Jim Duffy: Why living for the future is holding us back

Worrying about what may happen is preventing us from appreciating what is happening argues Jim Duffy

Focussing on gazing into a crystal ball is not helping us enjoy life to the full or to achieve our full potential. Picture: Getty Images

As a species, we are obsessed and fixated on future state thoughts. We live for the future. We dream about the future. We plan for the future. We worry about the future. We stress about our kids’ futures. We watch science fiction where we delve into what could be in the future. We write about the future. And all this anxiety is killing our joy right now. Today.

It’s a future state that is perpetuated by our parents and probably you now, as you are a product of them.

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I recall being asked on numerous occasions what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the tender age of nine, I was being asked to think way into the future to predict my state of happiness in deciding what I wanted to do for a living. And of course it was all the usual spec answers to such questions. Boys in general wanted to be football players, pilots, astronauts or doctors. Girls wanted to be models, nurses, air hostesses or just get married.

I’m glad I didn’t pursue the pilot option as I now look at how this profession has been diminished by the budget airlines. Ostensibly a commercial pilot is just a train driver in the sky and in many cases gets paid the same.

But, even at that young age, I was being encouraged to live in the future, plan for the future and think about a future state.

All at a time when Frankie Goes to Hollywood was in the charts with Two Tribes singing about nuclear warnings.

Add to this the worry created around security and the need to “get on in life” and the future becomes a focus for so many of us. Will I get spots? Will I meet a nice girl? Will I get into college or university? Will I get a nice house? Will I get a good job? Will I be fit and healthy? And so on it goes...

And these worries are even more acute for this generation who we are pushing forward relentlessly for the future. House prices are exploding again and a one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh in a decent postcode costs £150,000. Even just to rent it at £600 a month, you are in an application process with 15 others. Just to rent it! London is worse. £550,000 for a one bedroom flat in some areas. Even a young couple earning £100,000 between them as say a programmer and PR exec cannot afford to live in this city. It’s a worry for them and a worry for us – right?

Or maybe we can stop worrying about the future and live in the now?

Yes, maybe the power of now is within our grasp. And perhaps we could even impart some of this thinking to this generation. Fear, anxiety, stress, tension and worry can be caused by us all living in a future state. And it’s quite simply amazing if you can stop thinking and planning too much ahead and take some time to be in the now – in the present.

This week I have been gripped by fear and tension. I have been off kilter and lost a bit of my spark. Why? I’ve been living my life in a future state that has caused me to kill off any happiness that I had in my life this week.

I’ve been worrying about events that are way out of my control. They have not happened yet. They are figments of my imagination. They are scenarios I am playing through in my mind. I’m stressing about stuff, situations and people that I am creating in my consciousness. And it has affected my performance.

I have had my usual chores to do around the home and I’ve been a bit lacklustre. I’ve been having dinner with amazing food and company, while my head has been transported to a future state – one of crazy consequences and permutations. Luckily, I can recognise this, albeit, it has taken me seven days to figure out why I am not firing on all cylinders. My question is: how are you?

On a week when mental health, suicide and mental well being again hit the Press and chat shows, are you taking enough time to live in the now and appreciate what you have, as opposed to what you could have? Winning £52 million on the lottery is a pipe dream and won’t fix you, it will just give your a bigger, fancier car or house.

Is your lack of presence right now in this moment as you read this causing you stress or anxiety? As you plan ahead for what could be, the potential, the pension pot, the graduation, the one bedroom flat in a nice EH postcode, are you missing the people in front of you right now?

I do worry about my kids, but I wonder if my worry should be less about jobs, flats and boyfriends and more about how they are thinking in an age when immediate gratification, must buy now and expediency are all creating a future state monster. Can I tune their thinking into living in the now?

So, we have a choice in how we think: future state or in a powerful moment of now. Have a think about it and be honest with yourselves….It might just change your life.