right now.
The future trap is an anxious wasteland.
The present is paradise.
And for whatever reason, paradise is always harder to enter.
Because it doesn’t seem real. Because it doesn’t seem like you deserve it.
Whatever the reason might be, just know that reasons exist in your head, one step removed from what’s going on right now.
Because when you’re acting, you’re not thinking.
You’re doing, experiencing, and becoming.
Remove yourself from the future, and meet the courageous person you are in this moment, right here and right now.
Nothing is as simple as it seems. Until it is. Until you realize the action you have been postponing is really not as scary as you built up to be in your head. Try to disentangle yourself from the future trap. If you need help, respond to this email and let me know!
P.S. Want extra credit? Watch this meditative video and listen to a talk about being in the present moment. Cheesy music aside, the words and the imagery come together to teach you something new.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jordan Brown - Mental Health Newsletter Writer, Poet, Social Worker, and Advocate

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