Since starting the practice of mindfulness and sharing some of my experiences through my blog, I have many friends and acquaintances ask me about mindfulness. Once the general concept of mindfulness is explained, the most common question I am asked is; if we are always aware of the present moment, how can you plan ahead for your future? The following is a quote I came across a couple of years ago that I believe to be very accurate on awareness and attention in the present moment.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Marcus Aurelius
Mindfulness does not convey that you can not have future goals or ambitions. For me and other articles I have read, it really comes down to the difference between worrying or creating anxiety versus planning and preparing. The key is to plan or prepare for the future by being fully present in the moment when the developing is taking place. Don’t let your thoughts ruminate or create stories or situations that allow you to become worried or anxious.
With this ability to make up scenarios and ruminate our thoughts, negative or unrealistic thoughts can lead to unnecessary stress. Applying mindfulness attitudes and keeping your awareness and attention in the present moment when we are making future plans or goals leads to intelligent decisions. The following is an excerpt that I found from Weber State University that explains this concept very well:
Planning future events and creating goals is the process of bringing future moments into the present so appropriate control can be made toward achieving them. It is a visionary process that constructively focuses on the future in this present moment. This is a very worthwhile and appropriate activity. Worrying about a future event, putting our focus on the potentially painful outcomes of a future event is not. When we plan something we use our imagination constructively to create a future reality. When we worry about something, we use it destructively. Worry happens when we think of a future event and then imagine possible outcomes of the events that include the potential for some kind of pain or discomfort that we would prefer avoiding.
I believe it is all about balance. Utilizing mindfulness attitudes while consciously planning for the future events and goals leads to enhanced calmness and gratitude and decreases worry and anxiety. How do you balance living in the present moment and planning for your future? Please share your comments below.