Getting my ears pierced for the first time was not my finest moment. I became a total nervous wreck beforehand and put my poor parents through a dramatic sequence of squirming and indecision. I was sitting there, gripped with anxiety, because I had no idea what to expect.
It must've been quite the spectacle, because by the time I was finally ready to go for it, a crowd had formed outside of the jewelry store to watch it all go down. A kind stranger was even holding my hand!
I finally mustered all of my courage and gave the patient piercer – a gentle, grandfatherly type named Bob – the go-ahead. It was over in an instant, so quickly I didn't think it had even happened yet.
"Eeeeek, let me know when you're about to do it, Bob! Oh...you did it already?" was followed by an overjoyed, "That's IT?!" and (I kid you not) a round of applause by the group of onlookers standing outside the now-closed shop.
I couldn't believe it. All of the build-up in my mind was so much worse than the moment itself. My idea of the excruciating pain awaiting me far exceeded the reality.
This childhood memory is a silly example of the many ways we totally freak ourselves out about the future as kids and as adults. If we're not mindful, our imaginations can run wild creating scenes of absolute misery and despair when we're not sure what to expect.
WHY THE FUTURE FEELS SO SCARY
This week I was guiding someone into a visioning exercise, and we noticed that they were feeling a lot of resistance to letting themselves dream about the future. There were a number of things they felt unclear about or didn't have the answers to, and they'd convinced themselves that it was better, safer, to not think about it at all.
I used to think this way too.
When I felt anxious in a relationship, I would avoid thinking about next steps (and bringing them up with whoever I was dating).
Or, when I was in a job that I knew wasn't for me, I'd try to avoid thinking about leaving or consider what I wanted to do instead.
If the future freaks you out, there's likely some aspect of your life that feels uncertain and nerve-inducing right now.
Believe it or not, this is a good thing. It means your future isn't doomed, and what you're actually most afraid of is your current thoughts about your future.
It's similar to how people avoid budgeting or peeking at their credit card statements when they know they're overspending. They trick themselves into thinking that doing so helps them avoid discomfort, but if they weren't already anxious, they wouldn't be avoiding looking at those numbers in the first place. Yet once they actually address everything head-on, things start shifting in a more positive direction.
The same goes for your future. You can influence how things unfold, and it all starts with taking an honest look at what's going on right now. You'll have immediate insight into what's making the future seem so scary, and become aware of what needs to change.
A FEW EXAMPLES OF HOW THIS PLAYS OUT
If you're worried you're going to end up alone/never meet someone (or fall out of sync with your current partner), it's time to stop neglecting the part of yourself that desires a deep romantic connection.
If you're worried that work will take over your life, it's time to bring energy and focus back to the other things, people, and activities that bring you joy.
If you're worried you're never going to be able to afford to buy a home, it's time to come up with a financial plan and work on your relationship with money.
There's no time to waste! Facing your future-based fears goes hand-in-hand with turning things around and actually getting what you want now. A great place to start is with a vision for the future that absolutely delights you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for being present and living in the here and now. But you still need something to work towards! When you aren't intentional about creating a vision, the worst-case-scenario can take over and result in you experiencing the same reality for years.
An easy way to get started
1) Make a short list of the areas of your life that could use a revamp (i.e. "health and weight loss").
2) List out your fears/worst-case scenarios associated with these life areas on one piece of paper (i.e. "I'm worried I'll continue to gain weight, because I won't be able to stick with a healthy eating and exercise plan long-term").
3) For each fear you listed, think about what the complete opposite situation would be and write down what comes to mind on a separate piece of paper in the present tense using "I am..." statements. Imagine that each of these ideal moments are happening right now. What are you doing? And how do you feel? This series of statements will become your vision (i.e. "I am feeling energized from eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly. I am relieved to discover how sustainable this feels.").
4) Place your vision somewhere you can see it regularly. Then, rip up the first paper with your fears and dispose of it. No need to hang on to that one :)
5) Choose 1 small step you can take towards one of the statements you wrote, preferably something you can tackle in 15-30 minutes (i.e. "On Saturday morning, I will walk around the neighborhood for 20 minutes while listening to a podcast.").
Remember to choose consistency over intensity. A series of short workouts more regularly, for instance, adds up more so than one high-intensity workout that completely exhausts you and makes you never want to go to a class again. Those seemingly small commitments add up over time, and are more sustainable in the long run!
Refer to your vision whenever you notice any fears coming to the surface, and use it as inspiration to pull you forward, consistently, as you take small steps toward the kind of life you dream about.
You got this,
P.S. The whole point of this post is that when we're afraid about some aspect of our future, it's easy to become paralyzed and avoid taking action altogether. I know how difficult it can be to take even the first step of creating your vision. If you (or someone you love) could use a hand kicking fear to the curb, feel free to message me here. I'm happy to help!