If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment. – Lao Tzu also attributed to Junia Bretas (see comments for details)
What does that mean?
This quote is a favorite of mine, even if I can’t find a solid attribution (but lots of places say it’s his quote).
If we are focused on the past, we are probably depressed. We’re either comparing today to how good things used to be in the past, or we are second guessing decisions we made or actions we took some time ago.
If we are focused on the future, we are probably anxious. We’re either worried about how badly things could turn out, or we are worried that the decisions we made yesterday won’t help us as much as we might have hoped.
If we are focused on this moment, largely to the exclusion of the past and future, we are mostly at peace. By focusing on what can be done, and doing it right now, we are doing the best we can, and that is all the more we can do.
Why is focusing on the present important?
According to the quote, and backed up by my personal experience, spending too much time regretting the past or worrying about the future gains us nothing. The only thing over which we have any control is the present, and that is where it is most important to focus our attention and energies.
That isn’t to say we cannot learn from the past. It does not mean we shouldn’t plan for the future. It just says that we shouldn’t live there. By living in the present, we can put what we learned to good use, and execute our plans.
Focusing on the present keeps our attention on the important tasks, on the things we have (hopefully) selected as some of the most important things we need to accomplish at that time. It helps us to live a life with fewer regrets about the past, and less anxiety for the future. Why? Because we stayed focused got it done.
Where can I apply this in my life?
All of that said, I imagine pretty much all of us have some anxiety about the future, and are somewhat depressed about the past from time to time, or about certain things in our lives. That appears to be normal human behavior. Not optimum, but common.
That said, let’s take a moment to consider when we have been anxious about the future. Can you think of certain specific times when that was the case? In those times, on what were you focused? How well did that work for you? When and how did the anxiety abate? Did you change focus and get over it, or did it remain until the event moved from future to past?
Speaking of the past, can you remember any times when you had regrets about the past? Did any of them leave you feeling a bit depressed or unmotivated about what had happened? In those times, on what were you focused? How well did that work for you? When and how did the depression or regret abate? Did you change focus and get over it, or did it fade with time?
Now, let us look at the present (even though it may have happened in the past). When have you been calm, collected, and going with the flow? When have you been living in the moment? How good was that feeling? Did you waste any time or energy on regret or anxiety? Can you remember a time like that?
Hopefully you were able to remember a few instances of each of these. Try to remember how you got out of being anxious about the future, and how you got over the depression of past events. Take a moment and write down a few ideas about how you might do it, should you ever find yourself in that situation again.
But to know you need to use one of these techniques, you have to notice that you have stepped out of the present. What are some of the clues you noticed in your times of anxiety or regret? How can you better notice that you are no longer in the present? Can you get help from a friend, who might notice your anxiety or depression before you do?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out how much effort you are willing to put into living in the present. That may depend on your tolerance of anxiety and depression, or your dislike of the peace and tranquility of being in the present. But now it is a conscious decision, not an accident.
From: Twitter, @Thinkiatry
confirmed at : http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/523350-if-you-are-depressed-you-are-living-in-the-past (no specific source, but widely attributed to him)
Photo by Fahad Khalil