I am a firm advocate for living in the now, yet I’ve noticed that some of the more zealous supporters of this mindset seem to think that living in the now should be done at the expense of the past and future. I disagree. In fact, I believe it is healthiest to live in the past, the present AND the future simultaneously. Let me explain.
Living in the present is absolutely healthy, because realistically this present moment is all that we have; it’s the one thing that we can say with absolutely certainty is ours. Yet this moment is the sum of its parts – it is the now, yet it also the product of our past, and the foundation of our future.
Living too much in the past is damaging because once it’s done, it’s done. It cannot be changed, so to dwell for too long is counterproductive. Similarly, living in the future too much is detrimental because you have limited control over what your future will look like specifically, since every single decision we make has the potential to create hundreds, if not thousands and even millions, of possible futures, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book on steroids. So, to try to manage the future in detail can send you round the bend, since there are so many different ways that the future could unfold (and I’d wager that many of those possibilities involve situations and events which you could not possibly plan for or even imagine, which is where a sense of destiny unfolding comes in).
Does that mean that you disregard your past? Does that mean that your future is totally up to destiny and you should just sit back and wait? Hell, no! What it means is finding a way to acknowledge and respect your past and your future, and then integrating them into your present.
You are who you are today because of your past, and you will be who you are tomorrow because of both your present and your past. Embracing that here in the present and learning from your past whilst planning to broadly create the future you want is fundamental – just leave plenty of room in that planning to see where life takes you and be open to new possibilities (and, therefore, be open to throwing all those plans out of the window and coming up with new plans if and when life takes you in an unexpected direction).
Because the you that you are today is not the you of yesterday or the you of tomorrow yet, at the same time, it is. Confusing, isn’t it? I’m fairly sure you know intuitively what I mean – although you’re never the exact same person from moment to moment, you’re still you and there’s a constancy in that. You’re still the you that you were when you were five, just with more body hair and less playtime. You’ll still be you when you’re 85, just with more wrinkles (or Botox) and life experience, and probably fewer teeth. You are always you yet you are always changing, because your past, present and future are all intertwined.
And if that doesn’t make your head explode, I don’t know what will.
(By the way, have you seen that meme floating around on Instagram that states depression is living in the past and anxiety is living in the future? Clearly written by someone who has never experienced depression or anxiety! Depression is, in the words of Rollo May, “the inability to construct a future”, and I’d describe anxiety as the inability to stop overthinking about absolutely everything, be it past, present or future.)
Big News – I’m launching a speaking tour in S/E NSW (Australia) in August 2016. My tour, called Let’s Talk About Depression, will enable me to connect with communities in order to share my journey and to facilitate discussion about depression and mental health. I’ll be focusing particularly on regional and rural communities where there is often limited access to these sorts of forums. Dates and locations listed at www.jeremygodwin.net/events and I will be adding dates/locations across NSW, ACT & Victoria later in the year.