Fear of the Future

Are you dreading the future now?

I’m seeing a lot of this around me. I see people who fear a future that isn’t what they are used to, so they pretend that things haven’t changed, and go back to their pre-Covid lives, refuse to wear masks, and go out drinking with friends. I see young people who are afraid they won’t have a future and so cling to the threads of what they started before Covid, visiting friends, not wearing masks, heedless of the consequences to their parents and grandparents.

I see colleagues who are afraid to commit to paper on things for fear that they will be held to delivering what might turn out to be an unrealistic outcome. I see people who delay and delay decisions, who find just one more thing they need to do to make something perfect (although they don’t use that word).

Some of this is a lack of certainty in the world right now. All those things you thought were certain – a job that you thought would be there until you hit retirement age, the union you were certain would protect you from layoffs and furloughs, the things you were certain about yourself, who you were, how you spent your time, the country you thought was a democracy, the plans you had for this year and next year and maybe even the year after – all of these things seem so uncertain right now.

All this fear and uncertainty leads to inaction, to sitting on that so-comfortable chair in the living room, watching so much bad TV that you can’t even remember what you watched. So how do you break out of this pattern?

Let’s start with the past.

Set a timer for 3 minutes, close your eyes, and picture the most scrumptious meal you’ve ever eaten. When was it? What time of day, what time of year? Where were you? How did you get there? Why were you there? How did it start? What was the service like? Who was there with you? What did you eat and drink? How did it taste and what did it feel like in your mouth or as it slipped down your throat? What could you hear around you? Make this memory as vivid as possible for 3 minutes.

Do it now. I’ll wait…

…Ok. Now, pick three things: a person you love spending time with, a place that you enjoy going (someplace realistic, not the moon or Narnia), and something you enjoy doing. Set a timer for 3 minutes again, close your eyes, and remember what you did when you got out of bed this morning… Got that?

Ok, now instead of getting up and doing whatever you really did, imagine that you go dressed and packed a suitcase. Quickly, quickly, you must pack the suitcase because you are going on a journey. You are going on a journey to that place you picked, with that person you picked, where you are doing that activity you picked. For three minutes, remember yourself doing that activity in that place with that person. Make it as vivid as possible…

Got it? Ok.

We are going through a time of momentous change. Things will not go back to how they were, they will evolve.

And you are part of this evolution.

Just because things are different than they were six months ago does not mean that life is over. The future is still being written.

And you are your own author.

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