Excessively making plans was one of the symptoms of my pre-awakening mindset. I felt under control when occupying that mental space of the future. Life felt safe and secure when I wrote events and activities on the calendar days, weeks, and months ahead. Then, when those events and activities occurred, it was evidence that life was under control, predictable, and ultimately safe.
Living in my head was no longer safe when my thoughts turned into anxiety. When the reality struck that all my planning and seeking control couldn’t keep me and my loved ones perfectly safe and secure, planning didn’t hold the safe allure.
Here I am, five years into embracing a mindset of growth, curiosity, and trusting God rather than myself. Life is good. God’s plan keeps unfolding in my life in beautiful ways. I now see where lessons I learned over the past few years helped me grow while deepening my dependence on God. These lessons have prepared me for future growth and new experiences. One of those lessons is that we never stop growing!
I recently realized that being “in your head” does not necessarily mean that you’re struggling with anxiety or fighting “negative” thoughts. You can also be distracted by “positive” thoughts that, nevertheless, take you out of the moment. This helps explain why I thought I was “happy all the time” for years, although I was rarely in the moment. Retreating into dreams, plans, hopes, and anticipations is still retreating from the present moment and the real life going on around me.
Over the summer, I found myself dreaming of having a house by a lake, traveling to Europe, losing those last ten (okay, fifteen) pounds, imagining being debt free, and writing a book. Dreams are all well and good, but I found myself feeling vaguely dissatisfied the more time I spent imagining the unknown future. When my attention is directed to my thoughts instead of the moment, where my life is actually happening, I cannot connect to my loved ones or feel my emotions. Attention can only be focused on one thing at a time (that’s why multitasking doesn’t work!), so when I’m focused on my dreams, I’m not focused on the story my child is telling me, or my husband, or the sunset, or the music on the radio, or the work project I’m trying to finish, or the meal I’m eating… you get the idea.
Dreaming about the future has a couple other side effects. Studies now show that imagining yourself reaching a certain goal or destination actually makes it less likely you’ll succeed. Turns out you can trick your mind into thinking you’ve already achieved a goal, such as losing weight, traveling, or paying off debt; which then makes you less likely to engage in the behaviors that will lead to success, such as eating less, exercising more, saving money, etc. Crazy, right?
The other downside to dreaming about the future is that it tends to make you dissatisfied with the blessings you already have. When we dream about wanting more, we tell ourselves that there’s something lacking in the present. It’s hard to appreciate things that we already have, when we’re dreaming of something new and different.
The saying “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” is cliché but true. With this recently epiphany, I’m looking forward to a long weekend of noticing the present moment. The future will unfold in God’s perfect timing. I plan to focus my attention on each moment as it happens, so I don’t miss a thing.