“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” ― Lao Tzu.
It was three days since we left the cars behind at the trailhead, and we were 18 miles from civilization. I stood at the base of Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, surrounded by 11000 and 12000-foot spires. We watched Harlequin duck babies floating on the water, dive to the bottom for food, and pop back up like little corks. I went skinny dipping in this pool.
It was the thing I had been craving: simplicity and a clear mind.
But something else was going on: Our two friends were climbing one of those peaks we gazed at, and we were a little worried about them. “What if…?” Where are they? Can you see them? We returned to the meeting point and left them a note that we had gone to find a campsite for the night and where to find us. We didn’t have a set time to meet them, but we were hoping to have seen them by now. We found a campsite and kept our eyes on the trail for them. We started to work through scenarios if it got dark and they hadn’t returned.
Then, at about 6 pm, we heard their cheers down the trail. All was well and here they are, having had a very adventurous day that simply took longer than they had anticipated.
We had an otherwise perfect day ourselves, but we managed to ruin it worrying about a future that didn’t materialize.
In his work Useful Belief, Chris Helder invites us to take stock of what ideas and beliefs are serving us and which ones are not. In this case, worrying about our friends was incredibly UN-useful. They were okay and definitely not worried about us, and, we even harbored a touch of resentment for that. Yet, it was entirely up to us as to how we wanted to show up that day.
What if, instead, we acted as if everything was fine? We had zero evidence things weren’t OK.
I call these Middle of the Story problems. I like to catch myself in the middle of the story and try to course correct. We don’t know how the story will end, so why sabotage it with thoughts that don’t serve us?
A mentor and friend, Lisa O’Neill, acts “as if…” and it’s a useful belief I adopted a while back as soon as I catch myself giving up control on my thoughts. As soon as I find myself worrying about a workshop I’ll be delivering, I act as if all the participants are 100 percent engaged and get a ton of value out of it. As soon as I find myself worrying about money, I act as if I have a constant stream of revenue. As soon as I worry about friends climbing a mountain, I act as if they are having the time of their lives and are just a little delayed.
Because I have no evidence to suggest otherwise.
I won’t relinquish control to the middle of the story.
How about you? When have you ruined the moment worrying about a future that didn’t materialize?
Take care out there.
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