The Gustavian Weekly

Today, tomorrow, and everything in between

By Colin Rieke Opinion Columnist | December 6, 2013 | Opinion

You just got back from a relaxing Thanksgiving Break, and for the most part, it’s been a decent week back. However, yesterday your professors reminded you that you can count the days until finals on both hands and that two of your final exams will be cumulative. If you were looking for an excuse to freak out, now you have one.

Your weekend goes by faster than you can blink because the only thing on your mind is the upcoming stress. You dread the amount of work and studying that you know is needed to do well on those finals. You’re having less fun because you are constantly thinking about the upcoming workload. So you sit down and start studying, but find it difficult to focus on that piece of paper in front of you because all you can think of is the future and the stress that comes with it.

Let’s be honest, the one thing on everyone’s mind lately is time, and how little we have left before the semester ends. Guess what comes next? Finals. Tests. Coffee. No sleep. More coffee. More finals.

This time of year poses an obstacle that we encounter every day of our lives. We all do it, and we will always do it: obsess about the future. This can be problematic, particularly during this time when stress and anxiety levels are highest.

Thinking about the future can pressure us to do well, and it adds stress that becomes exceedingly overbearing. Getting ahead of ourselves builds anxiety related to upcoming events, classes, tests, and assignments.

Furthermore, focusing on the future makes us do exactly that: focus on tomorrow and the days afterward. Consequently, this means not thinking about the present. Not being present, or in-the-moment, has several consequences.

For starters, tunnel vision to the future leaves the present neglected. We do things we care about by using the best of our abilities. We put effort into things that are important to us. So if your mind gets caught up in what lies too far ahead and you become less present, whatever you are trying to do at that moment becomes an afterthought. This happens whether we want it to or not, because we can only effectively focus on one thing at time. Would you be able to give 100 percent of your effort for something that was an after-thought?

We also become less aware of our surroundings when we are not paying attention to the present. We become less attuned to those around us. If your mind is racing about the content of that final exam you have coming up, how likely are you to notice your friend sitting on the other side of class who happens to be having a bad day?

Excessively focusing on what lies ahead and not being present separates you from current reality. It can make you selfcentered and egocentric without even realizing it.

When you think about the future in your mind, you contemplate your deadlines, think about what you will be doing, how you are going handle a situation, how you are going to react, and how others are going to think about you. When was the last time you imagined yourself taking that big test next week and then immediately pictured what your friends are going to be doing at that time?

That is something that we don’t think about. Instead, we tend to associate anything related to the future with ourselves. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but a part of human nature. It only becomes a “bad thing” if you are consistently shifting your attention to tomorrow rather than today.

Being present and forgetting about upcoming events is difficult, but should be something we ought to at least attempt. Instead of worrying about finals, switch your attention to the task right in front of you, whether that be studying, practicing, helping a friend, or even relaxing. Being present can be as simple as taking a couple seconds to take note of your breath.

By keeping your frame of mind within the present, you can focus your attention on what you are currently doing. Focus on what lies within your control. Do you control what happens in a week from now?

You may be saying “Umm, of course I do!” I agree with you to a certain extent. You may not be able to control the future, but you can influence it. You can only do this by being present in today.

We all strive to do things perfectly. A large part of this involves being organized and focused on the type of person we will be and the things we set out to accomplish in the future. We are concerned about the future, but the only way to truly be concerned with it is to forget about it. At first, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to focus on something by not focusing on it. In reality, the only thing that creates the tomorrow is today.

Today is your opportunity to be present, experience, accomplish, and make a difference. Today is a result of the past. Tomorrow is a result of today. Today is real. Today is your day.