Last weekend, me and Kels were relaxing in our new place, sippin’ on gin & club soda, playing cards (gin rummy ironically), and just genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
Something that came up is something we talk about a lot, and I think it’s something a lot of my friends deal with too: dealing with the uncertainty of the future. Kelsey is a professional dancer, and ask any artist, “job security” or “health benefits” just don’t come with the package. Passion and fulfillment are certainly benefits, but not a typical “secure” future. As for myself, an aspiring online entrepreneur and author, I have about as much security as walking around all alone in East St. Louis at midnight.
Even “safe jobs” aren’t safe anymore. When you work for a large corporation somebody could come by on Thursday and drop a pink slip on your desk with no heads up.
“I don’t think you can lay out a path in life for exactly where you want to go. A lot happens on accident. ~ Mary Callahan Erdoes
If somebody would have told me in 2011 when I was a student at Oklahoma State that in the next four years I would:
Drop out of school, live with my sister in North Carolina, wear basketball shorts to work, make money with an online fitness company and a modeling agency, finish school in North Carolina, meet and start dating a girl that lives 2,000 miles away, and then get a house with that girl a year later in Salt lake City, Utah I would have never believed them.
Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert wrote a witty little book called Stumbling on Happiness. In it he writes about how humans love to imagine the future and predict all the things that will make us happy when we get there. The problem is that we are seldom right. We’re wrong about what the future looks like, and we’re wrong about what we believe will make us happy.
This is why many of us have silent beliefs like “once I’m rich, then I’ll be happy” or “once I get a girlfriend/boyfriend, then I’ll be happy.” Yet, once we do finally get “there”, we anticlimactically find that whatever “it” was that was suppose to make us happy, doesn’t.
The uncertainly of the future drives us crazy. Our brain craves certainty so we attempt to give it just that, but this causes a lot of anxiety.
So as I sit here at Starbucks in angst and draw up the curriculum for my first online course, and write my book that has a slim chance of hitting the NY Times Bestsellers list, I want to share the strategies that help me ease up and relax about the uncertainty of the future, and just take life day-by-day.
1) Make Movement a Habit
When you’re action oriented, magic starts to happen. Opportunities you never saw coming open up, you begin to get “lucky,” procrastination disappears, and you gain an underlying confidence that people just flat-out dig.
When I was kid, my dad always said the same ten or so maxims, and one of them was “do something.” It didn’t matter what it was, but DO. SOMETHING. Anything.
2) Bring Yourself Back to the Present
Often times when we’re playing scared of the future, we completely forget that it’s all good in the present. At the moment I have the largest coffee Starbucks has, I’m sitting outsite with a nice breeze, and overlooking a mountain range that looks like a computer screen saver. It’s all good. At the end of the day, as long as you’re not Aaron Hernandez, isn’t life pretty good?
A good practice that I picked up from Shawn Achor’s book, Before Happiness is the practice of gratitude. Achor found that writing down three (new) things that you’re grateful for everyday can uplift your good vibes and increase your overall happiness. Try a gratitude journal or saying your three things out loud in the shower, but remember, they have to be three new things! Gratitude puts life into perspective. I mean let’s face it, if your biggest problem in life is that Chipotle shorts you on the double meat, is life really all that bad? No. Not it’s not.
3) Play Worst Case Scenario
Okay, let’s pretend for a minute that shit really does hit the fan. Let’s say I never make a dollar trying to live the life I want, I get fired from Metabolic Effect, Kelsey dumps me AND steals all my things, my local Starbucks burns to the ground, and the law prevents me from ever having a puppy.
Yeah, that would blow pretty hard. I mean, I’d actually have to make my own coffee in the morning. Eff that.
But would I survive? Yeah, I would. I can always go work at Target, I can always get a goldfish instead of a puppy, and I can always buy new things if Kels really took them all.
There is a certain amount of relief in knowing that if the rock bottom I’m terrified of really came to fruition that I could, and would be just fine.
4) Practice EWOP (pronounced EEE – WOP)
Another of my father’s maxims: EWOP.
EWOP means Everything Works Out Perfectly. And if you’re not killing puppies and burning Starbucks down to the ground, you know, having some sort of a moral code, then things do work out just fine.
This is my favorite one because it’s a silly saying that sticks in your mind and because I dig acronyms. None of my past worries have come true, and every unexpected obstacle I’ve faced in my life, I have overcome.
Your perception is your reality, and perception is always a choice. Always. The future is uncertain, and that makes our animal brains nervous, but use your more evolved brain to take a deep breath, play worst case scenario, practice gratitude and remember that Everything Always Works Out Perfectly.