From Change Your Story - Change Your Life: Focus on the Present or the Future in a Pandemic?
Updated: Apr 28
“People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as
memory or anticipation in your mind.” Eckhart Tolle
“Forever is composed of nows.” Emily Dickinson
“You can't go back to how things were. How you thought they were. All you really have is...now.” ― Jay Asher
Okay, I got it...live in the present! These very wise people seem to all agree. But wait, isn't hope all about the future. What about these very wise-sounding quotes:
“The bigger the future, the better the present.”—Dan Sullivan
“Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious
of the future”—Dallin H. Oaks
In fact, Benjamin Hardy writes that believing that the past and future are of little consequence and that we should focus on the here and now "is popular advice today from often well-meaning people and to be blunt, it’s incredibly bad advice. It’s actually dangerous advice. And most of the people saying it aren’t actually living it."
Well that's confusing!
Or maybe it's another dialectic. Dialectics are confusing until you realize that truth is dialectical. Opposing things can be true at the same time. Like admitting you're powerless over an addition as the first step to having power over the addition. Or the need to accept yourself in order to change. Anyone who's worked with me or read my writings, knows that I love dialectics.
My first memory of getting great pleasure of integrating two opposing views happened when I was three years old, in a car before the days of car seats. I was standing up on the floor board of the back seat with my head stuck over the front seat between my parents. They were arguing about how to pronounce the word pecan. My father being from South Georgia, pronounced it with the accent on the first syllable and the second syllable pronounced the same as a tin can (PEcan). My mother, having grown up in Atlanta pronounced the word with the accent on the second syllable and the a in pecan sounding like ah (peCAHN). As is often the case, simple arguments can spiral into larger arguments and the tension was beginning to rise in the car. After listening to them argue for a few minutes, I piped up and asked why we couldn’t just say PEcahn or pCAN. This story is easier to follow when you can hear the words pronounced, but suffice it to say, I was coming up with a compromise that borrowed from both of their preferences. Their reaction was immediate and highly gratifying in that they chuckled at my creativity and the argument ceased. I learned two things: Finding compromise or balance was very helpful and nothing feels better than making people laugh. I believe in that moment my destiny to become a psychologist was sealed.
“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it.
The present is here, live it.” ― Thomas S. Monson
So It must be both! I write a lot about living in the present, but during this time of crisis, I'm going to suggest that you consider what your future will look like after the crisis passes. Mindfully contemplate what this pause in your normal life has given you. I hope you will be spending some time considering your highest values or creating new visions. Maybe new rituals have formed which are worth keeping. Use the present moment to create a future that you will want to live in.
This might also be a great time to do some self improvement in a way that you might not usually have the time to do. I have used my time to write a workbook called Understanding and Resolving Ambivalence. If you struggle with ambivalence (feeling torn, difficulty making decisions, conflicted), check it out here. A downloadable version is on sell for $12.00 (20% off during the pandemic). If you're unsure as to whether to purchase it, I will send you a sample. Just email me for the sample or the whole workbook. Keep safe, stay well and be at peace.