How to get rid of your fear of the future.

posted in: Articles | 11

I have lived a pretty unconventional life so far. I have a tendency to aim for goals that seem way out of reach, making me show up in situations you wouldn’t always expect. I have started many projects and pursued innumerable passions. I have chosen directions and strayed right off those paths. I have traveled when it made more sense to stay home and study, and I’ve spent my hard-earned money where it made more sense to save it up. I have succeeded and failed, but most of all I have tried to chase every dream I had – and I still do.

 

The reaction I get most often…? ‘I wish I could do that, too’ – with a big sigh.

 

This is rather peculiar, since I have no advantage over the people saying that. I have neither more money, nor more time than they have.

 

So how do I do al these things, while most people are watching their dreams drift away? Why am I going on one adventure after another, while so many people feel stuck where they are? They spend their lives in inertia, passively hoping for a sign that tells them it’s time to start living the life they want to live. Plans get set aside, ambitions neglected, security prioritized, and dreams become background noise.

 

Some people don’t truly wish to change their lives, of course. But I see some people’s eyes light up when I talk about what I’ve been doing lately, so some must truly mean it when they sigh their response. What is the difference between them and me?

 

The secret is that I am not afraid of the future.

 

 

This is a lie, of course. Everybody is afraid of what lies ahead. We worry about whether we will have enough money, whether we’ll be happy, healthy, successful, liked. We worry about whether we are doing the right thing, and how we’ll know if we aren’t. Even though they have gotten less over the years, I still have those worries, or fears, like everybody else.

 

The difference is that I deliberately choose to not make any decisions based on those fears.

 

Why? Because I don’t want to live a life led by fear of the future. Simple.

 

Let me illustrate this by taking you along a decision making process I go through quite often, which is of the decision to quit my job. Even though I would love to simply take a three-month holiday during high season, most companies unfortunately rather see you leave. So, whenever I’m planning on going on a trip, I have to think about quitting my job.

 

As soon as this choice comes up, resentment against it arises. Maybe you recognize this feeling when you think about quitting your own job, or another scary choice you consider making. When you investigate this resentment, by minutely looking into the parts it entails, you realize most of it is fear.

 

After looking into my thoughts and feelings, I saw that in this case, my resentment against it was made up by the following feelings:

  • Worry about what future employers will think of my scattered résumé
  • Worry about not being able to find a job immediately when I come back
  • Worry about not finding another job that will be as much fun
  • Sadness over leaving awesome colleagues behind
  • Dreading having to tell my boss that I quit/worrying I let him or her down
  • Worry about not having enough money, even though I have saved up for this trip
  • (bonus meta-worry:) Doubts about whether I will be happy with my decision

 

Most worries are essentially about money, and worries about money are almost always fears of the future. It hardly ever involves your unhappiness with how the situation is right now, unless you’re out on the street. It mostly regards the fear of not being able to pay the rent next week, worries about how much that bill will be next month, or fear of not being on the right track when it comes to your scary things like student loans and retirement.

 

In other words: Fear of the Future.

 

When you conscientiously look at the above list of feelings, you see that all of them are essentially me being afraid of the future, except for the dread to tell my boss, and the sadness over leaving my colleagues behind. If you were to investigate that further too, you would maybe see that part of that is that I’m afraid that I would never see them again. Or perhaps the fear that I won’t find such nice colleagues on the next job. In other words: more Fear of the Future.

 

Now take all things we’ve labeled as fear of the future, and eliminate them from the decision making process. Why? Because we decided to not live a life led by fear of the future, remember?

 

It’s suddenly much more clear. When I look at the left-over feelings, my decision has gotten a lot easier. All that’s left is a tough goodbye, both to my colleagues and to my boss. And yes, I will still be sad over leaving them, but not so sad that I will chose staying home over going on a phenomenal three-month trip to someplace incredible.

 

Eliminating fear does not always lead to saying ‘yes’ to whatever opportunity you’re contemplating.

 

I once turned down a chance to study at a prestigious university in South-Korea. After getting rid of all the fear of the future, I was still left with not wanting to be so far away from this great guy I just met. (That guy is now my amazing husband, so needless to say I’ve made worse judgement calls in my life.)

 

Very often, however, this way of making my decisions has made the difference between being stuck in an unhappy situation, and going on a life-changing adventure.

That is my secret.

 

I don’t make decisions based on fear of the future.

 

This is how I try to live my life. Does that mean that I am an audacious, resolute, fearless globetrotter who never doubts her ways? No. I’m more of the sensitive, emotional, and impulsive side with a tendency to overthink things. But I do try. And it has gotten me very far as yet.

 

Take a look at your worries, and try to find out how much of it is pointlessly being scared of what is to come, things you cannot know anyways. See what feelings you are left with after eliminating these worries, and then make you decision. Are things easier now?

 

I’d love to hear about your experiences. What was a tough decision you’ve made recently? How do you make sure you choose happiness over being stuck? What’s your biggest fear of the future? Let me know in the comments below!  I’d love to hear about your thoughts.

 

11 Responses

  1. Janetfoxwell
    | Reply

    I am struggling with an on going anxiety noise problem throughout the day . After reading your post I want to be more determined not to let this thing control me as much as it does. It has affected my daily living and I’m trying hard to overcome it once and for all

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      I’m glad to hear it has inspired you, Janet. Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy. I have a friend who’s having anxious thoughts a lot, and she found a lot of strength by building a habit of gratitude. Also, Emilie Wapnick recently wrote a great article on how she deals with her anxiety, that many of her readers thought was really helpful. http://puttylike.com/how-to-deal-with-anxiety/. Maybe there’s a helpful tip in there for you, too :).

  2. Laura
    | Reply

    I have recently been thinking about what I want in life a lot. I have played around with the idea of finding a job in a new place since I have lived in Chicago most of my life. I always have wondered what it will take for me to actually make the leap. I am very happy with my current job, but the rest of my life seems to be at a stand still. I also met a guy who just did this himself, and I fell for him hard. Him being gone has both inspired me to do the same – leave – and also left me feeling emptier in my current situation than before. I am hoping that when the time is right for me to leave my current job, I will know. I just got put on a new assignment, and it’s too soon to go, but I down the road, I want to remember that this is something I desire to do. Thanks for the encouraging post! There are so many things to worry about with a decision like that, but the fact that I will have to learn to rely on myself and truly challenge myself excites me.

  3. Maartje
    | Reply

    I’ve traveled all over the US last semester and I’m dying to travel again. Problem is, because of my ‘oh I don’t care about money, it’s all about experiences’-mentality I’ve been doing an internship over the past 6 months (which is AMAZING but really made it impossible for me to save any money). So I’m basically selling all that I can and trying to make as much as I can with being a nanny.

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      I like that perspective a lot, though, and I think it’s awesome you’re having such a great time with that internship. With an attitude like yours, I think you’ll end up just where you want to be in no time! Have you looked into things like workaway.org or housesitting? Cheers to your wanderlust 🙂

  4. Hi Rikky,
    thanks for this awesome recipe. It definitely will get a place in my personal toolbox (mixed metaphors, I know. But life is messy sometimes 🙂

  5. Julie
    | Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful writing.
    My current tough decision has been to leave a job that I’m unhappy with. From day one, it hasn’t lived up to the promises of the interview process. The hard part isn’t believing in myself and my general awesomeness (I do architecture and am an artist), it’s believing that the right thing will come my way, that some small imperfection on my part won’t sabotage everything. To be clear, I haven’t up and quit yet. Meanwhile, I’m desperate to be not-emotionally-drained every night, because that’s hurting the rest of my life too.

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Julie, thank you for sharing! I’m happy my writing was valuable to you. I understand what you’re going through. Sometimes we have to take ourselves to the right thing if it won’t come our way.

  6. cerrem
    | Reply

    I struggle with fear of the future all the time. Worry is a near-constant part of my day. Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself to set my fear aside and take the risks necessary to get what I want out of life. Great post!

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Thank you! It’s a daily struggle for most of us. Happy to read that you’ve been taking steps towards setting this fear aside, though. Awesome!

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