“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems”Epictetus
It is fascinating to me that a philosopher from so long ago could pinpoint the issues that I suffer from today. I want to fool myself that this is not what I am doing. Honestly, when we boil this issue down, this is exactly what I do. For me, I cannot live in the present moment. I want to change the past so it will all work out differently. I dwell upon what I should have done or if I would have only maneuvered a different way they outcome would have been more beneficial.
The future is also something that I have problems with. By analyzing a thousands of different ways that something could go, I believe that I am more prepared. Worrying about how a choice that I make now will affect all of the scenarios that I have structured for my future. This new change, means that I need to rebuild the thousands of different outcomes and so it continues.
The worst part is none of these scenarios will play out how I imagined so why do this? When I tell someone what I am suffering from, they tell me “just stop thinking about it”. No kidding? Thank you Dr Freud! I am cured! Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Stoicism is one of the ways that I was able to control these urges and impulses. I am definitely a work in progress but at least now I have a plan.
“Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.”Marcus Aurelius
A Few Exercises That I Use to Live in the Present Moment
- Small Moments – Concentrate on small moments and make that your whole world for that particular second. Dive into something 100%; whether this is a puzzle, movie or writing a blog. Nothing else matters, just the task at hand. For more on small moments, check out my earlier post where I dive into this.
- Live in the Present Moment – This is from the Stoics that you can only live in the present. You cannot change what has happened in the past and you cannot know what the future holds for you. The only controllable is what is happening at this very moment. When you start feeling anxious, think to yourself if this is something that is within your realm to control. If you don’t have direct control to change the outcome, there is nothing that you can do therefore it is futile to try.
Sounds simple, right? It is not and that is why I made sure to mention that these are exercises. Just like working on your biceps, you need to work on your brain. Training your emotions with a new way to work through a problem is not easy but can be done. If your mind is always thinking of negative things, you will only see the negative in life. The reverse is also true! If you think about all of the positive things in life, you will have a more positive outlook.
Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”Marcus Aurelius
Marcus is correct in that we need to discard the anxiety because it is something that we cannot control. Since we cannot control the anxiety, we can control our emotions and discard the worry associated with it. We cannot see the future so stop trying. Focus all of our energy on the present which is ours to control. We must live in the present moment which is all that we can affect.