I used to spend hours every day thinking about the future, but a piece of advice from my sister changed my outlook and how I live my life. One day I was very much distressed about what I would do with my time during the six month period that I would be out of school (I chose to take a break from school for mental health reasons,) and the surprising bit of advice she gave me made me think long and hard about the way that I was living my life. She said: “Don’t worry about everything. The future is built into the present.”
“The future is built into the present?!”
“What the heck?!!”, I thought to myself.
Laila (my big sister) explained that she doesn’t worry too much about tomorrow; she just lives in the moment and thinks about the day ahead. Truthfully, she doesn’t even worry about the day—she definitely lives very much in the moment—ask her in the morning what her plans are and she’ll say “I haven’t even had breakfast yet.” So step-by-step is her philosophy and that-she’ll tell you-is how she stays calm and relaxed and free from anxiety about what her “plans” are. For me, this is incredibly difficult to do.
I’ve never been like this. I’ve always been a worrier and a planner so if someone asks me about what I’d like to do with my day, I’ve already prepared my to-do list and perhaps even planned out my lunch or dinner. It was never about living in the moment, it was always about foreseeing the future and planning my next move. However, as a teenager, this took a toll on me and it amounted to stress and anxiety as a young adult in college because I started to worry way too much about every little thing that needed to get done.
Pre-nervous breakdown and before the end of the semester, my sister noticed my anxiety and said some of the wisest words that have ever come out of her mouth: “The future is built into the present. Don’t worry about the big picture. The big picture will form itself.”
So I started to live based on these words–not entirely of course because I still think about a couple of days ahead things that definitely need to get done–but for the most part I implemented her advice into my day-to-day living and it has made a big difference in how I channel my energy into acceptance rather than expectation. I was always expecting everything to be perfect, but when things started to crumble, I had no idea how to handle it. When my mental health started to crumble, I had no idea how to handle it either. So I stopped with the expectation and started accepting the small changes that I could make in a day. I accepted the fact that I was just one person who could do so much. Rather than following everyone else’s rules, I started to live with one thing in mind: today. Yes, there is a certain merit to planning and knowing what the next move is going to be, but if this is taking over your life and causing stress and anxiety then there should be another way to live a productive and organized life that also involved focusing on is living mindfully or living in the moment.
Whenever I start to go into the old habit of worrying about Friday when it’s still Tuesday, I remember my sister’s words and think to myself: “Remember, live for today. The future is built into the present.”
This also works for some of those long-term goals we have looming in our minds that worry us once in a while when we should focus on achieving those based on small tasks and changes that are made in our every day living. For example, no one can get fit in just one month. That’s not a very realistic goal. The same way that someone who experienced a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized can’t expect to be back to normal in four months, or even six months for that matter.
Another truth we have to a remember—a wise teacher once said to a classroom full of hopeful, motivated, but also, scared and anxiety-ridden students in a prep school—“Go to the beat of your own drummer.”
We all have a pace at which we accomplish things, so let’s not rush through life.
Let’s remember: don’t worry about everything, the future is built into the present, the big picture forms itself, and lastly: go to the beat of your own drummer.