"Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present."
When I opened my eyes this morning, my head had already been up for hours—thinking about all of the things I needed to accomplish this day, this week, and this month. And my mind was already making a list of things that could potentially go wrong and possible ways I could work around them to still keep the precarious schedule I have this month.
Yes, here I was again, engaging in a rousing round of what I like to call “pre-worry.” It’s that state where nothing has really gone off course, but I’m obsessing as if it already had and worrying in advance. It’s as if I worry enough ahead of time I’ll be prepared if life tosses me a curve ball, or even more futile, as if I could worry enough to keep some events from happening at all.
But I’m not a super-hero. I can’t will situations to occur or not occur with my own thoughts. And I don’t get to have my way all the time—like the rest of the human family, I get to live life on life’s terms, not my own.
I have my moments where I suspect if I could recoup all the time I’ve spent worrying, I’d add years to my life (and of course, in my worst moments, that makes me worry about what I’d do with all that extra time).
When I allow myself to begin to mentally chew on “what ifs” and terrifying future worst case scenarios, I open a Pandora’s Box of gloom and fear. The more I pay attention to this mental static, the more I lose touch with the one thing I actually can control—myself in the here and now.
To break myself out of this mental cycle, I have learned to pull my attention back to the present moment. I can turn away from my imagined disastrous outcomes and concentrate instead on the sights, sounds, and feelings around me: the press of the keyboard beneath my fingertips, the heartbeat of the traffic in the city, or the birds chirping on the balcony outside my window. Even these small bits of reality help rescue me from the “what ifs” and anchor me in the present.
Taking a quiet moment to pray and meditate, placing my concerns into my God Box, or even picking up the phone and calling a trusted friend just to dust off the cobwebs in my head can be a source of spiritual serenity that helps bring me back to the present moment. And as I shut out the noise, I’m much more receptive to the calming voice of my Savior, and therefore much more likely to work my way through any difficulties that actually do arise.
Pre-worrying won’t protect me from the future. It only robs me of the here and now. I needn’t explore how I’ll feel about something that might occur. I don’t actually know how I’ll feel—and it may not even happen at all. So when I find myself leaving the present moment, I’ll remind myself that the future is not today’s problem.
And as I grow in faith, self-esteem, and deepen my relationship with my Savior, I become capable of doing for myself what pre-worry will never help me to do: take the right action for me in any situation.