Have you ever listened to someone define anxiety in such a way that changed it completely?
I’ll never forget sitting in class and having my master coach say to everyone, “Now a lot of things are about to change in your life, and this may bring up some anxiety, but just think of anxiety as new things happening.”
New things happening? I’ve never thought of it like that before. When we really get down to define anxiety in a strict sense, it’s a feeling of worry or nervousness about a situation that has a little bit of uncertainty surrounding it. What could happen next? What will the outcome be? In a way, anxiety is a fantastic indicator of forward thinking or “row boat thinking,” a phrase I have recently coined.
What is the thought behind “row boat thinking?”
Each of us are fed a very interesting narrative throughout our lives that sounds a lot like this…”I’ll be happy when this happens. It will all turn out when I get there.” The problem is, we are rowing towards this island that doesn’t exist. We think it’s there, but it’s one of the finest manufactured mirages we have ever seen. It’s sexy. It’s seductive. It’s just enough to keep us grasping and thirsting for more. But there’s great danger in this type of thinking and anxiety can be our greatest indicator that we are actually caught in the act of doing it.
Living in the future can have as many negative side effects as living in the past. We all know what it’s like to want to escape our past, but I am going to venture to say that we should avoid living in the future just as much. We can get stuck in a place, a very uncertain place, that frankly is out of our control. Should you set goals and have a vision for what you want out of your life? Absolutely. But the danger is building the foundation of your happiness on such a place.
The one guarantee I can make you about this life is that it will change. You can’t go to the past, the present is subject to change at any moment and the future is to be determined.
So what can we do?
That uncertainty…love it. Embrace the hell out of it. The uncertain places in your life are opportunities to have nothing short than magic happen. Do you actually know what is going to happen? Of course not. Will you try to project as much as possible? Yes, we’ve all done that haven’t we. But when you start coming back to the present moment, over and over again because our minds never stop getting distracted, you get to fully be here. Here is a really great place to be. Start actually seeing what is going on around you instead of spending so much time distracting yourself from everything that is not here and now.
So all anxiety really is, when it comes down to it, is new things happening. Enjoy that feeling and sit with it. Actually take the time to really feel the anxiety in your stomach and then take a moment to begin to understand why it’s coming up. “In this moment, what’s the thing that is happening right now that’s new?” When you start to do that, well, things become a lot more fun. But when you stop living in the future, the anxiety starts to disappear altogether.
It’s all about how we define anxiety in the first place.
– Evan Sanders