Where do you spend most of your time? Are you more likely to be thinking about the past, the present or the future?

There has been a lot said in the last few years about the importance of living in the present, and I agree. In fact, I have an entire module in my work about “living today”. Living in the moment and being fully present with people is critical for peace and happiness. I challenge you to find any great thinker, spiritual guru or thought leader, who would disagree with that.

That said, there is also value in being “future-focussed”.

Have you ever had a conversation with something who was clearly living in the past? These people are pretty easy to spot because they are always talking about the “gold ole days”.

We all reminisce from time to time, but these people are always talking about the way things used to be and nearly always in a positive tone. They love to romanticize the past making it sound like a sort of idyllic Eden. These people will tend to accentuate the things they loved like their favourite music, and gloss over obvious flaws of the time.

Of course it doesn’t really matter if the past was better than the present or worse. Unless and until we invest space travel, it’s a moot point. Things change, and as much as you may miss aspects of the past, they are in the past. We can’t go back and wishing we could is a collosal waste of time and energy.

Living in the present is useful for many reasons. There is a great sense of peace and contentment that comes from living life one moment at a time without the regrets of the past or the anxiety of the future. However, without any reference to the future and what we are trying to achieve, living in the present becomes a rudderless experience. How can we possibly know what to do when we don’t know what we are trying to achieve? How do you know where to turn if you don’t know where you want to go?

I’m a firm believer that we should strive to live in the present while also being “future-focused”. Being future-focussed allows you to properly frame current challenges by considering their importance relative to the bigger picture. You can also guide your decisions by where you want to be in six months or two years rather than always being in reaction mode.

But how can we be future focussed when we are all carrying baggage from our past and trying to live in the present? Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. Forget What Might Have Been: Yes this is easier said than done, but it can be done. We must learn to let go of our past mistakes and focus our time and energy on what we can do now to create the future we want. Many people get caught up in remembering the “good ole days” and wishing things were the way they used to be. The problem with this, of course, is that we cannot go back to the past. Wishing we could back in time only serves to frustrate and depress us.
  2. Get perspective: a great question to ask yourself in any stressful situation is; “Will this matter next week?” It is easy to fall victim to stress when we feel stuck in an unchangeable situation, but most situations are changeable. When we ask ourselves if this will matter next week, we are better able to have constructive perspective on a situation.
  3. Imagine What Could Be: I believe there are few things more powerful on earth than hope. Hope is nothing more than the belief that things can be better tomorrow than they are today. To be hopeful one has to learn to focus on the future and what it could look like.

Are you future-focussed or are you stuck in the past? Comment below and tell us why you are one or the other.