One day when I was young, I realized that I was perhaps not being adventurous enough in my life. So I started formulating a way of thinking that allowed me to open up my personal boundaries of safety. It all started with one epiphany:
“I regret more the things I DIDN’T do than the things I DID do.”
While regret is not overall constructive and should never be dwelled upon, it can be helpful to look back occasionally and figure out what decisions you made that you are proud of and which you wish you could change. In looking back in time, I realized I could change my future. By making decisions differently, I could learn from my past and make my future better!
Wouldn’t it be great if I could talk to my future self, looking back on now, and see what he thought about my current decisions? That was the final spark that led to the way I think now. It comes in three parts:
“Think FROM the future, while living in the present and considering the past.”
Consider the Past
I could get on here and say I REGRET NOTHING and did everything perfectly and you shouldn’t regret anything because it only hurts you. Yeah, that’s easy to say. But the truth of it is there ARE some things in my life I would’ve done differently if I could go back. If that’s called regret, then I have plenty of regrets! I think everyone does! But where people get caught is when they get stuck on them; when their outlook goes more to the past than it does to the future. :(
When we’re young, it feels like the entire world is before us; an infinite number of possibilities lay ahead. With those possibilities is great hope. We could be anything, do anything, be with anyone! As we get older, however, those possibilities naturally start to fade away. “Oh, I’m 30 now, maybe I won’t go to the NFL.” “Oh, I’ve got kids, maybe I can’t become an actor.” Founded or not, these are the thoughts that enter our heads and get stuck there. If these thoughts prevail in your mind, they become the rules you live your life by and you absent mindedly end up living in the past. This is no good! You need to be consciously looking ahead! Living for the future! Whatever opportunities you THINK have come and gone, they don’t matter, cause there are still an infinite number of possibilities ahead of you! You can only see them if you stop looking behind you and get outside that tiny box you’re in.
CONSIDER your past, don’t dwell in it! What’s the difference? Here’s an example of regretful thinking and one of considered thinking:
1. “I can’t believe I never asked that girl out back in high school. She was totally into me, I was just too stupid and scared to notice. We could be together and married with kids now and happy.”
2. “I can’t believe I never asked that girl out back in high school. She was even into me! Just goes to show you never really know what’s going on in someone’s head. That girl in accounting might actually be into me too! Maybe I’ll ask her out.”
See the difference? The first one dwells in the past, creating a fictional future fantasy from events that never occurred. The second learns from the past and creates possibilities for your CURRENT future. This kind of thinking can benefit you NOW! And that’s what you need to get out of any rut.
Live in the Present
I’ve found that living for the moment comes naturally to some people and is ridiculously foreign to others. I am a very analytical person, so living in the present has been something I’ve had to learn over time. If you’re truly living in the present, you’re happy with who you’re with and what you’re doing. Look around. Are you where you want to be at THIS moment? Yes? Awesome, keep on doin’ it. No? Enjoy the moment anyway. Send it off to join the rest of time with a smile.
More often than not, we are wishing we’d done something else in the past or too busy planning for the future to really BE IN THE MOMENT. We might be hanging out with friends, but looking around for other interesting people to be with. While it’s good to branch out, be sure you’re really present with those you care about. Give them as much attention as you would like.
Clean up your life! Get organized! I’ll be talking about how to do both of these things in later posts. When your life is in order and you have systems for accomplishing things, it’s much easier to get it done and forget it, than when you’re trying to enjoy a massage but can’t remember if you left the stove on or paid your water bill.
Stop and smell the roses? How bout pick one and give it to someone you love. LIVE IN THE MOMENT!
Thinking FROM the Future
But how can you think back on something you haven’t done yet?! OMG, it’s like a Back to the Future infinite paradox! Basing your decisions on future considerations of those decisions before they’re even made!!?? Great Scott! This is getting heavy. But I assure you such mental time travel IS possible!
You know yourself. You know what kind of person you are. Think about the decision you’re about to make. Consider the possible consequences of that decision. Look into the future at yourself in 5 or 10 years. Envision who that person is, more importantly, who you WANT that person to be. Would they look back on these outcomes and say “Man, I’m glad I did that” or “That was a bad idea, I should’ve stuck with my first thought”?
Project yourself forward in time. Who are you? What do you do? What do you care about? What are your morals, your goals? Who do you hang out with? Picture all of this as where you want to be in 5 or 10 years and then use that model of yourself to look back upon the decisions you make now. That’s how you think FROM the future.
When I first started doing this, what surprised me most was how some of the things I worried about had very little effect on my long term future. My future self would say something like “Oh I remember that. It was cool, glad I did it but no big either way really.” Reminds me of Mark Twain’s words:
“I’ve seen many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
The rest of the time, because I was already a cautious lad, my future self said, “Go for it!” I say the same to you, “Go for it!” It is never too late. There are always an infinite number of possibilities. The opportunities that lie within are up to YOU to create. Get out of your comfort zone and stop doing what the people of the present expect you to do. Do what the FUTURE tells you! Do what your future time traveling self in big boots and a silver suit tells you!
Live in the present while considering the past and thinking FROM the future!
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