Past vs Present vs Future

Many people get stuck dwelling on the past or worrying about the future - constantly bogged down by what cannot be changed at the moment. How can someone healthily look at their past to help them in their future? How can someone look to their future in a healthy way without obsessing? How do you advise clients to remain in the present?

I was just discussing this topic with a client this morning! She had the external distractions under control (phone, internet, chatty colleagues) but could not fully immerse herself in her work because of internal distractions (her own mind). So that’s the question: How can you control your thoughts to be most productive?

The short answer is: mindfulness. This is the ability to pay full attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity. You can do this through meditation, breathing activities, yoga, or even eating one grape. I often ask myself: What are you doing? What are you supposed to be doing? Do they match? Reel it in. Bring your brain back to reality, to the here and now.

Easier said than done, especially for Turbo Thinkers. The brain is producing a million ideas in rapid fire succession until the most interesting one wins. Then, the brain settles into hyper-focus mode and all else fades away. But often that idea is not in alignment with what needs to be done. Our minds have the ability to dwell on the past and the imagination to obsess over the future, creating all sorts of scenarios. But unless you’re an expert in tessering, your body remains in the present. The skill to match your thoughts to the time and space of the physical head attached to your body is a tough skill to master.

That being said, thinking about both the past and the future can often be beneficial. In order to make a plan, you need to think about the future. What is your goal? What do you need to do to achieve it? How can you make that happen? Your mind needs to travel to the future to dream big, envision the possibilities, and make the plan to get there.

In order to assess your performance, you need to think about the past. Look at all that you accomplished! How did you get that done? What was the secret of your success? Celebrating past wins builds confidence. And if you weren’t able to attain your goal, what would you do differently? What advice would you give a friend who needs to do the same job? Your mind needs to travel to the past to evaluate, identify keys to progress and learn from mistakes to adjust the strategy.

You actually need all three abilities: learning from the past, planning for the future, and focusing on the present. Knowing when and how to control your thoughts with intent will lead you to a healthy, optimistic and successful lifestyle.