You are not alone if you freak out about the future all the time. I am constantly looking three, six, nine, 12 months ahead, imagining how things are going to go wrong. How nothing is going to work out the way I want it to.
It’s a self-defeating process, because we then get super stressed out about things that we have zero control over—and stop thinking about, and living in, the now. When I do achieve things, it’s usually because I haven’t spent months agonising over how I am going to stuff up, and instead have chosen to look into my future with confidence.
It doesn’t work all the time, of course. And if you have anxiety, as opposed to just some anxious feelings, this method of thinking isn’t going to prevent or fix that.
But it can help you deal with the smaller worries. And the best way to combat those concerns is to practice looking forward with confidence not fear.
According to life advice expert Geoff Blades, there’s a simple pattern at play here, where two key factors form a “mental circuit” for anxiety:
“Overwhelm: This is the physical sensation you have when your brain recognises it is trying to process too much. You are suddenly aware that you are out of your depth.
“Fear: This an emotional reaction to the possibility that things will go poorly. You can’t stop thinking that you might not be able to finish everything, or to reach your goals.
"I constantly am looking in the future. I can't help it."
"These two drivers result in a never-ending cycle. You are overwhelmed, and you have too much on your plate. This makes you fearful of the future, where you believe you will fail.
This fear of the future, Blades says, triggers your brain into visualising yet more scenarios—which gives you "more to process, creating an even greater sense of overwhelm".
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He argues the way to avoid that cycle is to train your brain to see your future success, not your imagined failures.
"Anxiety doesn't happen because your brain or body is weak, it happens for the opposite reason. Your mind is powerful enough to imagine your entire future, and sometimes that future is scary.
"You don't need to resent that strength, you need to admire it and leverage it to your advantage. The ability to project your future is a superpower, you just need to learn how to use it."
So next time you look into the future and see a crushing cycle of deadlines and missed opportunities, stop, take a deep breath, and think about how you really have got this.
You know what to do and how to do it. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by fear.
You might surprise yourself—and with a little bit of extra confidence, who knows what you'll be able to achieve.